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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Annoying Clichés Writers Use (Featuring Adorable Cats)

Women having hair that is waist length. 

Most women I know don’t have hair that is waist length. Do you know how hard it is to brush a monster that long, or keep it from getting caught in everything? Mine only went down to my shoulder blades and I had to chop it all off because I kept getting it stuck in doorways. There’s also the grooming and upkeep you have to take into consideration. Who has the time to blow dry and style that much hair? Not most people.

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Hooman bed is best bed 

People with gray eyes. 

In my twenty plus years of existence, I have met maybe two people that have gray eyes. It’s an even rarer eye color than green. So why do I keep coming across people in books with gray eyes? It seems like every other character in books these days have them. It’s like some writers can’t find a more creative way to describe their characters. I don’t know. Give them a beauty mark or something, a scar, anything else but gray eyes.

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Rawr

People biting their lips/digging their nails into their palm so hard they bleed. 

Out of all the clichés I’ve mentioned thus far, this is one of the most annoying. Particularly because nobody does thisEVER. I’ve even tried to do this myself. Whenever I come across a passage like this, I purposely dig my fingernails (which are long and kind of sharp) into the palm of my hand as hard as I can. It leaves an imprint, but it  has never come close to breaking the skin. Same goes with my lips. Nothing. Even if your lips are the consistency of rice paper, they probably won’t bleed. So why does this cliché even exist?

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I can haz milk, hipster hooman? 

Author/character filibuster. 

What’s more fascinating than a writer/character stopping the novel to tell us what the moral of the story is? Literally anything else. I get that dialogue in a book can’t always sound perfectly natural, but it takes a reader out of the moment when you give a character a speech that goes on forever. Nobody can give a speech that detailed on the fly. It doesn’t flow well with the rest of the story either.

The Suspending of “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”

I’ve read recently that Accomack County Public Schools are suspending To Kill a Mockingbird and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn for their usage of the N-word.

If you aren’t sure what I’m talking about, you can see for yourself in this exert from “Classic novels pulled from Accomack County Public Schools” :

Earlier this month, a parent voiced concerns to the school board about racial slurs in both of the novels.

“Right now, we are a nation divided as it is,” the mother is heard saying in an audio recording of the meeting on Nov. 15. She tells the board that her biracial son, a high school student, struggled getting through a page that was riddled with a racial slur.

“So what are we teaching our children? We’re validating that these words are acceptable, and they are not acceptable by any means,” the parent said.

Me:

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To those that have taken it upon themselves to suspend these novels, I have one question:

You have read these books, right?

The complaint seems to be that reading the N-word makes people feel uncomfortable. Well, here’s the thing: It’s supposed to.

You’re supposed to feel uncomfortable when you see someone being marginalized in these books. You’re supposed to feel indignant when a man who never did anything wrong is convicted for a crime just because he’s black. You’re supposed to feel angry, sad, sick, etc when you read the N-word.

Furthermore, just because a book has something in it, that doesn’t mean the book is in support of that thing.

For instance, The Dovekeepers has genocide in it. Does that mean it’s saying genocide is a good thing? OF COURSE NOT!!!

Tess of D’Urbervilles has rape in it. Is the author saying sexual assault is okay? NO!!

The entire point of both novels, To Kill a Mockingbird and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, is that racism is wrong. That it’s morally reprehensible. That no one should subscribe to this way of thinking.

It’s so glaringly obvious that I’m genuinely bewildered as to how anyone could possibly miss that.

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But it seems as if these people don’t want to look at the big picture. They simply want to obsess over details instead.

Apparently if you don’t read about racism, evaluate offensive language, or discuss why it’s wrong to make judgments about others based on skin color, our checkered past will magically go away and we’ll have always been an accepting society.

Who would have thought it?

Maybe we should ban The Diary of Anne Frank and other books about the Holocaust too because those kinds of books could teach people to be Anti-Semitic.

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Can you name one person, one solitary person, who was inspired to become a bigot by reading To Kill a Mockingbird? One single soul? Do you know anyone who has read this book and thought “huh, racism seems pretty cool, now that I think about it.”

I can see a true racist being indifferent to it or claiming it’s propaganda, but I cannot name anyone who has read To Kill a Mockingbird or Huck Finn and decided to become a member of the KKK.

If you have, send me a photograph of this person. I want to see them. I want to put them on Ripley’s Believe it Or Not. I want them to be poked and prodded by scientists in a laboratory because this sort of thing does not happen. 

I wonder if Harper Lee or Mark Twain ever thought that their books would one day be banned by people who are against racism.

Someone please resurrect Mark Twain so he can write another book about how stupid people are in the 21st Century. I would read it so fast I would tear through it like tissue paper.

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Are Fairytale Reimaginings Becoming Unimaginative?

If you have perused a YA section of a bookstore in the last three years, then you’ve likely come across the cover of a fairytale reimagining.

Perhaps one book tells the story of Cinderella, a valiant warrior, who loses her magical boot in the middle of a battle and an infatuated warlord must return it to her. Or maybe another centers around a wolf-hunter named Red who falls in love with a werewolf that killed her father, the huntsman.

Regardless, I once thought reimagining fairytales was a creative thing to do.

I loved Wicked in my tween and teen years and all the interesting questions it posed about how history can be biased towards the victor.

But it seems like there’s been an overload of “new” fairy tales in the last few years and it’s made me question if most of them are even truly necessary.

Are most of these books actually trying to improve upon or modernize great stories, or are they just using fairytale references as a crutch to make a quick buck because they don’t think these novels could stand on their own?

In truth, it depends on the book.

If there are nods to the classics here and there, it’s tolerable. However, if it follows the exact same path as it’s predecessor, just with more feminism and modern sensibilities, then it becomes predictable and a drudgery to get through.

Because we already know what’s going to happen. 

I think the creative drought in pop culture also feeds into this crisis. The publishing and film industry are so paranoid about losing money that they are just rehashing stories that they know work. Fairytales have been around for centuries so, in theory, stories that feature classic characters should turn a profit.

I’m not saying we should completely do away with reimaginings. Maybe we could just take a break from them for a decade or so and come back to them later.

Perhaps writers could create their own warrior princesses that have absolutely nothing to do with any previous fairytale.The princess could have a sentient sword or a best friend that was turned into a battle stallion or something. Maybe she could fight her wicked stepfather for a change.

That’d be cool, right?

Could someone get on that?

Ode to My Lack of Motivation

They say one of the best things about being a writer is that you can do it in your pajamas. I’m inclined to agree (although I very rarely write in my pjs ). But it goes farther than that. One of the greatest things about being a writer is the freedom to express yourself.

However, freedom is a double-edged sword.

If you don’t show up to work with no explanation, you will likely be fired.

If you don’t write for a day, nothing will happen.

Absolutely nothing.

No one is going to phone you and demand to know why your word count is so low. No one is going to call you into their office because you were watching a Youtube video instead of filling in those plot holes you created in the third chapter.

Chances are nobody will care at all.

And that’s one of the reasons why I struggle with writing.

Nothing bad actually happens if I don’t write. I suppose you could consider not finishing a book/blog post/short story bad, but it isn’t really.

When you think about it, there are billions of people on the earth. Not that many of them write books before they kick it. Would the universe really think less of you if you were just another Joe Shmoe that didn’t write a novel? Probably not.

And because nobody else does, it is up to you to do all the caring. And caring is very difficult. Particularly when you’re the only one doing it.

You Are The Ranting Queen

I’ve noticed something a bit startling about myself: I am prone to ranting.

However, I like to think of my rants as well-constructed and justified. More often than not, they spawn from a place of righteous indignation about things of no real consequence. Most of my rants revolve around terrible writing in the plethora of mediums I consume, or books that have let me down as of late because, hey, that’s my area of expertise.

I enjoy writing about things that make me miffed, but it may give people the wrong idea about me.

I am not an angry person. I do have things that make me happy. It’s just easier to go on lengthy diatribes about things that irk me.

All of my friends know this. They even have a look they give each other when they realize they’re in for another trademark Rachael Rant.

It’s what a person must look like after they think they’ve found a metal egg in their backyard only to realize it is actually a hand grenade and the pin just fell out.

Or when you accidentally send a nude to your boss.

Which has never happened to me.

As far as you know.

My friends will try to appease me with a sacrifice, usually a goat, or wine poured in libation, but with very limited success.

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The only true way to stop a Rachael Rant is to hand me the cup of wine and let me drink my fill until I’ve forgotten what I’ve been saying and just start belting out Disney songs or other show tunes.

If wine is unavailable, just prepare the same way you would a nuclear holocaust: hide under a desk and weep bitterly until oblivion wraps its cold arms around you in a suffocating embrace.

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My friends to people who have never experienced my wrath

While my friends, acquaintances, family and others in real life are likely to feel the brunt of my self-indulgent ire when it comes to politics and other such subjects, fear not, fair reader. For the sake of this blog, I will stick to giving my opinion on matters of fiction and the written world only….mostly.

God knows we have enough temperamental millennials with blogs blithering on about other things.

Oh, and don’t get me started on….

Crap.

Run.

RUN!!!!

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Opinion: Comedies Are Terrible Now

A friend of mine recently introduced me to British comedy, Black Books, which stars Irish comedian Dylan Moran. It’s a show about a combative and anti-social bookstore owner in England and the strange adventures he gets into with his posse of misfits.

As a fan of English comedy, I fell head over heels in love with Black Books. How could I not? After all, it had the key ingredient that makes every comedy worthwhile: ridiculousness.

In one of my favorite episodes, “Travel Writer,” Bernard discovers his landlord has died and bequeathed her ownership of the building to her cat (Mr. Benson). Bernard then hires an exterminator to turn hitman so he can put an end to the kitty’s rein of tyranny.

I wish more comedies could be like this. Don’t get me wrong, comedy is stupid nowadays, but it’s not that special kind of stupid.

I miss the shows like Monty Python and Seinfeld. They embraced absurdity in their great hairy arms and didn’t give a crap what the critics thought.

Now it seems like comedy resides in one of three camps:

In one camp, you have the Dude-Bro-Comedy wherein the only jokes that are told apply to the lowest common denominator. These comedies include jokes about boobs, sex, weed or other drugs, and gratuitous amounts of body humor.

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A.KA. every Seth Rogen film ever

In another camp, you have the Safe-Comedy wherein you simply tell jokes and plots that have been done so many times before it’s like trying to wear a pair of 30 year-old underpants and pass them off as new.

Finally, you have Societal-Outrage-Comedy, where every joke you tell has to be a way to stick it to The Man (a.k.a old, white, conservative men) or some other sort of issue that people believe needs addressing. The problem with these sorts of comedies is the shelf-life on them is awful. In a mere three years, most of them will be become dated and forgotten.

What happened to comedy for comedy’s sake?

You know, you can be funny without being wildly offensive or resorting to 5th grade humor. It is possible. We have the technology.

You can laugh at something that has nothing to do with politics or the current state of society. Hell, it doesn’t even have to be relatable. It could be wildly ridiculous like a man paying to have an argument with someone:

While many of the jokes used in these shows and movies are ridiculous, they’re also extremely clever in their own right. Unlike some comedies which think their audience is largely comprised of lobotomized baby seals.

Am I an outlier here? Am I the only one that thinks the viewing public deserves something better? Should I just shut up and drink my diet soda?

All I can say is if Netflix removes this British gem, I may  lose my mind. Dammit, Netflix, You can take Airplane! by don’t you dare touch my Black Books.

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Being a Reader in an Unliterary World

Growing up, it was difficult to find people who loved to read as much as I did. Or people who read at all, really.

I’ve always baffled by people who claim reading is boring, and yet spend hours and hours in front of the TV watching reality television.

“How can you read so much?” they ask. “It’s so boring. Now excuse me while I watch a rich woman I’ve never met before have her nails painted following a fifteen minute shopping spree.”

How…how is that more interesting? How? I do not understand.

I defy you to give me a convincing reason why watching Kim Kardashian breaking down over shoes is more interesting than a young boy wizard fighting an evil order with a leader so terrifying that just saying his name sends people into throes of agony.

What also confuses me is how many people seem to take pride in their illiteracy. They’ll gaze at you with a wide grin and tell you  “they don’t read” or “they don’t have time to read.”

Yeah, they don’t have time to read, but they can punch out an entire series on Netflix in two days. You aren’t fooling anyone. 

Besides I can attest to the fact that if you read for maybe 10 minutes a day, you should be able to finish a full-length novel in a month. Bookmarks exist for a reason.

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People often ask me what the point of reading is. Why would you read when you can wait until the movie comes out and see everything rather than having to imagine it?

Well, for one thing, books are longer than movies and therefore have more time for things like character development, setting up atmosphere, and give you the opportunity to be inside peoples’ heads without the use of half-assed voice overs.

It’s also been proven that people who read novels  generally have more empathy than people who don’t. This makes sense to me since most books now are told through first-person. You are constantly viewing things from the perspective of other people.

But reading makes you anti-social, Rachael!

Pop quiz: how long were you on your phone when you went out to dinner with your friends or significant other? Do you talk to people on the bus, or do you just listen to your music? Do you prefer texting as opposed to talking on the phone because it gives you the power to reply later if you don’t want to talk right now?

Pencils down. Ooh. These results are not good.

I apologize for my saltiness.

If I sound bitter, it’s only because I’ve had to defend my hobby countless times. I don’t get why it’s so hard for people to see why I read, or treat it like it’s some sort of ailment  rather than a perfectly healthy leisure activity.

Oh, well. At least Darcy understands.

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Letting My Friend Break My Kneecaps, or Getting Constructive Criticism

I am happy there is someone who is willing to give me their honest opinion of my work. It can be difficult to a) find someone who is willing to read anything, let alone something I wrote and b) find someone who will not pull punches when it comes to problems with plot, story, characters, etc.

I gave one such friend a manuscript for a short-story/novella I am writing and the response I received went a bit like this:

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My characters:

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Me:

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My friend:

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Okay, in all seriousness, it was for the best. Sure, she wrote a diss track on my story, but none of her critiques stemmed from hatred or toxicity. She even told me she liked the story in spite of its many, many problems. Most of the issues she commented on I had seen for myself and agreed with.

I don’t get writers that won’t take any type of criticism. I’ve had many writing classes and in each there is at least that one person who insists they are the next J.K. Rowling and refuse to believe that anything negative said about their work is be true.

The teacher is just jealous or that editor didn’t “get” the story, etc.

This may be condescending of me, but I have a nagging suspicion most of these writers aren’t going anywhere.

How do you expect to get any better if you don’t even know if you’re doing something wrong? Would it be better if your sky diving instructor didn’t tell you how to properly jump out of a plane?

Having a beta reader is undeniably crucial in my opinion. It’s so much easier to see what elements require further explanation, or which characters need more development.

Everything I type comes from my own head so I have the benefit of all that background information. The reader does not.

That doesn’t mean I’m immune to saltiness when it comes to remarks made against my babies, but I have learned that most thought-out criticisms have merit.

In the end, it’s worth all of the blows to the ego in order for my story to become the best that it can be.

I Can’t Social Media: A Writer’s Quandary

Writers are told more and more these days that they should have a strong presence online. They should branch out through any means possible; stamp their name on as many social media websites as they can.

However, I have been very remiss in this department. Disgracefully so, I would say.

I love writing for my blog, but I just don’t have the heart for Twitter, Snapchat, Bookface, etc.

For a while, I was gaining a steady Twitter following, but I stopped tweeting once I realized just how annoying it is for a multitude of reasons. For one, I’m not politically minded so I don’t care to tweet about politics. I’m not that funny either (dammit, my secret is discovered!) so I spent a majority of my time trying to think of something humorous to say when I couldn’t think of anything. I’m also allergic to platitudes so I don’t want to post generic life-advice either.

For another thing, I’m just not interested in being bombarded with other people’s opinions 24/7 about politics, religion, the latest social outrage, and so on.

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My reaction after a visit to most social media sites.

Not you guys. You guys are cool. It’s everyone else’s opinions that can be annoying. At least in excess.

I found social media was often a distraction from what I was really wanting to do. You know, write. I was trying to do these things for my writing’s sake when, in reality, it was directly interfering with it.

It clouded my ability to walk through the park or enjoy a sunset without worrying how it would look on my wall. I was more concerned about crafting a humous, yet not offensive post that I realized two hours had passed and I still hadn’t finished that chapter. Keeping up with all the accounts was harder than trying to keep a Tamagotchi alive.

It reminded me of my trip to the UK and how everyone seemed more interested in having an interesting Snapchat story than relishing in the fact that they were in frigging Europe (before you say anything, this was before the Brexit vote so, technically, they were in the EU). I took a crap load of photos too, but I tried to learn when to put the camera down and actually enjoy life.

I am amazed that so many writers can post a million things on Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, and Facebook and still be able to publish a full-length novel by the end of the year. Some of them while working other jobs. I observe from the sidelines like “How do?”

Hell, I’m a writer. I don’t even know what I would take a picture of. Oh, look, here’s my desk. Here’s a pen. Here’s a book. Here’s a manuscript I promised I would finish by the time I graduate and haven’t touched in two years. Perhaps I require a social media consultant. A Henry Higgins-like figure who will shape me from a socially awkward pariah into something palatable for the masses.

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I don’t hold out much hope though.

Although I may get an Instagram.

Oh, wouldn’t that be loverly?