We Will Write

My friends, we will write.

Everyone Else: This isn't just like a journey to a bookstore, where you summon your credit card and buy all of the books that speak to you. This is writing.

My fellow writers have defeated their armies and they have succeeded. We will just be writing. My friends, have you forgotten all that we have done together?

J.K. Rowling, who was rejected by 12 publishers for Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, did she give up when she was told "not to quit her day job?"

C.S. Lewis, was he not rejected over 800 times before getting anything published and is not now The Chronicles of Narnia published in 47 languages?

Louisa May Alcott, was she not told to give up her dream of publishing Little Women and is not still in print 140 years later?

Stephen King, the man who has terrified millions, was he not told to stop writing after giving up on his first book?

E.L. James... no.

Writing alone is folly. I have known many great writers who have passed beyond because they attempted to write on their own. They fought nobly, but they were forced to give up. Writing is not for the faint of heart. Without my fellow Avengers, I would find it harder than I would like to do this. Join this community of writers! Connect with others on social media sites, share your pain and your success in all of your battles.

Sometimes, those fellow writers, will help with your ideas and inspire you. I have a friend who shared a video from the Inter of Nets, that inspired me to write a novel that I am very proud of.

My fellow Avengers spoke to you about your ideas this month - how to find them, how they morph and change. But the important part to remember is not to give up. Assemble your team. Writing is not something you need do alone.


Out of the Loop: How to Keep Writing When You Get Stuck

Sometimes you look like this when you're writing. You've found the  flow and you're so happy, you don't even mind (much) when someone interrupts you. You might even smile at them.

And then there are those times
when you've hit that metaphorical wall and you're so frustrated you're coming out of your skin. The words won't come and the brilliant idea you jotted down in the middle of night looks dumber than a bag of rocks in the light of day.

So what do you do? You could put your fist through a wall or trash a small city, but I don't recommend that. You could delete all the work you did and move on to something else in that hope that you're not completely delusional in your desire to write something worth reading, but I wouldn't recommend that, either.

You need, instead, to get in the loop.

Loop writing is a technique I learned from a writer-teacher friend who learned it when she was in grad school and teaching her first freshman composition classes. It's a version of freewriting, and I admit I was skeptical about it when I first tried it, but it actually worked for me, and has worked well for many people. So before you go smashing that sleepy small town, give it a go. Here's how.

1. First, just write. Make yourself write, nonstop for five, ten, fifteen minutes if you can stand it, even if what you write is utter nonsense, put it on paper or screen. You can just start writing gibberish about a scene you need to work out, or the opening paragraph of your opus or notes on what to do next or how to flesh out a character.

For example, my friend was stuck on what to do with a character that she felt was getting a little too cliche, a little too much a stock character, the conniving, clueless Hollywood wannabe, in this case. So she got out a fresh piece of paper (she's kind of old-fashioned that way. I should introduce her to Cap). For about five minutes, she made herself write about everything that came into her head abut this character, even if the ideas made her cringe - or go "What the crap?", as you'll see below - just to see what happened. It looked something like this:
 always wanted to be famous worked
hard at it dance lessons @3, pageants, contests
local kids show in Texas wins national American
Idol type context show eats a tapeworm

2. After she reached her allotted freewrite time, she went back and circled everything that jumped out at her as possibly interesting or just plain weird ("eats a tapeworm?" what is that?) If you're writing on a laptop, highlight or change font color on any intriguing words or phrases, anything you think you can work with or might be worth thinking about more.

3. Start writing about the word or phrase for the next five minutes. Musicians call this "riffing" - you've got the basic notes, the melody, and now you're playing with it, exploring it, seeing where it can take you.

My friend was kind of freaked out by the "eats a tapeworm" idea so she highlighted that phrase and then just started writing about what that could mean:
wants to lose weight, pressure to look a certain way 
buys a tapeworm of the internet ???? find out how to
get a tape worm because she's on tour and has to maintain
her weight people are tweeting mean things wants to be loved

She kept writing and while eating a tapeworm is certainly a weird idea (and one that no physician would recommend), she realized that there was a level of pain and sadness to this character that she had always thought of as just vain and shallow. She saw the potential for pathos here in a young woman who wants so much to be famous, to be loved,  that she'll eat a parasite to stay thin if that will make people want her more.

4. Repeat as necessary. My friend highlighted the last part of her second freewrite - "wants to be loved" - and wrote about that and as she wrote she got to know and care for in that way that writers do as they come to see their characters as real people. She realizes that she has a more three-dimensional character now who will continue to grow and not just a stock antagonist for her main characters.

And as she fleshes out this character, my friend will Google whether or not people can buy and eat tapeworms on purpose. She figures she must have heard about it somewhere and it certainly underscores the character's desperation to be thin.

So that's loop writing. Some writers feel too self-conscious to do it, and if you're one of them, I have one more suggestion: If you're writing on a computer, turn off the monitor or tape a piece of paper to cover your screen so you can't second-guess and edit yourself. Just write and see what you came up with when you're done. There's bound to be one word, one image, you can explore.

Let us know where your exploration takes you, friends. I've kind of isolated myself from people for awhile, so I appreciate the emails and comments here. 

Whatever you do, keep writing.

The Idea Morph

Ninja goats.

You’re in-between projects, reading a couple books as a break after your last magnum opus; or maybe you haven’t written in a while, but you have other things to focus on.  Your writer mind, however, is always working, and out of the blue you get this idea.  Ninja goats.  Some people might have questions about this, but there’s no question in your mind.  You need to write this.  You need to write it like you need an actual ninja goat in your life.

But this idea needs a little bit of fleshing out first.  Whatever your pre-writing strategy is, whether it’s deep thought or encyclopedia-writing, you start working.  What would make ninja goats possible?  What would make them effective?  What would make them become a conflict, and who would be a good main character in the center of this conflict?  All your thinking leads you to great places, where you’re excited about the story and can’t wait to actually write it.  If you’re a pantser, you probably already started writing, but now you’re even more excited.

As you progress, whether in thinking or in writing, you come to a sticky place.  Everything you’ve worldbuilt thus far has been great-- the characters are going to be tested, the plot is going to flow, and you’re going to have a blast.  But… it isn’t working completely.  It isn’t working the way you expected it all to work.

Horror of horrors, the ninja goats are being pushed out of the story.

See, in order to have ninja goats, you had to uplift their psyches so they could actually think instead of becoming highly-trained eaters.  In order to do an uplift, scientists would need sufficient technology, and the process requires a zero-gravity workspace.  You could accomplish this by dropping the lab from a great height (Thor knows what I’m saying here-- that cage Loki trapped him in started falling and he lost all sense of up or down), but the easiest and coolest way to do it is space.  You shoot the lab into space.  The main characters are on a space station lab, but they’re a botanist and an archaeologist-- they have no reason to be on the specific goat-uplift-centered space lab.  They’re on an offshoot lab dedicated to botany-archaeology in space.

Are you seeing the problem?  If they’re on an offshoot lab, and ninja goats are uplifted elsewhere, the main characters will never see a ninja goat.  Which is a problem.

Oh, that’s easy to fix, you say, and suggest putting all the different labs into the same space station.  But that’s bad for two reasons: one, on the practical side for the scientists, archaeologist-botanists don’t want ninja goats running through their literally dirty work.  On the writing side, though, you have an enormous plot twist planned for halfway through the book where the life support starts killing people (I’ve researched long and hard and know for a fact that that is ironic).  The life support on ninjagoat!Station is an older model than on the archaeologybotany!Station, and thus wouldn’t fail that way.  It’s only because of science and funding and weird politics and media that the newer life support ever existed.

Anyway, Stark is feeding me all this science and I’m doing my best to explain it all, but it’s not really working.  The point is, your main characters will never see ninja goats in their lifetime.  Thus, your readers will never see ninja goats.

Your initial idea has failed.

I’ll let you blink at that for a little while.  Ninja goats thrilled you.  They made you get off your rear and start working on a new story, when you hadn’t written in a while or you were still tired out from the last story.  Ninja goats burst from your mind fully-formed like some Athena of the imagination, the perfect idea ready for battle.  You needed to write ninja goats.  You needed to write ninja goats like you needed to write a good story.

There’s the tipping point.  No, ninja goats are not greater than a good story.  They aren’t even equal.  If you tell a bad story about ninja goats, it’s worthless.  A good story is so much better than ninja goats.

Look at your archaeology-botany-space-station-life-support story.  Look at those well-rounded characters in their vivid world, thrown about by the twisty plot.  That’s a good story.  Even if the first draft turns out like trash, as first drafts do, there’s a lot to love in there.  You could make this work.
What price glory?  If it means giving up your ninja goats, your muse’s once-in-a-lifetime gift, is this really worth it?  It’s sacrilege even to consider giving up the ninja goats, but…  Well, choosing between the idea of the century and a genius story is always tough.  But this is one facet of killing one’s darlings, as they say.  In order to tell a great story, you have to sacrifice a couple ninja goats.

This happens all the time.  You get a great idea, you begin fleshing it out, and the story you create has no place for the original story.  It’s always annoying when it happens, but here’s the thing about ideas: they aren’t time-sensitive.  Write down the ninja goats.  Put that idea somewhere you’ll find it in the future.  Maybe there will be a great story that features ninja goats-- for now, you have the opportunity to say that ninja goats inspired your archaeology-botany space story.  Which is not something many people can say.

Thanks to Stark for helping me figure out the science stuff, and for letting me post this without describing everything perfectly.  Apparently brain chemistry has some extra facets that I didn’t mention.  Which is probably wise because I’m still trying to figure out the zero-gravity stuff.  If I ever write this story, I’ll get it all straight.

Don’t worry if your idea morphs into something unrecognizable.  You have the last word on what this story will be, and you’ll choose the idea that gives the best story.  I have confidence in you.

~Captain America

A Change of Mind

Greetings, fellow writers.

I, Thor, have come to you today with a special announcement. My current alter-ego has chosen to move on from YAvengers, and will be leaving the team. This does not mean, however, that I am leaving as well. I have found a new alter-ego, and would like to introduce her now.

Meet Krista McLaughlin.

I am Thor Odinson of Asgard. There is no one worthy to carry my hammer, only I, the God of Thunder can wield it. I write as one called Krista McLaughlin, who frequents tales of young adults being contemporary or something of the sort. I must have a cup of coffee to write! My alter ago also prefers to be known as a Hufflepuff, Hobbit, and serious Trekkie. You may follow her on FacebookTwitter, and her Blog.

I have already gotten to know Krista, and we are sure to be a fantastic team. She and I will likely give a post toward the end of this month.

Farewell, and good day.


Publishing, Food, and a Teensy Bit of the Future

The end of an era!  The passing of a once spectacular time!  The slow goodbye of a thousand tears in the night of--

Wait, what?  No, nothing's going on.  I just finished my food.

Well... something is going on, but I'll get to that later.  First of all, we have the end of a great month.  May's topic dealt with Publishing in all forms, along with a little bit of networking and other things.  We didn't dive too deeply into it (there's still plenty to research, in other words), but we're still researching it too.  I don't think that job is ever quite finished.  But this month is a great place to start.

Speaking of great places to start... Well, he might be the worst place to start, but here it is: Stark starts!  He wrote a spectacular post on self-publishing, which is something about which I'm always curious.  He also relabeled it 'punk rock publishing', which I admit is something about which I'm less curious, but I'd try it if someone with my taste in music suggested it.  As for the post though, he makes a lot of good arguments for going self-published, debunking many of the myths surrounding the field.  It's a daunting way to go unless you've done the research, which Stark has.

Moving into the traditional field, Banner talks about cover art and the kind of control an author has in traditional publishing.  Authors don't have much control.  As someone who believes the cover and synopsis should further the book's intent just as much as the story itself, I wish it weren't so, but you take what you can get in traditional publishing.  There are some side effects with both punk rock and traditional, but there are benefits of each.

Hey, there's me, looking slightly out of place as usual.  I spent a post trying to figure out how to use hashtags, but also talking about connections in publishing.  How do you get them?  Do you really need them?  You'll find out your own formula for both of these answers-- the publishing world is different for everyone-- but this is a good place to start.

To round out the month, Thor weighs in (a lot of weight, may I just say, most of it hair) on conferences.  Networking is difficult for someone who spends most of their time in the dark with a glowing screen and a keyboard, but it's still important.  Know the types of conferences you might find, know what you're looking for, and above all, be yourself.

That's the month from the blog's perspective.  Behind the scenes...  Well, there's a lot going on.

You may have noticed I'm laying off the Thor jokes this time around (comparatively, at least).  Thor is having a bit of an identity crisis lately, and it's going to be tough.  His current alter-ego might have to go in a different direction soon.  We'll keep you all posted on what's going on-- look for an official announcement before Thor disappears entirely, and rest assured that we'll have a replacement on the team before too much time passes.  We enjoy having the full squad on deck.

That's only half of the problem, though.  I too am shimmying my responsibilities into a different area.  I have a mission to complete that might take some time.  Right now I'm working on stacking up posts to schedule over the next four months, over which time I can't tweet, can't write wrap-ups, can't do anything.  It's wonderful that technology has advanced far enough for me to stick around even while I'm off working.  I don't like the idea, but it must be done.

So what does this mean for you?  Very little, actually.  The blog is still active.  We'll keep producing posts for you to enjoy.  If you'll bear with us for this next period, I think we can keep you pleased.  As always, thank you for being here.  Without you, none of us would have a reason to exist.  We might have to change a little bit, but our reliance on you never does.  Thank you for that.

As always, have a fun month of writing!