Posts Tagged With: writing

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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It’s Been HOW Long?!?

So…um…hi.

It’s been almost a year since I published anything, so I was surprised when I cracked open the stats page to find that you guys were still here. Still reading. Still commenting. Still caring. Thanks for sticking around! Life got busy and the blog wasn’t as much of a school requirement anymore, so I let it go for a while. That was a mistake. I’ll try to get back up and do better in the future.

In the meantime, a lot of stuff has happened. I finished high school (Also a mistake. Can I please go back now? Real life is hard.), started college(Paralegal studies…woo-hoo.), got a job at a chiropractic office(Not remotely what I imagined.), and passed my driver’s test (My city really needs a public transit system.). Adulthood struck once again, devouring all energy and creativity with it.

But I don’t want to let my writing life end with high school. Here’s hoping talking to you guys can help keep me on track…because after all, my sanity–which, to be fair, is long gone–is optional, but my writing? That’s required.

Expect to see more of me soon, as well as changes and updates around the blog.

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The Five Things a Writer Needs to Read

1. The Classics

They’ve survived for centuries for a reason. Even if they aren’t your favorite light reading (and there is absolutely nothing wrong with you if they aren’t, despite the apparent belief that all writers must devote their bookshelves only to authors who’ve been published for over a century or whose work is primarily existential) , they’re well worth the read.

2. Your Genre

If you’re well-versed in your chosen genre, you’ll soon get a pretty good idea of its cliches and common mistakes, as well as how to avoid them.

3. Your Old Work

I know it’s painful. Very, very painful. I ran across some of mine the other day and had to fight the urge to feed it down the garbage disposal. But, not only can you see how far you’ve come, you can pinpoint areas you may still struggle with. Who knows, you may even find something worth salvaging for a new piece.

4. Other Writers’ Work

Because it’s way easier to spot other people’s mistakes than it is your own. And the more practice you get at problem-spotting, the easier it’s going to be to spot your own mistakes, from plot holes to painful word choice to grammar accidents. There are various sites that cater to amateur authors (fanfiction.net, fictionpress.com, etc.) that work well for this sort of thing.

5.The Things that Set Your Soul on Fire

You know what I’m talking about. The stories that made you want to write your own in the first place. The ones that spark new ideas and make you think. That fire up your creative spirit when you think  you’re too exhausted to write. Whatever you enjoy the most, that’s what you should be reading. So, go! Read!

What do you read to help yourself write? Let me know in the comments!

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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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NaNoWriMo?

Since I’m (sort of) trying the aforementioned self-inflicted torture this month, I’m letting you guys write this post. Have any of you done NaNo, and won? Done Nano and lost? What did you think of it? What kind of novel did you write? Did you try to do anything with it after the first draft? Any advice for someone doing Nano for the first time? Comment below!

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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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Quirky Names: Yes or No?

A while back , during my blog challenge, I did a post on some of the names I’ve used for my characters. Reading through the list, the first names are innocuous enough–if a bit on the unusual side–but the tenth is…well…undeniably odd. If you’ve read the post, you’ll know that one of my characters is called Squeaky. That isn’t his real name; he was dubbed that by my protagonist because of a certain falsetto quality of his voice and the fact that she was cranky over him trying to kidnap her. However, he’s known as Squeaky throughout most of the book, with his legal name only being mentioned once in passing. Why? Because…

1. The quirkier the name, the clearer the picture.

For minor characters especially, you want to be able to devote only one or two sentences to characterization before moving on with the main characters’ story. Picking a name that says something about the character–whether it points out a physical trait(as with Squeaky), an ethnic heritage, or just plays on name connotations–is one of fastest ways of getting your point across without going into too much detail.

2. Remember me?

Some of the most famous fictional characters in the world have quirky names. Sherlock Holmes, Professor Xavier, Fitzwilliam Darcy, Xena, Spock–all quite unusual. It’s a part of what makes them memorable, and can serve to help your character stand out from the rest (not that you should rely solely on that, but still).

Conversely, if you have a crowd of oddly named characters and leave your main character with the only normal name of the bunch, that works, too. It certainly seems to have worked for Rowling.

3. Tonal Quality

The names you choose can help set the tone of your entire piece. Quirky ones, in particular. A ridiculously pretentious moniker adds to a period piece. An obscure(but not too obscure) ethnic name enhances an exotic setting. A giggle-worthy nick-name can pull together the elements of a comedy beautifully. And so on.

                                                                     However…

                                                 On the other side of the matter:

1. If your name is Kanjjdighw, you may be trying too hard.

There are limits to everything, and this is one area where the line between okay and not-okay is paper-thin. A name that’s so unusual it becomes unbelievable is definitely in the not-okay zone. It’ll annoy your editors, alienate your readers, and drive your spellcheck berserk.  As writers, we tend to get a bit obsessed with being unique, but it has to stop somewhere. It’s better to have a dull name in a great story than a name so odd no one pays attention to the story.

2. One thing is not like the others in this picture.

Sometimes a quirky name just does not fit. Trying to shoehorn one into a drama or a serious piece of historical fiction is seriously wrong, and your readers will know it.  You don’t have to go completely the other way and name everyone John Smith, but throwing fistfuls of fun, irreverent names at a sombre novella won’t do it any favors.

3. All things in moderation.

If used sparingly, quirky names can be lovely. If used too much too often, they can lose their punch and make your work sound like you were spending a bit too much time thumbing through baby name books. Realistically, not everyone in an average group of friends/acquaintances/enemies is going to have an intriguing name. A variety of names–from the outrageous to the everyday is typically your best bet–that all fit your particular story is your best bet. Besides, the personalities are the important bit, anyway.

So, where do you guys stand on quirky names? Discuss in the comments!

 

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I Return From the Wild West

And I want to go back! The only truly western states we visited were Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona, and I can safely say that the west is the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen. Arguably, the most beautiful place in the world.

Simply put, I’m in love.

A particularly lovely bunch of peaks

A particularly lovely bunch of peaks

A rainbow on the way from Tombstone to Roswell

A rainbow on the way from Tombstone to Roswell

When you’ve seen rainbows glowing over the craggiest peak you’ve ever seen, watched seemingly endless miles of defiant landscape roll by, daring you to step out and see what’s beyond the farthest ridge…the rest of the world pales.

When you’ve tasted food so hot your face went red even under the sunburn and specialties no one’s heard of at home, but loved both of them(well…maybe not the enchilada crafted from the heart of an active volcano, but I at least enjoyed the flavor if not the heat)…your tastebuds may never be the same–partially because they’ve been seared, but no matter.

This is pinon, which is a variety of pine nut. They sell it off of pinon trucks in Sante Fe. It. Is. Amazing.

This is pinon, which is a variety of pine nut. They sell it off of pinon trucks in Sante Fe. It. Is. Amazing.

When you’ve seen a thousand stories left behind, some written on wooden crosses, others in the broken glass of abandoned businesses, and the best burned into the people who remember the tales worthy enough to survive…you wonder what kind of story you’ll leave.

A town on the New Mexico border. Population: 1

A town on the New Mexico border. Population: 1

A particularly interesting marker in Tombstone(naturally).

A particularly interesting marker in Tombstone(naturally).

When you’ve seen canyons that dwarf stadiums, trees harder than rock(because…well…they are rock), and the blackened remains of the volcanoes that shaped the terrain…and realize just how big the world is. And just how much more you have to see.

The Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon

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Worlds Away Writing Challenge: Day 7

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                                           Worlds Away Writing Challenge:

Seven days of questions, prompts, and ideas to keep you writing. The rules?

 

  • Answer each question/prompt as completely as possible.
  • Add the link-icon to your posts.
  • If you are so inclined, challenge other writing bloggers(or just any blogger in general) to challenge the challenge by completing the…um…challenge.

Day 7: As an easy out for the last day, pick seven fictional worlds you would want to visit or live in. Explain which one and why.

  •  Narnia: I would quite happily live there. Talking animals, mythical beings, nobles who are actually noble–what’s not to like? (Provided you arrive during the Golden Age.)
  •   The Marvel Universe: Visit. Definitely visit. Visiting decreases your chances of being skewered by Loki, eaten by Venom, or dying in some other equally horrid manner. Still, it would be an interesting place to see. Seeing what a world where the forces of good and evil are so present(and colorful) would be infinitely interesting.
  •  The Doctor Who Universe: Visit. As amazing as it would be to live in a world where essentially anything is possible, your chances of surviving an alien coup(which happen every Christmas, apparently) are slim to nil.
  •  The River of Time Series: …Undecided. Visiting would lower your chances of Black Plague, while living there might result in meeting the love of your life. Your very short life, should you contract the plague…
  •  Middle Earth: Live there. I want to be a Hobbit. Life would be ever so much simpler. And it would be socially acceptable to eat in excess of three meals per day.
  •   The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Universe: A world in which all of the classic literary characters not only exist, but converge? Let me at it. For a day or two, anyway.
  •  The Agatha Christie Universe: Visit. I love her books(all of them), her characters(again, all of them), and it would be lovely to meet some of them.

…             Provided I wasn’t the victim.

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Worlds Away Writing Challenge: Day 6

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                                           Worlds Away Writing Challenge:

Seven days of questions, prompts, and ideas to keep you writing. The rules?

  • Answer each question/prompt as completely as possible.
  • Add the link-icon to your posts.
  • If you are so inclined, challenge other writing bloggers(or just any blogger in general) to challenge the challenge by completing the…um…challenge.

Day 6: Do you have plans to continue writing the world you’ve used in the challenge?

Definitely. I have partial outlines of several new projects set in the Victorian Vagabond universe.

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