Character matters

My go-to philosophers, Calvin and Hobbs

My go-to philosophers, Calvin and Hobbs

Joe’s Post #167 — Trying to get re-inspired to write has been a bit of a challenge.

I’ve been thinking a lot, which is something I do instead of writing, and this time, my thoughts have turned to character.

I want to make my characters real. Alive. Compelling. Full of good and bad.

I got hammered on a few short stories for lack of character depth. Oh, how much easier it would be to have a written story with theme music and linked sites to show the character’s backstory and they challenges they faced.

But, sadly, I’m not a director. Nor a movie maker. I’m a fiction writer and I need to find a way to bring my characters to life better.

So I looked at the novel I’m reading. No help there. It’s Baldacci and while he’s a best-selling writer and a darned good writer of thrillers, his characters are, at best, shallow and under developed.

Then I watched Babakook with my 13 year old. Apart from being terrified, a light bulb went off. This movie shows people in their worst state. It ripped open their ugly inner selves for the world to see.

And that got me thinking.

Is that what makes a good character?

a-game-of-thrones-book-1-of-a-song-of-ice-and-fireOh, lord there’s a lot of advice on this, but for me, it’s someone who’s complex. Queen Cersei from the Game of Thrones is a vicious, vindictive woman who has sex with her brother. A lot.

Yet…

Yet, she loves her children unconditionally.  No matter what kind of monsters they are.

She has a code. Protect the ones she loves at all costs.

Even if she ignores all the bad stuff. Like, ah, tossing other people’s children from towers.

Doesn’t that make her more compelling?

So how do I make mine compelling?

Make them less…. Good?

Hmmm.

So, I grabbed a glass of wine, sat in my favourite chair and began to challenge my character’s goodness. When my main character is drowning in a WW1 shell hole what if there is someone in there with him? Someone drowning too. Make him not alone. Make it not a lonely struggle.

Good. Hmmm. I’m liking this.

Now, he’s the type of guy who would save the other man. He’s the hero type. But what if instead of saving the other man, in his panic, in his fear of drowning, he steps on top of the other man to free himself? He’s 16. He’s shell-shocked. He’s living out his worst fear…

shell shock What if, later, they called him a hero for what he did in that battle, after he got out of that hole? What if he never told anyone what happened?

What if it became his darkest secret?

What if that moment in the shell hole haunts him forever? Defines him?

Hmmmm. I’m getting closer to making him a more compelling character, right?

Still more to do, but oddly enough, I’m more inspired to write about this guy, and that’s never a bad thing.

So now I need to look at the other characters. Maybe find some good in the villain?

*******

Is this how good characters are made? Or are there any other suggestions?

 

 

Are you a fussy reader?

Joe’s Post #144

I don’t know about anyone else, but I’ve become a fussy reader. Really fussy. All those voices that I have in my head when I do my own writing come out when I read other authors.

Hey, at least I’m expanding my self-loathing out into the universe. That’s a good thing, right?

So, here is a list of things that turn me off, because, you know, everyone wants to know what turns me off.

  • A bad opening. And by ‘bad’, I mean ‘boring’. I don’t need an explosion or a car chase or someone whacking some poor girl with a belt. I need something or someone to care about. Even beautiful language can only hold my attention for a page or two. What stuns me, though, is no matter what they say at workshops or conferences or retreats, books get published that suck at the very beginning.
  • You hide too much from me. I like to be teased, sure, like anyone, but when someone writes, “they saw the guy, then something happened,’ that books gets put down. I need details. I need specifics. I don’t need to be jerked around. Hello, Baldacci, I’m talking to you. I love your books, but every so often, you almost phone it in.
  • Too much narration. Ok, this is new, but I’ve found that the books I love to read have more than one character talking to his or herself. Too much narration, even in the first person, and I become like a man on an island desperately seeking some form of conversation. Even in Cast Away, Tom Hanks talked to a ball for Christsake.
  • No voice. Ok, like this is a lot harder to define, but a great voice will propel me far into the story, while a common voice, the one with correct sentence structure, rigidly proper punctuation and a bland delivery will be like some bureaucrat going on and on and on and on and at some point I fall asleep and start to drool.
  • Too much backstory. Oh, lordy, this one is a killer for me. Sometimes I’ll get hooked into a story and then whammo, I’m forced to read about who begat who and who begat them before that and how the world was created. Ugh.
  • Too much swearing. Ok, I totally know that makes me f*ing sound like some sort of uber PG a**hole, but sh*t, sometimes it’s like an author thinks voice is all about using them cuss words. Not that I’m against swearing, not at all, but the overuse of foul language seems like a copout to me.

GRROne thing I love, both in movies and in a book is a good surprise.

I’m jaded. I’ll admit that. I’m picky.

But if you can surprise me, then you’ve got me. For 2 hours, in the case of a movie, or for a week in the case of a book. Sixth Sense surprised the hell out of me, and it’s one of my most favourite movies. GRR Martin continues to surprise me and I’ll tackle each and every one of his 1000 page tomes with ravenous glee.

But screw something up, published or not, I won’t want to read ya.

So what things turn you off a book? The cover? Book length? Spelling errors (someone more common these days, much to my horror.)

Let us know.

Oh and who’s going to Surrey International Writer’s Conference this year?

Travel Writing – Why Do It?

Joe’s Post #137

Travel Writing – Why do it?

DSC00216It’s funny how much writing we actually do that we don’t count as real writing. We focus on novels, short stories, page counts, when the coffee shop opens… you know, what we call the important stuff.

But so many people take time out of their valuable trip to record their experiences. Not many think, oh gosh, I’m going to publish my adventures and make millions and get to meet Ellen. But many do think that what they’re experiencing is worth writing about. For themselves. For their friends. For therapy. Whatever. Bottom line is, they sit down and write.

shakespeareFor me, I began by writing everything down by hand way, way back in the 80’s. If you’d have asked me why, I’m sure I could have told you. It was my first big trip out of my small town to England, a place full of history, a place that had spawned Dickens and Shakespeare and Churchill, a place in which so many stories had been set.

How could you not want to go there?

How could you not want to write about what you saw, what you ate, what you did?

And I did just that. With my little notebook and a pen, I’d write in the morning while others ate. I’d write in the pub or in a lineup while waiting to see a museum. I’d write before going to sleep and when I woke up.

Looking back, I’m amazed I did so much work, that I was able to carve out time to get writing done.

But I felt it was important. It was a way to process my experiences. It was a way to remember details I knew I’d forget.

tower of londonHowever, for that trip and years afterwards, I only wrote about stuff. Like, “I saw the tower of London today. It opened at 8am. It cost 15pounds. I thought that was a lot.” Sometimes I managed a detail like what a placed smelled like or how the coffee tasted or how funny people talked. Or I even tagged why a place might be important like.

Then one day, while sitting in the shade in Sienna, Italy, I realized I’d been doing it all wrong. I realized travel writing was more about the emotions and the experiences. Not so much what I saw as what I saw and felt about it.

It transformed my travel writing.

And transformed it in more ways than one. Not only did I try make others feel like they were with me in my adventures, I spent a TON more time writing about them. Soon, I was even including things like hooks in and out, themes and, gosh oh golly, humorous observations.

It’s a lot more work, but it’s far better than what was on the first floor of the British museum. If you want to check out those blogs, go here, here or here.

And as I read more travel writing blogs or books, I see that they, too, do their best to relay the experiences, not just the facts.

brysonIn that vein, if you want one of the greatest funny travel books ever, read Bill Bryson. If you want a few blogs to check out, go no further than Alison and Don’s.

So, when you travel, do you write about it?

If so, what makes you want to write about traveling?

*****

Best show last week – Ok, put down your laptop, stop watching any reality shows, it’s Game of Thrones time, a show so amazing, that I even watch all the credits.

Book that I’m reading at the moment –  Reading Sean Sommerville’s latest book. The Unforgiven. Man that guy can write.

Pages written on new book  3 weeks in, have hit my goal of 10 pages a week. I’m finding more time and, more importantly, finding my groove, again.

Social media update – If you like anything  on my step-dad site, or this blog, please follow or share on FB. Pretty please!

Best thing last week  Writing more, reading more, and Game of Thrones is on, so life is very, very good.

Worst thing  More doctor’s appointments. Nothing in our medical system moves quickly.

Surrey International Writer’s Conference – Don Maass workshop

Joe’s Post #117

IMG_6034Don Maass workshop: “Creating a World Readers Want To Live In”

Is there a workshop ‘reveal’ etiquette?

How much can I reveal without violating the sacred writer/mentor code? Is there even such a thing?

Oh, hell, I dunno. If it were me and I gave good information, I’d say repeat it to anyone who’ll listen and repeat is often.

So here I go.

First off, if you’ve never been to a Don Maass workshop as a writer, you’ve missed out on something amazing. It’s not to diminish in any way the other workshops or presenters at SiWC, but Don (can I call him Don?) is a master of making you think.

How does it do it, the clever bugger?

He sets up an idea, a different way of thinking about as aspect of writing and then rapid fires questions at you like he’s interrogating you at the border about your bag that smells like you got into a fight with a skunk.

This year, I couldn’t hit his master class, but I hear from Silk it was amazing. Emotion trumps everything. I would have loved to be there, but couldn’t make it. However, I could make his ‘Creating A World’ talk.

So, I brought my glue, my coloured pens and fancy paper to draw up landmasses, add rivers and put in dragons somewhere. But that’s not what this was about.

As he put it, that’s location. He wanted us to make worlds people want to live in.

But how, dammit, how do we do that?

First, ask yourself, why do you want to live in another world? What is it about that world that makes you long to be there? Is there depth beyond the description?

In essence, how does a place FEEL? And the way we get to the feel of a place is through our character’s eyes.

Dammit, feelings, again!

He had many suggestions on how to make a world have depth, to get to those feelings, but here are 3…

What do they eat?

What is wonderful about that world?

What is the history, the legends of the world?

But all of this, ALL must be seen through your protagonist’s eyes. How do they experience the world. Go beyond the 5 senses (that we’re all taught to include in our writing) and live in the skin of the protagonist. How do they FEEL about what they see, they hear, they smell, they taste, they touch and how does it affect them?

That creates depth. That creates a world we want to live in.

My brain caught fire as I was peppered with questions like what do they eat at weddings, what’s your protagonist’s favourite food, what does he hate, what does he love, what’s a treat, what has he always wanted but could never have, what’s comfort food, what’s his childhood food, what does he love to drink, what’s breakfast, lunch, a snack, a secret snack, dinner…?

Then, THEN Don throws something at you that can really take your story to the next level. Something like, what does your protagonist hate to eat? Can there be someone in the story who loves it? Can your protagonist come to love that thing at the end of the story?

Brilliant!

Now imagine this going on for 90 min, give or take, and imagine examples and class feedback and lots of nose blowing (Ok, hey, I had a cold!!!).

game of thronesOk, so let’s take this idea for a test drive. Game of Thrones. What about food? Hell, there are cookbooks on the food!

What about how characters experience the world? OMG, every character, all ten thousand of them, experience a place differently. Does Geoffrey, the little psycho, see King’s Landing the same as Tyrion? Does the Hound have the same experience as Arya Stark?

What about history, legend? Do they all not live in a world where every city, every family (even the trees), have history?

You bet!

Now, is there a novel that you love, a world that you would like to visit? Does it go beyond description of places? Do you experience the place? Food? History? What’s wonderful about the world?

That’s the kind of world you want to create, right?

I gotta tell you, I went home wanting to write. Needing to write. To get that world out of my head and onto the page. To make my world another character.

Don Maass lit my brain on fire.

And how cool is that?

 

 

 

Writing and social media – the mysterious Twitter

Joe’s Post #113

twitterAh, Twitter. What a confusing creature you are to me.

I’ve had you explained to me a whole bunch of times, but your hashtags and retweets and quoted retweets and sorting out the good from the spam, well, it’s a lot to ask of me. To kind of quote the very wise Pooh bear, “I’m a bear of very little brain and this new tech stuff bothers me.”

But yes, I’m back to trying to understand and use Twitter. In theory, it should be a thing I love. Something quick to read. Nothing too taxing on my small brain. A few links. Even the odd picture. But no, it’s something I’m struggling with.

However, I’m taking on being a bit more active in the Twitter-verse.

Why?

I’m an idiot.

But also I want to understand it so I can increase our 5/5/5 social media presence. Even if I eventually don’t go the Twitter route, I still want to, you know, get it. I want to live in the year 2014 and not hide out in 1980 when the world was simple and rad.

So here are my challenges.

  • How to find interesting people to follow (and who’ll be interested in anything I have to say?). It’s tough to read through people’s bios and figure out if there’s a connection. Maybe that’s the wrong way to go. Maybe I need to just spam everyone.
  • brienneI don’t want this to occupy my whole time. I want this to be quick. Easy. I can’t forsake writing to be the king of Twitter. Or the court jester of Twitter. Maybe that would be my title in Game of Thrones. “Good morning, Brienne of Tarth, I am Joe of Twitter.” “Where is Twitter?” “It is nowhere and everywhere.” And then shakes her head and she stabs me with her sword.
  • I want to figure out a way to get people to read my blog via Twitter. I thought of putting ‘naked women’ in my titles but wouldn’t that just drive pervs to my feed? They’re not exactly my target audience, some of my posts to the contrary.
  • I don’t want to wake up feeling like I have to feed the beast every day. It’s a lot of work and guilt that I don’t need. But I do realize that the beast has to get fed, so I’ll kick up my game with posts.
  • I am old, and new things are tough for me to learn. Eating pie is easy. I’ve done it a ton before. But learning something new and all techie and complicated, yeah, not my favourite thing. I have to be able to overcome the inertia of doing the same-old-same-old and overcome the confusion and terror of learning something hard.

So, anyone know how to make this easier? I hear wine helps.

In other news, the journey to a new book begins, like Silk and Paula and Karalee have posted.

Here’s the new running update.

This week, call it week 1

Ordered and received a book I’m going to dissect to learn how to write my book. I won’t copy it, but I want to understand the beats and pacing better.

foylesOrdered and received Foyle’s War DVDs. I’ll be writing a story set in WW2 and I’ll be doing all kinds of research, but for me, seeing something, looking at the fine details, is the best thing I can do.

Outlines Done – 0

Pages written on New Book – 0

# of pies eaten – 1 (ok, one slice, but it was amazing)

# of new friends made on Twitter – 86

# of new friends I imagine will read my Twitter feeds – 86

# of new friends on Twitter who will likely read my posts – 3

# of times I thought about giving up writing and becoming a lion tamer – 3

Courses I’ve signed up for – 1 (wordpress)

Days to SiWC – 14

 

 

More ‘It’

Joe’s Post #95

I am often accused of beating a dead horse.

Well, I’m too old to stop. I want to continue to look at the ‘it’ factor.

Karalee said it might be imagination and I thought, you know what, that’s not a bad observation, especially when we’re talking books over movies. 50

Great books stir us. Fan fiction gets written. Like when E.L James read Twilight, (and drank a few glasses of wine, me thinks) it inspired her to write 50 Shades. Blogs get posted (hey, just do a search for blogs on Harry Potter  and you’ll see what I mean ). Debates get started (whole forums are filled with Game of Thrones arguments and for the record, Tyrion IS THE BEST CHARACTER in the series, ok, the best!) Costumes made.

Wait, what, we all don’t make costumes?

Paula talked about ‘it’ from a writer’s POV, like what makes her want to write. And what motivates her to write is history. Her own. Others.

I totally get that.

Silk, wrote about ‘it’ coming from the heart and even, god bless her, quoted the economist. She’s bang on, as always. ‘It’ has to come from the heart.

And that makes me realize, we’re all kinda talking about the same thing, about where ‘it’ comes from both from us as reader and writers. hope

It’ inspires us.

Characters, setting, plot, laughter, tears, hope, fears, whatever.

For a book to have ‘it’, it must make me want to do something. It must spark my imagination. I want to talk about it, write about it, live in that world…

hobbitWhen I stole the Hobbit from my brother and read it, it inspired me to write hobbit fiction, learn dungeons and dragons (yes, I am that nerdy), and make more maps than a coked-up cartographer. When I read books like Sean Slater’s Striker series, or the Jack Reachers, or The Wheel of Time or LeCarre’s spy novels, I wanted to write books like that.

But writing can inspire us in other ways. It can make us better people. (and by that I mean wear a kilt after reading Outlander). It can make us think about things we hadn’t thought about. (I must have looked up every aspect of Mars after reading the Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury – however, the less said about all the maps and pictures I drew the better.) It can make us do things we’d normally not try (Bill Bryson made me want to travel and fall down a hill, oh and make maps.)

So, every book I’ve ever written has been inspired by someone else’s book.

And I want to write a book what will inspire others to write about my character’s backstory, or the world before or after my book takes place, or what would happen if my protagonist wore a kilt and loved to bind girls with silky ties?

A lofty goal?

Sure.

But why not try?

Now, lemme think. Has my book got anything that will inspire anyone to do anything?

The ‘it’ factor

Joe’s Post #94

Iitt. What is it?

That’s the idea the Silk put forward and I’d love to talk more about IT.

I have no idea what it is. If I did, I would be published, sitting on a beach somewhere and having elven princesses fan me with palm fronds. Silk thinks it may be a universal common ‘it’ that addicts readers and audiences. I’m not so sure. I think it may be different for everyone.

The reason this fascinates me is I’m working on a novel and I wonder, what would make it addictive? Unlike my other 5/5/5ers, I haven’t seen 12 Years A Slave. With my time so limited, I just don’t have time for something so horrific, so utterly wrong. I want my hobbits and dwarves to defeat dragons, I want the guy to get the girl, the serial killer to get justice, the world to be right and just in the end.

So what am I addicted to?

Game of Thrones for sure. But wait. That’s a pretty bleak drama isn’t it? Lots of death and nakedness and sinister yet likable eunuchs. So that’s as good an example to look at as any.

Why do I love it so?

dannyAnd here’s the thing. It’s more than one thing. Oh sure, seeing Daenerys naked is a plus, but I’m moved by the tragedy, I’m inspired by the struggle of characters to overcome overwhelming odds and I’m stuck by the vast scale of the storytelling. But that’s the big picture. Let’s call it storytelling.

You’ve heard it all before. Make good characters, then put them through hell, emotionally, physically, or spiritually, (or all of them)! Make us care about the characters. Make us laugh with them and cry with them. Make us want the heroes to succeed and the villains to fail. Make them human and not just cardboard cut outs.

kingSo what else do they do right on good old GOT? They always leave us wanting more. Each scene. Each act. Each episode. And that’s what I like to call technical writing. It’s the hooks into the scene, the stakes, the details, and the hook out, that Stephen King trick of making you give up sleep so you can read a bit more. Just a bit.

Good storytelling is vital (and has so many more things than just characters, but bear with me). Technical writing can keep us hooked. Combine the two and you have us addicted. IMHO.

But, in the end, what works for one person, doesn’t work for another. Game of Thrones is, perhaps, the best written drama on TV, yet I know the moment they toss the little boy from the tower, they’ll lose a lot of people. Ditto the fact it’s fantasy. Or that there’s nudity. Or that there’s homosexuality. Or that one of the main characters is, in fact, a dwarf.

depp pirateSo, for me, no universal ‘it’ because that would mean we all like the same stories. However, Silk could be right, each story will have the ‘it’ ingredients. Like Johnny Depp as a pirate.

 

*****

New Facebook pages set up: 1. Please like it. Please tell your friends to like it. Please get your cats to like it.

Pages Written on New Novel: 0

Outline % Completed: 100% done. Boy, I tell ya, it helps to do an outline. Soooo much got sorted out ahead of time. And it got the thumbs up from a multiple Edgar Nominee.

Blogs Written This Week: Lots and lots.

Queries Out this Week: 0 (only so much time) Just no time. Blogs. Moving. Outline.

Rejections for the Last Week: 0 (has to be bad news. I may need to move the 5 out there to 5 rejections)

Queries Still Out There: 5

Hope Meter: 70/100.  so, yeah, doing good.

“15 Things a Writer Should Never Do”

Joe’s Post #36 — Busy reading 5/5/5 books. Just finished the first one. Three more to go. So, with no writing being done (a big mistake on my part) and no agents demanding to read the most amazing novel of all time, let’s look at a cool article from WD.

From Writer’s Digest. By Zak Petit (my comments are below his)

Based on interviews with authors over the years, conferences, editing dozens of issues of Writer’s Digest, and my own occasional literary forays and flails, here are some points of consensus and observations: 15 of them, things anyone who lives by the pen (or seeks to) might consider. It is, like most things in the writing world, a list in progress—and if you’ve got your own Dos or Don’ts to add, I’d love to hear them in the Comments.

1. Don’t assume there is any single path or playbook writers need to follow. (Or, for that matter, a definitive superlative list of Dos and Don’ts …) Simply put: You have to do what works best for you. Listen to the voices in your head, and learn to train and trust them. More often than not, they’ll let you know if you’re on the right path. People often bemoan the surplus of contradictory advice in the writing world—but it’s there because there really is no yellow-brick road, and a diversity of perspectives allows you to cherry-pick what uniquely suits you and your abilities.

— Oh how many times in how many ways has everyone heard the ‘You can’t’ litany. You can’t write in first and third person. You can’t write a book about S&M sex. You can’t write in crayon and send it to an agent with a lock of your own hair (ok, that one may be true.) But seriously, the moment anyone tells you you can’t do something, I guarantee there is someone who did. And got published.

2. Don’t try to write like your idols. Be yourself. Yeah, it sounds a bit cheesy, but it’s true: The one thing you’ve got that no one else does is your own voice, your own style, your own approach. Use it. (If you try to pretend to write like anyone else, your readers will know.) Perhaps author Allegra Goodman said it best: “Know your literary tradition, savor it, steal from it, but when you sit down to write, forget about worshiping greatness and fetishizing masterpieces.”

— In the end, we all write stories in our own unique way. I love that I can write in a YA style, a noir style and a rich fantasy world style. But they are all still me.

3. Don’t get too swept up in debates about outlining/not outlining, whether or not you should write what you know, whether or not you should edit as you go along or at the end—again, just experiment and do what works best for you. The freedom that comes with embracing this approach is downright cathartic.

— Exactly. What works for one, may not work for another. Both have advantages and disadvantages. Me, I have sticky-notes attached to sticky-notes attached to walls, lamps, a mind map and sometimes my shoe. Hey, it’s my way and it mostly works.

4. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket when it comes to pitching something—always be working on your next book or idea while you’re querying. Keeping your creative side in gear while focusing on the business of selling your work prevents bigger stalls in your writing life down the road.

— This is a lesson I needed to relearn. Had I to do it all over again, I would start another novel right after finishing the YA one in 5 months. As soon as I finish with the June critique, I’ll rework the YA story then start a new one.

5. Don’t be unnecessarily dishonest, rude, hostile—people in the publishing industry talk, and word spreads about who’s great to work with, and who’s not. Publishing is a big business, but it’s a pretty incestuous business. Keep those family reunions gossip free.

— Treat them like you’d treat your family. Ok, maybe not your family because of that time your brother borrowed your car and got drunk and threw up in the tape player and then stuffed your favourite David Bowie mix tape in there and that tape took forever to make and… well, you get the idea. Me, I treat them like I hope they would treat me one day.

6. Don’t ever hate someone for the feedback they give you. No piece of writing is universally beloved. Nearly every beta reader, editor or agent will have a different opinion of your work, and there’s value in that. Accept what nuggets you believe are valid, recognize the recurring issues you might want/need to address, and toss the edits your gut tells to toss. (Unless the changes are mandatory for a deal—in which case you’ll need to do some deeper soul searching.) Be open to criticism—it will make you a better writer.

— I dunno about this one. I heard feedback from one agent given to another writer, not me, no really, not me, but he said, “Your writing isn’t professional.” Ok, what are you supposed to do with that? It’s just too vague, dismissive and somewhat mean-spirited to be of any value. But if you ever get a professional in the business to give you some constructive feedback, not matter how hard it is to hear, give it a good go around in your head and see if it could help.

7. … But, don’t be susceptible to the barbs of online trolls—you know, those people who post sociopathic comments for the sake of posting sociopathic comments. That’s what trolls do: they troll (on Amazon, Goodreads, Twitter, etc.). It’s not personal. Which means the message at the core of their words means as little as the 0s and 1s used to code it. Ignore them heartily.

Oh those trolls. Good lord. Find a way to ignore them.

8. Don’t ever lower you guard when it comes to the basics: Good spelling, healthy mechanics, sound grammar. They are the foundations that keep our writing houses from imploding … and our queries from hitting the recycling bin before our stories can speak for themselves.

— Amen!

9. Don’t ever write something in an attempt to satisfy a market trend and make a quick buck. By the time such a book is ready to go, the trend will likely have passed. The astronomical amount of romantic teenage vampire novels in desk drawers is more than a nuisance—it’s a wildfire hazard. Write the story that gives you insomnia.

— What, no vampire-zombie dystopia novels with bow-wielding heroines? I could write one, you know, I really could.

10. Don’t be spiteful about another writer’s success. Celebrate it. As author Amy Sue Nathan recalled when detailing her path to publication in the upcoming July/August 2013 issue of WD: “Writers I knew were landing book deals and experiencing other things I was working toward, so I made a decision to learn from them instead of begrudging them. I learned that another author’s success doesn’t infringe on mine.”

— Honestly, it’s other people’s successes that keep me going.

11. Don’t ever assume it’s easy. Writers with one book on shelves or one story in print often had to keep stacking up unpublished manuscripts until they could reach the publisher’s doorbell. (The exception being those lucky 19-year-old savants you sometimes hear about, or, say, Snooki. But, hey, success still isn’t guaranteed—after all, Snooki’s Gorilla Beach: A Novel has only sold 3,445 copies.) Success is one of those things that’s often damn near impossible to accurately predict unless you already have it in spades.

— Hey, it’s not easy. I’m not Snooki.

12. Don’t forget to get out once in a while. Writing is a reflection of real life. It’s all too easy to sit too long at that desk and forget to live it.

— Wait? What? Writing is a reflection of real life? It better not be because that would mean I need to write a book about napping on the couch, going to the bathroom, eating a hamburger over the sink or hunting for lint in my belly button.

13. Don’t ever discount the sheer teaching power (and therapeutic goodness) of a great read. The makeshift MFA program of countless writers has been a well-stocked bookshelf.

— OMG so true. Next week, I’m going to post about the openings to some of my favourite books.

14. Don’t be afraid to give up … on a particular piece. Sometimes, a story just doesn’t work, and you shouldn’t spend years languishing on something you just can’t fix. (After all, you can always come back to it later, right?)

— Yup, some of the novels I’ve written will remain in a sealed vault beneath my hot water tank. They were practice novels. Nothing more. And any rumors that one of those books is the great american novel that combines the explosive sexuality of 50 shades with the character depth of Game of Thrones and the gut-splitting humor of Douglas Adams should not be believed.

15. But, don’t ever really give up. Writers write. It’s what we do. It’s what we have to do. Sure, we can all say over a half-empty bottle of wine that we’re going to throw the towel in this time, but let’s be honest: Very few of us ever do. And none of us are ever really all that surprised when we find ourselves back at our computers, tapping away, and waiting for that electric, amazing moment when the pebble of a story shakes loose and begins to skitter down that great hill …

— I can’t. 

I write therefore I am.

Thanks to Writer’s Digest and Zachary Petit for inspiring this.