5 English Writing Basics to Remember

writing-basics-title

There’s a lot to be said for writing well.

I’ll admit, if you read anything in Morgan Freeman’s voice, it’ll sound cool. That’s just a fact. But poor writing is poor writing, and not expressing yourself properly can be detrimental to the point you are trying to make. Regardless of how good your intentions, or useful your information, or how great your internal Morgan Freeman voice is; your words will suffer.

It’s easy to forget in this modern world of information overload how important the fundamentals of English really are. You’ve got your basics such as punctuation, grammar, and spelling. Beyond that comes word choice and vocabulary. Beyond even this you enter the realms of wordplay and articulation (the fun of semantics).

The building blocks of English are timeless, even when the language itself can adapt and evolve with each generation.

I like to read something to jog my memory about writing structure rules whenever I’m feeling a bit of writer’s block. We need to know the rules before we can break them (as is sometimes necessary).

So, with that in mind, the lovely people at GrammarCheck.Net have come up with this lovely infographic to help to jog your memory about some of the basics to help make your writing better. For most of us, this will be simple revision. The odd refresher here and there is always welcome in the Itchy Quill house!

5 Basic Rules of English Writing That Everyone Should Know (Infographic)
Source: www.grammarcheck.net

 

© Itchy Quill and ItchyQuill.WordPress.com, 2017

Words to Avoid in Your Writing

common-words-title

Where I come from, a diverse vocabulary could get you punched. Honestly. As if by using myriad words to describe your everyday comings and goings makes you arrogant. Like you’re rubbing your education in someone’s face.

I know.

Some words are more popular than others. Often this is due to trends, social group, or even laziness.

Sometimes words just aren’t used in the righ way. Someone I work with recently told me a story about how she ‘literally lost her shit’ when she had an argument with her boyfriend. I was perplexed, ‘you pooped your pants?’ I asked her. ‘No!’ she said, ‘I mean he makes me so angry.’ ‘So angry you poop?’ I said, before she walked away and left me sat there, confused.

In school I remember we were always scolded for using phrases like ‘really nice’. “English is full of wonderful words Itchy. Why not just pick one of those instead?” my English teacher used to say. So if I’d written ‘this cake is very nice’, what was I really saying? I could have been more specific by using any of the following:

‘This cake is delicious / extraordinary / a work of art / a revelation’

Each statement above gives a better impression to the person I’m speaking to (the cake creator, for example), and also gives you a better impression of who I am. My word choices reflect my feelings. If I’m lazy with praise, I’m probably not that impressed.

This kind of writing sensitivity is useful for those of us penning stories. One cannot possibly hope to express oneself without the power of the written word. Subtle differences in meaning and usage can change the mood of a sentence dramatically.

So, to give you some help identifying common words and also offering some suggestions, we’ve found this great infographic from the folks over at GrammarCheck.Net

6 Overused Words & What to Use Instead (Infographic)
Source: www.grammarcheck.net

However, language is a river, not a lake. It’s flexibility and constant shifting are what make it fascinating, as each generation omits the old, develops the new, or adapts the existing so as to feed the needs of their environment.

For some great examples of how this has happened in the past, there’s a fantastic post on ideas.ted.com called 20 words that once meant something very different.

As for awesome; OK, it’s had it’s day in the sun. When I was a wee lad, everyone said it. For everything. It was seen as an Americanism (like MacDonalds), and yet its influence spread through the ranks of English youth like tamgotchis. It’s time for it to go out in a blaze of glory, and what better use for it than this awesome song from The Lego Movie.


© Itchy Quill and ItchyQuill.WordPress.com, 2016

Typography 101: Serif v Sans

serif-v-sans-title

A lot of thought goes into good writing. There’s a message, first and foremost. Tat’s crucial. Right?

But what next? Is it the display? The old adage not to judge a book by it’s cover, as so sensationally proven by this blog (lousybookcovers), is hardly a maxim. It’s in fact one of those things we’ve embedded in our lexicon and yet not stopped to think about.

So what else is improtant? Grammar? Syntax? Voice? Plot?

Once you’ve navigated that little minefield, there’s the question of readability. As a kid I remember having a whale of a time messing around on Word art. However, that’s not going to get you much in the way of blog followers (unless, as it happens, that’s what you’re blog is about!), so what will?

In this day and age, it’s about being user friendly. Quick loading pages, interesting content that can be read quickly and digested in mere moments, and also the basic formality of which text is most comfortable to read.

So with that in mind, let’s take a look at the two great rivals for our typographic attention; serif verus sans…

Serif vs Sans-Serif Fonts [infographic] - An Infographic from BestInfographics.co

Embedded from BestInfographics.co

The Write Positivity; How To Stay Positive When Writing

positivity-title

We all get a little blue from time to time. It’s natural.

Sure as the sun will rise and set, or the moon will gleam on a clear night, you’ll get a case of the Mondays, the moody Maggies, or the melancholies from time to time.

And any kind of art, anything that gets you to put your heart on your sleave can leave you feeling vulnerable, exposed, or even weak. Emotions run high. We get defensive, or cuts slide a little deeper than they should.

When it creeps in and takes hold, a negative thought can develop a certain gravitas that enables it to overpower our usual motivations and patterns of behaviour.

At best, this could be an inability to write the words needed for a daily target. The block of writers. Yes, that pesky possum in the pipes of your creative plumbing. One that you flush on the morrow.

At worst, it could mean you trash a great idea as your internal bleak brute wrestles you into submission with utterances of you’re not good enough and this is crazy, or even what are you thinking?

We need a certain amount of confidence to even try these wacky ideas. Breaking the mould and pushing for originality requires us to break away from convention. This is something that a lot of us are naturally resistant to. We want to fit in. We desire success. We crave props and kudos.

Some just long to follow in the footsteps of their heroes.

None of this can be done without the self-assurance that comes from the freedom of having confidence in yourself, and a positive belief that what you’re doing will work.

So negative thoughts can be cancerous on our creativity if left to fester.

With that in mind, let’s look at some easy ways to keep yourself pumped up and positive, even if you feel yourself pulled into an ocean of negative notions.

 

"Listen to your computer"

“Listen to your computer. It knows things about things”

 

Pat Yourself on the Back And Stay Realistic

If you’re anything like me, you’ll be ridiculously hard on yourself about small things because you want to be the best. That’s fine, so long as you put the same energy into the good too. To demosntrate this point better, let me give two examples from heroes of mine: Jurgen Klopp (current football manager of Liverpool FC), and Shad (a Canadian rapper).

Jurgen Klopp, in a recent interview after winning a game 4-1, was asked whether his decisions before the game were ultimately responsible for the win. Klopp, in characteristic nonchalance, responded that when his team lost the week before, the decisions were still his. He believed in the same system, the same characters, the same ideology. He was lambasted by his critics. Yet here, a week later, that system, characters and ideology were being lauded as groundbreaking. Did he want to take credit? No. That’s for the players to enjoy. He doesn’t give himself a hard time when they lose, and so he doesn’t give himself a high five when they win. He focuses on the journey, and the bigger picture. Are they playing the kind of football he likes, win or lose? Yes. Then really, what more could he ask for? Any lucky person can win, and any unlucky person can lose. But to sustain a vision, an identity, and a philosophy in your output, that is what really matters.

Shad, through his song Rose Garden (watch the video here) utters the lines:

You never question when you get the blessings
So don’t get vexed when your life is stressed

Basically, you don’t waste time overthinking your blessings, so why do you spend so much time on the negative elements?

 

"Don't be so negative. Honestly, I don't know where he gets it all from"

“Don’t be so negative. Honestly, I don’t know where he gets it all from”

 

Diversify Your Attention

In my life I’ve held various management positions. Part of management is recruiting new staff. And one thing that always made me chuckle was the ‘hobbies’ part of the CV. Pretty much every single resume I’ve ever seen lists travel, reading, and socialising as hobbies, with little else.

Why? We’re all pretty interesting people, with plenty of things we do for leisure. Life is more than a paycheck your TV. Make time for yourself and your pleasures.

Writing, though for most of us a passion and something that inspires giddiness, should never be our sole source of such whimsy. Allowing this will mean all satisfaction and sense of well-being will come from this one, cruel mistress.

So make time for other pursuits. Walk. Pump iron. Read. Play Squash. Jam on the harpischord. Skype family. Play boardgames. Volunteer. Paint. Whittle.

Whatever it may be, find other ways to stimulate yourself and blow off steam. Your writing will thank you for not being your only source of release. You’ll cherish those moments spent at the keyboard / pad / quill.

For some ideas for what to fill your free time, see our article Things to do on a Sunday (Besides Troll Facebook).

 

"I like high fiving. That's a thing, right?"

“I like high fiving. That’s a thing, right?”

 

Devote Time Though

No matter what you do, make time for your art. Knackered after work? Just remember; you’re tired because you worked hard for someone else to get rich. Now you’ve done that for them, do it for yourself too. Everytime you go home and veg in front of the TV, ignoring your art, you’re giving someone else the fruits of your labour, and robbing yourself.

Forget this at your peril!

 

Pictured: You not following your dreams (y'know, if you happen to be a brunette lady)

Pictured: You not following your dreams (y’know, if you happen to be a brunette lady)

 

Ask for Answers…

Seek feedback, and share your work. Often you’ll see different perspectives, both positive and constructively critical. Engage in a writing group, or start your own. Do NaNoWriMo and meet other budding authors. Write stories for friends as birthday / Christmas presents. Start a blog. Anything that gets people to give you opinions on your work opens you up to getting some alternate perspectives on what you’re doing, and can give you that much needed satisfaction.

Also, having to answer to an audience and justify your work will help keep you focused on your voice and your craft.

 

"How's it gonna sound?"

“How’s it gonna sound?”

 

But Adapt Your Perceptions to Fit Them In

That said, don’t take everything to heart. People’s opinions are incredibly diverse, and you’ll never please everyone. Take in what is useful (both good and bad) then discard the rest.

Accept that you won’t be adored by everyone. Those that are overly critical or rude will often be speaking from a place of jealousy or projecting some of their own negativity on to you. Eventually you’ll find a group of people who’s opinions you cherish, and who’s feedback you can use productively; both their criticism and their praise.

Defending your work can also have the added affect of making you closer with it. We all had the odd disagreement with our family members when we were growing up. Yet the minute someone else started having a go at them we’d leap to their defence. Your writing will become a sibling, or a child. You’ll find yourself seeing the good and the bad in it, and learning to accept it (warts and all) as you chisel away, always looking to upgrade and tweak.

 

"Now pay attention"

“Now pay attention”

 

Cut Out Extremes

Life isn’t just a series of the amazing and the devastating. There are bits and bobs in between. The normal. The average. The ok, or so-so.

Embrace that.

Just because the thing you wrote today isn’t going to melt the faces off your readers, doesn’t mean it isn’t worth celebrating. And just because you’ve written something that reads like a brail stop sign, it doesn’t mean you need to renounce your writing forever and jump into an estuary with breeze blocks on your tootsies!

Peaks and troughs, ups and downs, lefts and rights. Life is full of ’em. Keep that in mind when you’re feeling a little glum or sullen. The world will keep turning, and you’ll be back to writing soon enough.

When you feel like giving up, keep going.

 

"No pain no sprint. Life's a marathon not a gain. Whatever. Just don't be a quitter, alright?"

“No pain no sprint. Life’s a marathon not a gain. Whatever. Just don’t be a quitter, alright?”

 

Ultimately, Find Your Rainbow

Trust me, there’s always one out there somewhere. The onus is on you to find it. So look for the wins in your losses. You might etch a story and the plot hits a brick wall that you can’t break through. In that scenario look for the character, scene, setting, voice, technique or twist that worked well and then develop that separately. Or accept that practice alone was another step in the right direction. Or that being dedicated enough to write something should be acknowledged and appreciated.

Don’t wait for other people to point it out to you. Find it in yourself, and look for the things to cherish.

In the long run, you’ll thank yourself for it.

 

"Fuuuuuuuuuuudge!"

“Oh yeah, and autosave. Always autosave!”

 

Special thanks to Castillo Dominici, imagerymajestic, patrisyu, phanlop88, stockimages and Sura Nualpradid @ FreeDigitalPhotos.net for use of their photos in this blog.

© Itchy Quill and ItchyQuill.WordPress.com, 2016

What I Learned From Finishing The First Draft Of My Novel

Manilla Church Title

So I did it. Yeah yeah, it’s finished. It was painful, hilarious, testing, stressful, simple, complicated, disastrous and most importantly; fun!

Regardless of whether it goes on to be published or not, there’s a lot of lessons to take from the experience (some of them expected, some of them surprising).

It’s Easier Than I Thought

So when I started out on this journey, I didn’t know whether I’d actually be able to get to the end. I’ve started many a story before, and normally one of three things happens:

1. I didn’t have a large enough idea, and it turns into a short story / novella.

2. I have another idea half way through, and then switch all my attention to that one.

3. I lose interest / grow intimidated by my own idea, and give up.

The struggle is real. And yet, with this little nasty, I managed to keep going and finish it. I started it on the 5th of March, and it was finished by the 2nd of June. It sits at 102,508 words, so it needs work. But getting there was a lot easier than I had anticipated. How I got there was simple.

"It's not rocket science, honestly"

“It’s not rocket science, honestly”

Setting Targets Pushed Through My Procrastination

I started out small, forcing myself to write 500 words a day. Easy peasy, lemons are squeezy. Then, once my brain and fingers were on side, tricked by my awesome scheme into seeing how easy 500 words was, I upped the count to 700. ‘You call that a challenge’ they cried, drunk on word counts and punctuation.

I ended up banging out 1,000 words a day, averaging 1,150 words a day in April and May. I know this, because I made a spreadsheet that I could log my totals into every night. This seems geeky, I know. But hear me out. I’m a child of sandbox computer games, so my brain responds to simple stimuli like upgrades, xp, and stats. If I can develop this real world data to reflect the effort I’m putting into myself and one of my hobbies, it gives me personally, an extra level of satisfaction. Gone are the wasted days of thinking about wanting to write. In their place, a tangible, real-time record of every word I’ve written.

It might not be everyone’s flavour, but it certainly worked for me.

Nerd Alert

Nerd Alert

Write It, Warts and All

The only way I could realistically squeeze a thousand words into my day (taking me anywhere from 30-60 minutes) was to just write them out, knowing I’d be back at a later date to edit. Unrestricted word slamming, churning word-chunder onto the page without stopping to wipe it up. Groovy.

For the purists out there, I know this might sound like a nightmare. A friend of mine prefers to write the detail now, rather than know it will need to be returned to later. For me, this was too much of a start / stop approach, and I’d quickly be demotivated as the mammoth task facing me would seem like an overbearing mountain. Hence by doing it my way, each day felt like a tangible step in the right direction, even if I knew what I’d written might be dogshit.

Also, this gives you the chance to rant out key facts, feelings, scene setting or monologue and know it will be returned to and tidied up later.

Sure, if a single scene feels like it needs attention, or the desire to edit is so strong you can’t fight it, then there’s nothing to say you can’t do that. It’s flexible.

Just remember, a thousand words a day gets you to a novel in about three months. That’s decent. Then you’ve got three months to edit. At that pace, you could write 20 novels in your twenties alone!

It also helps break the story down into sections, instead of one long road. First draft done? OK. Now, on to draft two. Instead of stopping every few paces to check your laces are tied, you’re sprinting to the end and worrying about it then. Sure, you might have more blisters, and the laces will probably be frayed, but you got there. You did it.

"Wooo"

“Wooo”

Fail to Prepare and Prepare to Fail

I read a post recently on the wonderful Terrible Minds (Chuck Wendig’s personal writing blog) about the need to plan your story. The post is actually by another writer named Rob Hart, and he uses the analogy of building a house when talking about constructing a story. In his own words:

It was like if you’re building a house, but the blueprints are constantly getting changed, and the builders aren’t communicating, and suddenly there’s a toilet next to the fridge. And you have to figure out how to move it, but once you do, it screws with the plumbing lines… (read the original post here)

I can’t think of a more lovely way to put it; once you’ve set stuff up, moving characters, threads, plots, pivots, all of it can be disastrous if not thought about and juggled with sense and purpose. And both of these things come from a solid plan. Though it’s tempting to plan as you go, and write on the coat-tails of inspiration, you’ll hit trouble if you haven’t set out in advance, clearly, the threads and pathways your story will take.

When I started out writing the story, I had a brief idea, and a few characters in mind. I wrote these out in a notebook, then left them there. I then took a long train ride and pondered the greater story (with no writing) – my thinking being that I’d work through the gunk in the filter and get to the good stuff.

Then I slept on it, and thought over it some more. The gutsy stuff I’d come up with didn’t seem so necessary in the cold of the following morning. So I erased a few random details, and looked to string together the rest in a different way. Then again. And again.

I tried to explain the story to a friend, and realised it had no purpose, and no overall meaning. Ultimately, you should be able to sum up your story in one sentence. I went away again and pondered this, simplifying and removing and adding until I had it.

I ended up with a story that had a start, a middle, and an end. I planned this out by hand, then on my PC.

Finally, I was ready to start writing, and the rest took care of itself. It changed (a lot), but having a base, and an idea of what was going to happen, when, and why, meant I had the minerals to concoct and adapt. The elements were the story components, and once identified, it made this particular method of word alchemy that much easier. And crucially, the toilet never ended up in the kitchen!

There were other complications though...

There were other complications though…

90,000 Isn’t So Big

In fact, it’ll creep up on you in no time. I planned the story to fall into three clearly identified sections of 30,000 words each. Each of these sections was divided further into three 10,000 word portions. This really helped with the planning and staging, and mean’t I had clear signposts to measure my progress, and make sure I didn’t waffle on in certain parts.

In the end, this total disappeared into the rear-view mirror, and I know for sure I’ll need to cut it down once the editing begins.

Still, it’s nice to have too much and not enough.

"OK, no need to show off"

“OK, no need to show off”

It Came to Life

It really did. I’d sleep and dream about the characters, and wake up in the middle of the night with great ideas. I’d scramble through my bedside table finding my pens and paper to jot down these ideas, only to wake in the morning and realise it didn’t fit, or that I’d already written it out like that.

The ideas grew, and the story started to tell me what was happening. Ideas came to me seemingly from nowhere, ideas that slotted in perfectly and tied up loose ends I didn’t realise I had.

Once the ball was rolling, and I was regularly checking in with my characters, everything just seemed to gather its own head of steam.

Once you get going, you won't be able to stop

Once you get going, you won’t be able to stop

It’s Possible to Hate a Wordfile

By the end, I was dog tired, and completely and utterly ready to finish. It took more will power than at any other moment to finally finish it. I knew the ending, and knew exactly how I wanted it to end. So creativity wasn’t the issue. It was the effort. The effort of knowing that it needed finishing, even after all the energy and time I’d put into it. Like it was a spoiled child or something. I was just desperate to be able to say the words; I’ve finished. It’s done. It’s over.

The funny thing is, now it is over, I realise in reality it is actually only just beginning. Following the advice of Stephen King, it sits in a desk drawer at the moment, maturing and hopefully not stagnating and fermenting. My hope is I’ll open the draw in August and find a novel waiting for me that I can be proud of, and one I can work on through the next few months and finish.

I guess we’ll wait and see…

surasakiStock

I’d love to hear about your experiences writing, and the struggles, stories, or surprises you have encountered. Please comment below.

Special thanks to Anamwong, Marco Torresin, Marin, Stockimages, surasakiStock, and tiverylucky @ FreeDigitalPhotos.net for use of their photos in this blog.

© Itchy Quill and ItchyQuill.WordPress.com, 2016

The End Is NighTier Than The Words: A Few Ways To End Your Story

Sunset Title

All good things must come to an end. We learn that as kids. Whether it was your Summer Holidays, a massive bucket of ice cream, or living in a house and not having to pay rent; all of these wonderful things, at some point, have to finish.

Stories are no different. How many times have you been getting lost in a book, turning each page in desperate anticipation, only to find yourself die a little inside as you feel the pages in your right hand get thinner and thinner. It creeps up on you, and eventually you’ll start to ask yourself “how’s it going to end? It can’t end like that! Not to them! I must know. I muuust!”

Equally, how frustrating is it to get to the end of a story you’ve really enjoyed, and invested hard earned money and time into, only to find out that ‘it was all a dream’ or that the hero never actually went to the moon after all.

Bloody Off Pissing. That’s what!

And yet as writers, so many of us don’t give our stories the endings they deserve. This could be from ‘writer’s fatigue’, where we’re so desperate to just be finished with the damn thing that we’ll write any old dot-connector if it will mean we can go back to procrastinating. It might also be down to a feeling that the story only really needs to be finished, not completed. And that is another missed opportunity!

The ending is the grand finale, and as such is the culmination of everything that’s happened. Imagine if Lord of the Rings stopped when Frodo throws the ring in the lava of Mordor. OK, fine, he’s finished the quest. But where’s the sense of finality? Where’s the closure?

So what can be done about it? Fear not! There are myriad ways, and they’re all outside your window, trying to help you…

graur codrin

“Come Eeeeeen”

The Ol’ Switchemaroo

If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading – Lao Tzu

Some stories make use of tropes and cliches to make a story easy to follow. Though these will achieve that (a real selling point for casual readers who may want to read and unwind, not face confusing or non-conforming alternative texts) it can also make them predictable or repetitive. So why not confound your genre and throw a twist or two in ther?

Books to check out for inspiration: The Other Hand by Chris Cleave or The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henríquez (we hope you like crying, ‘cos this book’ll give you a bout of the ol’ face leaks). I’d love to recommend Fight Club too but, by this point if you haven’t already heard about this one, then chances are you’ve been frozen at the North Pole since the end of WW2. And in that case, welcome back Captain America. I’m still team Stark, but whatevs…

artur84

We don’t have a budget for pictures of Hollywood films. So instead, enjoy this postbox. It’s made of iron, man! (and it’s red)

The Sequel Setter-Upper

Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end – Seneca

Of course, closure isn’t for everyone (we’re looking at you Hollywood), and sometimes it’s nice to leave a story open, at a point we can always revisit later on; whether this be done as a cliffhanger, or more of the feeling of the end of a chapter setting us up with a taster of what’s coming next.

Maybe you’ve already thought about the next installment in your head, and want to establish a story but haven’t got the time / word count left to put it all into this story. No problemo! It may end up spawning a multi-book story (such as Harry Potter) or even a whole universe of linked stories (such as the Discworld series).

Books to check out for inspiration: Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig, Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series, or A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin are all a good start. For our younger readers, I recommend the Hunger Games trilogy.

photostock

Not those kinds of hunger games you pervert!

The Character Piece

Some people like you, some people don’t. In the end you just have to be yourself – Andres Iniesta

Often we’ll read a story where we just fall in love with the character. Perhaps we see ourselves in them, or perhaps we admire that they do what we wish we could do ourselves. Whatever the reason for our adoration or enjoyment, we connect with these characters. And more times than not, seeing them reach a conclusion that befits their personality or personal growth feels like the only way to end.

Books to check out for inspiration: Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger or To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Fancy something a little deeper? Give Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig a go.

vectorolie

Like your own children, some characters are easier to love than others…

The ‘Giving the Reader What They Want’

I am extraordinarily patient, provided I get my own way in the end – Margaret Thatcher

Like Ramsey Bolton (formerly Snow) getting his face chewed off by his own hunting dogs (oh wait, umm, I meant to say SPOILERS there but, if we’re honest, anyone who cared about that GoT fact would already have seen it, right?), sometimes getting what we want from our books and stories is that much more delicious because we’ve had to wait for it, even if we saw it coming a mile off. This covers the ‘classic stories’ such as The Odyssey, but also more contemporary tales too.

Books to check out for inspiration: Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons, or A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare. For something from the canon, the subtlety of Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë has stood the test of time.

Graphics Mouse

How readers probably want to feel after a book. Or something…

The Journey

I seldom end up where I wanted to go, but almost always end up where I need to be – Douglas Adams

Concluding a story isn’t always about the characters, or even the plot, but sometimes it’s about the journey; both spiritual and physical. Whether it be from boy to man, border to border, or escaping Samsara, there’s plenty of places for our characters to end up.

Books to check out for inspiration: On The Road by Jack Kerouac is a classic for a reason, or The Alchemist gives you a taste of both the body and the mind’s journey through life.

For something a little different try Siddhartha by Herman Hesse. Written in 1922, this books was ahead of it’s time and still rings true to this day. It’s a book I’ve read over and over when travelling through South East Asia.

khunaspix

Lead the way little man…

The Darkness

A real failure does not need an excuse. It is an end in itself – Gertrude Stein

All this talk of happy endings and completion has averted from the elephant in the room; the sad or at least the unhappy ending. Sometimes the emotional weight we carry through a story can overwhelm us when we reach its completion. And like life, it won’t always end with rainbows and butterflies, no matter how much we want it to.

I have a secret hunch that some people enjoy this feeling of loss and or emotional dejection. Me? Hell no. I’ve dated enough banshees to get my fill of emotional heaves and hos from the real world. But if this is your flavour, fill yourself up. There’s plenty of these particular barracuda in the literary sea…

Books to check out for inspiration: Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Next by Ken Kesey, or A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara.

Theeradech Sanin

Lip up Fatty. It’s only a story (about real life. The long, painful, lonely, depressing march from the freedom of youth to the painful, aching loss of death). *sigh*

The Payoff

The end crowneth the work – Elizabeth I

This is no depressing novel, so let’s end on something a little more upbeat. That’s the stories that finish with a main character getting their just desserts! Whether it’s all the pieces of their plan falling into place at the right time, them figuring everything out and seeing the results, or just them getting what they’ve spent the whole story working so hard to achieve, these stories tend to leave a long lasting glow in the reader.

Books to check out for inspiration: Any of the Philip Marlowe books by Raymond Chandler (or a lot of other detective / private eye novels, for that matter). Alternatively, give Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts a look. Though this book falls into many of the categories mentioned above, I feel it’s ultimately seeing the main character get to a point where it all pays off that is one of my favourite things about the story.

 

kittijaroon

“Who’s a good boy?”

 

Something missing from this list? Let me know your favourite type of ending in the comments below. Got a story to recommend too? I’m all ears!

 

Special thanks to artur 84, Graphics Mouse, graur codrin, khunaspix, kittijaroon, photostock, Theeradich Sanin and vectorolie @ FreeDigitalPhotos.net for use of their photos in this blog. Also, an extra special thanks to PC Chen for her photo too.

© Itchy Quill and ItchyQuill.WordPress.com, 2016

What’s Your Writing Fuel? Part II; It’s All in the Mind!

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We already went into a great amount of detail about the lifestyle choices you can make about what you put in, or do to your body, and how this can fuel your writing in Part 1.

But they aren’t the only ways to fuel yourself.

What’s that I hear you cry? ‘What about how I choose to live my life? What can I do to help fuel my mind?’

The brain is a muscle, and like any other muscle it gets better the more you use it, and it needs to be properly fed and watered to grow.

Practice makes perfect. The early bird catches the worm. And every little helps.

This will of course have an affect on how the writing comes out the other side. So, what can we do to help here?

Let’s have a looksie, shall we?

 

"Ooh, a piece of candy"

“Ooh, a piece of candy”

 

ANGER!

Don’t worry, this won’t end up being a concise list of the seven deadly sins, brought to you by writers helping writers. Au contraire, this may be the most passionate of all human emotions (feel free to argue, this is by no means a claim to be fact). As the saying goes, get that rage on the page! Muster your gusto! Channel your mammal! Write your fight!

Yeah! (Woo).

Ahem. It’s about using that fury to propel you into creativity. You know, from destruction comes creation. Death breeds life. The cycle of emotive response, from ugly comes beauty and so on.

Go ahead, think about it. What gets you mad? Now time yourself. Take ten minutes to write non-stop and see what happens. It doesn’t matter if it’s bad, illegible or nonsense. It’s fuel. It got the words flowing.

 

"Fuuuuuuuuuuudge!"

“Fuuuuuuuuuuudge!”

 

Pain: Therapy for the Soul

Of course with anger, there could be pain. The crushing vertigo of the soul, ripped and damaged by the experiences of life. So sad.

Yet meet your new therapist! The pen (or quill, or keyboard. Whatever).

Scream out what’s getting to you from the rooftops of your novel. Create a city and fill it with people feeling your pain. Use the page as a sounding board to express yourself, and try to connect the dots on what is often the unfair nature of life to cast pain upon us from time to time.

It’s like talking through it with someone, but not having to worry about being judged or categorised. It’s only you listening (unless you want to share it). Some of us express ourselves better in written form too. Embrace that.

Or just write stories about smashy smashy stuff avenging hurty hurty moments. Grr.

Go for it.

 

"Hurty hurty, smashy smashy"

“Hurty hurty, smashy smashy”

 

The ‘Four Energies’ – Blissed, Blessed, Dissed, and Pissed

I read about this on Writers Digest in their article The Four Energies of Writing; What’s Your Fuel?

As they say in the article: “It’s a bad idea to write a book just to write it.” And I completely agree.

Your motivation for writing needs to come from somewhere. A lot of us feel we have a novel inside of us, waiting to be birthed. So what’s yours? We’re not talking about emotive fuels here, but fuels of character and motivation for writing in the first place.

They are split into two positive and two negative energies:

Blissed: The first of the two ‘positive’ emotions, this covers things like “excited, passionate love or fascination for some activity or subject.” You write because you love what you’re writing about.

Blessed: This is literally “the energy released when someone encourages you in your writing life or believes in your promise.” Call it luck, call it right place right time, but it’s opportunity knocking for your writing at just the right moment.

Dissed: This negative fuel covers things such as “the experiences of being wounded emotionally, cursed or put down by others, or disrespected or rejected.”

Pissed: Finally, this other negative energy is similar to dissed, but “it manifests more as anger and righteous indignation than hurt.”

Which corner are you coming from? Do you agree with the writer’s assessment?

 

"You don't like it? No? OK well you're not my target demographic so you wouldn't get it anyway" *folds arms*

“You don’t like it? No? OK well you’re not my target demographic so you wouldn’t get it anyway” *folds arms*

 

Awe and Wonder

The world can be truly fascinating, can’t it? But it’s a lot to make sense of in one lifetime. Many try, and some specialise. But it’s an uphill struggle. From the day you’re born to the day you die, there’s so much to learn. So much to explore.

Write about it.

Write the things that captivate you, and the things that repel and disgust you. Come to terms with them. Analyse them. Play with them and manipulate them. Re-imagine them.

Mess around with perception. With time and space. With social labels, and human constructs.

Ponder it all.

It might not be a best seller, but it will be quite a unique read. And it’ll give you the chance to see what matters to you, and where your thoughts and beliefs come from.

 

"Life. Not always fair"

“Life. Not always fair”

 

Facing Fears

Spiders? Heights? Barbara Streisand? We all have fears. Some of us have more than one. I’ve got plenty. But facing them enriches your life, trust me.

Not ready to take the leap just yet? That’s cool. Start with writing about it.

Scared of dogs? No problemo. Write a story about a dog pound, and how the guy working there used to be scared of dogs but now he works there killing them when they can’t be homed. He loves it. He does this for years, until one day there is one puppy who changes his life, and makes him realise these creatures aren’t dangerous. They are just like me and you! Cue lights, and Disney music and the happy ending as he rides the puppy off into the sunset. And, scene!

Go ahead. Think of your biggest fear now, then think up a story about someone dealing with that fear, or a scenario that having that fear would be very unhelpful. Now imagine how your hero will get through it. Easy, right!

Now you try…

 

"My story is called Meerkat mafia, and it brings together two of my biggest fears..."

“My story is called Meerkat mafia, and it brings together two of my biggest fears…”

 

Gobbledegook

If all else fails, write garbage. Seriously. Scribble down the first words that come into your head. Better yet, just put pen to paper and write for five minutes non-stop, just writing whatever comes into your head. Don’t think about it, just let the words flow.

Now, chances are what you’ll write will be nonsense. Don’t kid yourself, you’re no James Joyce. But, it got you writing, and the surrealist aspect of this form of writing could then spawn into a novella, or a great little abstract short story.

 

"You can do anything if you go for it"

“You can do anything if you go for it”

 

There’s fuel, and there’s fuel. I’d love to hear what gets you fired up and writing. Maybe it’s injustice, or religion? I know some people who write purely protest works, attacking anything they feel deserves to be in their cross hairs.

I know others who only write about hobbies and interests; woodwork, sailing, rare African drums, magic. There are many.

So what’s yours?

 

Don’t forget to check out Part I of this post Juice on the Loose! What’s Your Writing Fuel?

 

Special thanks to AKARAKINGDOMS, criminalatt, imagerymajestic, patrisyu, Prawny, stockimages and Toa55 @ FreeDigitalPhotos.net for use of their photos in this blog.

© Itchy Quill and ItchyQuill.WordPress.com, 2016