What Not to Include


Being a writer sometimes means saying shit you just don’t think the masses will agree with and letting them disagree. Going with the flow, with the grain of the wood, is always the safer avenue to take, but isn’t necessarily the one your moral sled dogs will leap at.

Here’s a bit of me on some topics that are bouncing around our current social consciousness. The caveat emptor here is that I don’t know about any of it. I’m not by any means au courant on the scholarly articles addressing these issues, but I also know that no one has to be. I’ll just be the writer, do the work and know that what I end up saying is something that people will judge one way or another for whatever reason. That’s just what people do, right? All you can do is be true to yourself.

Inclusion, equality, and inclusivity – huge topics on the sociopolitical board in recent times, and the reality is the sense of it all is likely heightened because of the recent election of the current American President. I’m not here to talk about him or gripe or anything politically active like that; I’m just not that person. I’m just noting an observation. I’ll start by saying I don’t believe everyone has to be included in works of art. They just don’t. There is no rule out there that mandates we have to be “fair.” That word, ‘fair’, is a human fabrication. There’s no rule book to life that says we have to do anything – one way or another.

Sorry.

At the same time, I’m not saying that it doesn’t feel good to be included; but that’s not the issue. The issue around the nation is that I feel there’s this movement that people HAVE TO include certain other people. It says that everyone should be included. We should all include everybody else because they’re not you. Include them because they’re: black, yellow, green, purple, male, female, short, tall, fat, skinny, uneducated, poor, uneducated, unhealthy, have different viewpoints, come from different cultures, dog/cat owners, multilingual, Lady Gaga lovers, horse-haters, puppy-kickers, and so on ad nauseam. Include them all. All doors are open; everyone’s welcome.

Guess what, I don’t leave my door open at all times of the day for anyone to walk in whenever they want. <shakes head vigorously> It’s my house, not public park. Doesn’t work that way.

Okay, so there seems to me to exist an implicit understanding that we (artists) haven’t been including “the other” on purpose for ages. I would challenge this. I don’t have the proof on me, but I’d be willing to wager that “the other” has guest-starred in art since art’s debut way back to who-knows-when.  This isn’t something we have to look up now, but I guess is that the data’s there when you’re ready. I get the feeling that the lack of inclusion isn’t the issue here, but wanting the masses to “like you.” And that makes sense. Humans enjoy the feeling of being included, of people liking us. Yes. I completely agree with and understand that. But hey, check out that elephant there in the middle of the room – people aren’t always going to like you. It will never happen 100% of the time. Never. I’ll take that bet.

The aforementioned goes especially for artists. You’re an artist, guess what? You’re playing the lute to an audience of skeptics and “beauty analysts.” Yes, general analysts of a subjective concept. You’re just not going to with with everyone.

BUT! … You will always with with SOMEONE! Even if that someone is only you, there is always someone out there who loves your stuff! That fan could fall anywhere in the color schema of humanity and they love it.

Look. There’s no rule out there that says in life we have to play fair. In fact, once we (society, political institutions, Big Brother) start making it a rule that we have to play fair, then we lose our ability to love what we choose. Once we start telling citizens how they have to play fair, (depending on the topic – or always?) we’re placing more restrictions on the citizens within that country.

At the same time, I’m not saying it’s okay to be a dick, either. If you don’t want someone to join your Easter Egg hunt, that’s fine. It’s your party, but there are understandable reasons and not-all-that-understandable reasons for this. In the end though, it’s still your party. You don’t want to include people, you don’t have to. Period. We were taught the rule on sharing (ideally – if we had parents who made an active effort to bring that to our attention and tattoo it on our hearts. As adults, I think it’s ridiculous that we have to be told this.

None of this is the issue. The issue, as I see it, isn’t inclusion; it’s kindness/compassion. If I wanted to, I could totally play the politically correct game and smile and open my door to everyone. “Look,” I’d say, “I’m being the friendly inclusive patriot of the good ol’ U.S. of A! Come on in, y’all! Yee haw!.” Shit, you could mandate me to “include” someone all you want, but let’s remember two things:

Thing 1: The kid who gets his mom to make the other kids include him loses respect when mommy walks away.

Thing 2:  My inclusion of you does not mean we are suddenly best friends.

I could be a total asshole and still include you (to make mom happy, to make people see me in a better light; to boost my sales, etc). But none of my including you says I have any more of an intrinsic desire to form a closer bond with you.

As a writer, I don’t feel obligated to put a check mark in the inclusivity box while creating something. Here’s the deal, I (artists) are going to be criticized. Why? Because whether I identify a certain way or not, it’s not necessarily how I see myself here, but how other people see me (using their own backgrounds, potential prejudices, and stereotypes) which lends itself to how those around me label me.

In my life, I have worked with a Skittles packet of humanity; skin color, gender, religion, etc., were not determining factors. The apparel did not proclaim the man, as it were. What did make a difference was their respective characters. Were they good people? Did they give of themselves instead of asking to receive? The more the kid in the corner whines about not being able to join the fun, the less the kids at the game table want to let him in. Patience and quiet perseverance, on the other hand, kindness, honesty/trueness to oneself are the sweeter sounds to which our kind has a greater proclivity to listen. Whining is regression.  Art is, as a potential definition, the expression of spiritual progression.

The plumage of our art loses its luminescence when it yields to the mandates of a manmade system. It becomes listless, dull, sick. It’s some dead fowl whose once pretty wings now quickly fade as they flip and flop on the side of some construction-laden highway of mediocrity. A dead phoenix attracts the same attention as a dead vagrant. Dead is dead. Yesterday’s beauty can’t bribe enough to step on today’s stage.

Make your art the way your art cries to be made. You don’t have to be white to write white, just as you don’t have to be transgendered and Laotian to write transgendered and Laotian. Art is art and it comes through you as it is. It will be ridiculed, laughed at, derided, scoffed at, discarded, and potentially ire-fueling. In the same moment it can be uplifting, life-changing, motivating, and inducing laughter, beauty, and song.

Critics are like roaches, and in saying that I don’t imply they can live for three days without their heads; though that may be questionable. The point is if you sit around and listen all the time to what the social club-toting Neanderthal threatens you to do.

No, you don’t have to include; you don’t have to do anything.

Be kind; be true to yourself; keep your pearlescent wings flapping over those highways. You be you; let them be them. It’s that easy. There are no rules up here.

-lp

 

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Art or Craft – which matters?


It’s rounding on ten o’clock at night and I just saw this:

23. Storytelling Is The Art, Writing Is The Craft
Writing matters. It has rules. It can be artful or utilitarian, it can be languid or merciless. But it’s just the vehicle. We keep coming back to the authors we love — Atwood to Gaiman, King to Morrison — not merely because of the quality of their prose but because their stories are engaging. It’s the stories that matter. The art lives in the story. It’s the hardest and most essential part — you can write beautifully, but if the story there doesn’t sing, fuck you. The opposite is also (usually) true: the writing can be execrable, but as long as the story grips us by the nipples, we’ll buy the ticket and take the ride — and we’ll beg you for more when we’re done.

Chuck, you’re right.

Damn.

I talked about this with my brother several weeks back. We both came to writing in our lives, but for different reasons. I came to writing because I am in love with language. He came to writing because of story. We both write, but for disparate areas of focus. In this regard, I must confess that I disdain the fact that people with ugly prose still get the girls because their stories are the hit of the parade.

Don’t get me wrong; it makes sense. If Harry Potter just opened up by talking about a guy named Harry who wore glasses and was almost a teenager and wasn’t sure what to do with his life or who his friends were and was mediocre when it came to school, but he was okay at it and……

… If that were the case, that book would end up in someone’s fire or toilet paper stand. There has to be progression. Yes, I get that. You have to have something happen. In fact, it’s best if you have a whole shit ton of things happen, each one throwing the reader off, but still making sense. And on and on et cetera..

Yeah, I get it. I just think there should be something said for good writing as well. Not that it can only be good writing, because again, if your “good-writing” about nothing, then you’re giving you’re giving your keyboard a hand job, and yes, you write, but what’s the point? I’m talking about writing a good story AND you know how to write good prose. There has been a sizable handful of books which I have put down (against the raging applause of the masses on how good the story is) because I just couldn’t take the writing anymore. My go-to story is always Sanderson’s Mistborn. I got 400 pages into that book and I had given a liberal dose of grammar and good prose passes (subjective, yes, but aren’t all books subjective when they’re in individual hands?). I had to put it down.

The masters out there are masters of both. They know how to use their craft and make (as Gaiman says) good art.

I agree with you, Chuck. I don’t think it’s right necessarily, but c’est la vie. The point is, write. Writers write. As much as my readerly self doesn’t like shit prose, my writerly self lauds the fact that at least they made it to the shelf of readership. What does that say about the masses and literature? I don’t know. No, it’s not England in the 1800s anymore and this is not the literate society Simon Winchester mentioned in the beginning of The Meaning of Everything.

They want story. You’re a writer. Give them a goddamn story. Even if it’s not the story they want. Your job is to make a story. Write like a cracked-out booknana-lovin’ monkey, and give them a fucking story.

-lp

Arting Harder


If ‘to art’ is a verb (as Chuck is clearly using it), then what would be the past tense of ‘to art?’ Is it “arted?” Like, I arted in front of my wife last night while making chocolate chip pancakes? Does that really work. Well, Chucklodytes, guess what??

I wrote another 1,500+ words today! I arted so hard today, ’bout blew a fuse! It’s like those scenes in the old Rambo flicks where John Rambo (by complete happenstance, of course) comes upon a game-breaking automatic weapon and just fires until the smoke fills up the theater seats.

Yeah, that was how hard I arted.

 

Page glitter pancakes


You know what? I just pimped out my page. Added all kinds of new colors and glitter and words and shit. Added a cool little progress bar for my current work. Fuck yeah! So, Now all I have to do is work on that work and update that work and put that work into action…work, basically.

The progress bar is an idea that I took from Brandon Sanderson’s page. There’s one thing I have to say about the guy, one thing I respect greatly, and that is how much he really includes helping out other writers as a part of his craft. It’s wondrous. There isn’t much of his work that I have read (though there will be, the farther down the WoT rabbit hole I travel), but what little I have read has been mediocre. Bro suggests that I read The Way of Kings at some point in my life, but if the Stormlight Archive is supposed to be a nine-book series, there’s no way I’m starting out on that before the whole thing is over. That’s been discussed; it’s just not something I do – sort of a once-bitten-twice-shy kind of experience with Rothfuss’s Kingkiller Chronicles. Same reason I haven’t read Game of Thrones as of yet. Call me crazy, but I’m just not going to get into it.

Anywho, Sanderson has the progress bar on his page and it keeps the fans updated on where he is and what he’s got going on. Now, he’s got like three or four progress bars because he’s a professional author and that’s how his life works at present. I’m not a professional writer as of yet, but there are still things I’d like to do to get myself moving.

At the time of this writing, I have upwards of eighty seven thousand words on a page. I’m happy with that, but I don’t want it all to be stagnant. The goal is to keep moving. Sort of a Rocky thing when he talked about no one hitting harder than life (from the movie Rocky).

So, it’s about getting it done. You just stop complaining. You stop blaming. You just put in the work. It’s as easy as that.

 

 

 

You Do You


do-what-you-love

Another beauty from Mr. Wendig. When I read this this morning, I about crapped myself laughing. I love the way he puts it – art is art and there’s no one right way to do it. Just because others have done it one way does not mean that the rest of us have to do it that exact way. Just because some of us view a certain piece of art one way does NOT mean that the rest of us have to view it that particular way as well.

It’s a beautiful thing to know that when you do your art, you’re doing your art your way. Just as John Keats put it:

 

Beauty is Truth, truth, beauty; That is all there is to know and all you need to know.

 

Your art is your art. Some may like it and some may dislike it. In fact, some will like it and others will not. And if anyone criticizes you about your art, saying that it SHOULD look one way or another, or you SHOULD have done it one way or another, I agree with Chuck – they can go drink a Middle-Finger Frappacino.

Writing and publishing are two different games, and you should not go cry in a corner just because your stuff doesn’t get published. Your art was successful long before you tried to get it published – it was successful because you finished it, and you wanted others to read it.

Boom! Done. End of list.

Congratulations!

So here’s the deal. When it comes to your art, it’s yours. You own it. No one else. So, put your headphones in, turn the volume up, read Chuck’s wondrous words and again, be on your way.

(*P.S. Check out Chuck’s article below)

Have a word-filled 2016.

lp

 

————-

YOUR 2016 AUTHORIAL MANDATE IS HERE: BE THE WRITER THAT YOU ARE, NOT THE WRITER OTHER PEOPLE WANT YOU TO BE

By Chuck Wendig

 

That blog title is way too long, but fuck it.

A handful of weeks ago, some presumably well-meaning tickledick posted a comment here at the blog. It was a comment that I chose not to approve because, really, I don’t need your shit, Rando Calrissian. This blog is my digital house, and I don’t let strangers inside just so they can take a dump on my kitchen table, especially so we can all sit around, smelling it and discussing it. But the comment was a splinter under my nail, working its way up into the finger-meat. And then reading George R. R. Martin’s end-of-the-year message about not finishing the newest SOIAF also was something that crawled inside me and starting having thought-babies.

Being here on the Internet is a bit like hanging out on a clothesline — some days are sunny and warm, other days are cool and breezy. Some days it pisses rain and the wind tries to take you, and other days it’s daggers of ice or a rime of snow or smoke from a wildfire or some pervert streaking across the lawn and stropping up against you with his unwanted nasty bits.

Being on the Internet means being exposed.

You’re just out there. A squirming nerve without the tooth surrounding it.

That’s good in some ways because you’re exposed to new people, new ideas, new ways of doing things. You’re not an isolated creature here. You are an experiment being observed and are in turn an observer of countless other experiments, and that makes a subtle-not-subtle push-and-pull. But can also be erosive or corrosive — it can wear off your paint a little bit.

As a writer in particular, it has its ups and downs, too. Here, you’ll find yourself surrounded by a gaggle of ink-fingered cohorts who know what it is to do what you do. You’ll have a herd, a cult, a clan, a tribe. You’ll have smaller communities who know what it is you write or want to write, too, whether it’s young adult or epic fantasy or erotic sci-fi cookbooks. And here on the Digital Tubes, everybody is has an opinion, everybody is an expert. And that’s extra-true with writing. Other writers have their processes and their hang-ups and their wins and their losses, and they share it all. Which is, on a whole, a good thing. Information is good. Camaraderie is good.

That, though, can muddy the waters at the same time. This Person is doing This Person’s thing, and That Person is doing That Person’s thing, and Other Person is really loud about what WILL SURELY WORK FOR EVERYBODY (translation, will probably only work for people who are or are like Other Person). And advice gurgles up around your feet like rising floodwaters. Do this, do that, don’t do this, don’t say that, don’t write this, this isn’t selling, that is a no-no, publish this way, sell that way, don’t publish that other way, drink this, wear houndstooth jackets with elbow patches, drink that, snark here, snark there, with a fox, in a box, wearing socks, eating rocks, with a bear, without hair, anywhere. We have a whole lot of writers trying to figure out who they really are, and in the process, do a very good job at also telling you who you should be in order to conform to their notions of who they want to be. To confirm who they are, it’s easy for them to also confirm who you should be, too. That’s not sinister. That’s just human nature. It’s easier to become something when others are along for the ride. And it’s also the joy of confirmation bias — what worked for me confirms that I WAS RIGHT AND SO YOU ARE A HEINOUS DIPSHIT IF YOU DO NOT FOLLOW PRECISELY IN MY FOOTSTEPS. I do it. You do it. Most of us do, I think.

It then gets further complicated once you have readers. Or, Uber Readers, aka, fans. Because they, too, have opinions on you and your work. They will have opinions on your process. And it’s not that they’re wrong, it’s that they’re — no, wait, they are wrong, never mind. They’re totally wrong, because they’re not writing the stories. They’re right about what they want to read and when they want to read it, but not about how to create it. It’s hard to tell someone how to do their job. It’s extra-hard to tell them how to make their art. Because process and prose and authorial intent are all intensely personal to the creator. Personal and twisted further by the pressures of creation and the potential mental stresses that come along with it — remember, a great many writers and artists also suffer from depression or anxiety or other ghosts in the gray matter.

It’s not just one type of writer over another. This is true of new writers who are just finding their way. This is true of mid-career or mid-list writers who are out there in the wilderness surviving, not sure how to get out of the forest just yet. This is true of super-successful authors who are trapped under the magnifying lens of a massively public fanbase — the sun likely focusing into a laser-hot beam upon their foreheads. All artists of every level are exposed here.

Here, now, is the comment referenced at the fore of the post:

“There is no skill floor or ceiling to being a writer. Anyone who speaks a language, who tells a story, can write. To be published is a stricter process that requires an adherence to professional guidelines and to a standard of quality that is dictated by the publishing office. That you’ve been published so many times is no small feat, and I commend you for it.

But having read Aftermath and Blackbirds, I feel that there is…a laziness to your style that you seem to be either unaware of or have come to terms with. It’s difficult to quantify, but it gives me the impression that you don’t value writing as an art. As a job, certainly. But not as a form of expression. Because otherwise you wouldn’t spend 45-90 days on a book. A soul isn’t bared in three months. Professional or no, no book you truly care for should go from start to finish that quickly.

To know an art is to break established rules in the hopes of producing a truer version of your vision. And you certainly break the rules of writing craft. In the first three paragraphs of Blackbirds you’ve disregarded flow, used inappropriate comparisons, and introduced the main character through a mirror scene. And while these things are permissible, they are not the hallmarks of someone who cherishes what he writes.

Great writing seeks subtlety. It’s the words that are unwritten, the descriptions that are inferred, the meaning that comes across through the subtext of what is explicit that writing excels at communicating. But your writing doesn’t ask me to look within myself for answers. It asks me to look no further than the page. And that, to me, is a tragedy. Because we’re all capable of greatness. But greatness comes from being dissatisfied with how things are, and with pushing the boundaries of what you believe yourself to be capable of in order to achieve your absolute best. And even then, you won’t be satisfied. You’ll push yourself further in your next pursuits, because now you’ve touched on what you’re capable of, but you won’t be satisfied.

To release your books in such a short time frame tells me that you’re satisfied, and that breaks my heart.”

I tried for the better part of a week to conjure a more cogent response than “fuck you,” and I got as far as “go fuck yourself.” Like, I tried to go through it once and conjure point-by-point rebuttals — well, no, because of course I value art and art is not beholden to any timetable and it takes the time that it takes short or long and — but eventually my rebuttal dissolves into a gargled cry of “eat a bucket of deep-fried fucks, you squawking chicken-fucker.” With an added, “HOW’S THAT FOR SUBTLETY,” and then a crotch-grab as I cackle and yell, “CHERISH THIS.”

This is someone who wants his vision to be my vision. He has very explicit ideas about how art is made — ideas that, by the way, are provably false. (For writers in particular, looking at the daily word counts of famous writers is clarifying in its sheer variation.) Great writing is not one thing any more than great paintings are, or great music, or, or, or. The variation in art is glorious. The variation in the process that puts the art into the world is equally amazing. Music can be operatic, or punk, or dub-step. A sculpture might be an alabaster goddess or a bunch of fucking cubes stuck to a bunch of other fucking cubes. Food can be subtle and airy or unctuous and heavy or whipped into a foam or shoved between two buns (tee hee buns). Comedy can be a routine that takes years to write, or an improv session that took 30 seconds to conjure.

There’s no wrong way to do it, as long as you’re doing it.

There’s no timetable, as long as you’re taking the time.

Nobody can tell you how you do it. They can only tell you how they do it or what illusions they hold about the process — illusions that often wither under actual implementation.

They can offer suggestions. And you are free to take them, hold them up in the light, and see if there is anything there of value. And if there isn’t? Then you can fling it into the trash compactor on the detention level where it will be ogled and eaten by the one-eyed Dianoga.

That’s not to say there aren’t people you should listen to — a good editor or agent, a trusted friend, a beloved author. But even there, you want to find people who will clarify and improve your process and your work — not substitute it with something that isn’t really yours.

So, in 2016, I advise you to give your middle fingers a proper workout and elevate them accordingly to any who would diminish who you are, what you make, or how you make it. You don’t need to wall yourself off from it, but you also don’t need to be a sweater hanging on the clothesline, either. Get some tooth around that nerve.

Know who you are. Learn your process. Find your way. And don’t let anyone else define who you are as a creator, as an artist, as a writing writer who motherfucking writes.

Happy 2016, writers.

You do you.

*explodes in gory human fireworks*

 

Write Until your Fingers Bleed


LP: Dear Chuck, where have you been all my life?

C: LP, been hangin’ around dirty bars and and back alleys, looking for inspiration and writing my little thingy off.

LP: The thing is, Chuck. You’re just the man. Seriously, you write all these like, manly things about…like, manly stuff, and writing stuff. It’s just….AAHH (** Paused while LP loses mind and goes for a 39-mile sprint while trying to calm his brain down).

C: Yeah, well it’s not always been this, as you say, “manly.”  LP? You there?

LP: (** Panting) Yeah, yeah Chuck. I’m here. So, (still panting), what you got for us this week? What’s another one of those good old-fashioned stuff that Chuck can give to the world and we can post right here on the space.. you manly man, you. You beautiful manly Amaze-Bearded …man?

C: Actually, LP, there is this one thing…

LP: Take it away, Chuck.

____

write

NANOWRIMO SURVIVAL GUIDE: HOW I WRITE 50K(-ISH) EVERY MONTH

I do NaNoWriMo roughly every month. That probably sounds like a humblebrag, and maybe it is, though you’ll note I’ve said nothing about the quality of my writing and am only noting its quantity — but I write anywhere from 40,000 to 60,000 words every month. Is this how everyone should do it? No. Is this how I do it? Yep. I’m a full time writer and I get to do this pantsless, coffee-soaked, and in a shed specifically designed to house my dubious word count. As such, I’d damn well better dance for my motherfucking dinner.

I figured it might be helpful to outline for you, then, how I manage to survive this pace.

So what follows are a mighty smattering of tips and tricks. You may find them useful. You may find them distasteful. Feel free to take a nibble and see how they taste. Taste yucky? Spit it out.

Here we go.

1. I write from an outline. You don’t have to do this, but it helps me. My outlines generally cover big tentpole stuff, but not always the nitty-gritty details.

2. I give the appropriate quantity of fucks. Meaning, I do not overfuck, but I do not underfuck, either. I do not care so much that I feel all the weight and pressure of the world pinning me between the shoulders, but I care enough to actually, y’know, do the work to the best of my ability.

3. I do not edit as I go.

4. I do one reading pass of the previous day’s work — and here I’ll allow myself minor tweaks.

5. When I’m not writing, I’m thinking a whole fucking lot about the story. I take specific moments out of my day to do this. Showering. Walking the dog. Mowing the lawn. I roll the story around my mouth like a pebble. I’m like a human stone polisher over here. It helps me stay focused and concentrate on what I did today and what I have to do tomorrow.

6. When I end one day of writing, I write a few notes — a few words to a few sentences — that give me a clue as to what I need to write tomorrow. So, I open the file and there are some vague stage directions to get me going. THE CHIMPANZEE DETECTS TREACHERY. Or EWOK JEDI FLORGIN RAT-BEAR CHASES ANCIENT SITHLORD THROUGH A PEORIA WAL-MART. Whatever. Something to grab hold of when I start the next day.

7. I shut off THE SHRIEKING GESTICULATING ATTENTIONFEST THAT IS THE INTERNET using a wonderful piece of software called Freedom (avail for Mac and Windows, I think).

8. I do about 45 minutes of writing, then 15 minutes of dicking around.

9. I get up and move my ass. Like, not literally that — I don’t merely stand up in my chair and shake my booty for a few minutes. (And here I quietly hope no one hacks my webcam to provide proof that I do exactly that.) But sitting down for so long is an act of indolence and torpidity and it’s like I can feel my blood thickening to corn syrup. The blood needs to get to my brain, not pool in my heels. So, I walk, I move, I run, I dance (sometimes Flashdance, sometimes Footloose, sometimes I’m Jennifer Grey in Dirty Dancing).

10. I do not listen to music because music distracts me.

11. I try not to eat shitty garbage-food during the day. Carbs make me boggy unless I’m running, so I try to keep this slugabed machine moving with nuts and cheese and stuff like that. I also don’t drink while I’m writing. I mean, I drink and eat shitty garbage-food sometimes, but I do it properly, which is to say, at midnight in the dark while weeping and aggressively touching myself.

12. I let the characters lead the way. When I doubt, I ask what do they want in this scene, what do they want overall, and what is most important? I let them run with it. And this usually runs them into other characters who are either competing for the same thing or who want opposing things. Characters have problems. They use the fiction to confront those problems (often poorly). This is the engine of storytelling. Seize it, let it guide you. Do not let “plot” dominate this core character-driven component.

13. I also like to let characters just talk. I’d say about half the time I keep it. And the other half of the time, just letting them talk still lets me know something about the characters.

14. I make sure I’m having fun when I’m writing. If I’m not enjoying a scene or worse, I’m bored writing it, something is wrong. If I’m bored, you’ll be bored. If I’m having fun, I hope you will, too. I like to think each of my stories is you buying a ticket and taking a ride. I never want you to regret getting buckled into my NARRATIVE LOG-FLUME SPACE MOUNTAIN FUCKSTRAVAGANZA. When I’m writing a scene or a chapter I also think very hard about if I’m giving you a reason to drop out. If I am, I try to reverse that trend and course correct then and there.

15. When in doubt, seek danger. Er, not for you, but for the story. Seek danger that’s physical, but also that’s emotional, spiritual, emotional, social. Fiction is often an act of taking your plane and flying it right at the ground. Sometimes you pull up at the last minute. Sometimes you crash the thing and the story becomes what happens after the crash. But it’s never about a few safe stunts. It’s about the conflict found in the world around us, but more importantly, in the human heart.

16. I try to always second-guess the reader. Every scene I try to guess where you think I’d go, then I try to do differently. Or, in rare cases, do the same just to keep you on your widdle toes.

17. I write in the morning. In the morning I have all my IEP — Intellectual Energy Points. I have not yet spent them on things like answering emails or making dinner or dealing with the daily ennui of HUMAN EXISTENCE. Which means I give the writing high priority. When I used to have a day job, that meant getting up before the day  job and banging out 1000 words.

18. Comfort actually matters. The myth that art is born out of hunger and discomfort is as pervasive as it is toxic. Have a keyboard you like. Sit in as nice a chair as you can afford. Avoid eyestrain. Be fed. Have water. Make sure your giant bunny costume is washed and deodorized and that the assless window gives proper access to your botto… *checks notes* Okay that last part is for a different post. So. Uhhh. Just be comfortable.

19. I know that community is a big part of NaNoWriMo, but for me, I like writing to be as isolated an act as possible. I don’t care what you’re doing. I care what I’m doing. Comparing yourself to others is a no-no. It’ll just make you feel like you can’t measure up.

20. I endeavor to write five days a week, and then don’t write on weekends. I need that break. Every day that I do write, I write regardless of how I’m feeling — I write through illness, anxiety, life trouble. This is not saying you need to do that. (What did I tell you about comparing yourself?) You have to find your pace. Maybe you write all your weekly count on Monday at 2:15. Do what’s best for you. The good news is, for the most part, routines are valuable. Establish the routine and stick to it and after a couple weeks, you’re good. The bad news is, NaNoWriMo asks that you have that routine up and running by the time the month starts.

21. I post notes around my monitor or my desk. Little things — questions, plot points, plot holes. Things of which I want to remain mindful.

22. I also jot notes at the beginning about my characters — never more than 100 words, and sometimes enough to fit on a smattering of Post-It notes. I write the things about them that I think are most important. These are usually character traits — even writing down three significant traits (“OBSTINATE, INCONTINENT SEX MACHINE”) gives you something to keep in mind as you write that character.

23. I do not read the same type of thing that I am presently writing. It crosses too many wires, and the signal starts to bleed. Ideally, I read non-fiction. But key thing here is that while writing, I am also reading. Reading is a vital, revivifying act. Writing without reading is like running without food. Eventually, you’re running on empty.

24. I ask myself, “Is this making sense?” If not, I course correct.

25. My writing life is not a sprint but a marathon. I’m running a long con, here. This is a heist where I’m stealing the Crown Jewels, not just knocking over a liquor store. You can’t sprint to 50k in a month without shattering your tender little brain-vase. You gotta measure it out. Gotta find a workable, steady pace — then stick to it consistently and confidently.

26. The daily mantra: “I can fix this in post.”

27. CAFFEINE, MOTHERFUCKER. DO YOU SPEAK IT.

28. I type fast. This sounds a-doy durr hurr obvious but seriously, I practice typing and I type hella zippy. Also, HELLA ZIPPY is my roller derby nickname.

29. Don’t think about publishing, don’t think about finishing, don’t think about next week. Think about yesterday, today, and tomorrow, and that’s it.

30. Repeat after me: “I am my own Muse.”

31. Repeat after me: “Don’t panic.” Clutch your towel and realize this isn’t making or breaking anything. This isn’t BRAIN ROCKETRY. Again, see #2 on the list: care less.

32. PANTS ARE A TOOL OF THE OPPRESSOR

33. When in doubt, escalate.

34. Eschew shame. I find shame to be half a ladder. It feels like you’re climbing somewhere, and you are… at least until you’re not. I don’t find shame valuable in writing (or really, anywhere else).

35. Also? Fuck writing advice. I know, you’re reading this here and now, but you have to know where such advice belongs. While writing, it rarely belongs in your face. Give it minimal priority. Every writer does things differently — this post is a good example because smart money says you do things at least somewhat differently from how I do them. “Writing Rules” are rarely that, and they’re a good way to make you feel like you’re on the wrong track. Writing advice is just that — advice. It’s advice on what to order on a menu, not a mandate on how to live your creative life. I read writing advice between books. I think about writing and read what other writer’s do during down-time. It doesn’t help me in the midst of the thing. It’s too much noise. Before and after I write? Yes. During? No.

36. I try to remember how amazing it is to be a writer. Because it is. Even when it’s not.

37. I try to be aware of self-care issues. I’m practiced enough where my writing schedule remains unpunctured by anxiety or health issues, but I also remain aware that when they happen, I am excused for writing badly, or shorting my word count, or just taking a much-needed day off.

38. In fact, I’m always comfortable with writing badly. Because that’s why WRITING JESUS invented that thing called “editing.” Thank you, Writing Jesus. Thank you.

39. If I’m stuck, I babble on the page until I am unstuck. Sometimes I blow stuff up.

40. I am vigilant about protecting my time and my space for writing. This is my TERRITORIAL BUBBLE and none shall puncture it lest one be shanked by a broken coffee mug.

41. I back everything up a billion times. I back things up on an external time machine drive. I back them up via Dropbox and with reiterative file names. I email myself the drafts. I also save obsessively. Any time I stop writing for more than five seconds, I do the keyboard shortcut to save. Nothing is more dispiriting than losing what you’re working on.

42. I write for me, not for you. I am my first audience. You can come later.

And that’s the end of that.

BEHOLD THINGS AND STUFF

30 DAYS IN THE WORD MINES is a 30-day writing regimen. $2.99 at Amazon, or 33% off directlyif you use coupon code NANOWRIMO.

The NaNoWriMo Storybundle is live — 13 books with another 12 if you meet the $25 threshold. You will note that the bonus tier contains one of my books so go grabby-grabby.

If you want a lot of my tips and tricks and DUBIOUS WORDTHINK agglomerated, look no further than The Kick-Ass Writer, out now from Writer’s Digest: Indiebound or Amazon.

If you’re a fan of mine, you are apparently called “Wendigos,” and hey now there’s a t-shirt by House Organa shop, so, jeez, go be stylish and rad and WENDIGO SEXY.

Now, go forth and –