"Fiction Writer’s Cheat Sheet."
- Accepting – too accepting; willing to excuse extreme behavior
- Adaptable – used to traveling from situation to situation; may not be able to fully adapt/live in a permanent situation
- Affable – accidentally befriends the wrong sort of people; pushes to befriend everyone
- Affectionate –inappropriate affection
- Alert – constantly on edge; paranoid
- Altruistic – self-destructive behavior for the sake of their Cause
- Apologetic – apologizes too much; is a doormat; guilt-ridden
- Aspiring – becomes very ambitious; ruthless in their attempts to reach goals
- Assertive – misunderstood as aggressive; actually aggressive; others react negatively when they take command all the time
- Athletic – joints weakened from exercise; performance-enhancing drug abuse; competitive
Okay, let’s cut to the chase - motivation. I’d say a good most of our questions are related to it, and there’s only so many times you can direct them toward our many many tags about it. Let’s face it, the subject of motivation produces as many words as the lack of it keeps them away. There’s lots of reasons for being unmotivated. If you’re dealing with things out of your control, like depression, you shouldn’t feel bad for not writing. Even if you’re not depressed, don’t feel bad for not writing. I’m going to talk about what I call The Blahs in terms of motivation, but if this advice doesn’t work for you, don’t feel bad. Keep trying, and take care of yourself.
Why are people unmotivated to write? Like I said, there’s lots of reasons for being unmotivated. It could be nerves, it could be stress, it could be the good ol’ Blahs. For me, The Blahs are the worst. I know why I have them - work concerns, I think I’m becoming a hypochondriac, the fucking air - but there’s no magic button to get out of them. The Blahs delayed this post by a week, they’ve been keeping me from writing a story I’m really passionate about, they make me irritated at tiny things. The Blahs are here to ruin my shit, basically.
What are the Blahs, exactly? For me, I know the Blahs is some form of mental suckage that knows, no matter how hard I try to fool it, that writing is hard work that will undoubtedly have to be done over and over again. The Blahs is irritation at no instant reward, no button that will light up in my head once I complete a task, because writing is never really done.
That lack of reward, tangible or mental, turns your brain into a jerky jerk that doesn’t want to work with you. It becomes a four-year-old, constantly screaming for some sort of distraction, insisting that if you scroll through tumblr one more time, it’ll let you go back to writing peacefully. This is a lie, because your brain is a jerk.
Okay, so how do I fix the Blahs? Alright, here’s the bad news: fixing the Blahs is not only hard, it’s very personal, meaning your solutions have to be tailored to you. The Blahs are why I draft with pen and paper, because having pages afterwards to scribble on is very satisfying. But drafting on paper is not enough, because it’s easy to ignore or shove aside, no matter how many notes I leave myself not to do that. So while fixing the Blahs is hard to do, here’s some things you can work on for yourself:
- Deadlines. Deadlines with no teeth do nothing for me. Haha, arbitrary date on my calender, there’s not punishment for not finishing by now, so fuck you. Make your deadlines real. Enlist friends to keep you to task, dole out punishments and rewards for making it. If you have no outer force to keep you to task, make one. This is why NaNoWriMo works for so many people, and you can make it work for you. Get that deadline and find ways to make your jerk brain stick to it.
- Chunk Your Work. Break big projects down to little goals - the more goals you hit, the more that reward lights up in your brain. This takes some figuring out - a little goal for one person is three pages, another a paragraph - but your huge projects needs those goalposts to keep you going.
- Rewards, Baby. Your brain runs on rewards, the more instant the better. Big rewards - that paycheck at the end of the month, a finished novel - are vague concepts to your brain until you actually have them, so make your rewards more immediate. Finishing that chapter wins you your favorite snack. Editing that page earns you a cup of coffee. The rewards don’t have to be tangible - checking tumblr or playing a quick game on your phone lights up that reward part of your brain just as much other rewards. Rewards are great, but don’t let them become distractions. If they get you too off the writing page, find another reward.
- Kill Your
TVDistractions, Man. If the internet is your siren song, check out blocking programs that can help your productivity. Chuck your mobile devices in a bag or other room, find music that can help you focus. Bury those shows you want to watch in a few dozen folders, consider trying new locations. Your brain wants distractions because they are instantly satisfying; don’t give them to it.
- Try Progress Trackers. A writing calender where you cross off the days you write works but keep that damn thing on hand or your jerk brain will ignore it. A writing journal of progress is the same. They’re helpful, but only if you use them, so keep them somewhere you will always find them. Put them on top of your laptop or in your bag at all times.
You’re working toward the goal of forming writing habits that won’t sway to the Blahs so easily. This takes time, and it’s not easy. Don’t be hard on yourself if you fail. All of these things I’m still struggling with, and it’s okay to do the same.
To Do: I hate writing assignments like a passion, and hey, I’m not your teacher (unless I am, in that case go do your homework >:|), but last time I mentioned making a list of your main goals, and if you want, now’s the time to break out that list, find your most important goals, and chunk them down into manageable jobs. Your goal is to create steps that you can reach, all the way from start to being done. If it’s too much, focus on it in parts - part one of your first draft, part two, etc. If you’re working on it now, great! You can still try this technique.
I’d also really recommend giving yourself deadlines with teeth, so you feel like you have to make them. If doing the dishes on a failed deadline isn’t threat enough, maybe cleaning from top to bottom is. If you need help, recruit people. You can even loop in family members (‘I really need to make this goal, can you get on me around this time?’), or be vague about what you’re doing (because shit do I hate explaining what I’m writing), but you have to make those deadlines real.
Good luck, see you on the other side of the Blahs.
- Write the ending first. This gives you a destination. You may eventually change the ending but having a goal is more helpful than you can imagine.
- Choose your antagonist before you choose your protagonist. Beginner writers tend to either have a story idea without an antagonist, or they create one-dimensional villains who do not suit the hero’s story.
- Give your characters physical story goals. A physical story goal is one that can be experienced through the five senses. Your protagonist and antagonist should have story goals in opposition to one another.Example: The villain wants to destroy the hero’s company. The hero wants to save his company. The intangible story goals, such as ambition or finding inner strength, will be revealed as a result of this conflict.
- Decide on a genre and stick to it. It is disappointing to a reader if he or she picks up a romance novel and it turns into a serial killer thriller. Research genre expectations, word count, etc.
- Write a synopsis. This should not be longer than two pages. Tell the whole story. Do not include back story. If you cut out unnecessary details here you will save time. You will also be able to stick to the story. It sounds romantic when writers say they let the characters show them the story. I have found these writers seldom finish novels as they are always trying out new things. This sounds creative but it is disheartening when you are trying to become a published author.
- Be disciplined with settings. Introduce major settings in the first quarter of your book. It is unnerving when authors introduce a new setting a few chapters from the end of the novel.
- Stick to two supporting characters. Amalgamate extra characters into one person. Your protagonist does not need three best friends and five love interests. The rules of story-telling require simplicity. Readers get bored when they are introduced to too many characters in one book.
- Break your story into scenes. Become a film director and construct the scenes. Ruthlessly cut out any you don’t need to move the story forward.
- Wrap it up and write ‘The End’. End the story as soon after your protagonist has achieved his or her story goal as possible. Don’t explain what has happened and summarise the plot. Your reader is not stupid.
- He wins but… The best endings in commercial and literary fiction, as well as memoirs, are when the protagonist achieves his story goal but… Examples: Clarice Starling catches Buffalo Bill in The Silence of the Lambs but Hannibal escapes; The pigs take over the farm from the humans in Animal Farm but they have become indistinguishable from them; In Long Walk To Freedom, Nelson Mandela achieves a free South Africa but ends the book with the message that there is another long walk ahead.
MUSIC TO INFLUENCE YOU TO WRITE
Feel like you need a song to influence you to write a scene or character? Here are a list of Playlists and Songs you can listen to to get you going!
- When Everything is Wrong and you need a pick-me-up
- a bunch of songs that make me Legit Happy!!
- Carried Away
- Some Days they Taste Like Lemonade
- Picking Up the Pieces
- Keep Your Head Up
- It’s Time to Begin, isn’t it?
- Endless Cheesin
- Free Yourself
- lets do it (lets fall in love); a playlist for an old-fashioned love affair
- Songs to fuck to
- Between Two Points
- Erotic Moments
- Nice and Slow
- Breathe My Name
- We Had a Promise Made
- The Only Sex Playlist
- Skin & Bones
- A Forever Love
SAD SCENES/ HEARTBREAK
- Hello My Old Heart
- See all my dreams die
- We All Feel Lost Sometimes
- Whispers Wasted in the Sand
- Time to Study
- One of those Sad Days
- Sad Sad Songs
- Goodnight Moon
- When I Run Through the Deep Dark Forrest
PSYCHOPATHIC CHARACTER/SUSPENSE SCENE
- [MADNESS;] | a playlist to get in the insane muse for your character
- The Devil Within Digital Daggers
- Villains and Demons
- Lose Your Soul
- Savage Desires
- I’ll Be Dead Before the Day is Done
- A Killer’s Symphony
- Murder He Says
- A Boy’s Best Friend
- In a Stranger’s Dream
BADASS CHARACTERS/ACTION-FIGHT SCENE
- Not Your Regular Damsel in Distress
- Biting Down
- Light it Up
- This is it, the Apocalypse
- I Pretend I’m a Bad Ass
- There is No Reconciliation
- Shit to Fuck Shit Up to
- Let’s Go Hunting
- Cancel the Apocalypse
- Red Lipstick and a Black Jacket
epic songs to write to, a playlist for writers [listen here]
time, hans zimmer; misty mountains, howard shore; what are you going to do when you’re not saving the world?, hans zimmer; genius next door, regina spektor; hedwig’s theme, john williams; star trek’s main theme, michael giacchino; london calling, michael giacchino; mhysa, ramin djawadi; courtyard apocalypse, alexandre desplat; main title, ramin djawadi; cosmic love, florence + the machine; your ghost, greg laswell; one day more, les mis cast; veni, veni emmanuel, libera; oblivion, bastille;
- Surround yourself with creative people.
- Develop a morning ritual.
- Do an info-dump so your head is clear enough to create instead of worry.
- If you’re a crime writer, read fantasy. If you’re a productivity writer, read something about slacking off.
- Imitate the real world.
- Drink too much coffee.
- Play chess. Go outside. Sing in the shower.
- Don’t be too precious about your work. If the doctor and the garbage man can do their jobs every day, then those in a creative line of work can too.
- Consume information by the bucket load. The more you know, the more you can create from that knowledge.
- Meet new people from different walks of life. Strike up a conversation on the bus.
- Shut out the world. Instead of sucking in new information, sit quietly.
- Creativity is a muscle. Exercise it daily.
- Carry a notebook everywhere.
- Write down a list of ideas and draw random arrows between them.
- If you’re not on a tight deadline, walk away and do something completely unrelated.
- Create a framework. Instead of trying to rely on pure inspiration, think within the box you create for yourself.
- Remove obstacles to creativity. That friend who calls to complain about their life can wait until you can afford to get stressed about their problems.
- Don’t judge your ideas until you have plenty to judge.
- Keep a journal. It can get your mind working.
- Stop telling yourself you’re not creative.
- Don’t be a workaholic. Take breaks.
- Experiment randomly.
- If one thing isn’t working, try a new strategy.
- Choose a topic and write about it as wonderfully or badly as you possibly can.
- Trash what you’re working on. Start again.
- Exercise every day, before you sit down to be creative.
- Spend time with your children. Or someone else’s.
Sometimes you want to write, but you have no plot ideas. Perhaps your fingers are itchy to write, you want to meet a submissions deadline, a character is bugging you to tell their story, or a single image, phrase, or scene is sitting heavy in your head. But you still can’t find the whole story.
So what can you do?
- Start with characters: find their names, their backstories, their relationships. Create detailed descriptions, draw them, build their family trees. Get them interracting, put them into a room together, or bump them into each other in the street. Read their diaries, their love letters, their bank statements. Get to know them inside out. This is one place where you may find your story.
- Start with a world: create your map, name the towns, lakes, forests, and mountains. Work out the trade routes, position the markets, the ports, and the industry. Find the history, predict the future. Draw out the borders, bring war, re-draw the borders. Get down to street level and see who lives there. Walk the streets yourself. This is one place where you may find your story.
- Start with a room: stand in the middle of a room and open your eyes. What does the room look like? What’s in it? How many doors and windows are there? What is the room used for? Who uses it? What has happened here, and what is going to happen here? This is one place where you may find your story.
- Start with an object: pick something up into your hand. What is it? What is it used for? Who owns it, and who owned it before them? What is it worth, either monetarily or sentimentally? Has it been lost, found, stolen, given away? Why is this object important? This is one place where you may find your story.
Character development thing.
Plot points on this chart to represent how important these different aspects of a character’s life are to them. By doing that you can help determine what type of things your character deems to be most meaningful in their life, especially compared to others aspects.
A brief explanation of each aspect is below in case you’re confused about the meaning of any.
- Strength: to have physical power and strength
- Sex: to have sexual gratification and satisfaction
- Possessions: to have objects and tangible things
- Health: to have physical health and stability
- Appearance: to have a good external appearance
- Love: to love and be loved, romantically or otherwise
- Appreciation: to be appreciated by others
- Attention: to be paid attention to
- Security: to feel secure emotionally
- Approval: to be approved by others
- Respect: to be respected
- Friendship: to have friends
- Intimacy: to be intimate with a partner or partners
- Belongingness: to feel needed and belonged
- Family: to be on good terms with/have a family
- Inner peace: to be content with themselves
- Purpose: to feel as though they are fulfilling a purpose
- Self-sufficiency: to feel that they are able to provide for themselves
- Growth: to feel as though they are growing and changing
- Acceptance: to be able to accept themselves without consequence