I couldn’t think of anything in particular to say for Thanksgiving, so instead you get a rant about cockroaches.
I couldn’t think of anything in particular to say for Thanksgiving, so instead you get a rant about cockroaches.
A writing blog is nothing if it isn’t helping at least a few people improve their craft. It doesn’t have to be a wake-up call for the masses that changes writing forever…but it should be relevant, entertaining, and at some level educational.
Hello, writerly friends. This post is partly in response to Hannah Heath’s recent post, Why You Shouldn’t Listen to Writing Tips Blogs, but in reality it’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while.
Google “writing advice” and you’ll get about 371,000,000 results. Seriously. I Googled it just now. Use the tag “writing advice” on a YouTube video, and unless you’ve already got 1,000,000 subscribers, that tag’ll do…basically nothing to boost your viewership.
You get what I’m saying. Writing advice has been done to death. It’s all over the Internet, sprawled over all social media, and published in hundreds if not thousands of books. As they say, there’s nothing new under the sun, and it’s hard to think of a piece of writing advice that hasn’t been blogged about a million times already.
And if you’ve read Hannah’s post (which you should have by now — come on, I’ve enabled tabbed browsing for you. Clicking on a link’s not that hard), you’ll know that we probably shouldn’t even listen to most of that advice. Sure, it’s great to learn from the professionals, but it’s even better to learn from published works of fiction. And even better to just sit your butt down and write, and carve out your own rules and style.
Plus, then you got the bloggers like me who aren’t even professionals. We’re just spitting out writing advice we’ve heard over and over again. Every once in awhile, if you’re lucky, we might do a post on a problem we actually have experience with, but that’s once in a blue moon.
So what do you think? Should writers stop posting writing advice? And if we do…what should we do instead? Book reviews? Updates on our personal writing journeys? Posts filled with memes? Or should we just accept our irrelevance in the abyss that is the Internet?
I don’t have an answer for this, guys. Do you think writing blogs are a waste of time? (If so, what are you doing here?) Are there any topics that you wish more writing bloggers would cover, but they never do? Do you wish writing blogs focused more on book reviews and less on writing tips?
As I said, I’m nothing without you guys, so please leave your answers in the comments so I can improve this blog…and, in a small way…the Internet.
(Who am I kidding, we’re all irrelevant in the long run.)
Thanks so much for your help!
Hi guys! So this is a new series I’m doing, where basically I link to my Thursday YouTube video. Today’s topic is taking realistic dialogue too far. Avoiding stilted conversation is one thing, but filling your dialogue with “uh” and “um” and unrelated asides is just as distracting.
How do you approach writing dialogue? Any tips or tricks you’d like to share?
You should write fiction even if you don’t want to. Whaaaa…Faith, where is the logic in this? Why would I spend my time doing something I don’t like doing?
There are many posts like this spiraling through the interwebs. But I’m rebooting my blog, I’m hoping some new peeps are poking around (hi peoples!). So in the off chance you aren’t already knee-deep in your novel and aren’t thinking “Faith I don’t even need this; what the heck?” — here are my awesome reasons you should write creatively.
As someone who hopes to make fiction-writing her primary source of income lately, I’m obviously biased. But storytelling is one of the most basic forms of human communication (look it up), and poetry’s pretty swag too, even though I personally want to bite anyone who tells me to make some.
(Wait…does that mean I’m telling myself to write poetry even though I don’t want to? Does that mean I need to bite myself? ASDFGEGLALS)
Ahem. So maybe you had to write a short story in eighth grade and you hated it.* But here’s the thing: writing for a cranky, underpaid, middle-school English teacher** is very different for writing for yourself, because you suddenly got an idea you think would be cool in story format. If it’s just up to you, there’s no pressure, no grades, no angsty peer reviewers sniggering over your shoulder…just you and your imagination.
*By the way, if you didn’t have to do this…why are you telling me you don’t like fiction writing?! You can’t knock it if you didn’t try it!
**Honestly, props to any middle or elementary school teachers out there. You all are the true gods and godessess of the land.
If you try fiction writing again and you still hate it, that’s okay too. The fiction writing world is not for all of us. (Some people actually like not having weekly existential crises. Honestly, I don’t know what they’re getting out of life.)
All of this to say, if you get an idea or even are just struck with a weird desire to write — maybe due to a post like this, who knows — don’t dismiss it because “I hate writing.” Give it a go. Maybe you’ll give up after three words, or maybe it’ll blossom into something beautiful. You never know until you try.
You should write fiction because it makes your creative friends happy.
Seriously. It doesn’t matter how bad you are at story, grammar, punctuation, dialogue, or any of that good stuff. We can fix that later. The minute I hear one of my non-writerly friends is taking up the creative gauntlet, I SCREAM FOR JOY because oh my gosh this is so fun and what idea do you have tell me all about it do you need help worldbuilding I kinda suck at worldbuilding but I have lots of good ideas let’s play with things let’s genderbend characters and experiment with psychology and learn stuff and plot and scribble and scream and fangirl and basically GAH I’m so happy you joined us if only for a short period of time and YOU MIGHT STAY who knows do you want to do NaNoWriMo?
I’m sure this never comes off as intimidating at all.
And finally…if you do want to write fiction, what are you waiting for? Boom. Ta-da. There it is. Post over. Well, kind of. If you’ve always wanted to write poetry, or a short story, or a novel, go for it. Again, there are posts all over the internet about how to write if you’re a college student/young mom/billionaire playboy, so I won’t go into that. If you really want to, you can write the freaking thing.
However, do know that you could be getting yourself into a buttload of work. Not realizing that is how you end up like me, with 1,000,000,000 ideas and 0 finished projects. (Technically I’ve completed 3 totally different first drafts, so that counts for something, right?)
Not everyone who does creative writing wants to publish and that’s fine. Some people just want to post their work on a free site like Wattpad for all to see, and some people never want to show that Word document to anyone. These are all fine options. Still, you should know that whatever option you choose, there is work involved. It’s not all fun and games.
That being said…JOIN THE FICTION WRITING SIDE. WE HAVE COOKIES.
(What? Cookies totally deserve a mic drop. They’re cool. Why else do you think all websites use them?)
I know, I already did a post about getting sick in Spain. Might as well cover the other half of illness. You know, the annoying kind. The kind that doesn’t go away just by waiting it out a week.
I’m talking about mental illnesses, of course, and man, they are the worst kind to have at the best of times. The best in times in question being going abroad. And that was a beautiful segue, wasn’t it?
According to my therapist, I have anxiety and depression — the lovely power couple that’s set to take over the world some day. My case is relatively mild, as I’m able to manage it with over-the-counter HTP vitamins, and everyone’s experience with those mental illnesses is different. However, there’s a few things anyone travelling with anxiety or depression should know.
DO talk to your therapist/doctor before you leave. This is so important that my school actually required me to do it before they’d let me leave the country. Although you might be pretty sure you’ve got it under control, you want to have the opinion of a trusted professional as well. In addition to knowing whether or not you’re stable enough to travel, a doctor or a therapist might know useful tidbits about the country you’re travelling to. For example, whether or not they carry any medication you might need. Which brings me to…
DO your research. I actually did not do this one because I am a bad potato, but also because my case is pretty mild. If you are going to need prescription medication while you are abroad, make sure you know whether or not you’re going to be able to get it from a foreign hospital. Some medications that are common in the US are not legal in other countries, and vice versa.
DO bring all the medicine you will need in your carry-on bag. This is for any type of prescription medication, not just medicine related to mental illness. You might also want to bring a doctor’s note, and make sure you check the official TSA guidelines.
DO take the new time zone into account when it comes to taking any regular medication. You might think you’re taking it on time, but really you’re six hours off. This can be jarring to say the least.
DON’T hide from people. This is a big one for me, because when I’m having a bad day, the last thing I want to do is go socialize with a bunch of strangers. Unfortunately, that’s a big part of the study abroad experience. If you’re not feeling the big group thing, see if a few people want to go hang out at a cafe or something. Or if it’s part of a guided tour, just hang out at the back of the group with the person you’re most comfortable with, and admire the architecture or the landscape or whatever it is that you came out to see.
DON’T let your space become a mess. I’m talking about hotel rooms, the bedroom your host family gives you, your dorm, your apartment, etc. If you’re already feeling down, a mess only makes it worse. And don’t give me that “but I’m just a messy person!” excuse. That’s my excuse, good sir, and I claim it as my own. This morning, I made myself clean off my desk because it was covered in junk, and you know what happened? I got the inspiration to write this post. You’re welcome, internet.
DON’T push yourself extremely far out of your comfort zone. This is one tricky. Veeery tricky. The whole point of going abroad is to get out of your comfort zone, isn’t it? Well, yes, but if you’re like me, you might find it hard to find the line between discomfort and actual fear. Because…a lot of discomfort presents itself as actual fear to me. The thing is, when your brain is sounding the alarm bells, whatever you’re about to do might actually be a bad idea. And if what you’re thinking of doing feels like it’s going to trigger a panic attack…don’t do it. It’s fine to miss out on cliff diving or bar hopping if those activities feel unsafe to you.
However, there is a fine line here, because stuff like talking to strangers in a foreign language can also feel like it might trigger a panic attack. Heck, talking to strangers in English is scary enough by itself. Unfortunately, there’s no denying that this is a very important part of the abroad experience, especially if you’re trying to master the language of the country you’re in. In that case…
DON’T travel alone. It’s so much easier to navigate a strange place when you’re not the only person making a total idiot of yourself. Take a friend with you. Order tapas together. Have the waiters give you condescending looks when you don’t know how to order a drink in Spanish. What would be humiliating by yourself becomes hilarious when you’re with equally clueless friends. It’s a good time.
DON’T hide your mental illness. Speaking of friends, once you’ve made some good ones, don’t be afraid to let them know what you’re dealing with. If they’re good friends, they won’t back away. You might even find out that they understand what you’re going through. (There’s a lot of people out there with anxiety and depression, my friends.) It will also help them be more understanding if you need to back out of a beach trip or a night on the town. Which brings me to the last point…
DO remember to take care of yourself. You’re abroad, so you’re gonna want to push yourself to see everything there is to see. You’re gonna want to get out of your comfort zone, make new friends, and if you’re anything like me, be way more socially active than you were before. All this is good. However, there will be days when you just need time for yourself. That’s fine. It’s more important to take things slowly so you can enjoy the trip in the long run, than to go go go until you burn yourself out.
That’s my list, although it’s by no means exhaustive. Do you have any other tips about travelling with anxiety or depression? (Please tell me. I need help.)
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What the heck, Faith. It hasn’t even been a week and you’re doing a post about getting SICK? Now is not the time! You’re supposed to be making friends and learning Spanish and PARTYING or whatever!
Yeah? Well…tell that to my immune system, will ya?
Hi guys. Yes, I was hardly in Spain for three days before sickness struck. A sore throat, to be exact. Or, as they call it here, dolor de garganta.
The sickness itself wasn’t so bad. It was the fact that I was in Toledo, that I didn’t know how to express my pain to a Spanish nurse, and the fear of spending part of my first week in the hospital. Thankfully, our group leaders were able to help me out quite a bit. If it hadn’t been for them there would have been much more panicking involved in this process. And much more pain, because if it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t have gone to the pharmacy at all. Because, you know. Avoidance.
So what do you do if you get sick abroad? Well…
Step 1: DO NOT DENY IT. I was all set to do this, but thankfully my group leaders stopped me. I’m pretty sure that if I hadn’t gotten some medicine, my sore throat would have gotten worse and I would have had to spend several hours in the Spanish ER. Not my idea of a good time.
If you are part of a travel group, TELL YOUR LEADERS YOUR SYMPTOMS. This was invaluable to me because I didn’t end up having to speak any Spanish at the pharmacy at all. I told my leaders what I was feeling, and they translated for me. Nifty, huh?
If no one in your group speaks fluent Spanish, I still wouldn’t recommend going alone. Take the best Spanish-speaker in your group and a friend for moral support, grab that pocket dictionary (don’t rely on WiFi), and taxi your way on down there.
Hopefully you’re not totally on your own (because that’s never smart when you’re in a strange environment), but if you are, most likely the workers at the pharmacy will do their best to help you. Use your dictionary, bring any medication you’re currently taking, and try your best. Again, it’s really not recommended to go alone. When you’re feeling miserable, the last thing you want to do is navigate medical terms in a foreign language.
Step 2: ACTUALLY TAKE THE MEDICINE. I feel like I shouldn’t have to say this, but if you buy medicine…take it. Unless it looks obviously shady — which it shouldn’t if you got it from a clearly marked pharmacy — it’s safe. I don’t think any over-the-counter drug can be very dangerous, unless you have an allergy to something, which the pharmacists will ask you about before they give you anything. If you’re really paranoid, Google the ingredients to make sure.
If you need to take the medicine at regularly scheduled intervals and you suck at remembering that (like me), set a timer. There’s no point in going through the hassle of getting to a pharmacy and communicating what you need if you’re not going to follow through with that.
Step 3: REST. Or should I say, descansa. Your friends may be going out to party. Maybe you were planning on going ziplining, or skiing, or hiking. Maybe you had a walking tour all planned out. As much as it sucks to stay put when you’re abroad, you have to rest if you want to recover quickly. Stay at the hotel and get someone to bring you food if possible. Or be like me and skip dinner entirely in favor of a brownie you forgot to eat on the plane. (Okay, maybe that’s not the best option. But going out may not be advisable either, depending on how sick you feel.)
Step 4: SLEEP. Sleep is hard to get when you’re running from city to city, and jet lag makes it even worse. (Suffice it to say, lack of sleep is probably why you got sick in the first place.) Once you’ve taken your medicine, do your best to get as much sleep as possible. The best medicine in the world isn’t going to make up for lack of rest and sleep, trust me. There’s no magic pill that makes you all better so you can keep exploring. Or if there is…find it and patent it. I will pay you. You’ll be rich. Do it.
Step 5: IF YOU’RE REALLY SICK…GO TO THE HOSPITAL. I don’t have experience with this step, thankfully, because my symptoms greatly improved after taking medicine, resting, and sleeping. However, my leaders had told me that if I hadn’t improved by the time we got to Granada, they would take me to the hospital. So thank God I avoided that curveball.
Hopefully, you worked out international insurance before leaving for your trip. If you’re travelling with a study abroad program, like I am, they might have put something together for you. Check your e-mails, files, and any other resource they sent you. It’s there for a reason.
That’s my travel advice for today. Hopefully, you’ll never need it. But if you do…hey, I went through this before you. As did thousands of other people. So chillax. It’ll work out fine.
(Unless of course it doesn’t, but your anxiety has already thought of that, so I’m trying to stay positive here.)
Stay crazy, friends!
Good morning!…afternoon? Evening? WHAT TIME IS IT OH MY GOSH.
Hi all. Roughly nine hours ago I arrived in Madrid, Spain. According to my current timezone, that was at eight a.m., but my body is telling me it was at two in the morning. So I’m a bit confused.
As I write this, I’m sitting in my hotel room wondering when dinner is going to happen. Around here, people usually eat late, maybe at nine or ten p.m. However, while all the other students in my program went out for lunch shortly after arriving at the hotel, I went to sleep. Because priorities. So now I’m subsisting off brownies and candy (thanks Nanna) and waiting for people to be interested in going out to eat again. I’m not doing this alone. Especially because my English rapidly degrades as I get tireder (see?!), so in Spanish I’d probably just ask to order a sock or something.
Speaking of Spanish, I’ve only had to use it in one tricky situation so far. Which is pretty amazing, considering my friend and I kinda got lost in the airport after arrival. And I’m proud of myself, because I was able to effectively communicate where we needed to get to, and the attendant pointed us in the right direction and I UNDERSTOOD HIM. (Probably because pointing is universal but shh.)
I did good. Time to go order some socks now.
Sorry for the lack of regularly-scheduled post, but I was at a friend’s house since Wednesday. And while I was there, I was of course freaking out, because tomorrow is the start of CAMP NANO!
I’m gonna keep this short, since my NaNo project isn’t. I’m shooting for 60,000 words (I know right) and tonight I’ve got to scramble to finish my outline because #procrastination. But I thought I’d pop into the blogging world and say hello to you all.
I also have a piece of advice for anyone who like me is planning on doing a large Camp project and has left planning to the last minute. The advice is simply:
Roleplay your characters. There’s this brilliant game called Ungame that’s meant to be an ice breaker, but as it turns out is a fantastic tool for roleplaying your story characters. The questions on the cards range from silly to deep. Some of them are so deep I question the validity of this game as an ice-breaker. (Hi, nice to meet you! What’s your take on death?) Anyway, they’ll help you get down both the minor and the major details of your characterization. #notsponsored
If you don’t have Ungame, you can still look up character questionnaires and answer them in the first person. Or, you and a far-away friend can do a character chat — basically roleplay over text. Set the scene, each of you be your respective characters, and boom. (This also can cause some really funny crossovers between you and your friends’ stories.)
So some quick housekeeping here. On Sunday, my family and I are leaving for a few days as part of our yearly 4th of July celebrations. Being who I am, I don’t have posts planned out for Monday and Wednesday, so I may be less active that week. You have been warned. I’m also not sure how much internet I will have so I might not be online as much. I’ll try to get back to any comments as soon as I can.
Speaking of comments, I’d love to hear about your Camp NaNo projects. Even if you’re not doing Camp, have you ever played Ungame or done a character chat? Let me know! And of course, stay crazy, friends.
So Wednesday is tag day, but I have not come across any tags that have particularly grabbed my attention this week, so I decided to make one. As you do. So here’s the rules that I’m not totally making up just now.
ANYway, I am here with ten delightful prompts for you to choose from. I am also making these up right now so they are sure to be perfect. Make up original characters or use characters from your WIP; I really don’t care.
As you can see, most of these are pretty goofy. Because this world needs more silliness. Anyway, I hope you take me up on this because I’d really like to see how you work these out. Don’t be afraid to tag me back with your prompts as well.
Also feel free to tag yourself if you want to play. We’re all-inclusive here. I just tagged those two in particularly because they’re used to putting up with my craziness.
So this wasn’t exactly my plan for today, but Grace @ Writerly suggested that I do a post on how to write conflict and strong emotions. Now, I’ve never particularly had trouble with this — giving my characters petty reasons to tear each other apart greatly amuses me, actually — but who knows? Maybe some of you need help with this too. Anyway, here’s what I got.
As you may have guessed from my last post, I don’t come up with plot first. I come up with characters. Deeply flawed characters. For me, that means the character has a belief rooted so deeply in their soul that they don’t even know it’s affecting their decisions. This belief doesn’t even have to be bad. It just has to affect the way they treat others.
For example, let’s look at some of my MCs from my upcoming Camp NaNo novel. (Yay! Another excuse for me to talk about them!) Tim Hayward believes that no one in his family really cares about him. Of course, he’s got a host of other issues as well, but this is one of the core problems. So he feels justified in treating his family like dirt, because he feels that no matter what he does, he’ll never please them.
On the other hand, his sister Nancy has been blessed and cursed with a more realistic view of their family. That is, she knows that her parents value all their children, but definitely favor their oldest son, Gabe. She believes that what other people do is out of her control, and it’s better just to roll with life. While this is a much healthier belief than Tim’s, it’s also resulted in her refusing to confront anyone about harmful behaviors, because she believes there’s nothing she can do.
It’s important to remember that two people can have the same belief and react to it entirely differently. Someone else who thinks their family doesn’t care about them might become reclusive and simply ignore them as much as possible. Or, they might treat them well on the outside, but resent them inwardly. Or — because everyone has conflicting values, beliefs, and actions — they might continue to desperately try to please their family even though they believe it’s pointless. It really all depends on personality.
So how does this create conflict? Well, going back to Tim and Nancy. Both siblings have explosive tempers and hate to change their minds. This naturally creates tension between them. To make matters worse, neither sibling tries to understand the other, as Tim is convinced that Nancy does not care about him, and Nancy is convinced that no matter what she does she won’t be able to change her brother.
As for strong emotions? Well, if all your characters’ actions are based off deep-set beliefs, you better bet that some deep emotions will be coming to the surface. How do you behave when someone challenges your most cherished beliefs? Forget about how you behave — how do you feel? It’s not a great feeling, is it? And depending on your personality, you might fight back, pretend to agree to avoid the conflict, or a host of other reactions.
What you want to do to capitalize off this inner conflict is to put the characters in a situation where eventually, they can’t opt out of conflict any more. Even the most conflict-averse characters will have to face their inner contradictions someday. And that’s great practice for real life, ‘cause that’s gonna happen to you someday, I guarantee.
But Faith. Lots of people die with really wrong ideas about the world. Life isn’t a story. We don’t all have to face our “inner contradictions” or whatever.
Well, yes. And no. We’ll have to face some of them. Because guess what? We all have about 1,000,000,000. BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA *cries*
Actually, one way to see if an author has thought through some of the other contradictions a character believes, instead of just the ones pertinent to their story, is to check their sequels. If the character gets bland and uninteresting in subsequent books/movies, you can bet the writers didn’t think them through too far. A notable exception to this are characters in plot-centric stories like the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew series, which don’t revolve around the characters coming to terms with personal issues. This is widely known as a Flat Arc, but you probably already knew that. And even those characters have fleshed-out personalities.
Finally, you might be running into the Author Omnipotence problem. Which, simply put, means that you as an author can see into all your characters’ minds and know exactly what one character has to do to another to resolve the conflict immediately. If you find yourself doing this, stop and ask yourself two questions.
If it’s not in any of your characters’ personalities to help/hurt another character, you may need to diversify your cast’s personality pool.
When all else fails, remember that humans are extremely petty, and can start conflict over the stupidest reasons. For example, who vs. whom. Or correcting someone’s grammar on the internet. Or starting a war over a soccer match. (This actually happened.)
Stay crazy, friends. I’m gonna go give my characters more contradictions now.