Fear Factor: Understanding the Fear of Writing

We all know the feeling of fear. It can be spurred by so many things, whether abstract or concrete, whether facing us now or just being a thought in our minds. And different people, of course, are afraid of different things. There are so many kinds of horror that the different media today basically has everything for everyone who wants to feel fear – and excitement and adrenaline rush from watching horror movies. But of course, the fear we get from movies – whether they’re in-your-face gore-fests or the subtle and creepy kind – is different from the fear we get when we deal with things in real life. The real-life things we’re afraid of aren’t ghosts, or monsters, but smaller, more pressing concerns that we have to deal with every single day. A missed deadline. Quota we failed to meet. Running late for exams. They sound simpler, but you can’t just turn off the screen on them and forget about them.

Now, I said different people are afraid of different things, but I think it gets more weight in real life when I say that different people with different preoccupations are afraid of different things that may or may not happen. That sounds like a mouthful, right? In any case, by saying that, the point is this – that writers deal with the fear of things that possibly only they can feel. And writers may be in the unique position of being afraid of the precise same thing that they need to do. Writing.

The fear of writing may stem from many things. The likeliest reason may be writer’s block – one moment you’re writing something great and you’re feeling good about yourself, the next moment you have nothing and you start panicking and you’re not really sure if you should pick up the pen and write again. It’s a real fear that just about any writer has encountered. And that’s just the beginning. In her article The Four Fears That Stop You From Writing” for terribleminds, Andrea Phillips outlines the four fears that: fear of the lack of talent, fear about feedback, fear about publication, and fear about being judged. These are very real fears, and Phillips articulates them well. Take this one about the very basic fear of the lack of talent:

Writing is an uncomfortable act. You’re making yourself vulnerable — exposing the softest, squishiest bits of your psyche and putting them out there in public where people will know what is in your deepest heart of hearts, and just might stomp on it with extreme prejudice.

Your good ol’ reptile brain perceives this as a threat to your personal safety. No sense hating the reptilian bits of your brain, though. Its job is to minimize risk, and it does it to keep you as fat and happy as it can. So it comes up with tons of fantastic reasons for you to not actually take any risks at all.

Phillips nails it. Scared of being called talentless, scared of experiencing prejudice, you, the writer, just decide not to write at all. Which effectively stops everything else, from feedback to publication, in its tracks. It’s understandable, but also ultimately something that you have to overcome if you really want to write. As Phillips says at the end of her article:

…The absolute best work you have in you is always going to be the stuff that’s closest to your heart, the stuff that’s absolutely the hardest to let another human being read. It’s risky to show people those deep and true parts of yourself, but life is risk. Look that fear in the eye, spit it in the face, and then write more effing words.

Those are four basic, general fears, of course. But Dan Blank’s article for Writer Unboxed, Writers: What Are You Afraid Of?” looks at fears specifically pointed out by authors. It’s worth reading, but the part that really struck me was this:

Too often, I believe “new” writers assume that if they just get over some mythical hump in their writing career, that things become easier, at least on an emotional level. I haven’t found that to be the case when talking with writers. Everything is relative, and no “success” can stop us from being human beings who oftentimes run on survival instincts, and who have a difficult time processing a complex social world.

All this to say: I don’t think fear is a shameful thing that we must rid ourselves of. It is a natural part of taking the risks that writers do. And that the logical reaction to fear should indeed be bravery.

Here, Dan Blank is referring to being afraid of continuing to publish your work even after you’ve already published something and it’s gone on to be successful. Success is not a deterrent, and authors – whether or not they’ve already been published and have been successful – still need to deal with the fear of being criticized or being ignored when they’re next work is on the line. So fear isn’t just something that sits with writers who haven’t proven themselves yet. Fear assails everyone – whether you’re successful or not. Is that a comforting thought? It depends on you of course, but it may be a consolation if you think about how you and your favorite writer are possibly constantly in the same boat.

So what now? We acknowledge that we get scared of writing, of getting published, of getting feedback, of getting rejected. How do we overcome these? I’m sure we have a lot of personal strategies to overcome the fear of writing, and if they’ve been effective, then we should keep going with them until we feel at ease enough to start writing again. You can always look for suggestions, like The Definitive Guide to Overcoming Your Writing Fears,or you can always wing it and look for something else to do – walk around, listen to music, absolutely try to ignore the fear for a little while.

Fear of writing – and just about anything that’s closely associated with it – is normal, and there’s no shame at all in acknowledging that you’re afraid. What counts is understanding that fear, and taking steps in willingly overcoming them. There’s no end to it, of course. You’ll experience fear over and over again. But what’s important is that you always get the job done, even if “the job” is just writing a few paragraphs a day – just to beat that fear into shape.

Do you know other things that writers are afraid of? Do you have strategies when overcoming the fear of writing? Let us know in the comments, or tweet us @creativwriters!

 

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Rising From the Ashes: Accepting Rejection

Pretty much everyone knows that most people who have become successful originally started from the bottom then made their way up. It’s a fact of life – one should work hard to achieve their dreams. These dreams become the individual’s drive to do something, motivating and making them soldier on regardless of how many failures and rejections get in the way.

Soldiering on is, of course, easier said than done. Just as it’s a fact of life that we’ll get rejected a lot over the years, whether it’s for a job or for a manuscript that we’re trying to get published, it’s also a fact of life that it’s not easy to deal with. Far from it, really. Rejection the first or second or nth time may be enough to get you to think that maybe what you’re doing isn’t really for you, and there’s no point in going on and walking the same path. Of course, some may have an easier time accepting rejection more than others. Still, whoever you are, it helps to understand the possible reasons why your work is getting rejected – and then rising up from the ashes and moving on from there.

So let’s get started. Rejection needs no introduction – it simply means that your work is not deemed fit for publishing, for reasons that probably won’t be disclosed to you. It doesn’t mean that what you’ve written isn’t good. It just means, perhaps, that what you’ve written doesn’t fit the vision that the agents you’ve sent your work to are envisioning. It certainly helps to have that mindset. So first, you do have to try and understand what goes on in the selection process, and then understand why you get rejected – and really, it’s not personal. In the article “25 Things Writers Should Know About Rejection,” author Chuck Wendig gives some twenty-five excellent things writers should be aware of when faced with rejection. It’s a list worth reading – especially if you need someone to help you shape up after the initial rejections you’ve received – but the last item is particularly valuable and worth taking into heart:

A writer without rejections under his belt is the same as a farmer with soft hands; you shake that dude’s hand and you know, he’s not a worker, not a fighter, and wouldn’t know the value of his efforts if they came up and stuck a Garden Weasel up his ass. Rejections are proof of your efforts. Be proud to have ‘em.

It’s great advice, something to keep in mind, and something that can help you get back up and start writing again. Or at least begin reading whatever you’ve sent, now with an objective eye and a heart open to the flaws that your work has. Rejections are, as Wendig says, a sign that you’re doing something – and the more you do something, the more you improve on it, right? In a way, yes – but also learn from the rejections and try to understand what you’ve done wrong.

With that said, what could be the actual reasons why agents reject author submissions, in the first place? Like I said earlier, it’s not really personal – and novelist and photjournalist Heather Hummel talks about this in her blog post for The Huffington Post, Why Agents Reject 96% of Author Submissions.” Reasons can range from something simple as spelling and grammar (which should be reason enough for you to stop procrastinating and proofread your work!) to concerns like genre confusion and weak query letters. These more, say, technical concerns may easily be forgotten in the process of actually writing your work – and may be something  you fail to remember when you decide to get out and submit it to different publishers. Remember that there’s more to writing than actually writing your work – and that the more you familiarize yourself with important concerns as submission guidelines and query letters, the better your chances may be of getting accepted.

Now let’s recap what we’ve said so far. Rejection is not personal, and there are many reasons why you can get rejected. Now it’s easier for you to look back and see what you’ve done wrong, and start working again! But hold up – maybe there’s something else stopping you, and it’s probably that nagging sense of doubt that you won’t be able to get your work published, anyway. Well don’t worry – I’ve already said earlier that a lot of people who are successful had to work hard for it. You probably know it already but wouldn’t believe it still, but many big-name authors whose work have gone on to become classics or bestsellers have experienced rejection, the same way you’re experiencing it now.

Okay, so who are these authors, exactly? A quick Google search will lead you to a lot of lists detailing how authors got rejected by publishers. Alice Vincent’s article on The Telegraph, The rejection letters: how publishers snubbed 11 great authors,” is one such informative list. You’ll find that all manner of writers – from T.S. Eliot to J.K. Rowling – have been rejected, one way or another. Stephen King’s Carrie, for example, was rejected by a publisher, because they were not interested in science fiction which deals with negative utopias. They do not sell.” Of course we all know by now how big Stephen King is, or how successful Carrie has become – even spawning movie adaptations. Herman Melville’s Moby Dick was also rejected by Peter J. Bentley, who wrote: “While this is a rather delightful, if somewhat esoteric, plot device, we recommend an antagonist with a more popular visage among the younger readers. For instance, could not the Captain be struggling with a depravity towards young, perhaps voluptuous, maidens?”

There are more lists on successful people getting rejected – whether they’re writers or not. 20 Brilliant Authors Whose Work Was Initially Rejected,” on Buzzfeed, and the article Best-Sellers Initially Rejected” on LitRejections, are two such pages showing you that, yes, people who are big now had to struggle with rejection before. Lists like these should help put things into perspective – if or when you get rejected, just remember that you’re part of a long line of authors who had been rejected initially, but had found their way up afterwards.

So there. Hopefully this pretty long article has helped you to ultimately understand, cope with, and move forward from rejection. Again, all this is much, much easier said than done. But just keep your eyes on the prize, and eventually you’ll get to where you want to be.

Did you like this article on rejection? Or maybe you know more articles about successful writers who got rejected? Whatever your thoughts are on the subject, share it with us in the comments, or tweet us at @creativwriters! 

 

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Happy Endings?: Quitting Writing

Behind every finished book, short story, poem, or play, is a timeline of seemingly endless revisions and edits, and countless nights of frustration trying to finish a draft. It’s no secret that writing is more taxing than it looks. It’s not just about writing, but articulating, and articulating effectively.  And there are a lot of times when you believe that what you’re writing is not good, and what you’ve articulated isn’t engaging. And these are the times when we think that it’s better to quit writing. Do something else, perhaps, and put writing aside.

The question is, though: should you really quit? There’s no single correct answer to that question, definitely. The first thing you might do is weigh the pros and the cons of quitting writing. But then you’ll also have to ask yourself what it means for you to quit. Do you quit trying to be a “serious” writing, writing to get published? Or do you quit writing as a hobby, and focus on other things instead? You may ask people for advice, but it’ll vary, of course. And it won’t be easy when you try to decide.

In his article “How De We Know When It’s Time to Quit Being A Writer?“, Chuck Sambuchino shares his own story. It’s worth reading, certainly. However, what stuck to me was his parting words. He places us in a position where we’re compelled to think about whether or not we should just quit writing. And then he says:

The answer, of course, is simple: Can you quit? Chances are, you probably cannot. So keep writing, Dear Writer – because that is what you are. Whether or not you have a novel in bookstores. Whether or not the whole world has read your writing. Whether or not anything of yours is ever published, as long as you live, you are still a writer. It is part of who you are. Keep writing. It is never time to quit.

It is definitely nice advice, and one that we’ll want to follow. You’ll probably not want to quit if you’ve always loved writing, anyway. But while you may soldier on, there are some who do not want to continue. Lisa Kerr shares her own experience in the article “Why Quitting Writing Was the Best Thing That Happened to Me:

Quitting gave me what I needed to feel healthy again; it gave me the distance from what (and who) was unhealthy for me. I needed to enjoy writing again without the self-imposed pressure to publish with a leading agent. I needed the freedom to drink a beer and sew some crooked triangles on a quilt. I needed to get dirty with watercolors in my studio—splashing paint around, digging in the colors with my fingers. I needed to stop being worried about the cutthroat people I’d worked under.

For Lisa Kerr, trying to force herself to write was already becoming unhealthy for her. It wasn’t a question of being passionate about writing. It was a question of whether or not writing was still something she enjoyed. And distancing herself from writing gave her the energy she needed to get back on track.

In the end, it is you who can decide whether or not you want to quit. You should weigh in pros and cons, and decide if you want to quit for good, just plain quit, or distance yourself from your writing for a while. In the end, choose what’s healthy for you, and things may fall into place.

To end this post, here’s a link to an article: An Open Letter to Writers Struggling to Find Their Courage. May it give you help and hope.

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The Power of Influence: How One’s Creativity Can Influence Others

We always talk about inspiring and influencing through creativity and creative works, but although it’s something we know instinctively, it always pays to have some great, concrete examples of how creative works have influenced others. It pays to acknowledge the fact that, of course, being influenced is inevitable. Once, one of my professors overheard a creative writing student claiming that they’re adamantly avoiding reading anything because it will affect their writing. My professor scoffed at this, and I would have, too. Attempting to deny others’ influence – so long as it’s good influence, the kind that makes you productive – may very well equate to denying your own work any relevance in any genre, in any aspect of life. It denies acknowledging your own roots – how you’ve come to fall in love with art and creativity, in the first place, or how you’ve come to think and act in certain ways. Influence is important, in other words, and it pays to always know what your influences are, for your own work to spring from them.

In this post, I’ll run through a few works and articles in which famous writers and artists acknowledge how existing works have already influenced them, whether the influence is on a specific work or on their entire creative oeuvre.

The Ecstacy of Influence by Jonathan Lethem

  • Speculative fiction writer Jonathan Lethem released this collection of essays that, as the title suggests, largely discusses what has influenced him in various points in his life. Lethem talks about his relationship with the works of various writers and artists, from Philip K. Dick and J.G. Ballard, to Marvel works. It’s an interesting collection because you’ll be able to see how Lethem reacts to the figures that have shaped his life and form his interests – even as he speaks in his own voice and talks about his personal experiences.
  • Dwight Garner wrote about Lethem’s book in the New York Times. Read it here.

Turning Point: 1997-2008 by Hayao Miyazaki

  • Turning Point: 1997-2008 is a collection of essays, notes, interviews, poems, and illustrations by – or conducted with – Hayao Miyazaki, the ever-famous director of such films as Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away, and is just about synonymous with the Japanese animation studio, Studio Ghibli*. This is just a half of the series of books revolving around such a collection of material from Miyazaki, but 1997-1998 talks primarily about three of his most famous films – Mononoke, Spirited Away, and Howl’s Moving Castle. You’ll read in the notes and interviews about Miyazaki’s influences – and it’s not the kind of influence on which Miyazaki was compelled to build on, if that makes sense. Miyazaki shows that influence is not always following a certain tradition or style set by certain artists. He talks about Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai, which he saw was a misrepresentation of certain aspects of Japanese history. He in turn attempted to amend this in Princess Mononoke. He talks about how Osamu Tezuka has influenced him – but only through certain works, and not Astro Boy. It’s an interesting read, certainly, as Miyazaki gives a lot of great insight on his work, and on what foundations he built them on.

A Drifting Life by Yoshihiro Tatsumi

  • Manga artist Yoshihiro Tatsumi’s  A Drifting Life is one huge book. Using manga as the medium to deliver his memoir, Tatsumi shows what the sights and sounds of his childhood were, what kind of world he was growing up in, and the effects of it all on his work. He was, like Miyazaki, inspired by Osamu Tezuka – but his was a glowing, wide-eyed, absolute admiration towards the Astro Boy creator, whom he managed to meet during his childhood. The book shows not just Tatsumi’s admiration for Tezuka, but also the other factors that influenced his manga style – films (the techniques used in which he incorporated in his work), existing four-panel manga (which he tried to distance himself from when he wanted to innovate), and the people around him. It just goes to show that influence isn’t just from one writer, or from something absolutely positive – influence goes in bits and pieces. How to craft everything was left to Tatsumi himself.

These are just a few works that show how others have managed to influence artists and their creative works. I repeat – it pays to acknowledge others’ influence. If you don’t particularly like how you’re being influenced, attempt to subvert it, or try to make something new out of it. If you like how the influence has come across to you, then by all means work with it. Creative works and creativity pulse with life — not just yours, but also others who have come before you, and who have lived and done their work before you. Consume a lot of material, and use them to your advantage. Let influence make you grow. The good work will certainly follow.

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Writing and the Internet: Why the Internet is Your Friend

These days, it’s absolutely easy to find information on just about anything. Considering that we’re living in the age of the Internet, where virtually the entire world is connected and is accessible through all sorts of gadgets, it’s not surprising that any regular person can find out about the basic things in most topics, from medicine to science to literature and beyond. News articles are archived, how-to’s are available, and online encyclopedias – from Wikipedia to Encyclopedia.com – can be good repositories of information. Obviously, the Internet won’t be conferring degrees in astrophysics to the regular armchair Internet surfer anytime soon (and it is important to remember that not everything on the Internet is reliable information, and that the good researcher should check and cross-check information before deeming it accurate), but when you need a quick brush-up on surface knowledge on many topics, then the Internet can be hard to beat, really.

All this talk about the Internet — well, what does this have to do with writing, and why should you be concerned about the Internet as a repository of knowledge if you’re a writer? The answer might be painfully obvious, but it is almost as easy to ignore. There’s a saying that goes “write what you know,” but obviously no one knows everything about everything. So following that, “write what you know,” but if you’re not sure about what you’re writing, the next step is “know what you write.” Writing isn’t just about spinning pretty words and vivid sentences into wonderful scenes. A lot of times, in writing, you find that you’re tackling certain topics you’re not entirely sure about, whether they’re technical or otherwise, and you feel like you’re hitting a dead end because you’re not sure if you’re writing about these particular topics properly. What would those familiar with those certain topics say if they come across your writing? We’re all scared of misinformation, and of writing inaccurately, as inaccurate content hurts your text and the chances of readers getting immersed in it. Moreover, your credibility as a writer may also be put at risk.

And here, at this point, is where the Internet comes in. When you write, make sure to do a bit – or a lot, depending on you, really – of research on what you’re writing about. It’s not simply about character development and location, looking up tips on how to write certain kinds of characters or subvert certain tropes. While those are important for your craft, and especially if you want to set yourself apart from existing pieces of written work, those aren’t the only things that you have to pay attention to. Medical scenes, the recovery period of the human body, politics, functions of machines – they’re all very important, as well. You don’t have to go incredibly in-depth to learn anything and everything about, say, about behaviors of certain bird species (this is creative writing, after all, and not a thesis on bird behaviors), but at the very least, you do have to know basic information that’s related to what you’re writing about. Don’t be afraid to use search engines and look up blogs that give out writing tips! There are a lot on the Internet and they’re useful. Good writing is backed by good research — and it will make your writing all the more engaging.

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The Right Notes: Writing While Listening to Music

When writing, people tend to do everything they can to make themselves feel absolutely comfortable and to ease themselves into the writing mood. This involves a lot of pre-writing rituals that may vary from person to person: walking around, talking to yourself, eating certain types of food, brewing coffee and smelling its aroma, exercising – the list is long, and for some, overwhelmingly so, and very much specific. But there’s one ritual – whether before writing, or during the process itself – that a lot of people do as, for one way or another, it could help in the writing process. I’m talking about listening to music.

Even outside of the act of writing, music is already an effective mood-setter for just about anything in our daily lives. The kind of music you play at the start of your morning can make or break the rest of your day. The music played on air while on your morning drive can either make you feel at ease in traffic, or irritated. A lot of times, when we want to feel certain things, or are in a certain mood, we listen to music. Music is effective in making you cope with certain situations, or making you enhance your experience of a situation. That’s perhaps part of the reason why movie awards shows recognize their scorers, or why video game reviewers also consider how good the music is when reviewing a game.

That said, what is the effect of music to the writer? In “How Music Affects the Writing Process” by Nona Mae King, King outlines how turning on her music actually begins her writing process. She says that “silence is distracting,” and that music ultimately helps her keep her focus. King also says that music enhances the mood that helps her “create a writing soundtrack… for a specific scene, character, era, or particular intensity [she wants] to impart to [her] readers.” In a way, it works similarly to how music sets the mood for certain scenes in movies and TV shows so that viewers may get further absorbed in what’s happening, or how video games use music to make the player feel more involved in exploration and battle.

And going away a little bit from writing, Gregory Ciotti in the article “How Music Affects Your Productivity” says that music’s “effectiveness is dependent on how ‘immersive’ a task is… the creative demand of the work.” Ciotti says that music certainly helps make repetitive tasks more enjoyable. However, it doesn’t take just any kind of music – familiar music would be better and less distracting. Much better if there were no lyrics. Ciotti’s article touches on the idea that music certainly helps you focus – and not just in writing, but in many other day-to-day activities, often ones that are mundane and repetitive.

Going back to writing, there’s certainly a positive effect for the writer who listens to music while writing. However, it’s not always the case. I know someone who tends not to listen to music while writing, as she finds this distracting.

Ultimately, it depends on you as a person. If you think music sets the mood and helps you write, then listen. If not, then there’s definitely no pressure. In any case, going back to my first point, it’s always valuable to know what makes you comfortable enough to get into the writing mood, and what makes you distracted. Do what’s best for your writing, and if it involves listening to music for your writing to be able to hit all the right notes, then by all means do so.

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Is the Author Dead?: Why We Should Read Authors’ Nonfiction (and What We Can Learn from It)

Books are always the creation of their respective authors, and are therefore informed by a number of things concerning the author: what topics the author might be interested in, what particular events may have transpired in the author’s life that inform the events in his or her book, and who or what might have spurred the author to write that particular story. Stories spring from an amalgam of resources and references, but how all these are tied together is all up to the author, which may tell the reader what the author wanted to say, precisely, or what the text itself is supposed to do to the reader.

Of course, it’s not always easy to actually involve the author in the reading of the text, for various reasons. One may be that readers don’t exactly know a lot about an author, to begin with, or the context that produced that particular text. There is, too, a sort of resistance to the idea of reading a text in light of its author. French literary critic Roland Barthes, for example, said that “the image of literature to be found in ordinary culture is tyrannically centered on the author, his person, his life, his tastes, his passions,” and that to truly understand literature, one must metaphorically kill the author: “the birth of the reader must be at the cost of the death of the Author.” In other words, if the reader thinks about the author and his or her life while reading the author’s text, it might immediately color the reading of that text. So just don’t think about the author and read the stuff and interpret it on your own.

But authors aren’t always dead, and the meanings they try to weave into the text don’t disappear just because you remove the authors themselves from the picture. Sure, it’s frustrating – especially in high school English classes – when you’re asked to share what you think the author said, because it might make you feel like an uncertain mouthpiece for that author. But literature is the product of a sort of co-authorship between the reader and the writer: the writer, of course, writes, and this writing is informed by their reality and what they want to comment on, while the reader interprets the text based on what they know of it and what they know of themselves. When a piece of literature becomes too difficult to understand, meanwhile, it’s always helpful to find out what the author might have meant by it, so there’s always one good thing to do when you’re stuck like that: read up on the author’s comments on the work, if there are any.

In this day and age, especially, a lot of authors do opinion columns on the Internet and elsewhere, share their thoughts over on social media, and release nonfiction books – usually collections of essays – talking about their work and their writing process. For both readers and writers, all these nonfiction material are helpful in two primary ways: to understand the author’s intents and the author’s work, and; to study the author’s craft. This is especially helpful when you yourself are trying to write, and are trying to figure out how others have done it – or have tried to do it, at least. What did those writers do to arrive at the point where they’re writing smoothly? What inspired them? What did they want to accomplish? These are questions that you can look at and think about when you’re reading nonfiction by authors, as often the nonfiction works themselves reveal how the writer thinks.

So what’s our take-away from this? It’s not enough to just write, the same way that it’s not enough to just read books and leave them at that. It’s always helpful and enriching to understand the authors behind the works, and to ultimately draw from what you’ve read and learned and apply them to your own writing. Remember: the author can’t die.

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Blog Roundup: Get the Write Help Now!

It’s always a good idea to look for places on the Internet that could offer some (or, let’s face it, a lot) of writing tips, but sometimes it’s not always easy to know where the good ones are. Not that they’re hidden or are few and far between, but that there are just so many blogs that cater to different writing and writers’ needs, to begin with. This post collects some of the blogs we’ve come across on the Internet, tackling different things from character development to general resources for writers. Hopefully these links will help you on your writing!

  1. The Writing Box – run by author Angeline Trevena, The Writing Box reblogs a lot of diagrams from grammar and vocabulary help, to popular authors’ writing tips for other writers. There’s a lot of writing advice that The Writing Box reblogs (most notably reblogs of posts that give word lists to help writers avoid such words as “very”), and they’re very helpful regardless of what your genre is or what kind of writer you are. Angeline Trevena also has a WordPress blog that caters to writers of speculative fiction, so if you’re a spec fic writer, you can check that out, too.
  2. The Writers Helpers  – The Writers Helpers primarily accepts questions on just about anything in writing, from general questions like plot concerns, to more specific ones like creating descriptions for LGBTQA+ characters. It’s basically a detailed, helpful Q&A for any writer needing help with their writing.
  3. FYCD – FYCD is a blog dedicated to discussing concerns and asking questions about character development and writing. What’s great is that they supply legitimately helpful resources to those who ask about how to write certain kinds of characters, as well as technical details on some topics like medicine, whenever it’s relevant to someone’s question on character development. They reblog stuff too – from world-building to drawing how-to’s, so it’s not all limited to character development. They also have a helpful page directing you to all the discussion threads in their blog, as well as book recommendations on writing characters.
  4. pen > sword – This blog is a wonderful mix of amusing art, quick writing tips and templates, and writing- and literature-related trivia. There are a lot of resources that can be found here, and will give you a smile as much as it will give you help.

That’s all for this round-up! There’s definitely a whole lot more than these four sites, and we’ll be sure to write about them more when we do another round-up, but even with these four sites alone, you’ll hopefully be able to find a world of writing help. Definitely don’t hesitate to ask or drop these sites’ admins if you ever need help.

Know more great websites for writers? Drop us a line!

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Voice Recognition: Why the Creative Voice

When reading a story, one can perhaps immediately establish the tone the piece is taking. Sure, it’s easy to talk about in terms of technicalities: first person, or second person, omniscient, limited – these are things, tenses, that a piece takes on in order to ground the reader to some point in time, or to establish a relationship between the reader and the text. It forms boundaries – or a semblance of boundaries – so that the reader will be given a frame through which he or she views the text. It may sound to the reader as if the text is happening at the moment, or as if the text is talking or referring directly to the reader, or as if the text sounds so detached to the reader that even the narrator sees the entire narrative through a lens. There are a lot of ways in which the text could be viewed, and the tenses and the voice count.

The creative voice – the voice of the text – matters, precisely for the same reasons I’ve mentioned earlier. The voice – the manner in which the text was written, how it sounds, how the narrator sounds to the reader – counts a lot. If the reader is new to the text, and has just found it, the reader would most likely test out a line or two, maybe a paragraph, to see of the voice jives with him or her, to see if the voice is easy or jarring, and to use this immediate impression as a springboard from which the reader takes off. Will the reader continue to read? Is the voice too easy? Does it sound like a kid talking, or does it sound so complicated and technical that it could ward off the reader or not get the reader’s interest? It’s definitely important to consider that, whether in reading or in writing, the voice exists in that manner because the author did it that way, and therefore there must be some reason why the author did it a certain way.

I’m talking in vague terms here, and it’s easy to get confused. Let’s put it this way: think of the text as someone talking to you. Does the text talk with ease? Does the text talk in clipped sentences? Does the text engage you and involve you, in how it was written, or does it alienate you? If you think of the voice of the text in these terms, it will be easier to establish your footing and your relationship – whether emotional or otherwise – with the text. If you’re writing, especially, it might be good to consider what the effect of your narrative voice is on your reader.

What does this mean? Bottomline is, if the voice doesn’t sound good, or if it doesn’t flow well, or if it does not work with the narrative or achieve that desired effect, it will certainly be problematic to your reader. The effectiveness of the voice relies on how well it is written, and how well it sounds. You might have a good, beautiful, flowery text, with a lot of things and images going on, but if it doesn’t sound like the voice is doing you any good, it might be a problematic kind of voice for you. Or, think of it this way. If the text is read aloud to you, do you suppose you’d like how it sounds like, being read aloud?

Of course, the voice – and how good it sounds – may also be a matter of preference, but that’s one thing to think about, don’t you think? Don’t keep the voice too complicated – if you’re writing – or try at least not to alienate the reader with the way the narrative and your characters are speaking. Establishing a good first impression is key, wherever you are and whatever happens, and it’s in the sample that a reader randomly picks out and in the voice which presents itself immediately that may make or break the reader’s relationship with the text.

 

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What It Takes to Write

It goes without saying that the world today has achieved the level of technological advancement that allows us to do virtually anything at a pace that people long ago, perhaps, had only dreamed of. While we are, of course, already in the year 2015, and flying cars are nowhere to be seen, it’s still impressive to think about how much civilization has managed to achieve in the span of a few decades. To put things into perspective: about eight years ago, memory sticks that had 1GB were already big. Today, we have sticks with around 32GB of space. 1GB is not enough for most of us.

But of course, the march of technology – and the purported advance of civilization towards the future, with this march – is also terrifying, as much as it is fascinating and exciting. Everything is wired and seen, people know when you read the messages they send you, and if you are ignoring these messages. New crimes spring from new technology. New pastimes and preoccupations, as well. The point is, everything’s fast, and there’s a burgeoning, active, pulsing culture that capitalizes on the visual and the piecemeal. In short, the world’s spinning too fast, and while the machines have no problem keeping up, the people do.

Now, let me share a quote from one of my favorite authors, the late, great, science fiction/transgressive fiction writer J.G. Ballard:

I would sum up my fear about the future in one word: boring. And that’s my one fear: that everything has happened; nothing exciting or new or interesting is ever going to happen again… the future is just going to be a vast, conforming suburb of the soul.

– J.G. Ballard

Doesn’t that sound rather unnerving? Does our day and age, our considerably modern time period, embody what Ballard had prophesied back in the 80s? Think about it. If you spend your day running in routines, talking about the same shows, the same things, the same books, the same jobs, over and over, and thinking the same thoughts as everyone else, wouldn’t that hit Ballard’s mark? Our culture’s fast, our technology is fast, all-seeing, virtually godlike if you knew how to manipulate it. Anything – or anyone – that can’t conform to the standards set by our ‘futuristic’ society will sink into obscurity.

So what does this have to do with writing?

We’re living in a world where eye-popping visuals are the order of the day. We’re living in a world where ease is valuable, where comfort and convenience are things that are supposed to make people feel happy. We’re living in a world where a lot of people are finding it hard to find their place, trying to catch up. This places writing – the process of, and the writers themselves – in a tenuous position. An interstice, if you will. Writing has always been a very valuable skill, and ages ago, very few people knew how to read and write. When you get to read and write, you’re literate. But today, a lot of people know how to do this, and it’s almost being taken for granted. Meanwhile, we are bombarded with material that strives for originality and freshness in execution, but everything can be boiled down to general skeletons that embody general plots. It doesn’t matter if it’s the television or what. Take away the special effect of movies and you’re left with the plot to work with. It’s certainly easy to get lost in virtual culture and the visual realities presented to us.

Now, what does it take to be a writer in the modern age, considering that writers occupy an uncertain position? And how relevant is writing? Following Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight saga is Fifty Shades of Grey, which started out as Twilight fanfiction. It seems anyone can just churn out underdeveloped fiction and become bestsellers. And people flock to this.

It’s interesting, because people are starting to read a lot, but while the readership is there, there’s an important ingredient missing: thought. Substance. A collective consciousness thinking of the same shallow thing stagnates a society that ought to be marching forward. And sure, books become bestsellers, and sell enough and the writers themselves get paid nicely, but if satisfying readers’ whims is all the writer does, then the writer is escaping a very important responsibility. That is, to enrich readers intellectually, perhaps spiritually, morally, and socially.

Again, what does it take to be a writer, in the modern age?

One, awareness. Writing substantial content is not an exercise that can be done with only half the mind working. Likewise, writing substantial content cannot be done if the writer exists in his or her own bubble, shut off from the world and suspended in his or her own consciousness. To be able to write something moving means to know what makes people’s hearts and minds run. What genuinely moves them. What genuinely terrifies them, and what genuinely opens their eyes.

Two, patience. Especially today, everything’s going really fast, and people favor a lot of cut-up “fast food” material running their way. But writing cannot be “fast.” Whatever you write assuredly won’t be perfect the first try, because that’s not how things work. That is, if you even manage to finish what you’ve been writing. It takes a lot of patience to write. It’s not a walk in the part.

Three, discipline. It’s easy to throw off your routine, it’s easy to dismiss and forget the purpose of writing. But if you want to write, and if you want to write good, you have to develop your discipline, and master yourself.

Finally, four, courage. The writer should already be aware, and if that is a given, it’s very valuable for a writer to be able to expose what he or she is aware of, in such a way that potential readers will be able to accept, understand, and digest. Reality shifts a lot, and it’s true especially nowadays. It’s true, when you move from the middle-class area to the slums. It’s true, when you see how corruption seeps into the daily workings of your office. It’s true in a lot of aspects, but it’s easy to forget that reality changes, and there is no absolute reality. And so the writer’s job is to re-shape that reality, and expose the many threads of reality to people.

That’s what it takes to write, I think. And it certainly sounds like a challenge. Writers meet all kinds of people, and many of them may prove resistant to new or unnerving ideas. But that is what it means to be a writer in the modern age, yes? That’s what it means, to be a writer, period. To challenge and unsettle, to shape and reshape realities, to disorient and reorient, because a writer’s purpose is to make people think, and expose the truths people are afraid to look at.

I’m ending this post with another quote from Ballard, and hope you take it into heart:

I admired anyone who could unsettle people.
– J.G. Ballard

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