The Life Autistic: Our Stats are Different

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For those of you who played video games growing up (or, if you still have time to do that as a grown up), you know how it goes with character stats.

“Well, I could go with Axel, but he doesn’t have as much power as Goro, and neither of them are as quick as Chun-Li. I like speed, so I think I’ll go with Sonic.”

There’s a balance.

People have it too, where some have their ‘IQ’ boosted, but take a hit on ‘Athleticism.’ Others score well in ‘Looks,’ but maybe that’s balanced out with a lack of ‘Smarts.’

Or, heck, some people have it all (but their ‘Happiness’ stat is lacking).

Autistic stats seem that way too.

We might get a HUGE boost in Vocabulary and lack in Social Skills.

Some of us might do amazing in Artistic Ability, yet zero out in Verbal Communication.

Personally, I’ve worked on Coordination and Small Talk, but I’m still behind on Tact and Reading People.

It’d be nice to have some extra points to where I’d be a better athlete or have the endurance to be around people all day.

But it’s nice knowing that, no matter the balance of stats, I’m my own character. 

 

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Helpful NaNoWriMo Tips – from our readers

Last year, Writing All Wrong was the one to give, offering helpful primers on NaNoWriMo. You can read them here.

This year, we’re taking a different angle, a venue to “give back.” Seems as if readers have been more eager to offer their advice, their closely-guarded secrets, their winning tips to this thing we call NaNoWriMo. Since you’ve offered, I will be more than happy to post your helpful hints and reap the bountiful credit.

That’s why we’re Writing All Wrong.

(Note: NaNoWriMo is short for Narcissistic Nonsense Writing Motivation or something like that. Simple premise: write a “novel” of fifty-thousand words within the month of November. The prize? Fifty-thousand dollars. In the competition’s 197-year history, only five writers have claimed the prize.)

I have a great tip for #NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month); I made a Twitter for one of the characters in my #WIP (work in progress). Since I work a cake job that lets me Tweet at work, but not one that let’s me do as much writing :(, I then go back and add some of those thoughts to my manuscript. Cool huh?
—Bridgette Malkmus, Summerville, S.C.

Wow, I’m so sorry your job isn’t cake enough to let you write at work, like everyone else’s is. I admire your resourcefulness, though!

Last year, I came within a hundred words of winning NaNoWriMo. This year, I plan to win by writing just three extra words a day: IT WILL HAPPEN. That’s also the title of my book to, so it makes sense. 
—Charles D. Rasper, Norman, Okla. 

That’s going to leave you about ten words short. That will happen.

Can’t. I’ll. We’re. Y’all. It might make more sense to make dialogue sound natural with contractions, but I give myself a better chance of meeting my goal by breaking those contractions a part. It is much easier, and it does not take a way from the story.
—Soren Sjostrom, Sheridan, Wyo.

Nice work in taking this to the next level, by breaking apart “apart” and “away.” That is awe some.

For me, it’s all a matter of organizing my time. That’s the only currency that’s non-negotiable. You might have 30 days to write, but with so many other things taking that time away, I’m buying it back this year. For starters, I’m taking three days off of work. I’m also having a sitter watch the kids every Friday night. And to shave time off of having to cook, we’re ordering out every Saturday and Sunday and maybe a few days a week between. Hoping it works for me this time!
—Donna Milligan, Ft. Worth.

Three vacation days ($55 per hour [at least] x 3 days) = $1,320
Sitter ($25 x 5 Fridays) = $125
Ordering out ($40 x 10 days) = $400
Grand total = $1,845

Now there’s a negotiable currency: currency.

Writing All Wrong can be reached via email (WritingAllWrong@me.com) and followed on Twitter (@WritingAllWrong).

Metaphorically Speaking…

Ever metaphor you didn’t like? Wait, no – but yes, maybe I did.

(That was lame.)

That’s why we’re Writing All Wrong.

What make a good metaphor, cultural or otherwise?

—Jaime Latcheson, Franklin, Pa.

Whoa. People don’t ask such questions these days. Most just assume that can write because they can string a sentence together. Bravo.

This could make for a whole series, but I’ll pass.

Extended metaphor

This is where you “come out and say it” by not saying it, a la Moby-Dick in Moby-Dick (an extended metaphor about, the universe or something) or the Mississippi River in [anything by Mark Twain]. Like a symbol, it’s presence pervades, backdropping the story with underlying, unspoken meaning.

So make it big, but not obvious. A mural explaining the character’s history? A wall of hieroglyphics? No.

Apprehension

Metaphor is both won and lost on its audience. Good luck if you’re plying your trade in science fiction and fantasy, because only you will get the references if you’re writing about “her eyes were bluish, time-refractive orbs that shone with the steadfastness of a pulse controller,” or “Charl’s reign was a fire-coated, scorpion-tailed Wyrxshith raining down spite and misery upon the peasants.”

Make it recognizable, unless your readers are you. 

Getting too fancy

Let’s take this example (from Wikipedia, no less): “The man’s arm exploded with pain, spiderwebs of fire crawling up and down its length as the tire of a passing car crushed it.

Exploded with pain? I get that.

Spiderwebs of fire? Huh? You lost me. I don’t care if you’re aiming for shape. Even if you’re able to get a spiderweb to burn for longer than a second, I’ll be damned if you get it to crawl.

Getting creative

“Her face radiated, a rising sun of happiness working her way through her dainty features.”

“He stared ice cold into the obsidian rock of night.”

Oh. My. God. I have never before seen happiness compared to sunrise, nor cold compared to staring before! You must be a genius, an unparalleled craftsman among writers. I would never have thought to join such images. Amazing.

Writing All Wrong can be reached via email (WritingAllWrong@me.com) and followed on Twitter (@WritingAllWrong).

Doing Description Wrong

Description. There’s an art to it. Writers miss it when they fumble the juggle between showing and telling, and there’s nothing worse than an overeager wordsmith slathering on words like blobs of paint to make for a Pollockian tapestry.

Description doesn’t quite work that way. You’re telling a story. Don’t forget that part.

That’s why we’re Writing All Wrong.

Could you give me a few pointers on my descriptive paragraph?

“Caked mud gripped the desolate path. The faceless sky breathed a white empty fire. Nocturnal whispers retreated from the land like reverse rays of beaming sun. Rocks rose with purple resilience amid the bleak soil. Lonely black trees danced solitary in a faint breeze. A weary shadow heralded the traveler’s coming.”

—Caleb Hilton, Bothell, WA

I’ll give you one pointer: start over.

This isn’t describing anything. These are wasted words slapping into dull thuds, lacking any sort of verve in sentence structure. You’ve colored with shimmering paints, muddying the canvas with unclear blobs and no definition.

Description isn’t how many fancy words you string together, or how many words you can check off from your “Thesaurus Rex of Awesome.”

I’d only keep the last sentence, if that. Tell your story first. Make something move. Draw those lines, color within them as you go.

Description without meaning is an empty art. When things “move,” your reader will fill in the gaps, letting you interject to fill in the rest. I can look at an Epic Fantasy Picture Book if I want scenery. But you’re a writer. Give me a story worth describing. We’ll get there.

Writing All Wrong can be reached via email (WritingAllWrong@me.com) and followed on Twitter (@WritingAllWrong).

Don’t Feel Like Writing Anymore?

Sometimes you’re not even writing anything to begin with. Or you’ve stalled, and that’s that. Your writing is problem enough as is, but lacking writing altogether is another pain entirely.

That’s why we’re Writing All Wrong.

What do you do if you don’t feel like writing anymore?

—Tanner Allnutt, Grand Junction, Colo.

I don’t think anyone “feels like writing” all the time. If you do feel that way, congratulations: you’re a robot. But since you don’t — don’t fret right away. For starters, you’ve confirmed that you’re human. That’s worth something. But if you don’t feel like writing anymore, let’s explore why.

“I just finished a novel.” — Valid excuse, but not for long. There’s another work out there needing to be written. You don’t just whip up a banquet and declare you’re “finished with cooking.”

“I just finished a short story.” No, and WHAT THE— you can’t peter out after a short story. That’s the law.

“I’m busy with work.” — Only applies if you have a real job. Not one of those “fart around and time my appearance work when the boss strolls around” jobs, or one where you can rip off tweets every half-hour. If you can do that, you can write.

“I’m looking for work.” Easy! Write. That’s work. You found it! Congrats.

“I can’t think of where to go with my story.” — And of course, your answer is nowhere. I’d hate to be a passenger in your car if you ever got lost.

“I ran out of ideas.” — No.

Life has a way of…” — No…

I only write when I feel like—” No

Here’s the rub: Writing is not a “do when I feel like it” kind of hobby. If that’s been the case for you, find another hobby, like drinking and boozing. No one has trouble feeling the need to do that.

Perhaps that’s it. Are we “needing to feel” like writing, or do we “feel the need?” You can chase a feeling all you want, but a need chases you. If you go without needing to write, then of course you won’t always feel like writing. And in most cases, you won’t. But if you need to do it, one way or another – you’ll do it.

You can suppress feelings until the end of time. Distractions, cheap thrills, procrastinations, obstinacy: you will find an easier feeling, all the time. But a need? No. You need to smoke, drink, eat, party, coffee, drink some more, sleep, all the essentials and the non-essential essentials. They’re at your core, and you will do them even to your ruin.

If you don’t feel like writing anymore? That’s great. Join the club. You’ll get over it. Back to work.

Writing All Wrong can be reached via email (WritingAllWrong@me.com) and followed on Twitter (@WritingAllWrong).

How Long Should Your Book Be?

I’m not much for maths. (That would make a great blog title though—please don’t steal it. My trademark and intellectual property lawyers are better than yours.) But I must admire the lack of debate about the basics. How long is a foot? How much does a pound weigh? And, yes, you could debate it further, but at the end of the day, one-hundred centimeters make a centometer. Or something. I’m not much for maths.

Try asking “How long is a novel?” Math folks: you are right to mock us.

That’s why we’re Writing All Wrong.

Dear Writing All Wrong:

Dumb question, but how long should my book be?

—Nancy Mears, Cranston, R.I

You know how people always say, “There’s no such thing as a dumb question?” People say that.

Nancy, I don’t know. Depending on genre, audience, writing style, whether you want to publish, your book could and should be many lengths.

Let’s run a few tests and see if it’s “too long,” “too short,” or “just right.”

You wrote a 50,000-word magnum opus for NaNoWriMo: TOO SHORT

Your book contains Volume (any number here) in the title: TOO LONG 

You’re writing science fiction: TOO LONG

Backstory is essential to you: TOO LONG

You can read your book in one sitting: TOO SHORT

You can read your book in one sitting on the toilet: WAY TOO SHORT 

Makes for a great read on a cross-country road trip: TOO SHORT

Makes for a great read while driving that cross-country road trip: WAY TOO SHORT

Easy read during hard work: TOO SHORT

Hard read during easy work: TOO LONG

Can’t finish it during one of your numerous month-long vacations: TOO LONG

Would make Tolstoy look like a lightweight: TOO LONG

Would make Borges look like a heavyweight: TOO SHORT

A page-turner: TOO SHORT 

Your bookmark disintegrates before you finish: TOO LONG

Your book disintegrates before you finish: WAY TOO LONG

You read it to sleep: TOO LONG

You read it to wake up: WAIT, WHAT?

It’s something you skim during your skateboard routine: HUH?

Built a house with its pages: NOT UP TO CODE

Makes an emergency meal: YUMMY

Makes an great bonfire: PUT IT OUT AT NIGHT

Emergency floatation device: DON’T PANIC

Kills houseflies: LIFESPAN OF THIRTY DAYS

Kills house intruders: MAKE MY DAY

Writing All Wrong can be reached via email (WritingAllWrong@me.com) and followed on Twitter (@WritingAllWrong).

Time Travel: DOs and DON’Ts

Travel writing? Why, yes, I’m fond of the sort. Evocative, painterly, introspective, resplendent. Taking my couch-planted duff off to places I’m not spending money to travel.

Oh, you’re talking time travel? Get in line.

That’s why we’re Writing All Wrong.

Greetings Curator of Blog [designation Writing All Wrong]:

I am Citizen #306765899. You may list me as “Brent Staples.” I inquire after the state of time travel in the writings of YEAR 2012. Thank you.

—”Brent Staples,” City NA9083

Hey 306765899, perhaps I should be the one asking you about how things “are cracking” in 2086 or whenever. Is redheadedness a crime where you live? I do worry about that.

I’m going to forgo opinions and instead offer sorely-needed dos and don’ts for this round of time travel.

DON’T reinvent the wheel.

Science has proven that every writer has given at least one consideration to writing time travel fiction. And many have. You’re following in the sunken footsteps of many who’ve done this before: Wells’s The Time Machine, Proust’s In Search of Lost Time, and God’s The Bible. Don’t shoot for a better wheel. Just make a good one.

DO your research.

If you’re sending characters back in time, then you’d better give a proper picture of what it was like back in the day. I’m not falling for a wooden-toothed Washington or a dragon-less court of King Canute. Same goes for future travels. It’s not guesswork: find future editions of Popular Science or postdated tech blogs that cover the science of your target era.

DON’T delve too deep into how time travel works.

If you’re not strapping on the suspenders of disbelief, then you’re in the wrong business. It’s nice to have some working knowledge of the intricacies, sure, but I’m not reading your book to find out how the heck I can warp back to 2nd grade on my own and duck when that stupidface kid punched me. Unless you’re writing a fictional textbook. That’s an idea.

DO exaggerate.

“But you said—” I know what I said, but if I wanted a history book, I’d read that. Get the facts right (Abe Lincoln was the 16th President, Hitler was a Nazi) before you take the necessary liberties (Abe Lincoln whooped his debate opponents in fencing, Hitler had plans for a Jew-seeking missile [soon thwarted].)

DON’T go gimmick.

Time travel is a common fascination, but an uncommon art. Before you sit down to write time traveling fiction, make sure that this is the best possible idea you have. Avoid using time travel as a novelty. It’s like a rocket. Pretty nift in and of itself, but not when you’re buckling it to the roof of a car. I know you want to “drive faster,” but there’s a better way of going about it.

DO write a good story, no matter what.

Great fiction wins. When your book’s pages meet the fire, burned in punitive pyres of creative purgation, may its mourners not say “This was a good time travel story,but “This was a good story.”

Writing All Wrong can be reached via email (WritingAllWrong@me.com) and followed on Twitter (@WritingAllWrong).