Story

How David Blaine Saved Me from Slim Goodbody

I have only one “good story.” This is it. Save for embellishments, it’s 110% true.

I’d always heard that you couldn’t see your audience from the stage. But I could hear them, their raucous roars once compelling me there now dying down as Slim Goodbody welcomed me to the platform.

Yes, that Slim Goodbody.

“So, what can you do?” he asked.

I froze. That was not why I was up there.

Not only was I unprepared, I was incapable of doing what he was asking. Big difference. Public speaking is something you can actually do off the cuff, prepared or no. But if you physically cannot dunk a basketball, then there’s no way you’re walking off that stage with your dignity. Incapable.

I was prepared to kiss my dignity goodbye. To a dude wearing a this:

slim

I needed a miracle. What I got was magic:

(more…)

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Describe ALL the Things!

Every adjective needs a noun, but not every noun needs an adjective. Or something. It is indeed not a truth universally acknowledged that a powerful noun, object, thing is in need of some equally powerful, poignant, cheesy modifier.

We’re all guilty.

That’s why we’re Writing All Wrong.

Dear Writing All Wrong:

I know that you sometimes review writing, and you’re pribably [sic] going to make fun of me for it. That’s OK though, because I don’t think you get a lot of emails because people think you’re too mean. That’s also OK, because you’ll probably point out something I should be working on anyway. Anyway, here’s the first couple of chapters of my book, Unfinished Dawn.

[CHAPTERS REDACTED] (sorry.)

—Jeremy Stark, Westerville, Ohio.

You’re absolutely right. I’ll make fun of you. I am too mean. I don’t get a lot of email. And I’ll point out things you should be working on anyway. Like adjectives and modifiers.

“coiled, razor-sharp, Concertina wire” — Glad you cleared up the confusion here, since Concertina wire comes in a “fluffy bunny” variety.

“smoldering remains and scattered ruins” — Other than ‘and,’ the rest of these words can go.

“He peered grimly through the charcoal ichor of foglike black ephemera.” — This sounds like what a chimney sweep would write about himself to make his work seem interesting.

“He was heavily armed with an AA-12 Automatic shotgun, a potent pair of Glock G26 9mm subcompact pistols, M67 fragmentations grenades strung together like cloves of garlic on his sash, and a custom-designed IMI Tavor TAR-21 assault rifle.” — Too many numbers, clumsy mixed metaphors, weak modifiers (“custom-designed?”).  Are you writing gun-owner fanfic here, or are you going to include a copy of Solider of Fortune for reference?

“The now-cool black clouds of night’s closing pages were turned by the warm, gentle fingers of amberlike dawn’s eager arrival.” — There’s a word for this: sunrise. Use that.

If you’re doing more describing than you are writing, you’re doing it wrong.

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

Keeping Writing Resolutions

Christmas has been conquered. The holidays, defeated.

New Year’s euphoria continues to run on liquor, rocket feel, and imagined vibes, anticipating a slow crash back into reality. The coma subsides. Here we are, back to the new struggles in 2013, same as the old ones in 2012.

For many, that’s reality. For some, it’s a choice not taken.

That’s why we’re Writing All Wrong.

I don’t really want any more New Year’s resolutions to keep. How do I keep the ones I have?
—Moira Bartlett, Peterborough, Ontario. 

(Editor’s Note: The resolutions/revolutions for 2012 still pack a wallop for 2013: http://writingallwrong.com/2012/01/02/new-years-revolutions/)

That is the trick, isn’t it? All the brainpower goes into resolution making, but it’s the willpower that goes into resolution keeping. If you’re looking to turn your writing resolutions into reality, here are a few New Yearly helps to do just that.

Keep it small and steady.

Unless you’re unemployed, it’s a stretch to set a stretched wordcount goal. “I’m going to write OVER 9000 words PER DAY!” isn’t only stupid, it misses the point of building a habit. If you happen to hold a job, kids, or jobkids, it’s more impressive to build a muscle of writing every day. It’s never the amount that counts. It’s the mounts that amount. Or something.

Look just down the road, not into the future. 

Become best-selling author. Get all the royalties, book deals, chicks, booze, and followers on Twitter to fund my Kickstarter island awesome paradise.” — WRONG (on so many levels).

Find your “down the road.” If you haven’t finished your novel, short story, novella, then finish it off in 2013. If it’s done, then get it represented (or self-pubbed, if that’s your inclination.) If it’s represented, work on a next book. You can build that “island awesome paradise” on the backs of years of finished resolutions.

Take less giant leaps and more small steps.

The time will come when you need to make that big splash. The big publishing break. The joint venture. The cross-collaborative blogging initiative-a-palooza. But don’t be afraid to keep moving forward. Whether it’s more fictions here, more writing snippets there. Keep taking forward strides, maybe even more than the giant leaps. Often will you miss a leap, but rarely will you miss a step.

Look back to look back.

What all did you accomplish in 2012? Maybe it’s not so much doing things different, but better.

In Writing All Wrong City, I kept my audience of nine or ten plodding along with blog posts. Didn’t quit, even though I had the hat ready to hang each week.

I broke off some unnecessary connections and made new ones. Influence is profound, and chose those who’d help my writing, not hinder it with distraction (plugging, advertising, backscratching, pandering).

I finished my second book. This time, I resolved to refashion a plan that would get it off the agency slush pile and into representation. I queried plenty (and smarter) in 2012 than I did in 2011. I won’t say where things stand just yet, but stay tuned.

2013 is a year of reaping what you sow and sowing anew. Make a little, keep a lot.

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

NaNoWriMo: Just Quit Already!

Congratulations! You’re 19/30ths of the way through #NaNoWriMo, probably finished already, or you’ve given up, and you’re trying to spend this Thanksgiving week *off of work* justifying your existence as an “aspiring” author.

Of those who are 19/30ths of the way through, 29/30ths were likely quite eager about the whole endeavor, but only 7/30ths are feeling the same way at this point.

For the remaining 23/30ths of you: Make the call. Cut your losses. Quit with dignity.

That’s why we’re Writing All Wrong.

Dear Writing All Wrong,

How would you suggest finishing my #NaNoWriMo novel, when I’m halfway through the month, but not even a quarter of the way through the novel? Is there some kind of trick for taking ten thousand words and stretching them out to fifty by month’s end? Thanks.
—Jayson Ponds, Fleming, N. Y. 

(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.)

Nope, there’s no trick.

Unless you’re looking to extinguish your sleeping nights and days for the next two weeks, sacrificing your Thanksgiving week off for a futile goal, miring though spiteful word-slog you’ll be regretting as you wrote and forgetting within hours, then call it.

Quit.

You know that saying, “Don’t quit while you’re ahead?” There’s an oft-ignored corollary: “Do quit while you’re behind.”

Quit.

As long as there are Novembers, there are #NaNoWriMos. You might need to lick  your wounds, then lick them some more, lapping up the seeping blood, burning its taste into your mouth.

Quit.

Winners aren’t winners because they “never gave up.” No, they won. Losers are persistent. That will do. You’ll need it for when you learn to win. Then you win more.

Quit.

But quit with a lesson learned. A purpose for the next round. Competing just because your cadre of writing cheerleaders spurred you on? Contesting to prove your “credentials” as a writer? Chasing a thrill that turned into more chase than thrill? Challenging for the sake of fitting in and crowdsurfing along an imagined wave of significance?

Quit.

Be a fighter second, a writer first. You can win #NaNoWriMo every year, and still rate a lousy writer, never having churned anything more significant than what will be chummed to the sharks of time. You’d rather be 49,999 words short of winning NaNo, while penning only what will sharpen your mind, engage your reader, and spur your own self on to polish your craft.

Quit.

Quit being the poseur you never wanted to be. Quit chomping at the tails and entrails of contests and retreating goals. Quit burning to burn, writing for no other purpose other than to write, driving yourself into a cyclic hole. Quit shooting for goals of numbers over goals of artistry, aesthetics. Quit letting the false ideal of quantity be your success, and the lack of wordcount your failure.

Quit.

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

NaNoWriMo: Where to Go with your Story?

I had a chance to meet with one of my builders. Building a third home for myself, you see. They’re about a quarter of the way done, but the work’s on hiatus.

“What?” I ask. “You just stopped all of a sudden?”

“Sorry,” say the builders. “We don’t really know where to go from here. Didn’t have plans beforehand.”

That’s why we’re Writing All Wrong.

What do I do when I don’t know where to go with my story?
—Daphne Roberts, Cleveland

(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.)

Go back in time.

November comes every year (except for back in 1126, 1884, and 1902), so you should have planned ahead. Had an idea? That idea just got spent over your first 8,000 words. You needed more.

Keep going somewhere.

You only think you don’t know where to go. You probably do, but it’s that “finished product” mentality holding you back. If you hit that roadblock after 10,000 words, start writing the last 20,000, come back to patch the road later. If there’s a great patch of dialogue between the werewolf boyfriend and the vamp girlfriend, write that. If you have all these great murder scenes in your head, press that ‘Fast Forward’ button, kill people off, and write ‘em up.

Retrace your steps.

Chances are, since you didn’t plan, you got lost. Whatever it was that got you up to the thousands for words: find it. Your dashing and unflawed protagonist. That inane backstory teeming with minutia that only you will find interesting. The formulaic opening to introduce your cast of characters. You liked writing about something. If you can’t summon the willpower to progress a story, we can worry about that some other time. Not NaNaWriMo time.

Just end it already.

Like it is with finding your way somewhere, you know where you start, and you have an idea of where you’ll be ending. Writing isn’t linear. If your novel doesn’t have an ending yet, well, tough luck. Make one up. If it doesn’t work, pull a page from the prog rock playbook and make it a false ending. The more you write of the end, the easier it will be the get there.

Go somewhere crazy.

You subconsciously reject the outlandish, only because it doesn’t seem to be what your story needs. No, wrong thinking. It’s exactly what your NaNoWriMoManUScript needs. Young adult cyberpunk tech-thriller? Throw in a serial Tyrannosaurus. Zombie apocalypse? Have them start a religion, philosophy, academies. Suburban women’s lit dealing with emotional trial over a husband cheating on a trusted friend? Turn that tryst into a full-blown love octagon. High fantasy epic? You don’t need crazy, just drawn-out backstory, maybe a few extended alchemic footnotes, and maybe a sudden war.

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

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).

What to Write for NaNoWriMo

Remember, remember, the month of November 

The writing of novels a lot; 

I write not of knowing, but NaNoWriMo’ing 

An effort made for naught?

That’s why we’re Writing All Wrong.

What’s the easiest thing to write for NaNoWriMo?

—Katelyn Laek, Tigard, Ore.

(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’ll break it down by genre. I’ve listed levels of difficulty associated with each novel of 50,000 words worth. If you don’t face much challenge with getting the 50k down anymore, feel free to up the grade on this year’s entry.

GAMING THE SYSTEM: Dadaist hypertext, repetitive incantations, uniform texts found in Borgesian libraries, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,” abstract language narratives.

ALMOST EASIER TO WRITE THAN READ: YA-fiction, middle-grade fiction, crime, mystery, low-concept Sci-fi, urban fantasy, romance, vampire/zombie anythings, horror, autobiography, fanfiction, time travelogues, erotica, Christian fiction.

AVERAGE FARE, BLAND BUT LABOR-INTENSIVE: High-concept sci-fi, high/low fantasy, (anything)slash, holiday, inspirational, memoir, thrillers, military, biography, cyberpunk, chick lit, Westerns, space opera, war stories, queer fiction, courtroom drama.

MODERATELY TAXING, TAKING IT SERIOUSLY: Historically-accurate romance, romantically-accurate history, alternate-history anything, literary sequels, chiastic narratives, technical fiction, Victorian steampunk, non-Christian religious fiction.

TOUGH BUFF STUFF: Epistolary novels, continual stream-of-consciousness regurgitation, pre-Victorian steampunk, literary fiction, Gothic, saga, New Greek tragedy

TOP-SHELF DIFFICULTY: Christian erotica, Christian queer fiction, fictional literary criticism, prehistoric legal cyber-romance, modern Elizabethan drama, elementary school readers, medical texts, absurdist plays, Apocrypha.

WELL-NIGH IMPOSSIBLE: Preschool readers, ad copy, character sketches, haiku.

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