4 Tips to Make Sense of Writing Tips

Hey all! Before I get into today’s post, I just wanted to remind you guys of my new Before and After feature. It could be a way for you to get your hands on a really inexpensive custom design, so if you haven’t yet, go check out my announcement.

Okay! Time to get into the post. This is last week’s vlog that went live a bit too late, which is why it’s only being put on my blog today. As always, the script follows the video, but if you choose that, you’re missing an awesome Vader impersonation…

Show don’t tell. Never stop writing. Only write when you’re feeling inspired. Never start with a dream sequence. Never use a narrator. Never use prologues. Always plan ahead of writing. Never plan ahead. Edit as you write. NEVER edit as you write.

That’s only a small sample of the writing rules that one can get out there. And as you can see, a lot of it is contradictory. So what’s a writer to do?

In my sixteen or so years of writing stories, I’ve managed to develop a way to approach writing rules that makes it all… well… make a bit more sense. And since I’m awesome, I thought I’d share the tips with you.

Yes, I’m aware that this is a tip vlog about understanding tips, but there you go.

Let’s just get into it.

Tip #1: Before you even start researching writing, it’s a good idea to develop your own set of best practices first. 

The truth is that it’s a mad, senseless writing world out there. It seems like every writer has “advice” out there, and as someone who’s been around the block, a lot of advice out there is patently bad.

Terrible. Terrible advice.

And if you go into your research armed with your own personalized knowledge of what already works for you, you’re not going to be confused into the dark side all that easily. *Insert Vader Breath Here.*

Seriously though. If you know what works and someone’s acting like you’re doing it wrong, you know to roll your eyes and disregard at will.

Which brings me to my next tip.


Tip #2: If someone’s trying to convince you that theirs is the only, best way… they’re giving you bad advice. 

I don’t care what they’re saying. If they start off from the point of view that there is no other way to succeed at writing, you can’t trust the rest of what they’re saying. The guys that seem a bit hesitant, usually prefacing with a disclaimer of “I know other people do things differently and it works for them, but I find that…” usually are the ones that are worth listening to.

In particular, and this is a sad thing, there are some big names out there that try to sell themselves and their writing by making themselves seem like these literary geniuses that have the soul true knowledge to writing success.

 
DON’T LISTEN TO THEM.

Another bonus rule of thumb: If someone sounds like they’re talking out their arse, they probably are.

Tip #3: Understand why something is considered to be a rule.

Despite everything, some writers have a real, legitimate desire to help others, but because they’re not that experienced yet, they don’t quite understand what they’re saying. So their response is to come across as being dead certain about absolutes.

Never use adverbs. 

Never start with dream sequences. 

Never open with prologues.

Always do this. 

Never do that. 

The problem with subscribing yourself to these absolutes is that you’re actually limiting your own writing. But at the same time, those “rules” are there for a reason. So if you know those reasons, you’ll also know when and how you can bend the rules.

And that neatly brings me to my final tip.

Tip #4: Treat writing rules not as the x number writing commandments, but rather as guidelines. 

As I said before, a lot of the “rules” out there are considered to be such for some really good reasons.

That does not mean you’re doomed to always follow them slavishly. You’re the writer. You’re literally the master of your own story.

And if you say that rule doesn’t apply to you, that rule doesn’t apply to you.

Just remember, though, that if veering off from the rules results in bad writing, your readers will kick your ass for it. So don’t be irresponsible either.



And that’s basically it for me. Next week, I’ll share my own list of off-the-beaten-path writing rules that you might find useful. In the comments, let everyone know, which writing rules do you often disregard? 

A Bit of News

Hey Everyone!

Yeah, I know today is supposed to be a vlog update, but alas, everything is running late for me. (Refer to Wednesday’s post for a deeper understanding.)

As it is, the fact that I had to shoot late meant that I had to do some heavy editing to make the video look good, which also means it’s taking longer to render the edited video. Then I planned to upload render and upload early this morning, but Windows decided to update, which meant I’m now still waiting for the video to render. Sigh.

Anyhoodles. I thought I’d get some news and admin out of the way instead.

YouTube Posting Schedule for This Week

As a result of the delay, the YouTube post will go live for my Patreon patrons today, and everyone else tomorrow night. The blog post that includes the script will go live on Monday.

I Am Planning to Bring Before and After Back

For those of you wondering what the hay I’m talking about… Last year, I had a bit of a short-lived blog post series featuring me picking images and then turning them into something awesome using Photoshop, something like a cover image, excerpt banner or whatever. The idea originally was to post Before and Afters regularly in order to keep learning new things and also to keep my skills sharp, but then I thought… Why don’t I open this up a little more?
So this is what I’m thinking. Send me an email at mishagericke(AT)gmail(DOT)com and tell me what you want me to do. For example:
Cover Image for a [insert genre here] book. It’s about… [insert description here] and I’m thinking [insert what you think would look cool]. And then let me know what you want written on it.
 
Then (and this is the cool bit), I will put a price on the image and you can mail me to buy it with up to three adjustments. The price will be determined mostly by the cost of the images and partially by the amount of work I did, but my vision for now is to keep it more in line with pre-made cover costs than custom costs.
Yes, that means you will get a custom cover in the pre-made price range. And if you buy it, it’s yours. If not, I’m probably putting it on a pre-made list somewhere.
Sounds good? Then do get in touch.
What’s up on your end of the world? 

Ever had one of those days?

You might have picked up that I’m starting to be more active on my social networks, including this blog. And the thing is that I’ve been wanting to get back to my usual MWF posting schedule again.

But man.

Today is just crap.

Have you ever felt like someone put your life on slow mo while time just marches on?

That’s what my day was like today.

It seemed simple enough.

Wake up. Wash the floors. Move the horses. Write a vlog post. Write today’s blog post. Record vlog post. Move horses back. Edit vlog post.

How did it go?

Woke up.

Wash floor, only to be told we have to move the horses now and oops! We and all the dogs are over the wet tiles.

Move the horses. Takes longer than usual.

Return to floor. Wash it a second time.

Brother and dogs walk over the floor again. So I hand him the mop.

Sit down to write vlog post. Get called to early lunch.

Sit down to write vlog post. Remember admin stuff I have to help my brother/assistant with.

Sit down to write vlog post.

It’s time to move the horses back. But this time, they have to put on blankets, which they DO NOT LIKE. This takes two hours.

Return to record vlog post. 1) It’s dinner time and 2) Battery’s dead.

Charge battery.

Record video. Keep forgetting what I want to say, making me take twice as long to record because I keep having to check the script.

Download video.

“Open” video editing software. The program and the others in its suite need to update before I can open and use it.

It’s 10 p.m.

*headdesk*

But at the same time… I have so much to be grateful for.

How is/was your day? 

Keep Calm and Chill Out: 4 Reasons Why Pushing Through Exhaustion Is a Bad Idea

My vlog post from last week has gotten me thinking a lot about why I almost always have to get to the point of burning out before I feel “okay” with taking a break.

In a lot of ways, I think it comes down to this whole mentality of Keep Calm and Carry On.

Don’t get me wrong. Yes, carrying on despite adversity is often the best thing we can do. But sometimes, I think we’re carrying on a little bit too far. And this is why:

1) Forcing ourselves to keep going despite exhaustion only exhausts us more.

Yeah yeah I know. Thank you, Captain Obvious. Obviously doing things when you’re already tired makes the tiredness worse. It’s common sense.

And yet, we ignore this common sense all the time.

What’s more, people expect it from us. They even praise use for doing it. Think I’m crazy? Take a look around at people who are positively bragging about the fact that they’re living off of coffee and pulling all-nighter after all-nighter. And then see the comments. Only a few “buzzkills” will think to say, “Five nights in a row already? This is really bad for you. Please go get some sleep.”

And sometimes, that’s fine. We often do need to push through exhaustion, because we quite simply are exhausted all the time. So if we don’t push ourselves, we wouldn’t get anywhere.

But as with my five-all-nighters-in-a-row example, there are limits, and we’re all but ignoring them all the time.

2) There’s so much more to exhaustion than being tired.

So let me tell you a little story. I committed to writing because it was my lifeline after I had proverbially drowned myself in a study course I’d hated.

I knew in the first week of my studies (in 2007) that I wasn’t enjoying the course, but the Keep Calm and Carry On thing struck again. And I carried on. And on. Often giving up my sleep—all-nighters for the win, right? The faculty acted as if this wasn’t only normal, but to be expected as a prerequisite for success.

Half way through 2008, I seriously considered throwing myself in front of a car to be a valid alternative to going to class.

It wasn’t even that I was suicidal. I don’t think. But I was exhausted. Mentally. Physically. Emotionally. And by ignoring my exhaustion for about 18 months, I had lost the capacity for normal emotions about a class. I had lost most of the capacity to think straight. I say “most,” because in the moment I was about to take that step, something in my mind went “WTF ARE YOU DOING?????!!!!!!!” and I had a moment of clarity.

I crossed the street and skipped class. Instead I went to administration and changed my degree.

But here’s the thing. The damage was done.

3) Medium term exhaustion leads to long term damage.

So I had taken myself out of the nightmare degree and made sure to get more sleep. Did that make me feel better?

No more than quitting smoking after being diagnosed cures lung cancer.

My mom not-so-secretly thought I was taking drugs because, simply put, I was broken more than a year after leaving that degree.

I literally can’t remember the second semester of my second year (2008). I know I passed most of my subjects, but the one I failed… It’s like a hole in my brain. I can’t even remember sitting for the exam.

I had issues at fencing practice in 2009. Why? Because parrying and self-defense is important if you want to win. And my self-preservation instincts had been all but destroyed. I could literally see the hits coming in, but my brain just wouldn’t react defensively.

My short term memory was blown.

And worse, I, a trivia queen, couldn’t recall whole chunks of the knowledge I’ve gathered over my entire life.

In the end, the only thing that stopped me from being clinically diagnosed with depression in 2010 (I think. Kinda hazy on the date there.) was the fact that I had 3D awareness in the psychologist’s test.

Everything else was blown to hell, as a direct result of my exhaustion.

I knew something was wrong, but didn’t realize how bad it was until the psychologist gave me a four digit phrase that I couldn’t repeat back five seconds after I’d heard it.

When did I start to feel normal? 2013.

As in a whole five years after I had quit exhausting myself. 18 months of damage, five years of recovery.

4) Exhaustion is like boiling a frog.

Yeah, I know quite a few of you might be thinking Oh this would never be as bad for me. I’m in total control. 

The thing is, pushing yourself through exhaustion isn’t a once-off. It’s cumulative. You know the analogy of boiling frogs, right?

Toss a frog into boiling water and it jumps out. Put it in cold water and then put it to boil.

It’s the same thing with exhaustion. Every time we push through, we’re tiring ourselves out just a little bit more.

And you might be thinking Huh. This isn’t that bad. But that’s just you acclimating yourself to your new normal of exhaustion.

If there isn’t a finite, certain end to the causes of your exhaustion, your new normal might end up being the complete destruction of your health and mind.

So when it’s looking like the crap that’s exhausting you just isn’t ending, the logical reaction isn’t to carry on.

It’s to pace yourself. To take a step back and pare back to the absolute minimum so that you can get to the end with most of yourself intact. Life is hard enough as a marathon, without you doing repeated 100m sprints as you go.

What about you? Do you have a tendency to push yourself too far? How do you deal with exhaustion? 

The Importance of Stepping Back

Hey lovely people! My vlog post ended up coming a week late, because I caught the flu. Sigh. Really complicated everything. It’s finally done, though, so I hope you enjoy it. 🙂

Going off of the comments I got last time, I decided to keep posting my script below the video for those of you who prefer to read.

I want to talk about a really understated bit of advice that can be vital to your survival as a writer. Namely: That sometimes, you just need to step back, take your foot off the gas pedal.

As you might know from my more recent vlog updates, things haven’t been going well with me lately. Basically, nothing has been quite going my way since 2014, but that was okay, because I was taught that old truism that we all get fed with mother’s milk:

If you work hard, everything will work out. 

Eh…

Turns out not so much.

See, in the years since 2014, I’d worked 16 hour days, often more in order to do more, and I’d do that until I was on the edge of breaking emotionally. I never stopped writing. Never stopped building at businesses and marketing and literally anything that I *knew* would get me ahead.

And it just kept feeling like everything was turning to dust under my feet.

The worst part? None of the hours I’d spent, of the health I’d risked, of the life I’d postponed… none of it actually meant anything.

Because there are always assholes out to get you. And they will steal your life and your hours of work and your very soul if they can, just to benefit themselves.

So yeah. After relentlessly pushing myself for almost four years, there came a point where I just…couldn’t. Not going to go into detail, but I came to the point where I was so exhausted that I couldn’t fight anymore.

I couldn’t keep acting like everything was okay and that it was business as usual, because it wasn’t.

And so, I pulled back. From as much as I could. Obviously there are some commitments you can’t avoid without incurring long-term damage, but if there was something I could leave with a cost I could tolerate, I did it.

This sadly included my writing, because the stresses of my life had basically drained my creativity. So instead of forcing myself to write, I forced myself not to. Instead, I spent my writing hours doing needlepoint or crocheting. Anything with an almost mindless, repetitive motion.

What this did was it allowed me to grieve. It allowed me to feel. It let me process my pain and frustration instead of allowing me to suppress them like I’d been doing for years. It put me in a place where I could regain some perspective. Where I could look at the problems and at least get to the point where I could see the value in the things I was doing again.

And that’s probably the most important thing about stepping back. When we’re writers, we basically take on an extra job, and when we’re published, marketing that book becomes another job. Which means that it’s go go go go all the time with no stopping, and when things aren’t going as well as they should, it’s so easy to be overwhelmed. It’s too easy to lose the meaning of what we’re doing in the mad rush to get it all done.

So it becomes imperative that we step back and breathe at least for a few days, just to regain a sense of balance before taking everything on again.

What do you do to recharge when you’re pulling back?