Fun Friday: 5 Beliefs That Are Probably Holding Back Your Writing (And Maybe Other Things Too)

Hi there.

You are a writer, yes? I’m sure that at some point, you’ve probably wanted to give up, flip a table, or go sit in a corner while the submit button collects dust.

Sound familiar? Good. You’re in the “write” place. 😀 Don’t shoot me for the pun please.

If not, who are you and who sent you?

Now, I’m talking about this because I’m a big believer of beliefs playing a big part in succeeding at anything: writing, gardening, being the world’s best dog food taster (yes, it’s a legit job that pays decently), etc.

And if there’s anything that I’ve learned by observing, interacting with, watching, listening, reading about whatever-the-hell verb you want to substitute here…

It’s that creative, smart people are usually the prime candidates for holding harmful beliefs about themselves. And that’s never good for our creativity.

What are these beliefs?

Well…

1. “My idea is just too/ weird/useless/ insert self-depreciation here”

Let me tell you something.

There is some really bizarre shit out there.

The chances that your specific idea for your novel is too weird, is actually very slim. Controversial, now maybe.

But too weird or useless? Dear reader…

Do you not know that right now that somewhere out there, an average person is walking out to their mailbox right now–and they’re gonna open it, expecting all their usual maily-things, but what they’re going to get is…

…a bag of edible dicks?

Yes, you read that correctly. It’s a legit business. You know, in case, you ever wanted to know. On that note, you can also buy 50 pounds of real snow too. In case that was ever your life long dream.

Sound weird enough to you? Good. Now whenever you catch yourself thinking, “Man, no one is going to want to read my stuff…”

Think. Someone out there…

Wait let me back up. Enough someone(s) out there, thought the idea of using fifteen of their well earned dollars to send bags of dicks out into the world was a good investment.

Yeah.

Your idea is probably fine.

2. “My writing needs to be a/b/c/d/efghkjlj perfect before I hit send”

No. Let’s all say it together.

Perfect is a myth. And a very unhelpful one because it often paralyzes people at the beginning and makes them give up before they’re finished.

Unless your writing skill is absolutely abysmal, you don’t need to revise a draft 50+ times. (A scene, maybeish. But a whole draft?) And if you do need to revise that many times for some reason, you should probably be hitting the fundamentals books instead before you touch that draft again.

A story needs to be “presentable”. You know like when you go outside to do something. You want to look like a million bucks without actually having the bucks. Same concept here. Look perfect, but not actually be perfect.

Now what does presentable mean?

  • No careless errors.
  • No huge plot holes
  • Decent cover
  • It makes some damn sense
  • Characters are not just walking cardboard with duct tape smattered on them
  • Sentences don’t make a reader’s eyes hurl
  • No lawsuits waiting to happen
  • Any other glaring problem that hurts sales and reviews that I’m blanking out on

If you’ve done this, you are probably fine.

3. “I can’t come up with good ideas. They’re all taken.”

Again. No.

I used to think that too, but then I came up with my Extreme Writing Workout routine. I don’t recommend trying it at home unless you’re Kobe Bryant-serious about practicing writing but here’s what it looks like roughly:

Warm Up x2, Sentence Beginnings Practice( Time, Place, Verb, Noun, Adjective), Paragraph Practice, Voice Sketch x5, New Words Practice x5, Taste x5, Sound x5, Touch x5, Sight x5, Smell x5, Sentence Practice (Simple, Compound, Complex, Compound-complex, Setting Sketch x5, Setting Peel x5, Emotional Metaphor Factory x5, Random Metaphor Factory x5, Character Sketch x5, Character Peel x5, Blind Journey, Change It Up x5, Object Sketch x5, Object Peel x5, Dialogue Sketch x5, Culture Sketch x5, Culture Peel x5, Scene Sketch, Cooldown x2

TL;DR: It’s a lot of targeted exercise shit that is probably enough to kill a normal human being with sanity. But this routine takes me nets me somewhere from about 17-20 pages worth of ideas overtime I do it, which is per day. But I’ll go into detail about this routine another day.

The main concern to get back to is that idea opportunities are not limited. They are endless.

They’re just hard to grasp sometimes. But they’re even harder to grasp, if your brain isn’t used to just spit-firing ideas on demand. You don’t have to do the crazy things that I do. Generate ideas in whatever way you like. You do you.

4. “My writing isn’t good”

Even if this is true, it’s not helpful to think it. The great thing about writing and any skill in the world is that you can improve.

My writing improved very quickly from being total sucky garbo to being actually tolerable in two years because I sat down, said no more fooling around, and actually got serious about learning the craft of writing. I read books on the separate parts of craft and I read authors that were way better than me until I couldn’t tolerate the former and could get by learning on the latter.

Now here’s the bad news, insta-quick writing improvement is not possible unless you have some extremely sick work ethic powering you through rigorous training. Improvement in writing that lasts and in consistent takes a lot of practice.

I personally wouldn’t advise using a WIP as practice unless it’s like a first draft and even then I still hesitate to encourage that because writing your story/poem/ project is different than practicing a particular skill.

If you saw your favorite professional basketball player practicing free throws in the middle of a real game that was going on, you’d think he was a moron. Just like how you wouldn’t practice your huge important speech in front of the audience the day of your big performance.

You practice separately so the performance is perfect.

Now I’m not going to say that you have to do this or that you have to do that. Like I said before, you do you. Some people don’t have time for huge lists. Some people do. Some people are eager to write their WIP and are too impatient for exercises. It’s all good.

If the book makes money, no one cares what weaves you snatched to do it.

But I will say that you can’t just bang face to keyboard and expect to improve your base level writing skill, which is why I can’t one hundred percent advise practicing on a first draft because first drafts are exactly that, banging face to a keyboard. You have to spread your focus way too thin.

Sure you will still technically improve, but it’s harder to track because you have no direction with your practice. And because it’s harder to track, it feels slower and may eventually lead you to give up because it seems like you’re not making visible progress.

5. “I’ll just wait for inspiration/tomorrow/ some item”

Watch out people, I’m going to be blunt.

Excuses. Excuses. Excuses. Let me break them down one by one.

Inspiration is not reliable. Just like ex-girlfriends, boyfriends, and the friend that said he’ll pay you back and still hasn’t.

There is one condition where it does become a little more reliable. And it’s when you sit down and write consistently.

Now as for the tomorrow thing.

Tomorrow is a myth. Every day you go to sleep, the calendar date changes but you’re still in the present. This is why tomorrow doesn’t work so well. You don’t want to write now, but you live in constant “nowness”. Hence, you’ll probably never feel like it.

But more importantly, you’ll never get your wasted yesterday back.

Now lastly, waiting for some item to write…

No. No. No. To the power of Grumpy Cat squared. No. 

I feel like this is worse than everything above combined. No external object gives or takes away the power to write. Now there are some exceptions, I will admit. Sometimes your computer has to go to the shop. Sometimes you can’t bring it with you and you don’t have a cloud back up to access or a flash drive copy. Whatever the strange case, this is fine. (Though last I heard, pen and paper works fine still~)

What I mean is when someone says they need drugs/alcohol/ coffee/tea/ some external substance/ body conditions to write. Or claim that it “makes them” creative.

I will concede that maybe you become more creative. But to be uncreative if you don’t have these crutches?

Bullshit. You can’t lose your creativity. Unless you hand that power over with an unproductive mentality.

Conclusion

And now we’ve come full circle. I hope that this helped with some concerns that you might’ve had about your own writing. Even if you know these, sometimes it’s good to be reminded. I know sometimes I slip too. 😦

But alas it is late and there is peppermint bark afoot!

See ya’ll next time! And remember that whenever you’re feeling writing isn’t going well…

Someone out there is probably eating a bag of dicks.

 

 

 

 

Writing Politics Is A Game Of Wants Not A Game Of Thrones

Politics.

The dreaded “P” word.

Now, I wanted to talk about writing politics because for one, it’s a complex thing that has to be handled delicately, and two, when I try to search for it I just keep getting unhelpful variants on how to write a political essay, how to write politics for news, and other random things that makes me wonder if google is high today. (Seriously, how you get how to write boring police reports from how to write politics? Same general letters? Idk.)

But politics… Here are somethings to keep in mind

1. Be Careful Before You Just Decide To Make Your Villains “Corrupt” Politicians

“Corrupt politician/government” is something that gets thrown around often, so often that we associate politics with evil and stupidity. And I’m not saying that they’re not, or that politicians are angels, or anything of the like.

I’m just saying that they’re people.

And people have wants.

I’m saying this because the last thing you want to do is wind up with a stock, cardboard copy of a story character because a reader doesn’t understand what’s driving them. Yes, a person who does X/Y/Z is evil, but a person who does X/Y/Z because A/B/C is forcing them to act that way, makes for a better, more cohesive story.

But also, no one is born out of their mother “corrupt” or evil (except for maybe that thing that came out of the Red Woman). Stuff like cheating others, and turning a blind eye to real issues is something that a person learns later on.

This in my opinion, is what Game of Thrones so fascinating to me. So many people want something, and they want it bad enough that some king and lord-weaves are going to get snatched.

In the realm of more modern politics, this tends to be more along the lines of lobbyists waving money and resources in a politicians face to influence them, and this is what tends to breed the corruption we all look down on. But this can still apply to more ancient systems too.

2. Unless You’ve Got Some Crazy Totalitarian-like Government Going On There Probably Should Be Checks And Balances Somewhere

You might be writing about kings, wolf hierarchy (which is different than what most people think it is), a dictatorship, but in reality, a system where a government can casually do anything to you at any time without consequences is a scary government to live under.

Which is why people with rational minds rebel against that kind of system, unless you’re in North Korea and three generations of your family would be punished for what you did. But if your characters aren’t living in North Korea, there should be some kind of balance system in place so that laws can be made and that people’s rights don’t get stepped on.

Otherwise readers ask: why do people stay here if it’s terrible?

3. The Bigger The Political System, The Slower And More Complicated The Problems Get, And The More A Formal System Is Needed

Think about it. When you’re at club meeting and something needs to get decided, you can do it in a flash. You probably don’t even need any paper work or anything official.

But when you get to the official local/regional/state/national / international levels, organized processes are a must. This is especially important if characters are establishing their own government from scratch.

If people can just fling law proposals at legislators without a way to actually decide what can be turned into a law/ policy/ what-have-you, nothing will ever get done, which can be a source of frustration, and frustration can in turn lead to arguments, underhanded shenanigans, rebellion, and just an overall lack of cooperation.

But also consider things like who gets to be a politician in the first place. Do they have terms? How do they get voted in? Is there even voting in the first place?

4. Political Rulers Don’t Like Looking Weak To Other Countries

“Hey, I’m small and weak. Invade me please.” Said no sovereign state ever.

Especially when a state is struggling, the last thing a ruler would want is for every other state at the cocktail party to know that they are weak. And to offset this, the usual response is to try to project the appearance of being powerful and in control.

Remember this: No one ever minds having a bigger territory, more resources, and more power, but everyone will lose their shit if they have to give up their state against their will.

A state on the brink of collapse internally is an easy target for a more aggressive neighbor to take over. This is something that you might want to keep in mind if your novel deals with internal political discord. Just because politics are falling apart on the inside doesn’t mean that your story kingdom/nation/state is invisible to the world around them.

They might be watched more closely by others. 😉

Hopefully this is some help to you. If someone out there know a good book on politics for novelists, let me know in the comments because google sure ain’t showing it to me. >.<

Review Time: All The Light We Cannot See

Good books are rare folks.

There were times this year when it felt finding a new book was like trying to find the remnants of a lost ancient city. But when I came to All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, all hope in humanity was restored.

I never cared much about WWII books before this, didn’t care much about WWII after. But holy banana-bombers on a flugu stick, for the time I read this book, Anthony Doerr made me care.

The Basics

It’s nothing flashy on the surface level, it follows the story of Werner a German boy with a gift for fixing radios that lands him in the Nazi military and a blind French girl named Marie-Laure trying to survive in the war.

The Bells And Whistles

Now, I usually read with two hats: my laid-back reader hat that just wants to be told a good story and then my writer hat, the rabid shark-toothed monster that demands for the story to teach me something about the craft of writing or it will flip all the tables in the house.

For the first time in a long time, they were both satisfied. Anthony Doerr has a way of writing his descriptions that feel so real and poetic, that you feel utter disappointed when you close the book and realize that real life doesn’t jump, glitter, and sparkle that way.

Even though it’s not a craft book, to me, it felt like it was and it showed me the level that amazeballs writing can really achieve. It inspired me to work that much harder on my own writing. And if you’re looking into trying to write better description, but don’t know where to start, this book is definitely one to check out.

The “Eh…”

Must we really talk about this? 😦 Ok fine.

  • Jump arounds. The book jumps around in time which can get confusing. I’m one of those people that generally just mow through a book and I sometimes miss the fact that a book jumps. But I’m still listing this because I know some people out there just hate when a book jumps around.
  • Main Character Development/Flaws. I felt like there the two main characters didn’t have much in the way of flaws or changed much throughout the story. Feel free to agree or disagree with me on this one, but I didn’t feel like Marie-Laure had much going for her aside from the fact that she’s blind. I understand that blindness is crippling, but it felt like the blindness was a substitute for actual personality flaws. I’m still not even sure if Werner had one. The lesser characters didn’t have this issue to me, just Marie-Laure and Werner.
  • Going too far with metaphors. This is probably a matter of personal taste, but I’m one of those readers who wants a passage to say what it has to say, say it clearly, and say something that makes sense. I remember there was a line about a can of peaches being liquid sunshine and I felt like it was reaching too far to connect things that didn’t seem that connected, or give them more meaning than they actually had. It felt forced.
  • The Ending. I’m not saying what it is, but I am saying that it felt a bit…eh. With how much build up the story had with both characters, it just seemed like more should’ve been done with them.

Honorable Mentions

  • Really short chapters. I’m talking a few pages. Some chapters are just one page. The book is quite thick, mind you. So you will find yourself flipping through quite easily, and it’s kind of hard to put the book down because you’ll always think ‘well I could read another chapter since it looks short’.

Conclusion

I know that there seems to be more bad than good things listed, but don’t let that fool you! I would still give the book 5/5 because this book changed my perspective as both a reader and a writer. It’s still fun on multiple reads, and there’s so much to learn from it style-wise.

And if it’s of any interest, I have both the Kindle version and a print copy. Both marked up and highlighted.

Any who, I’ve gotta run, but I hope everyone had a great Christmas and I hope that you’re all have a good New Years too. Maybe if you’re still looking for late presents to buy, you might consider this book for a book lover. 😉

 

Fun Friday: Tired Of Using The Same Old Descriptive Phrases And Metaphors? How To Break The Habit!

Holy smokes it’s Friday and so close to the holidays to boot! This post won’t be a Christmas special or anything, but today we’re talking how to make fresh new metaphors, smilies, and what have you for your books.

I’m making this post because I was getting so darn frustrated with feeling like I was falling back into the same bad habits every session, especially with emotions. Anger was always hot, fear was always cold. It’s like my MC was going through menopause and her period all the damn time, cold and hot flashes everywhere.

I figured that there had to be better way to come up with better stuff consistently, so I decided to do some snooping around and play test with different methods. And I finally found something helpful. I have to give credit to Rebecca McClanahan’s Word Painting for the idea. She’s a poet who writes powerful description herself, so if you’re still looking for a good description book then her book is worth checking out.

Now for this you will need:

  • A Word bank document or something to keep track of new words that you find interesting.
  • Books you love
  • A document for the exercise
  • The patience of Buddha himself (just kidding, you don’t really need this one)

If you have a kindle, this makes your life easier because you can actually get your highlighted notes and just copy and paste them over. I don’t know how this goes for other e-readers I’m afraid so bear with me.

On a side note, I also personally keep the Emotional Thesaurus on hand to help write emotion metaphors. It’s another useful writing tool that helps immensely if you have no clue where to start with describing feelings.

What To Do:

  • Step 1: Take two words that seem interesting, the more random the better, but it’s easier if they’re the same part of speech. In the middle of doing this, I found that comparing words that were different parts of speech is a nightmare. So if you want to avoid my nightmare, or valiantly charge into battle like a viking, there ya go.
  • Step 2: Compare the damn things. It helps if you prep yourself by doodling any associations that you have with either word. Also, you might want to jot down what they have in common, no matter how small or insignificant.
  • Step 3: Don’t worry if you don’t uncover shiny gems at first. You’ll write some duds, for sure. I still do, but the gems will come. It’s important to remember that even if you’re a seasoned description writer, some words just don’t mesh that well on the page and that’s okay. The important thing is that you’re getting used to making these unrelated connections, which ironically is part of the reason why fresh ones are so difficult. We don’t make the associations that easily.

Here’s some examples I came up with from my own scraps to give you an idea of how it goes:

1.Rain. Air freshener.

A warm summer rain spritzing the air like a scentless air freshener. The rain is a scentless air freshener, washing away the lingering smells of illness. 

2. Bangles. Crumbs.

Crumbs of bread of croissant fall to the floor in the shape of bangles. Croissant crumbs ring the floors like flaky bangles.

3. Dregs. Anchor.

Tea dregs cast themselves down to the bottom of my cup, tiny anchors collecting in an orange sea.

4. Coriander seeds. She has a mole I want to pick and squeeze. It’s practically a coriander seed growing on her face.

5. Semaphores. Neonsigns.

Neon signs flash like semaphores, trying to flag down youth hungry for the city’s night life.

As you can see, you don’t have to get all formal with it, and it does go to weird directions occasionally. But hey, you don’t have to show people if you don’t want to in the first place! 😀

Hopefully this helps all of you out in some form or another, but I got a get out of dodge. If you have another method that you swear by, or you have a funny metaphor that came from this, share it in the comments below. And don’t forget to have a happy holiday. 🙂

 

5 Super Simple Ways To Destress When The Writing Grind Gets To Be Too Much

1. Freewrite

I know what you’re thinking: Writing just stressed me out! Why would I do more of it?

Well, here’s the deal.

It’s not about the freewriting thing being extra writing. It’s about the fact that when you freewrite, you write down everything that comes to mind.

The stuff that irritates you, the stuff that frightens you, the stuff that sends you into an explosive rage, alongside the random ideas that you get can all be vented out and put to paper which helps to deal with them. These days it’s actually finding some therapeutic use.

2. Meditate- Mindfulness

Meditation is gaining more and more traction as a relaxation method. I can personally attest to meditation as being helpful when you’re really at the end of your rope.

We’re all busy and stressed out these days. Even if you could meditate for two or three minutes here and there, it’s still helpful.

3. Exercise

With how much we writers sit at the desk, a little walk or a stretch helps a lot. Not to mention that it doesn’t hurt to see that there is indeed a world out there.

4. Leave The Writing Be For A While

No shame in taking a break.

In fact, you could probably wind up ruining your precious book by forcing yourself to work when you’re brain-dead.

Now for those of you with deadlines, I understand that that’s not always possible. But if you can maybe chill for half an hour, have a snack or a swig of coffee, you’ll be in much better shape.

5. Switch From Writerly Mode To Readerly Mode

Sometimes it’s just the act of creating so many new scenes that can bog you down, not necessarily your whole writing project. If possible, see if you feel the same way when you line edit your stuff. If you’ve got nothing to edit, maybe practice on another novel you like.  Switching to reader mode helps you still get work done, but with less pressure about creating.

 

How To Juggle Work/School/Priorities And Still Be Able To Write

 

So I’ve got a request for you.

You’ve probably clicked on this post because writing feels impossible, but I want you to think about everything you do in a day. Not just the huge activities like work, but the small ones too like your break, time you spend on YouTube, time you spend with friends, time you spend watching TV, time you spend just being idle, etc. Write it down if you can.

Now you’ll be glad to know that regardless of what you’ve written, you do have time to write. Because it’s impossible that anyone could be busy for 24hrs a day/ 7 days a week. If you actually worked this type of schedule you would be dead now, (or very close) not reading this! And because of that there is no such thing as having “no” time to write.

But here’s what you can do if you are struggling:

1.) Figure Out When You Are Most Productive/ What Conditions Makes You The Most Productive

Because it’s not about having huge blocks of new time for all the words in the world. It’s about managing what time you have wisely. If you have an hour and I have five minutes, you have an advantage, but if you waste that hour and I’ve written 150 words, then the hour is pointless. Now I realize that some people might have productive periods when they’re at work and can’t write, this why I’ve also put what conditions makes you the most productive because if you can’t reach that golden time, you can try to copy those conditions. Also it’s nice to know because some people have more than one productive time. 😉

2.) Eliminate Distractions

Sorry, but Netflix gotta go. Facebook too. And Twitter/Instagram/ Whatever new fangled stuff people are using these days.

Turn off that phone if you can, or at least the notifications for social media and put your phone far away from you so it’s more deterring to get up and get it. Give the kids something to play with if it’s your turn to watch them. If the internet is your poison, get an app that stops for a little bit like Freedom or Self-Control. Maybe limit yourself to sites that help you look things up. Also don’t worry if you catch yourself slipping. This one isn’t meant to be easy at first, especially if you’re a social media-holic.

3.) Protect That Time!

This is where it gets tricky. Sometimes we’ve got friends and family that just don’t understand that we want to get writing done. Sometimes other people just don’t respect our work and think that it’s okay to barge whenever they want. But if you’re fortunate and live with people do all you have to do is let them know that you’re doing this, maybe even ask them to help you be accountable.

However if you do live around people who don’t respect your writing, all I can advise you is to maybe write somewhere else, or maybe even sneak writing when they aren’t around. Lock a door if you must.

4.)Get Up Earlier/Go To Bed Later

Not like 4am or anything, unless that’s your only option. But take the time you get up and maybe get up thirty minutes earlier than what you usually do. Maybe do the same with the time you sleep: go to sleep a little bit later. For most people this is the biggest place where they can scrape out a little bit of extra time. And you don’t have to scrape out a whole. Just as much as you’re comfortable with.

5.)Eliminate the Mindset That You Can’t Make Time

You always can. Perhaps the better phrase people should use is “I want to write, but I don’t want to give up anything to do it.” Because like I’ve said before, no one is literally  working 24/7. There’s a lot of minutes going to waste that you probably aren’t aware of: when you’re eating, you could be writing. When you’re just sitting in the car waiting on someone to show up, you can write. When you’re ruminating about someone who made you angry or worrying about things you can’t change, that is time that can be spent writing.

When you’re watching Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, Doctor Who… When you’re playing Pokemon Go, Final Fantasy, Zelda, or whatever it is, that’s still time spent not writing. Usually very large chunks of time that people don’t want to let go of because it’s comfortable, fun, and not that hard.

Now of course, I’m not saying that you can’t do these things, just the the opportunity to make time is everywhere in your schedule. It’s all about trade-offs.

 

 

Fun Friday: My Vicissitude Book Update and Thoughts On Considering A Celebratory Free Giveaway For You All

Hey everybody, I’m back with another Fun Friday Post and this time I’m doing something slightly different.

New Years is around the bend and I’ve been hard at work hammering at my debut series books Vicissitude: Heaven Gained and Vicissitude: Lost Earth to get them ready for publishing. I’m currently at the middle point of the fourth section and I’ll be done revising Lost Earth. That one will be the first to go out and hit the stores.

Now, I don’t know if I’ve ever said this on the blog, but the Vicissitude books have been in progress for a long time- about 10 years now! It’s taken a lot of patience (of both me and those who helped work on it!), but the struggle has been all worth it! 🙂 And so I want to celebrate that with those of you guys who are following this blog and have been sticking this crazy journey out with me so far by trying out a giveaway contest.

So what I’m considering is giving away the companion soundtrack that goes with Vicissitude: Lost Earth, also made by me. I’m not sure yet how many people should get it. I’m thinking somewhere from 1-5. Leaning more towards 1-3 because I think there’s only 19 of you(at least at the time I’m writing this.)  Then there’s also the matter of finding out a way to do it so that it’s fair for everyone.

But rest assured, the chances of one of you winning is very high because there isn’t many of you yet. 😛 And it will be exclusive to people who are following this blog, meaning if for some strange reason you’re still only following the other one What Does The Fox Say, you won’t be in the picking pool for this giveaway.

But in case there are any of you who are curious, the soundtrack has 20 songs in it so in total it’s about an hour of listening time. You’ll be among the first to actually own and hear the entire thing! 😀

And also, once the book does come out, the soundtrack will not be this straightforward to get. It also might not be free, if that’s of any importance to you.

If you’re interested, then let me know your thoughts with a like or a comment, or both. If there is interest, I’ll give the official rules and details about both the soundtrack and the giveaway in another post.

Until then, Happy Friday everybody! 🙂