Finding Inspiration and Why It Won’t Help You

Why Inspiration Won’t Help You

Inspiration is a fickle thing. It’s there one moment, but gone before you can even finish the first chapter that came from the inspiration to begin with. Inspiration is a great thing, but it is too unreliable to get your book finished. You should never wait for writing inspiration, just write. The hardest part is getting start, so if you just start writing, usually things will work themselves out. You’ll find a good rhythm and be much more productive in the long run.

However, I understand that inspiration is helpful. Inspiration is the lifeblood of creativity, after all. So, here is how to keep that inspiration alive:

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What “Death Mark” on the Nintendo Switch taught me about writing

What is Death Mark?

Nintendo Switch's Death Mark

Death Mark is described on the Nintendo store page as an adventure game, which it very much is. You play as a man with amnesia who finds himself drawn to a mansion he doesn’t recognize, with a mark, described as a dog bite, on your wrist. You don’t know how you got it, why you got it, how to get rid of it, or even who you are, but you do know that the answer is hidden somewhere in this mansion, and that is where our story begins.

Now, my opinions on Death Mark are pretty neutral. I didn’t love it, and I didn’t hate it. The Nintendo Switch title is pretty run-of-the-mill Japanese, adventure game. It’s text heavy, which isn’t a problem, usually, but the story really drags at points. The whole amnesia thing is pretty played out for me, but the horror is definitely present and well-done. So, it falls into my, “happy I played it, but probably won’t play again” pile. However, even if it wasn’t the best thing ever, there can still be a lot to learn about writing from this title, and here is what I learned:

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2 embarrassing reasons why life as an author ISN’T glamorous.

Very rarely do I find things embarrassing. The most embarrassing things are the funniest. So, for the sake of laughter, I share with you two reasons (experiences) that show you why life as a writer (or my life in general) IS NOT glamorous. At all. Not even a little bit.

  1. So, as a full-time student, part-time retail associate, and whenever-time writer, I often find myself creating time where I probably shouldn’t. For example, after a particularly long day of 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in class and 5:30 p.m. to 10:45 p.m. at work, I found myself filled to the brim with weary inspiration. The moment I stepped through the door, I was already forming what had to be the novel of this generation (it actually ended up being a jumbled up pile of word vomit, but who was judging).It was at this time, approximately 11:10 p.m., I began crafting my masterpiece. I didn’t get done until approximately 2:00 a.m., which gave me about 3 hours of sleep before I had to wake up for my turnaround shift. I quite literally crawled from my desk to my bed and passed out without fuss. Didn’t change clothes. Didn’t shower. Nothing. As you can imagine, I was a sight (and a smell) to behold the next morning.Bleary and monstrous looking, I grumbled and tumbled out of bed into a fresh pile of clothing I had neglected to hang up the day before. Still half-asleep, I happened to find a fresh pair of khakis and my work polo. Without much thought, I slid both on and went on about my way. I’ll spare you the details on the rest of my “morning beauty routine.”

    I arrived at work, we opened the store, and I went on about my business, putting out freight and assisting cashiers. One of my cashiers, however, asked why I wasn’t picking up the store phone. It was then I realized I had forgotten to even pick it up that morning. So, I rushed back to my station to pick it up.

    However, when I went to slide it into my pocket, I realized I had no pockets. Huh. Well, that’s weird. I had just bought those pants not even two days before, and I swore they had, had pockets in them. I stopped, and I assessed myself. I placed my hands at the front of my pants where my pockets should have been, then dragged them around to my back side where my pockets actually were. With a little more feeling around, I also discovered my zipper was back there, too.

    Just then, my manager walked in. The same one that helped me open the store this morning and probably had seen my pants for the last 2 hours that I had been at work, yet hadn’t said anything. So, I straight up asked him,

    “*InsertManagerNameHere* Why didn’t you tell me I had my pants on backwards?”

    He gave me a shrug, then said, “I figured you were trying to make a fashion statement.”

    A fashion statement, indeed.

  2. This story happened long before the first one, but it involves the same manager. However, he didn’t just assume I was making a fashion statement. Perhaps this incident actually led to his action in the first story, or rather the lack thereof. Even worse, maybe now he just assumes I make these kinds of mistakes.As per usual, I had just gotten out of class at 3:00 p.m. and was heading to work for my closing shift. On days where I went to school, then worked, I tended to just wear my uniform to class. I wasn’t there to impress anybody (and I’m still not). So, I didn’t care if people saw me in uniform, and I was just too lazy to change clothes in the middle of the day. Especially since I’d only be wearing them for a few hours anyway.Well, when I got to work, my manager was standing at the door, just surveying the front end. Then, I walked by. There was a noticeable side glance, then a second take, and finally a flat out stare. Sure, I thought it was a bit strange, but it was just another day of work. Plus, I figured if it were that big of a deal, he would’ve said something. However, he didn’t say anything until I had already gotten on the register and checked out two or three people. Then he came up and asked,

    “Alyssa? Do you have a defective shirt?”

    I gave him a look, and rather than just look at my darn shirt, I asked,

    “Why?”

    He pointed.

    “Your tag is on the outside.”

    Then I looked, and behold. Rather than wearing my pants backwards for a few hours, I wore my shirt inside out to school and to work for an entire day. Yet, they still promoted me a few months later. I think they keep me for the lulz.

Thanks for reading.

-Lissy

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How I define my writing style

It’s… contemplative. Introspective. Thoughtful. It is what most would call…

Boring.

Most people wouldn’t dare define their own writing as boring, but I’m doing just that. Why? Because it says a lot about who I am. While we’re told not to take bad reviews personally, and I tend not to, I do find it interesting that when I see a negative review, I automatically begin picking apart my personality before I pick apart the writing in question.

Yes, it’s a bad habit.

Yes, you still shouldn’t take bad reviews personally.

And yes, I’m a complete loon for using a review on my writing to review myself, but I look at it this way:

Writing is a part of me. If there is something wrong with my writing, I need to address why I write this way before I can even begin to address how to fix it. I’m not trying to fix myself. I’m trying to find the source of why I write the way I write.

As I’ve said before, I am an introvert through and through, which makes me a black sheep in my family. My mom was class clown in high school, she’s still a socialite today and is one of the most outgoing people I know. My dad was a football player, won dance competitions, and is so charismatic still today that he could sway the Devil away from sin if he wanted to. Then, there’s me.

I am an awkward potato. I’d rather sit behind a screen and talk to people who I can’t see and who can’t see me than I would actually going out and meeting people. I’m my most comfortable alone. Me, myself, and I, are my confidants and where I find peace. I’m hardly ever lonely, though that doesn’t mean I don’t long for company occasionally. I just like my thoughts, my quiet, and myself. I’m proud of myself, and I love myself. I like spending time with myself.

That’s how my writing is, too. My main characters spend a whole lot of time in their own heads. It’s boring to a lot of people… but the way people think is so interesting to me. I think the most dynamic prose can take place all in a character’s head. Besides, all of our favorite stories came from someone’s thoughts, ya know?

That’s not to say action is boring. On the contrary, action is much more popular and fun. After my last bad review, I’m going to try and deviate as much as I can from thought and add more action. Is it going to be better? Maybe. I won’t know until I try.

I’ve just finally accepted that not everyone is like me. It’s embarrassing to admit it took me so long to accept, but what can you do? Not everyone likes to just sit and mull around in their own heads. Even less like to read about other people doing it, but that’s the reason I write that way.

My style is my personality.

What about yours? I’m curious to see how everyone’s writing style aligns with their personality, or how their taste in books relates to their personality. What do you think? Is it okay that personality and style are intertwined? Or is it a writerly sin? Please, let me know, and comment below!

Thanks for reading.

-Lissy

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What I learned about writing from Animal Crossing: New Leaf

It’s been a long time since I wrote a post about what I’ve learned from video games and how that can be applied to writing.

I’ve actually written two others, one about Minecraft another about Ico and Shadow of the Colossus.

As it has happened with so many other gamers, life has snuck up and taken away my lovely game time. Work, internships, and writing have all had their fun with my gaming time, especially console gaming. To make up for it, I purchased Animal Crossing: New Leaf (ACNL) for my 2DS, a clunky throwback to old school handhelds, which I actually prefer over the new 3DS systems.

But anyway…

And did I fall in love?

I fell. I fell straight into a pitfall seed.

I love this game. It’s mind-numbing. Just how I like them, and with a wide array of NPCs, there’s hardly a dull moment.

Granted, this game isn’t for everyone. If you don’t like the following, steer clear:

  • Paying off your mortgage only to expand your home and pay that off, etc. etc.
  • Watering flowers
  • Running errands
  • Purchasing furniture and decorating
  • Taking part in town festivals
  • Being mayor
  • Fishing, catching bugs, etc.
  • Selling said fish and bugs
  • Working at a coffee shop
  • Drinking coffee
  • BALLOONS
  • Fossils
  • Museums / Donating to museums
  • Dance clubs
  • Buying clothes and trying on new clothes
  • Talking animals

Yep. That’s the game in a nutshell. It’s wonderful, and there are some pretty great communities to take part in, too.  Now, what can we learn about writing from this? Well, onward to the list!

  • Separating your voice from your characters.
    Everyone has their own voice when writing. There will always be a certain part of yourself in every bit of writing you do. Whether it’s things you love, things you hate, a character based off a person or kind of person you hate, there will always be a little bit of you in there. The key is to make their voices different. If you give them all your voice, then you’ve basically made clones of yourself. How did I learn this from ACNL? With 33 different villager characters and set villager personalities, I found that even having two lazy villagers in the same town, didn’t mean I would hear the same things from them. For whatever reason, they just felt different to me. They each had their own voice. You can have similar personalities, but you really shouldn’t have the same voice.
  • Rules are rules.
    Just because you’re mayor in a town of talking animals, doesn’t mean you can do just anything. There are rules, time periods that need to be followed. You have a mortgage to pay, work to be done in the town to keep it nice and to further develop it. And who pays for those developments? You. So you have to make money by catching fish, which come at different times of the day, then wait until you pay it off, plus a day, for it to be done before you begin working on the next project. It’s important to give your characters rules. If they can do anything they want at any time, what would be the point? Where is the conflict? What is your story? You don’t have to make them your everyday Joe’s, but give them rules.
  • Men don’t have to wear suits and ties/Women don’t have to wear dresses (Click the link to read more on gender in writing!).
    I’m not going to lie, this is one of the many problems I have when writing up characters. It’s so easy to fall into the stereotypes of women just being women, and men just being men, when I myself have been made fun of my entire life for being the opposite. I was, and still very much am, a tomboy. I hate makeup, I dislike most dresses, and I’d much rather play video games than go shopping. Shopping literally makes me ill. I’ve been called a dike and a lesbian more times than I can recount. At a certain point in the game, I was able to buy men’s clothing and get male hair cuts. It was then I realized, you don’t have to be feminine to be a woman. I am a woman, and I am not feminine. I have a boyfriend, I have friends, I am woman without subjecting myself to all things stereo-typically woman. A woman can be masculine without being a lesbian, and the same is true for a man being a bit more feminine. This pic says it best:

Well, it’s 2014… but you get the idea.

Well, those are my top three. If I think of any more, I may add to this post. The game is still being updated, and I’m still learning as I go along. What have you learned? Have you played Animal Crossing? Any of them? How do you feel about my post? Let me know, and comment below!

Thanks for reading!

-Lissy

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How to Write Female and Male Characters

When I am asked this question, I like to refer back to one of my favorite picture sets of all time:

Same goes for men.

But anyway, I know this is a serious question. I’ll give it a serious answer, but first let me reflect on something I’ve recently been toying with. Have you ever thought about writing something without any genders at all? Nothing at all. I’m not saying write a story about a genderless species or aliens (though that is always cool), I’m saying writing a story where even you don’t know the genders until the end. It’s very interesting to see what comes out.

If you’re having to ask this question, maybe this is something you can try. Create a personality, one without a gender or name associated with it. I often pick names of seasons or months just to identify different voices, then at the end go back and see how they feel. Maybe you can try this? See if you like it? Regardless, onward to the post:

  • Personalities aren’t the same as a gender.
    Not all women are feminine, not all men are masculine. Not all women want to be out of the house, some men want to be house-husbands. Not all women like dresses and Gossip Girl, not all men like cars and women, at least not exclusively. Make a personality, give the character likes and dislikes, make a person before you make a woman or a man. It’s much easier to write a character when they have a personality of their own. That way, gender isn’t the only thing that separates them from other characters. It’s easy to say, she’s a woman, he’s a man. It’s much better to say she’s a gamer who likes to read and make fart jokes, and he’s an outgoing socialite. See? Personality isn’t synonymous with gender.
  • Gender identifiers.
    If you have a character with a stunning personality, or shitty personality, whatever, and you still feel like your character’s gender isn’t “real,” then here is a short list of things often associated with men and women:
    This can differ depending on their jobs or personalities, so keep that in mind, too. Don’t sacrifice your character’s personality for these stereotypes. Not all of them apply to every woman or man, and these shouldn’t be considered 100% factual. A lot of these are plain wrong, but coming from beta readers, this has been my experience, which is unfortunately skewed.
    -In dialogue men tend to have shorter sentences, women tend to be more detail-oriented with their speech.
    -Men tend to “worry” less than women. A woman will often times have more nervous body language, men more relaxed.
    -Women are thought-oriented. If you have lengthy expositions of just thought, it is more likely to be considered a woman.
    -Women tend to multitask (i.e. listening to music while reading), while men are often found doing a single task.
    -Women have closed body language (arms crossed or held close to the body, legs crossed), men are more open (arms resting on their knees, legs spread).
    -Men are less likely to touch each other, women are a lot more personable and polite with one another (though neither may feel that way).

In short, just write the character. Everyone’s different, and there is no way you can encapsulate the entire gender within a single character. So, what do you think? Are you as disappointed with the gender stereotypes as I am? Do you agree that personality isn’t synonymous with gender? Anything you’d like to add? Let me know, and comment below!

Thanks for reading!

-Lissy

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How to Format a Manuscript

There are plenty of guides on how to do this. Plenty to be found on the internet, but a lot of them, I have found, don’t have examples, which I will be sharing with you all today. If you didn’t already know, there is a general consensus on how to format a manuscript, and this has been done since typewriters, which explains why things are formatted a certain way.

First off, let me disclaimer: Not every publisher will follow these guidelines.

I feel like this is the main problem a lot of people have. They think everyone will follow the same format, but that is just not the case. The majority will use this format, but you should still read their guidelines before sending anything in.

The number one reason for rejection is disregard for the general submission guidelines! Remember that!

Anyway, on to the list and example (which will be at the end)!

First off, if you have Scrivener, a lot of this will be done for you and is set up as default, so you may not have to worry about this. For those of you who don’t, Courier (any of its varieties), is the most accepted font. Times New Roman, Arial, and Garamond are also very popular so make sure to check the submission guidelines. So,

  • FONT
    Most common: Courier (any varieties)
    Other possible: Garamond, Arial, Times New Roman
  • COVER PAGE
    Name (Real, unless otherwise specified)
    Address (Mailing preferred, billing may be requested later, unless otherwise specified)
    Email address
    Phone number
    Agent’s name (Omit when necessary)
    Agent’s address (Omit when necessary)
    Title (Formatting example at the end of post)
    by Name (Pseudonym here if applicable, formatting example at the end of post)
  • PAGE NUMBERING
    In the top right corner on the second page, put the following in formation in the format:
    LastName / StoryTitle / Page#
    This should appear in the header portion of the manuscript.
    Not every publisher will want this, as some prefer anonymous submissions to promote a fair review, so once again, check the submission guidelines before submitting. On the first page, in the same spot you placed the LastName / StoryTitle / Page#, you’ll put your approximate word count.
  • END PAGE
    At the very end of the manuscript, skip a line, then put: <<<< >>>>
    This will signify the end of the manuscript.

Now for the example PDF: This is an Example

I hope that helped! Did it? Is there something else you’d like to know? Anything that didn’t make sense or that you wish I had covered? Let me know, and comment below!

Thanks for reading.

-Lissy

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Dealing with Rejections, and Knowing When to Quit

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I’d rather fail doing what I love, than succeeding at something I hate.

Call me an idiot, but I’m just telling you the truth.

Writing is a life of rejection. The moment you decide to start on the path of professional writing, you are setting yourself up for a certain amount of failure – some more than others, but there’s almost always failure somewhere along the way. I’ve learned a lot about rejection, and this isn’t the first time I’ve written about rejection. And I’ve always said to never quit, to keep trying, no matter what, to obtain your dream.

But sometimes, it is time to quit.

Now, when I say “quit,” I don’t mean to quit writing. I mean it may be time to move on, to quit pushing that story, that poem, or that manuscript. It’s time to move on to other things and to focus on something that may have a better chance out in the world. While I am a self-published author, I also go out and send out short stories and poems, which I’ve actually had published every once in a while. Self-publishing is wonderful and can be an amazing learning experience, but it leaves little room for learning that painful lesson of rejection. It’s intensely humbling, and can range from mild to intense depression, but there are lessons to be learned, and today I hope to share a few of these lessons with you today. Hopefully, after reading this, if you’re going through a rejection of any kind, you will feel sadness, but know it isn’t the last rejection. You are a creative mind. Keep writing, keep earning those rejections and wear them like badges upon your chest. Be proud of rejection. Some people fear it so much, they never even attempt to be published. If you are reading this and haven’t attempted contests, literary journals, or agents because you fear rejection, let me go ahead and tell you:

I’ve been rejected 104 times as of March 12, 2014. It will probably be even more by the time this post is published. And that’s okay. At least I have tried. That’s what is most important. Now, onward to the list!

  • Markets you may fit best in…
    One key factor in successfully publishing is knowing what market you fit in. Some are better at short stories, others poetry. Some can do fantasy, others can rock out some non-fiction. I’ve had more poems published than I have short stories, surprisingly enough, and I have never claimed to being good at writing poetry.
  • Where you can improve…
    Have you been rejected  in your chosen market? Have you received any feedback or critique? If you’re not making it in your chosen market, it might be time to line up some beta readers, or to read some books in your genre/form. Everyone can improve. J.K. Rowling was rejected PLENTY of times prior to her success in fantasy. Failure can be just as rewarding as success if you let it.
  • You (your work) may need to change…
    In the end, the hard truth may be that you’re not cut out for that market. That’s not to say you won’t ever be. But why focus so hard on one market when there are so many more out there? Not working out with poetry? Ok, while you’re still working out the kinks, try your hand at some short stories, work on a novel, or maybe even try a different poetry form. Blogging may also be your niche! You won’t get anywhere just by resubmitting the same piece over and over and over without working on it and even upping your cred by sending out other stuff. Who knows? You may find your calling.
  • Even if you thought it was perfect, you may need to edit it more…
    I’ve done this plenty of times, especially when I first started sending out manuscripts. When I thought I could edit all of my own stuff to perfection and that I could find every plot hole… Well guess what, I was wrong. Every piece needs work, and could be edited more. Even famous novels can still be found with little errors in them… The point isn’t perfection, it’s getting close enough that people can read your story without distraction. If you find your story still is getting rejected, you may need to take it back to the drawing board and get to editing.
  • Beta readers/Editors/Honest strangers can be your friends…
    Sometimes you need to listen to those you might have brushed off. Beta readers? Ha! What do they know? Except perhaps what they like and what they don’t like, which might be similar to what your audience and your markets like or dislike. This goes for editors and strangers, as well. No one wants to be mean. Unless they’re dicks, in which case that’s all they want to do. But being honest and being mean are completely different things. A good editor/friend/STRANGER will be honest and tell you when something just isn’t working and it might be time to move on.
  • There are always more stories…
    I haven’t heard of anyone who only ever had one story to tell. Life is made up of a bunch of different stories. If one doesn’t work, that doesn’t mean the next will be the same. However, wasting all your time on one piece isn’t getting you anywhere. It could actually be hindering you from finding that piece you actually publish.

In the end, just keep writing. Write until you can’t write anymore, even if you never publish a single thing. Writing is about the journey, about learning and growing as a writer, and in general just doing what you love. Write because you love it.

Love what you do.

Do you agree? Disagree? Let me know, and comment below.

Thanks for reading.

-Lissy

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Beta Readers – The Ultimate Guide for Writers

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  • What is a beta reader?
    A person who reads a work for context, plot, and continuity. Not to be confused with an EDITOR who looks for mechanical errors as well as context, plot, and continuity. Is usually not paid. Can be done for any piece of writing, including, but not limited to: blog posts, short stories, poems, novels, etc.

 

  • Where to find them?
    Google+, Twitter, pretty much any social media site you can think of. Local libraries may have info. Friends (the honest, brutal kind, preferably), family (also honest and brutal), local college campuses (plenty of brutality there). Take the time to ASK people! There’s no time to be shy when you might be published.

 

  • Are there bad ones?
    Yes.

 

  • Are there great ones?
    Yes.

 

  • How to tell the difference?
    Good give you concrete reasons why they didn’t like it.
    Good are honest.
    Good mark up your work.
    Good give you more than just: I hate/love it.
    Good give you reasons why they like it.
    Good read what you give them.
    Bad will promise to read it, then never will.
    Bad will give you butt pats and sugar coat everything.
    Bad will analyze you as a person, rather than the work.
    Bad will make changes, but won’t explain why.
    Bad will tell you its garbage and that you’re an idiot.
    Bad will comment on your work without reading the whole thing.
    Bad will usually start with, “No offense, but…”

 

  • How to be a good AUTHOR to beta readers?
    Know that you don’t have to use all their suggestions, but you should still listen to them
    Thank them even if they say they hate it. They took the time to read it.
    Never send them a rewrite unless you asked them beforehand. Don’t take advantage of their kindness.
    Don’t argue with them. They have an opinion. You asked for it. Take it, regardless if you use it or not.
    BE. HUMBLE. Stephen King started as garbage, you started as garbage, EVERYONE started as garbage. Your shit don’t smell like roses.
    EDIT before you send them work. Editors and beta readers are two separate things, though one person can be both. Don’t assume a beta reader is also an editor.

 

  • When do you seek a beta reader?
    When you’ve edited the piece to the point of near-publication readiness MECHANICALLY. Edit out typos and ensure grammar is near-perfection before seeking beta readers.

 

  • What’s the purpose of a beta reader?
    To be your pre-audience, audience. These are the people you let read your work before all of society has access to it. See what they say, take it to heart, and then decide what you need to do before publication or sending it off to a judge/final editor.

 

Once again, and I can’t stress this enough, beta readers are here to help you. You actively seek them out yourself and ask them to read it. They didn’t force you to let them read it. They aren’t forcing their opinions on you. It’s your work. You can do what you want, despite what they say, and that’s okay. But remember they are only trying to help (most of the time). Just thank them for their time and effort and move on. What do you think? Anything you agree or disagree with? Let me know, and comment below!

Thanks for reading.

-Lissy

Want to be a beta reader? Click here to fill out the contact sheet, and let me know!
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