Get Writing! Find the fire…

Sometimes you throw a log on the fire and it surges; flames reach for the sky and you’re basking in its glow. Other times you throw that log at the wrong time or wrong angle and suddenly you’ve extinguished the flame. It gets dark. Real dark.

GOT dragon dark

Dark, and scary

The same is true for writing. Some ideas send your word count skyrocketing and others have you TBD-ing all over the place. You get lost in the darkness and find yourself ending every paragraph with the dreaded ellipses.

No wants that. No one…

This is where you have to look hard at each of your characters. After all, if plot is the blood of your story, then characters are the heart that keeps it moving. To get momentum, you need the heart to start racing. You have no choice but to turn up the pressure. Basically, you’ve gotta ask yourself: What would George RR Martin do?

GOT Ned

Wait, come back! Don’t kill ALL of your favorite characters!

Whatever your characters are most scared of, make them face it. Give them a moment that will change them, haunt them, motivate them or dissuade them.

A moment that will define them.

GOT zombie

Maybe you’ll realize… they’re a zombie! Or not.

Write that moment, every detail. It’s okay if you feel terrible, or even shed a few tears. Sometimes—actually, a lot of the time—writing is emotionally painful. But the more you feel, the more your reader will feel. The tension should make your actual heart race.

Once the scene is done, you’ve caught your breath, and your character’s shadows have been illuminated, you have to decide if that moment stays in the story. We know, we know—you bled on the page and now we’re saying you might not even be able to use it?! Yep. That moment may not make it into the finished product, but it’s almost certainly going to be a key part of your character—who they were before they became part of the story, why they were that way, etc. This moment could be a critical part of the path that leads you to the greatest version of your story—be ready!

Whichever way it goes, all the tension you created should generate the friction you needed to get the writing fire surging again. Be the mother of word-dragons you know you can be!

GOT dragon fire and khaleesi

 

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Get Writing! Spark your inspiration…

We’re finally into summer and there’s no more need for warm-ups. Which means it’s time to get to the real writing. You’ve been here before—the start of something new—but you’ve always arrived with at least one idea at boiling point, ready to spill over onto the page.

But what if you face the blank screen or empty page and there’s no sign of inspiration?

Brutal truth? Too bad.

WW diving

The sun is shining, so dive into some awesome new writing!

Writing isn’t a desire, it’s a practice. There are fun aspects to it, which without a doubt improve it, like daydreaming about winning Oscars, reading the new Leigh Bardugo Wonder Woman novel (which isn’t out until August 29 so mark that day off for some serious not-writing), watching the new season of Orange Is The New Black (it’s SO GOOD), and probably Wonder Woman again because it rocks… All of those things (and any you’d like to add to the list) are great for studying plot construction and character development. You gotta read and watch and consume to learn and get inspired. But.

Nothing is as important as getting the words. on. the. page.

OITNB Writing

Put the words down, baby. Drop ’em like they’re hot. It’s the only way to be a writer.

We’re not total tyrants though; we’re here to help!

So, here are three metaphorical matches for you to strike and spark your inspiration.

It’s been fifteen years and she doesn’t look any different, except for the fact that the last time I saw her, she was dead.

“Whatever you do, do NOT eat—” “…oops…”

Either I die. Or they all die.

In a future post, we’ll get into some hints on how to keep the story burning.

For now… get writing!

Get Writing! Attack the block…

Writing is awesome. Of course it is. But it can sometimes feel like heavy lifting—of complex emotions, intricate plot, grounded characters—so it’s always good to keep those creative muscles warm.

SPN Chuck

Even if you don’t have a project you’re working on at the moment, keep writing. And if you are working on a project but you’re having trouble lifting (AKA… writer’s block), here’s a fun exercise that should help keep those muscles loose. In either case you might think that you don’t want to write something random. But here’s the thing: you never know when those small scenes could develop into something larger, or even solve that pesky plot hole.

Your mind is constantly working on story, behind the scenes of your everyday thought processes—that’s one of the cool things about being a writer, everything you do counts as part of the writing process in some way—but in order to make it real, you have to put it down on paper, or get it on screen.

So here’s a way to stay loose, or attack the block:

Try writing a couple of characters you know and love—either your own, or some from your favorite TV show, movie or novel—and make them argue about something. Anything. Debating the merits of a Caramel Macchiato vs. a S’mores Frappuccino (too close to call, right?), who’s the best superhero/YA heroine/character in Star Wars Rebels (Hera, obvi), who would win in a fight between C3-P0 and TC-14 (trick question, they’re classic droid OTP material)… you get the idea. Characters you love, arguing about anything.

Whoever and whatever springs to mind RIGHT THIS SECOND…. go!

image4

 

Get Writing! Warming up…

The winter weather was brutal at times this year. It felt like the clouds would never part, the sun would never shine, the dirty snow piles would never melt… But, finally, the sun started to peak out more and more, and spring finally arrived, bringing with it new buds and greener landscapes.

Spring 2

Spring is the season of birth and revitalization, and that doesn’t just apply to your garden. The air is full of ideas and inspiration, all you need to do is take the time to look for them. But ideas, like your garden, need tending to.

garden

Since writing requires talent, skill, and constant practice, we’ve decided to launch a new series of posts for inspiration and cultivation.

So throw open the windows and let the fresh air and inspiration in, as, first up, we have a warm-up exercise…

Spring 1

Write a conversation between two people, where they each find a way to tell the other one they love them, without actually saying anything that could be found in a Hallmark card.

Couple

No “I love you”s, no generic flattery. So, although, yes, this is probably the greatest love you scene in cinema…

I love you I know

… you have to do it without using those words! Just make sure your characters know by the end of their conversation that they are truly seen and cared for like no one else has cared for them.

Get writing!

What to read while you wait for Philip Pullman’s THE BOOK OF DUST

It’s been a long time—14 years to be precise—since Pullman dropped THE AMBER SPYGLASS and concluded the HIS DARK MATERIALS trilogy. There have been occasional glimpses of hope… short stories set in that world showed up here and there, but the big rumor was for a some sort of sequel called THE BOOK OF DUST.

It’s a rumor no longer. It’s officially a new trilogy, set before and after the events of HIS DARK MATERIALS, and volume one comes out in October 2017!!

That feels like a long way off though… So here are 6 books you should be reading while you wait, including titles by Neil Gaiman, Madeleine L’Engle and Garth Nix.

Book Of Dust

 

Beyond self-publishing

Last time, we looked at ways to get your self-published novel out into the world. For those of you who aren’t novelists, we wanted to spend some time on you! We’re nice that way.

SPN Dean Nice

If you write short stories, or scripts, or songs, just for example, there are other things you can do to get your work noticed.

For screenwriters, competitions are definitely something you should look into. There are some notable and reputable comps out there: PAGE Awards, Scriptapalooza, the highly prestigious Nicholl Fellowship (run by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, AKA, the Oscars!), Final Draft’s Big Break, the Austin Film Festival Screenplay Competition, the Set In Philadelphia Screenplay Competition, etc. What these have going for them is a combination of great reputation and judges who are working in the film and TV industry. Winning is nice, of course it is. We love winning. But if someone in the industry likes your script and wants to meet you and read more, that’s even better. The huge, almost unsurmountable challenge you face as a screenwriter attempting to break in is getting your work read. Competitions like these will help that happen.

Another route you can take is uploading your script to The Black List. You’ll pay a small fee for hosting, you can pay a larger fee for evaluations (which give you detailed coverage on your script, plus it adds to your ratings—yes, people will rate your scripts on there). It’s another way to potentially get more industry eyes on your work. If your scores are high enough, you’ll be included in an email that gets sent to industry subscribers on weekly basis, highlighting the top scripts on the site.

Now, you might be a songwriter. In which case, we’re going to recommend competitions again. If you’re inclined in a country direction, you have to go for the NSAI (Nashville Songwriters Association International) Annual Song Contest. You can enter your song as a performance, or on a lyric-only basis. Well worth it (as is joining your local NSAI chapter).

If you write outside of country, there are other contests you can look at: The Great American Song Contest, and the International Songwriting Competition, are just two notable examples.

Of course, you also have to just get your music out there, which means putting your songs on YouTube, SoundCloud, or your own site, tweeting them out, Instagramming clips etc. And, if you’re a performer too, start playing wherever and whenever you can. Bars, pubs, clubs, whatever works.

Last but not least, short stories. There are probably thousands of journals and publications that accept short stories. Your job is to research them and find the ones where your stories might fit. Great resources for research are Duotrope and ShortStops. Look for journals, magazines, quarterly or yearly anthologies, standalone anthologies. Of course, you have to try The New Yorker. Send copies of your story to competitions. Keep sending. This is a raw numbers game. Send hundreds or even thousands of times. Set them free!

Fly my pretties

Much the same applies to the poets among you. The New Yorker has online submissions for poetry, and there are many other outlets too. Find them and send them your work.

The common thread to all of this is research and legwork. You have to find the places that seem like they’ll be receptive to your work, and then get  your work to them. More often then not, you’ll be sending your creations out to hundreds more places than will actually accept them, but that’s the life. That’s the game. Just keep creating, keep enjoying creating, be super organized about your submissions, and don’t. Ever. Stop.

You can do this!

You Got This