Tuesday, November 18, 2014

6 Tips to Help With Writer's Block

Sometimes writing can be super fun. And sometimes it can be a real job. At first the words flow on the paper, maybe even page after page. But then you hit a wall—the dreaded writer’s block. It seems like I have this every day. There are some days I don’t even want to write a single word. And then there are other days, I can’t stop. If you have had these same signs and symptoms of writer’s block, but ultimately love to write, there are some simple things you can do to spark up your interested again.

I know some people don’t like taking breaks, but sometimes (if you have writer’s block) it’s your mind telling you to stop and think about what you’re doing. Maybe you need to go back in the story and reevaluate things more. Like the road you drove your character down is a dead end street. There’s no other way to turn but to turn back again. And sometimes when you turn back, you’re still stuck. Seriously taking a break isn’t such a bad idea. Taking a walk, watching TV. Doing other things does definitely help. But that too sometimes doesn’t help. Then what do you do?

You keep trying new things to spark it up again. Because honestly, if you don’t and you quit all together, your writing will end there. And that isn’t such a horrible thing either. That’s when it’s time to find another hobby or something else you enjoy. But if you’re like me and have to write because it’s in your blood, here are some tips to help keep the writing going.

1. Read more: I know a lot of people say this in writing forums, but the majority of the time, it does work. Reading something else might get the wheels turning again. Study how it’s written. Maybe do another spin to it, like fan- fiction.

2. Writing something else: I mean writing something completely different and out of the norm. If you’re into writing mysteries, try adding a little paranormal element, or sci-fi or whatever one you haven’t tried before. Something that might interest you. Is your character in their twenties? Try making them younger. Try writing a children’s story or poem, or non-fiction. Keep testing out your voice. Have a female character? Try a male main character. First person present tense? Try third person, past tense, omni or whatever you think might work. The basic point here is to keep trying new things. Don’t pigeon hole yourself into writing just one way.

3. Change your font, size and or color: Now this might sound silly but it’s proven to work for some. It’s worked for me in the past and it may work for you. Just play around with the font change it from times roman to courier or something that’s pleasing to your eye. Play around with the size and color too. Heck, have fun with it and do all three. Don’t worry on keeping it times roman because all the agents and publishers want it that way. You can always change it back right before you submit. Remember to always read the guidelines when you do.

4. Print it out: You don’t have to print the whole thing out. Just a few pages or so. Go back a chapter or two and sit down with a red pen or pink or green or whatever you like, and revise that way. This could very well spark up new ideas and will motivate you to keep going.

5. Get a critique partner and or join writing forums: Once you join a writing forum, you can critique others work and learn more about your work. Getting others to critique your work is essential in the writing process. You can also find beta readers to help you one and one with you own work, as you help them with theirs. It’s a “I’ll scratch your back and you scratch mine” analogy. It works for both parties involved.

6. Don’t give up: I know this is said all the time, but it really matters. If you keep writing, you will only get better. And if you are the most persistent person you can be, you will eventually have something published. Writing takes time. Getting published takes time. Allow yourself time to write. Unless you have a deadline, don’t pressure yourself too much. Let it come to you. And when you have that urge again and want to write, do it.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Are You a YA Mystery/ Suspense Writer?

Do you worry about death and dying? (Maybe not so much about yourself as you do with your loved ones.)

Are you constantly thinking of solving things? Always looking for the answer, whatever it may be. You just want peace of mind, and just want to know.

Do you like watching Mystery/ Suspense movies, TV shows, etc? Like even though you cringe at the thought of murder, you’re fascinated by what happened. Or you want to find out why? Why did it happen? Who did it? What was their motive? Was it planned? How much premeditation was involved?

Questions, about questions. If you’ve answered yes to some of these questions or have asked yourself the same thing (about certain things in life) then you may be a mystery/suspense writer. The best way to get some of these fears out of your mind is to write them down. It doesn’t have to be a story just yet. Just something you can spindle from your mind and just let it out. Get it out of you like it’s some poison you’re sucking out. Spit it out on paper (or the computer, or whatever device you want to use.)

Once you’ve decided you’d like to write a YA mystery, by all means, start writing! This hopefully will apply to every mystery writer too.

I think it’s important to start with a conflict right away. What’s going on with your main character? What is his or her purpose in this fictional world you are creating? Why is your main character around? Is she/he lost and needs to find a way out? In danger? Witnessed a murder? Needs to solve a murder? A missing case? What is missing from your character? If you’re constantly asking questions, this is wonderful news! As you’re writing this out, you can outline or write by the seat of your pants. Whatever way is going to make you write. That is the most important thing. Now, once you’ve mapped out how to go (whether in mind or notes) I want you to remember, leave things open. Maybe don’t answer all of your questions for your novel. Save that for the big reveal at the end. In YA, you have to keep the reader guessing, all the way to the very end. Don’t you want to keep guessing too?  Even if that means not answering a key question to the very last line in the book.

In YA, the pacing needs to be just right. It should be in a faster tempo, but not too fast. Then you might fall short of word count. Standard word counts for YA novels are between 40,000 and 90,000. Fantasy and Sci-fi tend to run higher. For pacing and trying to cut down. If you think your pacing is too fast, slow it down with more word power. Describe things a little more, have the character do more action. Move them around more. Try to pay more attention to detail. If you think your pacing is too slow, well then, cut down on some details. Maybe you have too much. Is it a page and a half for the MC to get to the window?

Plotting and planning. Again, always leave room for improvement. If and or when you write an outline, don’t be confined to it. Allow some breathing room. When you’re putting your outlining into writing, don’t be afraid to steer away from it. You might find when you’re actually writing it out, some things fall into place better. Better than the outline you’ve created. If you’re a panster, be careful not to write yourself into a wall. Perhaps leave writing sessions mid chapter, so you can stew about it more. Then when you come back, you could put more into it. Don’t wear yourself out so much so to the point you don’t want to come back to your writing at all. This is best for plotting and planning. I think the best plotting and planning is when you’re stewing your brains out on it, to the point you must write it out (suck the poison out.) So again, don’t overdo your writing. Maybe only do it for a block of time. It’s also a good idea (you certainly don’t have to, but) it’s a good idea to give word count goals too. Long term goals. (I’m going to write a 50K novel in three months.) And short term goals. (I’m going to write at least 500 words a day) If it doesn’t match up to what you’ve intended, always praise yourself for what you did do. That in itself is an accomplishment.

Another important thing to mystery writing is giving your character clues. Make them the detective. Keep them actively looking for clues as to what happened. If it’s one thing I’ve learned from my lovely editor, Ellen Larson, it’s don’t let it all happen. The main character must find out for his or herself. That is what the amateur sleuth is all about. Good luck on writing your mystery/suspense novel. And remember, above all else, keep writing and don’t give up!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

On Mental Illness

Just pretend you’re sitting right across from me, like we were in a booth at some local diner. Not some greasy old diner that’s been around for years, where the whole family works there, but something a little more upscale than that. But don’t worry though, I’m popping for the food, just don’t order any. Okay, okay, I’m just joking. You can eat all you want, it just has to be on your side of the table.

I thought we could meet up here and I could tell you a little bit more about myself and my mental illness, which is really weird, one way or another. It’s really hard to explain, but I’m going to try the best way I can—by writing it out (as if I was speaking right to you.)

I’m going to be honest, I’m a little worried I may say the wrong thing and turn you off like some faulty light switch that should have never been turned on in the first place. But I’m going to teeter on the ledge and just gonna look out for a while. I won’t jump! No worries on that. I just want to see what’s really out there. I don’t see anything yet, but hopefully it will come to me. My mind stops and starts again like driving to each stop light. But sometimes I get the green light and just go and go. I veer off the road too much and swivel back again, like I’m trying to cover my tracks but then I get massively derailed as to where to go next. It’s hard to stop over thinking and over analyzing, driving in circles. It’s hard to go in the right direction when sometimes you feel very directionless and it’s just a big mess. Everything comes to a halt and then what do you have to do next? Yep, start over again.

I’m thinking now, by me explaining this, you’re going, what a weirdo! Haha. Maybe I am. Whatever on that deal. But this is how I deal with things. With a grain of salt, I try not to take it too seriously. TRY is the keyword here. If I do take it too seriously, I’m lost. My whole world gets topsy-turvy. I don’t know dreams from reality. But when I can’t get out of my nightmare, that means reality finally started to sink in. Jesus, how many times can you fall out of reality? Many, many times. Countless. It can happen to someone over and over again and well then their reality is living in a dream world. When you’re mentally ill, and the great amount of creativity you have running in your head (although creativity can be great.) It can be the greatest demise of your life.

So what do you do to not lose your mind? Well, I think that’s where the humor of life comes in. I think, (and this is just my opinion) that you have to have a sense of humor in your life to maintain your sanity. Really, you can’t take things too seriously, otherwise you’ll be hurting yourself in the long run.  This is how I handle mental illness. If you believe in everything everyone is telling you, how can you not be dizzy and confused from that? Stay true to yourself. I know, I know. It’s super hard. Those days I’m stranded in my mind, by the side of some thought that’s eating me apart, I can’t take it. God, I have got to move on! The power of the mind goes many ways. My road map takes a different direction. It doesn’t give you the best route to go. Instead it gives you the scenic route (although nice at times) could be again, just one big nightmare.

I hope I’m not boring you with this. If anything I want you to walk away feeling good. Like we can relate a little bit, laugh and joke too. I can’t always relate to some things. Sometimes I’m just zoned out like Walter Mitty. It’s that much harder for someone with a mental illness to concentrate—on anything for that matter, not just in conversation. Sometimes you just poof! simply lose interest.

Well, I hope this sheds a little more light on how it is, living with a mental illness. Thank you for listening. Don’t worry, I got the tip too. Oh, but wait! One more tip, have a good day!