Hurdles: The Ultimate Writing Metaphor

This week’s post is going to be a little different. First, I must admit that I’ve been neglecting The School of Arts because I managed to get over the hurdle that has been challenging me for so long in Chasing Evelynn:

50,000 WORDS!

I just recently broke 50k in the project that I would consider my main focus, Chasing Evelynn, and since then I haven’t looked back.  There’s something so remarkably satisfying about reaching a goal like this one that I found the inspiration I needed to push forward and accomplish a great deal more.  As I’ve discussed before, as a writer there were (and still are) times when everything I wrote seemed to be garbage and that was if I managed to write anything at all.

So, the question I usually find myself asking is “how do I overcome these obstacles in the first place?”  Well, the truth is, there’s nothing I can do but muster my way through them.  There are always going to be times when I feel like I need to find a new hobby (or as I keep telling myself, potential career), but I can’t let the troubles I face stop me from doing what I love.

In these cases, all I do is write through it.  I don’t care how atrocious any of it sounds because I know if I do, I won't get anything done.  All I care about is getting my ideas on the paper, otherwise they’re apt to be lost to the cosmos that is my mind.  It has taken practice, but I’ve learned to worry less about sentence level issues while I’m writing and focus more on simply getting my thoughts onto the page.  I write what is on my mind, not what I believe others will sound good.  That’s why revision exists, because the first time someone writes something it will never be perfect.  There’s no way around it.

Until next time,

~A Fellow Writer

The "Where" Of It All

The prospect of creating a richly intricate and realistic setting can seem daunting at first, but it’s well worth every second of our time.  It can be as simple as a child’s bedroom, with glow in the dark stars stuck to the ceiling and a toy box spilling over with stuffed animals, or an entire city brimming with vibrancy and life.  In either case, thought, it is the detail that matters most.  As with every part of writing, we constantly skirt a fine line between too much description and not enough.  I mean, if a story takes place in a forest is it really necessary to describe every tree that a character walks past?  On the other hand, if a story takes place in a city but the reader isn’t given a single inkling to suggest this, they’re not going to be able to visualize the characters interacting with their environment.

Perhaps We’re All Insane

Me and my writer in cahoots, (who I mentioned in an earlier post, but let’s just call him Gerald, for old time’s sake) began our largest endeavor over five years ago.  It spans five continents, countless nations, innumerable cities and towns, and I’m not even sure we’ve scratched the surface of what it has to offer.  On the other hand, it took me only a few sittings to develop Nuark, the fictional city I created for this blog’s project, but I’m still smoothing out the rougher edges.  What I’m trying to say is, whether the  plan is to create an entire world or just one city, our job as writers is never done.  There will be details we have to hone and places we have to create even after we think we’re done.

You see, between the two of us, Gerald is sort of like our scribe.  He jots down all our crazy ideas  and saves them for later reference.  I think this is the key to creating any setting.  As soon as an idea comes to you, write it down.  Otherwise, if you’re like me and him, you’re going to forget it.  There’s just so many other thoughts floating around up there, that a detail as small as a town or landmark’s name is going to become lost in the jumble.

Setting might not seem like such a priority in a mostly character driven market, but I feel it’s just as important.  Think of a story’s setting as its backbone; without it, the story cannot stand on its own.  Because of this, I pay it the same amount of attention I would any other part of my work.  My characters need a world to interact with and it has to be consistent and believable, otherwise my readers will be able to sense the disconnect.

That's all for now,

A Fellow Writer.

So, You’ve Hit a Brick Wall

Writer’s block.  We’ve all been there.  Sadly, it’s unavoidable.  There’s just nothing more daunting than the prospect of having to fill a blank page with intelligible words.  I mean, it’s hard work sitting down and taking the time to create a master piece, but we must.  And we do.  Not because we have to, though.  We do it because we want to.  I’m not sure about you guys, but there’s nothing I enjoy more than telling a story and it just so happens that writing it is the perfect way for me to do so.  I think that’s the key, though.  You have to love it, otherwise a small case of writer’s block will turn into something insurmountable.  Either way, I have a few tips that I’ve stuffed away in my toolbox from over the years and I hope at least one of them proves useful.

It’s Your Story, Know It

I think I expressed the importance of knowing what you’re going to write before you sit down in an earlier post about brainstorming, but I want to reiterate.  Personally, if I’m unsure of what I plan to write beforehand, there’s no way it’s randomly going to come to me while I stare at a pixelated piece of paper.

So, my suggestion?  Map it out.  Write an outline.  Create a story board.  Do something that will get those creative juices flowing.  Clichéd, I know, but it works for me.  Sometimes I scribble an outline and add scenes and major plot pieces as they come to me, but this way I always have something to refer to if I ever get stuck.  I decided to try something new for The School of Arts, though, and I’m discovering that it’s extremely helpful.  I bought myself a cork board, some fancy markers, a stack of neon note cards, an assortment of green tacks and a left over piece of yarn, and with this pile of junk I created a storyboard.  It’s hanging over my desk, so whenever I sit down to write it’s there, waiting to inspire me and keep me on track.  I can add a note card or two whenever something comes to me, but I always know where I’m going next.  It also helps that I basically have the entire plot planned at this time, but even if you’re only sure of the first few chapters, it could help to keep you on track.

Whatever You Do, Don’t Procrastinate!

Again, it’s clichéd, but don’t put off `till tomorrow what you can do today.  Just don’t.  Because chances are you won’t do it tomorrow, or the next day, or the day after that and eventually a week becomes a month and you’re exactly where you started.  Square one.

Set goals and create incentives for when you accomplish them.  Finish a chapter, eat a pint of Ben and Jerry’s Phish Food.  Finish another chapter, watch an episode of your favorite tv show.  Finished three chapters?  Heck, break out the Play Station and play a few matches of Uncharted!  Whatever helps you de-stress and get back in the writing mood.

There’s never a deadline set in stone, unless of course you’re a published author working on your next big manuscript, so it might not seem like such a big deal to take a few days break, but they add up.  Trust me.  More than once I’ve found myself stuck in one of these writing doldrums, my sail devoid of that much needed inspirational gust of wind.  Lucky for me, it’s always come, but I try to avoid the temptation of putting it off as much as possible.

Writing is a Two Way Street

You know that saying, about how love is a two way street?  Well, writing is the same way.  Everything you give you have to get back, otherwise you’re never going to find the inspiration you need to continue.  You have to want to do it, so each page you finish is as rewarding as the last.  If it weren’t for writing—the simple freedom of words on a page—my life wouldn’t be the same.   Sure, I’ve hit a few road blocks along the way, but they’ve never kept me from my following my passion.  I hope that every writer can say the same, because the only thing standing between us and our chance to make it in this industry is ourselves.

I’ll leave you to ponder this, a passage from Chasing Evelynn that shows the main character expressing her own passion for the written word. . .

“there was something endearing about words written on a page in a time long before now – a time when things had to have been different – that inspired me.” -Evelynn

~A Fellow Writer