Sunday, November 30, 2014

Headline: Emotional wreck of writer killed today...

So the deed is done.
I have finished NaNoWriMo with a 114.000 word first draft.
And I'm emotionally exhausted.

I cried myself through the last three chapters, 
blindly groping along my living-room in search for soul food and 
stuffed chocolate-chip-cookies into me until I could see the screen again.

I have killed.
I killed a sweet innocent child
and sent my main characters on an emotional roller-coaster.

I suffered vicariously with them.
And I shall spend the next couple of days as their personal
therapist to tackle the PTS symptoms they suffer from tonight.
But tonight we try to relax.
My sofa is occupied by a score of sniffling and red-eyed characters.
Some wear a decidedly accusing expression. 
But it had to be for the greater good.
But there's a huge tissue-box on the table, next to the chocolate bar.
We share that one.
And tomorrow we take a break and talk.
And eventually we will revisit events - a lot.
But one day we will move on.
They'll be just more wary then, not as confident as before.

I don't think they believed I had the power to kill in me.
Neither did I.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

NaNoWriMo 2014 Pep-Talk by Jim Butcher

 Reblogged from NaNoWriMo 2014 Pep-Talks

Pep Talk from Jim Butcher

Beware, sweet, innocent, aspiring writer. People aren’t telling you this, and they should be. NaNoWriMo participants are being deceived into thinking that being an author is a good thing. But you don’t know. You don’t know the horrors you might face as a professional, published, full-time author.
I could tell you. I could go on for hours about all the things that threaten my peace of mind. I could for you a tale unfold that would harrow up your carpal tunnels and chill the very marrow of your finger bones: tales of the constant questions, the unending deadlines, the mind-bending task of deciding each and every day which hours you will spend writing.
But never mind all of that. Best not to dwell on the worst. Instead, let us concentrate on what you must do to avoid this horrible fate, and save yourself agonies untold.
First and foremost, and I cannot stress this enough: do not sit down at the keyboard and write on a regular basis. This is a trap. You can tell yourself that you’re only doing it to scratch an itch, that you only need to get a few hundred words written and then you can set it aside—but the siren clickclickabulation of the dancing keys will do more than merely produce words on a page. It will condition you to want, nay, to need to do it each and every day.
And if that happens, there is simply no way, in the long run, to avoid the most lamentable and horrible fate of finishing a novel.
Whatever you do, do not seek feedback from readers and other writers. Bad enough that you work in a vacuum, allowing the authoric energies to work their demonic way on your thoughts—if you add to that the feedback of the work’s intended audience, you will only establish the primary mechanism of making your writing more effective for those for whom it is meant.
This is a doubly pernicious practice! Not only does it seduce you to create more material for your audience, but it creates more audience for your material in an infernal feedback loop. I cannot stress to you enough how much you need to avoid this part of the process! Save yourself!
A further horrible mistake I can recognize only in retrospect: do not inform yourself about the publishing industry and the demons who labor therein. Oh, certainly, those people, those editors, may seem to be witty and charming and friendly at writing conventions and on workshop panels, but make no mistake. Their only purpose in life is to draw you into their evil plans, and force you to labor for them while they help you hone your writing craft.
Many aspiring writers are intimidated by editors, and I cannot help but emphasize how much credit you should give to these instincts, placed there for the protection of your sanity and whole mind. If you allow yourself to overcome this natural inclination, it may be too late for you to escape your fate.
Finally, I can only encourage each and every aspiring author out there to quit writing at the first opportunity and never look back. This seemingly harmless activity is anything but, and if you cannot break its hold on you, if you continue to make up one excuse after another to keep typing, if you find yourself promising yourself “just one more novel” and never draw away from it, you will inevitably be drawn into published perdition.
All you need do is quit! Just say no! And you will be saved! But if you continue, and continue, and continue despite all the sane voices trying to sway you, you will be drawn into the maelstrom of madness that is the life of a professional writer.
Dear NaNoWriMo participant, I beg of you, listen to me! You cannot know the horrors you will face! Run! Flee! Turn aside from this dark road!
For if you do not, I fear that one day, you will find yourself writing with other damned souls like

Thursday, November 27, 2014


To all who still have family, born into or chosen, 
who they can come together with tonight - 
be grateful for every moment with them...
And to all others: 
You're not alone either on this night of counting blessings.
Happy Thanksgiving to you all.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Pep Talk from Brandon Sanderson - NaNoWriMo Interlude #5

 Reblogged from NaNoWriMo Pep-Talks

Pep Talk from Brandon Sanderson (2014)

The toughest moment in my writing career came in 2002. I had just finished my 12th novel, but so far hadn’t been able to sell a single one of the things. Earlier that year, I had been rejected by all 13 MFA programs I’d submitted to.
I’ve had my fair share of ups and downs since—including books that topped the bestseller list and others that crashed and burned—but no moment in my life has been more poignant than sitting with the latest in what seemed like an endless stack of unsold novels, wondering what I was doing with my life.
What I didn’t know was that the process had already begun—the spark had dropped onto the grass, and a fire was smoldering that would change my life forever. A year earlier, in 2001, I’d submitted my sixth book to an editor. Eight months had passed with no communication, other than a short follow-up I’d sent about three months after the submission. (The editor replied that he’d gotten the manuscript, but said nothing else.)
That book, Elantris, was still sitting on the editor’s desk. He hadn’t looked at it. He wouldn’t until April 2003, after which he’d call me in a frenzy after reading all night, demanding to know if the manuscript was still available. He made an offer on the spot.
But in 2002, I sat there, contemplating my future with despair, completely unaware that within months I’d have a major book deal. Ultimately, I shook off the discouragement and started work on my thirteenth novel. But I do sometimes wonder what my life would be like if I’d given up, moved on, then gotten that phone call eight months later with an offer from an editor.
You could be writing the book that changes your life. You could have already submitted it, or self-published it. The spark could be starting a fire for you as well. You don’t know, and you can’t know. That is the thrill of being an artist, of working for yourself, and of telling the stories you want to tell.
Don’t give up. Keep your eyes on the project you’re working on right now, and make it the best that it can be. More importantly, love that process. In the end, that’s what made me stand up and get back to work on book thirteen: the realization that I loved telling stories. No stack of unpublished novels, no matter how high, would change my enjoyment of this process—no more than a finished set of dives would make a scuba enthusiast feel discouraged about diving again.
Maybe that fire has been sparked for you, and you don’t know it. But even if it hasn’t been, you should write as if it has. Because this thing you’re doing isn’t about publication, bestseller lists, or reviews. It’s about you, your story, and the victory inherent in completion.

Monday, November 17, 2014

NaNoWriMo - Interlude #3

I have reached the stage of "I don't know how to continue and what happens next. Is it time to panic?!" Nope. It's time for some more pep-talk!

Reblogged from NaNoWriMo - National Novel Writing Month

Pep Talk from Veronica Roth

My Dear NaNo-ers,
I don’t particularly like comparing novel writing to climbing a mountain, because it’s been done, but let’s face it: it works. Look at this fairly standard map of plot structure:
Manuscript Mountain
I mean, it looks like a freaking mountain.
If you’re anything like me, you reach that “rising action” stage about halfway through your manuscript, lift your head to the heavens to see how much of the book is left, and consider camping out where you are for a while or even rolling back down to the bottom. This may happen to you on November 15 or somewhere thereabouts. I am here to tell you two things:
  1. Do not be alarmed. This is normal.
  2. Do not camp out, and do not climb back down.
There is a lot of writing advice floating around the Internet, and there are also a lot of “don’t bother with writing advice, just put your butt in a chair and work!” manifestos. (Which was my motto for the past year and a half, actually.) Some of this advice includes:
  • “Getting to know your character” exercises (questionnaires, quizzes, free-writing, etc.)
  • “Mapping out your plot” exercises (break down your plot into the plot structure diagram above, map out each scene and make sure each one shifts the story from a positive place to a negative one, or a negative place to a positive one, etc.)
  • “Prose and voice” exercises (read your manuscript out loud, never use adverbs, alternate short and long sentences, etc.)
There are also many discussions about whether you are a “pantser” (writing by the seat of your pants) or a “plotter” (mapping out your stories beforehand), someone who writes from beginning to end, or someone who jumps around in time, and so on.
Some of you might know exactly which one of those things you are—you have a process, you know which pieces of advice work for you, you have a routine—and some of you may feel hopelessly lost. My advice to both camps of people, from my (still admittedly few) climbs up manuscript mountain, is the same:
Let go of your process.
Let go of stressing out about your process.
Let go of finding your process.
Let go of all of it.
When you reach the place on Manuscript Mountain that makes you consider admitting defeat, and the tools you have used to get as far as you have are no longer working for you, consider using someone else’s tools. Pantser? Try plotting. Plotter? Try literally burning your outline (safely! In a trash can or something!). Perfectionist? Try writing the worst scene you can possibly muster. Strict beginning-to-end-er? Write whatever scene is burning a hole in your brain and fill in the gap later. Whatever you do, don’t hold so tightly to whatever writer identity you have formed for yourself that you can’t innovate, change, and grow.
It is not important that you stay the same writer you are now, or that you have a definite routine or pattern. I started my first book in the middle, with no outline, and finished my third book with a detailed one, written from beginning to end. I thought I knew what kind of writer I was, but ultimately I found those definitions limiting rather than freeing. If I can let them go, I can become whatever writer each story requires me to be.
What is important, far more than the definitions we cling to, is that we finish the stories we are burning to tell.
So, fill your writer toolbox with as many tools as you can, even if they seem silly or like they will never work for you. You don’t have to make detailed outlines, or fill out character questionnaires, or do free-writing, or keep a journal, or draw maps if you don’t want to. But it helps to have new tools to pick up if the old ones stop working for you.
And consider getting desperate. Desperate to write, desperate to get that story on the page, desperate to let the characters speak, and desperate to finish. Get so desperate that you will try anything to make it work. You have a deadline. It is November 30. You can do it. But you might have to throw all your preconceptions about yourself and your writing out the window.
No manuscript is perfect the first time through. You don’t need to worry about perfection right now. But you are participating in this magical month of generally antisocial behavior and potential caffeine overdose because you believe that pushing through a manuscript in a month will help you in some way, and that means you need the wild, thirsty freedom of a writer who will get to the end.
Don’t be a plotter or a pantser, a strict butt-in-chair person or an exercise-doer, a beginning-to-end-er or a time jumper—don’t be anything other than whatever you need to be to keep climbing.
And then, for the love of all things writing and book-related, revise the crap out of Manuscript Mountain.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

100 Awesome Facebook Lists to Follow by Scott Ayres - great reads!

 A bit of procrastinating today brought me to this blog - the links gave me some interesting reads and I thought you might find some for yourself! Scott Ayres has put together a great list!

 Reblogged from Scott Ayres

100 Awesome Facebook Lists to Follow

Enter Facebook Interest Lists

Facebook quietly launched “Interest Lists” about a year ago — around the same time Timeline launched.
Before that, lists were mostly used for organizing friends. The new Lists let users include people (including non-friends) and pages.
Below you’ll find 100 Interest Lists to follow — arranged in categories like:
  • social media
  • business
  • sports
  • politics
  • music, art, food, etc.
Keep in mind that once you follow a List, you only see a summary of the List’s recent posts in your main News Feed. To get the most out of the List, you need to visit it directly — by clicking the List’s bookmark in your left Facebook navigation.

Edgerank bypassed!

But here’s the kicker… ready for it? There is NO Edgerank algorithm applied to Lists!!
Yes you read that correctly.
And the cool thing is the creator of the List gets to decide:
  • which pages & people are included
  • what types of posts are shown
For example, on the Lists I created, I set them up to show only status, links, photos and videos — normal posts, basically. I excluded all the other stuff — like milestones, birthdays, liked pages, etc.
I’ve done my best to show you a broad array of Lists from different people. But you’ll notice many names repeated — typically Facebook employees who’ve created Lists for users.
Enjoy this “Motherlode List of Lists”! — and make sure to follow them and share this post with your friends and followers!

Social Media Lists on Facebook

I start with the niche I talk about the most: Social Media. If you’re in this niche or want to learn how to use social media for your business, follow these Lists!

1. Social Media Resources

by Scott Ayres (me). This is my go-to resource for social media related news. You’ll find Mari Smith, Social Media Examiner, Jon Loomer and more. If you’re into Social Media, this List is a must.

2. Facebook Experts

by Mari Smith. Mari’s List is full of experts and pages focused mainly on Facebook. One of my favorites on the list is Amy Porterfield. Mari’s List has almost 30,000 followers to date!

3. Facebook Designers

by Chris Kalani. Created by a Facebook employee, this List includes people who work at Facebook in the design department.

4. Social Media Savvy (and fun!)

by Scott Kleinberg. Another great List of social media related people. But not your typical big names.

5. 100 People to Follow on Facebook

by Mari Smith. Mari created this great List of great people to follow on Facebook — folks like Rosh Khan and Casey Zeman to name a few.

6. Google+

by Matthew Rappaport. Great list of over 300 active Google+ members. Matthew has a cool site called “Hangout Conversations” you might find handy as well.

7. Facebook Fan Page Apps

by Mari Smith. Looking for an app for your Facebook page or business? Look no further than Mari’s List. You may notice a familiar page on this List ( *cough *cough… Post Planner!)

8. Mashable Staff

by Pete Cashmore. Follow this List to see what the Mashable staff is up to.

9. Phyllis Khare’s Go-to Social News List

Phyllis is the co-author of Facebook Marketing for Dummies and has shared her go-to List for social news. It’s a good one!

10. Social Media News

by Kate Buck. If you don’t know Kate Buck, Jr, you need to know her ASAP. She has created a great List to get some juicy social media news from.

11. Social Media Superheroes

by Jo Barnes.  Jo Barnes is an amazing person who I’ve talked to many times. I’m honored to actually be on this List with other super heroes!

12. Facebook Marketing

by Jon Loomer.  Jon is quickly becoming one of the top minds when it comes to Facebook tips, and his List does not disappoint. Check it out.

13. Facebook

by Vadim Lavrusik. Created by Facebook to list a ton of Facebook employees. Fun to follow.

Tech Lists on Facebook

I have a secret — I’m not the most tech savvy person. I’m an old school PC guy and I’ve never owned a Mac. And while I try to keep up with all the tech news, I couldn’t do it without these lists.

14. Tech Entrepreneurs

by Sachin Monga. If you’re in the tech world, this is a must follow list with over 15,000 followers to date.

15. Tech Heads

by Scott Ayres. Yes this listed was created by me — but it contains many tech related pages like Quora, PC World, etc that you need to be following.

16. 50 Women in Tech

by Rebecca Searles. Rebecca is an editor at Huffington Post and has a great List here. This one is all about women who are rocking the tech world.

17. 50 People in Tech

by Rebecca Searles. Great list including Robert Scoble, Kevin Rose and more.

18. Tech Innovators

by Hardik Patel. Created by another Facebook employee, this List has some great pages and people, like Techcrunch and Social Media Today.

19. Tech News

by Vadim Lavrusik. This List by Facebook employee Vadim has over 49,000 followers and has over 127 people/pages in it — like the Verge, LifeHacker and more. Go follow it!

20. Tech VIPs

by Robert Scoble. If anyone knows about the tech world, it’s Robert Scoble. Anyone in the startup world or tech industry needs to follow this List.

21. Big Tech Companies

by Robert Scoble. A List of the heavy hitters in the tech world: SAP, LinkedIn, Nokia, etc.

22. Tech Gadgets

by Evan Fogel. Over 69,000 follow this list, which includes the likes of Gizmodo, Engadget, ThinkGeek and more.

23. Tech Media

by Sumeet Sham Vaidya. Another great tech List with some familiar faces from the previous Lists. But this one also includes PcWorld, MG Siegler and more.

24. Personal Technology

by Vadim Lavrusik. Can we say Cali Lewis, Geek Tech and Wired? Yep… all in this List.

25. Tech Science

by Kaushik Iyer. Are you a science geek? Then go follow this list. Includes Science Friday, Popular Science, National Geographic and more.

Business & Marketing Lists on Facebook

Own a business? Are you an entrepreneur? Want to keep up on the latest and greatest trends in marketing — both online and offline? Then follow these lists.

26. Business News

by Vadim Lavrusik. This is a great List with tons of resources for every business.

27. Industry Updates

by Taher Sumon. This list tends to stay on the Marketing track including posts from Marketing Land… and I just realized I’m actually on this list! Woohoo!

28. Innovative Brands

by Pete Cashmore. This List, from the founder of Mashable, has over 64,000 followers but only contains 13 brands. These are the movers and shakers in business. Go look.

29. Media News

by Vadim Lavrusik. Another Facebook created list with about 50 news sites and people to follow. One of my favorites on the list is the relatively unknown LostRemote.

30. Motivational People

by Evan Fogel. Feeling a bit down and need a pick me up? This List could do the trick. With the likes of Jack Canfield, Tim Ferris, Jim Rohn and Dave Ramsey!

31. Social Entrepreneurs

by Arianna Huffington. Over 56,000 have followed this List containing Kickstarter and more.

32. Startup Investors

by Robert Scoble. This may be one of the largest lists I’ve seen with almost 600 people and pages feature. If you’re a startup looking for an investor, follow this List.

33. Business Authors

by Vadim Lavrusik. This is a power-packed list of 8 — including Seth Godin and more.

34. Business Leaders

by Evan Fogel.  Huge following on this list including Bill Gates, Guy Kawasaki and Mark Cuban.

35. Media Brands

by Pete Cashmore.  Another homerun by Cashmore focused on major news sites. I get my daily news from this List each morning!

36. Internet Marketing

by Selena Narayanasamy. Not a ton of people on this List or following it, but contains some great pages like SEOmoz, BlueGlass and Facebook Live.

37. Small Business Marketing

by John Jantsch. You can’t talk marketing without mentioning John Jantsch from Duct Tape Marketing. I’m surprised his great list only has 632 followers. You can find HubSpot, CopyBlogger and more in here.

38. Facebook Savvy Non Profits

by Randi Zuckerberg. If this list is good enough for Mark’s sister, it’s good enough for me!

Sports Lists on Facebook

This next group of lists is pretty self explanatory so I won’t include any summaries. I’m hoping you know what “NFL” means! :)

39. NFL Teams

by Adam Schefter

40. NBA Teams

by Evan Fogel

41. NBA Players

by Mark Pike

42. Athletes

by Vadim Lavrusik

43. NFL teams, players and analysts

by Nick Grudin

44. NFL Players Pages

by Troy Polamalu. I do want to point out that this List was created by an actual NFL player — which is pretty cool.

45. MLB Teams

by Dave Ugelow

46. College Football

by Vadim Lavrusik

47. Sports News

by Vadim Lavrusik

48. Olympics

by Kristin Thayer

49. Mixed Martial Arts (MMA- UFC)

by Brad Hettervik

50. Soccer Players

by Dave Goldblatt

51. Nascar

by Brad Hettervik

52. Boxing

by John Maier

53. NHL Teams

by John Maier

54. Ultimate Frisbee

by Manny Lopez

Television & Movies Lists on Facebook

I’m a bit of a TV junky — especially reality TV. These are some cool TV-related Lists that you may find interesting.

55. TV News Shows

by Vadim Lavrusik

56. TV Comedy Shows

by Charles Porch

57. Reality TV Shows

by Charles Porch (mainly all the housewife shows)

58. News

by Vadim Lavrusik

59. Hollywood on Facebook

by Charles Porch

60. TV Sci-Fi & Fantasy

by Al Baxter

61. TV Crime

by Al Baxter

Music Lists on Facebook

I couldn’t find a ton of music-related Lists, but did manage to find a few you might want to follow — most of them created by the same person.
The titles are pretty self explanatory. None of them are very large lists — and the creators really should add more to them.

62. Indie Music Blogs 

by Ethan Tremaine Avey. I love indie music. And I love these Indie blogs. One of my favorite is Stereogum.

63. Music Technology

by Julian Muller

64. R&B Music

by Charles Porch

65. Christian Music

by Charles Porch

66. Rock Music

by Charles Porch (102k)

67. Pop Music

by Charles Porch

Food & Health Lists on Facebook

Most of us are trying to get healthier — I certainly am. Below you’ll find some really interesting Lists to help you on your journey.

68. Food Media

by Morin Oluwole. This List is very well followed with around 54,000 followers. You’ll find PBS Food, Top Chef and

69. Food & Recipes

by Shawn Van Daele. Another great find with over 100 resources to help you find recipes! But hardly anyone following it yet. I’ve frequented a few times myself.

70. Health News

by Vadim Lavrusik. A Facebook created List with some news related to the health world.

71. Green News

by Hanna Welch. This List contains about 30 resources aiming to help you live green. They include HuffPost Green and more. Check it out.

72. Recipes

by Bailey McRae. Only 24 sources on this List but nearly 97,000 followers so far! If you need an idea for tonight’s dinner, follow this List. Btw, is a great site, but might just make you fat(ter)!

73. People That Make You Hungry

by Trey Ratcliff. A great List of some of the world’s greatest chefs — people like Jamie Oliver, Martha Stewart and Wolfgang Puck, to name a few.

74. Exercise

by Bailey McRae. I couldn’t make it all about food so I included this great List of the top exercise-related pages such as Shape Magazine, 24 Hour Fitness, and P90X.

Art Lists on Facebook

I couldn’t find a ton of Lists that seem authoritative in the art category. But I did manage to find a few you may want to check out.

75. Photographers

by Thomas Hawk. This may be the List I’ve seen with the most followers. Over 157,000 and counting! Contains over 200 photographers that regularly show off their work. The cool thing about this List is its creator, Thomas Hawk, set it up to show only photos — which makes for a really nice feed.

76. Design

by Robyn Morris. This is another great List with a massive following that contains nothing but photo posts. Some great inspiration can be found on this list. Love this one!

77. Art Critics

by Nick Grudin

Video Gaming Lists on Facebook

To my shock, Lists on Facebook related to video games are very scarce. I did manage to find a few though. You can check out below. I’m not a gamer by any means, so I really can’t add much commentary on these. But there are some familiar faces.

78. Console Games

by Sara Brooks

79. Popular Video Gaming

by Sumeet Vaidya

80. Role Playing Games

by Al Baxter

81. Arcade/Puzzle Games

by Sara Brooks

Travel Lists on Facebook

We all need a vacation, right? Here are some great Lists to help you on your way.

82. Disney Vacations

by Barrie Brewer

83. Travel

by Morin Oluwole

84. Travel Bloggers

by Scotty Perry

85. Travel and Culture

by Annemarie Dooling

86. US National Parks

by Zach Behrens

Politics Lists on Facebook

Ok… I’m not really into politics. Maybe on the local level, but not so much nationally. I also try to stay clear of talking politics on Facebook, as it causes too many problems and riffs.
But I do think it’s helpful to share these Lists with you below. All of them are created by Katie Harbath, the Manager of Public Policy at Facebook. She helps politicians use Facebook effectively, and has put together some helpful Lists.

87. World Leaders

by Katie Harbath

88. US Democrats

by Katie Harbath

89. US Republicans

by Katie Harbath

90. US Governors

by Katie Harbath

91. Political Journalists

by George Stephanopoulos

92. US Senate Members

by Katie Harbath

93. US House Members

by Katie Harbath

Random Lists on Facebook

Ok… So I called this category “Random”. What I should have called it was “I headlined my list as 100 and only ended up with 93 so I needed to find 7 more to finish this blog!!” :D
Anyway, below are some random lists I found that you may find interesting.

94. My Little Pony

by Jessica Migatulski. I have 5 and 6 year old girls, so my house is full of My Little Pony!

95. World Birding & Conservation

by Gunnar Engblom

96. Fabulous Kids Activities Blogs

by Cathy James. I’m in love with this list now! With 3 kids, this one is awesome. Lots of great resources for parents. I especially dig .

97. Non-Fiction Authors

by Vadim Lavrusik. A Facebook created list containing some non-fiction authors like Mari Smith, Tim Ferriss, Zig Ziglar and Gary Vaynerchuk.

98. Child Causes

by Charles Porch. Great list created by Facebook to talk about child causes.

99. Robert Scoble

by Robert Scoble. Never miss a post by the Scobleizer!

100. Cool People named Scott Ayres

by Scott Ayres. I found 15 other people with my name and made a list! Seems I’m the only one posting though. :)

Sunday, November 9, 2014

NaNoWriMo Interlude #1

 So here I am. Day 9 of NaNoWriMo. I am ahead of regular schedule by a hundred percent - but only because my goal is a hundred percent more than the one set for everybody else. Alas I am running out of steam - or my characters are. So I thought I check out some prep-talk. Found some worth sharing.
So while I hammer at my keyboard or knock my head against it, I will keep you entertained with the scribblings of this year's mentors. Happy reading - gotta get back to writing!

Reblogged from NaNoWriMo - National Novel Writing Month

Pep Talk from Chuck Wendig

Imagine being allowed to do something you’re not supposed to do.
Imagine you’re given the keys to a mud-bogging Bronco, or a dune buggy, or a Lamborghini. And then, you’re pointed toward a field. A soccer field outside a high school, or maybe just a wide open grassland. Nobody there. No kids playing. No animals frolicking. In fact, right now, nobody is here to see you at all.
You have total freedom to rev the engine, slam the pedal to the floor, and gun it through that field. You can do donuts, spinning the car wildly about, flinging up mud, leaving tracks that look like the calligraphy of an old, mad god.
You can slop mud on the car. You can get out and dance in the grass.
You can do whatever you want.
This is not something we’re particularly used to, as adults. My toddler gets it. He isn’t fenced in by the boundaries of adulthood—which, okay, yes, that means he doesn’t necessarily know not to shove a ham sandwich into a whirring fan (instant ham salad!) or not to climb the tallest thing and leap off it like a puma.
But it also means he doesn’t know why he can’t just pick up a pen and start drawing. It means he has no problem grabbing a blob of Play-Doh and creating whatever his fumbling little hands can manage. It means that he’ll grab a Transformers toy and half-transform it into some lumbering robot-car monstrosity—and when an adult might say, “No, no, it’s like this or it’s like that; it’s a robot or it’s a car,” he’s like, “Uh, yeah, no. Go back to your tax forms and your HGTV, stupid adult, I’ve just created a Frankencarbot and you can go hide your head in the sand-swept banality of grown-up life, sucker.”
His entire creative life is the “Everything Is Awesome” song from The LEGO Movie. Because he doesn’t know what he can or can’t do. He doesn’t know about art or form or criticism or any of that. He can do whatever he wants. (Ham sandwiches and fan blades aside.)
And you can do whatever you want, too.
The blank page is yours. Cast aside worries over art and criticism. Imagine a land without rules. Imagine that nobody has ever told you that you cannot or should not do this thing. Those people were wrong. Forget those voices. Because, for real?
It’s an empty field and you’ve got the keys to a freaking Ferrari.
It’s a white tablecloth and you’ve got ketchup, mustard, and relish.
It’s a blank page and you’ve got all the letters and words you need.
Rev the engine and take the ride. Paint with all the colors the condiments at your table allow. Create whatever robot-human monstrosities your mind cares to conjure. Crack open your chest and plop your heart onto the page.
Right now: just write. Donuts in an empty field.
Leave your mark.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

The ten worst writing tips I’ve received... by Dylan Hearn

Danger Bad Advice Ahead

The problem with writing advice is that every writer is different. This leads to lots of advice being passed around, often with the type of reverence reserved for holy scripture, that may be of limited use, or at worst, incredibly harmful to a new writer. Following on from my Ten Most Valuable Writing Tips I’ve Received, I thought I’d share the ten worst. Again, this very subjective. I’m sure there will be one or two tips listed here that some of you swear by (or according to number 3, by which some of you swear). The best advice a writer can receive is to go with what works for you. The following definitely didn’t work for me.

Write what you know

This is an incredibly frustrating piece of advice. We have been blessed with a wonderful imagination yet when starting out as a writer you’re told to stick to what you know. How many wonderful works would never have been written if authors only wrote books based on their own experience? Whole genres would disappear overnight. Instead of “write what you know”, try “know what you write”. Go where your imagination takes you but make sure you’ve done your research. I have never cloned anybody, worked in data analysis or run a missing persons investigation (although I have witnessed mass civil disobedience at first hand), yet all appear in my novel Second Chance, and I’ve been complimented on its believability. To do this, I did plenty of research to ensure what I wrote was plausible within the world I created.

Join a critique group

Let me start by saying I’m not against critiquing itself, just against joining established critique groups when you first start out. I know there are many helpful groups out there but for a first time writer who is trying to find their feet, joining an established group may be too much, too soon. I’ve spoken to many writers who found the experience demoralising, and in some cases destructive. If you ask for a critique, those critiquing feel obliged to find fault, even if what you’ve submitted is perfectly fine. There is also a macho culture of offering ‘tough love”, to prepare writers for the submission process. Add group dynamics into the mix and the result can be turn from being a critique to just plain criticism. If you are a new writer who wants to improve their writing – and you should – my advice would be to find a mentor, join a class, use friendly beta readers or form your own critique group with partners you trust.

Don’t end a sentence with a preposition

I know this advice may be a mystery to many American readers but at school in England I was taught never to end a sentence in a proposition. To this day I still find myself mentally correcting conversations whenever anybody does it, yet it’s grammatical nonsense. This is not how people talk – or think – in real life. Re-arranging a naturally flowing sentence to fit this grammatical rule ends up producing something that reads unnaturally and will throw a reader’s concentration. Ignore.

Be unique and unpredictable

I don’t like this piece of advice, not because I want every book to follow the same formula. I like difference and I like to experience the new. The problem is, most writing won’t necessarily be unique and unpredictable to the writer themselves because they are the ones that are writing it. This can lead to all sorts of problems as they try to artificially add unique and unpredictable elements. I prefer Neil Gaiman’s advice: be true to yourself because out of the millions of writers out there, you are the only you. If a writer remains true to themselves and their characters, their writing will be unique and unpredictable.

Before you start, know everything about your lead character

It is true you need to know enough about your main character’s background and motivations to be able to give depth and realism in your writing. But do you need to know the name of their best friend at Kindergarten, or what they received from their parents for their seventh birthday? Unless you are writing about a woman battling to find the last remaining red-headed cabbage patch doll to give to her childhood friend who will otherwise kill her parents as revenge for a horrible birthday, I suggest you develop the information you need to know for your story and enjoy discovering new elements as they pop into your head during the writing process.

Try X to get in the writing mood

If you take your writing seriously, you need to be able to write when you can. We all have our little quirks – I like a cup of tea and some biscuits while writing – but looking to get yourself in the writing mood is the same as only writing when the muse takes you. The more you write when it is tough, the easier it gets. The more you wait for the right mood, the less frequently you will write.

Start with your character and go from there

This one is going to annoy all you pantsters out there but this piece of advice annoys me. Not because it doesn’t work for many writers but because it is put up as the way to write. And of course, there isn’t just one way to write. Before I start my first draft I need to know what I’m writing about and where it is going. Yes, I need to know about my characters, but I also need to know location, environment, external events and everything else that will have an impact on the story, and depending on the original idea, any one of these may come before the character.

Learn about what’s hot and what’s not in the industry

I’ve seen this a number of times and I think it’s codswallop. For a start it encourages you to write for money, which is never a good target as the majority of us will never have a runaway bestseller. Secondly, books take time to write so if you target a trend, by the time your book is published it may well be over. Thirdly, if your heart is not in your work, if you don’t love what you are writing, it will be obvious to the reader. Learn about how to structure a book so that it is commercially appealing by all means, learn what turns readers on or off (but again, reading trends come an go), but if you write the book you would like to read and forget about trends, there is a good chance others will want to read it too.

Find your voice

This piece of advice also goes hand in hand with “you’ll know when you find it.” It’s terrible advice, not because it isn’t important for a writer to find their voice but because it gives a new writer no idea what voice is or how you find it. I am sure there are hundreds of writers sitting out there as I type, sitting in the lotus pose and meditating in the hope of reaching the enlightenment of the voice. Much better advice is to write as you speak, or to write so quickly you aren’t consciously choosing each word.

Write the best work possible

The problem with this piece of advice is not that a writer shouldn’t try their best but that so many writers end up in a perpetual state of editing because they are trying to reach the unattainable: perfection. The hardest part of editing is knowing when to stop. The breakthrough for me came after see in Philip Pullman’s annotations of Northern Lights, one of his most famous works. Please click on the link. You will find images where he has completely shredded the well loved piece and rewritten large sections, not because it is bad but because he feels differently now to when it was written. Yet the piece he is editing has been published and sold in the millions. When editing, always ask yourself if you are improving or just changing. If you are just changing, stop editing.
So what about you? Do you agree with me? Are there any that I’ve missed? Or do you think I’m peddling nonsense? Please let me know. I’d love to hear from you.