Just a little Tuesday Tip: Creating is the best

We all spin our tires. We all get bogged down with fear or rejection or the “reality” of what it means to pursue a creative career. It can be nasty. It can be incredibly discouraging when you look at the big picture, when you have 385 pages to edit. When you are just punching out keys to try to make your project move forward.

Inspiration isn’t always at hand. Previously great ideas don’t always pick up and soar.

If you’re feeling negative about pursuing the creative arts, stop what you are doing and start a new project.

Right now.

Do it.

Not forever. The hard work has to happen at some point, but it will seem a lot easier when you are gliding on the high of creation.

Because all the work is just work. But creating, that’s divine. That is the awesome and it is supposed to be.

Be excited about creating, even if its a challenge. Even if you’re not sure where its going to take you. Have fun with it! That is the point! Not the marketing plan or the sales charts or the end user. The creating.

Keep that in mind and you’ll find yourself succeeding every day.

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Stuck plot? Drop a bomb

Apparently I’m not alone in running out of steam in the middle of a manuscript. I have been trying to force my way through a sticky patch somewhere in the middle for the last couple weeks and coming up with nothing, so I was reading a few articles last night that commiserated with my plight. The middle is hard, even when you know where you’re going, things can veer off course, putter out, or just get plain boring.

Then I was reminded of something I read in Stephen King’s book “On Writing” about when he got stuck writing the stand. He just couldn’t seem to propel the plot forward and so he just took walks, thinking about what to do until the idea struck him. He needed to blow everything up.

He did so literally, putting a bomb in the closet and taking out everyone’s favorite character, Nick. I read “The Stand” when I was fifteen and I still remember that devastating loss.

The bomb jarred the stuck gears back into their roll in many ways. It shocked the reader, brought their attention and investment back into focus. It propelled the plot, forcing both the story and the characters out of the comfort zone. And it set up the end of the story.

So last night, as my character Raff had nothing on his schedule besides breakfast with his buddy, Popcorn, I blew up the bell tower. And the proceeding landslide pushed my story into breakneck pace where revelations began springing up as the ending moved a whole lot closer.

Now obviously, not every story should use an actual bomb. It might liven things up if the restaurant blows up in the middle of your rom com, but it also change it from a rom com to a drama.

But there are different types of bombs to be dropped.

  • A Truth bomb – A revelation comes to light that changes everything.
  • A life bomb – a car accident, losing a job, a fight, a break up.
  • A death bomb – an unexpected death of a major character.
  • A nature bomb – any kind of natural disaster that shakes everything up.

One of the best thing about dropping a bomb is that, since you don’t see if coming, neither will your reader. In the most authentic way you reach out and smack them across the face and say “Hey! Are you paying attention?”

And even if their attention had started to stray, they sure are now.

Have you ever employed this technique? Have you found it effective? Share your thoughts!

Strong Female Characters: Fact vs Fiction

L.C.W. Allingham

“”So, why do you always write these strong women characters?”
“Because you’re still asking me that question. “”-Joss Whedon

They’re all the rage. Run a search and you will find hundreds of articles on how to write them. We all want to create a Katniss or a Buffy or an Arya. We like our women strong, or at least we think we do. For every Katniss there are 12 Bellas and every Buffy there are 200 Lana Langs. In tv and fiction these days there are more weak female characters that we are told are strong than those who possess that actual qualities we seem to want.

So how do you tell the difference?

Isn’t is kinda amazing that we, as a society, don’t yet know?

It’s because we’re dazzled with flash and glitz and drama and a few broken rules. A strong character doesn’t need to wield a sword…

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Grammar Shmammar

I’m not sure if you’ve noticed. My grammar isn’t perfect in my writing. Sometimes I use an apostrophe after a possessive “its” or (gasp) type out the dreaded “your” when I mean “you’re”. I also frequently confuse my laids and lays and lies.

These kind of grammar mistakes used to keep me from sharing my work. As a writer and a former Journalism student, coming up against a grammar nazi punching holes in my work due to sloppy mistakes such as these was humiliating.

But the truth is, when I’m inspired, when I’m typing a mile a minute, when the words are spilling from my fingers to the page, sloppy grammar, typos and even incorrect use of “your” are hardly relevant.

A writer told me she was afraid to share her work because “she didn’t know grammar”. Now, that’s just not true. While grammar has all kinds of fancy words attached to it that we forgot after 8th grade English class, we use grammar every day to speak.

Blaine had turned on the oven the night before, but now he realized it was broken.

Past perfect participle and past progressive participle anyone?

Now, that’s not to say that you shouldn’t edit your work and you shouldn’t re-familiarize yourself with rules and formats that you are unsure of. I, for example, use to structure dialogue incorrectly. But I never would have realized this if I hadn’t put my work up for review and, the thing is, that the other writers who noted it (only about 1 in 7 I would say) just noted it in passing. They didn’t point and laugh and suggest I couldn’t be a writer.

Because it’s just grammar. If you accidentally replace a flat top screw with a round top screw while you’re building a table, you’ll still have a table and if you know your shit, it will probably be a really nice table.

If you mess up your possessive structuring or your comma usage, you can still have an amazing story. It is the content that matter.

Everything else is just hardware. Using the right stuff is important and it will make your job easier, but in a pinch, use what you have available and you can fix it later.

 

20 ways to have a good writing day (when you’re not really writing)

L.C.W. Allingham

When I wasn’t writing, I was still working. And I still had some great days as a writer.

Part of it was not freaking out about my lack of inspired fiction writing like I have in the past. I seem to always sort of hit a lull in October/November (Damn your timing NaNoWriMo!) and it picks up again in the late winter, early spring. I also have dealt with a little bit of trauma this year and I had to rebuild the creative reserves I needed to use for that.

So, for your benefit, here are some ways to have a good writing day that don’t require much writing at all.

  1. Your twitter writing hashtag contribution gets more favorites that usual.
  2. You got a query out
  3. You read an awesome book that inspired you.
  4. You read a terrible book and knew you could write something better.
  5. You figured out how…

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When Characters do the unexpected

So I thought I knew where my story was going. I had a working outline but I left plenty of wiggle room for the characters to make their own way.

Then something happened. The woman my MC was seeking just showed up. Came to him. It wasn’t something I intended to write, it just happened, and it changed the course of the story.

At first I struggled as to whether to keep it or to rewrite and go the direction I intended, but the direction I intended seemed forced and unnatural, so I kept going and it seemed to be working out.

Then, because the woman was now with my MC something else unexpected happened. My MC killed the villain. Just shot him. Oh, it was definitely what he would do, it worked with his character but it just blew up my plot completely.

What the hell dude? He was supposed to stick around until the end!

So this is a dilemma for those writers who don’t adhere to a strict outline, and fly by the seat of their pants. And honestly, now that I’m unsure where the story is going again, my momentum is slowing down. I’m still thinking about scrapping my last two chapters and going back to where I know the way.

But this is also where your own writing can get crazy awesome. Reading Stephen King’s “On Writing” recently, King’s description of a storytelling as uncovering a fossil resonated with me. If you try to control the story too much, you can end up with a flat story.

But I also know from experience, if you fly by the seat of your pants exclusively, you could end up flying for a very long, messy time.

This story is a challenge for me. It’s darker than anything I’ve written in a long time. It’s complex and I’m not sure about anyone’s motivation but my MC, and even he needed some coaxing to give it up.

But I think it has the potential be horrific and beautiful. To truly disturb and yet offer a seed of redemption. It is a story about chaos and maybe I need to let it take me down the same rabbit hole my MC is falling down, where I won’t know what I’m going to find until there’s a gun in his face.

If the hole goes on too long or ends up in a dead end, I can always go back to plotting.

Tell me your thoughts! Do your characters surprise you and what do you do when they mess up your tidy story?

When you decide you can’t fail

While my creative energy is going into my current novel, I wanted to share this again. Keep writing friends!

L.C.W. Allingham

Writers are notoriously pessimistic, and for good reason. It is effing hard to publish a book, no matter which route you take. First you spend months, years, decades even writing a novel, than you edit the hell out of it for more months, years, decades. Then you pick a publishing path and go down it and that, unfortunately can be and often is the most crushing of all.

If it’s your first novel or your second novel or sometimes even your twelfth, well shit, you might have to swallow a nasty big pill that it’s just not that good. And how discouraging is that when you’ve bleed your creative blood into that book for so long?

I did it. I gave up. After I realized the novel I had been writing and editing since college was just not going to get cleaned up like I wanted it to, I had…

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Just a little blogging break

It’s been a little longer than I like to go, but blogging has been on the back burner recently while I forge ahead with my newest manuscript. I think I’m about half way through and I am really excited to see where it leads me. So I will be back with lots of interesting things to say, but right now all those interesting things are going into the manuscript.

In the meantime, enjoy my inspirations for the piece.