Tag Archives: experience

Camp in July: Motivation Stops Here

Camp Nanowrimo has famously been difficult for me, except for a couple of times. I do this to myself, of course, over and over, because I must be a masochist. Really, I’m just ambitious. After finding my groove with an older story again, wanting to finish and spurred on by my great energy with the revision of my erotica in April, I picked up where I left off.

And got firmly stuck in the mud, days later.

This has had to be my worst month. I didn’t really keep track of wordcount. I could barely get myself to write every day. I was avoiding the camp website. It was sticky and awful and kind of depressing, to be honest.

I was also having the hardest time trying to figure out why it was so hard for me. When I know there’s a goal in sight, I’m usually steadfast toward it, and make great strides and bounds. This time it was like my neck was craned back, staring up at a billboard that I thought was too high to climb, with a ladder right in front of me.

I refused to think it was motivation. I’ve wanted to write and finish this novel so badly. Inspiration was all there, I knew how to tap into more, how to get my mind going.

But there it was, at the eye of the storm. I wanted to write but I didn’t want to. Were my ideas good enough, was I making enough sense? Had I really read through the more crucial chapters again and actually gotten a feel for what was going on, so I knew the tone to start off with? How was my pacing?

Every question just came at me. I didn’t want to accept it, but I couldn’t deny it, either.

More commonly known as Writer’s Block, it sucks. And sometimes there’s really nothing you can do about it but let it pass and relax and not worry until it leaves you the hell alone. Trying to force it away may or may not do something for you.

Even now, I’m having a hard time getting through this. I question my credibility and my ability and whether or not I’m getting off topic or staying on track. Everything is questioned, because I don’t know if I should trust myself or not just by plowing through something. Quieting those questions can be harder because there’s always a nag at the back of your head wondering if you’re doing it right, and that you don’t want to have to overhaul it completely…

It’s the Hot Mess Express, and I’m the conductor, apparently.

But it makes sense, when I think about it boiling down to trust. Trusting myself and what I do and how I do it makes me less likely to move forward. Friend has been having a particularly nasty case of writer’s block as well, where he’s very uncertain of himself. Along the same lines, where he wants it to look good and be a long, great read, but it’s a lot of pressure. It’s a lot for him to live up to with every piece and he’s not trusting himself to simply write and come up with something, at all, that’s readable.

The big hurdle here is to let go of all of those insecurities and just do it. Forget everything holding you down and just go. But that is much easier said than done.

Hopefully my NaNoWriMo experience won’t be this terrible. I’m looking to do just as well as last year, if not better. I just have to find a story I want to write…

-The Novice Wordsmith

 

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Last year, in January and onward, I was working on a piece that would turn into a project I’d pick up in April and try to work on for the Camp Nanowrimo of that month. I was sluggish and it was difficult to maneuver through it; though I had a general idea of what I was doing, that was pretty much all I had.

I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately, when I’m about to close out the front of it after doing something of an overhaul on it.

I find it kind of funny, really. I’d sort of been on autopilot with it after camp, and then I just kind of faded and stopped working on it. In August, I found new momentum with it. Parts of the whole story that had once been difficult to tell and sculpt together were coming together with ease. I knew how the story got started, I had villains, I was making a stronger novel out of it. A proper one.

A year after going into it somewhat blindly, with only some interest to back me up, I finally found out how to run with it.

It’s sort of odd in its own way. Usually when I find myself interested in writing something, I actually manage to turn out a decent story. Now I wonder if I just plainly wasn’t ready to write this one at the time. It’s a new experience, to deal with this, seeing myself flounder at first and now flying through it with renewed fervor.

Partially, it reminds me of the ideas we have when we’re young. Our first ideas, the less developed ones we’re rapt with in the beginning and then they fade off, and we pick them up and then they fade off until eventually we get our fingers around them again and don’t let go, to the point we finally finish and have a product we’re immensely proud of and were excited to finish in the first place.

I have yet to get to that part, the forever-with-me idea from my youth, turning it into something, but I’ll get there eventually. It being a supernatural story in essence, I fear it’s been done to death.

But other than the undead story that off and on held my attention, I seem to always come back to one genre. I think we all do, really, we have that go-to that speaks to us and finds us better than the others, because we enjoy writing in it and we’re confident with our knowledge.

My go-to genres seem to be sci-fi, but not action, and not horror or thriller or crime (though I have a space opera waiting to be worked on some more), no. It’s drama. The nitty gritty of social gossip and class warfare in the name of romance. Maybe not so much class warfare, but I think you get the idea.

And for having all of these incredible actiony ideas and blow-you-away profoundness, I feel like it makes me come off as frivolous or silly. But I’ve always loved love. Writing erotica this November was like breathing. Nothing felt challenging about it part from working out pace and flow and how it ended and when things were figured out, so nothing to do with the genre. Writing romance is just my passive skillset, I think, and I love it.

One guess as to what this story is from last April that I’m bounding through now. Yeah. No surprise, right?

Which is why I mention coming back to that genre. You always have something you return to, something that feels comfortable, something you know you can push through with ease. And you’re so good at it because it interests you so much, it gets you thinking, it pulls you in and doesn’t let go.

And no matter what it is that brings you back, over and over, don’t ever feel bad about it. Embrace it.

The Novice Wordsmith

PS- One last little mention. Speaking of Camp NaNoWriMo, it is coming up this April and in June of this year as well. It is unlike NaNoWriMo because you can set your own goal, even if it is just revisions. Give it a look-see over at campnanowrimo.org.

Putting Pen to Paper…

But not Just Any Pen or Any Paper. This is a lovely article that Friend pointed me in the direction of months ago that I meant to share.

It’s the same message that Natalie Goldberg writes about in Writing Down the Bones, within one of the first chapters. To write anywhere, in any format, with any pen or pencil, is to expand how you write in a unique way. It helps build uniqueness, character, experience. To fill notebooks and journals and anything you find in any way, with scribbles or notes, thoughts, or full stories, because you can, because it’s a way to write.

The message isn’t hard for me to take to heart, and I find myself wondering about buying a new journal to fill, giving myself that challenge, but I have a few already that I’ve been trying to do that with…

I will say that it’s incredibly satisfying to finish a journal from front to back. I am, unfortunately, one of those people who stacks journals, but I don’t fill them very often.

Whether you fill it or not, though, and whether it’s a single page or a stack of them bound together, all adds to the experience.

-The Novice Wordsmith

Guest Post: A House of Prose, and Don’t be The Lauren

Everyone’s a critic.

When you ask for an opinion from someone on something you’ve done, what you’re secretly asking is ‘do you like this?’ And you secretly want them to like what you’re showing them. It’s the author’s curse; we want to be published, but we need to write something that people can relate to enough to want to buy.

The underpinnings of our society dictate that we have to ‘get along’, ‘be liked’, and ‘hold approval.’ Popular people are who we hear about; unpopular people are spoken about derisively or with hatred sometimes.

Books and writing our expressions of our writer’s soul. It is the innermost child (..or occasional lurking adult) seeking the light of day and the likes of others.

We pick our genre, the one we feel the most at home with, and we decorate the house of our novel home with the things that belong there. A family of characters, or a single person looking out the windows. A bunch of good-natured or mean neighbors to challenge the family. And then there are the things that try and burn the house down or break in and steal their stuff.

I say it’s a house here because the analogy is apt to me; we ‘live’ in the space of our novel when it’s going good, and then when it’s done, we do our best to spruce it up and invite guests to come visit.

I’ve lived in a few places over the years; that first moment when someone new sees my new place they always look around. Form impressions. Some of them look at the things I have on the walls, some of them look at my knickknacks, some of them look at my furniture, and a few of them poke their head in the bedroom.

“Nice place.” they say. Whether they’re being polite or not, I don’t know. But then again, I live in a rental, so it’s not a house I can do a lot of decoration with. I’ve been in a few houses that I’ve said, ‘this is a gorgeous place.’ I have things that I want in my house, so when I see one of those things, I appreciate it.

Now apply that idea back to books again.

Some folks can write an amazing epic tale that grabs you from the get go; some folks write a ramshackle tale that barely holds itself together; you can see the holes in the plot like you notice crayon marks or holes in the walls.

It is not a reflection on the owner/author; it is all about the _everything_ in the house/novel, rather than the bits that you notice that stick out to you.

I’ve got a friend that I’ll call Lauren. She wanted to be a writer, because I was one. She participated in the NaNoWriMo, because I did, and people really liked my first novel.

When she read it, the first thing she asked was, “Is this about you? Is that character there me?”

(The answer was no and no. Because I am not a six foot tall efficiency expert who drives a convertible.)

Then she started poking holes in the novel. Pointing out typos, a half-finished sentence here and there, that sort of thing.

“I know.’ I said, defensively. “It’s a first draft. Thanks.”

When she won NaNo for the first time, she gave me her first effort at writing a full length novel. Asked me what I thought.

It was a pretty good tale, but she got lost in the weeds when she hit Week 3 and there were two very similar characters that I kept getting mixed up, and there was another point where she was missing parts of the description because she was in what I call ‘fugue state’ — you can see the action in your head, and it’s rushing fast, but she didn’t put it all down on the page.

“Did you want me to make edits or did you just want an opinion?”

“Just an opinion. I know my writing sucks.”

“I liked it. It had some good suspense elements, and your heroine is genuinely likable. Your supernatural elements are solid, too. And your writing does not suck.”

“Do you think I could get it published?”

“I think it needs some work before you can get there. There are some elements that need more details, and your ending is a bit rushed. I’d like to see more of the world, too.”

“You hate it.” she said.

“No, I don’t hate it. It’s good! It’s a first draft and I like what I see here. That’s the nature of the Nano — nobody ever produces a perfect first draft, but the Nano makes you actually finish that first draft. If I didn’t like it, I wouldn’t have finished it.”

Later, I heard she’d shared it with some of her other friends, with the additional rider comment that she felt I didn’t like it, because I didn’t think it was good enough to get published. Of course, she was giving it to friends who liked her as a person, and since she had predetermined for them that she was looking for praise, not critique, by way of ‘Friend didn’t like it, I’m hoping you will’ — she was told what she wanted to hear, rather than the truth. And when one of her friends, who is usually bluntly honest, said that it was ‘scattered and disorganized’, Lauren was done showing people. The manuscript went somewhere dark and never saw the light of another person’s eyes again, for fear of disapproval.

She tried her hand at writing the sequel the next year, because like many first time successful novelists, they still have a story left to tell. And it’s easier to work within an existing world than it is to spin up a brand new one.

But she got sick the first week, and stopped writing, and because she was a week behind, she gave up. This was the same year I wrote 100K words in the month.

She hasn’t attempted the Nano since.

For me, the NaNoWriMo is one of my life’s passions. I’ve done it every year for the past twelve. I talk about it a lot. Whenever I’m with friends or family, and I bring up the idea of Nano and they like the idea and are impressed with someone who can write that much in that little time, none of them really ask, ‘Yes, but are they good novels?’ If they do, or they ask when I’m getting published, I just grin and say, “I’m still working on that part. It’s a first draft, and a story that needs to be told, and one of these years I’ll like something enough to edit it and try and get it published. But it’s great practice and a grand adventure that I willingly take every year.”

They are invariably encouraging.

Lauren, if she’s also present, frequently jumps into the conversation with the “Hey, I wrote for the Nano too…” (Subtext: I want some of the positive attention you’re getting.)

“Oh cool!” is the response. “What are you writing this year?”

“Oh, I’m not likely to. I did it once about six years ago.” she says. “I have a bunch of good ideas, but I don’t have the time.”

Predictably, that means the focus goes back to me shortly after, because I have Ideas and Advice and Encouragement That You Should Play This Year. Nano is my passion, and I believe everyone should play at least once — if not more than once — because everyone has that lurking story in the back of their heads, triumphs, troubles,tasks, thoughts, tribulations, trout that traversed the trawler’s tail temporarily, those things. Tall tales. Truth, too.

At the end of one of those days, Lauren asked, “How come they never acknowledge me as an author like they do you? Do I suck that badly?”

“You didn’t show them your work.” I said. “You can’t know that they won’t like it until you show them, and the people you showed all liked it.”

“You didn’t like it.” she said.

“I did. I’m sorry you don’t think I liked it because I offered constructive criticism.”

“Well, I’m not a writer anyway.” she said.

Don’t be the Lauren, ladies and gentlemen. Write because you want to. Write because you have an amazing idea that’s half-baked — and understand that it’s okay to write a story that goes awry in the first chapter, as long as you follow the prose wherever it goes.

Don’t write because you need to be loved vicariously through your writing. I’ve written some of my best work when I was miserable, because pain is a crazy good resource to write out of sometimes.

Do write because you have a world you want to share, no matter how big or how small the space is. Do write because you want to finish the story, or at least take it for a spin around the block. Or the galaxy.

You never publish what you never write.

Nobody will ever see the house that you’re afraid to invite them over to visit. And when you decorate the walls with your art, be it imitations of the Masters or kid macaroni art, when you get your furniture of gleaming chrome and exquisite silks, stuff you, personally, might never be able to afford, but your characters can?

Don’t expect everyone who visits to want to move in. It’s your house of prose. You wrote it. You made the installment payments of 50,000 words or more (or occasionally less). Maybe the back rooms aren’t done. Maybe the roof has leaks that you didn’t see. Maybe the patio door is hung upside down. But it’s your home, the home of the tale you had to build from the ground up, and you ought to be proud of it.

You can always redecorate later, but you’ve got to turn the key in the lock and drag the readers in, first.

Build your first story, and you have the beginnings of a homeworld that is uniquely yours.

Taking Advice, or the Difference Between Writers and Non-Writers

Just as there are blogs and posts and pictures and near anything else dedicated to “Tips for Writing” there are as many out there about doing it wrong, what not to do, and generally what to avoid. While nothing is wrong with these, it can be if the person has had no previous experience in what they’re talking about, instead just passing the word.

The best word comes from someone who knows what it means, both through experience and observance.

I was reminded recently of a former friend who, after I had finished November last year, took to badgering me about finishing my work. On several occasions, I got messages with the caps lock on telling me to get to it already. Pushed and bullied, I felt the stress of having to complete something under someone else’s watch, but I never let him force me to do things.

One of the biggest reasons I didn’t take his words to heart  was because he wasn’t a writer like I am. He wrote journals every so often, and mostly he wrote about science fact, but on very rare occasion, he would write about something that related to his situation. Depressing, rather awful tales, that he wouldn’t touch after getting them finished. Which, I won’t judge: if that’s what he felt most like writing, more power to him, that’s fine.

… But when it comes to policing someone on what they should be writing and when, it is a lot better if you know by some experience what they’re going through before you cast judgement or forcefulness. Not that either of those are acceptable to do, either, because everyone goes at their own pace, not yours.

Fiction writers know fiction writers. It’s going to take some time, whether a small amount or a large amount, and we’re all different. We have good days where we can write chapter upon chapter and revise several and then move on to the next and further into our story. Then we have stretches of days or weeks where we just can’t get into things where they’re at (which, if that’s the case, try changing things up with how you see them at that moment).

If anyone is going to pressure you, it should be yourself, but not to a breaking point, and certainly not making you feel like trash until you do it. To make progress, you need to have some kind of confidence in yourself, to feel like you’re making headway instead of just doing something you should have done. While pressure and negativity work to help motivate some, it is not always the case for others.

Really, too, if you’re writing something for yourself, it shouldn’t have a damn lick of pressure to it. It’s yours. This is your story. You write when and how you like.

Your ideas for publishing, too, are your own. Don’t let someone deter you from doing what you want because they “think” that they have a better idea of how to go about it. There have been plenty of singular books published as a first publication of a first time author, the same as there’s been the first in a series, or the first in a trilogy.

I guess part of this I’m writing for myself. After months of being pushed around and chewed on like I don’t know what I’m doing, I want to do my best to prevent it from happening to anyone else. Thankfully, this person no longer corrupts my daily life, but he left a lasting impression that I don’t care for. Not that I really took any of his “lessons” to heart (I have Friend for that, I trust him more), but I still listened to what he had to say.

What bothered me most about him was that he kept shoveling advice at me that I didn’t ask for. “Publish this first,” “work on this, I want to see it, I want to edit, let me edit for you,” “You do too much of this, you shouldn’t,” “don’t do this,” “why would you do that?” “Why don’t you take out the parts you worked on with this person and work on it with me instead?”

Not only did I not ask for it, but from someone who didn’t write like I did, who had no aspirations to do such or even to publish himself, he found himself qualified because he had heard from others who did. A non-writer telling me that I was taking too long was exactly the way to make me want to scream.

I have trust issues with people who dispense unsolicited advice. Even more so when they’re not qualified to give it.

Whatever it is that you decide to do, do it on your terms, do it because you want to. Writing the book is going to take time, series writers can sometimes take years to bring about another book, and getting published can range from fairly easy to ‘holy shit, is this ever going to happen?’ Read advice from people who write what you write. Who know the endless worlds that you get into, who have seen what you want to see. Learn from their experience, not someone who has a lack of it.

– The Novice Wordsmith

( I guess on that note I have some room to talk, but as a writer, I like to think I have some license to it. )

Guest Post: The Horror Show

October’s coming up, and as such the airwaves are full of Halloween themed ideas and the inevitable horror movie. And of course, with that sort of inspiration, some of us decide to try their hand at horror novels.

We all know what that means, really; naming our fears and writing about them in such a way that someone else can experience what someone would go through if they were afraid of such things.

But hang on a tick… most of our experience with horror is through movies, and novels don’t often relate well to this. A novel is something that has a different pacing, and is missing the visual element.

It is all too easy to make a horror novel about the same cliched tropes that we’ve seen before, in said movies, and then it’s less scary. It becomes expected. In theme. And it will lack the authenticity that a horror story needs to scare the reader.

I used to work in a haunted house; they no longer scare me. I’ve lost my suspenders of disbelief, so that I know that they’re just actors. I can be startled, but not scared. Not like when I was a child and the unknown darkness held menacing things.

Some horror authors use the terror that they felt in order to build up a story. But fear itself is often wordless; panic, fright, and the need to Get Away are things that defy easy description.

Impending Doom is a little easier to write; so is Pain, and Dread. Fear is an emotion, like anger; it just lends itself a little less easy to the mind.

Try this exercise. And it’s a tough one… write about a superstition, WITHOUT using the words ‘fear’, ‘afraid’, ‘terrified’, ‘avoid(ance)’, ‘scared’, and ‘phobia.’ Remember, a good author does a ‘show, don’t tell’, and using any of those words is telling.

Here’s my take:
—————————–
He couldn’t turn his back on the water, even though the sand sculpture demanded his focus. He could hear the sinister sound of the surf, rustling behind him like a beast in the bushes. The sculpture site he had been given was far too close to the sea for his liking, and he gritted his teeth as he had to lean down to add some detailing to the mermaid that he was creating out of damp sand.

Let others rely on doing runs to and from the surf to get more water for their works. He had a portable sand block press of his own design, and a wheeled dolly with plenty of purified water jugs on it, and an hour and a half to craft a winning entry. Plenty of time before the tide came in and erased it all.

The wind ruffled his hair; the sky was overcast, and it was a lousy day to be on the beach, but the event planners had set this up months in advance, and they couldn’t control the weather.

He tried not to think about the sign that he’d seen on the way to the beach: ‘Tsunami Warning.’ It had been there since the sixties; there had never been a tsunami off the Oregon coast in a hundred years.

But there always was a first time for everything. He’d seen the pictures of Indonesia and Japan; huge morasses of water, consuming everything in its wake. Cars and buses floating along in the water like some giant bathtub toys, houses collapsing under the unexpected deluge of water coming down the street.

He had been given one of the sites closest to the waterline. He hadn’t been given permission to change with someone else. The safety of the boardwalk was two hundred yards away, possibly closer to three.

He wanted to just quit the contest, because those clouds overhead and the sky had gotten darker. Wasn’t the first sign of a tsunami heavy clouds? He couldn’t remember.

Just the thought of being swept out to sea made him want to look over his shoulder instead of paying attention to the work in front of him.

Was the sea a little closer?

It was. It surely was.
—————————————

Balance the internal with the external. Fear is internal. Stimulus for fear is external. It’s something you see – or can’t see. It’s something heard which doesn’t match normalcy. It’s evidence of something Not Right. Or simply feelings of wrongness sometimes.

Think about something that makes you scared for a moment. You can feel your skin crawl, the tension, the want to hide somewhere where it’s safe, or at least lighted. Then try and put the character who is being scared in your own shoes. Can you make them feel that fear, in their own voice, in their own head, and in their own mind?

I think you can.

It’s uncertainty of their next moments. It’s worrying about what MIGHT happen before it does, and then what DOES happen is often unexpected anyway.

And it’s worse than they imagined.

Another element of horror is the fact that it’s drawn out. The inevitable chase scene. The character becomes the prey in a hunt. Trying to escape. Because as you well know, anyone who fights the beastie? Usually dies. Horribly.

In horror, the big bad nasty almost always has the upper hand. They make the protagonist feel mortal. Vulnerable. Weak. Because if they weren’t afraid of it, if they could outfight it, outrun it, or outthink it right off the bat? It’s not scary enough. Their confidence and skill will carry them through.

Of course, there’s always the reversal — the misplaced bravado route, where they think they’ve got it covered – and then they don’t.

Now that is the source of even bigger fear. Maybe they escaped with their life after being foolish enough to brace the proverbial tiger in its lair. And they are scarred by the near-death experience. (Possibly literally.)

That’s a key: any fear a character has is not something they can easily shrug off. Any horror that a character faces has to be something that they are already afraid of to begin with, or something that can apply that (un)healthy fear of that after that first encounter.

It doesn’t have to be blood and guts, or supernatural things thrashing people around, or demonic possession, or aliens, or zombies or vampires… I was rather surprised to see how many people are afraid of clowns.

But that doesn’t help you, does it?

What should be your horror vehicle? What should you make people afraid of?

Anything. You. Want.

A skilled enough writer can make anything menacing. Items can be cursed. Food can be poisoned – or worse. A normal person could turn out to have a hidden past. Or change right in front of their eyes. Sometimes the scariest things of all are things we take for granted to be harmless — until they aren’t.

The thing you want to keep in mind when writing horror is that the object of horror has to regularly keep pushing at the characters. It must continue to vex them, whether it starts eating them one by one or keeps them from leaving the proverbial island (or both), it’s got to be something that they can’t get around or away from that easily.

Just like things we’ve been afraid for for years.

You can be afraid of anything, really — heck, just check out the List of Phobias on Wikipedia, or phobialist.com. Pick something you’ve never heard of before as a challenge, and start from there… and don’t be afraid to write about it.

Feedback and Other Bits

As I was writing the entry “Preparation,” I paused, just as I was about to type in a question to those who read the blog. I stopped and went into something else instead, because the last time I tried a question, I didn’t get an answer back.

Of course, that was at the beginning of the blog. So I think I want to try again.

The point of this blog, in a lot of ways, is to learn. Not just for me to help teach people what I’ve learned, but to learn from everyone else, from the readers, from their insight and experience and apply it as needed. This blog may belong to me, but I want it to sprawl with information and different testimonies about certain ideas and thoughts, I want there to be more than just my touch.

Which is why I have a guest writer, and I wouldn’t mind having more. I’m admittedly a little nervous about reaching out for it, though, because I’m not sure what to expect or what kind of guidelines to set, but I am interested in more opinions and more of the blog being inspired by the people who love it.

I wanted to use now to thank everyone who does keep coming back for more, to see what I (and Friend) have to say. It helps me put more into this every day that I write for it. ❤

I sometimes struggle with my own confidence about what I say. I don’t want to lead anyone astray, but the worry gets to me enough that it’s caused me to trash a few posts. I have been writing for years, but I’m still learning. Eventually, I’ll get into the process of publishing and be able to share my experience and thoughts with that, but after seeing others tackling the subject before me, I get skittish and feel under prepared.

Then there’s that maybe I should post less. I drew up a prompt sheet when I made this blog, and even while I keep adding to it, I’ve done just about everything on it. Like writing, though, I suppose I can never really run out of ideas.

So, feedback, what do you think? More posting, less posting, is there a topic you want me to cover in specific? Is there something I should go back over because I wasn’t clear enough? And, since I didn’t get to ask it before, what are you plans for November? How do you prepare, if you’re going to do NaNoWriMo?

I look forward to hearing back from you!

-The Novice Wordsmith

Guest Post: Pain and Penning it Out

Some of the best writing of my life came from when I was in a lot of pain, and I didn’t want to write.   But I had a journal then, and sometimes from great pain came great inspiration.  It’s a lot easier to describe pain when you’re in it — it’s kinda like method acting in that you understand how it feels because you’re feeling it.

Now, I’m not condoning getting smashed out drunk, or taking drugs, or causing bodily harm to yourself or someone else to experience it first hand just so you can write about it, but rather, to take advantage of any pain you’re currently in to sort it out in words.
There’s a stress reduction method called ‘journaling the problem’ — it’s effectively writing out what’s bothering you so that way you quit internalizing it.

Write with the freedom of knowledge that you can delete anything you write at the end, though to be effective, you’ll want to keep it instead, so you can see where you’ve been and how you’ve fared since then.
Art sometimes imitates life.  In that sense, you can characterize a situation in a story by giving your characters the ability to handle a similar situation — do they do better or worse?   Do they take a different path with different choices?
Then there is the aspect of physical and emotional pain, and what it does to your ability to cope.    Heroes should not be able to hop out of bed hours after being shot, and a sprained ankle doesn’t just impair running away from zombie hordes, but often prevents you from even standing on it.   It can last for days, too.
Then there are moods; high and low, angry and sad, happy and excited, confused and contrite.   Using the idea of ‘show don’t tell’ in another form, how do you describe feeling blue?
“Inherently, I didn’t give a damn what happened to her.   She was having one of her patented meltdowns, the kind that made her unpleasant to be around, because she would make these unreasonable demands on you, your time, and your efforts, and then treat you like you were the crappiest friend a girl could have.
Today wasn’t a day I could deal with that sort of crisis.   I was having one of those days where I just wanted to go back to bed, even though I wasn’t tired, and the idea of pulling the pillows up on top of me and blocking out anything but their comforting weight and semi-concealment sounded really appealing.
But that would require energy and effort, and braving the wrath of my boss, who frowned on ‘taking mental health days’ because Sally, down the hall, used that as an excuse to take a trip to Cancun.”
Realize that your mind and mood are like a place in a way; and so is your physical “state”, to turn a phrase.    The next time you get down, or really high up, don’t just visit.  Write a journal entry about the experience,  take mental pictures, that sort of thing — and start your library of experiential learning ideas that can form a ready-made reference for the next time you put your characters through a similar situation.  Treat anything you can experience outside of your  normal baseline as a possibility, even something as ordinary as working up a sweat:
Ira shambled back to his chair, letting gravity drag him back into it as he felt the blood still pounding in his ears.   He grabbed clumsily at the sports bottle full of tepid water from the water cooler and chugged it;  his face felt hot and his shirt was soaked in several places.   He peeled it away from his chest and swiped underneath with the gym towel in an attempt to get dry; it didn’t work very well, since his body just produced sweat faster than he could blot it up.
“Next time… walk.”  he told himself as sweat dripped down his nose.   “Running in this weather is a good way to get yourself in the ER.”
Good notes form the beginnings of an outline checklist item.    The written word has more power when it comes to telling a story if you do the homework to relate what it felt like to you when it happened to you, instead of just expressing a condition in a few words.   It also makes you think of alternatives to reusing tropes and trope expressions:
Before: “He labored at the giant novel through blood, sweat, and tears.”    (Me: “I’ve worked on novels.   It’s not like that at all!”)
After:  He labored at the giant novel late into the night, until his fingers were aching from all the typing, and he was having trouble focusing on the screen.   His mind kept wandering off, as if to tell him he ought to have been in bed hours ago, and he’d retyped the same typo four times in a row.
Bottom line:  Make the pain fit the deed.   Take notes on anything that you might find interesting to write about later.   You never know when you’ll be able to use it.

Recycling Bin

One of my favorite things to do is to re-write old stories, things I felt like I didn’t do well enough, or there were new pieces to consider, or there was a change somewhere else. I love looking back and between and seeing the difference, to watch growth and change and see how I shape my own personal style.

Especially in the case of something I wrote when I was 12. The difference was astounding. One character went from the portrayal of everything I wanted when I was a kid, the epitome of my naivety, to a stunning young woman who had an astounding amount of depth and personality for how young she was.

The difference was alarming as it was hilarious. It was like looking between the kindergarten scribbling and the college level painting.

As you keep writing, progressing both through age and experience, you learn more about telling a story. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with the bare-bones of the beginnings, but the more you keep climbing up the mountain, you find things that you hadn’t seen before. You see what a three-dimensional character is, you see with the character’s eyes instead of your own.

It doesn’t have to be time only, either. You had a bad day, you couldn’t get something down right, you weren’t able to tap into your vocabulary like you usually can. You lost a pet or a friend. Someone turned their back on you. You broke up with your partner. We are all affected by everything in our lives, and so too is our writing.

It’s not uncommon for someone to write better when they’re suffering, either, from whatever it may be. Clarity comes in all forms. In other cases, it can cloud our typically clear thoughts and make things more difficult for us.

Revision and editing, as awful as some people think they are, are also a great tool for the reason of fixing things you didn’t like before. Don’t scrap it and re-write unless you know it can’t be saved, because simple revision, having someone say one thing instead of another, can change the whole view and feel of the chapter, or story, making it stronger.

Such in the case of my NaNo novel of last year. A chapter I thought was passable and “fine” had become a strong piece that would set the pace for the next few chapters. There was nothing terribly wrong with it before, but the revisions I made helped round it out with better detail especially, and a change of topic helped bring focus to the brewing conflict.

Then, of course, there’s writing something you end up downright hating. A friend of mine shared a quote with me today that sums it up: “Why should I write even if I don’t like what I wrote?”

Just because you hate it doesn’t mean everyone will. You are your own worst critic, and the glaring flaws you see, someone else won’t. Which has happened to me before, too, and was incredibly surprising. I passed the piece off as “meh” and shared it because they asked for it. I got told, “Whoa. That was incredible.”

Hearing that can really change your tune. Then again, there are the pieces that you think really can’t be saved, but why not give them a chance?

Though on that note, my advice is to look for opinions if you’re conflicted. If you really are not happy with it, change it. Writing is about putting down whatever comes to mind and shaping, molding it to what you want. After years, loss, gain, happiness, turmoil. You are always shaping, like a glass blower! Except with words. And not with something molten.

Let your life’s changes and experience affect your writing, for better or worse. See the merit, take advantage.

-The Novice Wordsmith