Meditative Monday: On When You Feel Disconnected From Your Writing

*sniff sniff*

I smell fresh¬†Monday…

Which means it’s back to the good ol’ grind and time for Meditative Monday!

And today’s topic was brought on by something that I was discussing with a writing friend a few days ago.

He was worried because he felt disconnected from the story he wrote a while back. So naturally I’d asked him if he was working on this project every day.

He said, no because he was working on other projects on and off.

Needless to say, I assured him that he had nothing to worry about. After all, there’s a reason why we’re advised to let a manuscript rest while before we edit.

But that lead me to think, what about those of us who feel disconnected in the middle of our stories? What about when the draft isn’t finished and we have no fucking clue how to get our mojos back?

So here’s hopefully some tips to help you along when that happens.

1.) Do Not Stop Writing

And I repeat, do not stop writing. This is because the longer you stop doing something, the harder it is to start doing something.

But also understand that not writing will only fuel the disconnection between you and your story. Now this doesn’t mean that you have to bang your noggin against the computer trying to push ahead. Try freewriting on the side about your story. Or try writing another scene that interests you.

Often times the biggest stopper is the fact that we can’t even start. Hell, sometimes it takes me hours to start working on Vicissitude because I’m guilty of listening to my character playlists, looking at pictures, daydreaming about scenes instead of writing the damn things.

Now the reason why I recommend freewriting is that I’ve had scenes pop out of nowhere sometimes. I’ll write choppy phrases and then somehow a character might say something and then somehow it will trigger a whole scene. It could help out if you’re one of those folks who get intimidated by a blank page.

2.) Learn To Pay Attention To Your Gut Instincts

Sometimes the reason we’re stuck is not because we don’t know enough, but because we’re trying to force something into the story that doesn’t belong.

I was actually going through this the other day when I was stuck on a scene where I wanted to introduce a new character into the novel that I had planned into my outline. I tried really hard to cram him in, but when it came down to write his entry, I just couldn’t do it.

I’d open the document, but then get easily distracted. I just couldn’t get myself interested in writing him at all and it didn’t feel right.

So eventually I gave up and decided that maybe if I was feeling that way about writing that character, I probably shouldn’t put him in there. When I took that character out of the scene not surprisingly, my productiveness went back to normal.

So always pay attention to how you feel about what you’re writing, especially if you have your events planned out like I do. I personally don’t believe in forcing yourself to write scenes that you hate. Because if you hated writing it, what makes you think that other people would like reading it?

3.) Reexamine Your Characters In The Scene You’re Writing

Writing is as much an act of discovery as it is of telling a good story. And there’s no better vehicle of discovery than our characters. They sneak poison into the cups of people we thought were their best friends. They jump into abandoned temples with the cashier they met at Walmart. They snap at each other’s throats like cats and dogs on moment and in the next, they kiss in the rain.

Characters tend to grow, change, and slowly reveal more of themselves during the course of a story, and the story has to adjust for that. If you’ve ever tried to write a scene with a character that ended up not feeling quite right, this is probably the culprit. And it’s important not to treat your page 223 MC the same way that you treated her on page 35.

I had this happen in a scene with one of my characters where I’d long had the expectation for her to be reckless, cold, and withdrawn because she’d been that way in other drafts and side projects and I was shocked (and happily curious) that she didn’t retain much of any of those. Instead, I found out that she was struggling with her own insecurities the same as any normal person would.

So if you are stuck in this area, make sure that your story is well adjusted for character growth! Just because you’re certain at the beginning doesn’t mean that you can be certain anywhere else!

Fun Friday: Magnus Chase Book 1: The Sword of Summer by Rick Jordan (And Announcements And Shenanigans)

*rubs hands together* Oh ho ho! It’s Friday people and I’ve been looking forward to this post.

Why?

You see dear reader, if it hasn’t been apparent already, I love shenanigans, fun, and nonsense and I love good books.

But more importantly, I love good books that are full of fun, shenanigans, and nonsense! ūüėÄ

I picked this book up on a whim because I saw the gaaawjiss cover at my university book store. It sat for a long time since I was too lazy to read it, and holy god bananas, the Sword of Summer is a book that delivered much more than I thought it would.

The Basics

Magus Chase is pretty much a homeless kid who finds out that he’s the son of the Norse God Frey and he is trying to prevent the fabled Ragnarok (Doomsday) from happening by making sure that Fenris doesn’t escape from his chains.

The Bells And Whistles

  • Norse Mythology¬†entertained with the modern world.¬†There’s no shortage of Norse-based movies, games, and books, but this one in particular combines the modern world and Norse myths in unique ways that make the book memorable. Thor binge watches TV shows, Odin is a motivational speaker (or rather trying to be), Jack is the name of Frey’s sword and it speaks, Valhalla is a hotel, eagle giants steal food, the list goes on.
  • It’s educational without being a boring-ass textbook.¬†It could just be my Art Historian showing, but I found myself intrigued by the explanations and wanting to know more about all of the myth figures involved.
  • The chapter titles. “The Man with the Metal Bra”. “Good Morning! You’re Going to Die”. “Seriously, the Dude Cannot Drive”. “My Sword Almost Ends Up on eBay”. Don’t tell me that you wouldn’t be the least bit tempted to read if you saw that!
  • The shenanigans.¬†I don’t think I’ll ever forget someone barging in with a Make Way For Ducklings sign. Or Odin offering CDs and god swag from his powerpoint presentation.

The “Eh‚Ķ”

Most stuff is hard to rip apart because it’s only the first book, and also the book already sort of establishes itself as being nonsensical, but I’ve got one major one.

  • Some characters just completely fall off.¬†Like Magnus’s Uncle Rudolph. And Annabeth. The story is written from Magnus’s point of view and he spends quite a bit of time in the godlier world, so its hard to say “should’ve had more on-screen time”. But the time that they did have didn’t feel like enough, and I almost felt like the story could’ve been written without them. With any luck, the rest of the series will incorporate them more.

The Conclusion

This is definitely one of the books you won’t forget. And overall, I think that it deserves a 5/5.

Shenanigans and Announcements

You’ve probably noticed this, but there is now a link to my book here on the website. But more importantly, there is a link to the soundtrack that goes with it. So you can chill with your tunes while you read. Every book will come with its own soundtrack so be on the look out for them here!

There’s also a book excerpt here on the site that you can check out in the drop down menu or¬†here.

 

Wu Wei Wednesday: Are There Really Any Writing Rules?

Hey, you there!

Question of the Day:

How many writing books have you picked up where they pretty much say “Don’t do A/B/C/L/M/N/O/P‚Ķ”and the list trails so long that you start wondering ‘Gee, it would be shorter if you gave me the list of shit I actually can do’?

Now I’ve read a lot of writing books and some of the “rules” people impose get strange sometimes. Here are some of my top personal favorites…

  • No weather openings.¬†I genuinely did not know this was a thing, but I can understand where an editor might be coming from.
  • No flashbacks.¬†I also understand this sentiment, but saying no flashbacks? None?
  • Always end on a cliffhanger.¬†Before I would’ve been shouting this from the treetops, but now that my writing has matured, I’m not sure I can agree with this anymore. Now if you’re writing a thriller that has a breakneck pace then sure. Throw me onto every cliff you know, but a book doesn’t need suspense hammered into every chapter ending. Gone With The Wind sure didn’t and I love all 1000+ pages of it. Neither did The Goldfinch. Both are Pulitzer winners to boot.
  • Cut out down on the exclamation points.¬†This one I just don’t get at all. Who out there is abusing exclamation points so bad that they need to be cut?¬†How¬†are they abusing exclamation points so bad that they need to be cut? I suppose if they’re being used like !!! then yes, the writer should probably have their ! key removed, but really?

 

But rants aside, restrictions are something that I’ve been giving a lot of thought to these days. And I’m becoming more and more convinced that there aren’t any “rules” to writing.

If there is any rule to writing, it’s ‘Do whatever the fuck the story requires you to do’.

Because hard rules get broken.

The ‘no flashbacks rule’? Patrick Rothfuss loves to break this one. He seems to be doing well with his books.

Be clear and to the point? Have you read Heart of Darkness? (Though I wouldn’t recommend imitating Heart Of Darkness if you want people to read you.)

Hell, even the ‘revise your shitty drafts’ rule isn’t safe. Lee Child only writes one draft of his Reacher novels like a badass.

Now if someone can get away with that, then do I really need to go on?

1.) On Always, Never, and No…

Ignore absolutes because there is probably at least one instance where that absolute is wrong.

And if an absolute is wrong even once, it’s not an absolute.

But you’ll never know if it’s wrong unless you try what your inner muse is telling you and see how it works.

2.) On Can I…?

I know I just talked about absolutes, but the answer to this question is always automatically yes.

Yes, you can put that fire breathing dinosaur in Japan. Yes, you can put your characters on a boat to China with a drunk Dutch man who shits his pants. Yes, your MC can smoke dope in Hawaii while a girl streaks naked on the beach.

Whatever you’re worried about putting in your novel…

Yes, you can put it in. You don’t need to ask if you “can”.

To be honest, the better questions to ask are “Should this go in my novel with the current set-up that I have?” or “Do I have enough in my story to support this idea?”.

Think of your story as though you’re a detective trying to solve a case. You wouldn’t go around randomly accusing people of being the killer and then expect someone to buy your crackpot conspiracy theory (though oddly politics keeps trying to attempt this).

Readers are smart people. And they won’t buy your twists and explanations without solid concrete evidence that something is going down.

3. On Deviation

Jeebus, I’m one of those people that can’t stick to the rules even if they were super-glued to my forehead.

There always seems to be a place where not only is it beneficial to break the mold, but it¬†must¬†be done to make the story’s impact meaningful.

There’s a reason why saying is ‘Think Outside The Box’ and not ‘Think Inside The Box’. ūüėČ

Meditative Monday: A Reflection On Obstacles and Tenacity

Woooo! It’s Meditative Monday which means it’s time to OD on tea, coffee, and existential thoughts.

Today’s topic has an interesting story behind it.

You see, these past few days, I’ve been really busting my butt and fighting with Scrivener and Amazon to fix issues with the format of my book. And let me tell you…

If you think writing your book is hard enough, wait until you have to format the damn thing.

That is hell on earth. I went through not just, one, or two, but 67 (no that is not an exaggeration) different ebook files because Scrivener just would not put in my table of contents, apply my custom chapter file names, or behave in anyway shape or form.

Now don’t get me wrong. I love me some Scrivener, but checking on an ebook file 67 times ¬†sucks your soul out in a way that I simply can’t bring myself to wish on another living creature.

But on the bright side, I succeeded (I hope) and it made me realize something important.

Writing books will tell us to give our characters grit, make them tenacious about their goals, but isn’t it just as important for us to be the tenacious ones?

When I used to think back to my old creative writing and poetry classes, I couldn’t do it without cringing a little. Most of the time, I never felt like I fit. My writing sure as hell wasn’t that great. Every class we’d read some obscure book that all my other classmates seemed to have all the answers for and I just kinda stared into blank space wishing class was over and could never really think of anything smart to say (mostly because I could barely understand the reading.)

There were people there that were waaaaaay better than me, so I decided to keep up with them because I figured, ‘hey, you never know what you can learn’.

But as we all went our separate ways and kept in touch, I’d often ask them how their writing was coming along.

Most of them I found didn’t actually work on anything, or they just had ‘ideas’. And the more I talked to them, the more the ideas just stayed ‘ideas’.

Sometimes a rare person would start on a manuscript. Even one of the smartest guys in my class had a WIP, but he wasn’t moving far on it even though he had it for a while.

And now that I can look back, I understand a little better that I was looking at writing all wrong.

Writing the best descriptions, being good at dialogue, characters that pop off the page, the ability to make readers cry…

It’s kinda meh.

I know you’re probably thinking: whoa, whoa, whoa, you can’t say that! Why wouldn’t you want to be able to do any of that? Those are skills to die for dammit!

And I agree. They are. But here’s the thing…

However if you write the best descriptions and all that, but you don’t have any published work to show for it, then it doesn’t matter.

What is important though, is having tenacity. Because your dialogue will not save you from your writerly anxieties, doubts, or fears. Tenacity will get you through it. Hell, tenacity can get you through the practice to get better at writing too.

You can bet your booty cheek that tenacity got me through those 67 formatting blunders and my novel.

And that’s why I’d like to put it in the spotlight today. Maybe you might feel like your dialogue sucks monkey toes, or that your characters are as flimsy as a thong. If that’s you, try to relax for a minute.

If you’re not amazeballs right now, you don’t have to be. You just have to have to be able to persevere through the drafts. You can always become amazeballs with practice and rewriting.

You might laugh, but you gotta remember that the best thing never written don’t pay no bills.

And somewhere out there, some completely obscure pulp you’ve never read is making somebody some $$.

 

Fun Friday: The Midnight Sea by Kat Ross

Take a deep long whiff everybody. You know what that smell is?

Oh yes. It’s the delectable smell of¬†Friday.

This Friday I want to talk about another book that might be worth a read. And today that book is The Midnight Sea.

The Basics

This book centers around Nazafareen, girl from a nomadic tribe who pretty much feels like shit because her sister died and therefore she decides to take it upon herself to join the Water Dogs, who are pretty much soldiers that are bonded to demons, so that she get some good ol’ revenge.

The Bells And Whistles

  • Greek, Persian references and settings.¬†A lot of fantasy that I tend to pick up is usually heavily oriented toward more generalized European Middle Ages tropes and settings. So when I see something slightly more focused, my inner art historian starts having a field day. I liked the world building done here and the name drops.
  • Magic and bonding.¬†I liked that magic was not just¬†poof¬†you’re dead now. It has some rhyme and reason to it, and is dependent on your daeva partner. I also found it fascinating that daevas had to be maimed in some way for bonding.
  • ¬†It raised questions.¬†I love it when characters are forced to question the beliefs that they’ve had or have to reexamine their actions. Sure there’s nothing wrong with good characters believing the right thing, but I’m not fond of characters who waltz around farting their justice sparkles everywhere and have an uncanny inability to be wrong.

The “Eh‚Ķ”

  • Themes, Hype, and Symbolism.¬†I picked this book up because it was praised endlessly for its “moral weight” and “meaty narrative”. When I read the damn thing, ¬†I went in expecting a story that would be as fat as a leg of lamb roast, but the actual result felt like a skinny shoulder chop with a lot of fat on it and barely any meat.

This is because when people start using buzz words like that, I start thinking “whoa, someone wrote a commercial/literary fantasy hybrid” (something that I’ve been dying to read and find more of). Now don’t get me wrong. Kat Ross tried, I felt like she sincerely tried to make some points about humanity and morality via the daevas and through the fable of the The Midnight Sea, but unfortunately it fell short to me. If there were symbols laying around, they were either a) not used enough or b) not used in a unified way that threaded the story together. It felt more like lots of shots were fired in the air at random and I had no idea where to focus.

  • Nazafareen’s sister guilt.¬†Remember the post from the other day about “Soft Overcoming Hard” and not shoving things down a reader’s throat? This is a perfect example of that being violated. I understand that when a person loses someone, they’ll grieve, be upset, think about it, and want to do something about it. But the thing is‚Ķ in the story, it often felt like that Nazafareen’s guilt was used as designated cues to feel bad. And by this I mean Nazafareen sometimes thought about her sister at times when I wasn’t sure why she was doing so and I couldn’t identify what was motivated her to do it. But also it happened a little too often for comfort. I don’t like the idea of wanting a character to “just get over it”, but this was a case where I stopped feeling sorry for her and wanted her to pull up her protagonist pants instead of mope.
  • Romance.¬†I could buy that Nazafareen had feelings for her daeva because the story is in her POV, but it was hard to tell if her feelings were actually being returned.
  • Gaps.¬†I’m not usually an advocate of long flashbacks and backstory, but especially concerning some characters like Ilyas, I felt like I needed a little more to understand what was going on sometimes. I understand that the book is the first of its series, so I won’t bash too much, but still there needs to be enough information for the book to stand on its own.

Conclusion

Kat Ross can certainly tell a basic story. Characters were entertaining enough for me. She had good descriptions that I could learn from. A fascinating world I didn’t mind being in. I do agree that there is a little more to chew on than your standard junk food fantasy book, but I do not think that this “little more” lives up to its hype.

So for that reason, I have to give The Midnight Sea a 4 out of 5. I’d recommend reading it. And if I’m not mistaken, it is still currently free to read. So if you’ve been on the fence about it, or maybe you’ve seen it but didn’t feel like shelling out the cash, then by all means read it.

Wu Wei Wednesday: Lessons Learned From Finishing A Book Part 2

Hey everybody! I’m back with part 2 of Lessons Learned From Finishing A Book. If you haven’t seen part 1, have a look at it here.¬†But as for part 2, I’m going to continue where I left off.

5.) Never Overlook The Little Things, Simplify If You Can

Don’t get caught up in thinking that plots have to be super complicated, grandiose, or that worlds have to end in fire, war, and dragons banging each other on the Empire State building (but if they do, I probably will buy a copy).

Meaning is not created when you throw a shit ton of things at the reader’s face and make them stick. It gets created when you allow one thing to stand for a shit ton of everything else.

In writing, this sometimes means cutting characters out, shifting duties around to people who it would make a little more sense, sometimes it means cutting out something you thought was a symbol and making way for something you didn’t realize was a symbol the whole time.

If you find yourself getting discouraged because you feel like you’re cutting too much…

Don’t.

Don’t think of the cutting and rearranging as bad or that you wasted all your time (especially if you are in the earliest stages of writing the book).

I learned that once you’re pared down to the bare essentials and you start building again, then usually this is where you start to notice the symbols, the important themes, and the connections between things.

But you can’t be afraid to simplify and look at the small things.

6.) Never Forget That Writing Is Supposed To Be Enjoyable

You’re probably tired of me saying this by now.

I’m sorry, but people love to forget this.

For some of us, writing started out as a hobby. We scribbled in notebooks as kids (I still have some of those) and not two shits were given if it was good, bad, stupid, or bizarre. We just wrote and wrote because it was fun.

Now, when you don’t like a TV show, what do you do? Turn that shit to another channel and find something else to watch.

When you don’t want to eat what’s in the fridge, what do you do? Eat something else.

But for some reason, most people’s answer to what do you do when you don’t like what you’re writing is: keep writing what you hate.

Da fuck? No, no, no. No. This is like throwing yourself on a bed of long nails on purpose when there is a comfortable bed like write next to you.

Write what you love. 

When you do this, writing that first, second, fiftieth draft becomes significantly less painful and gets done a lot faster. If you like cowboys long-jumping on the backs of naked football players in a sauna then shove them in somewhere.

We pick up writing because it made us happy at some point, not to make us feel even shittier. You can turn on the news for that.

7.)Experiment And Never Be Afraid To Follow A Curiosity No Matter How Small

If I never asked “what if‚Ķ”, my main character Jun would still be a stereotypical princess in a castle waiting for plot to happen and being entitled as fuck.

But because I asked “what if‚Ķ” Jun is now a low-income minority assassin who works at what is the shitty equivalent of Starbucks and might as well wear a name tag that says, “Hi, I’m a protagonist. If have any inquiries about chaos or trouble, feel free to fuck my life up 24/7.”

Just yesterday I was curious about what a ferrari sounded like and suddenly boom next novel now has giant wolf-bears creatures that sound like ferraris and lamborghinis, so when they’re mad they can vrrooooom¬†at each other.

Yes. You read that correctly. Vrroooom.

But seriously. Don’t think that because you wrote out the outline that you have to follow it to the last ‘t’. I have an outline, and let me tell you‚Ķ

I deviated right at the first chapter.

No shame.

Good stories need some breathing room to be meaningful, surprising, and to be their awkward selves. It’s hard to do that when you’re choking the damn thing by throat and telling your characters to walk a plank that they know full well is stupid to walk on.

And it’s very hard to read a story that obviously has a writer’s nose shoved into every page.

I agree wholeheartedly that we are the masters of our stories, but do not treat it like a dictatorship where you beat the life out of the poor thing and think it will still be able to walk afterward.

8.) Don’t Think That The Only Place To Learn Writing Is From Your How-To-Books

This one is a really big one.

I’ve read tons of books on writing and personally most just repackage the same vomit after a while.

Make characters not flat. Woo. Show, don’t tell. Meh. Make your character arcs like blah, blah, blah‚Ķ Follow this structure. Eat my toenails‚Ķ So on and so forth.

Now don’t get me wrong. The How-Tos are great when you’re a new and awkward. But I’d recommend grabbing only one general book that you like and then branch out into different aspects of writing. Read those until you’re reasonably comfortable and then put them away.

Why?

Because if you keep sucking on those like a pacifier, you’ll be blind to the other opportunities to learn about writing that are all up in your boogie-ridden nostrils.

Personally speaking, of all the valuable skills I know about writing, most didn’t come from books on character, descriptions, plot, or anything of the like.

Example? Most of what I know about writing fantasy books actually comes from my Art History major.

You might be wondering da fuq? Or even better…

Da fuq is Art History? That’s a major? Why not do Literature, English, or the dead fucking obvious Creative Writing major?

Here’s the thing.

It’s true that if you did one of the three above, you will very likely learn something about writing. You’ll read lots of books and analyze those books to death. You’ll know the names of dead people that your great-great-grandma probably met way back in the 19th century version of Costco.

But if you’re writing a fantasy book set in ancient Korea, a literature professor shoving The Joy Luck Club down your throat suddenly becomes useless.

A Korean Art History professor showing you pictures of Queen Seon Deok’s star-gazing tower, old swords, crowns from the Three Kingdoms period, building floor plans, materials, and methods of building is a godsend.

You also learn interesting tidbits such as why medieval castles have spiral staircases (for defender advantage and attacker hindrance), purposely uneven steps (more attacker disadvantage), and moats (so no one can dig under yo castle.)

You learn why dragons and cranes are common motifs in East Asia (psst, auspicious animals, dragons tend to be associated with heaven and cranes are a symbol of longevity).

You learn to tell golden age Greek shit from other people’s shit (hint: look for the very bad cases of wet drapery syndrome, and clothing heft in inappropriate places).

And you learn why Egyptians made votive statues (so big busy rulers could pretty much autotweet their prayers to the gods instead of going to the temple all the time).

But I’m not advocating that you sign up at your local college just to do this. For the sake of my nonexistent hamster,¬†do not.¬†Unless you really want to spend the time and money. But some things, I think you can get from documentaries and be fine.

Now other important lessons I learned about writing stories came from my Advanced poetry class. That’s right.

Poetry.

I’ve taken creative writing classes too. They were okay.

But poetry really took me to the next level. Probably because the professor was from fancy-schmancy Iowa Writer’s workshop. He went there as a student, but also taught there and brought his teachings to UCI.

I love him to bits because he didn’t just teach us how to write.

He taught us how to teach ourselves how to write.

And that is huge. 

Because if you know how to teach yourself how to write, then the only how-to books you need are the novels and stories that you love to read.

9.) Rest Is Not Just Essential But Mandatory As Is Health

You can’t write books if you’re dead. Okay?

You also can’t write good books if you’re brain dead.

We like to think that the answer to getting more done is to work longer and force ourselves to do more, but that isn’t the case. Work quality suffers when you push yourself while you are clearly out of it.

This doesn’t mean be lazy or to never try to push your boundaries. All I’m saying is that don’t go around thinking that you’re a robot and are invincible. Treat your body right and your writing will stay in tip-top shape.

10.) Tea/ Coffee Is Life

Pretty self explanatory.

11.) Yes, It Really A Matter Of Just “Doing It”

Writing a book is only a matter of typing one word and then another until you get to the end.

Really.

If you just sit there, do it, keep doing it, then you’ll be done.

But for some reason, we complicate this to astronomical proportions with our fears, doubts, insecurities, laziness, distractions, and every excuse in the book.

And those amount to the same thing: not being done.

Because an excuse, even a good one, is still an excuse and gets nothing done. The only time I use excuses these days is for things I just don’t want to do.

I don’t make excuses for not writing.

If I get distracted by Harry Potter movies on tv, I cut the tv off.

If I get distracted by Facebook, I have an app that blocks access.

If I get distracted by Internet, I block it.

If there’s something on tv that my family is getting all excited about, I ignore it

If someone recommends me a new book, I save the name and check it out later.

If family wants to be a nuisance, I put headphones on and only pay attention when absolutely necessary or I go in another room.

If I screw up and let something get in the way, I don’t keep screwing up. I figure out a way around it.

Because when it is time to write, it is time to write.

No excuses. No exceptions.

There are no magic shortcuts. No magic target hitting bullets. No insta-finish button. No way of gaming this system.

But I will say this, if you want to get that book done, you can. It is 100% within your power to do it and no one else’s. You could theoretically be done tomorrow if you really wanted. There’s a guy out there who did 50,000 words in a day. That’s a level of crazy I aspire to be.

But still he did it. 

Hence why I don’t buy into any bogus variation of “I can’t…A/B/C/D/X/Y/Z”

You can.

Just do it already.

Alright? ūüôā

 

Meditative Monday: Lessons Learned From Finishing A Book Part 1

Hey everybody! It’s Meditative Monday which means that it’s time for tea, coffee, thoughts, and me sounding more like a fortune cookie than usual.

Over the weekend, I had time to celebrate with friends and family, but also I’ve had time to reflect on becoming an author and now I think I can actually translate the feelings into some valuable things that I learned on writing.

1.) Soft Overcomes Hard

You’re probably wondering what the hell this means and where it comes from. The phrase comes from Lao Tzu and the Tao Te Ching‚ÄĒwhich I also like a bit very much, and it pretty much boils down to not try to force your way too hard.

It’s true that we are the gods of our story world and can make anything happen at the drop of a hat, but for the love of strawberry-eating hamsters, that does not mean that everything we want to happen should be shoved in like a dubious-looking tampon.

If you force your story message, force your characters into scene, force the sky to fall, force Ryan Gosling to do the Crazy Chicken dance, then a reader will feel you wolfing your hot moist breath into their readerly ears in all ways gross and uncomfortable.

I’m not saying completely throw all semblance of order out of the window. Order is necessary. I’m also not saying that if you’re a hardcore one hundred percent plotter that you should stop. Always try to work with your natural flow, aka, your path of least resistance.

What I am saying is don’t get so caught up in writing your words, chapters, agendas, flowery descriptions, that you forget that you’re writing a story.

And speaking of stories, I must emphasize…

2.) Don’t Get So Caught Up In Writing Your Novel That You Forget That You’re Telling A Story

If this sounds somewhat ridiculous to you, consider the definitions of a novel and a story below…

Novel (noun):

a fictitious prose narrative of book length, typically representing character and action with some degree of realism.

Story (noun):

an account of imaginary or real people and events told for entertainment.

By these definitions, the only real requirements for a novel is a) being a fictitious series of events, b) a certain length, and c) having some arbitrary level of realism.

A novel, for some bizarre reason, not obligated to be liked, enjoyed, bought, cared about, or good. But a story is told for entertainment, which means it better be good.

Now sure one may argue that with a novel being a narrative is a story by nit-picky deduction, but the thing about novels is that there is often a bigger concern with its length and prose than there is about the entertainment factor. It is a product.

I don’t have any issues with regarding a story as a product. I’m a firm believer that once you hit ‘publish’, ‘submit’, or sign your soul away on a traditional contract deal then your book baby is a product that needs to be sold. And the writer has to pull up their breeches and put their business hats on or nobody gets food.

And square-dancing gods almighty know that I love me some food.

The problem comes only when someone keeps seeing their novel as something to make money and not as a story that people are supposed to read. You’ve probably come across books like this already.

It lured you in with its cover. The excerpt seemed promising and the product description was stupidly epic.

But then you read it and disappointment was everywhere just like when you go into the fridge for that two liter bottle of soda and realize that it’s horribly, horribly flat (even though when you shake it, it still has plenty of bubbles.)

Silliness aside though, let the writing come first.

3.) Be Fully Present In Writing

Ever have those days when you’re just so in the zone while writing that you don’t even notice that you’ve been sitting in your pajamas until 5pm and your tea/coffee/frappucino is pretty much either too cold, melted, or downright undrinkable because the damn thing steeped way too long?

Welcome to the wonderful world of derpy things I do.

But I don’t sweat that too much because a good day of writing is well worth the cold tea and questionable ash forming on my elbows. It’s like being drunk without having to pay for alcohol, or being buzzed without smoking and the threat of lungs that look suspiciously like Kingsford charcoal.

You’re intoxicated with happiness, feelings, and sensations. When a character’s hand brushes over their lover’s, you feel the electric rush. When a character eats a salad you taste the tangy Zesty Italian dressing, the creamy avocado, and crumbled feta cheese. When a character releases an ungodly fart into a closed elevator, you are just as convinced as the MC that some people just want to see the world burn.

It is one of the best states to be in (well not the elevator part), and one that I’d like to study much more carefully alongside mindfulness meditation. The two go hand in hand like PB&J for me, and I figure that if I can figure out how to sink deeper into my own writing then I can figure out how to help a reader do the same.

4.) Room For Improvement Isn’t A Threat But A Very Good Friend If You Know How To Deal With It

The very notion of feedback can leave us shaking in our boots. Some people are so vicious that they will rip your story to shreds and leave you in a puddle of tears. I’ve never been torn down to that point, and I probably won’t because I’ve learned to distinguish between criticism that you should act on and criticism that you should not.

And here is the difference boiled down into one question:

Did you do it on purpose?

You do not ever have to change something that you threw in on purpose, or anything that you understand 100% percent the pros and cons of.

In my book for example, I write in the present tense throughout the whole thing, even for flashbacks. Sometimes those flashbacks come right behind scenes in the story’s present with no clear indication that they are set in the past.

I understand 100% that it if the average newcomer reads it, they are going to be hella confused.

And that’s okay. You are supposed to be.

That knee-jerk “wait-a-minute” moment is intended. Sure it will turn some people off. That is why it is used carefully in section intros, not willy-nilly. The past and present see-saw is also a series standard, which means that if a reader keeps reading the series, then you smart peeps will instantly be able to recognize that “Oh okay, this is the past scene and this is the present scene” without being told. But in addition to that, it is as much literary choice as it is a stylistic one.

It’s only when you throw something in the story and with absolutely no fucking clue what you’re doing or have no clue that it ruins the story mood or experience of a reader. Or if something is missing that shouldn’t be.

Stuff like this you should change because it means you overlooked something that you shouldn’t have.

On that note, other stuff that you aren’t obligated worry about:

  • People not liking a certain character or having certain conceptions of them. Unless you tried very hard to write a character as one thing and you completely missed the target.
  • Personal opinions on what should and shouldn’t happen. Unless what currently happens isn’t supported by the book’s own evidence.
  • Personal opinions on who should wind up together and who shouldn’t. Unless your shippings are poorly supported by the book’s own evidence.
  • Who should die and who shouldn’t.¬†Unless deaths or non-deaths are not sufficiently supported by your book.
  • Being too harsh on some characters. Unless this harshness is just out of the blue or happening for a completely nonsensical reason.
  • Or characters not having enough spotlight.¬†Unless there is a well-founded reason grounded within your story’s logic on why a character should be there.
  • Opinions on POVs and tense.¬†Unless it is unanimously clear that you either a) wrote the POV very poorly, b) or that you like/suspect that one POV has more benefits over another.
  • Anything that you give clear warning for.¬†Because at this point you’d have to ask “Bruh, did you even read?”
  • People projecting personal beliefs, insecurities, issues onto what you’ve written.¬†Your book is not the place for someone else’s political views, therapy issues, personal philosophy essays, or their grandma’s newly formed corns and bunions. No one’s book is.
  • Things that people misinterpret or make up about your book.¬†Another case of¬†“Bruh, did you even read?” I’ve had people misinterpret a simple shortcake as a metaphor for sex when there was no mention of sex, lust, romance, or body-on-body contact anywhere. It was just a description of a strawberry shortcake.

Yep.

The world is a strange place.

Now, if you try to appeal to all of these requests, you will more than likely rip your story apart because this shit is not actual feedback.

Does that mean that you should never listen? No. Sometimes people will say something that you did not consider and can make good use of. The trick is knowing the difference.

But also don’t forget that constructive feedback is there to help. Thinking that a story needs none is the kiss of death. Most of the time when we let a story out into a beta reader’s hands for the first time, it is a very sick thing: coughing flat characters, sneezing unintended plot holes, hawkin’ up purple prose, sore typo throat, trope fever‚Ķ

The poor thing needs some meds and TLC. Don’t let it run around sick and neglected.¬†ūüė¶

But that’s enough out of me. This post went on far longer than I thought it would, so I’m going to chop it in two before it sprouts wings.

Stay tuned for part 2 and keep writing~