5 Things, Creative Advice, Self Dare

Writing Against the Bad Tide

Despite how much solitude involved in this kind of craft, writing is also very much plugged into working online. There’s the social media aspect, networking, blogging, posting pieces for people to see, all that good stuff.

And right now, the entire Internet can be quite…

Draining.

And that’s putting it lightly.

Scary shit is happening in the world. We are perpetually bombarded with new Bad News about what certain high-powered individuals are doing to fuck over the population. And as if the news itself wasn’t bad enough, there’s also seeing the reactions and horror stories and opinions, and the responses to that, and…

Now more than ever, it’s important to understand balance and taking care of yourself.

Here are a few tips I’ve been using to help stay productive while also staying informed about current events:

  1. Decide when and how much you are going to expose yourself to the news: I am trying to limit myself to one particular point in the day to get a rundown of my news around the world. I’m also trying to move away from first thing in the morning, because it can easily set the tone for the day.
  2. Recognize when it’s time to unplug: You may need some time completely away from the computer, the phone, etc. Fall back in love with the pen and paper. Or…
  3. Disconnect from the Matrix: Sometimes it can be as simple as losing your Internet for a while. Check out programs like Freedom to allow you to work without the temptation of surfing.
  4. Mind your physical traits: eat, sleep, drink water, meditate. Go outside and stand in the sun. Even if it’s cold. Make yourself exercise (I just got a small fitness stepper for my office and it has been awesome).
  5. Keep creating things: just by putting things out into the world, you are doing a great service to many. People need art right now more than ever. People need to escape. People need to be inspired and to see characters doing the things that they may not be able to. Don’t stop. Don’t give up.
Creative Advice, NaNoWriMo, Writing, Writing Tips

Editing a Monster: Index Card Therapy

I’ve mentioned before that I’m still editing my monster of a novel I did during last year’s NaNoWriMo. And y’all? I do not like editing. I am not good at it. Ask me to write something – anything – any length – and I’ll do it. Ask me to take that mountain and whittle it down into a terrarium, and I lose my damn mind.

As I consider this crazy, meandering thing, I’ve found that I have a lot of characters. So I’m trying a technique that uses a tool I’ve read about many writers employing when they are working on books: index cards.

Here is the process I’m using. For now. Until I get tired of it. But you might find it helpful!

  1. Take an index card. Write the name of your character on the blank side, including possibly a picture if you have one or a brief physical description.
  2. On the back, it’s bullet list time. Write down what part you want that character to play — are they the hero? The villain? Someone’s foil?
  3. Next, write down what they want, ultimately. Their best case scenario. Where they seek to find themselves.
  4. Write down a few of their favorite things and who they are most linked to in the story.
  5. Write down what you like about the character. Maybe it’s their dialogue. Maybe it’s just the fact that they seem like someone you would want to be friends with (or, on the other hand, someone you’d like to be running from).

Now, take the cards and lay them out on a table or flat surface. How does your cast look? Did you struggle to find things to write about them? Are there characters you could put together into one MEGA AWESOME CHARACTER FUSION? If your book was a movie, would you want to see it?

Over the next few weeks leading up to NaNoWriMo, I’d like to talk more about my editing process. If there are any aspects to this you would especially be interested in hearing about, leave me a comment here or head over to my Facebook page! Or Twitter! Or homing dolphin!

microfiction, Writing, Writing challenge

Microfiction: Absurdity Squared

The plummet from the twenty-third story was surprisingly short. There was barely time to get accustomed to the rush of wind, limbs sprawling, the upward rush sending Tom topsy-turvy until he hit the ground, the whole journey taking three seconds before impact with the ground.

“Dude. You all right?”

Tom looked up at Finn standing over him. Well, his remains. Now, Tom was standing in the exact same clothes, and they watched his body fade into nothing.

“How many lives do you have left?”

“Five. I picked one up by the Starbucks.”

“Why’d you use one?”

He shrugged. “Slow day.”

“It looks like you’re having a burrito.”

The husband and wife looked up at the sonogram with vacant expressions, and as the doctor moved the wand over her jellied stomach, they could make out the curve of the tortilla wrap, the satisfying elongated roundness.

“The tests show beans, cheese, guacamole…ah, and chicken.”

He squeezed her hand as her eyes filled with tears.

“As you progress, we’re expecting sour cream. Maybe lettuce.”

She ran her hands through her hair, face tightening. The doctor smiled comfortingly.

“Just so long as it’s healthy,” the husband said, and she nodded, relieved laughter bubbling forth.

 

 

 

microfiction, Writing, Writing challenge

Microfiction: Birth, Ichor,Top 40

Danny watched as the egg began to crack in his hand. He had never seen something being born before, and the fact that it was happening in the center of his palm, the shell splintering slowly, the peeping from within becoming more frantic with the discovery of life…it made his eyes fill with tears.

Nothing else mattered in the world except for this tiny messy thing looking up at him like he was God.

“Go ahead,” his mother said, once the thing had fluffed itself to yellow cotton-candy consistency. “Give it back.”

It was the first time he said “no.”

“I’ve been poisoned,” she said to her sister as they sat on the porch, watching the tendrils of black infection creep up her pale arms.

“Does it hurt?”

“Naw,” she lied, each breath burning in her lungs.

“Is there an antidote?”

“If there is, I don’t know how to get it.” Blood was beginning to seep into her vision, casting a reddish glow on the little girl holding her hand so tightly and starting to cry.

“Tell me about your pony toys,” she said, picking up a pink filly in trembling fingers.

“That one is Twinkle-Butt.”

“Good name.”

I hate this song, Thomas thought before the car shattered around him. There was no slow motion to the destruction. This wasn’t a television show. He was just driving one second, and the next, glass had cut neat lines into his forehead and his airbag appeared like a grenade-powered cloud.

Stillness. And a wet dripping, from his nose and his mouth.

Pain and broken bones, and now he couldn’t move his arm to change the channel. In murky half-consciousness the voices of people outside were knocking and pulling at his door, and he said to them, “Pop music fucking sucks.”

Writing, Writing challenge

30! (And microfiction!)

I’ve been doing this thing off and on that you all may have noticed if you’ve been here a while. If I’m feeling awesomely motivated, I try to set tasks at the beginning of the month that are ’30 (fill in the blank).’ This month, I’m doing these things:

  • 30 doodles on Instagram
  • 30 quirkyalone things I love on Twitter
  • and 30 pieces of microfiction here!

Let’s get started!

“Be kind to people. That’s what I’ve done for three hundred years.” Sergio stuck his hands into his jean pockets, fingering loose change.

“That’s all you’ve done with your immortality?” Charles asked as they stood on the bridge, watching the water below, and he pulled his collar around his sneer. “What a waste.”

Sergio shrugged. Fog covered the cityscape, leaving them suspended in a dream of white and gray. “It’s what I would have done with my mortal life, too. Take it or leave it.”

Maybe after a hundred more years, Charles might change tactics. He would wait and see.

 

Creative Advice, Writing, Writing Tips

Woe is You, Maybe, But WHOA is Me!

I read a piece in the New York Times today that I found during my nightly looksie of the Twittersphere. It was tucked away between political ramblings, San Diego Comic Con calm down and adorable doodles. It was about writers and their perspective on their body of work, and how there seems to be this constant malaise after pieces are done. According to this writer, at the end of the day, writers can’t even stand to look at what they’ve done, and there is this terrible feeling of disappointment.

And I found myself tipping my head and feeling really, really sad.

During my twenties, I owned the whole image of ‘serious’ writers as these downtrodden, perpetually anxious, sighing lot. “Writers are supposed to be miserable,” I was essentially told. “Happy writers aren’t good writers.” Being a writer meant, if the ‘classic’ examples were to be any indication, hating the process, loathing the words themselves and doing it because it was a calling. For if we did not, then who would? It all came off very masochistic. And not even in the good way.

If I had a time machine, I would go back to the twenty-something me, shake her a little and go, “Yeah, okay, that’s garbage. Stop looking at that shit and go write something you’ll love.”

And I don’t just mean the content itself, but the whole process. Write something you’ll love making. Write something you’ll look forward to looking at. Write something that you can hand off to a friend and be like, “Hey, man, I wrote this thing. All of these words came out of my brainstuffs!” Don’t look at what you’ve written as some sort of reminder of your mortality or some posse of gargoyle antagonists sitting on your shelf, waiting for you to go to sleep so they can whisper thoughts of fear and failure in your ear. Put party hats on your books. Sure, the early stuff probably is ripe with terrible prose, but laugh at it the way you would at baby pictures.

Yeah, dude, we’re all going to die (unless someone is here and willing to give me robot parts, because seriously, sign me the eff up). So if you’re going to take on something as your art and you are going to be spending at least a decent portion of your waking hours doing it, then maybe you ought to at least like it, right?

Creative Advice, How to Have a Day Job, Writing Tips

The Simplicity of Giving Advice with Neil Himself

This weekend, I got to watch something really cool on Twitter.

As a bit of background because you may be new here, I think Neil Gaiman is a pretty cool guy (and the Award for Understatement of the Year goes tooooo…). His fiction is great, the people in his life are awesome and inspiring (I interviewed Cat Mihos for How to Have a Day Job, and she is a really fantastic lady), and he is a wellspring of cool.

On Sunday, while waiting for his plane to take off, Neil took questions on Twitter. About anything: writing, love, publishing, John Hodgman (well, I think John just showed up to the party), etc. And I found myself really moved by the simplicity of his answers. Not even in that ‘you only have a thimble’s worth of words to use on Twitter’ but just how straight to the point it was. It felt like finding little stones at the bottom of a rushing stream. I found myself moved and inspired.

A few of my favorites included:

“I have a lot of ideas, and even more unfinished stories… How do I pick up the pencil from here?”

“When’s the best time to write?”

“And advice to someone who want to start writing?”

“Advice to self-doubting writers-in-training who got extremely rusty after a long time of not writing?”

Notice a theme?

Always write. Even if (especially if) you don’t know what you’re doing. Make it happen. Let the words come out. Make the art. Your hands will learn what to do, but only if you hush up the brain and let them move.

And remember, whether you’re an artist or a human being:

“How do you get over heartbreak?”

 

5 Things, Writing, Writing Tips

5 Writer Reminders

  1. Not everything is going to be awesome. Still keep writing, though, anyway. You never know when one of those rocks is going to be a gem.
  2. Look at the world through the eyes of your pen. Make note of how things are, how things make you feel, and then put it into your work.
  3. If you are writing anything, you are doing more than a huge population of people in the world. Perspective: appreciate it.
  4. You can’t write all the time. Still try to.
  5. You are your own worst enemy. Worse than the rejections, worse than the critics, worse than all the people who smile and nod at you. Because they get to be outside of your head until you let them in.