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Manuscript Separation Anxiety…Revisited

Howdy, comrades! It feels like it’s been a while, but quite frankly, it’s only been a few days. But as with all my posts, I’ve been musing on some thoughts that have cropped up in my old noggin. Suffice to say, it was rather nostalgic for me this time around.

You see, I’ve you’ve been gullible enough to stick to this blog for the six months it has existed, you most likely recall a post I made a long time ago. Namely, it was a post in which I penned a disease called Manuscript Separation Anxiety.

I’m not usually the kind of person to bring up topics which have been discussed in the past, but I find that this old post relates to me now more than it did in the past. You see, I recently scrapped my novel, and only now am I beginning to feel the after effects of my actions. This manifests in various ways.

I’ve had a harder time composing short stories, due to my development of a new writing style, I’ve been doing a lot more tinkering from behind the scenes in order to plan out my next written work, and I’ve been brainstorming on the kind of tone that I want with my story this time around. Perhaps to some of you this could seem rather negative, and to a certain extent, you are right. The process of making fiction has become a tad more cumbersome than it was beforehand–yet, for some reason, this doesn’t bother me as much as I thought it would.

Back when I wrote that old post of Manuscript Separation Anxiety, I’d treated it as though it were a plague. As though it was a herculean task to return oneself to the story, a kind of task that was nigh impossible to perform. Yet, as is the hum-drum pattern of life, I’ve been proven wrong on this.

A story is an experience meant to be taken as a wholeso it’s only natural that when I separate myself from it, I’ll be disoriented. But the fact of the matter is that not all experiences are good. Sometimes, we have to abandon the bad experiences so that we can gain a new perspective on how to achieve the good ones.

And this was the case with my old book.

I took in a lot of stupid ideas back then, and I’m not afraid to admit it. But I came out both a better person and writer for being able to feel the dread that came through working with these ideas. I bore through the brunt of the storm that was the old book, and this allowed me to gain a new perspective on how to brave the murky waters that might lead me to a newer, and ultimately, better story.

As always, this has been the QuestingAuthor. Brave the storm, my friends.

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The Holistic Core of the Story

We love discussing writing strategies down here at the QuestinAuthor H.Q., it’s sort of our thing. We love tearing through sentences and breaking them down to their most basic elements to see how they work. We love fretting over word choice and pondering on which literary device is best fit to convey the image of a scene. And while our love for tinkering with the finer aspects of will never wane, a series of insights have dawned upon us as of late.

You see, it is not a matter of what we said in the best being untrue, as to my knowledge, everything we have said is rather solid. But like all complex things in life, writing prime among them, we were reminded of something paramount. And that is the simple reality that context matters.

What’s that you say? Our language is still too vague? Well then, let me take you through some baby steps.

In essence, while everything we advised was true, the manner in which the QuestingAuthor team went about doing so was flawed. For an author such as yourself, it is pertinent that you know of the technical use of language, the use of proper figurative devices, and the most efficient rituals to help your writing routine. But wherein does the flaw lie? Well, it lies in the fact that we were teaching you about this in a void.

We alloted separate articles for each of these issues, and it was not from a malicious desire that we went about doing this. For the purpose of clarity, it was best that we introduce the ideas to our audience in a singular fashion, this way, we could stay concise on the subject at hand. But my personal gripe with this is that I feel I might have come off as being too absolute or preachy in how I went about this message. To the point where it might feel as though an individual author’s agency to deviate from my advice would seem moot.

And let me be clear, if you feel that there are circumstances in which my advice does not apply, you are by no means obligated to ignore your gut. The only truly constant rule when it comes to writing is that all standards are meant to be broken. Granted, perhaps some attempts breaking standards go too far, but even these have certain value to them.

But the last thing I would want to do is narrow all of this down to the idea that what constitutes a quality story is subjective, which I disagree with. What I will say, is that there are two different ways that one could go about looking at their story’s faults. Firstly one could take the traditional Western process of boiling everything down to be tackled in parts, which has its merits. But, this does not mean that it is the only method of analysis that a story should be subject to. A novel must also be examined as a holistic beast. This means we must also view it as though it were a whole.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that all problems in a book should be zoomed in on, but, they should not be viewed as though they exist only in their particular category. For example, one could look at an example of faulty word choice as though it were only an issue of grammar, which it is. But this faulty word choice is not limited to that. The kind of words that you use do not only affect grammar, but could affect the tone, the themes, and the intentions of a character or the nature of a location. Where you see one sentence, there is actually a minute aspect of the entire narrative.

We need to realize that when we tinker with any part of our stories, the effect of this tinkering always has the potential of cascading through the rest of the novel. And unfortunately, due to the very nature of this blog, I am incapable of rendering a concrete image of how you might go about doing this. As it stands, I can only tell you that you ought to do it. This is because to give you advice on how to “Holistically” approach your work, I would need to personally examine your writings. And not only am I a lazy person, but it is quite literally impossible for me to do this. However, you can.

If there was any piece of advice that I gave in this blog which I considered to be truly essential, it would be this. By all means, continue applying the advice of my posts, but know that sometimes, in the context of your story, you might have to go about it in a different way than what I described.

I hope you found something in all of this. It’s more “meta” than my usual posts, but understanding this could be the key to fixing a lot of problems that seem invisible in your manuscript.

As always, this has been the QuestingAuthor. Keep Writing, my friends.

A Story’s Vision

You ever had a specific image crop up in your mind when you think about a story you’re telling? Have you ever thought about very specific scenarios which for some reason tend to form the creative backbone of your story? Do you often daydream of these scenarios while continuing on your run-of-the-mill life? But, perhaps more importantly, have you ever had these scenarios shattered within that frightening realm of your mind? 😀

If so, it might come as a surprise (probably not) that you are not alone.

I’ve thought about this on multiple occassions, but due to the quirky and borderline eccentric nature of this phenomenon, I’ve bitten my tongue on it. Yet, ironically enough, this is what I would consider to be the “realest” part of writing. It would be easy to refer to it as “Vision” but I fear that that term would be downplaying how crucial this element is to our writing process. But maybe fumbling around with obtuse terms won’t do us any good, so let me back track to my personal experience with this.

One of the images that pops up into my mind when I think about my story is a campfire. Not magical flame, no prophecy being foretold within the crackling ember, and all in all, your typical fire. Just a plain image of watching a pile of lumber pop and snap with embers dancing in erratic flight. That, and my main characters huddled around it. Whenever I think on it, it brings me feelings of nostalgia for something that never truly was. I know I’m slipping into pretentious territory here, but bear with me.

Campfires are really special to me. I’m a Boy Scout, and I can personally confess that just the sight of one melts my heart. But my connection to this image of my heroes huddled around a fire goes deeper than that. I see it as a symbol of unabashed comraderie and friendship, cringy as that might be. I wonder to myself what they’re saying to one another, what stories they’re sharing amongst each other? Are they laughing? Are they crying? Or are they just gazing into the flames? When I first thought up this image, I came to a simple realization.

I didn’t know.

I didn’t know who these people were. I didn’t where these people were camping. I didn’t know their names, their desires, their stories, their roles, or their relationships with one another. What I saw before me was an image that was meant to be the purest expression of humanity that in my eyes, yet, one that was missing one thing. It’s humanity.

And it was the moment that I realized that only I, and no one else, could inject humanity into that image, I knew that I wanted to write that tale.

For me, it wasn’t so much a desire to unlock the secrets that these individuals held within them, nor was it a wish to submerge myself in these Uncharted lands of magic and mystery that motivated my desire to write. It was only that yearning to feel what those heroes felt when they huddled by that fire which motivated me to write.

And since then, it was that image that stuck with me whenever I wanted directions in which to take my story. That image burned in my mind like an iron brand on a cow’s hide whenever I was graced by the Muse’s presence. That image stood by my side when I had to slay characters or delve into dark turns in the story. When Writer’s Block gripped me, that image remained as a hazy reminder that I should power through those slumps in my creativity. It was the medal that I strived for in each instance that I wrote.

And to this day, it still is.

Frankly, I don’t if many others have had an experience like this. Maybe some of you are reading this post with incredulous expressions, rolling your eyes at my pseudo-intellectual banter. But I swear on my heart that all of this was true, and it powered me into finishing my first story. But my question is, have you ever had an image for your story? If so, please share!

As always, this has been the QuestingAuthor. Keep Writing, my friends.

Description: Why the Hell do It?

Description is a prospect that brings both glee and dread to the heart of the writer–often as some muddled combination of both these emotions. It’s often touted as the most superficial aspect of the writing process, and as a result, it’s viewed more as the icing on the cake than the actual flavor or core of the novel. Yet despite this, many authors can find it to be the most mind-numbing task in the process.

And while you slave away at the arduous and technically futile task of painting an image with words, the question is bound to come up. What the hell is the point of description?

I know that I wrestled with this in the early days of my writing “career” (If being an unpublished teenage storyteller counts for anything), I told myself that my writing style was vague. And at the time, it made sense. Much of what I had read up to that point were really the early stories in the Elric Cycle of Michael Moorecock, which were fast-paced tales that left much to the reader’s imagination when it came to description. Of course, I, in all my expertise, had mistaken my garbage, early prose as being my natural inheritance from the style of stories that I read. Naturally, this all changed when I got my hands on a certain novel called Eye of the World.

But before I digress, let me just summarize by saying that I very much adored Jordan’s detailed writing style in that book. But what was also strange was that I adored the Moorecock’s writing style at an equal level. But that got me thinking, if I enjoyed both of these techniques, then why would I bother drifting my own writing style further in the direction of the seemingly more laborious Jordan style than that of Moorecock?

Why bother with that when Moorecock’s style still had punch to it AND was quicker to get done?

Well, the answer to this came to me over the course of many realizations over the course of months. The first realization was that Moorecock’s style was not necessarily “simpler” than Jordan’s. You see, my early prose was really nothing like Moorecock’s. Michael, to my knowledge, used very specific words when he wanted to convey a certain theme, and he was very effective at modifying the length of his paragraphs whenever he saw the need. I, however, only pulled out whatever word worked for the situation, with my only criteria being the more “exotic” the word, the cooler things would sound.

I don’t need to tell you how childish this notion was.

To this day, in my opinion, the closest I’ve gotten to writing something similar to a Moorecock story is “A Disciple of Zarathustra”, which coincidentally, still does not match up to Moorecock.

My second realization was that description in stories tended to have only a few “core” objectives that it needed to fulfill in order to work in a story. And even then, there have been many occasions were these have been subverted. But here are the ones I view tend to crop up.

1. Description must give an idea of what the writer is trying to convey (this one is obvious)

2. It’s length must match the flow of the particular moment in a story where it is utilized

3. Words must be precise whenever possible

These right here are the components of the QuestingAuthor’s Do’s for Descriptions! (Better name pending)

What I’ve presented are guidelines that I found helpful and continue to find helpful in my attempts to establish my own unique style of writing prose. These are meant to serve as the foundations of your prose, but you must understand that the majority of a prose’s uniqueness comes from those flourishes and embellishments that we add to the way we write. While these are by no means technical, these embellishments are what allow us to inject a piece of ourselves into our stories.

These can come in the form of many things for many authors. For example, Clark Ashton Smith tends to have a preference for using outdated terms and esoteric language to give an alien feel to his stories. Robert E. Howard is fond of using metaphors that compare Conan to the likes of predatory beasts while in combat. Moorecock has this very particular thing in which he uses three one-sentence paragraphs in succession when he highlights a fight scene.

And then Elric loosed Stormbringer.

And then Stormbringer moaned in ecstasy.

And then they bathed in the blood of their assailants.

Something like that, and whenever I spot a paragraph structured in this fashion, it instantly reminds me of Michael Moorecock’s snappy writing. So as you can see, an author’s embellishments can range from a certain penchant with using specific literary devices down to the very structure of the sentences! It all depends on what aesthetically pleases you and how it fits with the kind of scene you want to describe.

Description can easily be seen as the most technical aspect of writing, and whether or not it is, is entirely up to you, but I will say one thing. Be it the most technical aspect of writing or not, the fact remains that there is still a very clear art in the way that one composes it.
So in essence, description’s technical purpose is to accomplish the guidelines which I mentioned above, but one would be mistaken to limit it to this. Description should also be viewed as a way to add your personality to the story.

So what are some of the prosy quirks that your favorite authors use? Have you picked up any of your own? Feel free to talk about it in the comments!

As always, this has been the QuestingAuthor. Keep writing, my friends.

Scrapping my Novel: Why it’s OK to Shatter Your Dreams

When I say that this week has proved to be awesome, I don’t throw out those words lightly. Because if I had a dollar for all the days I’ve felt the Muse this week, I’d have a whopping seven bucks!

But all hyperboles aside, I’ve been killing it these past few days (not that I’m bragging or anything :D). I’ve been averaging a word count that ranges from 2500-3000 words, and this might not seem a lot, but if I keep this up for another month, I could end up with 90,000 words. Now THAT is Awesome. Aside from that, I’m already reaching that sweet spot between the 2nd and 3rd Arc, which means that my novel will actually be fun to write again!

Maybe it was my increased doses of black coffee per day, the fact that I was able to get back into reading consistently, or maybe I’m just that talented, but this has been my reason to be thankful on Thanksgiving. These are the kind of opportunities that us writers have to reach out for and milk to no end, because there’s no telling when this feeling might leave. But while it’s here, I might as well relish in it.

Or at least, that was my thinking until yesterday.

I, the QuestingAuthor, in all my Divine grace and foresight, decided to come to a harrowing conclusion. And this isn’t just any kind of revelation, oh no, this is a special kind of revelation. The kind of revelation that pushes you off the edge of your bed at midnight and throws you into an ice-cold shower right afterwards. What is it, you ask? In case you haven’t read the title of this post, let me inform you.

It turns out that there’s a 90% chance that I’m going to end up ditching my current WIP.

*Tortured, muffled sobs in the background*

While it is true that I’m making light of this decision I made, it is even doubly true that confirming that conclusion in this blog makes me want to gouge my eyes out. But since we all know that this is by no means a cynicalmean-spirited, or snarky blog about an author drowning in his own ego, let’s look at this from the bright side. Mainly, why did I think this was the wisest choice and what can we learn of this?

Well, since I desire to drag you all down with me, let me drop a truth bomb. No author is immune to this occurring. There’s no 12-step novel-writing program that you can follow that guarantees you won’t want to trash your work the second it’s done. Sure, the chances of it occuring can be minimized, but the chance will still linger.

But as miserable as this makes me feel, I know in my heart that this is the best route I can take for my series. I love my novel, but I love my characters more. And as it turns out, this book has led my characters down a path that I don’t really want them to go through.

Sure, it could be argued that I’m too close to the book right now, or that I’ll see the worth in it later. To those arguments, I say you have a point. Maybe I’ll end up cuddling with this manuscript once I’m done with it, who knows? But as it stands, I feel that if I make my current story into a canonical part of my universe, it’s going to distort my beloved heroes into warped versions of themselves.

But alas! There is no need for despair!

I’m still going to finish the first draft, I’ll probably just trash this piece afterwards. And even though this might seem like a huge setback for some, it’s proven to be a learning experience for me.

The problems in this book are mostly structural, and being able to see this, I’ve spotted a couple of mistakes that I will vow to never commit again. The following are just a few.

1. I had WAY too many characters in my story, and I could barely spare time to flesh them out.

2. Many of my plot threads are geographically separated, so it makes it harder for me connect them with the overall narrative.

3. My world-building is not developed enough for me to competently express the story I wanted to tell

4. My characters are overpowered! If I wanted to give them a challenge, I would have to create a threat capable of destroying a sizeable chunk of the world. And that’s fine for later books, but this is only the second book in what I want to be a long series.

There’s another batch of flaws that I noticed, but I think you guys get the gist of it. And while finding these made me question my abilities as a writer at first, later introspection made me realize that finding this out means that I’ve grown as an author.

I’m able to pinpoint what went wrong with my book’s structure. I don’t know about you, but that’s a milestone for me!

When I first started writing, I always had to take potshots at what I thought were the weak portions of my work. I always had a vague idea of why everything went to crap, but I had to shoot in the dark. But being able to make precise assessments of my problems? Well, that’s the first steps to fixing them!

So, if there was ever a message to any of the ramblings of this post, let it be this. If you feel that you have to scrap your work once you are done, don’t fear it. That just means that you know you can make a better version of your tale. And if you truly love your characters and setting, you’d be willing to rewrite the same novel six times if need be!

And I leave you all with a question (or two). Have you ever had to do something as drastic as this with your work? Did it hurt you as much as it hurt me? Does my list ring familiar for any problems you’ve had with books in the past? Feel free to share your experiences below!

As always, this has been the QuestingAuthor. Keep writing, my friends.

Guide to Mastering the Muse (And the following crash)

  Authors love to complain about why writing is hard and this is a scientific fact. If you’ve ever sat down to write a story in any way, shape, or form, thoughts similar to this one are bound to have come across your head. Often we wake up scared of the possibility that we won’t be able to pay our daily writing quotas. And when we fail to complete these we put ourselves down and slink into an indefinite depression. If these feel like the majority of days that we experience as writers, then that’s because they are. And while the harvest of our craft is enjoyable, the same cannot always be said for the act of sowing it.

But that’s not what we’ll be talking about today. Today our subject is slightly less pessimistic. Slightly.

You’ve probably felt it only in full moons during the Winter Solstice. You probably thought it was what writing would feel like when you first practiced the craft. And to this day you no doubt loathe it for feeding your brain with false promises.

Oh, that’s right, fellas, today we speak about none other than the Muse and a few methods of taming it to work in your favor!

THE COMPREHENSIVE GUIDE TO ENSLAVING YOUR MUSE:

1. Make sure that you are aware that the Muse will leave you soon:

Yeah, yeah, we get it. You’re excited that you can actually enjoy writing your novel again. And cheers to you for reaching that “high” stage of inspiration. But there’s one caveat  that will be detrimental to your development as a writer if you don’t master it.

The Muse is not going to be around forever.

I know you feel like you’re the King of the World right now and that you can finish writing five novels in one day, but don’t get ahead of yourself. One of the biggest mistakes that we make as writers is to convince ourselves that our work is only worthwhile when we

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It’s not enough to hesitantly tolerate that the Muse will leave, we must embrace that fact

have the Muse. And at the beginning, it may all seem fine and dandy.

Day after day you’re just pumping out words like rabbits pump out their offspring. Every sentence is finely tuned down to even the smallest letter and the pacing is smoother than even the most expensive brand of butter you could find at your store. Every idea is coming to your mind. You feel as though you’ve finally been able to achieve that image of your story that you’ve had bubbling up in your head since you first started writing. Your characters act in the ways that you desired them to and they develop down the arc that you’d planned in your outline. Your story could never be better than what you are currently writing in this moment! This is the pinnacle of your achievement! But we all know that these stories end tragically…

The next day you wake up and that scene that had you so psyched up previously has gone a bit slower than you remembered it. Perhaps it was nothing, and all you need to do is start writing so the Muse can return to you. But the words just aren’t coming.

You tap to your heart’s content, but nothing in what you’re writing strikes you off as being better than the previous day. When you write that other tragic scene, it feels clunky and cringy when compared to the majesty of a similar scene you crafted before. Your characters start to disobey you and their character arcs begin to stagnate, yet you can’t focus on fixing them. Your mind only drifts to those sublime moments of character development that you had written before.

And this is natural.

We love to take whatever chance we have to criticize our own work. To the point that sometimes I believe writers to be inherently masochistic! Which is why we need to learn that we can’t rely on the Muse to make us happy about our writing. That mindset only ends up destroying us on a mental level.

2. With the previous point in mind, MILK IT, MILK IT, MILK IT, UNTIL THE MUSE DIES

We’ve faced the facts. We don’t know how the long the Muse has come to stay with us. There are occasions when the Muse remains with us for a week, others for a day, and more often than not, it can just stay there for an hour or two. Which is why we need to suck out every ounce of inspiration that we can from the Muse before it leaves us.

It baffles me how often I fail to take advantage of what would seem to be the most valuable guideline on this list. Sure, there are days where the Muse decides to show up and I’m physically unable to write, which is understandable. It would be foolish to assume that every author is in a position that they would be able to write in every single day that they lived. But what’s unforgivable are the days in which I am in my fullest ability to take advantage

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Your Muse is to you as a cow is to a farmer

of the Muse…but I still don’t!

I get that writers are procrastinators and all that, but it’s not like we’re talking about any run-of-the-mill writing session either. The Muse is a luxury that most writers struggle to achieve, and we don’t even try to use it sometimes!

It’s like being handed a sack of gold that you’re allowed to spend only in one day, and despite this, you decide only to sit at home and play video games. The worst part is the realization of all the opportunities that you squandered by ignoring the Muse. You knew it from the first place yet you still ignored it!

The Muse is a chance to at least double your word count! It’s the chance to make scenes that will need so little editing because of how good they already are! So milk that Muse!

  3. Milk the Muse, but remember to brace yourself for the crash

It’s a sad fact of life that only keeps getting truer as time goes by, good things don’t last forever. The Muse is going to vanish when you least expect it, and just knowing that it won’t last forever is not enough to

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Similar to this. Except that instead of you dying, it’s your inspiration

undo the effects.

You also need to be aware that you will feel like the lowliest and most pathetic excuse for a writer by the time that the Muse is gone. Every word that you utter is going to be pure drivel in the face of your previous mastery of language. And I can spout every single shred of advice that has ever been posted on the internet for dealing with accepting your writing, but you will ALWAYS feel bad. It really is inevitable, and the most that you can do is to mitigate it.

But when I mean mitigate, I don’t mean just placing a band-aid on an old bruise. I mean covering yourself in bubble wrap while inside a full set of plate armor and jumping off of Mount Everest.

The Crash is going to HURT. and it is going to HURT BAD. And the worst part is that you don’t know how long it’s going to last. Maybe it only takes a day for you to recover into your normal writing attitude, perhaps even a week…or two weeks…three? By this point it all becomes a war of attrition and you need to accept that you’re at a disadvantage. But a disadvantage does not mean that you can’t scrape your way out of it.

Those precious memories that you have of enjoying your writing are going to be the key for you to claw out of the ditch that you just fell into. When you tell yourself that what you’re writing is trash, remember those moments in your novel that you loved writing, remember the tips that I’ve given to you, and never slow down your writing.

I know that you’re all bummed out and you feel like not writing that much anymore, but don’t stop. There are only rare occasions that you would need to take a break. And almost every time that your mind says that it wants a break from writing, your mind is trolling you. You must internalize that loathing your work is a part of the writing experience. And once you do that, the bruises that you accumulate after losing the Muse will grow to be less every time. You’ll never escape the crash unscathed, though.

***

   The Muse is a tricky subject to handle, especially when one takes into consideration the almost mystical element that we give to it as writers. But when it gets down to it, we can find distinct patterns in it when we search closely, and the sooner that we recognize these, the sooner we can master the ways of the Muse. This has been the QuestingAuthor, and as always, keep writing.

This is an older post of mine that I personally feel didn’t reach as many people as it should have. I’ve always liked this post, and would go as far as saying that it confounds me on how it didn’t gain that much traction at first. However, with my new followers, I feel there are some tips here you’d like to see. I hope you find something you like!

My next post will also be a recycled one from the past, mainly because I’ll be out camping this weekend. Afterwards, we’ll resume with our usual routine of “witty” humor and snarky writing advice. Toodles!

– A certain QuestingAuthor

 

 

 

Noisli: How I Slew Distractions

If you’ve been mental enough to linger on my recent posts in this blog, you’ll probably know that I’ve been on an introspective journey to change my story and writing habits as a late. This has yielded a great deal of hunting through the diverse and varied landscape we call the internet, and a confused QuestingAuthor trying to rethink his daily routines. It’s gotten me to an almost existential level of thought, where I’m questioning the foundations of reality and…

You get the idea.

All pseudo-intellectual humor aside, you’ll probably know that I’ve been playing a lot with restructuring my story and writing habits. Whether it be the difficult choice of amputating my book or my dealings with a minimalist word processor, it’s been an interesting week for me. I’m still struggling to gain my footing after retconning that massive chunk of my story, but I’ve been dealing well as of late. Of course, my new obsession with alternative softwares for writing has led me to stumble upon another neat gem that has made my life easier.

What is this gem you ask? What is this other gift from the Writing Deities that has graced my presence? Well, it’s a cute website that goes by the name of Noisli.

Do you live in a household that is inundated with an endless stream of distractions 24/7? Is there an army of stray dogs that enjoys serenading you every night with a barrage of barks? Do you have neighbors that couldn’t give less of a crap if their poor taste in music reached all the way to your house? Do you live near people who are fond of arguing with one another? Do your nosy relatives or roommates turn on the television during your writing sessions? Do they turn up the volume more than is necessary?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then Noisli is an addition to your writing that is worth trying out. Trust me.

There is nothing in this world that drives me insane more than an unassuming person starting a loud phone conversation while I’m writing. Or someone turning on the television while I’m writing. Hell, I hate it when people are just existing next to me while I’m writing. I don’t know, it really is one of my habits that’s hard to explain. I feel that knowing that another human being is in the room with you serves to take me out of my immersion in the story. Kind of like an intruder is trying to break into my imagination (except that they are not).

But the great thing about Noisli is that I can just put on my headphones and stay in my own realm of immersion. You see, Noisli is a website that provides you with a number of background sounds that you can plug into your ears while you work. The noises on the site are not intrusive, they are made up of flowing water, rain, trains, rustling leaves, chirping birds, and other things that blend well into the back-burner of our minds. Since the sound they produce is static and looping, your mind will just register it as though it were a regular part of your hearing.

If you do this, you’ll be able to override whatever noise is going on around you, and focus only on the noise in your earbuds. And once that noise fades into your subconcious thinking, you’re all set! You can just devote the rest of your energy into your writing, and you’ll be gold!

It’s almost jarring to me. A lot places where I thought I’d never be able to write in, mainly the kitchen and living room, are places that i find myself cranking out my word-counts in. Every complaint I used to have to not write, which came in the form of distractions, is now annuled! It’s almost euphoric in a sense.

So if you haven’t tried out Noisli, then do yourself a favor and go ahead! One of our responsibilities as authors is to give ourselves less excuses to not write, and the internet is a key ally in attaining these goals. Slowly but surely, I’ve been able to tweak my routine to max out productivity, but have you?

I’ll get to writing my usual advice posts later on. but in the meantime, let these questions simmer in your mind. Have you considered an alternative application to do your writing in? Is your writing situation as noisy and intrusive as mine used to be? Do you think all these extra applications are just an attempt for me to feel more special than all of you? Then type out whatever you feel in the comments below!

As always, this has been the QuestingAuthor. Keep writing, my friends.

3 Signs You Need to Amputate an Arc

Cutting crap out of one’s novel is a reality that we embrace at the earliest stages of our hobby. We know that a lot of those “cool” ideas or thought-provoking passages in your first draft are going to end up being chucked away into depths beyond your imagining. But one aspect of this that we as writers are reluctant to accept is the possibility of having to kill an entire plot arc.

Which is exactly what I had to do this weekend.

So before you start asking how in the right mind I came to such a bold conclusion, let me fill you in on the details. In my current writing escapades, I’m in the process of crafting the sequel to my first story. Now, now, me being the industrious, ambitious, and forward-thinking youth that I am (not), I decided I’d up the ante.

I love big books. My favorite genre is Epic Fantasy, and coincidentally, I write Epic Fantasy. Who woulda thunk it? So, in my all-abounding wisdom, I decided I’d make a book that was at least 100,000 words longer than my previous one. Yes, I’m fully aware that this was a dumb idea.

As a result, I came to the conclusion that the only way to properly execute this would be through the creation of three separate POVs. And that was just what I did. I drank my morning coffee, I wrote an outline with the three branching storylines, and I got to pounding out words in my book. Fun, right?

WRONG, WRONG, WRONG!

Day after day, I was witness to the foundations of my story crumbling under their sheer weight! I watched as some of my favorite characters morphed into unrecognizable mannequins that struggled to even have a single dimension of personality! And I saw myself contradict the world-building I did in the previous book on countless occasions!

My characters were out of whack, my plot started resembling a Saturday-morning cartoon, and I’m just barely starting to heal the emotional scars. But why was it that this happened in the first place?

It was all due to one simple thing really. I had my attention spread out over two different plot arcs that were unrelated to one another. My rivers of creative juices were branching out into rivulets instead of disembowling into the oceans of my imagination! In my attempts to make a grand story, I had stripped that same story of a lot of the depth and substance that all good yarns require.

Fortunately, I was able to realize this before finishing my first draft. Granted, I’ve already written more than half of the book with both of those plot arcs intact, but there’s still a decent portion left. So I have a little hope.

But other authors, they might not be as lucky as I. So I figured I’d give three signs of when you might want to Amputate an Arc!

***

1. It’s unrelated to the over-arching narrative

This is something that I was aware of since the beginning, but never bothered to act on. When I first placed that POV in my book, I told myself it would make sense later on. And this was for a variety of reasons.

Mainly, I wanted to set up a storyline for a later book. The characters that I planned to develop in that POV were meant to change drastically over the course of the series at large, but my problem was that the other POVs were geographically isolated from this one. I had one group of characters out on fanciful adventures with a healthy dose of merriment, while the leftover POV was doomed to stay in the capital city of one of my nations for the whole book. And it just so happens that the former is the group involved in the main narrative.

Now, that isn’t to say that geographic isolation can’t work with mutiple POV stories, it certainly can. But firstly, I’m not the kind of person that can work well with them, and secondly, the real problem is that both plots had nothing to do with each other.

I had a harder time nailing down the themes I wanted to get at in my book because it was hard to find common ground between both of these plots. So in my attempts to find a message that permeated the whole book, I was left grasping at what amounted to absolutely nothing.

So what does this mean? Before you consider attaching another POV to your work, ask yourself what kind of grand goal are all POVs in the novel working toward.

2. You’re losing precious time to develop characters

This is another one that I figured out early, but my mind decided to remain ignorant. One of the things I started to notice when these POVs started expanding was that the time I could allot for characters to have conversations and interactions with one another was limited. This was to keep up with the pace of the tale.

I couldn’t afford time to just let my characters have moments to stretch their limbs and relax. Even worse, I didn’t have time to let them enjoy each other’s company.

I always had to have them doing something that was in relation to the plot itself. They had to be discovering something, fighting an enemy, or being told about another aspect of the world. And for the style of writing that I have, this wouldn’t cut it for me.

One of my joys in writing is the opportunity to write character banter. I feel that one of the most underappreciated methods of developing character is to just let them sit back and talk to each other over a round of drinks. One of my favorite moments in any piece of fantasy is when characters congregate around a campfire and just speak with one another.

It doesn’t have to be about plot or even anything relevant to the world. I just love seeing them act like friends under a starry sky, with flickering flames lighting up their faces. But moments like these can take up space for plot-development in the book, and can slow the pacing down to extreme levels.

And because of that, I’ve yet to write a scene like that in this book.

I was always in a rush to keep a consistent progression in my novel, and the multiple POVs ended up taking my attention where character development should have been occupying me instead. So even if banter sounds like a part of the book that could just be cut, think about it twice. It’s more valuable than you’d expect.

3. You struggle to identify a binding theme for your story

I talked about this for a bit in the introduction, but this one hurt me the most. When I wrote my first book, my perseverance was due in large to the fact that I had a clear idea of the atmosphere I wanted to portray. And that was one of friendship.

I was tired of watching all these edgy and Grimdark fantasy novels being lauded as “realistic” and “deep”, while other classics were looked down upon for being too “lighthearted” or for having more traditional views on morality. The fantasy environment that I saw was one in which themes of genuine friendship were seen as cheesy and cliché.

So I set out to change that.

I wanted to create the kind of book I would enjoy reading, and that theme of friendship was what kept me writing. When my prose went south, I reminded myself of the bonds being formed by my characters. When my plot started going in the wrong direction, I steered it back on track with this in mind.

But that only worked because my story was focused. And that is the exact opposite of what was happening with its sequel.

Because my sequel lacked unity, I was unable to find a binding concept that brought it all together. And it’s not even meant to be an extremely complex theme either. Simple things, like love, family, faith, growth–those were what I looked for. But I couldn’t even find that.

***

The moral of this post is, that we’ll end up cutting things from the book at one point. Maybe just sentences, but in the worst cases, it might be as bad as entire plots. But in either case, you just have to suck it up and go through with it.

As we speak, I think of ways to reverse engineer my novel to try to find its new focus. With this troublesome POV out of the picture, I have to rethink everything from the ground up, but I know it will be worth it. So how about you? Have you ever made a massive change to your book? Was it something dragging your story back? Did you regret it? If so, do us all a favor and share your experience!

As always, this has been the QuestingAuthor. Keep writing, my friends.

Of Authors and Alternative Processors

So some odd days ago, I’d written an article about word counts and how they didn’t matter and it really got me thinking. During this whole mess of having to organize one annoying task in my life, to having to complete yet another mundane task, I was forced to rethink the very foundations of my daily writing routine due to the painful monstrosity that it had become.

It really was a writer’s equivalent to a tragedy.

The first thing that the big-wigs in the novel-writing industry will tell you is that writing is hard work. And I’d be all kinds of sick in the head if I disagreed with that. Writing, by far, is the most stressful hobby that anyone could pick up. The amount mental energy, devotion, and utter talent that it demands of you is capable of draining the final fragments of your already exasperated spirit at the end of a day.

There are days where I just wake up, dreading the thought of coming to face with my computer. Days where all I want to do is take every word I’ve written and hand it to some other unfortunate soul that would have the sheer willpower to finish my work. On many occasions, it can feel impossible trying to gain a sense of aesthetic satisfaction through your writing, just because good writing sessions are so rare to come by!

But for these past few weeks, it had been miserable in the purest sense. My usual word quota was chopped in half, the garbled doodles of a three-year old exceeded the quality of my plot, and my characters had suddenly turned into brick walls that were sentient only for the purposes of the novel.

Now, it goes without saying that I’m going through First Draft Depression (FDD), but I’d started to realize that there were a variety of external factors determining my productivity during my sessions.

For starters, I’d begun to notice that my eyes would flit far too often toward the word count indicator in the word-processor I used in the past. This was a horrible habit I’d taken up, as it showed signs that I was focused too much on my progress during the session than trying to immerse myself in the story I wanted to tell.

My other habit, which was the more childish one, was my habit of timing my sessions and chastising myself if I took too long to write a certain amount of words. I don’t know if this is a lot, but I’m capable of writing 1000 words in half an hour on a normal day, but as all writers, I have plenty of bad days where I write much less. I ended up feeling like trash not just because my word counts were at an all-time low, but because I was treating my session like a race.

So how did I go about fixing all of this?

Well, normal people would advise that one should try to moderate their vices. Perhaps they would just ignore the amount of words that they created in a day, or avoid looking at the watch at the bottom of their laptop’s screen. And this is fine.

Of course, I’m not normal.

So being the masochist that I am, I decided that in my streak of genius I’d seek out a word-proccessor that just blocked out all of these things automatically. I don’t know about you guys, but I’m an easily addicted person, so if I’d just done the regular method, I’d be falling back into my old habits within a day or two.

Then, I decided to go on a little adventure. I surfed the web in a deep and philosophical inquiry as to what software could possibly replace my beloved Microsoft word (By this I mean that I just clicked on the first article I saw dedicated to alternative writing software).

And what do you know? I found a certain gem called Dark Room.

Now, there’s very little to say about Dark Room. There’s nothing fancy about it. It really is just a black screen with green text waiting to be filled up with whatever sickening filth comes to your imagination. It feels like writing on a DOS computer from the early 90s. Hell, I’ve you’ve played any text adevnture games, Dark Room might even be familiar to you.

Then again, I’ve the strange feeling that those had more features than this.

This is the novelist’s equivalent to taking their books out on a date. Only you, your work, and a pitch dark room.

*Wink, wink* *Nudge, nudge*

Regardless, the barren nature of this application is why I love it. No pesky fonts, no annoying counters, and no view of your computer’s timer either. It’s the closest that I’ve gotten to physically entering my own mind, and it gives an almost zen-like quality to writing.

My writing sessions have not been as horrifying as they were just a few days ago, and what pain still lingers is just the regular mental shut-downs that come with writing a novel.

So what am I trying to get across with this post?

The amount of things that can take you away from immersing yourself in your book are far-too many, and the last thing you want to do is just pile more on to the list. And for me, those “mores” came in the form of Word’s UI, and my laptop’s clock. I’m not saying that Dark Room is for everyone, but it’s certainly worth experimenting with your writing every now and then?

So what are your personal pet-peeves? Do you like the word count indicator? And if so, why? Are you the kind that times their writing instead of gauging it through word count? And would you be willing to make the switch to an application like Dark Room? Have you already?

As always, this has been the QuestingAuthor. Keep writing, my friends.

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