Monthly Archives: January 2015

Push and Shove

Reminder to self and followers: There is such a thing as pushing too hard. Stop doing it. You’re going to effing hurt yourself.

Sometimes, all it really takes is time off. Though you may not want to let your fingers rest on the keys or put the pen or pencil away, or even tuck the sneakers and exercise bag away, it is, at some point, going to be best that you do.

Relax.

As my own experience has taught me, shaped by perfectionism, completionism, and competitive spirits, as well as a fresh and lively fear of failure, you can go too far. You get sick or your head doesn’t work as well, creativity is down, but when you have a streak staring you down that you haven’t broken, and a chance to keep it going, you can become a slave to regulation and forget that you’re human. That you need time off sometimes to recoup and get better.

The story can wait. The words will come. Do not force it. The road is always going to be there, the gym, the laptop, the journal. The only person you are disappointing by not doing it that day because you know you can’t, is yourself.

When I was younger, on a swim team and at conferences, a popular phrase I’d hear is, “Pain is weakness leaving the body.” I used to be kind of gray on how I felt about it, but recently, a friend has shown me that it’s the devil. It’s a clever way to force you past your limits and get you injured. The same can hold true for your writing, absolutely, but in different ways.

Stick with me…

On paper somewhere, post it notes or a notepad on your computer, an idea is sitting there waiting to be had, and you love it, you fell in love, which is why you had to write it down. Except, right now, you can’t get motivated, but you told yourself you’d do it, so you start…

Stop. It’s going to feel strained, your writing, your language is going to look like it’s not all there, like your heart isn’t totally in it, and it’s not, is it? When you throw yourself into a pit that you don’t have the strength to climb out of, you trap yourself.

And the hardest thing I’ve had to teach myself is that it’s okay to fail. That it’s okay to stop for the day and let it slide. Don’t let it become habit, but let yourself move on to something else, and come back when your heart reaches for it. Like I’ve said in The Fires of Passion Part 1, and Part 2, if your heart is in it, it’ll be easier, you’ll know what turns and hooks you want to put in, you’ll dig in deeper and put your all in it.

I had a huge lesson smack me in the face about the time that I started this blog. That failure is a part of life and I need to stop running myself through when something doesn’t live up to my expectations. Or it doesn’t exceed expectations, or something disappoints me, or I don’t do well at all. To step back and say, okay, I’m okay with this.

I have gotten better, but Rome wasn’t built in a day and I have a long way to go. When you can see what you have or haven’t done in hard numbers, it becomes more difficult to give yourself a pass. You hold yourself accountable, you hold more against yourself, and you simply don’t let yourself off easy. It’s harder to relax.

Completion is most difficult because you see that you haven’t done something and you force yourself to do it all. I once did exercise on a day I knew was not good for it because I had taken rest days through the week already, and made myself sick for the majority of the day. April Camp Nano was struggled through and I forced myself to finish a chapter and put it in the book when I absolutely hated what I came up with.

Then you have the inspirational crap you see all day, on Facebook, on Tumblr. I personally see a lot of, “Suck it up and keep going,” not verbatim, but to that effect, and I’ve gotten to a point where it pushes me to get off my ass.

It is okay to stop. It is okay, natural, human nature, to feel frustrated and stuck, because it happens, but you know, at least you should, that it will not always be like that. Sometimes, you’re just not going to be able to write every single day, your head won’t be in it, you’ll have decreased motivation. It will happen, and it is okay.

I guess in a lot of ways this is a reminder to myself. Another step forward in seeing what I’ve been doing to myself and forcing myself, in better ways, to relax. To breathe, and to see that I’m human and sometimes, I can’t always do everything.

Progress is gradual, and slow. If running and writing have taught me anything, that would be it. You’re going to hate some things you put out, but someone else might love it. So write on, or feel free to stop. Pause. Recuperate. Breathe. Pushing yourself isn’t always going to be best or wisest. You know yourself and your body and your limits and your brain best, you make the rules, but don’t cut yourself short when you know you can do more, when you’re capable.

My favorite piece of advice I’ve had to myself is that, hard work looks ugly. It’s not all smiling models, it’s gritted teeth and tongues sticking out in thought, it’s hunched over the keyboard and hair a mess. It’s natural and normal and life. Don’t let the pictures fool you. Sweat. Pour your soul in. Let it out, unleash, and without hesitation.

Just be careful of overdoing it. It’s possible.

The Novice Wordsmith

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Guest Post: No Mountain is High Enough

Sometimes when Novice Wordsmith and I write, we try and beat a wordcount bar; whether it’s the 50K of NaNoWriMo or some other arbitrary number, it’s a goalpost to shoot for.

I’ve had years where I’ve done really well, pushing 100K words, and other times where I barely made it over the bar.
But like the climbers that just finished a 19-day free climb of El Capitan, the reasons for doing it are to have a direction to climb.    What we find sometimes is that a story can’t be quantified by ‘X words’ — it demands more.  A short story becomes a novella; a novel becomes a trilogy, because ones words just can’t be contained by a wordcount _limit_.
Similarly, at times the words just don’t come.   They’re lodged in our unconscious writers’ block of iced out ideas, and we just stare at the blinking cursor or blank page and nothing happens.  We start stressing because time is ticking, and our wordcount average is falling behind.
And yet we’re capable of superhuman authoring bursts of thousands of words in a single day — when the story demands it.   When the time is short.   The ‘right’ way to win NaNo is to meet or beat your daily average, since there is a defined ‘stop’ time at the end of the month, but for me, once November is over, I used to stop writing no matter where I was in the month.
Fifty thousand, sixty thousand, fifty four thousand two hundred and one — it didn’t matter.  I’d stop cold, and say, “I’m taking a break from this.”
The mountain of words was too high.
But the thing is, not everyone can reach the summit of a novel.   Sometimes the avalanche of words comes crashing down and you think your novel is a confused mess of words without resemblance to the perfect climbing path, with waypoints and scene interludes just _gone_, and you don’t know what to do next.
Other times, the way is clear, the steps to get from point A to point B are crystal clear in your head and make it onto the page — or you discover an even better route to the top of the peak — that ability to place that ‘Finished/The End’ flag there with triumph, and you can look back down at the beginning of the novel and go, ‘wow.  I wrote all that?’
But really, don’t see your novel and your writing as one mountain.   There are several large mountains in the world that people attempt to climb every day; there are also small hills, rocky outcroppings, and the tricky climbing wall of haiku or a screenplay to tackle.   Every person’s writing ascent is different, done for their own rationale and reasons (or lack thereof) and finding what challenges you to keep writing — and your wordcount climbing — is something you find within, rather than without.
Moreover, whether you’re at the top or at the bottom, you should always be looking to the horizon, to see what the next mountain in your path might be.

Guest Post: Building Up a History

Part one of a short series of posts about the building blocks of writing, deconstructed.

I asked Novice Wordsmith to give me a prompt, with the intention of writing a small story involving said prompt. And that’s a secret lesson; sometimes your inspiration for writing needs a kickstart from somewhere else besides in your own head. It’s not about someone giving you an idea, really, more like striking the match to bring a light to a cluttered room of imagination of your own.
So here’s my assignment: Victorian, Steampunk level,Tea Cartel.
The current monarchy is a tyrant, and has outlawed tea because it poisoned the previous king. Which was his doing. ( Or hers, could be a queen)
How does the tea cartel work, who is in charge, and how long has it been going? Are they the ones who helped poison the last king,and are they in cahoots with the new king/queen?
———————
Softball prompt, really. I love steampunk. If you want to challenge yourself, write in a genre you aren’t good at; if you want to write for enjoyment, write in your comfortable space.  
 
The meta prompt that comes to mind from this is ‘how do you build a history for a fictional universe?’ It’s very easy (almost cheating) to put together a story in someone else’s world. It’s like building a prefab treehouse in someone’s backyard and not having to go chop wood and weave rope on your own.  
 
Working with a genre, however, just sets some of the environment variables. (You can tell that I’m a coder, can’t you….)
 
Steampunk embraces the idea of ‘retro’ tech — big old clunky steam powered, electricity arcing, big brass tubes sorta feel. It’s low tech materials with a higher tech functionality. It’s also considered ‘historical’, because it’s based in our past — usually the Victorian Age of England, where we got a lot of lovely writing, but also the beginnings of big industry and world exploration.
 
Those are my freebies if I want to accept them. But the parameters of the prompt itself — monarchy by tyranny, ascension by assassination? Those are the ‘must fill in’ items, in order to meet the terms of the challenge.
Today’s post is about building up a history for a fictional world. Because characters do not exist in a vaccuum of empty space; we join them, usually, somewhere towards the early middle of their journey, although a few notable exceptions start at a character’s birth. The rest of the world has been going on about them and around them, and stuff happened before they were born, in order to shape the culture, civilization, and legends — facts of the world as taught to them by others, in other words.
There are two ways to witness history — either ‘get it from others’ or ‘be a part of it.’ A protagonist in these sorts of adventures is going to do something noteworthy, sooner or later; an established adventurer has already done something of worth. An established noble is gifted their place in history by the achievements (inherited or not) of their family.
Being a student of history gives your novel a rising arc. The idea of being nobody-becoming-somebody is the walk of the fame and fortune seeker; the idea of being a someone-becoming-historical is often the tale of a prince/princess or other noble using their resources to achieve something outside of the reach of the common man.
So where does your character’s history come from?
In this case, we have the Tea Covenant – people who know that the previous king was poisoned by tea. We know that tea is important to these people, originally the staple drink of the realm, but now banned.
Some immediate thoughts come to mind; what is drunk in court instead?
Answer: Cappucino. And coffee. And now I’m imagining the new Queen as someone who is very jittery, and jumps at shadows. But she’s also high energy, and brilliant in her own right, but she employs an army of engineers to forge a kingdom that plans to go to war with their neighbors. A military industrial complex.
Let’s say that the former tea fields of the country have been razed and turned into factories. So that any tea that is to be had is either grown in secret, by individuals, or imported from overseas, or stored in warehouses as contraband by the chancellor. There’s a black market for tea…
…okay, I like the phrase ‘there’s a black market for green tea’, because it has some lovely layering of color schemes and ideas in there, so that’s going to appear as part of the narrative early on.
The royalty aspect is a large chunk of the prompt, so we ought to have some connection to the current government, either the ones in power, or the ones deposed.
Playing with someone in the deposed family is kinda tropeish, because then their aim is usually ‘get back in power’. Let’s go with someone less in line with the throne, but someone who is in contact with them. So we can get some glimpses of the crown.
These are things to keep in mind when selecting your stable of characters; we’ll come back to that in a later post. Today we’re just sketching out history; so start by listing significant events. So far we have the following:
– Coronation of the new ruler
– Proclamation of the outlawing of the purchasing and drinking of tea
– Funeral of the old ruler (if there is one)
– Stuff the old ruler did that was noteworthy — maybe he/she held The World Tea Fair
– Ascension to the throne by the deceased ruler – we want to know how long they were in power
– If we’re going to war with the nations next door, how successful were we in the past? So there ought to be some sort of armed conflict in the history books. We don’t own a lot of land from or neighbors, so either they’re friendly, or we couldn’t invade and annex them.
– Invading your neighbors because they grow tea sounds like a crusade.
Now that could happen in any world, but we want Steampunk elements, so let’s not forget scientific advances:
– Phlogiston engine invented. This is fun for me because phlogiston (check Wikipedia if you’re curious) was disproven in our world, but it’s got that steampunky feel when you talk about it. “Don’t burn tea. It has a horrible phlogiston quotient, and people have been known to have respiratory issues and dizzy spells from inhaling tea vapors.”
– Transportation milestones. Let’s make this country landlocked, so the advent of a railway system is how people get rapidly from one end of the country to the other. And we’re going to add some mountains to the south where building over the mountains is prohibitive, but on the other side is a tea-growing flood plain…. so I think I know where we’re invading.
– Airships vs. propeller planes — Another steampunk staple; flight. Putting a steam boiler on either type of conveyance is not terribly feasible, so let’s go with -very- limited flight, which means a flight over the mountains and back is a big exploration event. (And now I have an idea for a pilot character, one who claims his father was the one that took the flight, but he’s being discredited for not really making it all the way over the mountain range since he didn’t actually land.)
– Literacy – is history oral, or written? It’d be interesting to have a contraband book of reading your fortune in tea leaves as a prop item, somewhere in the book, and maybe a secondary character tries that out. But as far as history goes, let’s figure out some noteworthy authors / books in the nation’s history.
– Entertainment — what sort of things do people do when they have cash to burn? Is there a musical stage play that’s been running solid for five years (a record), but has to be edited because the main character drinks tea on stage? Or maybe it isn’t edited, and it’s a scandal that it isn’t…
– Food and Drink — Okay, tea is verboten. But what about tea cakes? Have the biscotti salesmen had a sudden increase in their fortunes? How much food is steamed in a steampunk universe, and what does it taste like? What does the common man eat versus the nobility?
The point is that one approach to building a good novel is to build the world around the characters before you write a single word of dialogue. The world is full of undiscovered things -and- discovered things – if you take a look at the present day, and said, ‘what are five inventions that I wouldn’t be able to do without’, or ‘what are three famous historical events that I know a lot about?’ You would answer something concrete pretty quickly. If you then go and ask people you know the same question, you’ll get different answers — some folks slightly different, others vastly different, depending on their age and background.
When you build a world, it’s all about who lives in it, yes, but where, how, and why they do while they’re living there is also just as important.
Sometimes the best beginning of a novel? Is before the beginning of the novel.

Guest Post: Getting By With a Little Help from My Friends

Writing a blog is a daunting task. Everyone and anyone can have a good idea, but past the initial ‘hey this is cool’ aura, a public blog lives and dies by its readership and authorship. But not in the way you might think.
Authors are driven by two opposing forces; writing and being read.

Some of us are heavily on the ‘writing’ side, where we can churn out mountains of text, some of it looking like snowy peaks, and others like coal mines with smoke pouring out of them, or the occasional volcano of a novel that blows up in the middle and spews ashen destruction everywhere.

Others are deeply moved to write by a need to  share writing with other people. To teach, to entertain, to be loved for your art of the amazing prose.

Writers block hits both types just as hard.

For a writer-side person, all it takes is a good kick of inspiration.

For a read-me type person, a little outside help is what’s helpful.

So here ya are, Novice Wordsmith.

It has been an honor and a pleasure to read your work, and to inspire you to write things. No matter what you do with this blog, you will always be a writer, and you will always have a fan in me, as long as I can see, and tell you just how far you’ve come along from where you were writing story fragments and leaning on cliches to where you are now, spinning worlds and universes and coming up with ideas and plot twists on the spur of a moment. I love the fact that you’ve chosen to share your love of writing with the rest of the universe of the ‘net, whether they care or not; you want to show others that writing is for everyone, writing is a passion, and with passion comes power.

Everyone has a novel inside of them. Whether finished or not, the more important part is the Idea, the Character, the constant Struggle to Succeed that they go through, and life — yours in particular — is a novel that is unfinished. You’re writing the hard chapter now, where the heroine is at loose ends and looking at a seemingly insurmountable obstacle in front of her.

In the novel, the hero or heroine can’t always solve things on their own. You learned as a writer to develop good supporting characters, whether foils, confidantes, staunch allies, comic relief, or constant reminders of why they do what they do.

You learned that obstacles make you stronger when you defeat them – and the hero or heroine (almost) always succeeds in the end by …what?

NEVER GIVING UP.

I’ve written blogs before. Advice blogs. Writing blogs. Ways to help me connect with friends and strangers, and strangers who became friends. Eventually I left those blogs behind, but they’re still there, as a reminder of who I was then, who I met at that time, and a smile or twenty of good memories because I lived through that part of the story, and though the folks I crossed paths with there have moved on, and so have I, sometimes I peek back at what I’ve done and remember. And say…

“…I wrote THAT?”

Exercise of whether it was good or bad is up to the reader. Hindsight is everything, concentration is often what’s lacking, and inspiration comes of being able to accept that not all ideas look good on the surface, but sometimes start as obnoxiously ugly first drafts.

And sometimes, as you’ve found, it takes a little help from a friend to get things going again. Of being able to fall back to where you were before you were this awesome, giving yourself permission to be bad for a little while so you can find the good parts in the brain-muck that is writer’s block.

Some of the best novels have come out of horrible ideas.

Some of the worst novels started out amazing but ran out of steam or premise.

Some of them have even been published.

Quit worrying about being perfect today. That’s what editing is for.

Give yourself permission to write badly. But write something. Nobody judges painters when they create misshapen faces, bleeding clocks, or crayon drawings — some of them even get paid for it, too. Perhaps you’re trying to beat out the writing of some literary idol you aspire to be like, and you shouldn’t — because they have editors too.

Wordsmith, you have people who like your stuff here. And others will find it in time. For being someone who doesn’t market herself much at all, you have a following — and even if they aren’t a legion, it only takes one fan to make you realize that someone likes your stuff.

Hi. Can I be your number one fan?

Whether you accept it or not, I’m here to help you out (for her amazing fans, I’m giving her a break so she can get her writing chops back under her — don’t worry, she’ll be back, but you could speed up the process by leaving her a note or giving her a like or something….).

Beware! I am invading your blog with bizarre ideas that are not your own!

…um… prompt, please?

The Fires of Passion: Part 2

The first part of this post, was meant as a reply to the Charlie Hebdo attack, but also as a segue into the topic of letting your heart help you write. To say that what you believe in, or what makes your heart race, the ideas that make your eyes light up and keep you awake at night, can be one of the best vehicles for your writing.

The opposite of this is hating what you’re writing and dragging your feet through it. “It wrote itself” versus, “I am so glad this is over.”

There’s the unmistakable joy of a frenzy of writing because you love it and because you want to, because something about the topic speaks to you. Fiction, non-fiction, journalism, memoirs, biographies, whatever it is, there’s pieces that capture you and don’t let go.

“It writes itself” when you’re on fire, when you can see the scene in front of you clearly and you’re in love with the view. From where you’re sitting, you should be able to blast through whatever comes up, and by the time you’re done, probably you’ll be stunned at the volume you accomplished in the amount of time you did it.

Even if the story doesn’t lay itself all out to you at once, isn’t to say you have no passion, either. With excitement comes a varying degree of push and desire, controlled by a few factors including how important the piece is, how strong the different scenes are playing in your head, and what you feel about the scene or scenes themselves. Why not add in if it’s a big project, with it’s intimidation, mild or not, and if you know you’re looking to publish, the worry you get from making sure everything is perfect.

My personal view on the other side of this, the sluggishness, has always been to change something. Figure out what’s got you stuck and move things around. Find a way to dig yourself out of the rut. In those cases that you can’t, which I experienced first hand in November, you just have to hunker down and find a way through.

With gusto behind your words, all things are possible. Your stories can take you where you want to go if you let them, if you get out every bit of care and painstaking effort that you can muster. Zest peppering each paragraph and verse puts more weight and meaning into the words that are taken down and consumed in reading.

Because if you don’t like what you’re writing, who’s to say the reader will?

-The Novice Wordsmith

**PS for those interested in half of what inspired this post, you can read the quote by Ray Bradbury here, which is part of an essay he wrote about the same thing.

Make a Habit of It

I have this website tracked down on my Websites for Wordsmiths page, but I wanted to shine some light on it in a blog post because why not?

One of the oldest ideas to motivate yourself to get something done is incentive. You do a chore, you reward yourself, it’s a good balance that helps you keep going. Some things are harder to follow that idea with, maybe you aren’t able to track it, you lose sight of it, you give up, and it falls off the way side.

If you are the kind of person who needs something to keep your progress and hold you accountable for getting tasks and chores done, work projects, exercise, etc, Habit RPG might be one of the best things you can invest any time in.

Located here, Habit RPG allows you to enter in whatever you need help with keeping track of or staying on top of, in the form of an RPG (hence the name).  You build your avatar, to look however you want it to, and earn XP (experience points) by checking off habits, dailies and to-dos, as well as money! By level 10, you can pick a class, and buy specific equipment for it.

Equipment is in a category of “rewards”, which you can add to for even more incentive. Want to buy that gorgeous dress you saw while shopping? Put it down in the rewards, and set the amount to reach for you to get it.

If you’re game and incentive minded, it’s an incredible tool. Some personalities and people may not take to it as well as others, but if it works for you, milk it for all it’s worth!

Another site I wanted to touch on was Lit Reactor. I’ve posted a few things from there before, but hadn’t really taken the time to search through the website and see the content.

Litreactor.com is dedicated to writers and writing, fit with online classes, workshops, and the ability to put your own work up and read the work of others, as well as achievements and a community of writers to slink into. No doubt that it is a sort of haven, where you can see articles written by all sorts of authors on basic subjects like grammar, or something more complex, like what you put your hero through.

Litreactor also happens to have smashing suggestions and ways to get your work published, where to reach out and who is looking for authors.

Of course, this is only just a skim off the top of what it all contains, it’s bursting with all sorts of possibilities. I’m kind of wondering why I didn’t get into it sooner…

Either way, both websites are incredible tools, and especially writers. On the old topic of resolutions, Habits can be instrumental in helping you achieve what you’ve put yourself up to. LitReactor can too, if your resolution is to get more involved in the writing community, to find ways of improving your writing, and to get a move on with publishing some of your work.

I hope that you will at least give them both a look!

-The Novice Wordsmith

The Fires of Passion

In the midst of writing about the recent attack on the Charlie Hebdo office in Paris, I found myself caught up in the idea of writing and speaking and drawing and expressing for what you believe in. Putting every bit of your soul and your energy into getting something down and/or out that you feel strongly about, speaking loudly, if not yelling, about a change you know should happen.

With passion, all things are possible. With a fire in your heart and a frenzy in your head, you can accomplish and achieve in ways you never thought you were capable of.

When we let loose with this fire, it can spread wildly, across whatever it is that you’ve unleashed it on. Whether it’s political injustice, or the careen of a space ship around asteroids, our outlet for this is suddenly much easier to work through. Typing becomes fevered and fervent, you lose track of time easily while drawing, finishing or coming out of the frenzy leaves you in a daze, your paints leaving behind a trail of your efforts.

Removed from the equation, passion is instead replaced with other things, but the need for expression never really dies. Whether it’s depression or agitation, we’re spurred on by a desire of some caliber that tells us to go forth and release what we’ve had stored up and waiting. It helps us feel better or it gets us to evaluate what’s going on.

To see change, was one of the first phrases I remember used to describe satire. It finds a way to crack open and show the glaring faults in something, whether it’s unethical, legally wrong, ignorant, blaspheming or any number of other things, and brings it all to light. In some cases (see: not Animal Farm) satire can be funny. It’s tongue-in-cheek, a subtle but painful jab. The point is that it is a way of expressing that something is wrong, and being sarcastic or ironic about it in a way that gets attention.

The power of censorship means to take that voice and bury it as deep in the ground as it’ll go. Whether it’s done by gunpoint or by the threat of legality, censorship is everyone’s problem. With it, there is no room or freedom to speak your mind, there is no way you can write or paint or sculpt or create in the style you do or want.

As Evelyn Beatrice Hall once said about Voltaire’s beliefs, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

With more and more details coming out about the shooting, the deaths of the suspects, and of course, the stunning displays of solidarity in the face of terrorism, I find myself at a loss of words. It is nothing short of gorgeous to see what has come from such a horrendous massacre.

Passion, from pain. When one voice yells, the whole world shouts back.

We need expression, to free ourselves, to see the emotion and the fire we hold manifest into something else. To transform, alone, together, singularly or fully, as one. No matter if it is about something ethical, or if it is an idea for a story you’ve been working on and chipping away at for years, stifling the voice kills not only creativity, but individuality.

Extremists may seek to silence the voices that shout at them and their religion, but they cannot silence us all. Least of all can they do so when we stand together.

Thank you.

-The Novice Wordsmith

Prompt: Seabound

An elderly (wo)man lives in a city that’s submerged in the sea, which is one of several hundred all around the world. Tell the tale through his/her voice of why the population started to go underwater, and what made it work so well. Was there a disaster that caused it to happen, and who resisted it? Don’t forget to mention if anyone passed away or became a case study in what should or should not be done underwater, as well as how long ago it happened, and if it’s permanent.

– The Novice Wordsmith

Avoidance

During a fiction writing class, our professor gave us a sheet of words. It was titled, ‘Words all Writers Should Avoid Using.’

The other week, I was given another web page that was basically a full on rant about several different words that are used too often and should never be used. There were 5-10 words on the list.

My only problem with this is that each list is almost completely different. Some words are shared throughout– almost (hah), suddenly, nearly, really/very, like– considered weak and detrimental to the piece. Though I try to take each of these seriously and understand the reasoning for all of what I see, plenty of the words listed seem as a matter of opinion.

Of course, then you run into weak words versus strong words. There’s the old speech that Robin Williams gives in Dead Poets Society, proclaiming that the word ‘very’ is lazy, and encouraging them to use other words to describe it, because there are an abundant amount more than just the single word. To which, I will agree with this; there are words that are plain weak and water down the writing when used, but finding words that sound more beautiful in the stead of those is about more than just looking in the thesaurus. It’s about changing your language entirely.

The boulder was heavy in his palms.

Simple as it is, can be changed to…

The weight of the boulder was bearing down on him. 

In another example, I’ll take my sentence from earlier.

It’s almost completely different

To…

each is totally different, save for some choices…

Substituting words can only go so far, so it becomes a challenge to make the language and sound more diverse, intriguing, capturing.

Which reminds me of a challenge issued by Chuck Palahniuk, to depart with all “thought” verbs, not to show that a character is thinking. So no, “wonders,” “muses,” “considers,” etc. And to keep up with it for six months. Though I still find it a bit daft, I like the difficulty it presents. It forces you to think of other ways to go about showing what you want to say about what’s in the character’s head, or to forgo it.

We want our words, our content, to be as strong as possible. The more we challenge ourselves to be more fluid and diverse in what we have to say or how we say it, the sharper we find ourselves.

I wanted to show some of the sites that I mentioned. Though there are many more of them, here are a few examples:

From freelancewriting.com

This one from litreactor.com 

And this from tameri.com

Weak words, those that are vague and provide little to nothing about what you mean or are referring to, should, by all means, be cast out at any and every opportunity. When faced with “things,” “something,” and “stuff,” try to be precise. Being specific is the difference between strong language and a flaky one. It is also, as one of those sites suggested, a way to show confidence in your writing.

-The Novice Wordsmith

Resolute in Resolutions

A lot of what goes on in the last few days of the year revolve around resolutions. I can’t say I haven’t heard anything, because I’ve heard more about New Year’s Resolutions in the past weeks than I have in the past few months combined. For good reason and obvious reason.

One very resounding thought I’ve heard that strays from the rest, however, is to ditch the resolution altogether.

Resolutions, ultimately, are goals. They’re something to strive for, something you want to do, something you want to happen in that year. So in January, it’s no surprise that the gym is packed full, because people are trying to reach weight loss goals and get toned and in shape by the time that they really want.

If there’s something I learned the hard way, it is that goals take time. The quicker something is done, the easier all of that work can be undone, because your mentality then becomes, “I can just do it again in this amount of time and be fine.” So you put it off and do things that are more enjoyable, because you know you can make up for lost time. You do the things you shouldn’t, and further yourself away from the progress you made.

These things take time. Don’t give up what you want to do, unless you’ve realized you want to do something else. Whatever it is, even if you lapse, don’t just stop. Don’t count yourself out completely, because there’s always going to be time.

If not now, when?

Just because it’s so many days past the first of the year does not count you out, either. Shaping better writing habits, filling notebooks, finishing a novel, writing a poem a day, or whatever it is your writing goal for the year may or may not be,  starts when you want it to. You do not need to measure your success by the year and how much time there is of it left. In the end, the goal of goals, of resolutions, is to improve your life, from that point on, and not just for the year.

One of my personal preferences when it comes to New Year’s Resolutions is to stick with it until it’s done. You repeat that same resolution until you’ve reached it. If you decide it’s not what you want, then you can drop it, but pick up a new goal to help you get to work on that passion, or dream, or idea.

When it comes to writing goals, or any, really, and you find they’re daunting and intimidating as ever, pause, look at the work load. Shave it down, make it possible for you to keep up in the beginning. The only way you get to where you want to be, is by building a strong foundation to stand on.

Let’s take daily writing, for example. What’s the wordcount you want to achieve daily? Or is it simply to write something, anything, every day? As you go on, you find what you really want, and what you think counts more. Write fiction every day, or a blog post? It doesn’t have to be targeted, if it’s easier for you to achieve, writing is writing, after all, though eventually, you might find yourself targeting what you want to write most.

This happens with a lot of things. As you get better, stronger, or more frequent, you figure out where your problem areas are or what you want to focus on, and it shapes what you do.

That’s the other thing about resolutions, you can’t expect to do the same thing over and over. As you change, so does your routine! It’s a good thing! Change means you’re dynamic, you’re making progress!

And you don’t have to have big resolutions, either. They can be small. Small is not a problem– some people go all out and adapt to the “go big or go home” philosophy and end up burning themselves out before they even really give themselves a chance. Taking on something you know you can accomplish is the first step to being able to tackle bigger things without even realizing it.

Don’t let anything drag you down. When you look ahead at what your dream is, you need to see that there’s a journey to it, and it starts with a step, however weak or strong it is, but it is everything that you put into it. So whatever your resolutions or goals are this year, don’t forget to be kind to yourself while you start the path of progress.

I’m certainly rooting for you!

-The Novice Wordsmith