Bloody Llamas

You can’t write a book if you don’t write it. If that makes any sense.

So leave.

You people make me angry.

Just recently (last night, actually), I learned how useful a writing warm up is. I can’t just plunge into a Word document and start typing my actual book. No, it gets my gears turning to handwrite a short story that has nothing related to the actual story.

Think you’re too good for a warm up? Think again. You’d be surprised how much more productive it can make your writing time.

So I’ve come up with a list of…interesting prompts for your writing warm ups:

  • A girl wakes up to find a note tied around her wrist.
  • A college kid finds something peculiar in his roommate’s sock drawer. (Something dangerous? Deadly? Ooh. Surprise me.)
  • Someone finds an odd message Sharpie-d on the bottom of their shoe.
  • A character is falling.
  • The sun suddenly goes dark.
  • Bloody llamas. Thousands of them.
  • The lamp on a character’s nightstand turns on by itself. (Ooh scary. Try and make it nightmare-worthy.)
  • The lights of an underground bunker flicker, then die. Screams fill the air.
  • The analog clock on the wall stops, then proceeds to move backwards.
  • A pair of stiletto heels clack against the ground, running.
  • Blood drips off a hand.
  • Someone is pried against the ceiling. (Supernatural, anyone?)
  • The keys of a character’s computer begin to clack, but no one is at the desk.
  • Someone rips a character out of their bed as red lights flash.
  • Make a character somehow use the phrase “wilted mangos/lilies/flesh.”
  • A contemporary setting where a beautiful girl has a giant scar across her face.
  • You, on a plane. (Why? To where? Are your wrists duct taped to the arms? Are you profusely bleeding?)
  • An awesome kick-butt story about yourself.

You’re out of excuses. Use one of these and comment how you used them.

Then write your actual story, because it’s your favorite thing to do!

Sarah

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PUT DOWN THE MACHETE

Write a couple hundred words about your character developing a strange fetish.

Then write a bunch of stuff on your actual book because you’re lazy and need to stop.

Tut, tut.

THE MONTH IS UP AFTER FINISHING BULLETS IN THE MOON. SUCH EXCITEMENT.

Which brings me to the subject of the next post you shouldn’t read.

Finishing and waiting to take a machete to your novel.

It’s either what you want to do the most or what you want to do the least: wait a month to six weeks to chop your novel to shreds and paste it back together. I love it solely because I love my characters and have peace of mind from fixing their story.

Most advise six weeks away from your newly finished novel, but I usually only make it to a month, if that.

So why is it necessary?

Chances are, your story gradually came to up and swept you off your feet. Your characters grabbed you by the hand and took you on a journey. Chances are, you’re going to get caught up in that journey as soon as your eyes hit the page.

Distancing yourself for so long is supposed to put your mind in the way of a reader. In doing this, you’ll focus on the problems of the story, not the perfection.

This is essential for editing; you can ‘t chop your characters to pieces if you’re busy squealing about your characters.

So as much as it hurts, put down the machete (aw, darn) and wait at least take a month away before mutilating your first draft.

And now for a cup of coffee and a long night. (I advise you do the same, because a long night in front of a document sounds amazing. Who needs sleep, right? There are characters to torture!)

Sarah

I Don’t Care About Your Sofa

Think about why you started writing, and why you’re still writing. Then go write, because that’s just what you do.

Frustration.

We don’t care about your character’s journey to the store. We don’t care about trees. We don’t care about the color of Marjorie’s freckles or the “tiles with white, gray, and brown stripe-y looking things.” We don’t care about the exact practice in how your character brews his/her coffee.

SO MAKE US CARE.

Everything your character does and says must have a purpose. Don’t exquisitely record your character walking to the store and noticing how many cracks are in the sidewalk and birds in the trees. Tell me “an hour ago  _____ went to the store and discovered a necklace” that spurred a revolutionary movement. Don’t tell me about the trees. Tell me how the trees portrayed soldiers that reflect your character’s violent nature. Don’t tell me the caramel-ly color of Marjorie’s hair. Tell me how her plain hair makes her blend into the background of uninteresting people. Don’t describe the sofa unless it’s soaked with aged bloodstains of the war. We don’t care about the sofa. We care about the blood. Don’t tell me about your character making coffee. Tell me how he/she made coffee with a hint of rat poison.

And just don’t tell me about the tiles. Honestly, I don’t care about your tiles.

Pointless scenes waste valuable time and words. You do NOT need to tell your character’s story with every scene written out. Heck, skip three weeks if they don’t have any point.

Keep your reader hooked with meaningful scenes. Not filler trash. Keep your own attention.  Gain momentum, and you’ll find yourself automatically keeping the boring scenes out.

So make sure your reader cares. Even in transition scenes that may seem absolutely necessary.

Open your document. Write the next important scene. And break some hearts.

Sarah

Murder! (Fictional Characters)

Write me a paragraph about the reeking stench of anger.

Then write 500 words on your actual story, because you loooooooooove sitting down to write!

You pansies.

When complaining about writing, what’s a writer’s favorite thing to talk about?

Why, killing off their favorite characters, of course!

The easiest-ish way to cleanly cut off one’s reader’s feels and make them smash your book into a wall. The easiest way to make yourself want to smash your own face into a wall. The easiest way to receive angry beta reader emails.

And the easiest way to make your novel cheesy and mainstream.

So why do we use this horrible method so often? Because it’s been so well done by others in the past. Because it’s so widely advertised in the writing world. Because we like to feel like we have power.

Maybe you’ve been planning to kill off a character since the beginnings of his/her existence. Maybe it sounds fun.

But I’m here to tell you to STOP killing off characters when it’s unnecessary.

When I’m reading along in a book and a character suddenly dies out of nowhere, it makes me angry. Not because the character is dead, but because it happened for no reason. if you created a character just to kill him for no reason, then does he/she really need to be in the book at all?

Don’t use character death as an easy way out of writer’s block. Don’t use it because you “feel like it.” Don’t, don’t, DON’T make it some big dramatic scene to cover up the fact that you don’t want he/she later in the book. Because chances are, if you kill off characters in these ways, your reader isn’t going to care.

Before you decide to kill off a character, consider these things:

1.) Do you need to kill this character?

2.) Does the death of this character fit into the storyline?

3.) Have you developed your character enough in the story to make your reader care about his/her death?

4.) Is there a viable reason for him/her to die?

5.) Do the previous events lead up to the cause of this character’s death? Or is it too sudden?

If you said “No” to any of these, please either fix the events leading up to his/her death, or delete the death all together.

And don’t make it commercial. Make the death mean something.

*A Tale of Two Cities Spoilers*

Let’s take a look at A Tale of Two Cities. If you’ve read this confusing, beautiful book, you’ll know that Sydney Carton gets his head chopped off because he decides he’s more satisfied with Lucie’s happiness than anything. It’s a good example of death meaning something–in this case, it’s his sacrifice that packs a such a punch and sent Dickens on the road to success.

But, most (including me) don’t think the character of Sydney Carton was developed enough beforehand. When it occurs, all we know about Carton is that he’s a lonely loser who’s hopelessly in love with a married woman who’s in love with someone that looks exactly like him (convenient, right?). We do not know the depths of his love for Lucie until he confronts Barsad and drugs Darnay. I felt like this happened choppily, even though Dickens constantly foreshadowed this happening.

*End spoilers*

So think about your situation before killing any characters off. but also think about how everyone will react, because this will translate the death into terms for the reader to use.

Now get out there and go (or maybe not) kill someone fictional.

Sarah

Villian Plagues

What is the next important event that needs to occur? Why must it be written? Does it have to be written? If so, for the sake of your story, go write it.

*Hums reprimanding tune*

I just thought of a cute little exercise you can do while you’re procrastinating.

Think about your villain’s characteristics. Is he weak? Self-seeking? Ruthless?

Now think about his/her tendencies. Does he drain the energy of your main character? Does he grow in his/her operations until it is impossible to function? Is he/she lurking but never seen, always gifting unknown effects? Or is he/she a leech on your hero?

Use these thoughts to name your villain as a disease on your main character. Perhaps this will help you generate motives and tension in your story.

For example: In my latest work, my villain has unknown motives, but he’s always around to confuse the crap out of everybody. He won’t make an appearance for extended periods of time, but when he does come around, he tends to leave destruction behind him. He has lots of workers. Little does anyone know (yet), he has a strong motive for my main character’s destruction and will stop at nothing. but while all of this is going on, he looks exactly like everyone else.

For this reason, I would name him as a malignant cancer. Ruthless, unpredictable, usually hidden. Looks like everyone else. And in many instances, he acts like a weed in the family.

Use this like you would use a Myers-Briggs test. Say your characters are traveling through a forest, and your villain represents yellow fever. Maybe the next scene is a battle that kills a close companion, drawing the strength out of your character quickly and effectively (like the puking). This causes your character’s judgment to become feverish and slightly off until he/she is dangerous and contagiously miserable, which brings down the entire party.

So think about how your villain affects your characters and get off the dang internet.

Sarah

My Carpal Tunnel is a Trophy

Your character is running. Running. Running. It’s dark. His/her heart pounds like a drum roll on a timpani.

Tell me who she’s running from, then go write your book.

Shame, shame.

If you’ve written continuously for an extended amount of time, you recognize the joy of carpal tunnel the second the fire shoots up your wrist. Deterioration of the nerves is a good excuse for not writing, right?

Absolutely not. Hand braces were created for a reason.

When carpal tunnel hits you for the first time while working on a book, go eat a piece of chocolate; writing for so long and hard that you’re in physical pain is exciting. You’ve stuck to it. You’re sticking to it. Your body says “No,” but you’re stupid enough to argue, “Yes.”

What a blissful stage of misery.

I do, however, advise taking care of your wrist when the syndrome does flare up as to avoid surgery. Sleep with your hand(s) in a brace so that it will stay level and still. Wear it when you have free time. (Free time as in walking the dog; you should be writing in your “free time.”) If you can tolerate the weird way it holds you hand, wear it while you write.

Let the stabbing fire in your hand inspire you. Let the knife in your joint propel you. (Ah, the writer’s life.)

And belt out your novel.

Sarah

It’s Not Just Cardio

If your character lives on Earth, what country would they like to travel through the most? Why? I expect an elaborate backstory to get your gears turning.

Then leave and write at least 500 words before your next obligation.

*rolls eyes* Unbelievable.

Let’s say you’re editing that nasty, beautiful novel of yours. Like most people, you have a method: read through it, switch stuff around and add as need, then line edit and cut out all the excess fat.

And with this last step, you’re burning, and burning, and burning off the fat, but now the writing looks like skin and bones. Why? Because you’re obsessed with cardio and not strength training.

You, like me, probably spend too much time criticizing your work and chopping off all the ugly stuff that doesn’t seem good enough. More than often, I’m burning away the muscle of my novel because it looks “bulky.”

You allowed your story to eat its carbs and cupcakes in the first draft, and the after-Christmas editing phase drove you crazy with obsession. You starved your novel to malnourishment–missing sylistic phrases, choppy words replacing adverbs, and description that that depicts a sliding closet door rather than a secret trap door. And it’s noticeable. Your actions are merely actions rather than the eloquent movements of a story.

So while cardio training your novel, don’t forget to strength train; the body of the novel will become weak from the wear and tear. Build it up as you tear it down so that the end product is a lean fighter that can make it through the valley of the literary world.

Now go lift some literary dumbbells.

Sarah

“Beautiful People” Answers

This post is literally keeping you from writing a novel. A novel. Think twice before you proceed.

These are my answers to the “Beautiful People: Author Edition” on Further Up and Further In blog (found at http://bit.ly/1tktAlJ). It recently occurred to me that you guys know pretty much nothing about me except that I have an increasing sticky note problem and I procrastinate.

So here it is:

1.) How many years have you been writing? When did you officially consider yourself a “writer?”

I’ve been officially writing for 5-ish years. I officially considered myself a writer when I was thirteen and thought I was the best.

2.) How/why did you start writing?

I got the idea to write from my older sister who writes fan fiction. I tried to do the same for Harry Potter (which, by this point, I had read through the series four or five times), but I couldn’t come up with any good ideas. But suddenly, I got the image of a girl waking up to a letter tied to her bed frame. Thus, the first draft of my first book began (terribly).

3.) What’s your favorite part of writing?

To be honest, finishing. I like the satisfaction of having finished something big. But working at five in the morning after staying up until then is fun, too. Even though it hurts. I seem to write my best when I’m freezing, tired, and generally miserable.

4.) What’s your biggest writing struggle?

Actually writing. And maybe following through with ideas.

5.) Do you write best at day or night?

I can’t write when there’s natural light in my room. It has to be lamplight, and low music must be playing. If it’s daytime, I have to be outside on my front porch in the exact same corner every time, and the sun cannot directly shine onto the porch. (It’s an OCD thing, I think.) Otherwise I get nothing done.

6.) What does you writing space look like?

A desk. A chair that doesn’t match. Sticky notes EVERYWHERE.

7.) How long does it typically take you to complete a draft?

Well, I’ve been known to take three years, but I’ve also been known to write the beginning of a book, stop, then pick it back up months later and finish it within the month.

8.) How many projects do you work on at once?

Ah. One. I’ve tried to do multiple, but it never works; one always gets pushed to the back burner.

9.) Do you prefer writing happy endings, sad ones, or something in between?

Sad. Always sad. If not sad, the painfully bittersweet. (Not for my current series, though. Ha!)

10.) List a few author who have influenced your writing journey.

— J. K. Rowling (Her rags-to-riches story)

— Stephen King (His unique writing journey)

11.) Do you let people read your writing? Why or why not?

It really depends. on the novel I just recently finished, I let someone beta read it along with one of my friends. (Keep in mind that this was the third rewrite of the book that I started when I was ten.) I did this because I really needed to see how I was doing in my writing, and if the book had really any chance in the publishing world. But with a book I wrote for the first time over the summer, I didn’t let anyone read it because of certain insights my characters had that I felt were too personal. That one shall never see the light of day.

12.) What’s your ultimate writing goal or dream?

I want to write and be published. But I also want to earn enough money off of writing so that I can make it a full-time job. It’s unreasonable, but it sound magical.

13.) If you didn’t write, what would you do?

Nothing. I would be a sack of potatoes watching Netflix.

14.) Do you have a book you’d like to write one day but don’t feel you’re ready to attempt it?

Not really. I have a thousand ideas swirling around in my mind. It’s just finding the time to figure out how to tackle them separately.

15.) Which story has your heart and won’t let go?

My first idea that started this journey. Even if it was crap and it’s changed so much by now that nothing is the same.

So there’s my writing secrets/journey, now go continue yours.

Don’t even think about lounging around on the internet any longer, you slacker. Go break some characters’ hearts.

Sarah

“I’m Not Old Enough.”

You know what would make your character’s day? Giving him the rest of his day. Go write. Get out.

If you’re reading this, shame on you.

As mentioned in previous posts, I knew I wanted to be a writer when I was ten. A number of years have passed since I’ve been that age, but for the professional world, most would still consider me too young to want to publish a book.

If you’re still in your teen years, you know how it is. “You’re writing a book?” “You’re too young. Go hang out with your friends or something.”

But let’s examine this claim I seem to hear 36 hours of my day: “You’re too young.”

Wrong.

Publishers/literary agents don’t care how old you are; if you write them a piece with potential, they’ll take you in a heartbeat. If you have talent, you have talent. Don’t ever listen to anyone who tells you you can’t get published.

Here’s another good one: “You should be living your life.”

Hah. If I want to write for the rest of my life, might as well get started now. Maybe swashbuckling adventures and feels attacks are living my life. And yes–I do occasionally get away from my laptop so I can get out and research real world stuff. “Living my life” doesn’t always involve social events.

“You don’t know enough to write a book.”

Okay, this one makes me mad. Chances are, you’ve hunched over fictional books to study their structure. You’ve probably scoured online for tips, practiced your craft, and read countless books way out of your age group level just to learn the craft. You probably know more about the literary world than most adults. You work hard to write your book.

Maybe they accuse you of not knowing enough about how the world runs. Again, you’ve learned how to get the information you need. This argument is usually invalid as well. (But then again, there are some writers out there who don’t know what the heck they’re talking about.)

“Aw, that’s so great! Can I read it when you’re finished? I bet you’ll be famous!”

Let me throw up. There’s so much wrong with this one.

Most adults aren’t going to take you seriously. They’re just not. You’ve got to learn to accept the fact, considering most adults probably look at us like we’re crazed, ambitious, ignorant children. But maybe that’s okay; they’ll be surprised when you whip out that finished product and it’s above their heads.

If anyone asks to read your book, just say no. Do yourself a favor, and say no. Chances are, your first draft is horrendous (which is okay), and they’ll either judge you, or just never finish the book, then tell you it’s fabulous. Your first draft should only reach your eyes. (Okay, I’m a hypocrite. I let people read my first draft, but they’re writers, too.)

If anyone tells you you’re going to be famous, run the other way. That is the most ignorant thing to say to a young writer who knows his/her numbers. There is a very small chance that I’ll become famous for writing. Not that I would want to be, anyway. J. K. Rowling and Stephen King are only billion/millionaires by writing because they’re geniuses who know what they’re doing. When people forsee you being famous, it sets a dangerous vision. You’ll want to meet those expectations, and there’s a big chance you never will. (Sorry. It’s just the truth.)

Most of the adults you know have no idea about the literary world. They assume, and then try to correct you. So be polite, smile, and take what they try to tell you as a grain of salt.

You (probably) know your stuff.

Now go prove it. Write.

Sarah

Treat Your Ears

Write a two hundred word scene where your main character is the opposite gender. Don’t waste three minutes by reading the rest of this post.

*Disapprovingly shakes head*

Other than writing, music is my favorite thing. I’ll listen to everything except rap and country.

More than often, I use it to write. It fills the empty silence so my mind can work. If you’ve had a history of not being able to work with noise, disregard everything I’m about to tell you.

There’s a variety of ways to get music for writing: Pandora, Spotify, Focus@will, iTunes, YouTube, and 8tracks. Each have benefits, but 8tracks is my absolute favorite for a number of reasons:

1.) You can listen to the same playlist over and over again.

2.) You can find new music easy.

3.) You can find playlists based on the mood of a scene.

4.) You can mix and match with favorite songs.

5.) It’s ad-free (when the songs are playing, at least).

When I listen to music with my writing, there have to be certain things for me to get anything done and not get distracted. First, the music has to be mellow indie folk of some kind. Next, most of the songs have to be ones I don’t know by heart to I don’t end up actually listening to the music in the front of my mind. Last, it can’t be through headphones. There needs to be other small noises.

You may be different in music and writing than me, but this is what I’ve found to be helpful for me.

Many people like instrumentals so they don’t have to process the words. Find film scores on YouTube for this, or use tags on 8tracks to find music without any words.Other people like to blare their music (I have no idea how.). Others like music they already know, which I think is weird and boring, too.

Remember: Writing to music is supposed to increase productivity.

Now go write.

Sarah