Meditative Monday: A Liberating Look Back At 900 pages of Freewrites

It’s been almost two years since I’ve started freewriting seriously. When I think about it and how far I’ve come because of it, I still can’t believe it.

When I finished the draft of my latest novel a few weeks ago, I decided that I’ve waited long enough.

I decided to port it out to my kindle and binge-read all 900 pages. For better or for worse, screaming voodoo monkeys and all!

So, in a post that I pray is short, here is what happened…

Rediscovering Old Ideas

This is hands down the second-best part of never throwing away those old ideas.

Why second?

It’s a double-edged sword. Sure you discover things that you love, but there are also things that you don’t want to see again. Not to mention there’s a lot of “wtf junk”. But as I filtered through all of it, I felt like a treasure hunter or a gold rush miner. There were also old ideas that helped me reconnect with the visions of what I wanted my stories to look like and stay true to them.

Being Able To Trace The Beginnings of Ideas Before I Was Conscious of Them

This is the trippy part.

I don’t know if anyone else’s brain works in a similar way, but the ideas I thought that I had come up with ‘while writing’ weren’t actually made while I was writing. The seeds of them had often been there weeks and months before as words, phrases, and small tidbits that eventually stuck and became something else.

I’ve often heard that the subconscious keeps working on a problem after you stop thinking about it. But I always thought of this as something more short-term. The possibility that my brain might be mulling something over for the long term is an interesting thought and one I hope to see more of in the future.

Recognizing The Patterns You Fall In

I apparently have an obsession for forests, beaches, food, the smell of butter and garlic, wind-powered cities, and cafes. I’m sure that I’m missing a whole bunch of stuff that sticks into my brain.

This is partly why I like to ‘train’ my writing skills with different exercises and absorb  different sources to get out of this. Constant exposure to different ideas makes it so that my brain latches onto different defaults. I find that I’ll go back to the boring imagery loops if I write in a vacuum.

Realizing That It’s Worth Doing Again

For me, I’ve grown so much through my freewrite training exercises and warm ups. Even if I don’t find the ideas useful, the mileage helps so much and it’s helping me understand the value of the journey over the destination.

Now that I think about it, I never started my private freewrites with the intention of having them end up take up so many pages. It had always been something I did for different purposes: to generate ideas, to have a safe space, to fine tune my skills.

Though, personally, I feel like I shouldn’t speak so soon because I’m still trying to understand how to enjoy the journey rather than fix on the results.

But freewriting wise it is a lesson, I don’t mind learning. 🙂

 

Meditative Monday: Do Heroes And Villains Actually Exist? Things About Good Versus Evil Tropes That Get Overlooked

Another week, another Meditative Monday which means another hopefully thought-provoking question.

And this one has been nagging me so much lately that I feel it’s finally time to actually take a stab at it.

1. Heroes And Villains Don’t Exist

Growing up, I’ve always been drawn to fantasy books and your standard fantasy RPGs where some bright-eyed hero goes gallivanting from home, stealing some poor NPC’s stuff, and charges off to fight some huge world-ending evil with your obligatory tank, healer, and rogue cardboard cut-out (but don’t worry this applies to other genres as well).

But one thing that I’ve noticed across movies, games, and books is the world of difference  made when a writer approaches their story with the hero vs. villain mentality compared to a protagonist vs antagonist mentality.

Now you might be wondering, don’t they boil down to the same thing?

Yes and no.

When you look at a situation from someone’s perspective for so long and if that character seems to be doing the right thing in our eyes, (assuming their personality isn’t written poorly), you identify with them and will naturally cheer for them. We see their thought processes and logic reasoning, and therefore when a character does something morally sketchy, we don’t think it’s so bad and will still happily call them a hero.

On the other hand, “villains” usually get much less screen time with a reader. When they appear, it’s usually to be a butt-hole to the hero, or a butt-hole to everyone in general. We don’t always see what they’re like when they’re not “evilling” (because we’re not expected to) and have a much harder time identifying with them (unless of course the “hero” manages to bore us to tears.)

But the real problem with breaking people down into heroes and villains is that people:

  • Generally believe themselves to be good, even if others don’t
  • Generally do what they think is right or okay
  • Are self-interested, meaning that they are not against you, they are for themselves
  • Generally do not accept blame, even if they are wrong

To TL;DR this all nicely…

Others are only “evil” because they want something that we think gets in our way or wrongs us.

An old lady that picks a watermelon in the store would never get more than a glance from the average person. An old lady that goes out of her way to chastise you about the way you pick your melons is now the temporary villain of our life story! For all we know, she could genuinely be passionate about the way people pick melons and really care about helping you so you can pick good melons for the rest of your life or maybe someone in her life died because they picked the wrong melon at the store.

But of course how many of us would actually think that? For our fight or flight brains much easier to dismiss someone as a snob that’s out to get us than it is to give the benefit of the doubt.

This is the biggest problem with the hero vs villain idea. It ignores that people (even good ones) are usually just minding their own business until that’s no longer an option.

And that leads quite nicely into our next topic!

2. Overlooking How Much Effort/ Emotional Cost It Takes To Be A “Hero” And A “Villain”

In fiction, heroes just jump out of bed ready to kick monster butt like it’s a cool thing to do. Now don’t get me wrong, some people out there feel like fighting a world-ending evil is their life’s calling.

But most people don’t.

Most people have this feeling called fear. Fear is so powerful in some that they can’t even use the bathroom around other human beings. Fear is what often pressures us to make “safe” choices, shoot below our potential, and ignore our dreams for things that we think makes sense. Fear forces us into self-preservation mode and many of us would rather sit somewhere safe than stick our necks out to die if we can help it.

It’s a big responsibility and a risk, therefore inaction is more common than we writers think. People tend to ignore what they don’t want to see or hear if it means trouble and when there are others around, they are actually less likely to help (called the Bystander Effect). This is likely why military bootcamps have to break their recruits down mentally, so they act when the need arises.

Now on the other side of the spectrum, the other thing that I see underestimated is how much effort it actually takes to be a “villain”.

To be an (good) antagonist you:

  • Can’t be lazy in anyway, if you are lazy, the protagonist will exploit your blindspots easily
  • Have to be very good at getting your resources (Including people)!
  • Should be charismatic to some extent, or have some nice benefits to offer, especially if you expect people or any living creature with a free will to follow them willingly
  • Have to expend a lot of energy to fight, stress out, and plan what to do next. Hence why I find it hard to rationalize why someone just “happens” to want to take over the world. Fighting an adversary takes a lot of time and effort that can be spent doing other more enjoyable things.
  • Have to have an inner drive strong enough to make you want to initiate action and persevere in the face of setbacks

 

Even if you are an all-powerful wizard that can destroy the planet, that level of time wastage has to be justified. It’s hard risky work like a business startup, and taking over the world doesn’t happen overnight so there has to be something about it that interests and motivates them on a deep-level.

Same thing applies to protagonists, being a hero is hard work. Why does this person in particular want to save the world/ town/ galaxy as opposed to sitting back, being practical, and turning a blind eye like a normal human being would? To be a good protagonist you:

  • Have to have a drive strong enough to put up with the antagonist’s nonsense.
  • Have to not have any easy way out (otherwise you would naturally take it by default)
  • Have to be able to overcome natural inhibitions like fear and giving up.
  • Also be charismatic to some extent if their role involves getting help from others
  • Can’t be too lazy, lest your laziness be exploited by the antagonist
  • Have to expend a lot of energy and mental resources to deal with the antagonist which results in a lot of stress

 

TL;DR: Why these people can’t just pack up and go home to watch football or the Witches Brewing Network? Why do they have to save/ take over the world right this moment? Why can’t someone else do it? Why are others willing to throw their life away in the name of a campaign that could fail? What keeps them in the game when an entire world might think they’re crazy? The actions will always ring hollow if everyone’s wants don’t line up, or they’re only going through the motions.

And most importantly, it’s a lot to ask of a character to be a “hero” or a “villain”.

Making a change in a world is a hard thing to do, guys. Look at how hard it is to make lasting change in our own world. Most people usually don’t do this stuff for the fun of it!

 

 

Meditative Monday: Reflections After Laying A Draft To Rest

At the time I write this now, it’s only been minutes since I wrote the final line to my third draft of the 304,548 word Butterball that I call my novel. I’m still puffed with elation, despite my eyeballs feeling like they’ve been rolled in parking lot gravel.

To say it’s been a long journey feels like an understatement. It feels more like it’s been a war. Ducking fire. Watching soldiers you think you are on your side desert in the thick of battle. And explosions. Don’t forget the explosions.

But war metaphors aside, I wanted to take the time to reflect in written words.

And let me start by saying this…

1. It Made Me Appreciate The Skill Of  Having A Game Plan For A Writing Session

There was a huge notable difference in draft writing quality when I wrote a scene with no plan whatsoever, and when I wrote a scene considering what was going to happen.

I’m glad that I found a painless way to plan and still keep my independence as a pantser. I might write a post on that another day, but this is something that I wished that I would’ve done for my first book (it’s tempting to go over it again). I definitely plan to take my scene scans forward with me into the future books that I write.

2. Learning How To Be Present Paid Off Exponentially

It makes scenes stronger, more palpable, and the benefits aren’t even limited to writing. I recall at the beginning of the year that one of my goals was to be a more mindful writer. It’s the seventh month of the year and I can say that I’ve definitely become that.

The difference between me writing normally and me writing mindfully are like night and day. And you can probably tell as much from my lack of Fast Flash Friday posts! D: The mad dash to rush through a draft is stressful and it drives you nuts. I’m glad that it’s over for now.

The other thing about being present is that it pays off in other ways such as how you deal with others, how you cope with stress, and even how you look at the world around you. A healthy mind is a creative mind. And a creative mind writes damn good novels.

3. I’m Now Excited To Comb Through My Freewrites

Throughout the draft, I realized that it’s very easy to slip into a sort of numb limbo where you’re just cranking out the words. Only recently in the final chapters did I start to understand how important it is to constantly expose yourself to new ideas, skills, and sources of inspiration.

So as a way to refresh my mind, I’ve been rolling around the idea of going through every single freewrite document I’ve made up to this point. I’m waiting until number 45 is done which will bring me roughly to a total of 900 pages of ideas.

Knowing that I’ve come this far made me want to take my freewrites more seriously. So I’ve restarted my entire writing exercise regimen to generate more focus ideas and to sharpen my skills.

4. I Better Understand The Importance Of Rest And How To Better Use It Wisely

It’s not enough to work, work, work. And it’s hard to be responsible with breaks.

Rest, I now understand is an important part of growth, but rest is useless if you challenge yourself. And I do love challenging myself.

Now I have to admit, it’s a little weird that I have to teach myself how to rest, but my body just doesn’t understand that it needs time to be inactive. It wants to go, go, go, and crash, crash, crash, and repeat.

But peak performance has always been an area of study that intrigued me and that I wanted to incorporate into my writing life. And I’ve always wondered what would happen if I tried to answer the question:

What if a writer treating writing the way a world-class award-winning athlete treats their sport?

I know I can’t answer this question now, but I’ve got the final draft of this book and the rest of my series to find out.

Meditative Monday: Important Writer Things No One Told Me But Should Be Stressed More

Oh ho ho! It’s Monday which means it’s time for another round of Meditative Monday. And today’s post is all about writing issues that come up, but aren’t always talked about whether it’s about the writing itself, before you set pen to paper, or after you write ‘The End’.

Understanding Of Your Story Only Comes After Its Written

Because the moment you start typing that draft is the moment all of your shortcomings and blindspots will splatter against the wall.

It’s very easy to feel comforted by the outline we just typed up or the table talk we just had with our friends, but chances are, unless you just never generate ideas, new things will come up, old things won’t fit. And stressing about this while you’re writing is an energy sinkhole.

It’s because we average joe’s don’t make very good fortune tellers and also the creative process is still a vague strange thing that science is still trying to wrestle with.

The good thing about this is that it means that you don’t really have to sweat your draft while you’re typing. If would’ve known this instead of getting hung up on where a novel was going, I’d probably be on novel 4 or 5 by now and not 2.

Send Your Novel To Yourself Before You Publish It

No, I’m not talking about that pseudo copyright thing of sending your book to yourself in the mail (btw, don’t do that, get the real copyright).

I’m talking about sending your novel to your e-reader, especially before you hit that publish button. If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you know why the word formatting can trigger me like no tomorrow. Amazon’s Look Inside has scarred me for life and let me tell you…

There is nothing that ruins your day/ week/ month quite like repeatedly seeing Amazon shred your newly published book that you worked hard on until it looks as presentable as a pile of skunk doo-doo.

This is crippling if it happens during your novel’s New Release period because you’re wasting your thirty days of special days of special attention on fixing a problem that can easily be overlooked.

You might be thinking, “Well I’m getting it formatted by a professional, so I don’t have to worry about that.”

NO.

Always double and triple check yourself, no matter who does it.

People are human. And our human word processors usually don’t agree with the websites we upload to. There’s tidbits of code that we don’t see and don’t understand until you see the jumbled mess your novel turns into on the product page.

But on a less dramatic note, it can also be used as a revision help tool.

If you’re me and your novels span over 100,000 (or in the case of my current novel, it’s going on 290,000), the advice of ‘print it out’, is not happening. Other people need the printer as badly as me, and on top of that…

That method never felt helpful to me. In most cases, I just wind up reading off my computer anyway. And mind you, my computer is probably the least comfortable thing to read on.

My kindle on the other hand, doesn’t take up extra space and it’s my most preferred device. I can check my notes and highlights easily and I usually always have it anyway. This way, I can go through the novel and trim it down a little before I consider printing it for further revisions.

Knowing this could’ve saved me a whole tree and two weeks of my life.

Don’t be me please…

‘Just Writing’ Doesn’t Cut It For Good Growth

Don’t get me wrong. Writing books will make you better at the act of writing books. Writing will technically make you better at writing.

But if you want to be very good at your craft, as in more than just okay, ‘just writing’ won’t help you very much, except to finish the draft you’re working on. Vague experience will not help you much either.

There is a very interesting study on this…

In Peak Performance by Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness, a study was conducted on physics professors and their students to see what makes an expert.

And as it turns out, the physics professors, even though they had their degrees, research, and experience, did not outperform their students. In some cases, they actually made the same mistakes their students were making on novice-level problems.

So as it turns out, years under your belt actually doesn’t mean a thing…

By itself. There is a type of experience that does mean a thing.

Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness looked at two more studies, one involving singers of different skill level (amateur to professional) and one involving violinists.

In both groups, they noticed something interesting: the amateurs practiced however they liked and usually stuck to doing what they found fun, but as they got to the professional and world-class performers they saw more of the performers doing targeted exercises to improve certain skills instead of random practice.

And incase you were wondering, the participants were practicing for the same amount of hours a day, so it’s definitely not a matter of just putting in your 10,000 hours to be a master.

And this is why I don’t buy ‘just write’ or ‘just fix it in editing’. If your base writing skills are not that great, you can’t put it all on an editor to save you. They can only work with what you’ve written after all. They can offer suggestions on interesting developments you could pursue, but the chances that your book will come out sounding like a Pulitzer or Hugo Award Winner if you’re nowhere near that level yourself is very slim.

Some people could care less if they never improve as long as they can pull the Benjamin Franklin’s out of their bank account and that’s perfectly fine. Personally, I feel like the skill will make it easier to get and save the Franklins in the long run. And even more than that, when people pick up my books, I want it to be because my writing gave them a vivid sensory and emotional experience that they can’t forget.

This won’t happen if I skimp on practice. In fact, whenever I skimp, I actually notice my skills getting worse.

But this of course really begs the question of where exactly do you want your writing career to go. I’d add this to the list of things that are here, but unfortunately, I’ve spent enough time here already.

Until next time~

 

 

 

Meditative Monday: How To Not Write 4K+ Words A Day

Hey everybody, it’s Monday and it’s nice to finally be back for another Meditative Monday. Some unexpected issues turned up and I couldn’t get posts up as a result, but thankfully Meditative Monday is here and today is a topic that I’ve been wanting to talk about for a long time, but I was never sure how to go about it.

How do we get our word counts from measly 1k and 2k a day to numbers like 4k and above?

Now I had to do a lot of testing and experimentation for this post. I started with about 2000 words and brought my word count up 500 extra words daily for a while to see where exactly I fall. The max limit I hit seems to be 10500 words, but only if I followed a strict routine and only if I dedicated my entire day to it.

4k-5k I find is the comfortable zone where I can get enough done to feel productive, but also not feel like I murdered my brain. If you’ve been wanting to get more writing done, but don’t know how to go about it, stick around for a bit.

But there are some things that you just really don’t want to do like…

1. Not Understanding How You Work And What Traps You’ll Fall Into

Believe me, the more self-knowledge you have about yourself, the more efficient you can be.

For example, I know that I hate having my attention split between my computer and someone’s voice, so I fix this by writing with earphones or moving to another room whenever I can.

For a lot of people, shiny distractions like tv and social media are what’s costing them thousands of words. If you know that you can’t handle certain things in your environment or that you get distracted by certain things, don’t ignore this. Eliminate or reduce the distraction in whatever way that you can, if possible.

2. Failing To Outline

This mostly applies to those of us in the fiction writing business. And if you’re a panther, I know what you’re thinking…

“I don’t want to outline!”

I won’t say that you have to outline because all roads are valid in my book. I’m a pantser too and I hate outlining about as much as any other pantser. But unless you are extremely good at keeping things in your head and very good at plotting as you go along, you’ll have a really bad time once you cross into 3k+ territory.

Often, you’ll keep stopping and starting your flow because there’s stuff that you don’t know. For me, the 10k days were only possible because I knew everything I had to do and there was no wiggle room to sit there and wonder about it.

The other worry for us pantsers is that it takes the fun out of discovering things as we write. Individual circumstances aside, this fear can be worked around easily because your outline doesn’t have to be anything formal or super complicated.

I do my scene scans where I go over what happened in my last writing and plan what will happen in the current session, as well as note characters motives and sensory details, but really an outline could just be barebones phrases if you wanted. All it has to do is tell you what you think you’ll cover while writing. This way you don’t lose all of your enthusiasm and there’s enough wiggle room for you discover things along the way.

3. Starting With Too Much

Writing 10k sounds amazeballs, doesn’t it?

Actually writing 10k in a day does not feel amazeballs. And pulling a badass 10k out of nowhere is unrealistic.

Think about it like this, when you go to the gym, you don’t grab the heaviest weights you see. You also shouldn’t grab the weights that don’t challenge your muscles. You grab the weights that are appropriate for your strength and then you build up to lift more.

Like I said before, I started at around 2k and built up to the 10k by adding 500 words at a time, but I went back down to what was the most comfortable for me.

Starting small doesn’t sound glamorous I know, but high word counts are more about endurance and not about really about how fast you type.

4. Not Keeping Track Of How Much You Get Done

Ignorance is not bliss if you want to get writing done.

If you write down your writing times, your writing locations, and how much you write, you realize just how much time gets eaten in distractions and small side tasks that we usually don’t think about.

For example, I realized that I’d start strong with 1000 words or so in a short amount of time, but then I’d take breaks that go on for hours which hurt my goals and made me work longer than I had to!

Conclusion

There’s so many more tips that I’d like to give, but in my opinion, the best resource I’ve found on the subject was Rachel Aaron’s 2000-10000. If I think of more tips, I may do a part 2, but until then…

Get back in that water!

Meditative Monday: Everything I’d Do Differently If I Had To Start My Writing Journey All Over Again (Part 5)

Oh ho ho! It’s yet another Meditative Monday which means there’s even more fun to be had, especially if you recognize today’s featured image. But let’s not dilly-dally or shilly-shally.

To the meat!

 

To Never…And I Mean NEVER Give Up On Drawing

For two reasons…

One, drawing is not something that you just abandon and pick up where you left off. You have to recover your hand-eye coordination. The more of a beginner you are, the worse this hits you because you have to fight your hand and lack of knowledge at the same time.

Two, drawing has helped me change the way I think about my writing and world building. I can visualize scenes and images a little stronger now. I make better decisions about characters and cultures. I think more about the small life-like details and how a world functions as a whole.

I’m a big fan of concept art and one of the things that I like about it so much is that it’s not just face rolling all over your graphics tablet. It involves research, iterations, and it’s very scientific and deliberate in the way you approach a subject.

One of my side dreams is to make a concept art book for my novels some day and to be able to express all of my ideas in multiple mediums. Looking at other games like Zelda helps in this aspect too, I’m happy to say.

Talk Less…Do More

There is a reason why we say the road to hell is paved with good intentions people.

I actually didn’t understand what this meant for a long time as a kid. Only recently did this actually start to click in my head.

The thing is…most average Joe mean well. We want to do the right thing. We want to go to the gym. We want to finish that book. We like to think that our partners, friends, and family understand that we appreciate them without us saying it outright.

And that is the problem, the “thinking and wanting” we do in our head does not matter to other people, even if you do verbally express it. Talk is talk. You can intend all the good in the world, but if you do the wrong thing consistently, that is what you will be remembered for.

Some weeks ago, I started to take a look at myself and say, “Destine, what kind of person do you want to be?” Not achievement-wise. But character-wise.

I think that because I had to unlearn many difficult and bad behaviors on my own, the power of being able to forge my own character into what I want it to be is very important.

But one of the most important things for me nowadays is being the kind of person that lives by their actions.

Maybe I’ve just had the most unfortunate selection of friends, family, and environment (I hope this is the case) but the amount of people who follow through with what they say they’re going to do seems to be astronomically small. The upside to this, is that just taking action can do wonders to set you apart.

Because of this, I disregard table talk and only pay attention to what a person does. Sometimes I even disregard past achievements too. Harsh-sounding sure, but it’s a measure to separate people who are the real deal and consistently improve from the people who are okay with complacency. And the latter, I stay the hell away from.

Now I’ve heard some other people mention this too, but I find that talking about an idea too much sucks the fun out of it. To the point of me not wanting to do it.

Instead, I feel like I’d much rather just come out when something is done. And in my experience, I get taken a lot more seriously when I’ve already done something than if I just talk about doing it or if I’m in the middle of doing it. So I’d rather let actions speak whenever possible.

Play A Lot More Zelda And Savor It While I Can

I know what you’re probably thinking. Video games? Lazy mode!

Not exactly.

For one, regardless of whether I’ve watched someone play the games in a Let’s Play, or played the games myself, I can’t ignore fact that the Zelda series shaped the way I think about my books. Twilight Princess and Breath of the Wild especially.

But also remember, I approach things from my Art History perspective, and I have worked on games before, so when I look at art work or the characters, I don’t see what a layman gamer sees. I’ll marvel at the details in a game asset that you’ll probably never notice. I’ll gush over motif patterns and the cultural building. I’ll WTF at the historical inaccuracies and love them anyway. Seeing the Zelda team reiterate their world building always makes me a happy camper and it’s something that I want to bring into my own writing.

And not to mention, some storylines really hit me.

Majora’s Mask had the whole “world destruction in 3 days” concept going for it, but also the “putting lost souls to rest” aspect is very beautiful.

Wind Waker had the whole, “I just want to save my sister” part that was endearing.

Twilight Princess was all about “saving the kids” and fighting Zant, but of course you know…there’s Midna. A jackass she may be, but she’s a jackass with character development so I’m all for it.

Skyward Sword, though I curse the controls to hell, had the angle of a monster growing stronger and stronger and continually trying to break free while you’re scrambling to save the world.

In Breath of the Wild, the apocalypse has already hit and the world is trying to rebuild after their plan to fight evil went horribly wrong.

I always find myself silenced at some point because there’s so much about the games that words can’t express and thoughts are too stifling for. It’s a feeling that I hope I can pass onto my writing someday. Preferably everyday!

And never forget…

All the awesome freaking Zelda music.

So in honor of Zelda, I shall not end with telling you to get back in the water, but I will end with this insanely awesome Zelda song that just blows my mind.