Writing with Mr. Pool. Deadpool.


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!

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!

Managing Writing Goals

My office is filled with the sound of constant tapping, and I am aware that I have been at this for hours now. I check my word count. So proud. I scroll through the pages. It’s good. Very good.

And then I think of another project.

And another.

And two blogs.

That have been untouched.

I fizzle. My writing heart deflates like a cartoon balloon, pbbt-ing into nothingness.

Sometimes I can keep writing despite this sudden paperweight of anxiety and uncertainty, but it is hard. So, I took some time out to start piecing apart my goals and projects, and I would encourage you to do the same if you find yourself going, “This is all well and good but what about [other project]? Should I be doing that?”

  • Stop and ask, “Who am I right now? What is important to me?” If the answer is, “I am a person with a very hectic day job and I need the escapism that writing can afford me,” then maybe it means that you should manage your time more around pleasure writing than searching for marketing ideas.
  • Pick three flavors. Your writing life is an ice cream store. You get up to three scoops. No more. So which ones do you want to try right now? If you want to edit your book, manage your blog and finish that short story, maybe you could wait to start that parody zine.
  • Ask yourself if the problem is you or the clock. Do you actually not want to be doing a given task, or are you just poorly managing your time and energy? Step back with a spreadsheet that has your day broken down by 15 minute increments. Color-code everything that you have to do, and then break up the rest into what you want to do. Stick to that.
  • Always keep a sticky note of “Do Unto Others.” It’s one thing to lose sight of your own projects, but if you have a commitment to someone else, be sure that you are factoring that in.

What sort of tactics do you use to manage your time? Are you good at keeping track of everything or do you get easily distracted by the squirrels?

Inspiration is Pain

Wait, wait, it’s really not supposed to be that dramatic…

So this morning, when I woke up, I realized that my brain had become a warzone.

I get migraines of the occasion. Usually they are associated with stress, times of the month, general changes in air temperature, etc. Sometimes, I can get them handled and under control before anything crazy happens. Sometimes, though, especially if they sneak in like invaders in the night, they hit with the ferocity of a summer thunderstorm. There is sound, there is fury, and it signifies my life is ending.

I got up. I got medicine. I went downstairs. I immediately went back upstairs. No light, no sound, nothing. The pain was like my skull had been cracked like an egg. The floor was offensive. The air was offensive. The settling of the house was offensive. I eventually just passed out again from the pain.

And there was one thing on my mind, in those swirling moments of agony: George R.R. Martin is a damn genius.


Because of this guy:


This is Gregor Clegane, aka The Mountain, aka Card-Carrying Member of the Old Boys Club of Suck. We know him. We hate him.

But a little reference from the Song of Ice and Fire series is that he suffers from chronic headaches. He’s always taking milk of the poppy to ease it off, but it’s a pretty constant thing that causes him suffering.

After I read that, there was just this moment, this teeny second, that I stopped and went, “That explains so much.” It doesn’t justify it or make anything he does less horrifying and awful, but for just a moment, I could see why it was happening. It wasn’t some deep thing like, “His parents didn’t love him” or “He was just a product of society” or whatever. There was an actual physical torment that was there, like a creaky board in the stairs, gnawing away at him until he snapped. Not to say he didn’t choose to embrace that, but still — this rocked my world as a writer.

It’s easy to make a monster. But making a monster that can be related to, even on a superficial scale, is something to aspire to.


Trying (All the) Times


It’s a big HOT TIP for writers: find out when you work best. Experiment and find out that secret segment of time when you are the most productive, when the creative juices are absolutely at their gushiest (ew).

I know every single of one of you probably went, “Sure! But…morning time isn’t happening. For obvious reasons*.”

*obvious reasons = warm blankets, constant zzz’s, Mr. Sandman.

Or, as a variation, “Okay! But…night is not going to work. That just isn’t for me*.”

*because the house is creaky or my wife gets cranky if I stay up or…

Look. You have to try everything.

Recently, we’ve headed into the busy time of my day job. We’re in the middle of the season where we get most of the workload. We are required to do overtime. We work on weekends sometimes. And at this point, there have been many days where I’ve gotten done, wandered downstairs and melted my butt into the couch. I’m not too proud to admit that.

Over the past week, however, I’ve started getting up an extra 30 minutes. That’s all. 30 minutes. That’s not even a whole episode of “Cutthroat Kitchen.” I’ve made myself stay at at least an upright sitting position and I have gotten shit done.

It works. Try it. Or, if you’re on the opposite end of the scale, try staying up a half hour later. It’s not much, and if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. But you will have tried.

Is there a time of day that you have avoided because it just seems utterly impossible? Have you tried a different one and been shocked and awed by the results? Tell me about it in the comments or on my Facebook page!

Looking Over My Shoulder

It’s been three days since NaNoWriMo ended, and it all feels very weird. There’s this huge gap in my day-to-day schedule, like going from taking classes to summer vacation. When I’m not at my day job, I feel aimless. I’ve started keeping lists just so I don’t feel like I’m not doing anything at all.

NaNoWriMo was really, really hard. I did the bare minimum, writing almost every day with the exception of a day or two in the first week as well as Thanksgiving. I was never scrambling to catch up on more than a few thousand words, which I am obscenely grateful for. High five, November Katie.

Here are 5 lessons I learned from NaNo 2015:

  1. Never be afraid to go in without a plan. A general idea is great, sure, but the real magic truly does come when you pick up from where you left off and springboard into a random event. How your characters react may end up being super natural because even you didn’t know it was coming!
  2. Decide what you know you can do each day and make that your goal. I know now that I can comfortably write about 1,000 words in roughly an hour. Sometimes I get a momentum and head forward, others I get really ‘meh.’ But now I know I can do that, and I’m going to use that as my baseline.
  3. You have time. Now, I know I’m saying that from a place of not having kids, but I think in general that people have more time than they realize. When you are trying to fit in a specific amount of work each day, you’ll be surprised where you can carve out the opportunity. It’s just easier to say “I don’t have time.”
  4. You can do it. Just don’t get caught in analysis paralysis. It’s easy to go, “Oh god, I don’t know where this scene is going to go. I don’t even know if this book is good. Should I start over? Maybe I should go to veterinary school instead.” Just open the document and start writing. Pick up where you left off and go, even if it’s just to a scene where one of the characters goes to the bathroom. It’s something, and something will happen after they go to the bathroom.
  5. Take every ounce of writing advice with a grain of salt. Not even that. Half a grain of salt. A thought of salt. There is so much “guidance” out there telling you what is the “right” way to put a book together and how “wrong” it is to do something and how a certain method is the way “all writers do it.” By all means, listen, but try different things. Break rules. Say, “Thanks, dude, but I’m going to do this instead.” Nobody is 100% right. Because otherwise every book – every style, every voice, every story – would sound exactly the same.

Phew. Now what, world?

NaNo: It’s Coming

A friend told me today that he is thinking about doing NaNoWriMo. He asked if I had any advice. I would like to share this advice with you too, dear reader, dear writer.

Don’t do it for any reason other than to write and have fun doing it. Don’t do it for anyone else or because you feel like you ‘have’ to. It has to be the marriage of challenge and joy.

Prepare, but don’t prepare too much. The devil is in the details, and analysis paralysis will be your enemy. Think over the next week the type of book you want to write, the type of characters you want to give birth to. If you can create a book jacket summary of the overall arc, cool. If not, also cool.

Small chunks of writing will work better than marathon writing. Squeeze it into your schedule. If you don’t already love to write for five hours, you aren’t going to start now.

Don’t give up. Don’t get to the 20th and go, “I only have x words, there’s no way I’m going to get to 50k, I’m done.” Fight to the end. See what happens. Miracles have happened in mere hours.

Just by wanting to do it, you are ahead of the millions of people who say “someday I’ll…” Celebrate that, but just not too much.

If you want to share your creature as it awakens, do it. But tell people to hand over the roses and leave the thorns until 12/1. Because you will want to edit. Every writer does. You will hear yourself say, “Oh wait, this should be this” or “that should have not happened.” Leave the casualties and save yourself.

You can do it. I believe in you.

Dum Dum! or the Mystery of SVU

I look up. 5 hours have passed. I told myself I would just lie down on the couch, turn on something mindless, and fall asleep while my blood slowly turned neon orange from industrial-grade Dayquil. But there’s been no sleeping, other than maybe a wink or two during commercials.

Why, you ask?


Because each time, I’ve turned on Law and Order: SVU. And down I’ve fallen into an endless spiral of crime and punishment, Elliot and Olivia, the magnetic charisma that is Ice T. And even when Husbando has come in to check on me, sometimes he’s found himself sitting down and becoming tangled in the web of justice that is the Special Victim’s Unit.

But why?

What is it about this show that commands endless attention?

So, as I watched this evening (because what else are you going to watch before the season premiere of GAME OF THRONES?), I started taking some notes.

– Immediate emotional engagement: Law and Order reigns over the court of television shows as King of the Cold Opening. But there’s something about those first five minutes of SVU that grips me like no other crime drama. Perhaps it’s the fact that so often we are thrown into an aftermath of a crime that isn’t just a body in a dumpster. There is something very human about what we’re heading into from the get-go.

– The unexpected twist: this can be considered a staple of the genre – the good ol’ butler-did-it – but SVU again makes this bit its own. We get not only the wrong suspects, but we watch the horrible process of their being dragged out with their own personal demons clinging to their ankles. We get to see how it could have easily been a story about them, whether they are the victim or the villain.

– A persistent rise and fall between action and drama: this. Show. Isn’t. Boring. Each scene and exchange is no longer than about 5 minutes. Then…BAM. Shit gets real. BAM. We’re seeing the fallout. BAM. More. BAM. BAM. BAM. There’s never really a recovery period. We’re on this ride from the start to the end. You can catch your breath during the commercials.

– Unique voices: I think my biggest problem with a lot of other television dramas is that the characters begin to run together. If I lose focus, voices and expressions and reactions all blend into this one Good Guy or Character Representing the Faction of ____. But in SVU, every one is a little different. Victims react to things in different ways. Not everything is so cut and dry.

– Solid satisfying resolution…well, mostly: at the end of every 50-some minute episode, there’s an ending. We know what has happened, we know where everyone is at the end, we know that whatever has happened with this case is what will happen. And yet…not entirely. We are left at times wondering what is happening in the minds of the heroes and the evildoers alike. We wonder what lasting damage this has left on the NYPD, the citizens, and the justice system itself.

If I ever write a television show, I hope it works as well as SVU.

Okay, scratch that. When I write anything.

You Might Think It’s Easy, But It’s Snot


Since I got back on Sunday, I have been sick.

Husbando had had a head cold a few weeks previously, and I felt like I had somehow sneaked past without getting its attention. As if the cold were a Tyrannosaurus Rex, and I was Sam Neill with the flare. Little did I realize that in no time I would end up a bit more like…Jeff Goldblum. You know, where he spazzes out and people start dying.

As a result, I’ve been floundering trying to be productive. And you’d think, “Oh, you can just blog while you’re lying in bed.” But it’s not so easy. Because that requires thinking, and that’s no simple feat when your brain is drowning in mucus.


Here are a few things you can do if you, like me, get sick and feel like a worthless sack:

1. Catch up on some research — Take a look at some of those places you’re going to feature in your next book. Or search for inspiring images on Pinterest to motivate you to get a better sense of your characters.

2. Write some poetry — Don’t think too hard on it. Just let it flow out onto the paper.

3. Make a list — I love lists, if you couldn’t tell that from March’s 30 Lists. But they really are a good way to collect your thoughts in a short, sweet way. Think about what you’re going to blog about, what topics you want to write about, what books have inspired you.

4. Go easy on yourself — If you push too hard, you’re going to wind up sicker for a longer amount of time. Take frequent breaks. Keep hydrated. Get plenty of sleep.

5. Catch up on other writers’ blogs — We’re always telling ourselves not to fall down the blog rabbit hole, but in truth, when you’re having a hard time getting anything done, you can draw strength from awesome writers around you. Indulge and take a look at, say, Terrible Minds. Or The Cult.

Now you’re all set to feel better about not doing anything because life is currently a snotty mountain of tissues. Huzzah!

Stop What You’re Doing and Read “Yes Please” by Amy Poehler

I just got finished listening to this amazing, inspiring, beautiful book by Amy Poehler. This is going to go on my list as one of my favorites on Audible, by the way. I’m sure the book/ebook is wonderful, but the audio version is like…this awesome party you’ve been invited to. And you know all the people there, and you get to watch this great group of friends laugh and joke together.

I was late to the Poehler party. I’ll admit that right now. I probably only recently binge-watched the entire Parks and Rec series to this point, and it is one of the best comedy shows I’ve ever seen. It has just the right amount of funny and heart and wit and deadpan awesomeness. So I got really excited about Amy’s book.

I wasn’t disappointed. Not at all.

Amy had me at hello. I was sitting in a hotel in Plymouth Meeting on a business trip the day Yes Please came out. I had downloaded the Kindle sample and started reading it. In the first pages, Amy is upfront and honest about what a grueling task it was, writing the book. How she kept wanting to stop, how she tried to surround herself with her favorite writers’ work and then just found herself re-reading those other books instead of working on hers. I loved her for saying all the things that I think writers try to avoid saying, or share as an afterthought…like, “Oh, yes, writing is hard work, but when you are one with the Muse and you unplug from the material world, you are a better person for your craft and…” Amy takes that Walden image and calls it out for the bullshit it can be.

So if you are a) a creative person, b) a writer or c) a human being, you should check it out. Here are five things I picked up from reading this amazing memoir. I’ve tucked these in my back pocket, as mantras and reminders of how to be a better person.

1. The doing of the thing is the thing. Not talking about the thing, or thinking about the thing, or planning the thing. Do the thing. Now.

2. It’s easy to get stuck in your head. We overthink. Jump in to life headfirst. Do.

3. Say “Yes Please.” There is the chance for adventure and great times if you put yourself out there rather than going “nah.” It feels good to go “Of course!” and “Bring it on!” Yes please. And I’d like to add, “More, thank you.

4. Try not caring so much, when it comes to your career. This isn’t about the creative aspect of it, but the business of it, the success factors. Your career will do its own thing in its own time and your obsessing about it isn’t going to help.

5. Our phones really are trying to kill us.