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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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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.

Procrastinating? Propel yourself with a prompt

As I’ve written before, I’m a big fan of writing prompts. I always have ideas for stories and I jot them down in a notebook, but when it comes time to actually sit down and formulate a story from beginning to end, I get overwhelmed and attempt to fight the urge to run screaming from my laptop. I don’t always win this fight. Most of the hikes I go on are actually me running as far as I can, just to get away from this feeling. And then I come home and write something, even if it’s just a rambling entry in a journal, and all is well.

The moral of that story is, I really enjoy writing. It’s cathartic.

ENTER: THE WRITING PROMPT

The best way to get started on writing is to start small.
Step one: Google writing prompts and find one that sparks some interest.
Step two: Freefall write about it. Set a timer on your phone for 10 minutes and just write. Don’t stop to edit, don’t worry about grammar, or punctuation, just write it out.
Step three: Either build what you wrote into a story or, don’t. Whatever you do, you’ve already done yourself a favour by writing.

Here is my result from today’s writing prompt:

Write a first line that has an impact.

For additional fun, I wrote one about my morning: Today, I write while sitting under the light of a blood-red sun which burns through the wildfire haze in the sky.

For the rest of my prompt-writing session, I wrote a bunch of first lines for a murder story:

  • When I woke up that morning, I had absolutely no intention of murdering anyone.
  • As I blearily rubbed the sleep from my eyes, I pondered what to make for breakfast; a simple thought that certainly didn’t alert me to the fact that on this day, I’d become a serial killer.
  • While I washed the blood from my hands, I had a quick flashback to my morning, where I had sat peacefully on my balcony, drinking coffee, with no knowledge that I was going to kill someone today.
  • I numbly cleaned the blood from the knife and then in a panic, tried to scrub it off my hands; what had I done?
  • As I stabbed the figure writhing on the ground, a scream pierced the silence, and was absorbed by the elephantine trees that surrounded us.
  • My heart was pounding in my ears and I could feel the blood rushing to my limbs as I gained control over the figure beneath me.

…well, that’s all the murder I’ve got in me for today. Thanks for reading!

Do you write from prompts? Feel like sharing what you wrote? Post in the comments, I’d love to read it!

 

The Collector

Seven-sentence short story.

She collected breath like dream catchers collected nightmares. Creeping into your house at night, crawling in through open windows, picking locks when doors were closed, she’d capture your breath in a jar. Sealing the jar against your mouth, she’d watch wide-eyed as your face scrunched, struggling against the glass pinned to your face.She’d been doing this for years and no longer feared waking anyone up; the jar always fogged up with your breath faster than you could be pulled from sleep. She’d snatch it away and hold it close to her chest, twisting the lid on tight to keep your exhale in and be off to the next house to gather more, and she always needed more.

She knew these breaths were the key to everlasting life and she was investing in her future.

Describe how it tastes

I’ve been lazy with my writing. For a while I was justifying my non-writing behaviour with the fact that I got a new job and had to move provinces. Then I was doing freelance work and I just didn’t have time (although my Netflix playlist will tell a different tale). I just kept coming up with excuses, and yeah, I’ve been busy and life has been chaotic, but is that ever going to change? Probably not. There are always going to be reasons to not write.
And so, I have been sitting down for at least ten minutes every day, and writing from a prompt.

I thought I’d share one with you.

This prompt directed me to look at an object and describe how it tastes. I’m not the greatest at following directions, as you will soon read:

I love food – food of all kinds. Most people identify with preferences for either sweet or salty, but I identify with edible. If it’s edible, I want it.

It’s rare to find something I don’t like the taste of. I will stop eating some foods based on other factors. For example, after an extended period of time of eating the same thing, I will eventually hit a wall, like the egg wall. There is nothing worse than the egg wall and it usually extends to chicken and fish. The poultry-fish wall. Just stop and visualize that for a second, the hitting of a fish and poultry wall.

Unfortunately, there is no chip or candy wall. I could eat from both of those food groups until I became one of them. People would stop inviting me over. It’s undesirable, my crumbly, oily chip self, leaving grease spots on the fabric of the couch in your living room. You’d find chip crumbs in your bed if you had me as an overnight guest.

I’m not interested in describing the taste of food. Who cares what it tastes like? Just give me more of it.

I’ll even eat paper. I think that’s what my appreciation for the smell of books is all about. A used bookstore to me is like a roast in the oven. Words spilling over like meat juices in a pan, saturating my brain. Oh, the words taste like a salty broth, dribbling out the corners of my mouth and onto mashed potato pages.

After writing all of that gold…I wonder if maybe I shouldn’t stop writing altogether.