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Posts Tagged ‘writing advice’

Today I launch my Three Damn Things list for the Type-A personality. TDT is designed for the Type-A person trapped in a Type-B body. Or, put another way, the right-brained person trapped in a left-brained head.

You want to create, but you can’t with so much internal noise, the frustration of letting things go unchecked. If only the voices would stop yelling at you to fix this, call on that, sew this, trim that. The voice is shrill and always will be to the creative Type-A type.

This isn’t about basic life things that need accomplished. I’m talking about the things we can put off for later. And later never comes. If your car is due for an oil change, what’s another thousand miles going to hurt? If you haven’t balanced your checkbook in seventeen months, what’s another month going to hurt? You’ve been meaning to fight that erroneous medical charge, but fighting anything is unpleasant. Put it off. Besides, it’s extra. Extra as in I don’t have to do it and nobody will ever know.

We pretend we don’t care about the clutter that is growing like mold on a shower curtain. We pretend we don’t see the actual mold on the shower curtain. “The new me,” you say (the one who is pretending to be someone they’re not) “is blind to all that. I don’t care. I’m going to finish this novel if it kills me.”

And killing you, it is. BECAUSE YOU CAN’T LIVE LIKE THAT.  It isn’t you. That lifestyle doesn’t fit your personality type. Trust me; I know. You will remain preoccupied with whatever it is you are neglecting. The bigger the neglect (only Type-A would consider something like not color-coding her closet as neglect), the more apt you are to writer’s block. And neglecting your writing to take care of the internal nag doesn’t work either because now it’s your writing that’s nagging at you. It’s a vicious, never-ending cycle, and you need to do something about it, damnit.

When I hear about writers landing an agent eight months after they started the novel, I die a little inside. They are clearly Type B and right-brained all the way. They can write like there’s nothing else to do (I bet their CDs and DVDs aren’t even in alphabetical order). And the Type-A, right-brained can only write when there is nothing else to do.

Don’t take it anymore! Damn it.

Why “damn”? Because I’m fed up, damnit. Writing a to-do list is all fine and great and everything but most of what I put on mine are really just reminders of stuff I have to do and therefore unlikely to put off: scoop litter box, empty dishwasher, pay bills, etc. It’s the extra stuff that put me at my breaking point—damnit—and it’s messing with my creative flow. When I have too much stuff piling on, I can’t think around all the clutter. I can’t write. I can’t blog. I can’t move forward. I’m stuck in the quicksand of life, damnit.

Today. And every day from this one, I will do three things on my backlog. I have to be strategic. Photo albums will take all day so I will list it with two very small things like pull the six-foot-tall weed and find my glasses that I misplaced months ago. I use dime-store reading glasses as a replacement, but these are prescription, and I paid good money for them, damnit (I am fully aware that by searching for my glasses I will find many other neglected piles in my house. I don’t care. I’m ready, with my pen and pad to add those to my list too, damnit).

I can’t wait to wear all my clothes that needed ironed or needed a button. I can’t wait to see my hallway lined with my kids’ school pics from pre-k to current. I can’t wait to make that recipe that’s been glaring at me from a fridge magnet for, I kid you not, fifteen months. But just knowing I’m back in control will silence the internal nagging so I can focus more on my writing. Damnit.

What personality type do you think you are? Do you have any damn things nagging at you?

 

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So there I was braless in my front yard minding my own business killing things—black widows—with my deadly saber weapon—broomstick—when all of a sudden a Mexican man in a pick-up truck pulled up and got out and approached me, braless me, and began waving his arms and speaking a mix of English and Spanish—Spanglish.

And this is what I saw/heard. You … pear … (hand mimes what looks like a round shape, not hourglass but round, I tell you) … no good … too big.

Perceptive as he may be regarding my body shape, insulting a woman holding a deadly weapon is not a bright person. I may have poked him with my sword (it’s a sword now) had I not been so busy pondering his reasons for needing to bring it to my attention. Possibly he thought I was blind and was doing me a favor. Ah, thanks. Good to know. I’ll get right on it. Or, he’s from PETS (people for ethical treatment of spiders) and was trying to dissuade me from further massacre. Or, simply a community service message.

Then, as I was about to bring down my iron hot poker upon his head, it occurred to me he was offering to trim my Bradford Pear tree. He cruised the neighborhoods looking for folks outside and would stop to offer his services. He almost died for trying.

You said I'm a what?

If this post has a familiar ring it’s because I kind of do this kind of thing a lot, you know, adding fantastical elements to a very dull happening, and way outside the realm of logic and reason. You’d think I’d learned my lesson since my last publicly-admitted blunder in Believable Characters  (notice I say “publicly admitted. Imagine what I keep private).

If I read the above scene in a book—sans the part where she comes to her senses—I’d say, “Bah.” So why, why, why, did I believe it could happen in real life? (because it’s happening to me, that’s why)

Moral of today’s story: Keep it real, baby. Keep it real. (unless you’re writing fantasy, then you can do that.)

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There’s a piece of writing advice that stands the test of time. Much like the secret to weight loss is to simply reduce calories and increase exercise. No gimmick. No magic pill or elixir. No cream or special belt. Nothing but good old-fashioned diet changes and moving the body more and sitting less. There.

Now the same goes for writing. No gimmicks, music, scented candles, meditation, prayer, deals with the devil, or anything else that you need in order to write. Doing the above is fine. But not if it’s what you rely on to write.

The closest thing to a gimmick I found that actually worked to get my work in progress progressing is a subliminal message.  As my desk (I actually cleaned it up a bit to take the pic) gets cluttered with sticky notes of books to read, agents to query, and new gimmicks to try, I had the solution the whole time, right in front of my nose, a natural home remedy, trying to be noticed. I’m right here, it says, listen to me.

hint: it's a raised platform for my computer

 

So if you are wondering where I’ve been, why my blog is quiet, it’s because a certain subliminal message has taken over my brain.

Disclaimer: Sitting less is the very antithesis of writing more. Though I wholly recommend exercise. Writers need it. I need it. Oh, boy, do I need it. Bathing suit season …

Do you have any good writing advice? Or any advice that produces great results?

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There’s a debate going on over at Fear of Writing on avatars and monikers. Of course I instigated. And of course I sang the post. Yes, there’s a sing-along. Never a dull moment. I’d love your comments over there. And here too. You can sing your comments, if you wish.  

Speaking of cats, there is a kitten that I need. NEED, I tell you. My life won’t be complete until I have it. Someone get it for me. http://healthypets.mercola.com/sites/healthypets/archive/2011/06/10/mini-kitten-pats-things.aspx

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I once read in a magazine a tip from an author on successful writing. All I remember of her tips is this: Dress for success. Dress like you care. 

I serious

She went on to say she had been writing in her sweats and jammies, not even brushing her hair, looking like something the cat dragged in (so?). Then a friend suggested she clean herself up and take her job seriously and it would reflect in her writing. She did and her writing improved along with her self-esteem.

Okay, I said to me, I’ll put it to the test. I took a shower, blow-dried my hair—styled it, even—painted my nails, wore slacks and a blouse—bra included—and a pair of low-heeled shoes.

I’ll be the first to attest that this “friend’s” advice is a load of BS. Not only did all that cut into my writing time, but I was extremely uncomfortable, hyper-focusing on my bra and shoes and not on writing. The wispy feather-strands of my hair were tickling my face, my arms were restricted in the long sleeves of my blouse, my slacks were digging into my gut, and the smell of nail lacquer was making me sick.

This friend was no friend, and this author was crazy. I mean, who does that???? (If you do, confess right here. I won’t bite. To each his/her own, right? Whatever works for you is cool with me. Nothing wrong with that. *OTHER THAN IT’S WRONG!! *the author of this post is kidding and is not passing judgment on your writing attire.)

So head on over to wordsxo, where you’ll find me, trendsetter that I am, exposed in my professional writing garb.  There, you’ll be treated to what not to wear when writing. Since she’ll be asking you what’s the most bizarre outfit you’ve ever written in, I’ll conclude by asking something more personal: What are you wearing right now? (sounds kinky)

Also, you’ll notice that Milli (check out her blog on pjs) refers to my old Twitter name of IQOkie. It is now under my regular name of Tricia_Sutton. She is aware of it but in denial. She loves the old name and followed me because of it. I side with Milli, but I took advice from a social media expert (much like the “friend” mentioned above) and changed it to my name. Tell me, should I change it back or keep my name?

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Yesterday I encouraged you to read my guest post at Fear of Writing. In that post I admit my short story publications are, in a way, a distraction from finishing the darn novel. I vowed to stop letting publication get in the way of publication. And I will. Right after this one at Orion Headless. (It went up yesterday but felt sheepish to admit it on the same day that people might actually take me serious. pfft)

In my defense, I still have some stories on submission. So there.

This story was originally accepted by a paying anthology. But when I read the contract it looked like it would be published in the later part of 2012. After getting advice from a publishing expert, I had to withdraw my piece because it is part of my book and publishers (if one was looking at offering me a contract) would see it as a conflict in many, many ways. The last thing I want to do is give a publisher a reason to reject me.

So the moral of the story is:  If it’s an excerpt, pay attention to the fine print. You don’t want to lose your rights to it or, in this case, tie up the rights. But I’m glad it found it’s way to Orion. Happy Ending.

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This counts as a blog post from me.  Come visit Fear of Writing, you might learn something on What Not to Do.

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The memoir that grew into a novel that shrunk into a short story collection. Almost. I still haven’t decided on that last part: the short story collection. And I wouldn’t say the memoir “grew” into a novel exactly. More like I changed lanes. The word out there is memoirs won’t sell, unless you’re famous. Unfortunately, I had already written it at this point.

I started out with the idea of humorous Family Stories told in short stories like that of David Sedaris. But word out there is short stories won’t sell, either, unless you’re famous.

I like my story better as a memoir, because to make it a novel I must actually follow rules, a formula complete with a beginning, middle and end and with plot points, character arcs, resolutions, and, omg, a likeable character.

So rules, I followed. And I rewrote and rewrote and read and read, not for pleasure, but for scene structure and pace and all the while I was impatient to be done … again. So I took bits of my book and reworked some of them into short stories and submitted to lit journals and some actually got published. But I’m not ready to submit the remaining thirty shorts from my book all over kingdom come. My dream is to be read (nice if I was paid too). My dream isn’t for this one big story to be read in bits and pieces. It’s like a series of one-night stands without any true bonding with the standee/characters. For any of you who have read my published excerpts—and admits to it—I want to yell, “But wait, There’s More.”

Then came the idea that I should publish all the stories to lit journals, then compile them all into a short story collection.

My indecisiveness is what keeps me from moving ahead. I need to decide its fate before I read my novel once more for plot holes. Should I choose to move ahead with a short story collection, I’ve got a little dismantling work ahead of me. If I choose to keep it a novel, I’ve got more rewrites—you mean there needs to be a plot? Easier would be to know the direction before taking the journey. 

Do you like reading short story collections or do you prefer a long-term relationship with your character? Come back on Friday to meet a special guest who managed to do both by compiling a short story collection and by linking the stories to create a thread through one character’s life. She will be discussing short stories vs. novels (she’s written both).

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I love writing advice. One in particular is my favorite. I can’t remember the source, other than I read it in Writer’s Digest and the author was male. He said that before you sit down to write your WIP, pull down one of your classics or current bestsellers and type from a page in that book.  Write word for word to get the feel of the rhythm of that particular author. Do this writing exercise, he says, fifteen minutes prior to your draft writing for better quality writing.

I can’t remember the other details, but it got me to thinking about musicians. What musician didn’t practice from the musical score of the greats to better their composition? One might argue that if you practice writing by copying from a masterpiece then you’ll eventually sound like that author. I doubt it. But just in case, why limit yourself to one author? Take down a different book every day.

Of course, I talk like I’m an expert, when in reality, I did this exercise probably only a dozen times out of the 900 days spent on my novel. The only reason I didn’t do this exercise daily was due to my impatience to get started on my own work right away. But just like regular exercise that you have to make time for, when I did it I felt a whole lot better.

What is your favorite writing advice?

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