August 29, 2013

I Seeee Youuuu...

I know you exist!
Now for a bit of shameless self-advertising. ;)

Writing is the passion of my life-- from novel writing, to speech writing, to everything in between. I especially love to share what I've learned and the advice I've heard. If you've enjoyed my blog thus far, please share it with your writing friends or your writing group! Also, feel free to comment and/or ask questions by emailing me. The more I hear from you, the more you'll hear from me on this blog!

In short, if you let me know what writing topics you would like to see addressed, it will be much easier for me to provide relevant blog articles. :)

To contact me and my blog, feel free to email me at bloodytypewriter[at]gmail[dot com].

August 28, 2013

Kill Your Blank Pages: Self-Analysis

"Know Thyself"
Hey, sorry I'm a couple days late. College and all that. :) But here's part nine!

They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. It's a natural tool that we humans use to improve ourselves-- from the time that we're babies, attempting to echo the words our mothers coo to us, through adolescence as we mold our behavior or style of dress after our idols and role models, to adulthood, where we read books on business or parenting or whatever to try to succeed the same way as others have.

But there comes a point where imitation must end and true living must begin. Though it inevitably requires trial and failure, we'll never truly succeed by copying other people. You are you, not them. 

Throughout this series on writer's block, I have often encouraged you to find a way to write that works for you. Today I'm going to focus on this a bit more. I'll explain why you shouldn't outline exactly as the Snowflake method demands; why you shouldn't mimic Rowling's (or anyone else's!) prose; why you shouldn't limit yourself to recycling overused plot and character tropes.

In short, I'm going to tell you that you are YOU.

How to Know if Imitation is Stifling Your Muse

Stilted. Awkard. Fake. Tiresome. These are some words that you may feel apply to your writing if you don't know your own writing style very well. Whether it's cuz you're trying to copy someone else's techniques, or just plain don't know how to string a sentence together in a comfortable way, your muse will undoubtedly be stifled if you don't know how to capture it on the page.

How to Break Free and Find Your Voice

Here are some methods I've used to find my own writing style. Not all of them will work for you, but hopefully some will.


-Stop reading your favorite author. In fact, stop reading at all for a month or two, or even longer if this is a chronic problem for you! If you can't see something, you can't imitate it. So detox yourself from all that influence and take a break from books. (If you can't manage that, then just read a wide variety of different genres and/or authors with wildly different styles. Get your idol out of your head.)

-Experiment! If you write in the same genre as whatever author/style you tend to imitate, then take a break and try writing in a completely different one. If you write historical romance in omniscient 3rd person, then write a dystopian science fiction in first person. If you write fantasy, write an autobiography! It doesn't have to be long. Just write something that REQUIRES you to take a completely different approach to how you write.

-Go back and read something you wrote a long time ago, maybe before you fell under the influence of whatever you're imitating. What did you do a good job at? A dramatic murder scene that was just totally gripping? A unique turn of phrase when it comes to description? Find a way to take what you did there and apply it to your entire writing style. Maybe that humorous secondary character had awesome, original, charming dialogue, but you've been writing in third person. So try writing in first person or deep third with a similar character that allows you to add that natural voice to everything! Don't be afraid to be different.

-Journal. Yeah, if you're anything like me you wanna stab the screen with a pencil at the very thought. I certainly don't journal right now. But I did. Once. For two weeks, I took 15 minutes a day EVERY DAY to just write whatever came to mind! The events of the day, embarrassing stories from the past (I should probably burn it), weird dreams, why I was bothering to write the dumb thing, etc. It was hard. Sometimes I ran out of things to think about (I'll talk about this more next week). But by the end, I had gained a lot of experience writing in my own natural voice. In fact, those last two and a half minutes where I felt like I had nothing to say brought it out very strongly, since I would not allow myself to put the pen down. Do it. That's all.


-Stop reading. Again, mental detox! You read to gain inspiration. You stop reading to lose it, and in this case, that's what you want.

-Switch genres. Sometimes you don't need to stop reading, but rather need to start thinking outside the box. If your plot lines are stale and cliche, it may be because you're only reading books or watching films that all follow the same basic structure. Broaden your horizons and discover what's possible by exploring a different genre or style! THEN stop reading and stop trying to plot for a long time (say, a few months). That way when you go back to plotting, you'll have plenty of options at your disposal, and yet no fresh impressions to influence you. Hopefully this will help you to adopt a technique or structure that feels most natural to you.

-Broaden your experience. Sometimes just experiencing more of life helps you to understand yourself better. It also exposes you to more of the craziness that life can throw at you. This should not only inspire you, but give you a better feel for the kind of craziness you find most interesting and would like to write about.


-Stop reading. You get the picture.

-Analyze people you've met. So, unless you live in Plato's metaphorical cave, you probably know people. Which of your friends, family and acquaintances just fascinate you? Which frustrate you? Which make you feel bad about yourself, or want to be more heroic? What is it about them that makes you feel this way? The better you understand how human personalities and problems affect you, the easier it will be for you to capture these in your own characters. You can use the traits that impact you most powerfully to have the same impact on your readers!

-Meet new people. Along the same lines as above. Talk to the awkward wonks, the quirky extroverts, the stuffy intellectuals, the passionate activists, the loving parents, the bored teenagers. Better yet, talk to the unusual people. The broader your people experience, the more character traits at your disposal.

-Mix 'n' Match! Take all these traits you've identified and juxtapose them until you find something that really intrigues you. Create a character YOU'D like to read about. Every so often I wish someone else had thought of my characters, because I'd rather read about them than record their adventures. ;p

Motivational writer David Schwartz said it best. "It is well to respect the leader. Learn from him. Observe him. Study him. But don't worship him. Believe you can surpass. Believe you can go beyond. Those who harbor the second-best attitude are invariably second-best doers."

You are you. So write like it.

Join me next week (hopefully) for the final installment of KILL YOUR BLANK PAGES: A TEN-PART SERIES ON WRITER'S BLOCK! In the meantime, tell me about you! Have you tried any of these strategies before? What are some methods that you use to find your inner voice?

August 19, 2013

Kill Your Blank Pages: Fitness

Walking on water is sooo old. Biking on water = IN!
Warning: I was really tired when I wrote this… maybe it will help highlight my point where I talk about the necessity of proper sleep. :)

Hey there, you lazy bum on the computer. Get off. You need to exercise.

There. I said it. Do you hate me?

There's a reason we're writers and not Olympians (or maybe you're both, in which case, pardon me.) Most of us writers don't especially love to spend time bodybuilding. Our trade requires long hours of hammering on keys or dribbling ink over paper, which usually means lots of sitting. Which means if we're not careful, we get kinda squishy. 

But there's a more dangerous result to not keeping fit than simply our appearance. Unhealthy body means unhealthy brain. Unhealthy brain means unhealthy mind means unhealthy writing habits. So it's time we talk about that dreaded yet vital component of life (at least, to most writers I know).


Is Your Body Dragging You Down?

If you’re experiencing severe or persistent writer’s block, I’ll wager you my non-existent beard that it’s because you’re not fit. Unfit doesn’t mean fat, by the way. You can have a model’s body and still be unfit.

If you’re on my blog RIGHT NOW because you’re desperately trying to find a solution to your painful predicament, sit back from the screen for a second. How do you feel? Do you have a slight headache or does your brain feel sluggish? Are you tired, or unable to concentrate? Just generally unwell or not right?

Unless you have some kind of real medical problem that you can attribute these symptoms to, it’s likely the result of being unfit. You may not be getting enough water or sleep. Maybe you’re not eating right, or not exercising enough.

Well, my dear friend, your mind has gotten enough attention for now, don’t you think? Let’s focus on your poor body for a little bit. It seems a little neglected.

How to Physically Find Inspiration

Here are some recommendations on improving your fitness. Obviously, you aren’t going to hear anything really new from me that you haven’t heard before, especially because talking about health and exercise truly bores me to tears. See? Tears. But we gotta talk about this. Understand it, and your writing will never be the same.

--Drinkwater. You didn’t think I meant something else, did you? No, you have to stay hydrated! This link talks discusses the necessity of water to those who need to concentrate. Nowadays, I don’t even start writing unless I have a big glass of cold tea or water (or, y’know, something without sugar) beside my desk so I can stay hydrated without having to get up to go to the kitchen. It pays. My writing isn’t dry anymore! (Hahahah! I’m so funny… I love puns…)

--Eat right. Same article as above. If you’re eating junk all the time, you’ll feel gross. When you feel gross, your writing feels gross. So don’t eat junk. Also, I recommend not eating a really big meal before you sit down to write. Less is more! Your brain directs all your body’s energy towards digestion if you eat a lot, so that’s all energy that’s not going to your writing. You’ll get sleepy. Speaking of which…

--Sleep! Sometimes, all you really need to get your brain back is a little sleep. Or, if you’re truly fatigued from your schedule, take a few days simply to rest! Let your brain relax. Here I will note that there is a difference between resting and “vegging.” If you’re going to rest, I don’t recommend having any kind of technology at your fingertips. Or at least, don’t be on the TV/computer for more than two hours a day. I haven’t really researched it, but I know from personal experience that bright screens + stimulation = stressful to a tired brain.

--Don't sit when you write. Try finding or making a standing desk! Mine is simply a bookshelf in the TV room that has nothing atop it. It looks out on my lovely neighborhood, too, so bonus!

--Ok…You knew it was coming…EXERCISE. I can’t stress how valuable this is! Some reason many writers think that the nature of this profession means we are exempted from the law of nature that says “don’t sit on your butt all day.” I challenge you to spend at least 30 minutes a day in real exercise (not like 10 pushups or walking…). Jog or run! Hike uphill! Bike at a swift pace. Seriously, get your heart pumping. There is so much research out there on why it’s so important for all parts of you to exercise. But I’m sure you’ve heard all that before.

Don’t diss it ‘til you try it. Take a week where you exercise at least once a day for a good period of time. Exercise hard. See the effect it has on your writing. You’ll notice that taking breaks to stay fit will allow your ideas to subconsciously reassemble themselves in delightful ways! You’ll be sharper and feel soooo much better. I hate exercise, but it’s the first thing I turn to when my creativity hits a wall. It’s the only thing that can take my mind off my writing while still letting it mull in the depths of my mind.

If you want, find a physical activity that develops a new skill for you, too! Fencing, or martial arts, or swimming, or discus-throwing… hey, you never know how your sports may inspire your writing. :D

So. Drink water, eat like a human, sleep well, and if your ability to sit down and write doesn’t improve dramatically, post here and I’ll do a chicken dance and put it up on YouTube. Really.

So, take a week to improve your fitness, and when you get back, it’ll be time for the penultimate chapter of KILL YOUR BLANK PAGES: A TEN-PART SERIES ON DEFEATING WRITER’S BLOCK. T-t-t-that’s all for now, fffolks!

August 12, 2013

Kill Your Blank Pages: Inspiration

Gru: "Liiiiiigh bulllb..."
Hey everyone, I'm back! Sorry about the long wait (although I probably have like one reader, so it doesn't really matter, does it?). Here's part six of my series, KILL YOUR BLANK PAGES: A TEN-PART SERIES ON WRITER'S BLOCK.

Have you ever perused the “Books and Authors” section of the Yahoo Answers website? The amount of questions begging for inspiration help is almost unbelievable! “What should I write a story about?” “Help me come up with ideas for my story!” “Help! I’m stuck! What should happen next?”

Without a doubt, lack of inspiration is one of the leading causes of writer’s block. After all, if you don’t know what to write about or you don’t feel like writing, how can you even begin to fill a page?

There seem to be two kinds of inspiration. There is the kind of inspiration necessary to story invention, which I’ll call “brainstorming.” This involves coming up with plots, characters, story elements, etcetera. There is also the kind of inspiration that motivates us to write. I will call it “passion,” the desire to create, leading us to actually sit down and pound the keyboard.

Since it’s pretty obvious whether you’re struggling with brainstorming or passion, I’ll get right to business and show you some methods for tackling each problem.

Unleash Your Creativity

--Experience new things. Learn. Take in fresh information! What comes in must come out, and vice versa. Read a new book, watch a new movie. Travel to a place you’ve never been before, even if it’s just that hiking trail down the road you haven’t walked before.

--Be creative in other ways. Try painting or drawing your characters or a scene. Build a model of some important item in your book. Or make something totally unrelated, like DIY decorations for your room. What about reconstructing an old piece of clothing?

--Don’t be afraid of developing a new skill/hobby. The mind loves a challenge, and maybe what you learn will inspire you in your story. So you just learned martial arts, huh? Maybe your MC is good at hand-to-hand like you, and his skills are the key to that impossible scene you’ve been working on for weeks.

--Analyze analyze analyze! I can’t tell you how useful it is to know what is going on in the world and why things happen the way they do. Absorb the news of the day, from local to international, and study it in-depth. Try BBC news online—their reporting is usually unbiased, and full of fascinating facts and analysis. I will eventually write a post on this, so stay tuned for more reasons that being a good news reader à being a good writer (ESPECIALLY if you write fiction).

Awaken Your Passion

--Arouse your emotions. Dig up that frustrating memory you haven’t thought about in a while. Recall that horribly embarrassing situation that you tried to forget. Watch that movie that always makes you cry! Then study why you feel the way you feel. This can inspire your novel as you attempt to recreate those same feelings for your own readers.

--Get in touch with your priorities and find something you care about. What principal or idea or person or thing do you care about more than anything else in the world? What would you die without? Put it in your story. Now.

Inspiratorial Tutorial

--Listen to music while you write! Create a playlist for each type of scene in your book—the anxious ones, the romantic ones, the adventurous ones, the terrifying ones. Even if you play the music so softly you can barely hear it, it will definitely help you to focus on your story and inspire you to write like the music sounds. Personally, I like movie soundtracks because the mood-setting is built in. :)

--Stay healthy, in mind, body, and spirit. I’ll be talking about each of these later, but depression, sickness, stress, unfitness, exhaustion and other negative conditions can greatly affect your ability to be inspired. These problems steal energy away from the creative parts of your brain. Whenever I feel my energy draining away, I stop forcing myself to write and focus on solving my ailment.

--Give it time. As I have mentioned before and will certainly mention again, writer’s block isn’t always something you can get rid of instantly. It may take time. Don’t waste energy being frustrated by it. Give your muse a break. It will come when it’s ready, and, like a relative you haven’t seen in a while, it will surprise you with the amount of gifts it brings. :)

Hopefully, some of these suggestions will help you. I could have listed dozens more, but most are covered in the more specific topics of this series. If you know which specific aspect of your novel you are having trouble being inspired about (plot? setting? character?) check out the relevant post.

Next week we’ll move on to talk about a powerful but underestimated tool for defeating writer’s block. Don’t miss part eight of KILL YOUR BLANK PAGES: A TEN-PART SERIES ON WRITER’S BLOCK.