Tags: inspiration

Grapemo 2014 Day 26: Wednesday Inspiration--Embrace Your Inner Weasel

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Here he is: The Plot Weasel.

You know him well.

Worse, he knows you--and he knows your story.

He plagues you in your sleep. He haunts you when you're awake. Often he's the number one reason you close out your file, sink back in your chair, and think: I can't do this.

He's an insidious dude, often popping up when you least expect it. I mean, you've been hammering out dozens, even hundreds of words a day. You're loving this story. You're on a freaking roll and feel nothing can stop you.

Then it hits you, that niggling feeling, like the tapping of claws or the nibbling of sharp teeth at the base of your spine:

SOMETHING IS WRONG!!!

A screw-up in your timeline.

Your main character's voice doesn't sound "right."

The "Z" in your story can't possibly happen because the already-written "X" and "Y" makes that impossible.

You realize a key point you used, based on your own limited knowledge, is totally false; now, what comes after simply doesn't ring true.

One of your favorite scenes/characters/subplots suddenly has no place in your ms; because it kills you to let it go, you waste time and energy trying to make it fit in.

Suddenly your whole manuscript strikes you as a big pile of crap. You're ready to trash the whole thing.

One word: DON'T.

As much as all of us despise the Plot Weasel, he serves a great purpose. He points out the flaws in your story, whether they're massive plot holes or smaller (yet no less important) issues. Yes, we hate him. We hate him because he disrupts the rhythm of our writing. We hate him because he makes us take a critical second or third, sometimes tenth or eleventh, look at our project, when all we really want to do is just finish the story, have people read it and love it, and pat ourselves on the back for a job well done.

As annoying as the Plot Weasel is, though--can you imagine what terrible writers we'd be without him?

Writers Digest has a great article: 10-Minute Fixes to 10 Common Plot Problems. Check it out!

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ETA:
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You win, FB friends: A "real" weasel.  :)
espresso

Making Time for YOU

Is this is a familiar scenario?

Keyboard is fired up. Coffee/tea/whatever is poured. You know exactly what you’re going to work on today. You’ve made a month-long commitment to reach a certain goal, and, dammit, you’re going to DO it. You’re excited about this. More importantly, you’re excited about your story and can’t wait to get the words down.

You’ve warned everyone you know: I am writing this month. This is very important to me. Please try to understand. They all nodded their heads and wished you luck. Or maybe they rolled they eyes and nudged each other. Whatever. You told them, right?

The house is relatively quiet. It’s a good time to begin. You open your document with a flourish, eager to dive in. The creative juices are already flowing through your veins. Maybe you’re writing something you suspect is one of the best things you've ever written—isn’t that a great feeling? Or maybe you realize you’ve written a bunch of crap, but you just figured out what's wrong and how to improve it. Now you’re really on a roll.

Then the phone rings. If you’re like me, you ignore it. Not everyone can do that, though, for various reasons. If it’s an emergency phone call from your kids’ school, or a home invasion (though they usually don’t ring the bell) you’re screwed. Otherwise it’s a temporary annoyance. Usually you can get back to what you’re doing.

Or your day could go something like this:

The phone rings twenty times. Half of those times it's the same person and you can't get rid of them, but you're too nice to be rude.

Your kids, who are not in school, demand to be fed, dressed, entertained, etc. As it’s against the law to use kiddie cages in most states, there’s not a lot you can do about this except cave in. Older kids need to be driven places. Grandparents regularly get asked to babysit their grandkids. I swear there's nothing more detrimental to the writing than KIDS, lol.

Your spouse decides there is a chore you need to do immediately, never mind that same chore’s been sitting around, undone, for a solid six months now, or that you are not the only one capable of doing it, hint, hint. Or he insists on coming into the room fifty times to strike up a conversation, complain about something, or ask a very important question. e.g. "Does this hotdog smell funny?"

And it's not just the family. It's friends. It's relatives. It's people asking you to do things for them. Or maybe people inviting you to things with them, which is always nice...but maybe not at this particular time.

Oh, and in my house: The dog has to go out. No one else hears him scratching at the door. The dog is eating a piece of foil. No one else has the guts to pry it from his jaws. The dog just barfed. No one’s touching it.

Some days it’s one thing after another. You spend more time jumping up and down than you do at the keyboard. Then, of course, there are the other time-sucks: TV and the internet.

Suggestions:

1. Whenever possible, don’t write at home—go to the library, a coffee house, McDonalds. Even the backseat of your car. This is only possible if you have A. a laptop (or can write by hand) and B. someone to watch the kids. If you don’t, then set your alarm and write in the morning before they get up, or write after they go to bed. If they’re in school, take advantage of that and write during the day. Trying to write around kids is like walking a tightrope in a blizzard.

2. Set limits with your significant others. Consider bribery. If batting your eyes and sweet talk doesn’t work, get mean. Maybe not as mean as Jack Nicholson when Shelley Duvall kept interrupting him in The Shining…but you get my drift. 

3. Seriously, stay away from the TV, especially when the only time you can write is late in the evening. Of course we all have our favorite shows, but if your time is that limited, you have to prioritize. Same with the internet. It’s not that important.

4. Neither is cleaning the house. Nobody ever died from a month’s worth of dirt (after all, look at “Hoarders”.) “I have to vacuum/dust/whatever” is NEVER an excuse for not writing. I’m fairly confident my family plans to carve that into my headstone.

5. Remember, it's perfectly okay to say no to people. "No" is a great word. Sadly, sometimes it takes us years to learn how and when to use it to our own advantage.

Think of it this way: Suppose you burst into your teenager's party and insisted he come home to finish up some chores. Or interrupted your husband's Superbowl game because you want that leaky faucet changed now. Or told your elderly mother you can't drop her off at church because, well, you think organized religion is stupid.

Wouldn't happen, right? Then why are we so casual about allowing others to sabotage us?

Writing is YOUR party, YOUR Superbowl, YOUR church. It's every bit as important to you as anyone else's activities. Until you realize that, and learn to take it as seriously as others take their interests, you'll find it harder and harder to make time to write.

February is YOUR MONTH, people. Try not to let anyone or anything come between you and your goal!
sound of music

Things Are Looking Up!

Currently I'm in a love-love relationship with my ghost story. Revisions are going well. I'm wrapping things up.

I just wanted to write this down so that next week, or the week after, when I'm cussing Rinn out and ripping out bloody shreds of my hair and reaching for the nearest bottle of anything alcoholic and trying to sell my laptop on eBay to pay for a brand new heroin habit, I can read back over this and remember that I really, really DO love this story.

Thank you.

A MESSAGE FOR YOUNG WRITERS

You’re sitting in math, or English, or history, or whatever, and you’re industriously scribbling away in your notebook. Math problems? Verbs vs. adverbs? Reasons for the Civil War, or the discovery of the West Indies?

Nope. You’re writing, right? Outlining plots, building new, imaginary worlds, drawing maps and even pictures of these worlds, detailing character sketches, or even inventing a new language. You’re paying NO attention to the lecture, and your teacher has no clue--well, at least til she calls on you, and the jig is up. For awhile, anyway.

You’re possessed by such an intense need to write that sometimes nothing else in the world even matters. Okay, fine--maybe you’ll put it away for awhile and at least pretend to listen to the old hag’s yammering. But the second you get a chance, out comes the notebook, and you continue to scribble with one eyeball glued to the teacher. If she catches you again, you’ll probably end up with a bit of public humiliation (wouldn’t be the first time, right?) or, worse, another freaking detention and maybe a note to your parents: “(your name) refuses to pay attention in class and seems to find her own personal writing much more interesting than this course.” Well, duh. Really?

What could possibly be more interesting than creative writing—your own personally-invented world, your very own characters, and the impossible situations you like to throw them into? Nothing, that’s what. When you’re working on a story, it consumes you completely. Nobody understands—not your parents, certainly not your teachers (although if you’re lucky enough to be taking a creative writing class, there might be an exception there...but don’t hold your breath) and not even your best friends who wonder, why do you want to hole up and write when you could be cruising the mall, playing sports, or simply hanging out with their own wonderful selves?

The answer is simple: writing is your passion. Even when you aren't writing, you constantly think about writing. Your characters get stuck in your head and jabber at you endlessly, and—what’s even scarier--sometimes you jabber right back. (“Oh, yeah,” people say, “there’s that weirdo who talks to himself all the time. He writes.”) And if for some reason you’re not able to write, what happens to you? You're positively miserable.

When you were small, you drew pictures, right? And when you learned to print, you added little captions to these pictures. You moved on to actual writing in the second or third grade; maybe you’d watch a movie or a TV show and then write out the whole plot, complete with dialogue, or use those characters in an original story of your own. Later, when you discovered the computer—WOO-HOO, you had it made! While other kids groaned at the idea of writing a creative theme, you, like Ralphie in The Christmas Story, were chomping at the bit, bursting with ideas, eager to have your work read by an objective third party.

When I was a teenager, long before computers (cough, cough) were in everyone’s home, my most treasured possession was an electric typewriter. I actually enjoyed being grounded and sent to my room because it gave me unlimited to write to my heart’s content. When my parents finally wised up, they immediately added a codicil: "GO TO YOUR ROOM--AND I BETTER NOT HEAR THAT DAMN TYPEWRITER!" To muffle the sound, I’d place my typewriter on the bed on top of my pillow. True, it was a pain (I really had to pound hard on those keys to keep 'em from sticking to the pillow) but by the end of high school I’d written three complete novels…which pretty much tells you how often I was grounded. :)

If writing is your passion, hang onto it dearly. Don’t let anyone discourage you with comments such as, “Writing is way too competitive” or “Writers don’t make any money” (both of which can be true, but hello? That's no reason not to give it a shot) or “You need to know somebody in the business" (lie) or “You need money to get a book published” (big FAT lie) or “You need a degree in journalism, or English, or in some other related field.” (lie, lie, and lie).

What you need is talent and the ability to write well (no, these are not the same thing), a working knowledge of the business (easily acquired through books, internet sources, and writers’ groups, both online and face-to-face), and a mountain of sheer determination. Read something every day, even the back panel of your cereal box (although books ARE preferable!)—you can’t possibly learn how to write if you don’t care about reading. Write something of your own every day, just an entry in a journal or a rambling note to yourself. Take creative writing classes whenever you get the chance, and if you ever decide to pay attention in class, please, ple-e-ease make sure it’s your English class. If you can’t master the grammar of your own native language, you can forget about writing; agents and publishers can afford to be picky, and will not waste their time on a manuscript that’s grammatically sloppy, or lacks even the most basic punctuation.

Never stop learning, never stop reading, and for sure—never stop writing! Keep that passion alive! You won't be sorry.