Posts Tagged ‘Writing’

I usually don’t write to music because I find it distracting, even when it doesn’t contain words. Lately, however, I’ve been finding myself needing a little something else to get into the mood.

I only listen to soundtracks when I’m writing because if the song has words, I’ll start singing along to it and be way too distracted. And, inevitably, that just leads to me going to Twitter or Tumblr and distracting myself further.

Frozen SoundtrackSo, I stick to the soundtracks.

Right now I’ll admit I have mostly Disney soundtracks because I find those to be the most familiar and soothing. Plus they just make me happy. I do have Lindsey Stirling‘s CD on there, though, and that makes a great background for action scenes because her violin work is usually enhanced by dubstep. But I have Pocahontas, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Frozen, too.

But I need more. And I need more variety. So, I’d like to know what you guys are listening to while you write. What really speaks to you? Which tracks do you find are good for the slow scenes versus the fast ones, or the romantic scenes versus the violent ones? I’d like to try writing to music more in order to see if it positively affects me.

In other words, help a girl out! I’ll be taking your recommendations and adding them to my writing playlist in the hopes my Muse is further inspired.

Admit your faults

Posted: February 4, 2014 in Writing
Tags: , , ,

SplatterA lot of writers have a hard time letting go of their manuscripts and just getting the damn thing published. One of the biggest reasons is because it’s constantly not ready, it’s not done, it’s not perfect.

Perfection doesn’t exist, and it never will. Even the most beloved books on our shelves have their issues, but it’s a matter of those issues being outweighed by brilliance.

So learn to live with your mistakes. And learn to admit your faults.

Sometimes you’re going to have to settle when it comes to your story. You’ll have to use that cliche to get from point A to point B, or maybe you’ll have to leave that plot hole because there’s just no way to fill it.

A perfect example of this is The Avengers. If you listen to the audio commentary, you’ll hear Joss Whedon talking about his experience writing and directing the movie. The commentary itself is brilliant if you’re a Joss Whedon fan. I could listen to that man talk about anything. He so funny and insightful, and I love the way he operates.

But that commentary is also a gold mine for writing knowledge. And one of the biggest things that stuck out to me was when he talked about the scene where the Chitauri all died after their mothership was destroyed by the nuclear bomb.

I’m not proud of that either, okay? That’s… It was necessary to make sure we understood that they didn’t have to just clean up for the next 17 hours by still fighting, but… So they could actually have their moment of triumph. But it’s a device I am not fond of and probably shouldn’t have brought up.

I’m glad he brought it up, though, because we often think that writers don’t know when they use a cliche or can’t tell they’ve used a trope in their story, when in fact they probably just couldn’t find a solution to their issue. It’s not the end of the world, and it doesn’t mean they’re not brilliant. It’s just how things have to work sometimes.

Let me rephrase that.

It’s not the end of the world, and it doesn’t mean you’re not brilliant. It’s just how things have to work sometimes.

Your manuscript is not going to be perfect. Not ever. Make it as good as you can and then send it off to live in the hands of your readers. If there’s something wrong with your story, admit to your faults. Sometimes it just can’t be helped. But being aware of those issues and trying to avoid them in the future is the best thing you can do.

Have you ever written something and known it was a cliche or a trope, but also knew you couldn’t get around it? What did you do in a situation like that?

Surround yourself with art

Posted: January 30, 2014 in Art
Tags: , , , , ,

SplatterAs a creative person, it is so incredibly important to immerse yourself in a creative world. Surround yourself with other people’s creativity — whether it’s their writing, their drawings, their music, or something else entirely. Living in an artistic environment will transfer some of their energy and creativity into your personal space, guaranteed.

I experience this all the time. I track down artists that I enjoy and like them on Facebook, follow their Tumblr, or add them on Twitter. Most of them time they’re just freelance artists. Sometimes they have regular jobs, and sometimes they have made it enough to turn their hobby into a full-time gig.

If that’s not inspiring, I don’t know what it.

My favorite artist is Karen Hallion, who creates incredible works of art, my favorite of which are her Doctor Who/Disney mash-ups. It reminds me to think outside the box (pun intended) and to maybe try to put two things together that might at first seem as though they don’t work. You might be surprised by what you discover.

Looking at art gives me the same sort of feeling that reading a good book does. You get those goosebumps and that swelling feeling in the pit of your stomach. That’s what inspiration feels like for me, and it’s such a great feeling to have. It reminds you that other people are doing exactly what you want to do, that it is possible, and if you can just put in enough effort and enough hours, you’ll be able to have what they have.

Who knows, maybe you’ll be the one doing the inspiring some day.

This all comes down to feeding your muse. Do it in whatever way works best for you, whatever form of art gets her excited and ready to create. I prefer looking at art and reading books, but others enjoy writing to music or watching a good movie. Whatever you choose, do it often.

What do you choose to surround yourself with in order to inspire you? Do you have a favorite artist, writer, or musician that you usually turn to?

What made me want to be a writer?

Posted: January 14, 2014 in Writing

SplatterLike most things in life, it wasn’t a specific event or person that thrust me down this path. It started with a proclivity for the matter, then a deepening curiosity, an insatiable desire, and finally, a bit of luck.

My stories, like the tales of most writers, started off terrible. It’s not something I’m ashamed of. In fact, sometimes I miss that era when an entire story could be encased in a single paragraph. Everything you needed to know was bound with a messy bow within five run-on sentences. It makes me cringe now, but for a fourth grader, those words were gold.

And why shouldn’t they be? That was a time of pure imagination. There were no rules, no constraints, no doubts; just an empty page and a story in my head that needed to be told.

My stories today, I’m glad to report, are a bit more complex and imaginative. Though the price I must pay for that comes in the form of rules, constraints, and doubts. Nothing in life is free.

Even then, in fourth grade, I enjoyed writing. I liked stories and I liked telling them to people. I liked describing things and putting them down on paper, like that very act made them true, made them real.

That proclivity turned into a curiosity. Could I do more? Could I go bigger? Could I actually write a novel? The answer was yes. And though it would take me a long, long time to actually finish one, I spent every moment of my free time trying to do just that.

This is when I realized that the act of writing was a monster that had grown deep within me. It was not something I could cut out of me, even if I had wanted to, because it was so deeply rooted. It had unknowingly become a part of my soul.

I would spend hours on a quest that had no ending. There was no solid goal in mind, just a need to write and the ability to do so. So I wrote. And I wrote. I jumped from project to project without a care, without structure, and without discipline. But I didn’t need any of those things because writing was still just an idealistic dream. Something to strive for while I was asleep, when the inhibitions of life were less pronounced.

That step from dream to realization hasn’t been completed yet, but I’m almost there. My heel is in the grass, and my toes are just waiting to slap against the dirt. I’m moving in slow motion, but eventually my dream will manifest. I just need patience.

That step, that initial heel-to-the-grass motion, didn’t begin to occur because of me — or at least, not entirely because of me. There was also quite a bit of luck involved.

Although my entire journey was a confluence of events, it was this single step that I took next which solidified me on this path. Or, I should say, a single person.

In college, I took several required English classes, and had several wonderful professors. In their own way, they each encouraged me and nudged me in the right direction. But it was only when I finally took an elective creative writing course that I realized this is what I want to do for  the rest of my life.

My professor in college was quiet. She would look around the room, focusing on each person, making sure no one had anything else to say about whatever we chose to talk about that day. Her class was less about the end result and more about the journey. It was about the discovery of self, about learning the craft and implementing it, but also learning about yourself and putting that information to use.

I learned a lot about myself in that class, and even more when I went on to the next elective. I learned that I sucked at writing. I learned that sucking was okay. I learned to be better. And I got better. I learned that critique doesn’t always equate hate. And I learned that some people will pull you up while others will drag you down.

But most importantly, I learned that writing is not just a job or a way of life or a means to an end. God knows that it’s not a means to an end for most people.

Writing is, without a doubt, something spiritual, something ethereal. It’s something we can’t help but doing. It’s something that pulls at our insides until we have to move our fingers across the keyboard and string those letters into words and the words into sentences. It’s an insatiable desire, and one that I plan on feeding endlessly.

As writers, we should be connecting with our readership on a personal level. This can take some time and effort, but in the end it will be worth it.

Why does Lady Gaga have such a large fanbase? Because she’s given them a name they can identify with (Little Monsters), and she accepts them for who they are. She understands her fans, and in return more and more of them flock to her.

But it isn’t just on a large scale level. Take Team StarKid, for example. I’ve talked about them before, but I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of you guys still didn’t know who they are. They got their fame when their Harry Potter musical parody went viral on YouTube, and since then they’ve continued to make shows in the same vein.

I’m a huge fan of them, and it’s because I can connect to them on a human level. They aren’t just a brand or a product, they’re people. And that’s important to me.

So important, in fact, that I’m willing to throw my money at them every chance I get. They put all of their musicals on YouTube for free, but they also sell DVDs and albums and merchandise. And even though I could just watch the shows online, and even though I could illegally download their music, I don’t.

Why? Because I want to support them. I want to see them succeed. I believe in their vision, and I want to see that vision become a reality.

And so do a lot of other people. So many, in fact, that when StarKid wanted to raise $35,000 to create their latest musical, they ended up raising nearly $150,000 because so many people feel the same way about them as I do.

As writers, we’re getting bombarded with tips and advice every single day, but take this one as gospel. It’s true, and you can see the proof above. If you take the time to get to know your audience and connect with them on a human level, they will repay that kindness tenfold. And it won’t just make for better sales; it’ll make for a better experience all around.

noun \ˈfən\

: someone or something that is amusing or enjoyable : an enjoyable experience or person

: an enjoyable or amusing time

: the feeling of being amused or entertained

I should preface this blog post by saying two of the other girls and I had a fantastic discussion on Book Hype yesterday about the merit of Young Adult fiction. The episode won’t be out until tomorrow, but be sure to check my Facebook page or the Book Hype Twitter for the link when it goes live.

Although I would like to hear what you have to say about the topic, that’s not what I’m writing about today. I wanted to mention Book Hype because we often have great discussions about a variety of topics that don’t have easy solutions. Talking about matters complexly is something that I love to do, and it’s something that I devote a lot of time doing on behalf of Hypable.

But what about having fun? Have we forgotten about that? If so, I suggest you reread the definition again.

Like I said, I have no problem with really digging in deep when it comes to having an intellectual conversation. That’s something that I think needs to be done. But what about just enjoying a story for the sake of it being a good story?

This has really been brought to my attention lately with the recent 50th anniversary special of Doctor Who, along with conversations taking place about Catching Fire and Teen Wolf, among many, many other things. Fans of these stories seem to be getting more and more critical. They’re forgetting that the main focus of the story is to entertain. Where has the fun gone?

I’m not saying that all stories are meant to be fun. Many of the themes in the Hungers Games trilogy certainly aren’t. But what happened to soaking in the words of a good book or TV show or movie? Why do we have to cut down the authors and writers and directors for some of the smallest details?

Even when those details aren’t so small, why do we have to overthink their meaning and make judgments on those people as human beings? Is that fair? I don’t think it is.

A lot of it harkens back to the fact that we as a species just love to complain. We’re never satisfied. We always want more. That’s great to an extent, but why should there be so much hatred toward your favorite stories? If you spend more time complaining about them than enjoying them, I think you’re doing it wrong.

While I think everything should have an underlying meaning that can spark conversation and action, I also think we can’t forget about how fun a good book or a good television show or a good movie can be.

What do you think?

I’m not participating in NaNoWriMo this year because I just don’t have enough time to dedicate to it, but I did promise myself that I was going to write more this month than I have in the last previous months.

So far, that’s not going too well.

A few weeks ago, I had a complete story pop into my head — from start to finish. I knew the characters, their motivations, their secrets, and their journeys as people. I even had whole scenes floating in my head with the dialogue and everything. That’s never happened to me before, and I was quite excited to get it all down on paper.

The only problem was that the story sounded so much better in my head. Once I started writing it, the voice fell flat, the characters became unlikeable, and the story started going in a direction that I didn’t really like once I really tried to hammer out the details.

So I put it on pause. Meanwhile, a new character jumped up fully formed in my head. It was a completely new story, but since the other one didn’t really work out, I thought I could begin this one. Maybe my writing muscles just needed a little exercising and then I’d be able to get back into the swing of things. Once that happened, I was hoping to go back to the first story.

Only, it didn’t. The same thing happened: I wrote what was in my mind, and nothing really worked. Suddenly the story began morphing on its own, and it was a far cry from the original idea. The problem was that I couldn’t get back to that original idea. It was gone, and I don’t think I’ll be able to find it again.

I’m sure this has happened countless times to all of you guys at one point or another, but I’d like to know what you do whenever you have trouble getting the right words out on paper. Do you stop writing for a while, and take a break? Do you push through it? Do you work on something else? Do you edit another project instead? I’d love any input! I really want to be writing on a more regular basis, but lately it’s becoming difficult to get what’s in my head out through my fingertips.

The other day I saw a kettle of hawks.

This was a thing I didn’t even know existed. As many people are aware, hawks are fairly solitary creatures. There are obviously variations between different species, but on the whole, hawks usually only come together to mate. But sometimes they come together to migrate, too.

This is called a kettle. A kettle of hawks can contain hundreds, even thousands of hawks. The one I saw was about fifty-strong, and looked a lot like this.

We could tell they were hawks because of the way they were flying and because we could just barely make out their brown feathers.

I was kind of blown away. It felt majestic, like I was witnessing something few people have seen. I doubt that’s true, but this group of hawks really struck me in a certain way. Here we have these creatures that would much prefer to hunt and fly alone, coming together to migrate south.

According to this article, hawks flock together in order to find warm air currents (thermals) that can make their trip south — which often constitutes thousands of miles — that much easier.

Naturally, this made me think of writers.

Writers are solitary creatures. At the very least, we prefer to work alone. Others (like me) prefer to be alone even when we’re not writing. This is not a bad quality — the hawks can attest to that — and is nothing to be ashamed of.

But sometimes we need help, just like the hawks trying to find their way to a warmer climate. Writers need email buddies, sounding boards, and shoulders to cry on. They need Twitter followers and Facebook friends and blog readers.

And that’s what’s great about the writing community, and the WANA community that Kristen Lamb has set up. We can be solitary whenever we want. We can hunt and fly on our own, but when we need someone to lead us in the right direction, there will be a whole group waiting in the wings for us.

In fact, I think we should start calling a group of writers a “kettle” of writers. It sounds more than appropriate, don’t you think?

I’m a sucker for a happy ending, just like the next happy-go-lucky, head-in-the-clouds gal. Nothing makes me more gleeful than turning that final page and releasing a sigh of pure contentedness that tells me I finished another book that I’ll be sad to let go.

But sometimes those books just aren’t realistic. Sometimes an important character needs to die, a couple needs to break up, and the ending needs to leave you crying instead of sighing. Some books I can think of off the top of my head that did this are The Fault in Our Stars, Skin, and Tuesdays with Morrie.

I like happy endings because I think books should reflect an ideal world whenever possible. They’re meant to help us escape, to allow us to believe in hope and love, to make us think that perhaps this world has the potential to be better than it is.

But not every story is meant to be that way. If you looked at stories like The Fault in Our Stars, which deals with a very realistic portrayal of cancer patients, what would it say if the book ended up with everyone happy and cured and living their dream lives? It would feel fake and undermine the whole point of the book.

Then again, to constantly beat up characters and not even allow them to come back triumphant would be tragic – not only to them, but to the reader as well. Who wants to be kicked down so far that they can’t even pick themselves back up?

It really is a balance in any story, and the ending should reflect a lot more than just the author’s whims. It should make sense according to the plot, the characters, and the setting and world. An ending that seems out of place could ruin an entire book.

I like a good mix of realistic endings and happy ones. But if I had to choose, I’d go with happy endings every time. Call me superficial, but I can be a mush sometimes.

If you HAD to choose, would you pick to only read books with happy endings, or realistic ones?

We’ve all been there. It’s a dark and stormy morning/afternoon/evening (dun dun DUN), and the lights flicker.

“Please, PLEASE don’t go out,” you say, as you quickly unplug your laptop so it doesn’t get fried and save the document you’re currently working on about six times, just to be sure. “I have SO much work to do.”

But eventually the inevitable will happen. The power will go out and stay out. Not only does this increase your chances of running into a wall if you’re like me (who has trouble not running into them when she does have her glasses on and it’s light out and both eyes are open and she’s been living in the same house for three years…), but it seriously puts a damper on your writing.

Or does it?

I try very hard not to be one of those people who can’t live without the internet. Yeah, sure, I’m on it a lot and I always have my phone and I feel naked if I go on a trip without my laptop, but I can put these things down and walk away if I have to. I’m addicted, but I’m not THAT addicted.

When the power went out at my house the other day, I was just a tad bit frustrated. I had a lot of things I had to do, and about 98% of them needed the internet. I still had some juice in my computer and phone, so it’s not like I was without technology, but I wasn’t *connected*.

So, I decided I’d get some work done anyway. Hey, maybe actually writing a story out on paper (*gasp!*) would get the muse all fired up. Maybe this was a good thing!

Writers are understandably quite reliant on the internet these days. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Blogs and emails and social media, oh my! But when the power goes out, there’s not much you can do about that stuff. So, how do you survive? What can you do in the meantime? Here are my suggestions.

1. Write anyway. You don’t need a computer to be able to write. Sit in front of a window or grab a flashlight and do it the old fashioned way. I love writing things out on paper, but it’s inefficient (for me) when it has to end up on the computer in the end anyway, so I don’t do it that often. The power going out afforded me the opportunity to work on my handwriting (which I love to do, don’t ask me why) and start on my next short story. The spooky weather helped to set the mood too, so that was great.

2. Do some research. If you’re like me, you probably have a bunch of books for research. The internet is great and all, but sometimes flipping through a book is a better (and more reliable) way to get answers. Have you been meaning to do a little world building? Grab a text and get studying. Have you mean meaning to look up a few things in one of your craft books? Grab the resource and dig in!

3. Read a book. What I really love about when the power goes out is that it forces you to stop and slow down. I very rarely do that, and usually when I do, I feel immensely guilty. But when a storm knocks out the power, you have no choice to stop and smell the roses (but not literally, because you’d get soaked). Pick up a book, relax, and start reading. In a way, you’re still working because we all know that the best writers are voracious readers.

4. Get organized. Got a messy desk that’s keeping you from writing? Clean it. Been meaning to reshelve your books so they’re easier to find? Get going. Have you been wanting to write your scenes down on index cards so you can lay them out and work on the structure of your story? What’s stopping you!? This is the perfect opportunity to do something physical in order to get your stories in order. Many of us love to organize and color coordinate, and as long as you can still see, you can still get stuff done.

5. Get some sleep. Your computer is dead, and so is your phone. It’s too dark to see, and your flashlight isn’t powerful enough to light up your room in order to do what you need to do. It’s 10:00 at night and you’re frustrated and tired. If the power hadn’t gone out, you would’ve gotten another two hours of work done. Yeah, that may be true, but this is the opportunity to turn two currently unproductive hours into two extra hours of sleep. By the time you wake up, you’ll feel more refreshed and more than likely the power will be back on!

What do you do when the power goes out and you really need to get some work done?