How to Sit Yourself Down When Your Brain Goes Bugfuck

I’ve been bouncing off the walls all week, perhaps longer. I’ve managed to get a lot done lately, but the panic sets in the moment I wonder if I’ve been taking off in the right directions. It’s hard to gauge, especially when the money’s not coming in, seeing as it’s modernity’s primary indication of worth – and even though it’s 100% shit, we’re stuck wading in it. Anyway…

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Boy, The Latest Entry in my Journal is a Doozy

Since I started writing seriously I’ve been keeping a journal of interesting physical sensations and unusual experiences. It’s usually things like freezing my face off in -40° weather and what it feels like to defrost afterwards, or the incredibly specific pain of a pinched nerve. However, the other day I recorded one hell of an experience: a full on hypnopompic hallucination.

It started when terrible sound filled my dream, a voice yelling “PAT PAT PAT PAT…” It was Dalek-like, like a man yelling into a voice modulator. The sound confused me more than anything, until I saw an old-fashioned hunting party ride through my backyard carrying bazookas on their shoulders. The image was silly enough to make me realize it was a dream and wake myself up. But the sound didn’t stop.

I pinned the sound on my boyfriend. He wasn’t so much snoring as making little puffs of air, but my brain converted it into the reverberating shout:

({(PAT)}) ({(PAT)}) ({(PAT)}) ({(PAT)}) ({(PAT)}) ({(PAT)}) ({(PAT)}) ({(PAT)})

It was creepy and terrifying, more-so because it accompanied visual hallucinations.

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Advice That Makes You Go Duh: Summing Up a Story

If you can’t sum up your story in one sentence, you don’t have a story so much as a bunch of shit that happened. It could be a long sentence, but you only get so many “ands” before people stop listening. If you can’t make someone interested in your idea within that framework, it’s time to take a step back and figure your shit out. It’s a lesson I learn fresh every time I start new story.

Often people start with a situation, but not knowing their character’s drives, they fail to turn that situation into something that moves the reader to give a damn. I’ve found summing up your story in as few words as possible is a great way to reveal this fundamental flaw.

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A Good Voice Will Travel

“No digressions allowed!” is one of many pieces of writing advice I’ve read from the horizontal climbers, which is no doubt good advice if you want to write thrillers to formula. However, many books I admire are full of digressions and asides. In fact, such digressions sometimes make those books stand above the crowd. It’s one of those things that made me realize the best teachers are often books themselves.

The thing is, if you’re reading a “how to write” book written by someone who makes more money selling advice than their fiction, you’ll end up making the same mistakes they do. Yes, I get the irony of my own advice, since I have yet to sell a damned thing—but my advice isn’t to listen to me, it’s to listen to the good writing that sings inside you as you read. Anyway…

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One of Many Steps Towards Becoming a Writer Worth a Damn

This post may become a series on revelations of craft that struck me in the gob like the shmuck I was before I knew any better. This week: how I learned to put a fresh spin on an old hat (how’s that for a mixed metaphor?) and how originality arises naturally from having an interesting character who doesn’t see the word the same way as everyone else. Basically: the whole point of literature. I mean hell, if you’re not doing that you might as well program your ebook compiler to replace all your words with fart noises, because that’s the only way you’ll entertain anyone.

So what kind of idiot was I before I figured out that writing a scene meant writing something new? It started with a wedding, and how much I hate them. My first novel required a wedding scene and I dreading writing it. In my head flashed all the weddings I’d seen in the movies: the costumes I’d have to describe, the happy faces, the spoken vows. The picture in my head was a wreck of smashed together cliches, and I had no idea I didn’t have to write it that way.

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