17 Ways Writing Is Exactly Like Sex*

Betsy never knew you could dangle a participle like that.

1. Fun by yourself, fun with a partner. The right partner, obviously. Or partners. No one likes those selfish collaborators who never reciprocate critiques.

2. There are a million and one products that claim to help you do it better. Who doesn’t know the shame of the midnight clicking through pages and pages of glossy ads? New software? Workshop? Ooh, yes. And all I have to do is give you my credit card number? Sold.

3. Most of those products are bullshit. Put the Special Snowflake Writing Method with Extra Specialness in the bathroom cabinet with the Spanish Fly and never look at either of them again. They’ll only come up when someone else is going through your stuff and says, “Um…what exactly is this?” Have an excuse ready.

4. It’s awkward to talk about in public. Except for that one guy. You know the one. Way too many details, dude. Now I have to spend the rest of the night with images of your bacon-themed space opera popping into my head.

5. It’s all building toward a climax. Ooh, yes, right there. Give me that foreshadowing, baby. Ratchet up the tension, you know I like it like that.

6. But you should still have fun along the way. No prizes for speed in this race, hoss.

7. You can spend ages thinking about it. In bed at night, on the bus, waiting in lines…it’s never far from your mind. You imagine every detail, placing things just so. God, is it hot in here?

8. But it’s never quite the same in real life. Sometimes it’s better, sometimes it’s worse. But whatever it is, it’s always more real, with stuff that you never thought about.

9. You should try to finish what you start. No one wants to be left hanging. It’s frustrating as hell.

10. Rejection hurts. Does it ever.

11. But you can always try again. Put on your lipstick and get out there, sweetheart. Just because the last one didn’t work out is no reason to quit.

12. There is no one right way to do it. Everyone likes it a little differently, and that’s okay.

13. But people will try to tell you there is, and get pissed off when you disagree. You like multi-genre crossover fiction that combines traditional science fiction tropes with western elements? What are you, some kind of fucking deviant? And you’re into subtle character pieces with nuanced family dynamics? God, you’re so close-minded.

14. There are people out there into the same stuff that you are. And most of them are on the internet. Be careful of their Tumblr pages, though. Some things can’t be unseen.

15. There tends to be a lot of awkward fumbling around, especially at the beginning. Hang on, let me just put this scene—wait, what if it went like this? No? All right, how about here, I think I can bend this—oh, god, sorry! Do you want an ice pack?

16. But you get better with experience. And some day those initial attempts will make great stories to tell. With maybe a couple of cautionary tales thrown in.

17. That cozy glow when you’re finished—and you know what you did was good—is fucking great. Hoo. That was really something. Now someone give me a cigarette.

*Today’s post brought to you by Questionable Thoughts I Have After Donating Blood.

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How A Writer Travels

Mommy’s going to the moon, BRB.

1. Pack the computer. Don’t forget the goddamn charger. You know what happens when you forget the goddamn charger.

2. Pack the notebook. Because keeping all your ideas in one place is fucking laughable.

3. Pack the backup notebook. In case the first one gets wet/set on fire/confiscated by security/stolen by airport gremlins/transported to the Narnia of Lost Travel Items*.

4. Remember that you forgot to backup your files. Unpack the computer and start the backup.

5. Pick out a pen. Applicants must: write fluidly with none of your goddamn skipping or fading; be ink so black light gets drawn in to its felt-tipped event horizon; be thin because I hate big pens; and cheap enough to not be the cause of a rage fit if I lose it.

6. Wonder why the backup is taking so goddamn long. Remember that all those multimedia files you added to your story bibles and outlines are probably not helping.

7. Get paranoid about the effects of airport scanner machines on your laptop.

8. Wonder if you should pack a backup computer.

9. Wonder where you can get a backup computer.

10. Resolve to stop worrying and embrace travel. Think of those pictures of the free-spirited flights of the 60s, where everyone looked stunning and no one had crying infants. Like Mad Men in the sky.

11. Realize those pictures are bullshit. Seriously, fuck those guys.

12. Pack index cards. Two colours. And a sharpie. You never know when you’ll have to outline on the road.

13. Check the backup. Nope. You have to wait.

14. Wonder if you should pack your sketch book, too. What if I have to think in pictures?

15. Compromise by packing a combined notebook/sketchbook. Feel satisfied at making a decision like an adult.

16. Get paranoid about losing a notebook and a sketchbook in one fell travel-related swoop.

17. Drink.

18. Pack everything that’s not the computer.

19. Stare at the computer.

20. Staaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrreee.

21. Why isn’t it done yet?

22. Drink again.

23. Fuck this back up. It’s good enough. Pack the computer.

24. Leave in the full knowledge that you are a well-prepared traveling wordsmith, able to deal with anything that comes. Fly. Check in. Relax. Aaaaaaahhhhhhhhhh.

25. Realize you left the computer’s charger at home.

(No Monday Challenge this week because, if you didn’t gather from the above, I’m on a trip to Somewhere. Writing prompts will be back next week, but otherwise posts will be up as usual. As you were.)

*Like regular Narnia, but without the creepy Christianity overtones and nothing ever comes back. So, more like that ‘farm’ your parents said your childhood dog went to live on.

7 Reasons Writing Is The Best Way to Spend the %$#@ing Winter

Sure, I’ll be right out. Let me just put on my yeti feet.

1. It keeps you the fuck inside. Have you looked out there? I’m no stranger to winter—I was raised in Labrador, which is French for “holy shit this place is cold why couldn’t we have gone to Haiti instead?”*—but even I know that this cold is really fucking uncomfortable. Keep it outside. And therefore keep yourself inside, away from the roving bands of ice weasels.

2. You can do it without power. I already hear you moaning: but my computer doesn’t work when the Great Darkness descends. And my laptop battery only lasts for five hours and I need most of that for looking at pictures of otters in hats! Suck it up, princess. Thousands of writers did it before you. And, you never know: breaking out the pen and paper might be good for you. I wrote a novel draft longhand and it kicked the crap out of a creative block I had.

3. You can do it while swathed in blankets. I, for one, am seriously considering building a blanket fort.

4. You can do it while drunk. In fact, some authors positively demand that it is done so. You can’t fucking drive anywhere anyway.

5. You can do it while in bed, swathed in blankets and drunk. If there’s someone else in there with you, all the better. Though you might find something better to do than write.

6. It can distract you from the bone-numbing cold. You know what’s a great thing to write in the winter? Desert scenes. All that hard-pan earth, baking under the sun. Give it some sand worms if you must, because those character bastards shouldn’t get off easy, but why not escape to your own private island in the middle of yet another Ice Demon Invasion?

7. It’s a more impressive excuse for not wanting to leave the house. “Sorry, I’m in the middle of this police robot marmoset war, I can’t stop now or Sergeant Fuzzygears will die” is a way better excuse than “Sorry, I’m not a fucking yeti”.

*It’s a beautiful language.

Meanwhile, Somewhere In My Brain…

A koala climbing up a tree. Taken on the 28th ...

I like to think she came up with the idea while being attacked by drop bears.(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Can you all hear me? Can you—hey, quiet down there! No, no one wants to see your battle hammer, dude. No, I don’t care that it’s in your pants. Now shut up.

Wow, there’s a lot more of you than I thought. That could be a problem. All right, I gathered you all here today because—what’s that? You hate that guy? Yes, I know. You’re supposed to. He’s one of the antagonists. Antagonists. ANTAG—the bad guy, all right? Just…look it up. When you learn to read.

Here’s the thing: you’re all imaginary. You’re the characters in the first draft of the novel I’m working on. All of you. Some of you are good guys, some of you are bad guys, a lot of you are something in between. But you all have something in common. Aside from being imaginary, that is.

You’re all too perfect.

Even those of you who are bad guys are just too fucking pat. Too on the nose. Most of you lack a certain…complexity. And that’s not necessarily your fault. You’re just new. The zero draft pass is about ideas, and that’s what you are. But now it’s time for you to become characters.

I was discussing this via text with a friend who’s in Australia, and I think she gave me the clue. Working on one of her own characters, she finally figured out why said character wasn’t working: she wasn’t broken. All characters are wounded, in some way, and that wound informs their actions. But this one wasn’t. There was no damage in her soul. Just like there’s none in a lot of you.

This can’t stand.

So, here’s what needs to happen. A couple of you are all right. You, there, the killer with the knives, you’re not bad. And you, the first level bad guy, you’re okay, too. If the two of you could just sort of go to one side…what’s that? No, you don’t have to stand by him, miss. You two are going to be spending enough time together.

The rest of you, come over here. If you’re going to stick around this story and be worthwhile, you need to be more broken. I want to see your damage. I want to feel it. And if you don’t have any, then I’m going to give it to you. Hell, some of you might not even exist after this is over. But it’s necessary. It’s for the good of the story.

Now form an orderly queue, and…

Hey, where are you all going?

Gravity Fails: Humour and the Unexpected

 

:derp:

Also, funny hats: comedy gold (Photo credit: spyrography.com)

I went to see The Heat yesterday. It’s a typical buddy-cop movie—aside from the fact that both the cops are female—and a good one. I laughed, my husband laughed, my mom almost burst something laughing.* And so did most of the theatre.

Now, it’s in my nature to break stuff down.** So, of course I had to figure out why I found the movie so damn funny. Because, frankly, most Hollywood comedies don’t do it for me. I find them either too awkward (ie, the Will Ferrell Effect) or too idiotic (people who forced me to watch Team America World Police, I hope you’re proud of yourselves). So why did this one? I’ve seen McCarthy in other stuff*** and found her capable, but nothing special. Likewise, Bullock is a capable awkward straight woman.

I figured it out, eventually: it was the unexpected.

You know what there weren’t any of in that movie? Fat jokes. McCarthy is a big woman. Fat jokes would have been easy.

But here’s the thing: easy is rarely funny.

Humour comes from the unexpected, the unusual, the slide of your expectations away from what should be. If you can’t see the absurdity in a situation, chances are you’re missing the humour. Easy jokes, easy targets, those just come off as mean.

Not only that, I will argue that easy jokes and easy targets represent a lack of confidence on the part of the writer. If you can’t make something funny without going for weak targets, then you’re not much of a writer. The easy shit is lazy. And boring. And nothing that a monkey with a typewriter couldn’t bang out.

So, when writing comedy, go further. Go beyond the obvious. Find the moment when your audience’s expectation are drifting one way, and then yank them in the other.

And, if all else fails, have someone fall down a lot. Losing to gravity: always funny.

*Especially during the Spanx part. Fucking slayed her.
**Or just break stuff in general.
***Though I haven’t seen Bridesmaids. Tell me, Internet: worth the watch?

 

Your Summer in Writing

Summer

I can feel the inspiration already! (Photo credit: Moyan_Brenn)

Here it is: the first day of summer. Look at those glorious days stretching out before you, filled with sunshine*, pool parties**, and hot people in swimsuits***.

Using the powers granted to me by a dark god who shall remain nameless until such a time as the world domination plan is complete, I have peered into the future. I have seen the first half of your writing summer. Let’s take a look at how it goes…

Day 1: Revel in the longer days. More daylight means more time to get stuff done, like that story you’ve been thinking about. You’re going to knock it out of the park this summer!

Day 2: Decide that in order to knock it out of the park, you should actually be at a park instead of staying inside working at your computer. This is what notebooks are for!

Day 4: Notebook gets stolen by a Labrador who doesn’t seem to realize he’s chewing on a masterpiece.

Day 7: Start a new notebook. Write with a firm, decisive hand. So much better than working on a soulless machine.

Day 11: Accidentally glue your new notebook pages together with sunscreen and spilled beer. Upon prying the pages apart, you discover that, while your pen is waterproof, it is not beer-proof. Sadly, few things are.

Day 14: Go away for the weekend sure in the knowledge that a change of scenery will make those creative juices flow. Realize upon arrival that your third notebook is at home on top of the fridge.

Day 15: Start scrawling notes on the back of the creepy manuscript you found buried in the dresser of the old cabin where you’re staying. Stop when you realize the manuscript is bound in human skin.

Day 20: Actually get happy when it rains because now you have an excuse to stay inside and write.

Day 21: Another rain day! More writing!

Day 22: All right, that’s enough rain. Time to play video games because you’re out of words.

Day 23: Seriously? Still raining?

Day 24: For fuck’s sake. You’re going to fucking drown if you don’t get some sunshine over here.

Day 25: The sun god is dead. The rain god killed him.

Day 26: Awaken to what might be a lighter spot in the oppressive cloud cover. Maybe. You’re not sure. Better stay inside and play video games until—wait, there’s sun! Sun! Glorious sun! Go outside and rejoice!

Day 28: Realize that summer is almost half over and you’ve barely gotten anything done. Panic.

Day 29: Have another BBQ and get over it.

Day 31: Decide that you deserve a summer off. No writing. Just relax and let your batteries recharge. Yeah. That’s a better plan. To hell with it.

Day 32: Wake up in the middle of the night with the best. Idea. Ever. You have to start writing this right fucking now. This summer is going to be amazing!

*Maybe. I still don’t control the weather.
**Only if you have a pool. Otherwise, look forward to ‘bugging your neighbour who has a pool for use of it.’
***With variance on ‘hot’.

How To Give Up: 6 Options For Quitting Writing

give up

You’re not going to argue with a wall, are you? (Photo credit: abradyb)

1) Hold yourself to an impossible standard. Man, nothing sucks the fun out of something like expecting to be perfect at it. And once the fun is gone, you’re just slogging away at yet another thing that eats your time. You might as well be breaking rocks into smaller rocks with a third, slightly larger, rock.
So if you want to give up, I suggest trying really hard to do the impossible. Set a goal to write a novel in a weekend and not have it suck! Make it non-negotiable that every word you write will be as pristine as the unused toilet paper of the gods! Write a multi-part epic with thousands of characters by randomly smashing your face down on the keyboard once a day! I guarantee you’ll be giving up in no time.

2) Expect that you’ll find the time somewhere. Don’t bother making time for writing. Just fit it in whenever there’s nothing worth watching on TV.* Or there’s no kids to take care of, or work shit to do. It’s always easier to not do something than to do it, right? So take the easy way out.
The best part about this one is that you don’t even have to actually quit. You can just keep saying, “I’ll get to it someday” until the stars go dark.

3) Accept absolutely no criticism. Okay, this one won’t make you give up. But after the third time you throw a hissy fit when someone dares to tell you to stop using the shotgun approach to punctuation**, the inevitable death from blunt force trauma caused by repeatedly being hit with a chair will take the decision out of your hands.

4) Listen to haters. All those people who ask ‘why are you wasting time on that?’ or ‘shouldn’t you be doing something more productive with your time?’ can really help you give up. Let yourself be sucked into the poisonous vortex of their combination of negativity and envy. Stop struggling. It will all be over soon.

5) Burn out. Instead of giving yourself time to recharge, work until you fucking hate the sight of your computer. Really bash your head against the wall on this one. No days off, no side projects, no taking a break for your uncle’s funeral. No taking care of yourself, either. Eat shit food, get no exercise, have no social activities to make you into a well rounded human being. By god, you have to sacrifice for your art and you’re going to do just that until the only release is quitting or death.
And, if circumstances conspire to keep you away, really beat yourself unmercifully about it. How else will you learn?

6) Talk yourself out of it. You didn’t really want to write that book anyway. You’re not sure if you have the talent, and it’s really hard. In fact, it’s better if you don’t write, because it leaves you with more time to catch up on Deadliest Toddlers and The Real Housewives Wars. So just sit back, relax, and give up.

*Defined in this case as ‘nothing that you’d rather sit on your ass and watch rather than actually do something productive’. It’s a surprisingly broad category.
** “It doesn’t matter where it goes, as long as it’s in there somewhere.”