Fact one: the flu is a terrible, terrible thing that I had managed to dodge the entirety of my life. UNTIL NOW.
Fact two: the flu ate my February. You’d think you’d have time to write but no, the only thing I had the energy for was staring blankly at YouTube.
Hence, no entries for February. But here I am now, full of returned vigor and using a considerably lower amount of tissues each day!
Here’s a quick post to tide you over: Victoria Schwab’s new book, A Darker Shade of Magic, is out and it is hot. I have the ebook version that I am going to curl up with tonight but here is a chance to win both a hard copy version and a poster of the gorgeous cover art!
Good luck to those who enter! May the flu never ensnare you with its snotty tendrils. Ugh, I grossed myself out writing that.
January. JANUARY. A month of new gym memberships and weather patterns in the South where it can be 60F on Wednesday and 20F on Thursday because we don’t understand how Winter works!
I am typically very fond of New Year’s Resolutions but I’m giving them a bit of a miss for 2015. Instead of making myself some semi-achievable goals I did the following:
1. Got a big ol’ calendar (like this one but cooler looking) that shows the whole year at once. It’s nice because it helps you see your time better when you can see the next month and realize “Oh, I don’t have March plus whatever infinite time lays beyond it, I’ve got three and a half weeks” when planning things out.
2. I’ve adopted Victoria Schwab’s calendar method for checking off daily achievements and keeping track of what I’ve done and when I’ve done it.
3. I cleaned out my closets which, uh, doesn’t really have a lot to do with writing? But it was fun and it felt good?
And most importantly, I’m reading and writing and at the moment I’m reading about writing. That is the worst possible segue I could manged to move into a review of 500 Ways to Write Harder by Chuck Wendig.
First things first: if you’re not reading Chuck Wendig’s blog YOU REALLY SHOULD. IT’S THE BEST. Okay, yeah, I mean some other blogs have their insight into the craft of writing and offer wise advice that can be applied to life at large but do they swear in their posts? Do they invoke such imagery as the following thoughts on the new year:
The ideal state would be that we change when we need to, not when the calendar suggests it, but let’s also remember that the holidays and the transition from one year to another are vital times to reflect. We build up to the orgiastic rush to Christmas, and then are left with a startling, almost shocking void — all that’s left is cleaning up the wrapping paper and throwing the Christmas Hobo on the bonfire. Ha ha ha, I didn’t say Christmas Hobo, you said Christmas Hobo. I said tree. Christmas tree.
Well, I think he’s funny.
Anyways, on to 500 Ways to Write Harder. All of the advice and self-help books that I’ve read have a feel to them. Some make me feel like I’m sitting at a desk in a lecture hall, worksheets spread out before me. On Writing by Stephen King feels like a long walk down an Autumnal, leaf-littered nature trail while King quietly relates the stories of his life and the wisdom garnered throughout his career. Wendig’s Writer Harder is a night at the bar spent playing poor and heckling the karaoke singers and a friend turning to you and, with a sloshing gesture of their drink, saying “Let me tell you a thing.”
500 Ways to Write Harder is broken into collections of 25-ish points about subjects such as Bad Writer Behaviors, Things to do Before You Start Your Novel, 25 Steps to Edit the Unmerciful Suck Out of Your Story, 25 Ways to be a Happy Writer, and 25 Ways to Get Your Authorial Groove back among many others. This format works out because you can read it section by section intermittently or, if you want a refresher, go back to a specific area and re-read with ease.
Just as there is no single way to approach writing a story, Wendig offers occasionally opposing pieces of advice to let you find your own path. He also advocates that all writers need to care for their mental health which I super-appreciate because I loath the romanticized notion of artists being inherently broken.
[ASIDE: If you feel that you are suffering from anxiety, depression, whatever, please seek help. Treatment will not steal your muse or wreck-up your creative nature. Athletes aren’t expected to “suffer for their craft” by running on broken ankles; artists don’t need to endure mental torment to do their artist thing.]
500 Ways to Write Harder is sharp and wickedly funny. I was pleasantly surprised to find myself laughing at Wendig’s advice as much as I was silently nodding along at all the sage wisdom he was dishing out. Here’s one of my favorite excerpts:
Seek consistency and clarity in point-of-view, lest you confound and bewilder, lest you seem like the king of amateur-hour karaoke. Hell, seek consistency and clarity in all of your writing. Also, in your take-out orders. because you think you ordered a “ham and cheese sandwich” but then you open the bag and suddenly your face is on fire from a thousand stingers and you’re like OMG THEY MUST’VE THOUGHT I SAID HAM AND BEES.
Like I said, sage wisdom.
The advice is advisory, the humor is humorous, and he make two Avatar: the Last Airbender references which makes Wendig one of my new best friends. Get the book, read the book, then get back to writing.
RECOMMENDED FOR SURE.
“Things went awry almost immediately. With nothing to do all day but write, I found myself doing everything but writing. Essential errands were run. Laundry was done. The bathroom was cleaned. Less essential errands were run. The bathroom was re-cleaned. A complex rooftop Habitrail system designed to make tree-to-tree transitioning easier for the neighborhood squirrels was built and nearly installed before the county’s animal services intervened. And so on.The mounting guild I felt each evening over accomplishing so little writing during the day would then force me to cancel the plans I had made with friends that night. So I could stay in and get some writing done.Night, of course, simply involved more work on the Habitrail.”
I consider myself incredibly fortunate to be surrounded by people who either support creative works, or are creative types themselves. I know singer/songwriters, cosplayers, artists of various mediums, and of course a couple of writer-types. We keep each other confident during our bouts of writer’s block and celebrate each others accomplishments. One of those writer-types is Kris Reisz, who has an awesome name and an awesome short story out at Crossed Genre right now. Here’s a teaser:
Vladislav IX had been the first monarch ever assassinated by bullet, a fact his ghost was quite proud of. “No brutish stabbing and hacking for me!” he crowed. “Powder and lead, efficient and to the point.”
Backed against the wall of the royal crypt, Alexander nodded. “Sure… I can tell.” The historic shot had left Vladislav IX with very little face above his curled white mustachios. This made talking to him unsettling. Luckily, the ghost carried most of the conversation.
“My reign was very forward-looking that way. I was also the first Cynanian monarch to eat a plantain.”
“Oh? Did you like it?”
“Not particularly. Mushy.”
Alexander kept nodding. He tried to remember something about Vladislav IX’s reign he might add to the conversation, but the truth was, Cynan had lots of Kings Vladislav. After a while, they all blurred together into one endless mustachio.
Just then, the shade of Queen Ludmila the First drifted close. “Vlad, stop pestering him. Can’t you see he’s nervous?”
Vladislav IX harrumphed. “I’m simply giving him some historical context for what he’s about to do.”
“He doesn’t need any historical context.” Queen Ludmila smiled at Alexander. “Just do what comes naturally, dear. Assassination isn’t difficult.”
Alexander gulped. “Y-you know why I’m here?”
The ghosts filling the royal crypts laughed. “We’re nobles, boy! Can’t slip an assassin past us,” Boris the Younger said.
“Unless he’s hiding in the privy with a spear, eh, Boris?” asked Mad King Casimir. This made all the ghosts – except Boris – laugh even harder. Boris the Younger (also known to the annals as the Man-Eater King and Boris Lutheran-Bane) snipped back, “Well, at least I wasn’t poisoned like some woman!”
“No, you just died with a spear-point rammed up your–”
“Lords, please!” Queen Ludmila drifted between them, then turned back to Alexander. “The point is, you’re hiding in the royal crypt fiddling with a gun. I’d know what you were up to even if I hadn’t killed my husband’s first wife.”
Alexander stuffed the revolver in his pocket, but the queen was right. He was here to kill the king.
Read the rest of “Sic Semper” at Crossed Genres. While you’re there, feel free to donate or purchase a subscription to get more stories and support the site. It’s a really rad publication, with lots of opportunities for authors to submit stories. Even if you don’t have the pleasure of knowing Kris like I do, you will enjoy his works. So go read!
A TALE IN WHICH THE AUTHOR, at her computer, comes across a newly released story.
“Didn’t they already release this one?” she asks herself. “I could have sworn they printed it last year. Let’s see if anybody else noticed in the reviews.”
But no one did. There was nothing but praise for the story, and so the author reflects on where she might recognize this story from.
“Oh,” she says to her cat, “I read this when it was in the slush pile. I approved it and sent it to the next level of approval/rejection. Huh.”
The author felt pretty cool about that.