Posts Tagged With: Writer

Character Development: Your Character and the Holidays – PART ONE

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  Given how early everything holiday-related seems to be starting this year, this seemed appropriate….though, personally, I think you should hold the Christmas music until at least Black Friday.

  I’ll be using Alec Griffin, one of the main characters from my series. He’s been a bit of a challenge for me to get to know, so the more I can ferret out of him, the better.

1. Christmas, Thanksgiving, Twelfth Night, April Fool’s Day, Valentine’s Day, and Bonfire Night. His favorite is April Fool’s Day, because that gives him a valid excuse to be even more of a nuisance than he already is.

2. Alec loves holidays. All holidays. He gets a day off to party with the people he loves. What could be better than that?

3. He would rebel and probably end up being more troublesome than productive.

4. Alec celebrates by inviting everyone he knows and a few he doesn’t over for a day(or night)-long party. As for his family, all he has is his parents, and since they live half a world away, they rarely come to his celebrations or he to theirs.

5. Despite his progressiveness in everything else, the holidays are one aspect of Alec’s life that must stay the same at all costs. Tradition is key and must never, ever be ignored.

6. Pie. It doesn’t matter what kind or what holiday, Alec always goes for the pie.

7. Spoilsports, mostly. He hates it when someone rains on his parade of happiness and good cheer.

8. His favorite part of the holidays is that it can bring his friends together for reasons other than an imminent apocalypse or other dire circumstances. It’s the one part of his life that can be kept normal.

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Somebody Order A Villain?:Part Two

~ Firstly, I apologize for the absence. I started my senior year, so between course work, college prep, working, trying to find a better job, and non-school-related life…I got a little distracted. ~

As I’ve already made abundantly clear, I’m quite fond of villains. In many cases, they’re more interesting than their hero counterparts(and usually better dressed). They’re unpredictable, appearing in all shapes, sizes, and emotional states. They’re troubled, by anything from guilt to greed to the continued existence of the human race. And everything that makes them fun to hate and a joy to read also makes them terrors to write properly.

 

 

1. Sauron – A good villain is driven.

 

 

Whatever it is that your villain wants, he has to want it with every fiber of his soul. Heroes can occasionally be apathetic about what they’re trying to accomplish since they’re often dragged into quests and adventures against their will, but the bad guys cannot.  If your villain is lackadaisical about getting what he/she wants, then the rest of your story is going to lag, as well.

 

 

The Eye of Sauron as portrayed in Peter Jackso...

The Eye of Sauron as portrayed in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movie trilogy as Sauron’s form in the Third Age. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In The Lord of the Rings, Sauron stopped at nothing to retrieve the One Ring. He sent all kinds of nasty beasties and recruited unsavory characters to help see that little piece of power returned. A fact that helped keep the action going through three books and as many movies.

 

 

2. A good villain believes in what he’s doing.

 

 

Considering the things that villains do? They better believe in it!  Without believing that his actions will bring him to his goal, a villain won’t be driven(see above) to do much of anything and you won’t have a story.

 

 

Granted, there may be doubts. Every human on the face of the planet has doubts from time to time, and letting your baddie have some from time to time can go a long way toward making her more human. However, unless your tale is a tale of redemption, make sure she pushes through them.

 

 

3. Professor Moriarty – A good villain is the kind of person your protagonist would have as a BFF.

 

 

If he wasn’t, you know, evil. In a lot of great fiction, the protagonist and the antagonist are two sides of the same coin. Good and evil versions of the same person, if you simplify things.

 

 

Take Sherlock Holmes and Moriarty, for example. They’re both brilliant. They both invented professions to suit their talents. They both possess a penchant for great schemes, and neither has ever found anyone to keep up with them until they crossed swords with each other.

English: Sidney Paget's drawing of Holmes and ...

English: Sidney Paget’s drawing of Holmes and Moriarty in Mortal Combat at the Edge of the Reichenbach Falls. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

4.Queen Levana – A good villain is not good.

 

 

 

 

First, allow me to qualify that statement: a good villain is not doing bad things for good reasons. If that’s the case, your character may be more of an anti-hero than an antagonist.

*spoiler alert*  In Cinder by Marissa Meyer, the antagonist, Queen Levana, embodies this concept pretty well. She tries to murder a three-year-old princess in order to steal the throne for herself, tries again when the princess is in her teens, routinely brainwashes her own subjects, and orders certain disabled infants to be murdered at birth. Not a nice woman.

 

 

A villain does what they do for reasons that they consider good, but that likely sound insane/diabolical/repulsive to the average person. Typically, their motivations revolve solely around themselves. Granted, there are exceptions to this, as with almost all aspects of writing.

 

 

5. The Weeping Angels – A good villain is frightening.

 

 

Human or monster, psychopath or sociopath, explosive or calculating, a good villain should be scary in some way, shape, or form. The worse your protagonist’s opponent is and the more your readers hate him/her, the more emotionally invested they become in seeing him/her vanquished.

The Weeping Angels are living statues from Doctor Who. In the series, they move faster than the human eye can blink and if they reach you will either send you back in time to feed off your potential energy or snap your neck, just because…well…they can. Either way, they can be terrifying. As such, when an episode features them, you’re totally invested in the plot and seeing them lose because you’d really like to be able to sleep that night. Not that you will.

And I’m not posting a picture. If you’re a Whovian, you will know why.

 

 

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The Comment

While I was away, something…monumental happened. My blog was flamed for the first time. In a way, I guess it’s a good thing that this was the first negative comment to come through in the almost-year I’ve been writing here, but it stung all the same. However, in frantically reviewing the post in question(Things to Do in a Library) to see what the problem was, I realized that there were some things that could be misconstrued. The commenter had a point.

As such, I deleted the post, did some thinking, and am now sitting here, writing this. The post itself was only meant as humor, and I apologize to anyone I’ve offended. I value your readership, and intend to be significantly more careful in future. I would also like to reiterate that I am in fact still in high school. I have no expertise, no training, and no real business giving advice. But I’m doing it anyway–mostly to myself, as a way of organizing my thoughts and motivating myself to stay focused on my own writing–so don’t take anything I say too seriously.

In writing, there’s nothing more important than tone. Its importance  is exactly the same on the page (or the screen) as it is in conversation. Perhaps more so. And unfortunately, it’s significantly easier to mess up when writing rather than talking.   A phrase intended as sarcasm or humor can be taken seriously twice as easily through written words as when spoken, and it’s three times as hard to smooth things over.  It doesn’t do either the writer or the reader any favors and generally results in an unpleasant experience for everyone. So, without further ado, here are the things I plan on doing to avoid further problems.

1. READ!

All those writing technique manuals have an excellent point. Every author has a unique tone, and the more varied range of tones you’ve experienced, the better equipped you are to skillfully form your own. By studying successful authors, you can see how to capture an emotion or a idea effectively. Without coming off as condescending when you meant to be welcoming, ingratiating when you try to commiserate, or purely stupid when you try to be funny. Better yet, don’t try to be anything. Except yourself, of course.

2. REREAD!

…your own work. Simple proof-reading. As important as we all know it is, it’s easy to forget about tone when you’re hunting for typos, working on deadline(AHHH! IT’S 1:00 AM AND I’VE GOT TO WORK IN THE MORNING! Now, where’s the publish button…?), or simply in a hurry.

Secondly, reading phrases that you have doubts about out loud is good. Try them out, put emphasis on different sections and see if any of the versions are…not so good.

3. Don’t Take It Too Seriously

It’s impossible to be perfect, especially in an area as subjective as writing. There will always be people who love your style and people who loathe it with every atom. Misunderstandings will still occur. Problems will still arise. Take the criticism and learn from it, but don’t sweat it. It’s not worth the time and tears(those are far better spent on those problem chapters of your novel), and there are far more productive things to do with your time.

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Writing Prompt…Wednesday?

I do, in fact, realize that this is rather late. Lo siento, mi amigos/amigas. Getting back into a blogging schedule is rather nuts, particularly when coupled with the rest of madness that is life outside the computer screen. However, if I’m lucky(and dedicated…as if that will ever happen), things will get back to normal soon.

This Week’s Prompt:

Boil your story/novel/whatever’s theme down to one word. See if there is any other way to sneak that into the project in question without clubbing your readers with it.

My answer:

This particular part of writing is seriously the hardest part for me. But, thanks to a creative writing teacher who refused to let us even start anything without a theme, I’ve learned that it actually does help the writing process. It can help you determine what stays and what goes during the editing process, help nail down your characters, and even inspire better plot points. And as for my story’s word? I think the only one that really fits is discovery. In the midst of thugs, bombs, a few swordfights, jumps off moving trains, and a kiss or two, she’s finding out quite a lot. Learning that she isn’t alone. Discovering new parts of herself.  Rediscovering things she thought she’d sworn off.

Your Answer?

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The Shine On Award Cometh

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Award? Me? …Seriously?
Well…if you insist. Thank you, apprentice,never master! As evidenced by my jaw hitting the floor, the abrupt texting of friends actually aware of my blog, and the little squeaks emitting from my room, this is obviously my first blog award of any kind. I am most honored. And now, on to the particulars of the Award itself.
 The Shine On Award Rules:
1. Link back to the blogger who nominated you. Which I did, see above.
2. Post the badge on your blog. It’s pretty. Do it.
3. Answer the questions posed to you. Regardless of how out-of-left-field they may be.
4. Nominate five bloggers who shine a little light in your day and be sure to notify them.
5. Issue some questions you’d like them to answer.
 The Questions:
1. If you had to introduce yourself using only the title of a song, which song title would you choose?
Probably I’m a Nut, by that guy who sounds like Roger Miller, but isn’t him and whose name escapes me. Trust me, it fits.
2. What was the last movie you watched?
I believe The Phantom was the last one I actually watched, but the most current one was The Hobbit,which, by the way, is epic
3. Where would you most like to have dinner tonight?
A pub in London.
4. What’s your favorite book? (or your most recent favorite book, if that’s a difficult question)
You’re kidding, right? There is no possible way for a writer to pick a favorite book. I have approximately fifty. The Lost World, the Bible, Partners in Crime, The Man in the Brown Suit, The Gallagher Girls Series, Sherlock Holmes–it’s impossible, I tell you.
5.What’s your favorite tongue twister?
I can’t tell you. It’s copyrighted by my choir director.
6. How many cows are in Canada?
Presumably as many cows as are Canadian.
7. Where do you plan to go on your next trip?
Considering that I don’t yet have the authority to plan my own trips? I haven’t the foggiest. Talk to my parents. However, if it were up to me and I had unlimited funds, I’d make a beeline for London, then hop over to Paris and from there move on to Venice and Roma.
8. What’s the first thing that comes to mind when I say “quick fox”?
Mozilla Firefox when it’s actually loading at reasonable speed. Or a spy’s codename. Either way.
9. What’s the strangest place you’ve ever found your keys?
…I don’t lose my keys. My mother, however, has found hers at the bottom of a toilet in a craft store.
10. A penguins just walked into the room, wearing a sombrero. What does he say and why is he here?
“Thou hath been pwned.” He was sent as a practical joke by my book club. They’re good at stuff like that: conjuring talking penguins, creating fictional love pentagons, causing general choas and mayhem. That’s what it’s all about for The Off-Topic Readers.
My Nominees:
Through Two Blue Eyes – It’s a blog concerning writing, life, and other lovely geeky things, and is written by a Christian, which makes me enormously happy. Also, my eyes are blue, too.
Canadian Hiking Photography – I always feel an urge to go visit Canada after looking at one of his posts. Of course, my fear of bears always kicks in before I actually do, but still. Awesome blog.
SJ O’Hart – She leaves the most awesome encouraging comments on the face of the blogosphere.
Heroic Endeavors – She has a really fun-to-read perspective on life.
…And those are the only ones I came up with. I honestly don’t follow that many blogs. If y’all happen to know of any good writing or geek blogs, preferably written by teens, please, by all means, recommend them to me. Anywhoozle, moving on.
   The Questions:
1. Why did you start blogging?
2. Tea or coffee?
3. Most inspiring writer?
4. Your favorite fandoms?
5. If you were to take over the world, how would you do it?
6. Which do you prefer, a computer or paper and pen?
7. The best moment of your life was–?
8. The first song to come up on your portable musical device of choice:
9. Love is–?
10. Why did the chicken cross the road?
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Writing Prompt Monday – Entry #12

WordPress is snowing. But it is currently 70 degrees outside. In December. *sobs* My life is ruined.

And now back to our regularly scheduled writing drivel, this week’s post relates to editing and polishing up your work. One thing I’ve noticed as I frantically try to finish the revisions on my novel before Christmas (just an abstract goal, I’m not going to curse anyone with it as a gift) is that you can lose a lot in editing. If you are–as I am–trying to work mainly on the plot, the prose itself can get lost in the scuffle and as such, sink your work just as quickly as a bad plot. Ergo, this week’s…assignment(it’s not technically a prompt, I suppose).

Q. Take 1-2 paragraphs of your current work. Give it a good spit-polish keeping these points in mind.

-Passive is bad.

Appropriate, gripping adjectives are good in small doses.

Awkward phrases are bad.

 Unnecessary words are also bad.

Run-on sentences are an evil spawned in the darkest pits of the dark side of the moon and should be killed on sight.

A.

I’m starting with the first paragraphs of my novel. They really, really need help at the moment. Here is the unedited version…

“Before you’re sucked into the chaos that makes up my life, allow me to point out one thing. This was in no way my fault. Well…the stairwell incident sort of was, but that’s beside the point. All in all, I was just a perfect innocent (not a word I get to use often) who happened to get sucked into the blasted mess.

Then again, it isn’t unusual for me to be in trouble. But usually, it’s of my own making rather than something someone else planned for me to stumble into. A gadget gone wrong, a trip gone weird, or simply my own blasted curiosity typically catapults me into trouble—and I don’t mind. It can be one of the most amusing past-times for a peculiar person to get oneself in and out of trouble. This time, I wasn’t given the choice.”

And here is the edited version.

“Before you’re sucked into my three-ring circus of a life, allow to point out one very important little fact. The events of this tale were not my fault. Well…outside of the stairwell incident. That was probably me. But, either way, it’s beside the point. 

For once in my life, I can honestly say that I was an innocent bystander, sucked into trouble by a certain n’erdowell and forced to cause a bit of chaos of my own in the process of getting out.  Granted, it isn’t unusual for me to be embroiled in one mess or another, but I generally make it myself rather than letting someone else do it for me. One of my gizmos gone wrong, a trip gone wrong, or simply my own blasted curiosity–and I don’t mind. It can be vastly amusing for someone with a good sense of adventure and significant amounts of explosives. But someone else setting a trap for me to fall into? This was a first.”

Your answers?

 

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The Ten Commandments of My Story World

In trying to put together an entire universe for a series of novels and trying to sort out all the characters that fit into said universe, certain patterns start to emerge. The rules of the universe start showing up and eventually wind up almost set in stones. And they kinda come in handy once they’re established. If you’re stuck on determining the future of a character or the plot to throw him/her into, looking back on previous patterns can spark whole new ideas. These are the Ten Commandments for my stories. What are yours?

1. If something can go wrong, it will do so in the most dramatic way possible. Probably involving explosives, evil relatives, escaped circus beasts, or all three.

2. If a person of the opposite sex irks you beyond measure, you should try to get used to it. You’re probably going to marry them.

3. Vacations, business trips, and any other type of travel will always go haywire and end in either a grand adventure or a terrible tragedy. In some cases, both.

4. Never trust someone who appears normal; only the crazy ones are safe.   I mean, c’mon…if they hide their crazy side, what else are they hiding?

5. Family can either be a very good or a very bad thing. There is no middle ground. They’ll be either the staunchest allies you could hope for or the worst enemies you could ever imagine.

6.Normal does not exist. Anywhere. Ever.  Come to think of it, that sounds about right for the real world, too.

7. Everyone has a stories, both good and bad, and all worth telling.  You may have to dig deep to find it, but even the most heartless, bland, or inherently evil character has something intriguing in their background.

8.Adventure is unavoidable. And why would you want to anyway? Almost all of the inhabitants of my world are slightly insane and have no qualms about jumping headfirst into trouble.

9. A friend is the very best thing you can have when in a jam. They’re even better than explosives!

10. A hero will always be a hero in the end, and the end will always be happy eventually.  Some characters just take a while to remember that they are in fact supposed to be heroes.

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Top Writing Quotes – The Sequel

Considering how popular my last quotes post was and how hard I’m trying to revive the blog, I thought a sequel was in order. Luckily for me, there is no shortage of sage remarks on the life and times of writers. Salud!

If you are in difficulties with a book, try the element of surprise: attack it at an hour when it isn’t expecting it.

  -H. G. Wells

I like the image of attacking a misbehaving manuscript (since there are times I’m tempted give up on mine and delete all traces of its existence). And Wells is right about it being helpful to hop out your routine to jumpstart your work. Some of my best stuff has come out of times when I’ve been writing at odd times or in odd circumstances.

Don’t ask a writer about what he’s working on. It’s like asking someone with cancer about the prognosis of his disease.

Jay McInerney

Unless you’re one of my editors, if you ask about what I’m working on, all you get is a tight smile and a vaguely nervous, slightly annoyed look. It’s not pretty.

There is a splinter of ice in the heart of a writer.

  -Graham Greene

Yeah…Most people don’t hear about grisly murders, horrific deaths, and the misfortunes of their friends, then go “Huh. I could use that.”

Don’t tell us petty stories of our own pettiness…Go back where there are temples and jungles and all manner of unknown things , where there are mountains whose summits have never been scaled, rivers who sources have never been reached, deserts whose sands have never been crossed.

-Willa Cather

I miss that about today’s writing. I end up reading a lot of 19th century fiction and being slightly in awe of the spirit of adventure and the hope for the future that went into them. Can we go back to that now? Please?

I know no person so perfectly disagreeable and even dangerous as an author.

-King William IV

Hmmm…I like “dangerous.” And it’s quite true. We can be very dangerous (“the pen is mightier than the sword”). And also highly disagreeable, especially if forced to get up before 8 a.m.

Characters take on life sometimes by luck, but I suspect that it is when you can write most entirely out of yourself, inside the skin, heart, mind, and soul of another person who is not yourself, that a character becomes in his own right another human being on the page.

-Eudora Welty

I haven’t mastered this yet, and probably never will. All of my character have some part of me in them. But it would be an amazing skill to have, and I’m in awe of the writers that can do it.

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Mwuhahaha! : Writing About Fear, Horror, and Other Delightful Things

Just to be clear, I don’t do horror. Being a writer, I have a despicably overactive imagination and it makes monsters out of shadows often enough as it is, even without adding fodder to it. I once accidentally read (yes, it is possible) a gothic horror novel and didn’t sleep for two days afterwards. But, even in genres other than horror, there are still sections that involve a little suspense and a little terror. Some writers do them well. Some not so much. This is what I’ve noticed about them.

1. Emotions

If something’s really gone and shook your puddin’, you aren’t going to be calm, cool, and collected. Yet, in a disturbing number of books, the characters go right on with their adventures, even after supposedly being terrified moments beforehand. I was in my first car accident last week, and, despite it being minor with no injuries, I still didn’t stop shaking for a good hour afterwards. Though, that was partially because the first responders were rude and rather scary, but I digress. If you’re really and truly scared, the feeling doesn’t  just evaporate once the danger is past. Granted, you can’t take it too far, or it will throw off the rhythm of your story, but it’s still something to think about. Also, it depends on the character you’re writing. Some are cool through the crisis and fall apart later, some bawl throughout the duration, and some lock up like clams. Whatever works for your story.

2. Details

As I’ve mentioned before, I am aware that adjectives aren’t exactly cool in the writing world right now. And I understand why. They can be a real nuisance if used incorrectly. But when you’re attempting to pull off a good scare for your readers, mood is everything. And without adjectives to describe it, there is no mood. You don’t have to use a lot (In fact, you shouldn’t use a lot–bad form. Very bad form.), but a few well-placed descriptors can work wonders.

3. Pacing

This can be a major issue. If it drags on for too long, you lose the sense of urgency that makes suspense and horror what they are. If you cut it too short, there isn’t enough time for the reader to become invested in the scene and therefore become frightened. The age-old writers’ advice of reading aloud really helps with pinpointing areas where the action is either too choppy or dragging. Also, having a disinterested party (who has a decent ear for words) read through and highlight areas where something feels off can be a lifesaver, since we all know how blind we writers can be to the failings of our own works.

4. Excessiveness

According to Google, that really is a word…It still doesn’t sound right. But I digress. While trying to write something capable of keeping your readers up that night, the tendency is to go overboard. If a little is good, a megaton is better, right? In writing, no. Definitely not. With blood, gore, monsters, and the abilities of said fictional monsters, it seems to work better to keep it realistic. Well…as realistic as you can while writing about fictional beasties. If the terrors you describe in your tale are too out of the bounds of reality, then it may very well pull your reader out of the story long enough for them to put the book down. If your monsters are too powerful, then your readers are going to hate you for writing a perfect character, evil or not. And I’m going to stop here, because doing more would be…excessive.

 

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My Top 7 Writing Quotes

I love quotes. Particularly when they pertain to writing (my other love). It’s perfectly epic to know that somebody, somewhere has felt exactly the way you have about the exact same thing. And chances are, they’ve explained it better than you have. It’s lovely. These are my favorite writing quotes, and why they resonate with me.

Writers see the world differently. Every voice we hear, every face we see, every hand we touch could become story fabric.

Buffy Anderson

Speaking from only a couple years’ experience, I can definitely deem this true. Every outlandish news story, every goofy classmate, every daily mishap has the potential to become your next great plot twist. Therefore you live on the edge of a pins-and-needles seat, notebook and pen/phone with notepad app surgically attached. But I still think it’s a good way to see the world. It seems to leave you more…open-minded. More ready to believe the impossible, or at the very least, the highly unlikely, just for the sake of having new experience from which to write.

Writers aren’t exactly people…they’re a whole bunch of people trying to be one person.

-F. Scott Fitzgerald

In getting to know people, you generally discover that they have many more facets than you first realized. With writers, it’s even worse; they don’t have facets, they’ve got whole other people hidden in their personalities who only come out when they write. And yes, I speak from experience. My teachers, parishioners, and the majority of the adults who know me consider me the quiet, meek, perfect pupil who wouldn’t dream of getting into any sort of trouble. And everybody else knows I would probably have gotten myself killed by now, if not for the fact that you actually need money to buy plane tickets and parental approval to play with explosives.

I felt a tremendous distance between me and everything real.

-Hunter S.Thompson

This is one of my favorite things about writing. I get to completely disregard reality whenever I sit down with the laptop. I can be whoever I want to be, do whatever I want to do, and all without worrying about physics, legal worries, or the space-time continuum. It’s lovely.

I put all my genius into my life; I put only my talent into my works.

-Oscar Wilde

You don’t have to be a genius or a philosopher to write something brilliant. It isn’t the point (at least not in my opinion). I think modern literary society has gone a bit astray on this; they seem to think that unless your piece is a piercing, thinly-veiled essay on the human condition with overdoses of death, despair, and tragedy, it’s utterly worthless. To my way of thinkin’, we’re supposed to be simple storytellers. To bring people up rather than tear them down.

Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.

-E. L. Doctorow.

Did you note the blog title? You can see why this quote resonates with me, since I am obviously not normal. Though, honestly, I have my doubts that “normal” exists anymore (normal is boring anyway).

A writer only begins a book. A reader finishes it.

-Samuel Johnson

I pinned this on Pinterest, and someone posted a comment refuting it within minutes. *facepalm* Granted, it’s a bit out there, but I think it’s accurate. Writers (myself definitely included) tend to need heaps upon heaps of encouragement to stick to their work once they get started on a novel or a story or whatever. In my case, I’ve got a friend/editor, my mother, and an aunt all breathing down my neck when I work on a project. The fact that someone is actually reading and enjoying something I wrote is a big part of why I keep writing. Therefore I think it’s accurate.

An artist cannot fail; it is a success to be one.

-Charles Horton Cooley

Another one of our many foibles? If we hit one singele snag, then we’re automatically terrible writers, the concept was stupid, the manuscript is rubbish, and we should probably become accountants. In the process of trying to revise my novel, there have been countless times when I wanted to scrap it all and move on. But, as the quote says, we’re already sitting pretty. There’s an outrageous amount of people in the world who can’t string two words together(example: all of the Internet), whereas we can (and do) do that in our sleep.

Anybody have more lovely quotes? Feel free to share!

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