Friday, January 20, 2012

The Curse of Creativity!

Okay, so there are a lot of pros and cons of being a writer.  You can work whenever and wherever you want.  It’s hard work, it takes a long time, and people throw tomatoes at you.  You can make people fall in love with your fantasies or cause them to stop reading fiction altogether.

But there’s one big anchor, in my mind, that is always dragging me near the shore of writing.  It’s a switch I have a hard time turning off.

What I’m talking about are endless possibilities.  Creativity.  Getting an idea everywhere I go.

I’m not sure how other people work, but during relaxation periods, or what should be relaxation periods, an idea always drills itself into my mind.

Playing a video game…idea!

Reading a book…idea!

Watching any movie, even Flubber…idea!

Everywhere we turn, everything we see, it was all inspired by ideas.  And for most forms of entertainment, there’s a form of writing behind them.  Video games.  Books (obviously).  Television shows.  Movies.  Commercials.  Websites.  Songs.  Everything.

I think the problem is, being creative-based, having endless possibilities, I see something great and am inspired to bring my writing to that level.  I see something horrible, and I’m inspired to create something better.  It’s always a lose-lose situation.

Halfway into a book, I’ll put it down forever, and come away with three new ideas.  Halfway into a movie, I can’t concentrate fully, because I’m imagining a character similar to the lead actor, or I get a new idea for a plot, or theme, or object.

What I’m saying is, it’s hard when the creative switch is always left on, to fully enjoy the entertainment the world has to offer.  To invest 100%, heck, even 75% into something.  To give it my full attention.

I’ve been doing better lately.  One of my resolutions was to give writing and me some space.  Enjoy other things.  To accept the fact that not every plot can be neatly wrapped up.  That not every story can be finished.  That in time, maybe they will.  But don’t lose any sleep over works-in-progress or a brain full of ideas. 

Doing other things like spending time with family, enjoying free time, working out, they’re all essential to being happy mentally and physically.  Balance.  It’s all about balance.

What are some of the ways you keep your head from exploding?  From creativity driving you mad?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Get Sidetracked (plus a Memory Eater sneak peek)

As I’ve been pussyfooting around flirting with my writing lately, I found some cool writing-related websites to mess around with.  Here they are, brought to you list style:

This is a useful site that allows you to transform a bunch of text (even full manuscripts) into word clouds.  The words you use the most will appear the biggest, thus helping you trim some of the monotony out of your writing. 

As an example, I submitted the 27 story titles from The Memory Eater, and this was the result.

So for those keeping an eye out for the anthology, there are the scrambled titles.

I always see authors list the characters in their stories along with celebrity photos of who would/will play them.  I recently found a better alternative—make your own characters.  Evolver gives you the option to start off with a full model character or upload your own photo.  Then you transform the model or photo into your vision of your character, bringing them into a full, unique life.

"I used to wear normal clothes like you, but then I took an arrow to the knee." 

This is a little form where you plug in your manuscript’s title information, and it will tell you the percentage of it being a bestseller.

The title The Memory Eater has a 35.9% chance of being a bestselling title!

The title Taking a Bath with Hot Chocolate has a 55.4% chance of being a bestselling title!

Think you’re fast at typing?  Is it not only crucial to your hobby, but also your job?  Can you type faster with your two pointer fingers than the average person using ten?  Then head on over to Typeracer and enter their global typing competition.  For fun, of course.

This site allows and encourages you to write 750 words per day.  It hosts and saves your work so you can access it anywhere with internet connection.

Hilarious text messages which are skewed by an evil phone overlord…or by the phone’s actual autocorrect feature.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

12 Writer Resolutions for 2012

Since it's the New Year (Happy New Year, everyone!), I've got some helpful writer resolutions to share.  So here we go...

1. Make time to write:
Let's see...sleep, work, eat, family time.  Chances are, your pie chart leaves about 5% of the day's time for your own personal enjoyment.  What to do with that time?  Relax, partake in a hobby, or write?  I know it doesn't sound too appealing when put that way, so what I try to do is wedge writing time in whenever I can.  If you follow this blog, you know I write at work.  But here are some tips for those who find it hard to wedge time into their day.

Brainstorm on the go.  If you don't have a phone, carry a little pad and pen around with you.  Surely, throughout the course of the day, you can jot down a couple of ideas.  Doing this will spark some motivation, and the more you think about your ideas, the more compelled you'll be to expand upon them.

If you're on the computer a lot at work, especially communicating through emails, open up an email to send to yourself.  In between whatever you're doing, brainstorm some more.  Or leave a Word document up in the background.  Can't use Word?  Use WordPad.

Can't write something down at the moment?  I don't believe you.  But if you truly believe you can't, use your head.  Surely you have some time to think to yourself.  Bathroom, anyone?  Think about your ideas, then when you get a chance, write them down.  The good stuff will usually stick, I promise.

2. Read more:
A good way to become a great writer is by studying them.  Sure, enjoy the books you're reading, but become more critical of them.  Watch how they craft sentences and introduce characters and where the actual story begins.  If you have questions about your craft, see how your favorite writers answer them within their own text.

3. Try something new:
Writing in the same genre?  The same POV?  Are your characters and narrators the same in every story?  Step outside of your comfort level and attempt a new idea.  A different genre, POV, character, even style.  Break rules and see what works.  Be daring and go for that crazy twist you've stumbled upon.  Not only will doing this open up the structure of your writing, but it will refresh your mind.  Perhaps it will even get you excited about writing again.

4. Listen to criticism:
When I used to attend writing workshops, 95% of the time when a participant said something negative about an author's work, that author would retort and try to justify their intentions.  Just shut up and listen.  People don't typically make negative comments about your work because they hate you.  They merely saw something you didn't.  With our own work, it's nearly impossible to separate all the errors.  Be thankful you have fresh eyes to scan your work-in-progress, because people barely find time to read published works anymore.

5. Set some goals:
And make them reasonable.  You know where you're at in your writing career, so chances are, you know the next step.  Do you want to get a professional short story sale?  Land an agent?  Get a positive rejection letter from...anyone?  Set it as your goal and strive to hit it in 2012.  Think landing an agent is too hard?  Set several goals.  Now don't set 32 and be content with just hitting one.

For me, I'm hoping to 1. Win a major competition, 2. Land an agent, 3. Land a publisher.

6. Finish something:
If you're like me, you have several folders, maybe Novels, Short Stories, In Progress, et cetera.  Inside those dreaded folders, I'm sure there are works half-finished, barely started, written but needing edits, written and edited but not good enough, and so on and so forth.  It's time to get in there and bring a story up to your standards.  Open that half-finished story and get it done.  Whatever it takes, make it a goal to cross that story off your list.  Choose the story which you think has the most potential.  Then put your targets on it and get to work.  Nothing is as refreshing as moving a story from the "In Progress" folder to the "Ready to Submit" folder.

7. Get rejected:
Submit your work!  I always see authors acting hesitant when it comes to sending out queries and stories.  If you're happy with the status of your project, then just get it out there already.  Think of it this way: to get published, you're going to have to stand in line for awhile.  So the longer you wait to submit, the longer you'll have to wait in general.  If you're receiving rejections, that means you're trying.  Plus wouldn't it be nice to free up some folder space?

8. Take it easier on yourself:
You're not curing world hunger.  You're not saving someone's life.  Unless you've written a non-fiction story about a friend stuck in a well.  Then you better get that thing published fast to give the paramedics enough time to rescue your friend.  But other than that, you're writing to entertain.  How silly is it to belittle yourself over not entertaining others?  Did you key your coworker's car?  Not pick up your dog's poop in the neighbor's yard?  Tell your kid, "I'm sorry, son, but it looks like Walmart recalled that movie you insist upon watching four times every day.  Yeah, and that other one, too."?  Then maybe you should beat yourself up.  But not over a story.

9. Stop worrying:
Rejections, plots not panning out, flat characters, losing work, not being good enough, losing a competition.  So what?  We all started with a blank Word page, right?  Who cares if we end up with a document and a bunch of messy words.  At least we're trying.  The worst that can happen is we create something we feel, or someone else feels, isn't good enough.  Even so, the writing we do after the fact will be better.  We'll be more focused.  Unless this isn't your hobby, and you get fired for making a mistake, stop worrying about a hobby.

10. Be patient:
This applies to both writing and where to publish.  I see many authors rush through work and self-published.  Ask yourself, do you want to make a few bucks to show a handful of people mediocre work?  Or would you rather make a few bucks and blow them away?  Have them come back?  Also, I see many authors settle fairly early in the querying department.  What I mean is, there are a lot of publishing options out there, and a lot of big fish.  Why settle for someone unknown who will publish you tomorrow when you can attempt to place your work with a big time publisher or land a high profile agent down the line?

It's simple: do you want to settle?  Or do you want to take note of what rejections say, then rework your story to make it the best it can be?  Sure, it takes more effort, but in the end, do you want to be known as one of the millions of self-publishers, or would you rather aim for specific name recognition?

11. Don't get jealous:
We've got Amanda Hocking who wrote a bunch of books and then self-published and sold them digitally for .99 cents a pop, netting her millions of sales.  We've got J. K Rowling who was a single parent living on state benefits writing those Harry Potter books on a typewriter.  Then we've got the Twilight books which aren't written very well, yet people will slice you for dissing those dreamy characters.  Point is, don't be jealous of these authors.  Of their success.  Call it luck, or talent, or baffling, but what these people have accomplished has no weight in the grand scheme of your life.  So don't bother yourself with other's success when it won't help your writing career.  Focus on you.  Focus on your own personal goals.  Be happy and feel fortunate that you have two hands to write with.  Or that you have enough money to afford a computer.  Or a pen and paper.  If you're reading this, perhaps you're even fortunate enough to own a home.  Be grateful for these things, because many don't have them.

12. If your idea has run dry, stop milking it:
Like this list.  I didn't have a number 12, but the title clearly states "12 resolutions", so I had to force one more out. 

On a side note, I hope to have an update on the Memory Eater anthology soon.