Tag Archives: motivation

A to Z: Niggle

Niggles. As in those little thoughts that eat away at you, that interfere with normal, everyday mental processing and do a tap dance on your emotions.

Yeah, those niggles.

Everybody has them at some point or another, and if you say otherwise, you’re a liar. But why would you deny them in the first place?

They can motivate us to do better, push us to be stronger and just plain encourage us to examine the world from another perspective.

As a writer, I get niggles all the time. Are my characters flat? Is my plot filled with more holes than Great Aunt Melba’s handmade doilies? Will readers like my writing style? Will I ever finish the dang novel?

I’ve learned to use these niggles to my advantage, carefully weighing their worth and using them to push me past expectations.

I hope my speechies can do the same as they face the State Speech Competition this weekend.

And now for the Letters I missed:

  • H is for hypothetical. The great What-if? can jump-start our creativity, but even in fantasy or sci-fi, we must stay grounded in some sort of reality. If we don’t, we risk losing our audiences.
  • I is intense. Yeah, life can be intense. Sometimes the bad seems to pile up, up and up. Yet when we write, we need  pace our characters emotions, providing a balance between light and dark. We need some peaks and valleys to appreciate the full range of character growth. And if we forget to write it in–our readers will be exhausted for never having a quiet moment to collect themselves.
  •  Joy. When something goes our way–“hey, I got a book deal” (really, I did)–we need to be gracious with our exuberance. Jumping up and down in front of our competitors is never a good idea. I saw this at Section Speech this past weekend when a senior received fourth place. She smiled and accepted her medal with a polite nod and a thanks. Had she placed in the top three, I guarantee you she would have done exactly the same thing, smiling and nodding despite the joy of being able to advance to state.
  • K is for kitschy. While we want our writing to appeal to the masses, we should strive for something more than tasteless drivel. Personally, I prefer niche-y. As in quality that appeals to a select population. A big population would be nice, but a discriminatory one.
  • L is to languish. Or, actually, not to languish. Often, we writers concentrate so heavily on one story we can languish in a holding pattern that keeps us from growing and honing our craft. My advice is to get moving. Write something new. Check out a different genre. Write a short story or an article to get over the hump.
  • M is for mediocrity. It’s easy to settle for less. As writers, we can be so driven by our goal to succeed that we lose sight of the true purpose behind our dreams. Personally, I want my words to impact my readers. I want them to come away from my writing in a way that makes them contemplate their lives and drives them to reach their potential.

Which of these letters are you guilty of? Which ones drive you to reach your goals?

Curious minds want to know.

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(Un)Healthy Writing 2: Forming Habits

So, the funny thing about starting anything is that it can become a habit.  Take working out, smoking pot or chewing your fingernails as examples.  Each of these behaviors can cement themselves into a person’s lifestyle if given enough time and attention.  Roughly three weeks, according to most studies.

Yet, not all habits are good.  Smoking pot?  Not good.  Chewing fingernails?  Not so good.  Working out?  Very good.  Washing your hands, reading a book, writing a novel.  Really, everything we do in life.

Behaviors cross into habit territory when we no longer have to think about them.  Consider those teens we talked about yesterday.  The 81% who took a sip of alcohol at the party to fit in.  After a month of weekend partying, many of those teens will lose their hesitation and begin chugging liquor without a second thought.  Drinking has become a habit.

That’s bad news for their parents, but good news for us.  As aspiring writers, we can consciously form writing habits in much the same way.

How, you ask?  First, determine when you will write.  Lunch breaks, before the rest of the household wakes or deep into the wee hours of night.  Whatever time you choose, plan to stick with it for three weeks.  If you stay true to your schedule (give or take hours/words here and there), you should emerge a writer by the end of the month.

Can you be a drinker if you’ve only drank once?  In the same way, can you be a writer if you pen a few words every now and again?  In other words, what is the defining behavior between one who is (a writer, drinker, dancer, health nut, clean freak) and one who simply does (write, drink, dance, work out or clean)?

Seriously, is it the passion behind the action, the frequency, the intent, or the thoughtful/thoughtlessness of the behavior?

Curious minds really want to know.

Reading Style Impacts Writing–at least for me.

Like all things in life, I’ve come to realize there is more than one way to skin a cat read a book.  Not that I ever…okay, yeah I have, but that’s a whole ‘nother story.

I tend to read from first page to last page.  I skip description and passages of serious character introspection.  Don’t shoot me, but it’s true.  I think I read this way because my imagination is quite stubborn and requires very little outside direction.

Tell me there’s a garden and I immediately picture the entire thing, laid out and ready for use.  If the ornamental, miniature, purple-flowering hedge bush is integral to the story, drop it in there.  And nothing more.  When you do this, my brain files away the item that was special enough to be mentioned. 

When you fill in the garden with every single plant, every scent, every color and every texture, I’m guaranteed to skip over your words.  Then if there’s something important in the midst of all that detail, I’ll miss it and won’t be happy at the end of the book when the ornamental, miniature, purple-flowering hedge bush was the source of the poison. 

Why?  Because, in my mind, it got lost.  My attention, that is, not the bush.  That was always there waiting to be used during the “ah ha” moment. 

Ironically, Eldest just informed me he likes when authors fill in the voids of his imagination.  “I love when everything is described so I can see what people look like and what, exactly, is happening.”

He would hate me as a writer.  I don’t describe much at all.  Case in point, in my YA (that I just finished editing last night, go me!)  I barely describe my MC at all.  She has blonde hair–unlike her parents–and her eyes are the color of the sky just before it snows.  That’s it. 

Pretty ambiguous.  Yet, I visualize her perfectly.  Likewise, none of my critters have complained that they don’t know what she looks like.  Because of this, I assume they, too, have also visualized her based on her actions, emotions and carefully placed commentary along the way.

For instance, she pulls her hair back into a pony tail when she doesn’t have time to shower in chapter 2.  Her hair can be anywhere from a sleek, chin-length bob to a butt-brushing cascade of curls.  I never say. 

Personally, I don’t care–at least until they cast her for a movie.  My readers can see my MC any way they want to envision her.  She can have wide, child-bearing hips or be super slim.  Her skin can be pale as cream that rises to the top of the milk, mahogany brown or any shade in between.  It really doesn’t matter to me. 

Except the eyes and hair.  Those two details come into play waaaaaay at the end of the book.  Which is why I took the time to describe them.

Why do I hate long passages of inner musing?  Because I like to read between the lines.  I like to feel so connected to a character that I intuitively “get” them and why they do things.  When I am told, again and again, what the MC is thinking, deciding or feeling, I get bored with him.  He becomes less three-dimensional and morphs into a teacher. 

It’s as if the author is telling me to pay attention.  “Now, get ready, here comes something important.”  and “Oh yeah, in case you didn’t get it the last time around, here’s what is really happening now.”

And the villainous explanation at the end, when the MC is tied to the railroad tracks with a 9mm gun pointed at her head?  Those I skip on principle.  If a writer didn’t show me motives and opportunities along the way, I have no interest in getting them in dialogue just to wrap up the ending.

Because of my cosmic dislikes when I read, I’m uber careful not to pen them into my own novels. 

How about you?  How do your reading likes and dislikes affect the way you write?  Can writers become too stubborn in this mindset?  If so, how?

Curious minds want to know.

Character Motivation

My oldest son used to shower to wake up.  Now he showers to style his hair.  Did I mention he has a girlfriend?

My Dear Daughter began wearing make up the moment she really, really, really liked a boy.

Middle is growing his hair out.  Self expression is big in the third grade and says, “Hey, I’m as cool as you and I refused to cut my hair when Mom wanted me to.”

Youngest, who irrationally cries long and hard at the thought of wearing anything besides swishy pants and a t-shirt, bought three dress shirts during our school shopping endeavor.  Tony Hawk has a lot of pull and I feel like sending him a personal thank you for expanding my son’s wardrobe.

Motivation.  For every action, there is a reason.  If not, go back for a rewrite.  Your characters should never act willy-nilly, but should have some reason that motivates them.

It doesn’t have to be big.  Nor does it have to be life-changing.  But if your MC suddenly starts bathing, there better be a reason for this drastic, albeit fabulous, behavior modification.

Still not convinced?  Why do you shop at a specific grocery store?  Why do you line the shoes up in the coat closet? 

In real life, our every move is molded by our experiences.  Every change in behavior is dictated by a conscious or unconscious decision.  Nothing we do is random.  Even if everything we do seems random. 

Do you know what moves your characters, or did you simply give them a trait that sounded cool?  How can we as writers consciously learn the motives behind the movements?

I bet you’ll think twice the next time you pull on your swishy pants while your Significant Other buckles up his/her khakis.

Housekeeping

On the blog, not at home.

I finally summarized my projects, talked about a few of my favorite books and updated the list of blogs I follow.  In addition, I added a page of inspiring stories.  If interested, you can find this info under my tabs or on my sidebar. 

In the process of blog keeping, I found some new artwork to decorate my post.

I’m going to hang my Happy 101 Sweet Friends Award from Laura Marcella here.

Laura writes a wonderful blog.  Her posts are well thought out, well written and beautifully illustrated.  If you’re in the market for a good writing prompt, a motivational quote or an informative article on the creative process, you better leave here and head over to Wavy Lines

Next, I’ll hang my Awesome Sauce Award over here.

Fellow writer, AQ buddy, blogger, friend, beta reader and sweetheart, Lisa Gibson is a staple in my writing life.  When I was in a panic the other day, Lisa texted me.  Then called.  She calmed me down, gave me perspective and sent me on my way with a long distance hug.  All this from someone I’ve never met.  Does life get any better than that?

So I say, Lisa, you are more deserving of the award you created than I will ever be.  For great book reviews and gentle encouragement, check out Random Thoughts To String Together

Thank you, Laura and Lisa, for the wonderful mentions. 

As always, I point to my links for my faithful readers to find their own bloggers to click with.  Everyone on my blogroll is someone who inspires me, humors me or has touched my life in some way.  They are all worthy of being checked out.

Other housekeeping I did was to remove the tweets from my sidebar.  That’s not to say you can’t follow me on twitter: I left the link there if you would like to pop over.  I do tweet a few times a week and love catching up with the writing life in twitter land.  However, I’m just removing some clutter from my sidebar.

Now, I must go forth and get some real house cleaning done before DH and Eldest return from fishing opener up north.

hugs~ cat