I wanted to pick up with my thoughts from my last post. Basically it revolved around how I’m really good at beginnings and how I should make that work for me in a way that leads to finally typing the words THE END on a novel.
You’ll have to forgive me. I’ve been suffering from a case of writer’s block so thick, I’ve been stumbling over what my post would be about all week. I have this awesome idea about tropes that I love, but it’ll have to be your dose on my next segment. Continue reading
We’ve had some really great posts on here about overcoming fear, self doubt, deadlines, etc. All of these things play a part in our evolution as writers. There is another thing I’d like to bring up, though. Something that has been my biggest hurdle to overcome.
How much feedback is too much?
2015 has been a busy year for me. Maybe the busiest, most stressful year of my life. Because of that, writing originally got thrown on the back burner. I know, I know. You have to make time. If you’re really dedicated you’ll steal moments all day to dedicate to your writing. And that makes total sense. But most of the time my brain felt fried and the thought of having to focus on anything other than school and work made me just crawl into the bathtub. Continue reading
I have a love-hate relationship with procrastination. I loooove to wait until the last minute to do anything important. I must love it, because I do it ALL the time. And then about midway into my marathon of catching the hell up, I hate that I procrastinated.
It’s no surprise, we all know how popular fairy-tales are, even more popular are these classics reworked. Maybe it’s Disney’s fault for planting them in our heads when we were young. After all, pretty much all stories have been told in some way, so as writers our job is to make the story our own. Give the classic a brand that no one else can. Adventures, slow burn romances, love triangles- all recipes that we just add our own ingredients too.
But today, I’m talking exclusively about fairy-tales. Mostly because the novel I’m working on intermittently is me reworking a classic, yet mildly obscure, fairy-tale. I’ve always loved original Grimm tales. But the bar set by some of the more popular ones, like Hanzel and Gretel or Cinderella, was just too high for a novice like me. What fresh face could I give these stories?
I decided instead of trying to find a fresh take on these stories, it would be better to bring the world a story they hadn’t heard a dozen times. That’s when I found the story that would be mine, The Girl Without Hands.
When it started, it was a short story that I was having fun with. It’s of the dark humor coin, which I think suits most Grimm tales. I posted it on Scribophile, almost as a goof. But what happened after people red lined the shit out of it is that, I realized people liked it as much as I did. They wanted more.
I’m on my third expansion now, so it will be a bit before I get it on Scrib again. (I have a side project). But during this reworking I’ve changed more, and it has me thinking about fairy-tales in general. When you are retelling a story, what is the most important thing to keep? When you watch the newest versions of your favorites, what sells it to you?
Now, some Grimm morals, might be a tad outdated, but is only keeping the core of the story important? If your ingredients change the cookie from oatmeal to chocolate chip, does it matter? As long as it’s your own and your moral?
I know that sounds like a silly question. But people have their preconceived notions about fairy-tales, and they aren’t always crazy about us coming along and changing things.
It might not help that not everyone gets dark humor, but that’s for next post… The Satire Wrtier Who Didn’t Understand Satire 😉
Emily is a novice writer, she doesn’t have fancy mailing lists yet. But you can connect with her here for now =)
It’s funny. I have an entire word document dedicated to topics for this blog. It’s very special to me, and I’m so thankful to be a part of it and the wonderful group of writers involved. I am generally a planner, not a pantser, even when it comes to blogging.
However, in the last month I’ve moved states, changed careers, and started school. Then, this week, just when I thought I was getting everything in order and could even work in some writing time on my awesome new story I’m planning, guess what?
I start getting sick. Just a cold, take some nyquil, I think. Well, it gets worse. I just moved, so I don’t have a doctor. Thank God my new health insurance is in effect, so doc in a box I go. Walking pneumonia. Yep. That’s right.
And it’s no joke, dude. I could not even focus. I’m not even sure how I drove to the doctor or did anything before they jacked me with steroids. Today was the first time in a week I didn’t get dizzy just walking around.
Now, don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a pity post. I guess it’s another one of those when-life-interrupts-your-writing posts. All the best laid plans. I had made a new schedule with specific writing times and places, to get in my groove. I had done a load of research for my new story. I was so pumped.
But I think I’ve also been overwhelmed, and this illness has given me a chance to reflect/hallucinate. To remember what is important, to remember that it’s not the end of the world if my blog is late, if my story doesn’t get started this week, if I miss a week of work at my brand new job. If I don’t do any fancy meme’s or pictures or any of the things I know makes a post better than reading some rando’s rambling.
I’m one of those people who puts so much pressure on myself. I hate disappointing anyone. I fret. I know I’m not alone. But I think that if we fret too much, if we put too much pressure on ourselves, things we love, like writing, lose their charm. I have to take the time to breathe. I don’t have to have everything planned, cause shit doesn’t like to go according to my plan anyway.
And on a side note, my fever gave me a wicked idea for my story in the middle of the night.
Emily is a wannabe author, privileged to know some of the best authors ever! Please check out her short stories and connect with her! One day she’ll have a fancy mailing list and all that jazz. ❤
To write successfully we often rely on suspension of disbelief. This can be achieved through a variety of methods, from using premises that the reader’s are unfamiliar with to simply making characters believable. Once I’m invested in a character or a story, I’m willing to overlook a lot. I’m sure most people are.
We want believable characters, hell even in our villains. Look at the prevalence of the Antihero. So, that’s the question I bring to you today. What is the balance between believable characters and unpredictable ones?
I mean, I love a character I can relate to as much as the next person, but when does that get boring? When are you reading like, “oh let me guess, he’s not going to tell her what’s going on and mayhem will ensue.” Does outside influence have to be the surprise in your story?
Is a surprising character actually surprising or do you feel cheated by an unreliable narrator? I’m sure there is a balance in there somewhere, between being true to your characters and surprising your audience. I’m just having trouble finding it. But we surprise ourselves, right? And who do you know better? If I can do things that surprise me, like leading a meeting when every fiber of me knows myself to be absolutely terrified of public speaking, then isn’t it a disservice to our characters to leave them stuck in a loop of who they are supposed to be? Or must you follow a natural progression of character development to get some new bits out of your characters?
**** Emily is a wannabe currently working on finishing a novel (or five) and short stories.
Let’s face it, sometimes writing becomes a chore. We get stuck on a scene, a chapter, a plot hole and we throw our proverbial pen across the room, shouting “why do I even bother?”… or something less tasteful if you’re like me. I could make a sailor blush.
There is a moment (or a thousand) for all of us whether it’s draft one or wading through the river of shit that is editing (I really hate editing) where we wonder why we are even in this relationship.
Because writing is a relationship. We all remember when we fell in love, wistfully dreaming of that rush we got. Those sentences we read back to ourselves and think, “Holy balls, I’m a genius”. Or maybe you just get goosebumps- whatever. I’ve been so high on writing endorphins that I was like, “move over Ernie, Harper, and George, there’s a new sheriff in town.”
But the honeymoon phase ends, as they are wont to do, and you realize this relationship is gonna take a little work. The work isn’t necessarily bad, it’s good- real good sometimes. Ideas whispering sweet nothings in your ear at night, plot holes resolving themselves before your eyes, hell, sometimes even your grammar is pretty damn good on the first try. It’s not always easy, your writing needs your attention, your dedication, and it’s easy to neglect it. It’s not always easy, this relationship, but you’re in it to win it.
Then one day, maybe gradually or out of the blue, you’re staring at pages of red slashes or a blank screen and you think “how did we get here?” You feel resentment, pressure, even suffocated. You might even want out.
Take a step back. This is a long term commitment. Sometimes you have to fall back in love.
Maybe you need a date night with a short story, or a night away from from your writing entirely. Maybe you need to go back to the beginning. Perhaps you just need a night with another book (I won’t tell).
Whatever it takes, for the love of all that’s writing, don’t give up.
I’m no stranger to using dreams, flashbacks, hallucinations, and dialogue to divulge a character’s past. Let’s face it, we all know we don’t start at the beginning, that’s yesterday’s advice. We all know Timmy was born on a chilly spring morning in 1983 isn’t where it’s at. Was there a storm? Was Timmy born on a ship in the middle of the ocean? No? Who cares?
Today, we drop our characters in the action: a pivotal moment in their lives, or hell, into a fight. We drop our characters in the middle of the ocean on a stormy night and let them find their way home.
Lately I’ve been thinking about chronological order. In fact, in my current WIP (work in progress) I’ve been trying what I call Tarantino style where I shoosh back and forth through my character’s life like I’m a fucking Time Lord.
Call me crazy, but maybe this is where it’s at. I mean, who’s to say what the pivotal moment in a character’s life is and when it has significance? We’ve all seen the book or movie that started at the end, and then took us back to the beginning. What I’m talking about is multiplying that by ten.
Don’t get it twisted, I’m not throwing in flashbacks like some hack wizard. I’m legit Time Lord-ing here. For instance, my character is a solider and the very first scene is him landing in the good ole US of A after ten months in Afghanistan. The whole first chapter is about his initial adjustments with civilian life and the aftermath of what has happened while he’s been away. Chapter Two shoots forward a year, showing just how much being a soldier has changed his family dynamics. Chapter Three swings back to before he ever joined the military. Chapter Four is in Afghanistan.
You get the gist. Each chapter is a totally different facet of his life. Each chapter: The Veteran, The Son, The Boy, The Soldier, etc, is meant to all represent his own fragmented sense of self.
At first this seemed confusing, but the more I went with it, the more it made sense. There is no way to portray each of these pieces in order with the same effect. The more I ripped through time like some sort of maniac with a time portal, the more I wondered… is chronological all that logical after all?
Let’s face it, it’s your story. You’re the wizard, you’re the time lord, you’re the boy with the magnifying glass scattering the orderly little ants into chaos. Go wherever your pen (*cough* keyboard, iPad, voice recorder) takes you. Whatever we were taught about order, screw it. You’re the person who knows when and how to reveal what’s going on. And trust me, there’s a kind of powerful feeling about throwing some of the rules right out the window.
Emily is currently writing for fun, although she has published a few short stories. She is trying to focus on finishing a novel this year, hopefully her fairy tale. Connect with her and/or read her amateur blog!