Take it where you can get it.
I have been stuck in a particular series. The biggest problem was the flashback element that was pivotal for the main character and for the storyline. The story dealt with witches and that made the flashback options wide open but I was stuck with what could have been a never-ending bog instead of the murky middle.
I mentioned it casually to my sixteen year old who is also a writer. I did it more out of frustration than asking a question. He not only offered the perfect solution, but did it out of reflex.
I have a lot to teach my son about the craft of writing, but I also have as much to learn from him. I don’t need some ninety year old curmudgeon to guide me, not when I have superteen on my side.
Where did you get help from an unsuspected source?
There is a major disconnect in the writer world. Drugs and drinking are held up like some sort of magic ladder to becoming famous. Growing up you are told the funny side of a famous old writer who wrote a masterpiece while on LSD. I see writers still trying to emulate this. There really is another way.
I found a magic fountain, it isn’t a new one, it was just new to me. I began doing Yoga and Meditation this summer. I still feel the writer pains, I still feel the demoralization of critics, trolls, and well meaning advice. The magic comes in by choosing to change my natural default setting. When I meditate I work on my self, not on the forces I can’t control. People are going to hate what I write. I can’t change that. Instead I work with what I can. I look at what they say, break it down to what they are really saying between the curses. Then I meditate or do yoga depending on how much I am worked up.
Writing comes from emotions. Sometimes, this leads to something beautiful. Even the happiest stories often come from a place of pain and wishing. The writer loses someone close to them. They write a story of redemption where their character defeats the odds that took the person they loved. The reader is overjoyed with the story of hope. They may never know the real story that is behind it. Most readers won’t even care.
Letting life happen, however it will, isn’t easy but it is simple. The only pain that reach you, is the one you let in. Things will happen. People will betray you. Acceptance is key. You need to let things come. How you deal with them is the only way they really can affect you. Write from your heart, write from your pain, write from any emotion that pushes you. Don’t let the pain become you, leave it on the page. No one will buy your story of every character dying, unless you magically became Shakespeare. There is too much perceived and real pain in the world. We as writers have a duty to take our pain and finding the outside perspective to find some kind of silver lining. The reader deserves to feel better by the end of the stories we write.
Putting Yoga and meditation into my life changed my writing. It has created a new atmosphere. I am able to write more prolifically. I have even found time to sleep again after years of insomnia. There is a reason so many writers are called Bohemian. It isn’t about becoming a poor artist. It is about the mind of the artist taking life’s pain and transforming it into a positive energy.
I am not sharing this because I am all-knowing. I am not an expert. I am only sharing what works for me.
I said something stupid. Ok, I say stupid things all the time. Ask my wife. However this time, I thought how stupid it was to think like that. I was giving credit to my new story for writing itself. I then thought about how many times I have said or thought, “Wow, this just writes itself.” NO, it does not write itself, it is not sentient. You alone should get the credit for your work, even when you don’t realize your mind is working in the background on something.
I am not advocating for the “I did it all on my own.” people who refuse to acknowledge help and influence in getting them to their goals. Behind every self-made person is many who gave a hand or an idea. There are people who suffered so that the writer had the time to write.
Give yourself credit in your own mind when you write something, no matter how easy it feels at the time. You are the only one who could have written that exact story. That is being a writer. No one can take that from you ever.
I was not a product of the 1950’s and so I was not raised in a house where there was such thing as the woman taking the back seat. My daughter is a powerful girl soon to be woman in her own right. I hope that these characters and stories reflect the inner fire I see in her everyday fighting a still male dominated world. She impresses me everyday with her ability to jump into male dominated subjects and clubs and take them on full steam ahead. I am proud of her work in the Robotics club, and even more for starting an Anime club when she didn’t find one. Both areas are very controlled by the belief they are male subjects. She is out to prove the world wrong and I can’t wait to be on the sidelines cheering as she proves they are a human subjects anyone can be good at and love. — feelingproud.
You will see references in every book on writing about writing for your audience. Something that gets left out of this way too often at great expense is the fact that you are part of the audience. You are not just the writer, you are also a reader. You will always be your worst critic. Every decision to take a story somewhere new has to go through your perception as a reader before it goes into the mechanical nature of putting it in the story. Tonight I wrote a piece that while not seeming super critical to the story, nor is it action packed, that really came from the heart. I didn’t realize how much I missed my home until I started to write about it from my characters eyes. Of course she see’s many of the same things I do. She recognizes the beauty of not just the area, but even the air. I couldn’t create a more amazing place for myself in a hundred books. There is nothing that feels missing or out of place. So as a writer it made me happy but more importantly as a reader and part of my own audience, it made me draw in a deep breath as if I could feel the sea air filling my lungs. Never forget who the first member of your audience is, yourself.
One of the biggest thing you will hear from published authors is meeting deadlines. This is a common thing for all writers though most don’t realize it. If you write hit or miss for weeks, months, or even years, you will find the transition to becoming a full time writer a nightmare.
Setting deadlines and realistic goals for yourself is probably one of the best things you can do for yourself. Some writers can do this in the solitude of their word documents, writing a certain number of words per day, chapters per week, etc. others need a little more of a kick in the pants. I was a hit or miss writer for a long time, then I started with a goal. I wanted to improve my writing and the only way to improve is through practice and criticism. For myself, this meant writing five days per week, all original stories. Some were short stories, others were part of a series. The important part was that I wrote, I didn’t let anything stop me from meeting this goal unless it was physically binding. I wrote stuff I am not proud of to say the least, I wrote filler material, I also wrote with no direction at times and it showed. The feedback was amazing, because I put it out for everyone to see. I bared my soul to the entire planet to take in and dissect. It was scary. Some nights I wanted to just bang my head on the screen endlessly to see if that helped. In the end, I came up with pieces I was proud of, things I wanted to share. The hardest part is getting it done. I did all of this without editing because I am notorious for getting in the editing loop and never coming out. So I put my material out in all of its mis-typed, misspelled, and comma dropped glory.
In the end I have found improvements in my style, and in my substance.
Preachy much? Yeah probably, but that comes from passion not from knowing it all about writing. No one knows your style and needs better than you. In the end find the goal setting and challenges that make you excited to write. I am excited when Monday rolls around after the weekend. It is the day I get to create something new, something fun, and in the end, something I love.
You will probably hear on many sites like this, about the importance of show don’t tell. Something that I think gets undersold too often to writers, especially new writers is “Listen don’t tell”
You are looking for an audience, or have already gained one. Either way, if someone reads your story and is unclear about something, they are speaking for many people who don’t have the courage to tell you. As the author you are omnipotent, You know why Bill would risk his life for someone he doesn’t know when he is otherwise stone cold. It is obvious that at some point in his life someone did this for him. Obvious to you anyway. Don’t be afraid to start a conversation with the unclear reader. Don’t just tell them why he did it so they are clued in, that won’t make you a better writer. Listen to what they have to say and throw your ego out the window. There are key words that may help you realize what you did wrong the first time so you can edit it and not make the same mistake again. If you write a murder mystery and someone feels you cheated because you didn’t make a clue transparent to the reader, they feel misled and are less likely to read the next one. You don’t need to paint neon red signs pointing to every clue, but make sure they get some form of notice.
I try to listen to other authors advice about my work, but I put even more time into listening to the readers that don’t know me, other than my work. They are more likely to be honest when something didn’t work for them. So share your stories with strangers, they can be your best teachers.