Rules? We Don’t Need No Stinking Rules!

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  1. Don’t bore the reader.
  2. Don’t break the contract with the reader.
  3. Keep writing.

These are the Three Rules of Writing as I currently understand them.  They are subject to change if I get new information.

(BTW, the second rule refers to all the un-written expectations a reader has when choosing your book.  Off the top of my head are; both staying inside but also challenging the advertised genre, sticking to a single grammar/punctuation/formatting style, and plot/characters stay true to themselves.  There are probably more…)

In other news, I’m shoving some amazing information into my brain at a rate that is a bit difficult to process.  What does this mean for you, my giddy audience?  I will be adding to my Low-Budget Writing Program series as soon as I can sort the information out properly.  There will be future posts about fear of writing, profanity, sustained motivation, and (my personal kryptonite) grammar/punctuation.  (I’ll wait to link to the old posts, because I suspect they could use some serious editing and fall cleaning.)

Back to my WIP revisions.  Happy writing, y’all!

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Just Write, Writers Writing Words!

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Just write, writers writing words!  That was my list of five “most used words” according to a Facebook game.  (It was probably compiling all my information to give to Equifax.)  Yeah, I’ve added punctuation to it, and reversing the order, but that was it.  <sigh>

Look, I DO have strong opinions about life, and I find the political landscape vs. human rights truly heartbreaking.  I also love/hate different aspects of our culture, but I was raised to only say helpful things, and have learned to carefully pick my battles.  I could loudly express hate for everything I find wrong, but I don’t wish to be defined by those things, nor let my entire outlook be one of hate and despair.  That leads down a dark path of exhaustion and hopelessness.

I see it in some of my friends, that rage, and I am afraid for them.  And I know–from personal experience–that nobody listens to random hateful shouting, both on-line and off.  There are people-a type of vampire, if you will–that will use the energy you put out to fuel themselves.  Online trolls are using you, whether its meant to be harmful or just catfishing.

I use social media to expand my point of view, and no well-reasoned argument will ever sway a person who has reached the point of ranting in public.  Self-care is more important that pointless anonymous arguments.

So, I save my energy for when it matters.  One-on-one encounters, everyday teaching moments, and I put my money and my vote where my hopes are.

And I save my energy for writing.  I don’t know if my writing will reach anyone the way some books have reached me, but I find I must make the attempt.  It looks and feels like I’m writing pulpy entertainment, but I know how much of my own thoughts are put into my character’s mouths.

Every time I finish a manuscript, I feel horribly exposed.  Like anyone reading it would know my every thought.  I have NO SECRETS when I write.

It’s terrifying.

But, as I am learning, there is a connection between writing and fear, and THAT is a topic for another day.

On a lighter note, here are five things about me that are not connected to writing:

  1. I desperately want to pilot a giant robot warrior.  In space.
  2. I am collecting the materials for a set of gilt and silk embroidered linen underwear.  (It’s a recreation of a museum piece.  Think boxers with elaborate gold-work and bright floral decoration.)
  3. I’m terrified of driving in traffic or unfamiliar roads. (But I do it!)
  4. I have a black thumb, but I can’t stop buying plants.
  5. Inanimate objects frequently bend logic and physics to trip or hit me.  Sometimes, I hit back.  Or yell.

Meanwhile, “Just write, writers who are writing words,” may become my new motto.

Happy writing!

Do The Work!

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I follow a couple of writer’s groups on Facebook, and I find some of the questions a little strange.  (Yes, we are back on those wacky writers and their funny ways.)

“Should I write in 1st or 3rd?  Past or present?  Close POV or can I have a narrator?  What genre should I write in?  What plot should I use?  How many pages in a chapter?  How many chapters in a book?  Do I have to include diversity?  Can I still write about vampires?  Can I have a prologue?  What should I name the character?  Am I required to have a map?”

It just seems strange to even be asking these kinds of questions of other writers, as if there is a strict structure for storytelling.  All of these questions get answered by YOUR STORY, as it gets told by YOU!

Stop asking questions and WRITE!  If you are new and haven’t finished a story, JUST WRITE!  Finish!  And when you do, shelve that story and write another.  When you finish the second, pull the first off the shelf and compare them.  Did you get better?  Is the first story salvageable or should it be hidden in a drawer?  Does it need a different POV or style?  Is it YOUR style?  Is it worth the effort to revise it until it’s publishable?  Are you happy with it?  Can you do better?

No matter what you decide, start the next story, and write more, and repeat…

Asking other writers their opinions isn’t doing the work.  It’s just collecting opinions, and writers have opinions like they have obsessions; in numbers that frighten mental health care professionals.

Do the work.  Discover yourself.  Your style.  Your faults.  Your strengths.  Your voice.  Words are tools; learn to use them.  Do the work.

Even people whose jobs require the use of words; journalists, scientific or technical paper writers, editors, etc… complain about how hard fiction writing is.

It’s not easy, Cupcake.  It is a painful, tedious slog, but you do it IF you are a writer, because you are a self-absorbed, narcissistic, masochistic, sociopath with delusions of fame.  Nobody will write it for you (unless you pay them).  Get to work, dammit!

Sometimes Family Comes First

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMeet Dexter, my latest excuse for not finishing my writing projects.  He took two days to complete from scratch, 3-D pattern-making as I went, because I couldn’t find one for sale on the internet.  The hands took five tries, but they are pose-able.

Why?  I’m glad you asked.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHer.  When you have a child with autism, you will do anything to make her feel accepted and liked.  And when she wants to cosplay an obscure video game character named Jak, you make a soft sculpture of the sidekick, Daxter.  Because you have the skill and you make the time.  And you watch her glow under the attention of excited fans of old video games, as they ask for pictures and reminisce over their misspent youth.

You end the day exhausted but happy, without a single word written for nearly a week, because you don’t waste chances like this.

When you are a writer, you WRITE EVERY DAY YOU CAN.  But you also put it down for moments like this.  Life gives you something to write about.  Don’t forget to LIVE!

Happy writing!

Shhhhh! I’m Busy!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAShhhh!  I’m busy writing, or at least typing.  The writing happened last week.

The rough draft of the short story came together, all at once, in 1600 words worth of missing scenes.  The rest of the week was spent in re-reading and taking notes.  I don’t remember exactly what was the tipping point.  Doesn’t really matter, since that is not the kind of thing you can re-create on the next project.  Each project requires a different set of circumstances.

Now I’m on to the second draft, typed this time.  What you should know about me is this is almost harder than the rough draft.  I’ve never worked in an office, so computers and technology are not my everyday tools, although I did take a typing class way back in high school.  My keyboarding style is best described as “Monkey-Chicken Hybrid on Caffeine.”

But, before I go, let me type up a few thoughts that occurred during the week.

Writing is work.  If you don’t also enjoy the process, please, go find something pleasant to do with your time.  Save your sanity.

Editing/revision is where you make sure the words are fit for another brain.  YOU understand the story, but will another person just reading the words–without your brain–understand what you are trying to say?

Watermelon is the food of the Gods.

Teenagers are crazy.

Graphic novels are pictures and story, and I LOVE them.

Punctuation, grammar, and slang should reflect the target audience.  Anything else is just making it harder to be read, understood, and enjoyed.

I gotta get back to typin’.  Have a good ‘un.

 

 

Is the Writer Blocked, or Just Stupid?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASome writers believe in Writer’s Block, and some don’t.  Whatever you want to call it, there are times that the words don’t flow, or what does come out is garbage.  It happens.  The trick is to figure out why.

In my continuing quest to let you see my abby-normal brain working (no flash photography, please) let’s poke at the short story that has stalled out.

I’ve got the characters, some dialogue, some introspection, some action, a twist, some creepy shit (it’s horror), and a decent circling back ending.  In the past I’ve been able to run with this much, and flesh out the story around these bones, but I only have about half.  Mostly what I’ve written this week is just not “muscle.”  It’s goo.  Or phlegm, or something like snot from a sinus infection.  There is not a lot of it, either, which is seriously screwing up my daily word count promise to myself.

I’ve picked at it during breaks in the day job.  I’ve taken walks.  I’ve read good books.  I’ve watched new TV shows.  I’ve organized part of the garage and attic.  I’ve napped.  I’ve sat down and just written oozing, stinking garbage to see if that will jar it loose.  It’s not budging, and I’m running out of time.  (It’s a self-imposed time restriction, so the only one hurt if I miss it is me.  But, shit, I’m tired of hurting myself.)

There’s a history book beside my knee that is the right time period for the story, but I haven’t cracked open.  Why?  I don’t know.  (I think I won’t like what I’ll find.)  There is also a book of the same genre that I’ve been meaning to read.  That could give it a jump-start, but I just leave it closed.  Why? I don’t know.  (Ditto.)

Something isn’t right, and I’m not sure if it’s one of the elements of the story, or that I’m just a shit writer.

If it’s the story, something will jar things loose.  Some small bit of information, or a sudden realization, or a casual comment dropped into a conversation.  I’ll adjust the elements to accommodate the changes, and be writing happily within minutes, without a frackin’ care in the world.  Magic.  Abra-cadabra-skippity-dee-do.  Familiar magic, at this point, but magic all the same.

If I’m just a shit writer…  Well, this could take a while.  Because I’m not a shit writer, and if my brain is telling me that I am, then there’s some fear burbling to the surface.  Fear of failure.  Fear of success.  Fear of being an imposter.

Fear.

It’s something all people deal with, and writers are certainly not exempt.  Unnecessary fear is the brain confusing one thing with another. Chemicals for one job applied accidentally to the wrong job, but it sucks the artist’s brain into a pit of self-loathing, and climbing back out is everything.

It might be time to step back, and take another run at “Art and Fear,” which I have mentioned here, and re-examine what the hell I am doing.  I’ll keep y’all posted.

Happy writing!

(Ignore the fake smile.)

 

 

What is Inspiration?

Inspiration.  Is it a freight train or a butterfly?

For me, receiving inspiration feels like being struck with lightning wrapped in bacon, or being ambushed by the teasing scent of your favorite flower on your daily walk.  Either way, it’s never the same place twice.  Or arrives in the same way. Because it’s not just the world that changes in the blink of every eye; YOU change that quickly, too.

What has me musing on the subject of inspiration this morning?  Last week I got to watch it in action.  And it was sooooooo cool!

Writers like to observe things.  We are The Watchers of things, and like the comic book characters, we store it all in our grey matter.

If we are smart writers, we make writing a habit.  Even when we aren’t inspired; even if we don’ wanna.  Even if we aren’t being paid for it, yet, we make some space in our lives that is writing time.  Be it bed time, break time, the kid’s naptime, laundry day, Sunday, or every day, we set out some mental space to create with words.

I’ve had this mental writing space in the past, and I wanted it back, so I have worked for it over the last few months, with a lot of bad days and good days.  Inspired days, and slog days.  Golden thesaurus days, and obscenity dripping days.  Numb-to-the-world days, and bleeding-in-gushes-and-spurts days.  Writing days.  You know, normal days, like everyone has.

So I had the good seats to watch myself receive inspiration.  It is a truth universally acknowledged that a writer needs to get their name out into the world, and while exposure won’t pay the bills, it can lead to more opportunities.  Yet another chance to submit to an anthology came up and for some reason it caught my eye, despite my failures in the past.  I didn’t have anything that could be modified to fit the theme, so that meant I had to write something new.  There is an open time limit on submissions, but it’s 2/3 full, so there is a bit of a race to submit before the slots are filled.

I began gathering bits of memory together; myths, stories, mental pictures, personal history, and remembered emotions. While discarding those bits that didn’t fit the anthology’s theme, I started fitting everything together, creating the “What if?” questions that will drive the story.

(BTW, I also realized the I do use a type of outline in my process, meaning things had to make sense to me to progress through the story, but it all happens in my head and is very amorphous until the plot is set with an internal logic.  I’m not as much of a “pantser” as I thought.  Huh.)

Flashes of lightning formed in the process, like the flashes you can see in a far off thunderstorm.  Stark blue and white and amber lit my personal night sky, backed by the deep, moist grey and angry navy of storm clouds.  The hidden alchemy of thought meeting thought.  A part of me watched the process, and it was beautiful.

When the flashes  slowed and weakened before I had a full plot, hook or twist, I posed a question to one of the writing groups I follow.  The conversation helped, but I needed more.  I posted to another group, and got a few takers, the conversation causing the “What if?” storm to roil and seethe, flashing like the strobe lights at an illegal underground dance club.  I rubbed my hands together in glee, chuckling evilly, manic grin stretching my lips, as flashes of inspiration brought the story to life.

“IT’S ALIVE!!!!!”

So, that is what inspiration feels like to me.  I don’t know if I can write the story well enough.  I don’t know if I will make the cut off before the slots are filled.  I don’t know if it will be good enough to be accepted into the anthology, or I’ll be forced to shop for another home.  What I do know, is that I have a new story.  It’s in rough draft bits, crammed tightly together with notes, and in the wrong order, and some of it’s still in my head, and some of it needs research, and refining, and to be typed, and edited, revised, edited, again, and again.

But I have a new story I adore.  That is the coolest feeling.

And I’m telling you the story of its creation so you might find some amusement or hope or even a bit of inspiration.  That seems to be my thing as a blog writer, writing about writing to writers, to serve as an example, for better or worse.  Let me open up my head for you to observe.  Please, no touching.  Or sneezing.  Euwww!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI didn’t have a picture of bacon wrapped lighting, but this is the flower that stalks me like a ninja.  Behold, the invasive, humble, and childhood-memory-infused Honeysuckle.

Happy Writing!