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? 

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? 

Putting Your Memories into the Story by Yolanda Renée

Hey everyone! Today I want to welcome Yolanda Renée to the Five Year Project as part of her blog tour for her new book, The Snowman. Take it away, Yolanda!

Putting Your Memories into the Story

Write what you know, we’ve all been told to do this, and I do it consistently. No, I don’t know anything about killing a person, or catching the culprit, at least personally, but I have studied and researched the topic. However, I do know a little about Alaska since I’ve lived there, and thanks to Google maps I can explore new and interesting places that I haven’t visited. I described 4th Avenue, written as Fourth Avenue, in my story because I could see it from my bedroom window when I lived in Anchorage, and yes it held some very risqué establishments. I’ve also purchased Alaskan Pottery that’s featured in the Reincarnation Chapter. I’ve visited several of the parks, Stowy’s favorite body dumping sites, such as Earthquake Park, a park created after the 1964, 9.4 earthquake that caused a residential neighborhood to slid into the ocean.

One of my first introduction to the state was the immense size of the bears that greet you as you walk through the Anchorage airport. Polar Bears, Kodiak’s, and grizzlies all skillfully preserved by taxidermists, (Stowy’s chosen hobby) all very intimidating.

I do that with all my stories, put a little of my memories into the mix, even statements once made to me by unsuspecting friends, or co-workers. Like when I first told folks that I was visiting Alaska during vacation. “Why would you want to visit that forsaken iceberg?” A former boss asked. I couldn’t believe his ignorance about our 49th state, but I never forgot his statement and allowed Fern Jenkins to use it when describing where she’d rather spend Thanksgiving.

“Don’t be foolish. Home is where Thanksgiving happens. Here. Not some forsaken iceberg.”

Another interesting side note might be the story as to how Stowy Jenkins got his name, Stone. I took that from a story my father told me about his father. How he’d taken my dad out to learn how to swim in an old coal mining quarry and threw him in. It was sink or swim! He swam, of course, but Stowy claims to have sunk like a rock – hence his nickname, Stone. This is a family story that I allowed Stowy to appropriate. He needed a good lie, and I’m sure way back when, that learning to swim in West Virginia happened this way more than once. Yes, my family is originally from West Virginia, and the name Stowy, is a family name. Another of my writing habits, using family names. . .

Writing what you know isn’t that difficult and I think it makes fiction writing all the more real! What do you think? Do you use your life in your stories? Please share a story or two in the comments.

Thanks, Misha, for hosting The Snowman Tour!

About Yolanda Renée

At one time Alaska called to me, and I answered. I learned to sleep under the midnight sun, survive in below zero temperatures, and hike the Mountain Ranges. I’ve traveled from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez, and the memories are some of my most valued. The wonders, mysteries and incredible beauty that is Alaska has never left me and thus now influence my writing.
Despite my adventurous spirit, I achieved my educational goals, married, and I have two handsome sons. Writing is now my focus, my newest adventure!
You can connect with me here:
Blog    *     Facebook     *     Twitter     *     Pinterest     *     Email
 
It takes a true artist to pursue his victims in the art of seduction, and Stowy Jenkins is no exception, especially with blood as his medium.
 
Stowy Jenkins, aka, Stone, and as Alaskans refer to him, the Snowman, is a true artist. His muse, Gigi, is the ultimate inspiration for his painting. Her rejection inspires him to use a very unusual medium…blood.
 
While art may be his passion, the taste for blood is his obsession, and multiple murders, the result.
 
Rookie, Detective Steven Quaid, is no fan of the Snowman’s murderous exhibitions. A twisted and deadly relationship bond the two men and neither knows who will come out of it alive.
Buy on Amazon
Thanks for visiting, Yolanda! It’s always nice to have you stop by. 🙂 
 
What about you, awesome readers? Do you include your memories in your writing?

Getting Back to Basics

I briefly considered writing this post for my other blog (you know, the one that actually is supposed to contain musings about my life), but I put that one on hiatus more than a year ago, and I feel bad to take it off hiatus for what could potentially be only one post.

So here we are.

I’ve been really quiet. Mostly I just needed a break. The events of the past two weeks just really brought me to a brink I didn’t like being on. A kind of mute terror that nothing would ever be okay again.

And no, I’m not being dramatic.

One day, I might actually write about this time here, but if you’d like to know exactly what’s going on, I have a post about it on my Patreon feed, which you can get to (as well as some awesome rewards) for a $1 subscription pledge. Eek. That looks like a plug. It’s really not. I don’t like keeping secrets from you guys, but what’s going on right now is so ugly that I can’t just post it out in public. Patreon is a balance of both, offering easy access to those who really want to know while keeping it relatively private so it can’t just come up whenever someone searches my name.

For those of you who’d rather like to skip to the current point I’m making: The shit situation continues, but I’m picking myself up (again) and dusting myself off (again) and getting on with getting on (again.)

Sometimes, it’s really hard, almost impossible to do that. Especially when I’ve been knocked down and back so many times that I’m about a hair’s breadth away from losing all faith in humanity. Because the most frustrating thing about all this is that I didn’t put myself here. 

But I have to get out somehow and I can’t do that if I keep wallowing in the rage I feel toward the growing list of people who’ve wronged me and those I love. I can’t get out if I don’t have hope that one day, something I or someone in my family did will pan out. I also can’t do it if I’m snowing myself under with a laundry list of expectations when some days, just the act of getting up for the day feels like a chore.

So now I’m going back to basics. If I feel like I’m too burned out to write, I don’t write. I’ve scrapped my publishing deadline for Book 3 because it’s already too close and I really don’t need the extra pressure. I’m putting in more time with my freelance work which, while still not quite in the “it’s taken off” category, still is doing well enough to give me hope that it will take off in the near future. I’m cutting out as much negativity as I can.

This means willing myself not to dwell on the past, and particularly not this most recent thing. I let myself feel them, but then I remind myself I have to move on and do that instead. But also, I’ve found that the Trump election has turned a lot of people in my social networks (on all sides of the political divide) into toxic people to have contact with.

So I’m culling them out of my feed.

It’s nothing personal, but for the sake of my own well-being, I’m doing what I must in order to keep myself in as good an emotional shape as I can.

Because I can still move for as long as I can function on some level.

And if being ruthless with my culling and stingy with my time is what it takes to just get anything done, so be it.

It’s already helped too. Because here I am, writing when on IWSG day I could barely even type out a sentence without crying.

There is hope. There is progress.

Onward.

How about you? How do you deal when life gets really difficult? 

Holy Crap I Forgot It’s IWSG

I wish I was kidding, but sadly, I’m not. The first of the month always catches me for some reason, because my brain seems to believe that the first Wednesday for the month must be the third or later. *facepalm*

No idea what I’m talking about?

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group is a monthly bloghop taking place on the first Wednesday of every month. About two hundred writers are part of the IWSG, sharing our doubt, fears, insecurities and encouragement to let everyone else know that actually, they’re not all that alone after all.

You’re more than welcome to join, if you’d like. Click here for more information or to sign up.

So.
Because I already eloquently explained myself last week by vlog, I’m going to re-post here. I did try to keep a brave face on everything, but by the end of the first third or so, I’m basically going into where I really am in my life at the moment.
Spoiler alert, it’s not pretty. (Also, this isn’t family rated. Just so you know. And yes, the f-bombs I dropped actually did make me feel better. My mom always asks me that. No idea why.)

Since I’m just going to let that do the talking for me instead of writing again (because I’ve *just* managed to not burst into tears at the thought and writing about it again would open the scab, so to speak), I figured I’d answer this month’s question for those of you who’d rather not see/hear me.

Have you ever pulled out a really old story and reworked it? Did it work out?

Yes, I have. A long long time ago, I finished a rewrite to a book shortly after I finished rewriting Doorways. For those of you who weren’t visiting my blog at that time, The Vanished Knight + The Heir’s Choice = Doorways. 
 
It wrote like a dream. I backed up.
I was backing up the file for the last time when something (and don’t ask me what) went wrong. The entire file disappeared, replaced with an empty one of the same name.
I was heartbroken. So much so that I decided to just shelf the whole project until I could look at it without mourning the project I’d had.
It took about five years before I decided to look at that thing again, and by then, I’d grown so much as a writer that I ended up redrafting the whole thing from scratch, keeping only the characters and about half of the concept.
Any you know what? I love it even more than I loved it before. I’ve started editing it and working on it with critique partners and they’ve enjoyed it too.
But… it’s still a to be continued when it comes to knowing if it worked out. It’s not shelved per se, but because of my lack of time and the abundance of crap in my life as is mentioned in the vlog above, I just haven’t been able to get to it when I’m supposed to be finishing the sequel to The Heir’s Choice. But one day… Hopefully in this year…
What about you? Did you ever rework an old story? Any good news to share? Really in need of some good news. 
 
One update I should mention: the business plan is in with the possible investor, so prayers would be appreciated.