Writing

New Article: The Cheapskate Guide to Pittsburgh!

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If you were wondering how you could come to Pittsburgh and have a great time without spending too much money, you should check out my article over on Yes and Yes!

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NaNoWriMo, Writing, Writing Tips

It Has Begun…

So this week I started editing my NaNoWriMo novel.

Y’all. It is a struggle. Ask me to write a billion words and, sure, it’ll take me a while, but I can do it. Like a champ, in fact. Ask me to then edit those billion words, and you will see a girl cry her damn eyes out.

Because it’s not at that point yet where I could conceivably hand it over to someone to work on for me. There are probably a solid 2-3 beginnings. Some people have read segments of it, sure, but if I tried to toss it into someone’s lap, they’d probably get about 10 pages in and go, “Wtf is this?” Thus, I am here alone, wading through my own blah blah blah, trying to figure out what’s there, how it got there and what is staying and what is going.

Also, with what I wrote in November and the prior draft, it’s over 90K words.

Holy guacamole, y’all.

So here are a few things that are working so far, and how I am doing it. I am praying that my suffering will at least do some good for the world if I talk about it. Because I HATE IT.

*ahem*

  • Taking notes: right now, I’m just reading. Not editing, not proofing. Just reading. I’m keeping a notebook and pen and taking notes of names, things that are happening, names of places and major plot points.
  • Highlight: I can tell there are some things that are not staying or working at all, or that changed drastically in the NaNo draft. They are getting highlighted. Again, I am not deleting anything. I’m just making sure I can see them when I return to this wall of text.
  • No judging: this is a hard one. I am trying very, very hard not to judge myself as I work through this. I’m trying to look at this book the way I might a friend’s piece of writing or even a complete stranger’s. It’s helping me be objective, even if it is a huge hurdle.

Do you use any tactics when editing a big piece of fiction? How do you even start? I am very curious, because I keep looking up like, “Am I doing this right?!”

5 Things, Writing Tips

Writing with Mr. Pool. Deadpool.

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Last weekend, for Valentine’s Day, in a move that could only be the best in history, my husband and I went to see Deadpool. It was raunchy. It was hilarious. And it was a really, really good movie (that isn’t for kids – I feel like I’d be remiss in not stating that clearly).

Now y’all know I love comics. Gimme my sequential art. I need it like air. And if it’s a good adaptation and I can learn some stuff, all’s the better.

And now I share them with you. Five Things Writers Can Learn from Deadpool.

  1. Dialogue, dialogue, dialogue – I will get into this one later this week, but even if I just read the script and couldn’t hear the voices, each one was unique. It is so crucial that all your characters don’t sound exactly the same.
  2. Challenge all conventions – Do they think it’s going to be a comedy? Throw in some emotion. Woops, are they getting comfortable? Time to ruin that moment like a cold pair of feet under a comforter.
  3. Better be likable – There better be at least a few things the reader can look at in the main character and go, “Yeah! That guy is worth sticking around for!” Even if he’s a violent psychopath who really shouldn’t be looked at as the hero.
  4. Don’t be afraid of the first person – talk to me, Mr. Narrator. A conversational feel to a story can really pull us in.
  5. Happy endings aren’t just for garbage stories – it feels like we’ve gotten to a place as a culture that we expect something to go poorly at the close of the story. Someone dies. The hero fails. The villain escapes. The villain escapes with the girl who has fallen for him/her. And sure, not everything should work out with a little bow on top, but if you can have a happy ending now and then, it will absolutely keep your readers guessing.

Whatcha waiting for? Go get a chimichanga and head out to see Deadpool!

5 Things, How to Adult, Uncategorized

5 Ways to Keep in Touch

I’m going to preface this post by saying that I am so not good at keeping up with my friends and loved ones.

I still get texts and voicemails from my parents asking me if I’m alive (they live in Virginia, I live in Pennsylvania). When I stop and go, “Wow, I wonder how that person is, how long has it been?” and I realize that years have passed without us saying a word to each other, I get queasy.

Because it makes you feel like a bad friend, right? You go, “I must not care about that person or I would call them every day. I wouldn’t let so much time go by.” That’s really not true though, and I think we could all stand to cut ourselves some slack.

But here are a few ways that I have been trying to get better about staying in contact with folks:

  1. Schedule it: I’m a big fan of using my Google Calendar to remind me to call people. I’ve especially started doing this when I find that it’s someone’s birthday or a special occasion.
  2. Facebook: wait, wait, hear me out on this one. If I’m really strapped on time and I can’t pick up my phone and call someone, I rely on Facebook to help me so I can just send a quick, fun message to let someone know I’m thinking of them. I also like that I have a list of the people in my life so I can refer to it when I’m feeling isolated.
  3. Find something to do: another challenge for me has been, “Okay, so I call or message them and we’re both like, ‘hey, how’s it going, fine, how are you … well, nice talking to you.’ What’s even better is to go out and do something. Find a restaurant you want to try. Go do some sort of activity. Preferably not one that needs to be done in silence.
  4. Don’t waste time: it’s easy to get into all the reasons why you haven’t kept in touch. Do they ever really matter? I tend to think they don’t (unless you’re making amends for something, which is a whole other situation). Just jump straight to telling them how cool it is to be hanging out.
  5. It’s not you, it’s you: there was a time when I used to be concerned about the fact that I didn’t keep up with people regularly. And not just in a passing way, but in a debilitating guilty fashion, like I would die alone because I had abandoned my friends. And it’s just not true, y’all. People fall out of touch. Enjoy your paths crossing when they do, and let people know they can always talk to you, no matter how long it’s been.
Creative Advice

Life Lessons from Amanda Palmer

I can’t get the line of the Ukulele Anthem out of my head. Amanda Palmer sings, “Quit the bitching on your blog, and stop pretending art is hard.” It’s a great song, but something about that line specifically has stuck with me for, like, months.

There’s the song, if you haven’t heard it. Holy fuck, it so fantastic.

The line gave me pause I think because I remember a time when I would have been really angry about it. I would have gone, “Yeah, okay, let’s all pretend this is easy. Right. ARTISTS SUFFER.”

And now I’m like, “She’s right.” Simple as that.

When did art get complicated? When did we look at it as something that is a cause for suffering and anxiety and worry? And not just the occasional “I’m a fraud” kind of worry, but the paralysis of not working on anything, of not doing anything because we’re gripped with indecision. Because we are obsessed with the questions of “who will even read this?” or “why would the world even want this?”

At some point, I think I just got tired of constantly not doing things. Or, worse, taking all the precious time I had to make those things and instead griping about how difficult it was.

So I quit bitching. I quit pretending that everything had to be polished and perfect. I just made shit. I’m still making shit. It’s awesome.

Try it. It may save your life.

How to Have a Day Job

[How to Have a Day Job] It’s All About Who You Know

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In terms of work-life balance, this article is going to be more ‘work’ heavy.

So. You have a day job. I define that the same way Cambridge does, if we cut it down to the clinical aspects: it is “a ​job that you do to ​earn ​money so that you can do something ​else that you ​prefer but that does not ​pay you much ​money.” Generally, this is when we are working under someone else.

It is so, so crucial to work under someone who has your best interests at heart. It is also crucial to be able to have open communication with that person. My best day jobs (including my most current one) are thanks to a good rapport with my supervisor. And, likewise, my worst day jobs have been caused by fissures in that foundation. When I’ve felt like I haven’t had someone to go to, everything has fallen apart, ruining my life outside of work as a result.

It has become very, very important to me to maintain a solid relationship with my leadership in my work.

What does that mean exactly? How do you know that you have a winning supervisor? Here are a few prize-winning attributes. A good supervisor:

  • Recognizes your accomplishments and appreciates them.
  • Respects your time and space.
  • Asks for your feedback and thanks you for it, even if it isn’t implemented in some way.
  • Brings issues to you immediately in a courteous manner.
  • Allows you to grow, even if it means it is out of a given area or company.

You can feel the difference between good management and bad management. You can see it in your department and among your teammates. Does poor leadership mean you should leave a given occupation? Not necessarily, if it’s work you really love, but it means that the onus is on you to know where your ducks are so you can keep them in a row.

There are also a few ways you can create a stronger bond with your leadership, including:

  • Engaging them in a friendly manner in passing.
  • Being prepared for interactions and proposing solutions to problems rather than just complaining.
  • Asking questions about what you’ve been doing and how they see your work, including ways they think you may improve.
  • Making your expectations clear about what you want from them.
  • Be honest.

It’s really easy to want to slip under the radar, but that really doesn’t work for me, I’ve found. Over time, when crisis has arisen, I’ve felt better knowing that there’s someone in my corner who I can talk to.

What are things that you’ve noticed about your superiors in day jobs? What have been your best experiences? Worst?

5 Things, Writing, Writing Tips

Dirty Writing

So recently I’ve been…dabbling in more adult writing.

Spoiler alert: it’s not easy. I mean, slice of life stuff? Two characters sit in a coffee shop and talk about movies they like. Action? Stuff is blowing up and characters get all bloody.

Sex? Whaaaaa…

So here are Five Things I Have Learned About (Effectively) Constructing a Sex Scene

  1. Watch your language: repetition of words is a sure-fire way to ruin a good time. Focus less on specific items (mouth, hand, chest, etc) and more on action (what are they doing with those things?) and you’ll find it’s easier to get away from a grocery list of body parts.
  2. Make the dialogue real and organic: take every phrase you’ve ever heard in a porno (or parody of a porno), place it into a trash can and set it on fire. Seriously. No one wants to hear how many times a person can say “yeah, baby.” Unless the talking adds something to the scene in a good way, drop it. And make sure to check out #1.
  3. Decide what you’re going to focus on before you even head in: make a list of exactly what you want to have happen with these characters. Keep it simple. And consider how this fits into their development. Is this a scene where someone who is normally meek in other interactions takes a more upfront approach? Is it going to end well?
  4. Slow down: especially if the scene is in the context of a longer work, it can get easy to go, “Yeah, they did it, it was messy, and now it’s over.” Work into it. If you have to stop in the middle to get a snack or something, do so. Walk away. And then come back and give these characters the attention they deserve.
  5. Have fun with it: this isn’t supposed to be a half-assed last item. I’m serious. Even if it’s awkward, weird sex, have a good time writing it. Get into your characters’ heads (and other body parts). Think about what you like and incorporate those things. If you’re actually taking the time to do this, you might as well enjoy it!
How to Adult, mental health, Physical Challenge, Uncategorized

Red Weddings, Ledgers and Other Things (And How Not to Ruin Your Life)

Okay, guys, I’m just going to say it. This post is not for you. Move along.

So. Periods, amirite?

It feels like there’s maybe two weeks out of the month where I feel like a normal person. I take hormonal birth control pills, so I have at least the convenience of a schedule that says, “Okay, for these days, just assume I’ve lost my ability to function.” But in the latter part of the week leading up to my period, the week of, and half of the week following, there is a flood of A’s: anguish, anxiety, anger, ambivalence, assholishness.

I hated feeling this way for a long time. The attitude that I was always exposed to was, “You’re just going to have to deal with it, and it sucks, but too bad.”

And I suddenly realized, at least for me, that that would only be true if I didn’t care enough to change how I operated between the crazy times.

Everybody is different, but I wanted to share some of the things that have worked for me.

  • Calendar reminders: I have filled out my calendar with the timeframes that I know things are going to be Not Good. It may seem like a small thing, but having that visual reminder is really helpful.
  • Mantra: I remind myself, Your feelings are real and valid. You just have a more difficult time dealing with them presently. I’m no less of myself when my body is in utter freak-out mode. However, rather than internalizing stress, I may just explode at whoever it around me. Just knowing that it’s a possibility makes me better able to move away from potentially volatile scenarios.
  • Work around it: It doesn’t always pan out, but I will try and get as much of my personal goals accomplished prior to that time as possible. Of course things may come up, but I feel better knowing that I won’t be nagging myself if I don’t feel up to it.
  • Plow through it: this one is a bit ‘mind over (gross) matter.’ I try to get focused as tightly as I can on what I am doing. It is so, so easy for me to overthink on small things that come up during those two weeks. Mole hills? More like Appalachians. So I refuse to dwell too long on slights, worries and little things.

What sort of tricks do you ladies use to handle that ever-so-special time of the month?