Writing The Hard Stories

In order for characters to grow, they have to face hardships, have things taken from them, lose their initial opinions. As writers, we plan how this happens and are tasked with the most difficult thing: capturing this development on paper.

Writing a story isn’t easy. It takes a lot of will power, imagination, and convincing yourself that your writing doesn’t suck. Once you’ve managed to move past these qualms, you may come up against another challenge. How do I handle writing a scene that is either extremely personal or possibly triggering?

I’m a firm believer in using writing as a way of dealing with life or even escaping it. For a long time, writing was the only comfort I had. I threw my emotions onto the page no matter how much it hurt or even if the words I was putting down made no sense.  Some of the short stories that came from these moods were emotionally charged and on the dark side.

To this day, I still like to write the heavier stories, ones that are both a challenge and a release. Sometimes, I need to step away from my WIP. Other times I get lost in the mindset of my characters or the events playing out before me until hours fly by and I have to snap myself out of it. This happened a few months ago when my MC sought revenge on a group of people who kidnapped his best friend. To put it lightly, the end result wasn’t pretty nor was the mentality of the character going into the ordeal. I remember saying to myself: “These thoughts are psychopathic.” However, I finished the chapter and emerged with new questions about my MC and my capabilities as a writer.

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There’s another scene in my story about death, which I took details from a personal event that happened in my life. The chapter was depressing to say the least and I found my mood descending with every word I wrote. The good news: it’s one of my favorite chapters. The bad news: I felt every ounce of my character’s pain.

It’s a double edged sword being a writer when our characters become like people we know and grew up with. Their suffering isn’t always something we can separate from our own. I choose to dive into these emotions, using it as a current of inspiration. How I come out of the experience once I’m done writing, I figure I’ll handle later.

This method does not work for everyone. Stories can get overwhelming, personal; hit a bit too close to home. But these are also the parts of the story that connect with our readers, that make us clutch books to our chests and weep at an ungodly hour of the night. Whenever you write scenes like these, here are some tips to remember:

  1. Do your research. You don’t want to offend anyone with what you’re writing, let alone come across as ignorant. There is no such thing as too much research.
  2. Take a break. There is no reason to harm yourself while writing. If it gets too much, you can save it for another day, take a breather, listen to music, or watch your favorite show or movie. You always come first.
  3. Make sure these scenes are not included for dramatic effect, but actually advance the story and the growth of your main character. Shock value is not the best reason for including a dark scene.
  4. Understand it’s okay if it is not right the first time. That’s what editing is for. Those scenes that don’t feel right will either be polished or cut.If you’re still having trouble, Beta Readers are a great resource to see if you’ve accomplished what you set out to do.
  5. Don’t let anyone tell you not to write something. If it’s for the better of your story or even a way of dealing with what’s going on in your life, do it.
  6. Remember your readers. Writing a scene correctly and appropriately will connect you to your audience.

These scenes will always be part of our jobs as writers, but it’s how you go about them and handle yourself in the process that really matters.

Xx

Megan

Writing Stereotypes

Hello Everyone,

How the heck are we halfway into November? I am asking myself that as I write this post – something that should have been done a while ago. But it has been a hectic few weeks, and I am now settled enough to write without my brain dissolving into a pile of mush.

The topic I thought I would tackle today is writing stereotypes, which any writer probably
knows about and has faced at some point in their lives. If you haven’t, you are lucky and this post can act as a warning for what may come in the future.

#1 – Make It Rain

I am titling this stereotype as such because it is the first thing that comes to a lot of people’s minds when you say you are writing a book. It is quite a grueling process to write, to make sure your plot aligns, your characters are well rounded, your grammar is polished. It is also a task to get through publication: between finding an agent, signing with a publishing house, edits, production, and press. As nice as it would be to write a book, immediately get it published, and have money rolling in shortly thereafter, it often doesn’t work that way.

How can that be, Megan? What about J.K. Rowling, John Green, James Dashner and so on and so forth.

My answer is they were lucky. Someone recognized their talent, signed them on, and their books were a hit with millions of people. They have earned their success and each of them are on my list of favorite authors. I would love to join them in the future, as I’m sure many other writers would too.

#2 – Writing Can’t Be Hard

Wrong. So wrong. Wrong to the power of infinity and beyond.

There is so much going on within a writer’s brain, so many things that need to happen writing-1317009in order to create a coherent story that makes writing difficult. Combine that with muse and real life and a book is barely a walk in the park. I started writing my novel earlier this year, around April, and am still making progress with it till this day. Other authors I know have been working on their books for years, scrapping it, redoing it, leaving it for months and then coming back to it.

Don’t think that I don’t love writing. It is tied into my soul. It is one of the reasons I exist. It has saved me from many dark times. What I have learned from finally writing a book past childhood is that it requires patience and perseverance. Can’t fix a plot hole? Take a break. Think on it. Have a long shower. Your character isn’t working? Take on a new point of view. Cut them from the story entirely if you need to.

Writing is a series of difficult decisions, testing not only the characters in the story, but you as a person and you as someone developing a craft.

#3 – What’s Your Dayjob?

Opposite to stereotype number one is the disapproving glance of onlookers who believe writing is a pipe dream. I’ve had to deal with this one several times, the questions lingering in someone’s eyes as I tell them I want to write a book someday.

What do you really want to do with your life?

You couldn’t have chosen something else?

That’s not how you make money.

Oh. Okay. -moves onto next person-

When I first began writing, I found this discouraging. I battled within myself if this was really what I wanted to do. I could suck it up and go into graphic design or computer science, other fields I considered, but I ruled them out because I didn’t see them in my future. I didn’t turn to them as a comfort. Turns out, they turned into hobbies that died out as I grew older. Writing was still my passion and until success comes, if at all, I am happy with getting into the publishing industry as an editor.

My advice to anyone who has this negativity thrown their way, do not let it hurt you. Stories exists for several reasons: to entertain, inform, inspire. If there is a story within you, tell it because you never know who you are helping by doing so.

#4 – Mental Illness and Creativity

There are studies that say depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, and so forth affect the creativity process, often in a positive way. I know writers who have some of these issues and I also know writers who are mentally healthy.

For someone who has dealt with mental illness, writing can alleviate the suffering.  However, mental illness is not a qualifying component necessary to write. If you write because it helps problems in your life or with your health, that is great. I’m glad you found a coping mechanism. If you write just because you love it, then I am equally as happy for you.

Writers come from all situations and backgrounds. To say that only the best craft comes from the dark side of the mind is an exaggeration. The inspiration to write can come from a variety of places and each should be recognized especially if they create a beautiful story in the end.

#5 Writers Are Internet Loving, Animal Hoarding, Caffeine Addicts 

Well…

Erm…

This one is kind of true.

Keep those laptops and puppies and kittens close my writer friends! Oh, don’t forget the coffee or tea too. Who knows where all the good books would go without any of those things.

Xx

Megan

Blast to the Past

 

Hello Fellow Readers,

The three circles are drawn in tears for my character who is crying.

For this post I’ve decided to keep it light and funny. While talking to one of my main writing peeps, we discussed how horrible our old stories were. For me, it was the stories I wrote ages seven through ten. Mostly for memories and the thought I’d rewrite some of these later, I kept my childhood notebooks. It was then that an idea struck: what if I shared some lines from my childhood stories and let hilarity ensue?

Going through them took a few hours, but I pulled out some gems which I decided to post here. I totally encourage other writers to do this because not only will you get a good laugh, but you can see how far you’ve come as a writer.

These three quotes come from a story I wrote about Titanic and a character who was on the ship. I was about seven at the time and really fascinated by the tale. For a while, I didn’t believe it was real until my mother told me otherwise. I then proceeded to read every book about Titanic, fiction and nonfiction, until I decided I will write the greatest Titanic story of all time. Yeah…that didn’t work out so well.

Story: I keep shouting how many days are left.
Me in the Present: Why on Earth would you do this? Why are you shouting? How many days until what?

Story: I must be boring myself IF I want to stop writing so, bye. I’ll write later.
Me in the Present: The attitude is real. How do you end a diary entry like that? Are you boring yourself?

Story: The night was peaceful until a big shake shook the ship.
Me in the Present: A big shake? That is the best you got? The only pro is I nailed alliteration at age seven.

The next set of lines comes from an extremely short book about these people who get trapped on an island after a plane crash and have to survive. I was really into these shows as a kid and once again I thought I would write the greatest survival story ever. Well, I think you know where this is going.

Story:

“Wow, that’s great.”
“What’s great?”
“Hello, kissing me is the best one I got.”
“So Let’s do it again.”
They did it again and again.

Me in the Present: Look at you, little Megan. You wrote your first kissing scene. My only question is how does kissing yourself work? Is this kissing scene between two people or between someone and their arm?

Story:

“Are you alright?”
“Yeah.”
But he wasn’t because he threw up blood.

Me in the Present: The best part about this quote in my opinion is the fact that I added a sudden ominous narration to show that this guy was not alright.

This next line comes from a story about magic and evil overlords and kids who try to stop the evil overlords from starting a war. It was never finished and there are only thirteen chapters in the notebook, but that didn’t stop my hunt. Though the story is slightly better than the others, little Megan didn’t have the writing thing down pat just yet.

Story: Eyes are a really good way of seeing people.
Me in the Present: A+ observation, Megan. They definitely help.

Lastly, I bring to you my favorite lines. These come from a series of stories that I wrote about three children who are clever and solve mysteries. My younger self was really into them given all sequels I found, but what I lacked was how babies act and function and just babies in general.

Story: As the children worked, Rosey guarded the door. That is a very big job for a baby. Usually a baby is home being sung a lullaby as it goes to sleep, but not Rosey. She was an on the move baby.
Me in the Present: An on the move baby????? A baby guarding the door????? Was Rosey a ninja too? Forget this, I’m going to hide my face in shame.

Story: Clark grabbed his sister’s arm and pulled her behind the door. “Gabataba,” said Rosey.
Me in the Present: Gabataba. Gaba-freakin-taba?! -Proceeds to shout Gabataba at random to those in my life-

Anyways, as I try to recover from my humiliation as a writer, I hope you enjoyed this. Feel free to comment or make a post of your own horrible lines from the past.

Xx

Megan

 

 

Tug of War

I am going to start this post with a confession. I do not write everyday.

*Cue the dropped jaws now*

My mind works in a certain way. It is the most stubborn entity I possess. There are days where I have an endless amount of muse and writing comes easily. There are days where a song, television show, or line in a book triggers a story. Then there are the wasteland days. These are the worst. My muse is dried up, my pen is parched, and I am left pulling my hair out as I wait for something to unlock inside of my head. This lack of muse wouldn’t be terrible if it lasted a few hours or a few days. This can last for weeks, even months.

Under this condition, I hate everything I try to write or everything I write leads nowhere. I’ve heard a lot of opinions on this. There seems to be a line between writers who advocate for writing everyday no matter if the story is falling apart, getting run over by a truck, and then mashed in a garbage truck. There are others who advocate for the space in between writing, to let the thoughts flow when they are most wanted. There are pros of each side. The former allows for consistent progress and the development of a habit. The latter gives the muse and writer time to recover. There are also cons: trying to fight through a muse-less session versus not being able to maintain muse if there is too much time in between writing sessions.

Every writer has a method to reach their goals. I’m a night time writer. There is something about the silent darkness that can set the mood for a chapter or story to be completed. I am also a phone writer. I’ve written entire chapters during my commute. Sometimes I have more muse doing this than sitting before my computer.

My habits weren’t always like this. As a teenager, I wrote every second I got. My parents never understood why I was on the computer for an obscene amount of hours per day. They didn’t always believe me when I told them I was writing despite having a myriad of documents to prove it. With age, it has gotten harder to keep up the intensity I had when I was younger. I still love to write. There is a fervor that burns within me, that flows through my veins. I think my battle with muse comes from finding a life-write balance.

“Just write” as I’ve been told is easier said than done. For non-writers, it is even harder for them to understand the complexity of words and the frustration of getting a scene exactly as it is mentally pictured. If it were as simple and writing, completing a book would be a one shot deal. We wouldn’t have industries, publicists, and editors who dedicate their lives to making a book as polished as it can be.

If I find a cure to my ‘wasteland syndrome’ I will be sure to post it on the blog in bold letters, maybe throw in a cheer or two. If any of you fellow bloggers/writers/readers have found a cure, please let me know so I can be done with this horrible condition. Also, be sure to tell me what your writing habits are.

Xx

Megan

Camp NaNoWriMo

Hello fellow writers,

It’s been a while since I’ve last updated, but I have the pleasure of saying I’m participating in Camp NaNoWriMo this year. For those who don’t know what this is, it stands for National Novel Writing Month. Every November, from the beginning of the month to the end, a challenge is set for authors to write a full length novel (50,000 words +). Due to school and other life related events, I’ve never participated. However, I have partaken in Camp NaNoWriMo which allows the writer to set a word count for themselves. I didn’t succeed last year, but I feel more confident this year with having a set plan of where I want my story to go. The goal I’ve set for myself is 25,000 words.

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I’ve been writing almost daily, on bus rides to school, late at night. The words have been adding up without warning which I’m happy about when it comes to reaching my goal. As opposed to roaming around for where I want to lead the story, it has been guiding me. It’s taken me through dual perspectives, flashbacks, and throwing my characters into the middle of conflict.

What I am curious about writers participating, or even writers who can’t participate but want to – how are you reaching for your goal? For me, I have been trying to write each and everyday. I haven’t tried to force my muse. I’ve allowed the words to flow on the page as they are, minus editing here and there. My chapters aren’t very long, but I feel as if chapters aren’t about length, rather the content and what it does in relation to the overall plot. I’ve left my book open to create itself and I feel like the freedom is really helping me write it.

I am determined to keep to a schedule and get to my 25,000 words, despite school, work and other engagements of mine. I feel as if committing to NaNoWriMo is partly mindset, sticking to what is set by you as a writer. For those who are participating, I wish you loads of luck. Let your imagination run wild and create the story stuck in your mind.

Leave your thoughts/tips/goals below!

Xx Megan

Figuring It Out

The number one question I always get after stating that I am a writer is, “are you writing a book?” There are usually follow up questions like:

  • “What’s your book about?”
  • “Can I be in your book?”
  • “When is your book coming out?”

To be honest, I can ramble on about these questions for hours because they are asked often. My responses to these questions are usually general because 1) I’m bored by hearing them and 2) my book will be written at my own pace. My responses aren’t meant to be offensive. I merely think that people assume the writing process is easy. My favorite example of this is telling people I want to write a book and they say “do it”. *Insert five hundred exclamation points and a smiley face here. Also insert a Shia Labeouf gif of him saying do it.*

The process of writing a novel is a difficult one. Combine school, work, and life, with the fickleness of a muse and suddenly that dream of writing a book is no longer simple. It involves a lot of time management and dragging your muse by its foot out from under the couch while it screams as if it’s being stabbed.

For me, I’ve been mulling over the idea for my novel for a few years. I originally planned it to be a trilogy and am now settling on a duology. I cut out the first book entirely because it would be too clunky of an introduction to the characters I have as well as I didn’t know how to carry the main idea from start to finish. Beginning the story from the middle and dealing with the consequences of a major event for my protagonist is what I finally settled on as the best option. How I discovered this was by trying to write a few of the early chapters. I got stuck– like ten car pileup stuck. After talking with a writing buddy of mine and creating an outline, I scrapped everything I had.

Now, I’m back to square one. I’ve scribbled a few important lines/snippets the story needs in my writing journal as well as some character breakdowns and plot twists I want to include. I feel as if my novel is being built like a tower of blocks, piece by piece. It may be longer than ideal, but I think the overall product will turn out better with how much effort and imagination I’m putting into it.

It’s weird to have characters that stick with a writer and fight for attention. It’s also weird when you don’t use them for a while and they become mad at you. That is what happened with my protagonist Aleks. I wrote him a lot as a teenager and when I took a break, he vanished for a bit, but came back in full force. He is the muse I connect with the strongest, the one I find most of myself in. I know I need to tell his story one way or another.

My only hope is those who read my book (fingers crossed I actually publish a book) will understand why Aleks is such a powerful character both in what he must deal with and also how he’s flawed. He may not be the most rational, but that is part of his growth.

Feel free to tell me about how you write your novel or your main muse in the comments below.

Xx Megan

Resolutions for 2016

Before I begin this post, I’d like to say HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE! We’ve made it to another year and I hope it will be a good one. 2015 ended on a high for me between positive holiday celebrations as well as a three day get away. Though it is six days into the New Year, I still have a bit of a vacation mindset. Oops.

I will come back to reality in order to write my resolutions, mostly writing and reading based, for 2016.

  1. Read As Many Books As Possible
    Reading is both escape and inspiration. The more I read, the more ideas I tend to have. I’ve already finished my first book of the New Year and plan on starting the second book I have on my shelf today. I don’t want to set a number of books to read for I feel like it’ll put pressure on reading and the last thing I would want to do is feel like I have to rush something I love. I commute to and from school as well as work which is prime reading time. I finish books within a few days, shocking both my friends and family. I want to keep up this trend, picking up whichever books I can get my hands on. So many books, so little time.
  2. Get A Short Story Published
    I’ve been setting this goal every year since 2013 and I’ve been fortunate to accomplish it each time around, last year being a record of two short stories receiving a home. I’m not going to shoot for higher because of a successful year. I’m going to shoot for my goal of one and hope I’m able to accomplish that. I have a young adult story I want to get picked up for I feel it’s one of my best works. Though the publishing industry doesn’t always work that way. I got stories published which I didn’t expect would be picked up. It’s kind of like throwing a dart at a board when you’re blindfolded and forced to jump on one leg. You never know if it’ll be a hit or miss.
  3. Write More Short Stories
    I’ve been in the muse gutter since the end of last year. I have ideas and drafted stories I want to continue, but my brain has resolved to screaming no at the top of its lungs and then pout in the corner . I’m thinking the vacation I have from school will loosen up these tightly bound thoughts. The likelier option however: thoughts coming to life at five in the morning with no choice other than to sacrifice sleep and write. It’s happened to me several times before.
  4. Spend Time With Friends and Family
    I’ve realized over the past year how much my family and friends meant to me. I want to keep these bonds as strong as possible. I spent a lot of time with them last year, including impromptu trips to houses and late night talks. I realized how much I enjoyed this and I would like to keep the trend going. The same goes for my friends. I have a small knit group and this was one of the years we all hung together and it went seamlessly. I want more of those laugh out loud crazy days.
  5.  Be More Active On Social Media
    A large part of writing is networking which is weird considering writing is often a private and solitary action until it goes to an editor. I think I had a successful year on twitter, which I would like to continue. I would perhaps like to increase my author posts and my blog posts, even invite a few more guests to leave their mark behind. I say this before life gets crazy and school starts up again, but I’m going to be optimistic. Whenever I have an idea, or see something worth posting, I’ll do it. The more engagement I have with my followers, the better it will be for me and my future writing goals.

I think those are my main goals for 2016. Feel free to tell me yours in the comments.

Until next time,

xx Megan