I need some help getting my mind in working order. In the past few months, any kind of motivation I may have had to write, edit or do anything has slowly slipped away. Do you ever feel like that, and if so what do you do to regain/maintain your mental energy? I have tried changing my diet, meditation and a few other things just in case my creative funk was related to some type of mental cloudiness or depression. The changes I’ve made have helped a bit, but I still feel as if my mind is sluggish and weighed down. Last week I started writing a new story and it felt great, but when I looked over it again I realized that it was a word for word copy of a story I had written two months ago. Right now it feels as if my mind is a backfiring engine churning out the same ideas again and again.
I am going to talk all of this over with my doctor just in case there’s some other psychical or mental issue that I am not thinking of, but it’ll be a while before I can get an appointment, so in the meantime I wanted to ask you guys for your opinions. What do you do in your daily lives that gives you the motivation and drive to continue towards your goals?
I’d really appreciate some help because I honestly don’t know what I’m doing right now.
Writing Exercise of the Day: Psychical Emotion
In this exercise what I want you to do is to write a short story with a character who is in the grips of an intense emotion, but do not directly mention the emotion. Instead, try to describe the emotion or rather its impact on your character by describing the psychical impact that emotion may have on their bodies. For example, instead of simply saying that your character was angry you could say something like, “Bob thundered around the room, his stomach in knots and his eyes glaring so intensely he seemed more like a ravenous panther thirsting for the prowl.”
I have never been that talented of a cook, so I am awed that there are people in the world who can take a few simple ingredients and transform them into delicious food. Food is a part if the life of every member of the human race. There may be some who are more interested in food than others, but we all need its nourishment and our characters are no different. It amazes me sometimes when I read a novel I get maybe 200 pages in and suddenly realize “huh, none of these characters has had anything to eat or drink the entire time…that cannot be healthy.”
When I smell waffles I remember warm family moments!!
If we want our characters to seem human then we must give expression to even their most primal of desires, food, and drink. The human body, depending on health, can survive for weeks without food, but only a few days without a drink. The need for food and drink is a biological imperative, but that doesn’t mean that you cannot use your character’s selection of meals as a way to say who they are. Is your character poor? Where did they grow up? Say your character lives away from home, what types of food do they crave when they become homesick? When I was away at school I proved my mom’s biscuits and gravy….yum.
In addition to your character’s selection of meal, you can also play around with their reactions to food/drink. Do they have particular feelings associated with the scent or tastes of a particular food? Are those good feelings? For example, whenever I smell or taste cinnamon buns I think of family Christmases so I feel warm and loved, but when I smell vinegar I have the urge to vomit. I became very ill while eating something with vinegar when I was a child and now 30 years later the scent still makes me feel queasy.
The scent of vinegar makes me feel ill, does your character have that type of reaction to anything?
The sense of smell is one of our most powerful memory triggers, the and scent is half the of taste so put together it is one their most simplistic tools you can use to add realism to your characters. For example, I had a character who grew up so poor that once a week dinner for his family consisted entirely of a scant bit of ground beef, and when he grew up the scent of beef cooking reminded him of the poverty of his youth. Use your descriptive powers not only to show how the food looks, but go deeper and describe how the sensations of smelling or eating the food make your character feel. As I mentioned before when I smell vinegar I immediately get the urge to vomit. Does your character have that type of reaction to any scents or tastes? Is that reaction due to a painful memory of some kind?
Homemade bread….*chorus of angels sings*
Even if you’re doing something like writing a fantasy or sci-fi novel and your characters aren’t human, you can still use their senses to add a level of realism or believability to them. It might make it easier for your audience to relate to your characters if you were to expand your descriptions of how they react to certain tastes or scents.
Exercise of the Day: The Antique Trunk
For this exercise, you will need to create a character who inherits an old trunk from an unknown relative. When they open the trunk they discover pictures of themselves from various times of their life. They begin to wonder who this relative was and why had they been stalking them? What else is in the box?
Writing is difficult, but starting your first draft can seem like the most daunting task of all!! After you get a concept in your mind and begin to develop your story it can feel like you are beginning a new adventure which is both exciting and scary. However, there are a few simple steps you can take to make the process easier on yourself.
1 Think Small:
Start small and build from there
When I first started writing I was so eager and excited that I tended to overdo everything. My love scenes were so maudlin they were almost laughable and my antagonists were so overdone they read like badly written fairy tale characters. When you start writing your story, go simple. In some cases when I am first drawing up the concepts of my stories I don’t even name the characters. I write the basic outline of the story with a few simple character ideas but I leave the big details for later. By keeping my story and characters small to start with it keeps me from running wild with my imagination. In the end, building my story bit by bit helps to make my finished products read like they developed naturally because I slowed down a built every aspect of my story from the ground up.
2 Don’t be afraid of filler
When writing your first draft, don’t be afraid of what I like to call “stand in phrases”. The last time I started a ten minute play I was attempting to write a joke but the only punchline I could think of to finish it off was “where’s my wandering parakeet” which is actually a quote from the film The Philadelphia Story. I knew that was not the line I actually wanted in my play, but at the time I was on such a role I knew that if I slowed down and actually tried to create my own original punchline at the moment I would lose my momentum. I highlighted the phrase in question and by the time I had gotten around to the second draft I had thought of a punchline so I could take out the stand in.
3.Use freewriting as a sort of meditation
It has been scientifically proven that meditation can help to improve focus. I decided to experiment to see if I could use the concept of meditation as a kind of writing exercise. When I was experiencing writer’s block I decided to take this concept for a test drive. I first used a few breathing techniques I had learned in a yoga class in order to achieve a sense of mental stillness. After that, I took out a sheet of paper and I wrote for five minutes. After the five minutes were up I was amazed. At the time I had been in a sort of creative slump, but by silencing my metal chatter I was better able to access that part of my mind.
There are probably thousands of methods you can use to make your drafting process move more smoothly but in truth, you just need to experiment and see what works for you.
The Exercise of the Day
Foor this exercise you need to imagine two things. First, you will need to create a character and second, you will need to imagine a mode of transportation. Does your character enjoy traveling on their vessel? Where are they going? Do they want to go wherever they are headed? What do they see? How does their emotional state alter their perception of their surroundings?
It’s been a long while since I’ve posted and, dang it’s good to be back!!! So what are you all writing and reading?
What are you writing?
I’ve started out the year by going through my yearly review. For the past month I’ve been going over all of my old notebooks full of old story ideas I had massed through the years. I gave the old idea tree a shake, and I found a few stories and outlines from years ago that I’d completely forgotten about. There was one story about a young girl who’s trying to solve a mystery in a Gothic mansion sometime in the 1800’s. The story as I had written it in college was a bit of a shambles so I think I might try to rewrite it as a play. I got started with creative writing during a playwriting course in high school, so I think it might be nice to get back to my roots.
Getting back to my playwriting roots!! 🙂
What are you reading?
For the past few weeks I’ve been working through my ever expanding to-read list. I’ve read the first 8 books in the Phryne Fisher murder mysteries series by Kerry Greenwood, Girl on the Train, and I’ve just started on Philip K Dick’s “The Man in the High Castle’. I’ve also started on my 2017 Reading Resolution List. Every year I give myself a challenge to read certain important books which I think I might have read but never actually have. This year I intend to read all of the Sherlock Holmes stories and novels, The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins, and Team of Rivals. I’ve become more interested in writing mystery stories so this year I decided to read the stories which laid the foundations for the genre. The Sherlock stories introduced a lot of the principles of forensic investigation (some of which are still in use today) and The Moonstone has been cited as the very first detective story ever written.
Thanks for reading and commenting!!! I really appreciateI’ll see you soon!!!
Exercise of the day- Clearing the Cobwebs
We all get into ruts at times. Our minds start feeling sluggish and it seems that the world is speeding past without us. What does your character feel or think when they get into that mindset? What situations made them feel that way? What would they do to get their minds back into fighting form? Write a journal entry for your character which answers these questions.
Nanowrimo 2015 has officially come to a close!!! Well I didn’t quite hit the mark. I got to 30,000 words, which isn’t quite as much as I wanted to write, but it’s way better than I have ever done before.
Reading = Worth the stuggle
Change #1– Stop Editing! All I did differently was to write without a censor. In previous years I would write a bit then go back over what I had done to make sure it made sense. This year I looked at Nanowrimo in a new way. I viewed it like a very long rough draft. When I was writing research papers in college I would just use the rough draft I wouldn’t spend much time editing, I’d just try to throw some ideas into pile to try and see what my thesis could be. So this time I tried shut the editing section of my mind off while I was writing. Now that I really feel like I have a grip on the form and shape of my story I am going to put the editorial phase of my story on hold until the new year. I’m using the next few weeks to rest my brain, get some reading done, and also get ready for Christmas.
Sure it's good to clean up your writing, but hold off on it until you've actually written something. Write first, edit last.
Change #2– Sleep More- I know that I’ve mentioned this before, but sleep is one of a writer’s best friends. Well it would seem I needed a dose of my own medicine. In recent months with working two jobs I had let my sleep schedule get really messed up and I was trying to juggle everything on just a few hours of sleep. During that time I was also trying to work on my writing, but for some reason I wasn’t having any luck at developing ideas. Then one day I was going back over something I had written in a notebook a few years before. There in big red letters were the words “If you don’t sleep your brain does not work properly”. There it was!!! I wasn’t sleeping so of course I couldn’t think straight!!! I’ve told so many people that in the past, but I never thought I’d be the one who needed to be told that!! So now I make sure that I am in bed by 11PM at the very latest and I try to get a solid and consistent 8 hours a night.
I felt such a dope!!! I've been telling people for year's how important sleep is to the writing process!!! A more consistent sleep schedule made all the difference!!
Change #3– Diary Entries- Before I had ahh thought of what my story was I started out with a list of my characters with some of their personality quirks. With that list as my starting point I wrote a short diary entry from each of the characters’ perspectives. It really gave me a fun way to envision who the characters are, how they think, and what they sound like.
Imagining what my character might write in their private dairies really gave me the chance to see from their perspectives
Just a few little changes to my thought process and writing techniques led me to greater success than I have ever achieved before. How did you all do? What did you do to relieve stress?
Exercise of the Day
Exercise of the Day: The Pet
For this exercise you are going to think of one of your favorite characters and imagine their pet. What type of pet do they keep? What do they name it? Does the pet’s personality reflect their owner?
Ok so I’ve gotten a good start on my nano. Like I mentioned before it’s not something I normally do. In all the times I’ve tried it before the whole nano process just never seemed to click for me. So far I have been pleasantly surprised with how things have gone so far. When I first started out I didn’t try to think of a plot, I wrote down a list of some character ideas. I wrote down a list of characters, gave them each a few distinctive personality quirks and then I wrote a journal entry from each of their perspectives. It gave me a way to envision who the character was and also how they sounded. After I had a few characters I started thinking of some ideas for situations I could put them in and how they might react and before long I had the layout for my plot!!
I decided that my story will be a mystery/suspense novel. So far I have a few thousand words down and things are looking alright so far. Right not I’m trying not to worry about my plot while I’m writing. I just want to write write and write some more!! I think I need to approach my nano like it’s a first draft. Don’t analyze every word just get the story out, save making it pretty for later.
I started my nano off by thinking about the characters because in my mind they are the most important piece of any kind of story. I think a piece of fiction (novel, play, tv series etc) can still be entertaining and good even if its plot is only so-so if the characters in it are strong enough to hold the audiences’ interest.
The characters in the show Mad Men were the main reason I never watched it. A few of my friends recommended it to me so I added it to my Netflix queue and gave it a go. In general when I watch a new show I’ll watch about three or four episodes just to see if I like it, but if it hasn’t caught my interest after that I give up. So I watched the first four episodes of Mad Men and at the end of that time I hated all of the characters. I found the majority of them to be whiny, manipulative, or stupid and so I was never really interested in their lives or stories. For one reason or another all of the characters had gotten on my nerves to the point that I found it impossible to watch because there wasn’t a single character I was rooting for. The problem wasn’t the plot or the story itself because I love a good period piece. The ideas and stories which made up the show had the potential to be highly entertaining however the general attitude of the characters was so depressing that it made it impossible for me to get involved or even interested in any of it.
What about you? Are their many tv shows/movies/books which had interesting plots that you’ve not liked because of the characters?
A story can survive a few plot holes, however having characters who are strong enough to hold onto the readers or audience is paramount to writing a successful story. Right now I think I am going to go run off and think of some more characters which I can add to my story later. I’m not going to go into a lot of detail with them yet but I want to think of how the characters I already have would react if a new person suddenly appeared on the scene.
So long for now!!!
Exercise of the Day
Exercise of the Day:The Memories of the House
For this exercise I want you to imagine that the family home of one of your characters in a sentient being with thoughts and feelings. What does the house feel about its residents? What does it remember about its previous occupants? Did the past of the house in some way shape its present personality? Does the personality of the house have any impact on the life of your character? Have fun and I will see you later!!
Well another November has come and writers all throughout the world have joined together to attempt the seemingly impossible, to write a novel in a month. I personally have tried a few times before to complete a nano but found the process to be far too chaotic and stressful to work with my writing style.
However, I never like to give up on anything without giving it my all so I’m going to give it another chance. This time I think I have acquired enough techniques to cope with the stress that nano had always placed upon me. I have a vague plot I’ve been developing in recent months which I’d like to use as the basis for my nano so the only thing I need now is time. That’s the real struggle isn’t it? I truly wish that the person who had originally thought of the idea of nanowrimo has selected another month.
Prepare for battle!!!!
November and December are like my own personal Battle of Badon Hill except instead of a field of warring Britons and Anglo Saxons I will spend that time drowning in a faceless mass of holiday shoppers.
I hope that I have the fortitude and the strength to give my nano everything I have without collapsing. I am going to give myself a bit of leeway when it comes to the week of Black Friday though. I am planning to skip any writing on that week so I can rest up. I am already scheduled to work nearly 20 hours on Thursday and Friday combined so I am pushing the last week of my nano until the first week in December. That way I can get my writing in, but also avoid a complete mental collapse.
What do you do during nano to help you handle stress? It can be a rigorous process so we all need to find ways to cope with the mental strain. I think this time around I need to create a greater support system for myself. I am going to spend more time talking to my writer friends who are also attempting nanos so that we can all vent our frustrations and perhaps even help each other with idea generation. I have to get back to work but I’ll be around later with status updates, etc. So long!!!
Exercise of the Day: The Debate
For this exercise you need to select two characters who are enemies and imagine that they are both running for president. Write a statement for both candidate explaining their respective stances. You will need to think of what they believe, why they believe it, and also what they would say to convince voters to join their cause.