You Know You’re a Writer When…

You write the wrong word and suddenly your work becomes a laughable parody in your head.

I accidently wrote “They were no strangers to love” instead of “They were no strangers to smoke” and then my evil villain went from murderous to Rick Astley.

What a weird spin off that would be.

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Writer Life Lesson #12: Keep Moving Forward!

How often does it happen that we decide to take breaks and then never return to the project we started? Quite often actually. We, as writers, decide that the project will never meet our expectations, or that there is a better, more urgent idea that needs to come first. This is a pretty common occurance and it can happen for several reasons, but it can be reversed.

This week’s lesson is: Keep Moving Forward.

The Disney movie, Meet the Robinsons had it right. As writers and creators we need to keep moving forward. This isn’t to say that we need to abandon those unfinished projects, or stay tied to them if we feel they are going nowhere. There are several ways to move forward, and whatever works best for you is the best way to move forward.

Sometimes moving forward with your project means going back to the beginning stages of writing. I can’t tell you the number of times I have returned to my very first outline and reoutlined or added several scenes. When you reach the end of one stage, it is often the beginning of the next stage. Just because you return to an old project, or restart another project does not mean you are moving backwards. Sometimes moving backwards is moving forward in terms of creation.

The opposite is true too. Sometimes moving forward is deciding to not continue a project, or idea. Still, last week’s lesson rings true. You can decide to stop working on a project, and decide that it isn’t working in the present time, but don’t throw it away. Years or decades later you could read through it and find a solution. There are several projects of mine that I have put on hiatus throughout my high school and early college years that only now, as I am working on a different project, I realize how they can all connect and how I need to finish several of them to make sense.

This lesson applies more to just writing too. To advance, we need to keep moving forward and keep learning and growing as individuals. Personally, I think about this a lot. This week especially, I considered deleting the entire blog challenge for this month and pretending like it never even existed. I decided that would not be honest of me. It is a blog challenge and though it was supposed to be in May, some of it might expand into June.

This lesson also rings true to me because I finally continued writing my novel this week. It’s the first words I have written for that novel since mid March. The story of that is long and complicated, with a lot of excuses to avoid it and work on other projects, but I came back to it. I know I have to keep moving forward with its progress. All throughout April and the beginning of this month, I have been distracted by other things, finals, essays and studying for my NCLEX to name a few, and I have had the urge to return to the first book in the series to edit, because that is the most comfortable option.

Sometimes, leaving a project is moving forward. In the case of my series, which is fluctuating between seven and nine books, if I continue to focus on the first book (which I have rewritten 3 times already), I will remain stagnant and it will take me decades to just publish one book. So, I am letting it sit and working on the rest of the series (more specifically book 2) to make it feel new again.

Moving Forward can mean several different things to several different people. To keep moving forward, just do what works best for you. Whether it’s going back to a previous project, or leaving a project to marinate.

Keep Moving Forward and making progress!

Writer Life Lesson #11: Keep All Your Work

A lot of the time, we, as writers, cringe at some of our past works. We look back at the simple plot lines, the horrible dialogue, and the stupidest names and just want to chuck it in the nearest garbage can and kill it with fire. I have been there many times, first drafts and unfinished projects are the worst.

This weeks lesson is: Keep All Your Work

Sure, you may think it was the worst piece ever and that no one will ever want to lay eyes on it, especially if even you cringe at the piece you once loved, but trust me on this one. One day you will look back, maybe it will be tomorrow, or maybe it will be decades from now, and you will wish that you had kept that work, if not to look back on with fondness, then to see how far you have come as a writer.

I have several experiences with this. I have purposely thrown old work away and I have lost work unintentionally. Both of these scenarios are unfavorable, and when I purposely threw away my work I honestly wasn’t thinking.

The first instance, the time I threw my work away on purpose, was one of the last times I reset my desktop. I had limited space to put documents on an external hard drive and one of my stories, which I hadn’t backed up, or even worked on in years didn’t make the cut. To be honest, the story started out as a fanfiction, and I was in the process of augmenting it to be an original story, with original characters. The first chapter was awesome, the next chapter was hell. So in my haste, I decided to delete it.

Now, years later, I still think about that story and it’s potential. I wish I could go back and tell myself to keep it, no matter what anyone else wanted. I can rewrite it, sure, but it won’t  be the original, it won’t have that same feeling it did when I wrote it at the tender age of 18.

The second example is unfortunately more common. I have lost a lot of work over the years because I didn’t back it up properly. The stories I’ve lost from computer error, or crashing or any other technical problem are impossible to count. This is part of the reason why I prefer handwriting first drafts, but more on that later.

The story I remember most, that was lost to computer errors was one I wrote my freshman year of high school. It was a simple plot, and probably had attrocious grammar, but it had potential, just like everything else I never finished. It was on my old computer, and somehow (after surviving an earthquake) it overheated. All of my progress and work was gone.

Unfortunately, even handwritten drafts are not immune to being lost or tossed. Currently, the first novel I ever finished is missing. I doubt I tossed it, but it is not in any of the places where I remember putting it. I’m hoping it will show up eventually (while it is still readable- pencil does not age well).

So the lesson is Keep Your Work but how is that possible against accidental clicks and misplacing things? It’s quite simple actually.

If you handwrite: Buy a plastic tote. When you are finished with a piece, or a notebook or whatever you write on, put it in the plastic tote. Repeat until full. Then buy another one.

If you type: Subscribe to a site that keeps a copy of your work online. I suggest Google Drive, but there are countless others. Evernote, DropBox, etc. Anything that saves your work online and lets you edit it, is wonderful.

Good luck and may all of your work stay where you want it to!

Day 8

You are now unable to leave the room you are in for the next week. Write about your experiences day by day.

DAY ONE
My first thoughts as they shut the door and lock it are “Well, I suppose it could be worse”. My next thought is “It could be cleaner”. It is only hours later that I think of food. By then, it is too late to escape my confinement. The next few hours are spent shouting for someone to “grill me a cheese”. No one hears me.

DAY TWO
This room is cruel without food and water. If I had known there was no chance for food I would have planned accordingly, or at least cut a hole in the door for food to be delivered. I did not think ahead and I might starve here, in this room of many colors. In other news, the paint is not edible, neither are book pages. Still no one hears my shouts of “Grill me a cheese!”

DAY THREE
Surprisingly, I feel a bit better. I cleaned up the messy areas and found a dime and three pennies. It does not seem like much, but once out of this room I only need 87 more to make a dollar and buy me something from the dollar menu. Dang it! Now I’m hungry again. I must not think of food and water. I can survive this!

DAY FOUR
I continued to clean up and found a bag of half eaten trail mix. The nuts are stale and the raisins are beyond eating, but the chocolate is edible. Now if only I had something to quench my insatiable thirst! In other news, there were more books in here than I thought.

DAY FIVE
It is only now, after four abd a half days in confinement, that I realize those stains are not coming out of the carpet. I tried to make most of it into the trashcan, but the carpet will have to be replaced. The smell is also unbearable. I am forced to wipe myself with binder paper, which has now become my food source. The fiber does wonders for my colon, but is not as palatable as a steak. Mmmmmm, food. Dang it, not again! Two more days in this hell and then I am free.

DAY SIX
I have read all the books there are to read, eaten most of the paper, and used up all of the yarn to knit and crochet people for me to talk to. I need a life outside this room, and desperately soon. Mr. Yarny Bob says I might need therapy after this, but I tell him to shut his trap before I tear him apart and build a new yarn person. At least it’s better than talking to the voices in my head. They’re scary!

DAY SEVEN
Only a few hours remain before my freedom, and I anticipate my release. I require a shower and real food and water. For now I sit and twiddle my thumbs. The room is clean (with the exception of a few spots), and I got all of my reading done and my yarn all knitted and crocheted. Next time, if there is a next time, I will definitely stock up better.
The door opens and I smile. They grilled me a cheese.

Day 7

Write about your reaction when the object on your left turns into the object on  your right.

The object on my left is the book The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. The object on my right is a binder.

My raction would definitely not be too spectacular. It is finals after all, and at this point, I would probably just think:

So That’s where I put that!

Day 6

Write a rhyming poem about getting increasingly drunk

The first drink goes down with more pain than gain,
The sticky sweet alcohol burning like acid rain.
The next few more, easier still,
The taste beginning to resemble more than swill.

By drink four or perhaps five,
My skin starts to tingle and I feel alive.
I drink and drink and drink again,
Then the spinning starts to begin.

Still with more drinks, I fill my belly.
I try to stand to drink more, but my legs are jelly.
I stumble forward, grasping the countertop,
I challenge any man to tell me stop.

If they want to fight and tell me no more,
I shall kick their sober asses out my door.
Forget these glasses, and the ice,
I shall chug from the bottle, and more drunk by twice!

More and more, the room it spins,
If I throw up, I shall have to begin again.
I fight off the blackness and the shadows,
I find another bottle and down it goes.

More drinking and drinking on and on,
How many more drinks until my brain cells are gone?
I start to mumble, call for more,
Are we out? Send someone to the store!

I drown myself in the drink,
Prevent myself from trying to think.
The day I’ve had was one I wish to forget,
I need more drink, it hasn’t happened yet.

More and more drink, down I throw.
Where did the last five minutes go?
At the corners of my vision, the blackness appears
I haven’t been this drunk, guess I’m sleeping here.

I curse quite loudly as the floor hits my face,
I spilt my fucking drink all over the place.
The carpet is soft, and I lay there numbly,
Deep in my stomach, I feel something grumbling.

I yell at the others, my eyes closed so tight,
Bring me another drink, let me forget this night.
They fight me, and tell me that I’m already too drunk,
I yell back, but from my mouth only comes funk.

The carpet before me, though spinning and blurry,
Soon becomes yellow and greeen in a hurry.
The smell of the devil and alcohol past,
Hits my face with a powerful blast.

I try to stand up, but the churning keeps on,
My stomach a war zone, the bile never gone.
The last thing I remember, is trying to stand,
I blackout again, and stay where I land.

….

When I wake in the morning, my head it does ache,
Perhaps drinking the whole bar last night was a huge mistake…