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Writing advice to ignore

I recently read an article titled 10 worst story openings that sparked the flame of annoyance for me. To sum it up, the advice was “don’t start your story with something boring, but don’t start it with something interesting either.” The foundation for this advice was the belief that both of these were dead giveaways that you’re an amateur. As if that was a bad thing to be.

Side note: it’s not bad to be an amateur. Everyone has to start somewhere, and everyone started as an amateur. It is brave. So, be brave. Be an amateur and wear that badge proudly.

Here’s what I think about that advice

First, it was contradictory. Of course, I oversimplified it, but essentially that’s how it read for me.

Second, if we all wrote the way these lists tell us to, every book would be the same and you wouldn’t need to read more than one since you’d know how every other one was going to end, and then all the authors could just curl into themselves and burn out like dying stars.

The product of our writing, like any art form, is subjective. Everyone will have a different opinion about what it should be, and they’ll like whatever they like for whatever reason that is personal to them. You can’t control that, nor should you try to.

Now that I’ve told you to ignore advice, I’m going to leave you with my two cents for what I’ve found helpful. Take it or leave it:

  • Start your story exactly where it starts. Continue writing until it’s finished.
  • Don’t second guess yourself. You know your story best.
  • Write for yourself, not for anyone else.

When it comes to having beta readers and editors looking at your work, you need to know what it is you are trying to convey, and make sure your work reflects that.

Pull the things you find helpful from these people who are offering suggestions, but don’t for one second think they know what’s best. You decide what goes and what stays. It is YOUR story.

Okay, that is my rant for today.

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Moving write along

It’s been a while since I posted

What the hell have I been doing for over a month?

Writing

I finished revisions on Deer Ethan! I ended up cutting a huge chunk of words out, over 30,000 of them and reduced the book to a novella. This was just the first round of revisions though and I know I need to build my characters and setting out quite a bit. It could potentially reach novel length again at some point, but for now, it’s a novella.

I also started writing my next book and I’m using pen and paper instead of my laptop. It’s really slowing the process down for me, but I feel like what I’m putting down is of a better quality. It gives me time to think through things and I’m feeling a stronger connection to my work, which is exciting for me.

Crafting

I’m working on some new crafting projects for Christmas gifts. In case people I’m gifting choose to read this, I won’t elaborate. After Christmas, maybe I’ll share pictures of what I made. Or maybe I won’t. This is a blog dedicated to writing, not my weirdo crafting projects. Although, I like to take time to be creative in other ways as part of my writing process – it gives me a break and lets me see something else through to completion.

Living

I took a week off around my birthday (yeah, I got older since I last wrote). I usually take the week off and just hang out, relax, de-stress, and this year was no different. I tried climbing (so much fun!), explored the island, explored the city, and didn’t write more than a paragraph. It was perfect.

Getting back to it

Last night, as I was trying to go to sleep, my brain decided it was the perfect time to scrutinize my connection to the things I write. Of course I’m going to share some of those thoughts with you, considering this is supposed to be about my writing process.

When I was writing Deer Ethan in 2015, I was in the midst of a relationship that inspired a lot of the character and action of the story. I’m no longer in this relationship and working through the book brought up a lot of memories and emotions.

For my current novel, the main character is based heavily on my own personality and it’s set in my current geographical location. This might change, but for now it’s working for me.

I remember advice I heard in 2013 when I was writing my first book, to write what I know. I didn’t pay much attention to it because at the time I was writing an epic, high fantasy novel where everything was made up. How can you write what you know when there is absolutely no knowledge base? Thinking back though, a lot of dialogue, events, and characters were inspired by conversations I had with friends and family. Now, I’m almost certain you can’t help but write what you know. I’m inspired by everything around me.

Considering my work is loosely based on my life and the people in it, does it worry you that I write about murder? 😉

I do wonder if my connection is a detriment to my writing, and maybe I should stop basing them off specific people in my life, including myself.

I’m curious to know how other writers feel about this, about their connection to their work, and the characters they build. Are they based on you at all? On people you know? Do you completely separate them from your own life? What do you think about the impact of any of this on yourself and your reader? 

Comment below, or feel free to message me privately at ang.unsworth@gmail.com.

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From computer, to paper, and back again

There she goes, overthinking again

As you know, I’m trying to get through revisions of Deer Ethan so I can write a new book during Nanowrimo. And, as you know, I’ve been struggling through these revisions and attributed this to many different reasons, all of which are still applicable. But, I think I found a new one – because I can’t seem to shut my brain off when it tries to figure everything out in the attempt to find an all-encompassing solution.

Here’s my long-winded explanation of a solution

I love writing. I enjoy creating worlds where the forces of good and evil battle day in and day out, or just a space where we can question human behaviour, dancing along the edge between sanity and murderous madness and wonder if we would topple over it put in the same situations.

Side note: even though I have a degree in communications and write daily for work, I am not the best with grammar. I have an obsession with commas and unnecessarily long sentences. It’s a problem. I find it amusing that I’m the editor of an intranet, but am happy to have something that challenges me to overcome this issue.

I love editing – other people’s work anyway. When I edit, it’s mostly just to make suggestions for better ways to phrase things, or to identify holes in storylines, rather than for grammar.

Anywho, I was listening to a podcast which covered how Neil Gaiman (my idol) works. He writes his first draft out in long hand, and then his second draft comes from fixing it as he types it. That’s it. He doesn’t revise afterwards, other than to send it to an editor.

While I don’t believe I could get away with only writing and revising once, it does make me question my process of writing a book in 30 days, and then having to basically rewrite the entire thing, because, for me, writing fast doesn’t equate to writing well. (Note: count how many commas I had in the last sentence. See? It’s crazy.) Maybe that’s why I am having such a hard time with revisions, because I’m not revising. I’m rewriting. The whole damned book.

I know rewriting some sections of a book during the revision process is likely to happen no matter how I get the first draft out, but rewriting the entire thing is another monster.

I think for my next book, I want to try writing it differently. I’m going to try Neil Gaiman’s process, and I’m not going to stuff it into 30 days. I’m still aiming to finish revisions on Deer Ethan by the end of this month, so that goal is the same, but I won’t be participating in Nanowrimo.

I still love Nanowrimo

Nanowrimo was a great experience for me. Through it, I learned I have the ability to write a novel. Many of them, in fact. And now, I get to take that knowledge and experience and build on it to start writing great novel-length stories. I’m excited.

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood from Pexels

The customer is always write

I mentioned in my last post that I found yet another way to keep my writing on track and that I might share it. So that’s what this post is all about.

Bagging your groceries…and my life
One thing I’ve learned from moving to a new province is that no matter where I am, living on a single income is frigging difficult. I took a pay cut when I moved to B.C., but it was worth it to me to be surrounded by the fresh, misty, ocean air that revived my soul at a time when I needed it most. I knew that pay cut would make life hard for me for the first two years, and holy shit, am I ever feeling it now. To try to cover my ass and stop buying groceries using my credit cards, I picked up a second job at a local grocery store.

I don’t want to work, I just want to bang on the typewriter all day
I worked at this store for one week, making minimum wage, when I realized the extra cash I was making wasn’t going to go far. I thought to myself, “Self…what the f*&k are you doing? You have two bachelor degrees, make them work for you dammit!” So I quit. It felt great. I really like quitting.

Now, you might be thinking that some cash is better than no cash, and you wouldn’t be wrong. I just figured I can get it another way.

You see, I get this weekly email full of freelance writing opportunities. These include publications putting calls out for short stories, essays, article pitches, etc. So, what if I took those 8 to 16 hour shifts I was working at the grocery store and put them towards writing article pitches and submitting my short stories for publications? Sure, it’s not consistent income, but it’s in line with my favourite thing in the world: writing.

If my pitches get picked up, then they’d be rewarded by a nice chunk of cash and my name would get published. It’s easier to apply for freelance opportunities once your name is published and you can send live links of your work along with your pitches.

All this extra writing will be excellent practice for me and it’s so much fun! And, isn’t that what life is supposed to be all about?

Yes. Yes, it is.

In my next post, I will take you on a journey as I debate whether or not to participate in Nanowrimo this year, and if so, how. I know…I said I really wanted to before. It’s not about a desire to participate, it’s all about my writing process. Stay tuned.

Murder as motivation

Bodies in the water, writing fodder

I was cycling along my regular commute to my 9-5 job, when I glanced off into the waters of the Gorge, searching for a heron. I saw an unidentifiable blob of something or other, and immediately assumed it was a body. Obviously, if there is a body in the muck of low-tide, it is put there by nefarious means. Side note: this is familiar territory for me – I also used to assume garbage bags on the highway between Calgary and Edmonton were fully of body parts dumped by ne’er do wells. Anywho, this maybe body sparked an idea for a new novel. I don’t want to give too much away, except to say that it will involve the supernatural, murder, horror, and all those delicious, juicy, gory details.

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This is the Gorge. Sometimes bodies and feet are found here.

But, how does this new idea actually = motivation?

A new idea puts pressure on me to finish my current project, so I can give it life — insert maniacal laughter and statement: It’s aliiiiiiive! Pressure is like gasoline to a procrastinator.

I also have a date when I want to start writing this new book. Every year, I participate in Nanowrimo, which is in November, and I want to write this murderous tale during that competition. This gives me until November to finish revisions on Deer Ethan, which is an entirely attainable goal. Now that I’ve got the added excitement of creating this new one to keep me going, it has to happen. I will not let myself write the new book, until this one is done. And, I really want to write this new book. And, I really want this one done. So, there you have it, murder as motivation.

Thank glorb for good friends and notebooks…

As a side note, I want to express my gratitude for all the great people in my life. Today’s shout out goes to the friend who randomly handed me a notebook on the street. I’ve been giddily filling it ever since. Of course, as a writer, I’ve got notebooks sitting everywhere. Key word: sitting. Not being used. Languishing in their forgotten prison-like cube of a bookcase. The timeliness of this friend handing me this treasure (pronounced tray-zure), was on point, following after one of my previous posts where I lamented my lapsed habit of carrying one with me at all times.

Byeeee…but first…

…I’ve come up with another idea to keep my writing on track. I may, or may not, share this in my next post. Stay tuned to see if I do! Or not. It’s really up to you. I hope you stick around though, and keep reading, commenting, rolling your eyes, whatever.