How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Blog

I’m not going to lie.

I had many, many illusions about blogging when I started The Crooked Pen.

I thought that, with enough vigor and talent I would be able to flock hundreds of thousands of people to this site. I had seen other blogs similar to this one and I thought I had them all beat. Surely, if this unoriginal tripe can get over one hundred likes, my posts, which are much more original, can receive the same amount of popularity as well….

That did not happen.

Ever.

That isn’t to say I haven’t made progress in both my writing style and my following. Nevertheless, it has never (and likely will never) garnered the sort of popularity I had hoped it would have.

This blog was created for two reasons: 1. So that I could go on lengthy diatribes about things the laymen doesn’t care about (fiction, writing, the literary merits of popular TV shows etc. And 2. So that I could create a platform to launch my writing career.

When it comes to the former, I have been more that successful. When it comes to the latter however….

I tried.

I didn’t exactly make a schedule, but I put it in my mind that I would attempt to make at least one blog post a week. When this didn’t attract as many people as I had hoped, I begun reading other people’s blogs and following them. I commented, liked, followed, engaged as much as I possibly could and still make time for my own personal writings. I did notice an increase…but, again, not as much as I hoped.

I decided to take a bit of a break.

I focused more on my actual writing and found that I was enjoying myself much more. When I wasn’t making a competition of it, constantly comparing myself to other writers, I  enjoyed it…quite a lot, actually.

When everything was just for the love of it and it wasn’t about how many likes or comments I would receive, I found that I felt much freer and my body of work increased in quality.

I’ve since returned to the blogging world (albeit at a less frequent rate) and I’v decided that, rather than worrying about how many like or comments I have, I’m going to focus on writing what I want to write even if it’s not popular. I enjoy putting my words out there, even if only a tiny portion of people read them.

I appreciate you guys!

How Drake and Josh Are Destroying My Novel

I never thought procrastination would be so simple, but I found a way.

I found a way.

I set out  working on chapter seven of my story and somehow found myself plunging into the ether of pop culture sludge.

For literally no reason at all, I began looking into the Drake and Josh controversy.

In case you don’t know what I’m talking about, Drake Bell found out Josh Peck was getting married via social media instead of through the man himself. Outraged that he wasn’t contacted about it, Drake immediately lapsed into insanity and began berating Josh through Twitter instead of….you know…actually talking to the guy.

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Naturally, the internet led the charge against Josh, decrying him for committing such a treacherous act against his on-screen brother and real life bff. How dare he not invite his “brotha” to such a momentous occasion? Didn’t he realize we’re all watching him?

Memes were created as effigies against the traitor. His Facebook and Twitter feed were bombarded with hateful comments.

Good news: it appears they have since made up as evidenced by a recently posted vlog by Josh Peck.

Bad news: I apparently care about this sh*t.

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I loved Drake and Josh as a kid, but they are real people with real lives that are none of my business. Why did I take it upon myself to do research on this subject? Why do I care so much about people I will never meet and (in spite of giving me a few hours worth of laughs) really didn’t contribute that much to my life?

It’s amazing the mental gymnastics I will do just to avoid a rough writing session. That’s really what it comes down to: Not wanting to write a difficult chapter

And my mind will do anything–question anything—if it gets me off the hook.

I don’t even want to talk about all the WatchMojo videos I’ve watched in an attempt to drain my evening of writing time.

Oh crap, I just spent three hours watching clips from Carrie and analyzing how Sissy Spacek’s portrayal of the main character was much better than the one from the 2013 movie. 

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Look at those dead eyes! 

Oh well. Guess I don’t have time to write now. 

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Then I lie awake it bed, feeling hopelessly guilty that I thwarted what few hours I have on this earth watching crappy five minutes videos, caught in my own web of self-defeatism, when I could be contributing to the ever-growing nest of culture that is the arts and humanities.

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It doesn’t matter how many cups of coffee I throw back or how much atmospheric music I play, even Enya can’t save me from my bad habits so pervasive in my mind that they have decided to colonize as many lobes as possible.

All I can hope for is that, eventually, I will strike the right cord. The chapter I am currently working on I have rewritten about sixteen times. No hyperbole.

However, I’ve decided (for the fourth week in a row) that this will be my weekend. This will be the week that I finish that damn chapter. This time I won’t be distracted by WatchMojo or watch the Stephen King It trailer for the twentieth time even though I despise remakes and, after closer examination, have almost no desire to see it.

I suppose there is nothing for it.

All I can do is look my story dead in the eye and say…

Eh…maybe next week.

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Editing is the Worst Thing Ever

Is there anything quite as beautiful as writing the first draft of a story?

Every moment is primed with intrigue, wonder, and mystery.

You just paint everything on the metaphorical canvass as you see it in your mind’s eye. Ideas pour forth from you like a soda fountain filled with Mentos

You pat yourself on the back for every clever line, every twist and turn, every unique character.

Then, once the dust has settled, you must look back on your writing….

And realize that literally everything is horrible.

There are plot-holes everywhere, nobody’s motivation makes sense, the action is either too slow or too fast, the plot is too predictable or disjointed. The list goes on and on.

The worst part is realizing you’re actually going to have to fix this crap.

All it takes for your hard work to be torn asunder is the word “why.”

Why didn’t they just do this? Why didn’t they do that? Why didn’t he ask her this? Why didn’t she stay at home instead?

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You will have to answer these questions and many, many more 😀

Not only that, but you may have to remove some of your favorite sequences in order for the new continuity to make sense. That means hacking away at that razor sharp dialogue and those gorgeous descriptions, leading you to meander down a road rife with uncertainty.

Well…you could ask someone to be your beta reader and get their opinion, but then they may question your literary genius.

You can’t have that.

But really there’s nothing for it.

It’s just another stumbling block on the road to success, or, as is often the case with writing, another mine in a minefield of never-ending despair and disappointment.

Perhaps in between drafts you should take a break. Let it sit for a while and then come back to it when it’s had time to cool. Then you can turn your keen eye to the festering pile of dung that is your first draft with a clear perspective and can dispose of it accordingly.

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Regardless, I think this may be one of the hardest parts of writing. Besides… everything else.

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Sucking (Writing) a Little Every Day Part II

I wrote a post around 6 months ago about how I was going to write every single day, no matter how much the product sucked.

And for a while, I stuck to that goal. However, in recent months I’ve had difficulty maintaining.

Some reasons are legitimate like I have had homework to do and personal matters arose. However, a lot of this stems from my self-doubt and internet addiction (see “I Can’t Write At Home. The Internet Wants My Soul”).

Half of the time it’s like I’m pushing against an invisible barrier that I can’t seem to budge. I prepare myself to write, but as soon as I open the page or word document, I freeze up. Everything goes blank.

Maybe it’s because the story I’m working on is going to take more time and effort than I originally thought, or because I am wanting to change the direction of it and am afraid that I’ll take away all that was good about it before.

Since I’m due to graduate soon, I will be expected to get something called a…jobe? Joab? Something like that. Anyway, I won’t have nearly as much free time at my disposal. This means I need to kick it into high gear if I want to birth a book into the world before I’m in my 30s.

I need to go back to writing for at least an hour every single day. That’s every single day.

Not days that I feel like it, not days that it’s convenient, every day.

Even when it feels like I’m sucking.

How to Write Women: a Guide for Men

Hello, men.

I am a woman.

Today I am going to give you some tips on how to write female characters. Keep in mind that women are human beings and no woman is exactly the same as another. However, I’m hoping to give you at least a general idea of how to pull off a convincing female.

Don’t go for the Pretty Princess or Mighty Warrior archetypes. 

I appreciate male writers who are attempting to rebel against the Disney princess paradigm of women from yester year, but giving a chick an AK and no personality is not helping the feminist cause. That isn’t us either.

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Very few of us can be compartmentalized as either girly girl or tom boy. Most of us are an amalgamation of both. For instance, some of us like to go out hunting one day and then shoe shopping the next. Others might be really into sports like rowing and have a bedroom chock full of stuffed animals. Some of us may be into tattoos and video games and also enjoy coloring books. Shut up. They’re therapeutic.  The point is, we don’t often completely give ourselves over to one stereotype or another.

Give them a weakness. 

This goes back to the fallacious concept of the man-in-skirt that is many action hero women. Your character is a person, therefore, they have a weakness. Maybe they suffered some horrible trauma at a young age. Maybe they have a disability or perhaps they are unsure if their cause is just.

You aren’t sexist because your female character has some sort of fault. Unless their fault is hopelessly whining and being kidnapped all the time. Then it’s a bit sexist. Moving on.

Remember relationships are important to women. 

And no, I don’t mean just the romantic kind. I mean relationships in general. Women tend to value friendships, family, and romantic entanglements above most things. That’s not to say women can’t be career-driven, or that they are dreamy-eyed dopes that doodle their crushes names into their notebooks.

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However, if you are writing a female character odds are they have at least one confidant, whether it’s their mother, their sister, or their best friend. Most women (keyword: most) aren’t complete loners. Even if they feel like an outsider, they will usually try to attach themselves to a person or a group in order to feel balanced. Think of it like a wolf belonging to a pack. It just feels natural and safe to do this.

Some female characters need more motivation to take risks. 

Admittedly, this depends on what your MC’s personality is like. But in most cases women are less likely than men to throw themselves into the fray unless something serious is at stake. We tend to be less prone to “Dude, hold my beer” moments, but not necessarily immune. Especially if there is actual beer involved. The voice in the back of our heads that tells us that we’re about to do is stupid tends to be louder and has more sway over our actions.

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Don’t give your character bitchiness in leu of actual competence and confidence. 

Just because a character shouts at people and orders them around, that doesn’t mean they are a “strong female character.” I’ve seen this done by male writers (and even some female writers) many times. More often than not these characters look tough on the outside to prove they “aren’t that type of girl”, but when it comes to actually doing something, they usually wind up getting themselves into more trouble rather than helping anyone get out of it. If they were bitchy and competent, I would have less to complain about.

The easy way to overcome this is to simply show us how awesome this girl is rather than having her tell us how badass she is. Unless the very point is to make her look like a jerk.

Women tend to be more sensitive. 

This doesn’t mean all of us are weepy or completely at the mercy of our feelings. It just means we tend to have stronger spidey-senses than men when it comes to certain things. Comedians often joke about how women can tell a million things about a person simply by how they drank their tea, but there is an element of truth to this. Our gut feelings are often what drive us to follow leads others might overlook. While we are often a cautious bunch in general, most of us trust our intuition when it says something is not right, and we’re willing to put ourselves at risk if it’s in the name of helping someone else.

Remember this: not all women are the same.

However, my hope is that I have assisted you in getting into the proper mindset.

Good luck with your projects!

Rewriting: Once More with Feeling!

I experience a mixed bag of emotions when I’m rewriting a piece.

One emotion is excitement because I’m fixing things I had problems with in the original draft. Another is trepidation because I’m worried that the things I actually did enjoy about my original draft will have to be cut out.

Each thing you change in a story has a domino effect. One little paragraph can completely change the tone.

You have to choose what you change very carefully.

There’s also the humiliation of realizing you actually let another human being read this when it doesn’t remotely resemble what you hoped it would be.

I’m going to attempt to do something I’ve never done before.

I am going to literally take it page by page and rework as much as I can in my favor. Every word I don’t like, every clumsy sentence, every image that isn’t just right is going to get the hedge clippers.

Just the thought makes me want to drink an entire bottle of whisky straight out of the bottle, but it seems as though this is the only method that will make this venture worth while.

How else will I justify spending months on this thing?

I Can’t Write At Home. The Internet Wants My Soul

Out of curiosity, how many of you guys write from home?

Because I can’t.

I’ve tried but, for whatever reason, being at home just feeds my addiction to the internet.

I boot up my laptop, game face on and notes in my hand, only for my Facebook page to pop up on the screen like-

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Next thing I know, I’m on Youtube and watching videos on how to survive a nuclear fallout.

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In order to get down to business, I must journey to a coffee shop or restaurant and spend two to three hours typing away while mindlessly nibbling or sipping their wares.

This isn’t always a convenient arrangement as sometimes the weather is not favorable for travel, or sometimes I don’t complete my daily responsibilities until later when these places are closed.

Oh, that’s fine, I say to myself, I’ll just get some writing done at home. 

Internet:

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The answer seems simple: disconnect from the WiFi.

However, even if I do that, I will become distracted by something else. I’ll watch a movie I purchased on iTunes. I’ll look through my photos I took on vacation. I’ll edit a silly video I made on iMovie.

There’s a cornucopia of possibilities for mindless activities.

I suppose I’ll just have to consider these places my office for the time being and respect my inconvenient habits.

I suppose it’s better than not writing at all.

Late Night Writing

So…I’m supposed to be working on the third draft of a short story, but here I am.

I thought about writing all day at work today, mentally mapping out scenes and constructing dialogue. Then, when I actually got home, all I wanted to do was, well, anything else.

My story and I have been acting like two backwards magnets lately. I open the word document, but when I start to type, I seize up.

Sentences aren’t forming the way I want them to and so my motivation evaporates.

I suppose the obvious reason for this is because I am nervous about starting from the top again. I don’t want to repeat the same mistakes I made with the first and second draft. However, I’m afraid that by restarting I will consequently change everything that was good about the original manuscript.

I’m worried I will create a margarine story. It’ll just be a blah with no personality.

I’ve run into this issue before. In some cases when I attempt to fix a problem, I usually make it worse or correct it only to feel like I’ve removed part of the story’s charm.

I guess that’s what beta readers are for. Nonetheless, I like to wow people with my epic story-telling abilities so it’s difficult for me to let people see my dirty underwear.

Good luck to all of you and your writing projects.

Don’t stay up too late.

Sucking (Writing) a Little Every Day

Stop me if you’ve heard this before: “You must write every day!”

I hear it every time I read an author interview, when I read a book on writing, or when watching a Youtube video featuring a prominent writing figure.

No exceptions! You have to write at least a little bit every day.

I’m trying to ease my way into that habit.

I love writing so, truth be told, it isn’t that difficult.

What is difficult is making myself stop reading the previous sentence I just typed and thinking “Oh my God, this is awful.”

That’s how I get stuck on most days. Every line I write is awful and somewhere out there, there is a thirteen year-old that just finished their first novel on Wattpad and is going to be an overnight international sensation. Warner Brothers will buy the rights to their movies and they will be cemented as the greatest young writers of their time.

Don’t look at me like that. That’s totally a thing that happens.

Regardless, I’m going to try to keep at it.

I will suck a little bit every day until I stop.

Nothing is preventing me from moving forward except for myself. Namely, my love for all that is good and literary.

Still, statistically, it has to get better.