More Than A Writer

More Than A Writer

There’s more to life than being a writer. Sounds heretical, blasphemous even. How can someone who blogs about writing and claims to be a writer herself say that?

Well, it’s simple really. Much as we may want to just sit in a coffee shop, our office, at a table just write every single day. We can’t. Life get’s in the way of doing that. Whether it be going to see the doctor, family events or obligations, dates with the significant other, getting sick or anything else. Life continuously throws us curveballs that stop us from spending our lives just writing.

Does that mean we shouldn’t follow that oft-quoted advice to write every day? No. There’s value in sitting down and writing something each day. It could be a poem. It could be a paragraph of a story. It could be a few words of a story. Writing every day helps keep us inspired. But it does mean we have to accept that other things will come along and prevent us from writing as much as we want on a given day.

At this point, you’re probably wondering why I started this post the way I did. Am I just being contrary and difficult in order to mess with you?

No. I’m not. I fully believe that writing every day is a great personal goal. But allowing writing to consume our lives isn’t healthy. We need to interact with others and experience life, both as people and as writers. Living life instead of merely existing for the sake of being able to write adds a depth to our writing it may not otherwise have. It aids in the ability to write emotions well. It aids in our ability to describe settings. And it gives us a chance to work out the problems in whatever we’re writing at a given point in time, which helps us when it comes to editing.

So if you find yourself being consumed by writing, take a walk. Go to a party. Go to the museum. Take up painting and set time aside for that in addition to writing. Go out with friends or to a family gathering.

Live life. You’re more than a writer. You’re the protagonist of your own story.

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Reading/Watching/Listening To

Reading: The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters

Watching: The Dark Crystal

Listening To: Nightwish| Endless Forms Most Beautiful

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate in links. All that means is that I may receive a small commission if you click on a link from a product I’ve recommended in this post and purchase/subscribe to one of them. I’ll only ever recommend products I’ve used and enjoyed myself.Thank you for supporting my dorky little corner of the internet!

On Reading Widely

On Reading Widely Title

Reading widely. In this post, I will go over what I think reading widely is and my feelings about its importance for writers. But it boils down to one thing: reading widely brings new and innovative ideas into whatever genre someone is writing in.

I could leave it at that, but it wouldn’t be fair. You, hopefully, came are reading this post to hear my own views on the topic. So, without further stalling, let’s dive into the dark and inky depths of today’s subject.

What Does “Read Widely” Mean?

To put it simply, reading widely is when a reader or writer and in this case, someone who is both, reads more than just their normal fare. It’s looking beyond the confines of Romance, Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Horror and other genres a person may prefer in order to broaden our horizons as readers.

Why Is It Important?

Reading widely can be argued to be important for every reader, whether they’re also a writer or not. I would argue it is especially important for writers because it brings in new or little-used ideas that may otherwise have not been brought in.

One example that comes to mind is a Horror writer branching out into big-R Romance. Romance, for good or ill, is a major desire in our society. Most people want to find love. This adds an entirely new subject to the Horror writer’s repertoire of terrifying life events.

Imagine, if you will, a someone using a typical Romance genre plot with a pair of serial killers, a cannibalistic serial killer and a normal if slightly fucked up person. Or a demon from the depths of hell and an otherwise normal person who gradually comes to accept their demonic love’s nature. None of these is a pretty scenario. Though, as someone who wrote a short story about two serial killers who fellow in love, I admit a fondness for turning the mundane and even sweet terrifying. And these scenarios are right up my alley.

Now imagine someone taking a normal Mystery plot and transplanting it into a made up Fantasy world, or the very ancient past. I’m talking Homo Neanthalensis levels of ancient or early human society. While neither of those are exceedingly rare genre combinations, they’re very much still extremely fertile ground for both potential readers and the writer.

This brings us to the next topic…

How Do You Read More Widely?

I’m sure this section seems needless to some. Reading more widely is, after all, a matter of just reading things you normally don’t read more often. However, not everyone is prepared to jump right in and read more widely from here on out. Some tips seemed to be in order so that people can inch their way out of their little niche and into the wider world of reading.

  • Widen horizons in your normal genre first.
  • Try a genre closely related to your own.
  • Read works outside your normal genre by authors you already enjoy.

I won’t pretend any of these are easy. A writer may only like one genre, for example, Fantasy. But, eventually, branching out into Historical Fantasy or some other genre can gradually lead to an increase in the desire to read more standard Historical Fiction. The same can be said of Gothic Fiction, Mystery/Thriller, or any other genre. And as I mentioned previously, this makes a writer better at the craft. Benefiting not only the larger story overall but subplots as well.

A good story, whether Fantasy, Horror or another incorporates minor plots/plot variations from other genres. Learning how to master those genres and plots by reading and understanding whys and hows enhances our own work.

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Reading/Watching/Listening To

Reading: The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters

Watching: Being 17

Listening To: H.I.M Razorblade Romance

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate in links. All that means is that I may receive a small commission if you click on a link from a product I’ve recommended in this post and purchase/subscribe to one of them. I’ll only ever recommend products I’ve used and enjoyed myself.Thank you for supporting my dorky little corner of the internet!

Horrific & Relatable

Horrific & Relatable TitleHorror is a genre that has the goal of invoking a feeling in its readers: fear. Making the reader sweat, their heart speed up, giving them the need to look over their shoulder and sleep with the lights on for a few days after the story is done etc.But that doesn’t mean the main character, whether monster or prey, cannot be relatable. In fact, it is my belief that the more relatable the characters the more interesting the Horror story and easier it is to inspire in the reader.

That said, let’s get this show on the road. And please don’t get blood on the carpet, it’s cliche and hard to get out.

Why Should You Make Your Main Character More Human?

At its heart, Horror is a very human genre. From the prey to the monsters themselves, no matter how horrific and inhuman on the outside, the characters in a Horror story tend to reflect human needs and desires. And it is when a Horror writer masters making their characters human and relatable despite the nature of the story and whether predator or prey, that they have mastered the art of writing Horror.

When it comes to the predatory characters, like a werewolf, a vampire, a serial killer, killer ghost, aliens or something else of in the monster/predator family. The idea behind making them more relatable is that the reader is going to be in their head for anywhere from a few hundred to 80,000 words or more. And watching this truly monstrous being just do worse and worse things to their prey is both gross and, after a while, boring for the reader.

By making the monster relatable in this type of story, the reader is drawn further and further into the web. They’re forced to feel for the monster, human or otherwise, and to question their own humanity when they feel sympathy and even cheer for the monster. The capital-H Horror is coming from being face to face with their own inhuman side for the duration of the story.

This is especially true if the “monster” is experiencing a descent into darkness character arch, forcing the reader to watch them become less and less human. A very real representation of the fear most people have of losing what makes them human.

It also means fewer chances for gimmicky writing that simply grosses the reader out. I say this not because there’s no place for straight up gore in a good Horror story, there are many awesome ones that are very gory, one need only look at the sub-genre of Splatterpunk to see that. But because, like boring characters, gore for the sake of gore can bore the reader after a while and the goal is for them to read the whole story and, hopefully, enjoy it and be frightened.

This brings us to stories from the point of view of the prey. And though I don’t have as much to say as I do about monster-focused stories, I do have a bit to say. It’s been my experience as a reader that prey stories where the reader can’t relate to both the prey and the monster are harder to pull off. Not because of any lack of potential to be good stories, but because the characters not being relatable means the reader is less likely to care about what happens to either the “monster” or the “victim(s).”

The worse thing someone writing from the point of view of a werewolf’s prey, for instance, can do is to make the reader not care whether the prey survives.

How Do You Make Your Main Character More Human?

All opinionated rambling aside, there are some ways you can make your Main Character more human in the eyes of your readers, whether monster or prey.

1) Give them a backstory.

Everyone has a backstory. Things that make them who they are and motivations for what they do, whether those acting are good, bad, or some gray combination of the two. A good Horror story uses backstory to bolster sympathy for the character readers are following and, which makes things far more suspenseful than they would otherwise be.

2) Make the reader feel for them.

All the backstory in the world doesn’t matter if the reader doesn’t feel for the main character. More than sympathy, forcing the reader to feel for the character leads to that unease which makes invoking feelings of horror later on far easier. In short, emotional turmoil for main character and reader equals out to a more interesting and intense story.

So exploit the reader’s feelings. Make them want that mother alien to succeed so her children survive and feel horrified by it. Make them want the werewolf’s prey to get away and return home to their family.

Next time I will be diving back into the world of the Bullet Journal and focusing one of my favorite modules, the monthly log. In the meantime, please feel free to follow the blog, check out my Instagram and Twitter, and follow me over on Facebook.

What Aspiring Writers Can Learn From Fanfiction

I’m what I like to call an aspiring writer. Plucking away at my goal to one day be trade published. But when I first entered the more serious writing community, I was a bit shocked to discover that people really dismiss fan-fiction and think it’s a place for hacks. Not that this is surprising now, other writers also take metaphorical dumps all over various other genres like Romance after all.

It seemed silly to me then and still does now. And if I’m completely honest, it also makes me a bit sad. Fan-fiction and the sites it has thrived on since the 90’s, is very much like the slushpile any publisher deals with, there’s no doubt about that and no denying it. But for all the dreck there polished diamonds, rubies, and other valuable rocks and minerals to be found by anyone who is persistent enough.

Innovation, characterization and even worldbuilding seem to thrive in fan-fiction regardless of quality. Which brings me to the point of this entire post after quite a bit of rambling: anyone who writes original work can learn a couple of very valuable lessons from fan-fiction.

Those lessons are…

  •  know your characters and your world.
  • don’t be afraid to innovate.

Take tropes and scenarios from others genres and use them in your story to create something new. Write that take on old source material like Romeo and Juliet that you haven’t seen anyone else write. Maybe they weren’t the right people to write the story and you were or hadn’t thought of the idea.

Take your characters and get to know them and the world they come from because knowing your characters more than other writers know theirs will make for a more interesting and seamless story that expands beyond the borders of the page.The more like a living person the world and characters are the less you have to struggle to make them interesting in the context of the story and can focus on the why. Why this person in this setting and at this point in time?

Join me tomorrow where I’ll be talking about one of my favorite genres, Horror, and how to to make horrific and even evil characters relatable to readers. In the meantime, please feel free to follow the blog, check out my Instagram and Twitter, and follow me over on Facebook.

The Pros and Cons of Writing Longhand

I love writing longhand. That is, I love to write the first drafts of poems, short stories, novellas, and novels with a pen and paper. Putting pen to paper gives me a sense of belonging to a greater tradition that dates back thousands of years as a method for telling stories. It allows me to feel more at ease when writing because I don’t have to worry about charging some sort of device.

My love of this form of writing aside, there are some pros and cons to writing longhand.

Pros

  • You don’t need to charge a pen or pencil and paper.
  • You can’t lose the first draft of a piece of writing from a computer/device crashing.
  • You don’t have to backup said device(s) to prevent the loss of a draft.
  • You can write with any pencil or pen you have on hand, printing of cursive/script.

Cons

  • Finding a longhand setup that fits your general needs can be a hassle.
  • Fire and water can damage the manuscript.
  • Transcription into an electronic device is pretty much required and annoying.

As you can see, I’m on the side of there being more pros than cons and the pros are all practical issues. But there is one major pro I neglected to put on the list: the difference in thinking pattern when writing longhand versus directly into a computer or other electronic device.

When writing on a computer or other electronic device, we can go back and change any and everything we please at the drop of a hat. And this isn’t a bad thing except that it may, for some writers, facilitate procrastination via fixing all of the fiddly bits instead of simply writing the story, Which can leave a writer in an ongoing state of limbo as far as their stories are concerned.

There may also be a general creative difference for some people. For example, I find that the story flows more naturally and feels more organic when I do my pre-editing read through if I write the story out longhand first. This then allows me to get in a quick editing pass when transcribing the story, to sort of super-charge my editing.

However, I can’t say that I find the whole lugging around of a binder to be something I like doing. So, I’m considering a move to a more portable notebook-based setup. It’s where I started when I was just a kid playing around, so it makes sense that I would eventually come to another point in my life where it would be the most logical option for me again.

Next time you get the dubious pleasure of reading an update of what I’ve been up to this month. I hope you find it as fascinating as I found this month interesting (read: frustrating.).

In the meantime, please feel free to follow the blog, check out my Instagram and Twitter, and follow me over on Facebook.

My Research Process

Each good writer has their own method of research. A method that is, among other things, the following:

Now, what qualifies as adaptable and reliable will change from person to person. But my own personal method works for me, and that’s all any of us can ask for. I hope that by detailing my method, someone will be able to take bits and pieces to create one that works for them.

My Method

Though I wouldn’t call it complicated, my method of research and taking notes does have a number of components that make it work for me as a writer. I use an analog capture method like the Bullet Journal, start with the most interesting thing first, make sure to answer some basic questions, and follow a note-taking procedure that I find to be effective in my own work.

Starting With The Interesting Stuff

If someone asked me, I would say this is the most important part of my personal research method. More important than how I take notes, my questions lists, or the way I use a Bullet Journal to capture notes and other information.

Without it, the other two would be a moot point. Who wants to spend hours and hours researching something that they have no interest in? Not me and definitely not when it comes to my writing, which I love.

It is with this in mind that I always try to start with the subject I find most interesting first when undertaking research. Starting with the interesting subject leads to more investment in the research itself. It also means that I am able to, through my research, develop an interest in areas I didn’t previously find interesting.

Generally, it means I look at big picture books first or in the case of a book on Hatshepsut that I’m reading, look at things from an individual to system approach. This was the life of Hatshepsut at this time in Ancient Egyptian history, how was it influenced by big picture things going on in Egyptian history at the time? This is what life was like in 1917, what impact would it have on the lives of the character in my story?

Analog Information Capture

analog

I prefer to capture as much information as I can via my Bullet Journal and binders or notebooks. Using and analog or non-digital method, whether a Bullet Journal or something else, means that I don’t have to worry about my computer or some other device conking out on me when I’m in the middle of doing something. This allows for an uninterrupted flow when I’m researching or writing.

You don’t need to use a Bullet Journal for this to work. I just love the Bullet Journal as a method of analog information capturing. Mainly because I’ve found it to work for a variety of different applications in my life. The benefit for my research process, in particular, is astounding.

If using a Bullet Journal for research, however, I would suggest dedicating it to a specific project instead of multiple projects. I like to keep the following types of things in my project related Bullet Journals:

  • research notes.
  • a bibliography.
  • a project breakdown.
  • a basic questions list.

The basic questions list will be explained and so will my notes, but the bibliography is basically the same as a research paper or a secondary source text like Whirlwind by John Ferling (Amazon link). It’s a good way for me to keep track of what I read for a project/novel. Sometimes it’s short and sometimes long.

Sometimes it’s short and sometimes long.

The project breakdown, which I reference here and here (Link pending.), allows me more control over the scheduling aspect of the process.

Another thing someone may want to add in is a log of some sort, a tracker for research hours. Which I will be incorporating into things myself. Like I mentioned at the start, a good research process is adaptable and reliable.

Questions Lists

questions-list-1

For some strange reason, I like lists. I just do. They’re useful ways of keeping information straight. Which is part of the reason the Bullet Journal works so well for me, being that it is, in it’s most basic form, a book of lists and/or sketches.

One of the types of lists I kept, even before I started to use a Bullet Journal, was what I like to call a  basic questions list. It’s something that helps me determine the basics of a story’s setting. Which may seem odd, but considering how influential to the story setting can be, is something I’ve found makes sense to know in order to frame my research.

My basic questions lists, generally, fall into one of three categories: secondary world, historical, and Earth-based settings. Each playing a part in how much research and the type of research I may need to do for a project.

secondary-world-questions

The research needed for secondary world settings, whether Fantasy or Science Fiction, tends to vary depending on the story. Something it shares with the Earth-based settings. A setting based in whole or part on a specific place and time requires more research, in my experience than one with a more nebulous base.

earth-based-questions

Earth-based stories also have a variable amount of research, but where they differ from Secondary World stories is that, for my work, the range of genres is wider and the research very detail oriented rather than big picture. This type of set of questions also tends to mean that the story is either near future, contemporary, or near past. Something which, itself, helps with the research being more detail based.

historical-questions

Lastly, we have the historical questions. Historical stories, be they Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Horror etc. require the most research. Because in order for the story to ring true and make sense, the story needs to make sense within the chosen time period.

Answering my historical questions list is the one I take the most time on out of all three for. I like research, so I devote quite a bit of time to research in all three cases. But I spend longer researching the questions on my historical list in order to be better able to determine my plot, character histories, if something I want to do in a story is even possible and how etc.

Notes

note-taking

Notes are the last part of my research methodology. They’re separated into two types, primary and secondary, because that makes them easier to label and reference later if and when I need them.

secondary-source-notes-2

Secondary source notes, or notes made on materials not contemporary to the event, are done like the picture above. Doing it this way allows me the flexibility of incorporating any needed changes to this part of my process pretty easily. Like in a previous post, where I mentioned that I’m trying to make the area below direct quotes into their own miniature references.

Primary source notes are, as mentioned in the same post, done differently. What I didn’t mention is that I’m working on distinguishing notes that deal with terminology. For now, I’m experimenting with a gold dot to signal those types of notes. So far, I like it.

Since both all of these things are done in a Bullet Journal, I make use of a hack known as threading. Threading is when you write the next or last page that is part of the collection next to the number of the current page. It’s most useful when the parts of a collection are separated by several pages being used for pages that are part of other collections.

Materials I Use

The Zebra Z-Grip Flight in Broad (Amazon link.).

The Uni-ball Signo UM-153 in Gold (Amazon link.).

The Moleskine Classic Notebook in Large (Amazon link.).

That all for now. Feel free to follow me on Twitter and Instagram and the blog or check out my Facebook page if that is what you prefer. I hope anyone reading this has been able to get something out of it.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate in links. All that means is that I may receive a small commission if you click on a link from a product I’ve recommended in this post and purchase/subscribe to one of them. I’ll only ever recommend products I’ve used and enjoyed myself.Thank you for supporting my dorky little corner of the internet!