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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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Solution: Force the levees to break

Can we fix it? Yes, we can!

It’s only been a few days since my last post, but I think it acted as a form of emotional catharsis. Since I wrote it, I’ve successfully jotted down multiple ideas in a notebook, read a lot, revised some of my own novel, finished a draft of an article for Beautiful Bizarre Magazine, and started building questions for my next interview.

The parts that I’m most proud of from the list above, are the revisions on my novel and having the notebook on hand to write something down on (thanks to a good friend for buying one and handing it to me moments before a Ghost Walk).

Now, I’m not saying that I am fully healed and set to go. No. But when I woke up this morning, I took a deep breath and instead of launching myself into my regular routine that prioritizes everything else but writing, I stayed in bed and read. I started my day off with words. I gave myself permission to do so, which, for me, is very hard to do.

I think admitting to and letting out what I had been feeling gave me a sliver of acceptance. It’s out there now. I don’t have to swallow it anymore. Here’s an alliteration party for you: swallowing slivers sucks.

I’m thoroughly convinced now that this blog is going to be an important piece of the motivational puzzle that helps me get through the revisions on my novel, and back on the consistent writing train. These posts will act as breadcrumbs on my trail home.

…sick of the cliché’s yet? Me too.

Signing off,

Angela

Thanks for reading!

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.