31 August 2015

Out of Coffee, Out of Ideas

Our supply of K-cups is getting dangerously low and since it's the dreaded "every bill is due" week, I have zero money to spare. Yeah, I have a credit card, but I'd like to stop using it for a while until I can pay a good chunk of the balance off. So there's a good chance I will actually run out of coffee within the next few days.

Sometimes you run out of things. Toothpaste, cat food, time, money, patience. You probably run out of at least one thing every day. What I always seem to be running out of is ideas. Novel ideas, poem ideas, blog post ideas. That happens just about every single time I have to write a blog post. I have no clue. I can only write about the fact that I'm not writing so many times without annoying people or repeating myself. I've even talked about running out of ideas before, and here I am again. But what do you write about when there's nothing to write about?

The first thing I figured I had to do was to go a little easier on myself. If I don't feel like blogging three times a week, no one is going to care. It's ok to take off a Friday now and then. Not every blog post has to be this great revelation or writing tip that's going to make a huge impact on everyone, either. It's ok to ramble, too. You can tell people about your vacation or your pets or just anything that's going on in your life.

I actually started to have a good idea today, but I figured it would be better suited for Wednesday's IWSG post, so I'm saving it. I like to hoard my good ideas for the right days. Like if I actually do happen to come up with a great writing tip post idea, that's a good post for a Monday. Something silly or more personal may be better for a Friday. There's a lot of timing and planning involved, even if it's on a day by day basis.

But more often than not, I'm coming up with my post ideas the day I'm supposed to post them. It's hard to keep up. This happens with a lot of things, actually. I'm usually too busy doing one thing to even think about another. So maybe I run out of time more often than I run out of ideas. Or I just don't have the time to come up with ideas. Who knows?

I guess I'll just tackle one goal at a time, one day at a time. And enjoy the coffee while I have it.

26 August 2015

Cutting and Consolidating

A lot of the editing process involves figuring out what parts of your story are actually necessary. When you're writing the first draft, it's great to just let the ideas flow and not hold yourself back from getting them out. Once you're at the editing stage, however, that's when you really need to start analyzing the story and realizing which parts need to go. This could be as small as cutting individual words or as big as whole scenes and chapters.

Every cut won't seem obvious right away. The line by line edits may be easier to deal with first. You'll know if a particular word or phrase feels awkward or just doesn't work. You may need to rewrite a sentence, or you may realize you don't need that sentence at all. Figuring out the best way to get the story across without using a lot of unnecessary or unfitting words will help to polish the overall story and make it better.

Cutting scenes and chapters won't be as easy. You may spend a lot of time trying to rewrite a scene that isn't working to finally realize you don't actually need it. The scene doesn't even need to be bad for it to be cut sometimes, either. You may have written a great scene, but as you develop your story more and more, you may realize it just doesn't fit anymore. Deciding to cut a large chunk of story can be an emotional process. You may try to rationalize keeping it, but if it isn't going to work, eventually you'll come to realize it.

Of course, cutting isn't always the only answer. Maybe you have a scene that has some necessary moments or information, but the important parts aren't quite long enough to pull off a whole scene. You may be able to move whatever information is necessary to a different scene or chapter. If you're trying to fill in a whole scene or chapter and most of it is unnecessary, it will probably slow down the story or even make it seem boring. You always want something important to be happening in order to keep the reader interested.

The realization to cut a whole chapter actually took me by surprise. Now that I'm working on the third draft of my novel, I've come to realize that my sixth chapter actually isn't necessary and slows the story down. There is definitely some important information in there, but I know I can move it to the previous chapter and still have everything go smoothly. So making this cut will help speed things up within the story, as well as getting rid of a lot of unnecessary words. Now that I know I have to squeeze in the important stuff into a shorter scene, rather than an entire chapter, I'll really have to think about what words are necessary to get the point across.

Have you ever cut a whole chapter? Or consolidated two parts into one? 

24 August 2015

I Can't Write Anymore

Sometimes I think that to myself. Ok, all the time. I can't write anymore. It's not that I don't want to--I really, really do. It's that I can't. I can't come up with ideas. I can't put words onto the page. Can't can't can't. 

Ok, if I really dissect that, I'll find it isn't true at all. I still come up with ideas. 90% of them may involve the same characters, but they are new ideas, at least. I've come up with a bunch of ideas for editing my book. I still somehow manage to write a blog post three times a week (mostly), although that can often be a struggle. I even wrote three paragraphs on Friday night. They were from a scene in Book 3 and I may not even use them, but at least it's something. 

But there's still that mental block that tells me I can't do it anymore. I remember in high school sitting at my desk with a notebook using every second of down time to get words onto the page. Why is that so hard now? I used to write poetry all the time, but I haven't in years. The ideas just don't come to me anymore. 

I know I have several different reasons for not being able to write. I know what they are, but I still can't bring myself to just push through them and do it. Maybe the answer is to just stop giving a crap about what other people think, or how horrible the words come out. I can always rewrite. And I can certainly just write something for me. Just keep working on it until I like it and then maybe try to send it out into the world and see if someone else does. 

As I'm writing this, I'm realizing that maybe that is my big hangup. I never write for me anymore. I try way too hard to get things perfect. I want the words to already be perfect in my mind before I even try to write them, so most of the time I just end up staring at the blank screen. I think I just need to not give a crap anymore. Write what I want and then see how it goes.

21 August 2015

Excuses, Excuses

So I didn't write a blog post on Wednesday, or even look at a single post from anyone else. And I didn't feel bad about it one little bit. On Tuesday I woke up with a sore throat that was turning into a full blown cold by the next day. I mean, who gets sick in August?? Me, apparently. So I just didn't feel like blogging. It happens from time to time.

It's a hard thing to keep up with, especially when I try to blog three times a week. It's hard to come up with ideas sometimes, so when you pile on not feeling well onto the mental block, you just don't even feel like turning on your computer. But it's ok, right? People take week or even month long blog breaks and nobody really cares. I just always feel like I should tell people when I'm not blogging, but I've already written so many "I don't feel like blogging" posts that another one just seems silly.

But getting sick has really thrown me off with everything. I tried restarting my diet on Monday but now that's out the window. Mostly because my cold has limited me to four food groups: oatmeal, scrambled eggs, Powerade, and coffee Coolatas. I just want to lay in bed and watch TV and not do anything else--like say, exercising.

This has gotten me thinking about excuses. We make them all of the time. We put things off. It usually takes me awhile to make the bed every day just because I don't want to disturb my cat. There are a million things I seem to be putting off at any given time--going to the doctor or dentist, getting my hair cut, *cough cough* finishing the third draft of my novel *cough.* I can't even begin to tell you all of the excuses I've had for putting off my diet or not going to the gym.

I've got a million excuses for not writing, all of them piled on top of each other. I think it really boils down to just not feeling like it. Of course, that feeling is caused by a million other excuses. So at what point do I stop making excuses and just start writing already? I don't know! I feel like I always have all the answers, but actually working through things and getting something done is easier said than done. But maybe if I stopped making excuses, it will be a little bit easier. Who knows?

What do you make excuses for? Writing????

17 August 2015

You Can't Please Everyone

One of the things you have to keep in mind not only with writing, but with any kind of entertainment, is that there is no possible way to please everyone. Every person can't possibly like everything--every book, song, movie, TV show, and so on. We all have different opinions. Everyone has a favorite color or a favorite food, right? You may not be able to understand how someone could love something that you hate (like how I will never understand why some people like Fifty Shades of Grey...), or vice versa. The bottom line is that while there will usually be an audience for everything, that audience isn't made up of everyone.

Say you went to a movie with your friend and you loved it, but she hated it. You both saw the same movie, right? But the way it impacted each of you was completely different. Or if you go to a comedy show, and everyone in the room laughs at a particular joke except for you. Does that mean the joke isn't funny? Well, that depends on how you look at it. To you, it isn't, but to several other people, it is. It's not something that can be clearly defined.

We always say that people are entitled to their opinions. Everyone has specific things that they like. You may like a certain genre of books or movies, and that's what you stick to. Or you may like a little bit of everything. What we like can be something broad like genre, or it can be on a smaller scale, like a particular writing style or point of view.

I think the thing that stings with getting a bad review is that you wish this person never read your piece in the first place. We always wish that our books would only find that target audience, but it doesn't always happen. Ideally, you would want every person who reads your work to love it, but even if they like your genre or other aspects that make up your book, sometimes it still just doesn't work out. It doesn't mean that your book is bad--it just wasn't right for that person.

I don't think I would look at bad reviews if/when I got them. For one, I just know I don't have the thick skin for it. But also, there really isn't a point. You can't exactly change a book once it's published just to please more people. You wrote what you wrote. Hopefully your book will find those people who will enjoy it.

How do you feel about reviews? Do you read the bad ones?

12 August 2015

When to Reveal Character Traits

If you want your characters to feel like real people, then they should have different traits to make them seem realistic. What sort of traits you give each character will depend on the story you're writing and the characters themselves. What exactly is important for the reader to know about this character? It could have to do with physical appearance, hobbies, beliefs, or pretty much anything you could think of being important to convey a character's personality. But when exactly should you let the reader know about these traits?

The answer won't always seem obvious. It can depend on when or if a certain trait is important within the story. If you want your readers to know what your characters look like, it's probably a good idea to convey that as early as possible. Of course, you don't really have to convey this information at all if you don't want to, but if you wait until halfway through a novel to show what your characters look like, it may seem strange. It's probably best to get it out early or not at all.

It's important not to force these sort of traits on the reader all at once. It should just come up naturally within the story. You wouldn't want to dump every single detail about your character like the reader was looking at their dating profile: "he was tall with brown hair, brown eyes, liked going for walks and listening to music and..." Sounds silly, right? Whatever trait you're revealing should feel natural within the scene itself, but it should also be important to the story. If you mention a character's hobby and it never comes up again, maybe you didn't need to mention it at all. If it's something that they do several times during the story, then it's something your reader needs to know.

What I'm actually struggling with right now is revealing my narrator's sexuality. It is definitely relevant to the story by the end of chapter one, but it's not something that's actually discussed between the characters for several chapters. So he has to tell the reader that he's gay before he tells anyone in the story. I originally had it come up in the first scene (in the giant info dump I talked about in Monday's post) but I realized there was already a lot going on in that scene and his sexuality really wasn't important to know at that point. So I'm planning on moving it to the second scene. I think I have it figured out but I won't know for sure until I actually write it (like most of the editing I still haven't done...)

While there are plenty of character traits that your readers will need to know, figuring out where to reveal them can be tricky. You'll need to decide what is actually important and how early on in the story it should be revealed, but also making sure these facts aren't just dumped on the reader out of nowhere.

How do you reveal character traits? Which traits do you think are most important (or least important)?

10 August 2015

First Scene Nonsense

Figuring out the first scene in your book can be tricky. It's the first thing your reader is going to read, so you want to hook them and get them wanting to read the whole story. But the scene should also make sense within the overall story. You have to make sure this particular scene is the right one to open the book. Once you figure all of this out, then you have to make sure you actually write it so that it meets these requirements. But like most things, it isn't always easy.

I've been thinking a lot about the first scene in my book lately. Actually, I've been avoiding it. I know I need to rewrite it so that it makes more sense and hooks the reader more. I've always known when and where it takes place, and pretty much everything that happens in it, but despite that, I still can't get it quite right. So lately I've just had no idea what to even do with it.

I think one of the problems is that there's a lot going on, but not in the scene itself. There's a lot of exposition--the narrator is conveying a ton of information to the reader and I'd say only half of it is actually relevant to the scene. It's important to his character, but it really doesn't need to be said within the scene itself. So I guess I've already figured it out. I should move this information to another scene. I really have no idea how to bring it up now, but that's probably a blog post for another day.

The second problem is that while the first scene is necessary to the story, it does kind of require some catching up on what has happened before the story begins. I've basically always had this idea that these books would start with the main character already in the middle of some scheme, because that's basically what he's always doing (especially in the first book when he's only 15, causing trouble is pretty much his only hobby). So this first scene is actually the end to something he already started, but it sets in motion what is actually the main plot of the book. So while it is necessary, there is some needed explanation. I just worry that it may seem odd to the reader.

The good thing is that I think I'm on the right track to figuring out my first line. I was never really crazy about the way I had it in the second draft, but I had no idea how to change it. A few nights ago I came up with something, and while I don't think it's perfect, I think what the line is saying is where I want it to be. I think it's getting the point across, but I'll probably need to rewrite it a few times to get it exactly the way I want.

So these are the editing issues I've been tackling lately. And that's just one scene!

07 August 2015

Save the Good Idea for Monday...

I had an idea for a blog post today, because I did a whole lot of thinking and a little bit of writing last night. I thought it would be great to talk about that--the things I figured out, things I still need to figure out. But the more I thought about it, I realized...it's really more of a Monday kind of post.

Fridays aren't really heavy traffic days for blogging. A lot of bloggers don't post on Fridays; others will do short posts to sum up their weeks or just tell you what they're doing over the weekend. For me, at least, I get a lot less comments on Fridays than on a Monday or Wednesday. So I thought, do I want to use my good idea on a day where I won't get a lot of feedback? Heck no! So yeah, this post is going to be a bit of a throwaway. But I'm ok with that.

With the writing I did last night I managed to come up with a new first line for UL. I'm not crazy about the line itself, but the concept is where I want it to be. I think I'll need to rewrite it a few times to where it's exactly the line I want. I'm not entirely sure if I want to share the line in Monday's blog post. I would love to get people's reactions to it, to see if maybe it's already good enough and I'm just overthinking it. But I certainly don't want people to feel obligated to rewrite it for me. Actually, I would hate that. I want to write my own first line. So maybe I won't share it, but talk about what's going on with it.

Other than the first line/first scene/first chapter nonsense, the only other thing going on is that it's my birthday on Sunday! Remind me to change the age in my bio on Monday to 28. Honestly, I kinda hate birthday time. I'm not really a center of attention kind of person. I don't need gifts but asking for money feels weird. And I really really really hate all the Facebook messages from people I haven't talked to in years. But anyway, my fiance and I are going out for dinner tonight and my dad's making his world famous cheeseburgers for me on Sunday. There goes my diet!

Well, that's about it. What is everyone else doing this weekend?

05 August 2015

When Does Bitterness Leave?

It's the first Wednesday of the month, which means it's the posting day for the Insecure Writer's Support Group! Click the link to learn more and sign up!

I noticed something trending on Twitter the other day that made my stomach turn: Pitch Wars. "UGH" was my immediate response. 

Honestly, writing-wise, doing Pitch Wars was the biggest mistake I ever made. There's a part of me that wants to rant and scream and tell everyone I possibly can not to do it. But I think the odds of someone else having my exact experience are actually very slim: first, having a controversial story, then having an a-hole mentor send unnecessarily cruel feedback on just your first chapter, and also being the kind of person who is prone to depression and anxiety and will let this sort of thing eat away at you. On the other hand, seeing as how there's roughly a 10% chance of getting picked if you enter, I also feel like it's just a giant waste of time. So in the best case scenario, you're still going to be disappointed. 

I wish I didn't let things get to me so much. It's not the first time I've been bullied. It definitely won't be the last time my writing will be critiqued (although I feel if my book was already published I would handle it in a completely different way). But at what point do you stop grinding your teeth when you hear something mentioned? When does that bitterness go away? When I think of something that happened in the past that still leaves me feeling bitter, the thought usually passes fairly quickly. You get over it eventually. Maybe just because Pitch Wars wasn't so long ago, it's still bugging me.

Or maybe it's just because it's kept me from writing. I hate the fact that it's almost been a year since I've really written anything. I've come up with a ton of ideas on how to edit my book, but I haven't actually done any of them. I hate when people tell me it's ok to take a break, because it's just been way too long. But every time I think about working on my book, I just wonder--what's the point? If everyone's going to hate this story and hate me for writing it, why should I bother? But I can't let it go because I've put so much effort into it and I think there's something there that people just aren't able to see yet.

So I guess I just need to try to make people see it. Nothing is ever going to happen if I don't start writing again. That's probably what I need to do to get over the experience. Nothing would be a bigger "f you" than being successful. If I don't write, then they win.

03 August 2015

Jordan Takes Over: The Voices in Your Head

**The first Monday of every month, I let my muse take over the blog. I apologize in advance.**

First of all, let me just set a few things straight here. If Sarah is telling you I have a boyfriend, IT'S A LIE. Because A) that's not my thing (I mean commitment, not guys...keep up with me, people!), and B) technically I'm only 19 and I don't get together with this guy until we're 22. So there. Plus, hello spoilers! Oh, who am I kidding? By the time Book 3 gets published (assuming it does) you'll forget all about this. In that case, let me tell you...

OH I'M KIDDING. Relax. But anyway, this leads me to today's topic: having multiple characters telling you what to do. It can be extremely difficult when you're being pulled in too many directions by several different ideas or characters. Who do you listen to (uh, me, hello?)? Which idea is more important? Is it just the voice that seems the loudest?

I guess it depends on how many voices and where they're coming from. If you've got several different book ideas going on in your head at once and a strong urge to work on all of them, it can lead to trouble. You'll probably get things mixed up--characters showing up in the wrong book, things like magic or aliens popping into your contemporary romance. Just imagine the chaos if you took all of your book ideas and combined them into one. Scary, right?

So the easiest thing to do is work on one book at a time. I know, I know, easier said than done. I'm not saying you can't jump back and forth. But give one book a good amount of time and attention before you switch gears. Maybe wait for the inspiration to run out and then switch to get it going again.

But you've also got the issue of different characters within the same book or series pulling you in different directions. Maybe you've got minor characters wanting to be more important. Or maybe ideas from every book in your series are hitting you at once. If the characters are the same, it probably won't be as confusing to work on more than one. But if you're throwing your attention everywhere at once, is every piece you're writing going to come out perfect?

Ok, so maybe the easiest thing to say is that listening to the loudest voice is probably the right way to go. Whatever idea, character, scene, book, whatever, is occupying your thoughts the most is the one that you should be working on. Then if you finish that idea, that voice in your head may actually shut up and you can move on to the next one. If you're lucky.

So maybe I'm not always the loudest voice. It probably just means I'm sleeping.