Posts Tagged With: writing help

Burnout and How to Beat It

Do you ever feel hopelessly stuck in the middle of a story? Or just too exhausted from real life to throw yourself into a fictional one? It’s easy to get burned out, especially if you’re trying to juggle writing with a job, school, family, and the billion other things that will demand your attention. It’s not fun and it’s not easy to have ideas and feel unable to write them, but remember who and what you are: a writer. It’s a title that comes with doing. Not doing something perfectly, merely doing something. Like these things, perhaps.

1. Write Stuff.

It doesn’t matter what you’re writing, just that you are. Do some journaling, scribble down some really pathetic fanfiction, make overly detailed lists of what you did today–just write something! You won’t feel like it, but do it anyway. Nine times out of ten, once you’ve been at it for a few minutes, you’ll find yourself getting lost in the words just like you used to–even if the words you’re lost in aren’t exactly a masterpiece.

2. Write Different Stuff.

Switch projects. Maybe several times. Burnout can easily stem from falling into a rut, whether that rut involves obsessing over a single project, settling into a dull writing routine, or simply getting bored. Trying something new or alternating between several different types of projects (eg. a novel and an essay, or a short story and a memoir) can be enough to reignite your interest and draw you back into your passion.

3. Write Stuff for Yourself.

For me at least, one of the things that stops me from writing is knowing that other people will read what I write and might not like it. That’s stressful and can lead to so much hair-pulling and nail-biting that suddenly writing at all seems rather unappealing. The best way to break that mentality is to write things that are for your eyes only(at least to begin with) and forget about everyone else’s opinions for the time being. Write things the way you would if no one else was ever going to see them and you’ll find yourself having a lot more fun.

4. Don’t Write Stuff.

Sometimes, the best way to get back into the groove is to step out of it entirely for a while. Give yourself a well deserved break. I keep running across quotes from famous writers on Pinterest and Tumblr about how a true writer writes every day or how a writer can’t not write, but I don’t agree. Everyone needs a break once in a while, no matter how much they may love what they do. Parents take breaks from time to time; does that mean they aren’t true parents? Doctors, nurses, and police officers do, too, but that doesn’t make them bad at their jobs. So, why is it any different for writers? If you’re tired, go have an unhealthy snack, read a few good books(fun ones–books about writing don’t count), and come back to your project in a few days when you’ve had a chance to collect yourself.

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Writing Prompt Monday – Entry #6

*yawns* I really don’t like Mondays…But the prompt project helps a little. Anyways, today’s prompt, as usual, was inspired by current events from the life of yours truly. Take a stab at it(wouldn’t recommend that in the literal sense) and feel free to comment below.

Q. How would your character react if someone they loved suddenly appeared to be dying (e.g. choking, cardiac arrest, drowning, etc.)? Would they try to help? Go into hysterics? Cackle because they’re going to get the inheritance?

A. I have quite a few different characters to work with at the moment, since I’m alternating between several projects, but I’ll go with the primary two, Flynn and Zissa.

Zissa: She would immediately dive into help. Since she started medical school (but didn’t get to finish), she has some knowledge and might actually be able to do something. With it being someone she loved, she’d be terrified on the inside, but cool and efficient on the outside. Though I’d wager her hands would be shaking a bit.

Flynn: Flynn would probably start dying, too. When he loves, he loves deeply, to the very core. He appears to have a very tender heart and if someone he cares for is in distress, so is he. He’d do his best to help, but he’d be going utterly nuts at the same time.

Your Answer?

Categories: Writing Prompt Monday! | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Writing Authentically Without Becoming a Crook: Lockpicks

Pin and tumbler lock picking

Pin and tumbler lock picking (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am inordinately proud of myself. I just picked two padlocks with a bobby pin and a mini-screwdriver. It’s really amazing what you can learn off the Internet…

For those of you who write mysteries or adventures or anything else that involves breaking and entering and picking locks, I have a gold mine for you. I found it this morning through Pinterest, and I now feel somewhat akin to MacGyver because of all my newfound action hero knowledge. This site(which appears to be run by highly paranoid individuals–but I don’t mind since they’re incredibly smart paranoid individuals) has tutorials and videos on everything from picking your way out of handcuffs to lockpicking 101 to lockpick forensics to the various types of lockpicks. Hey, you can even buy lockpicks from there (*cough* Christmas is coming…*cough*). Anyways, I was really happy with the site because my characters tend to pick locks quite a lot–but I haven’t the slightest clue how outside of knowing a little of the terminology and the basic “listen for tumblers and pins”. Until today. Here are the links!

Lock Pick Types

Lock Picking Forensics

How To Get Out of Handcuffs

Lock Picking 101

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I’m Not From Around Here, You See…

A lot of the characters I work with tend to be international, partially because Americans like myself are kinda boring (unless they’re insane…like myself) and partially because I’m from a family of vagabonds with a taste for farflung places. Either way, writing about said characters can be a bit of a challenge since I have yet to even make it out of the States*grumbles*. And considering the tendency of most people to be highly offended when their particularly nationality is maligned, you jolly well better get it right when writing about one foreign to your own, eh? Here are the things I’ve learned from my time writing about certain Italians, Brits, and Spaniards.

1. Travel Guides

RICK STEVES!!!!!!!! Between this guy and all the Lonely Planet travelers (who are far inferior to Rick), I’ve been to a lot of places visually, if not actually. And not only are the shows great ways to learn both the sites and the history of various regions, they’re a good base introduction to the people and typically give some information on how the people act.

Actual travel guides are great, too, though books intended for transplants to your selected country work even better. There’s a series(whose name I forget) out for students studying abroad that details how to adapt to daily life in most European countries, and conveniently mentions a lot about daily life. There are also comprehensive guides for business people who do a lot of international work on how to deal with various peoples and avoid offending anyone too badly.

2. Your Friendly Neighborhood Vagabonds

Either you know one or someone you know knows one. In every circle of people, there’s going to be at least one person who feels the need to throw darts at the map and go wherever they land. I’m rather lucky in that respect; I’m surrounded by travelers. My parents did mission work in Central America for two and half years. My cousin backpacked through Europe by himself. One of my Youth Group friends spends a little over a week each summer floating down the Amazon on a riverboat and doing medical work in the villages. My uncle and his family make frequent trips to Canada and Romania. And another cousin currently lives in Belize. So, yeah. My family knows about about globe-trotting. And I’d wager someone in yours does, too.

While there’s really no substitute for going there yourself, talking to someone who has been there is a good alternative. They can tell you little details that the travel guides won’t, as well as gritty realities that they try to sweep under the rug. For instance, did you know that Belize is a major melting pot for essentially every country in the world? Me, neither, until the parents who lived there shared that.

3. I Read, Therefore My Characters Are

Read books by authors from the country you’ve selected. I presume you know the whole “you are what you write” shtick? Well, I happen to think it’s true, and you can usually tell a lot about the psychology of the writer(and thereby the people like him) by the books he writes. Take Agatha Christie, for example. You can tell a lot about 1900’s England by reading those. Also, on a side note about Agatha’s work, you’ll note that Americans are almost always rich, blustery, slightly nutty egomaniacs who talk through their noses. It’s utterly hilarious.

The James Herriot books are awesome for peeking into the British lifestyle, as well. You get the atmosphere, the environment, the slang, the attitudes–all in a nice, funny, little package. (I know, those are both for people writing about Brits and are singularly unhelpful for people writing about anyone else. I’m sorry! I write about Brits. These are just examples.)

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Top 7 Writing Resources

Okay, while I did try to establish a pattern of alternating books reviews and writing posts, I had an idea. And when I have an idea, I like to act on it while it’s hot (a philosophy which has led to lots of half-finished or perhaps page-long novels). A part of what sparked it was that I discovered Polyvore last night. It’s brilliant! Fantastic! An absolutely wonderful timewaster, second only to Pinterest. Oh, and it’s a pretty cool writing resource, too. Therefore, here is a list of my favorite writing resources, not necessarily in the order of importance or popularity(my imaginary lawyer made me say that, if you’re wondering). Salud!

1. Polyvore

Since I’ve already mentioned it, why not start here? For those of you not familiar with it, it’s a site with a clothing database that you can search and pull items from to make a set (e.g. an outfit) and then publish it for the world to see. In the some-odd hours since I joined, I’ve found it to be quite helpful for visualizing your characters. And it’s a lot easier for description if you have a solid picture of your charrie in your head. Also, even if you can’t find a specific article of clothing or accessory in the database, you can clip or import your own items. Extraordinarily handy site.

2. Pinterest

Oh, boy…this comes in handy for a lot of reasons. Firstly, you can find a lot of setting pictures, if you’re writing about a place you aren’t familiar with. I can’t even tell you how many London pics I have on my boards (and I won’t tell you how many Doctor Who memes). Beyond that you’ve got all the unique clothing (which you can clip to Polyvore!), home remedies and unusual tricks that your charries can use and come off as brilliant, quotes and quips for you to ruminate on, and a thousand other things. There’s even a history section for research.

3. LitLift

I found this simply by searching for free writing software. Personally, I would say it’s one of the best free organizational tools for writers out there. It’s especially handy if you’re attempting to straighten out a complex plot such as a mystery or a thriller, where you have a billion characters, settings, and pieces of evidence and not enough Post-Its in the world to keep them all straight. LitLift lets you create a page for each one and puts them all in their correct category within each book section you make. Also, there is a free name generator.

4. Storybook

This one you actually have to download to your computer, but can be well worth it. It’s another grand free organizing tool, though it’s set up more for actually writing the story. You set up major and minor characters and settings, then write scenes and chapters to go within each book. It’s definitely the thing for any OCD writers looking for a little outlining help. It’s also quite nice if you happen to be the type that ends up writing the ending, then a middle chapter, then one from the climax, then one from the beginning, and so on, since you don’t have to write things in a particular order with Storybook and it will automatically keep things organized.

5. ThinkExist

I love quotes in writing, and ThinkExist has tons of them from all sorts of people. It’s a massive database that anyone can add to (so the accuracy of the quotations can be iffy). After signing up, you create your book of quotes and the sections therein where you can save anything that catches your fancy. Simple!

6. Beautiful People

I only found this recently as well, but it’s brilliant. And even better, a couple of teens started it *teen pride fist pump*. Every month, they post a list of ten questions for you to apply to your characters as a way to deepen them. What’s nice is that they aren’t the typical “occupation, age, favorite classical composer” clichés that get you nowhere. In the few that I’ve had the time to read, there have been questions designed to actually make you think. To help you get to know your charries to the very bottom of their fictional soul, whether it be by asking who they care about to the last five searches in their Internet history. Well done, bloggers, well done.

7. MorphThing

This is handy for trying to come up with actual faces to put to your characters. As it happens, I’ve been trying to find something like this for a very long time, so I was an extraordinarily happy lunatic when I came across it. On this site, you can take two photos, whether they be of celebrities or your friends (perhaps they’re synonymous in your case?) or whoever, and morph them into one image. Voila! There’s John and Jane Protagonist! It can be very helpful for your cover artists, too.

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The Dinner Is Afoot!

More accurately, the mystery dinner theater. Being homeschoolers (Woot!), my bookclub/lit class is going to have to organize our own senior trip fundraisers. And guess who gets to write the plot for this particular one?

Yes, I offered to do it. Hey, it’ll be awesome! I love writing! And mysteries! And comedy! So writing a comedic mystery that people will pay for is no biggie! May I just say that I have gained a lot of respect for the people who do this all the time for professional mystery dinner theaters. Trying to weave together a seamless mystery full of hilarious red-herring characters that will both keep the audience laughing as well as make them wonder whodunnit is ridiculously hard. Lucky for me I don’t have to write all the comedy bits (The club will do that as a group.). I’m still not completely done with it, but I have most of the basics done. This is what I’ve learned in the process…


(As you can see, I was getting a tad distracted. But I still had “mysterious evil” on the brain, apparently. As evidenced by the creepy dude with the hat.)

As far as advice for writing one of these terrors goes…Start with setting. Once you have an interesting setting–haunted mansion, theater on opening night, baseball game, whatever–suspects start blooming naturally. For our particular plot, I hit upon using a theater similar to the Muny since most of our actors(e.g. my best friends) are thespians to the core and tend to spontaneously burst into song anyway. And with that as a start, I went through a list of personnel who would typically be in such a theater to hang around and kill people. Director, make-up artist, wardrobe person, usher, backdrop artist…you get the point.

Secondly, make your heroes quirky. Since your detectives are going to be the ones working both the crowd and the suspects, they’re going to be the ones talking the most. Therefore, you’ve got to give them an interesting point of view to start from. One of the several detectives we may or may not use (depending on whether the club okays it when we meet to brainstorm next week) is a teen detective who is all-grown up and in danger of losing her job. All those concussions that the typical teen sleuth gets have added up and she’s not as sharp as she once was. Can the audience help her out by helping solve the mystery?

Thirdly, narrow your suspects naturally. At the beginning of the show, make sure that it seems anyone could have done it. Make sure everyone has a solid motive and a suspicious demeanor. Then slowly begin narrowing it down. Perhaps there are alibis for a couple suspects. Maybe the clues at the crime scene eliminate someone. Bring it in to a group of two or three, then deliver the final clue. But make sure it isn’t too easy. The audience should think they have the killer cold, but should still have a smidgen of doubt.

And that is really all the pointers I have to share, outside of make sure the food’s good, too. Even if the mystery is a total fail, having good food helps. Anyways, good luck with your projects! Wish me luck with mine… 😉

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