I hate writing, I love having written. – Dorothy Parker
Do you know what the single most important characteristic of a writer is? Determination. Determination translates to the discipline that sees you to writing even when you don’t feel like it, into perseverance to keep submitting in the face of rejection and through the writer’s blocks and headaches and heartaches that are the process of stringing words together.
You can be buoyed by a number of things – scenes swirling in your head, the dream of seeing your name in print, or others in your writer’s group who ask when you’re going to submit again. Nevermind the fact that you’ve always been a writer, that’s always been the plan, and if you aren’t a writer… then who are you? All of these things might push you in the right direction, but it’s your own self-determination that brings you back to the keyboard over and over and over again.
You did that; take a moment to enjoy it. But know that the dark reality is that if you continue on in this back and forth pattern, undisciplined, unorganized, someday that determination will be whittled down. And it won’t be enough. It won’t bring you back to your stories, and then one day you’ll realize you’ve truly fallen away from being a writer.
Be determined, and be dedicated. Be the writer you were born to be. Remember that someone out there needs your story.
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Something I’ve found myself wrestling with a lot lately is which perspective to write from. I’m not just talking about when I start new pieces either, but some of my long-standing WIPs have fallen into this speculation as well. I find myself wondering, often to the point of not writing, whether or not a story would be more impactful from a different POV, whether information shared would be more or less obvious, whether readers will connect with characters well enough with the current setup.
I never used to have these kinds of questions. I used to make a choice and run with it, and while I might second guess plot points, character development and sentence structure… Some parts of my writing simply were. I choose to look at this change as a positive though – I know more, therefore I contemplate more, in an effort to make more informed choices, and therefore create more masterful pieces.
In response to this, I’ve developed steps to help identify which perspective is best for any given story. But first, as a refresher, here are your POV options:
Like a lot of my how to pieces here, this one came from my own developing of a fight scene. I used to be really good at writing them as a teenager. I used short, choppy and frequently fragmented sentences to develop the abrupt feel of a fight, choosing active words and keeping dialogue and description to a minimum unless the need to describe an object or wound arose. And while these are still things that I tend to do, fights just don’t come to me like they used to. They’re one of the things that I lost the ability to write when I stopped actively developing my technique, right around the same time that I got my first job and had to be a full fledged adult for the first time.
But fear not! As with all things that I’m working on myself, I’ve got you guys covered too. Here are my tips for constructing a gripping fight scene.
Decide your level of description. This is where you want to start as it will determine how detailed you need to be. This is the difference between the setting being an alley or a cramped, damp space with molding cardboard boxes and a trashcan with red knuckle marks against the chainlink fence at the back. This is the difference between a punch being landed and spit, blood and teeth sailing away from an opponent’s jaw in slow motion like the movies. Continue reading
Last week I was browsing through my WordPress Reader and came across something interesting from a blog I’ve recently started following: a personal narrative in the form of a “resume”; a growing up piece broken down into jobs and the experiences there. I’ve really become a sucker for personal narratives, especially when they’re engaging or have a unique format. Check out the original article here. This prompted me to take my own go:
Student: What can I say about my early education that wouldn’t be universal to most kids? I was excluded from playing house in kindergarten one day because there were already 4 kids at that station. I had a boyfriend in the 2nd grade, and he did things like try to protect me from the wind whipping up sand on the playground and get upset when I was too embarrassed to dance at the “junior prom” with him. My family moved, and I had to teach myself cursive. My new teacher told me that my writing was pathetic and that I should be ashamed.
The girls in middle school called me a fat cow and a whore. They are the ones set me on the path of hating my body, but once I was aware that I was expected to hate my body, the rest of the world reinforced it. There was the teacher who separated me from my class and pressed me back against a wall, and reached out to touch me, jerking his hand away when someone came around the corner.
Then there was the homeschooling, arguably the most informative of my years because I was left alone to process things for myself. I was homeschooled when I lost my religion, when I realized that history is always written by the winner, when I discovered that I am a feminist and when I broke my mother’s heart by not turning out to be the perfect little picture she had in her mind. Continue reading
I first started exploring herbs and what I could collect and do with them myself some years ago, and I have to confess that I was nervous about it at first. As a kid, there was a berry bush that grew at the edge of my backyard, and sometimes I would sit out there and pick the berries, just to squish them in my hand and smear the dark purple juice around. I know now that they were Pokeberries, and they’re quite poisonous if ingested. This discovery highlighted my own ignorance about the plants around me, and even as I started dabbling and researching I was always well aware of the potential to miss something important. I have to imagine that the people who were first discovering the uses for all of our plants today had the same kind of excited fear going on.
As a writer, you needn’t worry about endangering yourself; research and creativity are your tools here. Before we get into some of our herbs that could translate well into a fantasy setting, take a look at the following list. If you’re going to have any healers in any primary or secondary character positions, you might want to consider also having common knowledge treatments for some of these common ailments (also consider that these might be different for adults and children).
At this point, it’s probably fairly obvious how obsessive I am about the little details when worldbuilding. With some of my larger WIPs I have a bad tendency to spend more time determining things about the world that are unlikely to actually have a direct impact on the story than actually drafting and writing. This is usually justified with the mentality that maybe at some point when the story itself has expanded more, I’ll be glad I have this information already organized and written out.
And in the meantime, a lot of the things I end up doing for my own fantasy worlds translates well into writing articles for my awesome reader base. ❤ So today I want to look at herbs and herbal medicine, with the second part of this mini-series being a list of common herbs that translate well into fantasy. I might also do a third part detailing some of the common processing methods we have for herbs, such as how to make tinctures and what exactly constitutes a brew.
Modern medicines are largely derived from the plants and animals in the world around us, but getting a prescription from your local pharmacy doesn’t have quite the same awe factor that is inherent in gathering plants from the outdoors and processing them in small amounts in one of literally dozens of ways. Depending on how technologically advanced your world is, “medicine” could be any number of things, all the way from a traditional, old school tribal shaman to a grimy slum city dealer dispensing pills with mystery contents. It can also be more than herbals, but we’re going to stay focused in one direction for now. Continue reading