Sloshed Saturday on a Monday/Tuesday

Right then.

Bla bla, got married, bla bla, honeymoon, bla bla, holidays, bla bla working full time and taking college classes.

The short and long is that I got sidetracked, and busy, and of course neglected writing.

Here’s my advice for this week: Don’t neglect your writing. It makes you cranky and gets you nowhere except into the land of self loathing and irritability with your friends, family, and coworkers, and may also lead to forgetting the oxford comma, which is a sin.

On the other hand, Yule was rather nice, and I’ve been stuffed with food and alcohol for several days, and intend to continue in this tradition until after New Year’s because doing anything healthy during the holiday season is setting yourself up for failure.

At this juncture I’m looking into entering a writing contest, and getting back to a better schedule with my writing.

How was everyone else’s holidays?

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Sloshed Saturday

I’ve been neglecting the blog, though it’s for reasonable excuses.

The problem is, there are always reasonable excuses. Always reasons to not write, always things that are important, always things that distract and delay. I will therefore endeavor to not let those things interfere unless I am physically unable to update my blog, which will be the case in mid-October when I’ll be in Europe. Until then…

My apologies.

Tonight’s subject… Writing is hard.

Non writers don’t quite understand this, but any of you reading who are writers of any genre or type know what I’m talking about.

Ideas sometimes cascade from the heavens (in my case usually in the shower) like beautiful gifts from above. Other times they have to be unearthed from the ground like fossils, requiring painstaking and tedious effort. But ideas are arguably the easiest part.

My problem is finishing things. I’m truly terrible at it unless I have some sort of looming penalty for if I don’t, and even then it’s sometimes a struggle. I have trouble finishing a bloody video game, much less a novel. I’ve lost track of the number of games I haven’t finished, books I haven’t read, projects I’ve petered out in the middle of, and of course writing that languishes half-realized.

I’ll write quite feverishly on a piece, and then set it aside, ostensibly to return at a later date and complete it, and oftentimes that’s where it stays. On my hard drive. In the oubliette, where writing goes to be forgotten about.

All hope is not lost, however.

At the current juncture I’m attempting to apply lessons learned in The War Of Art by Steven Pressfield. It’s a slim volume that I highly recommend, and it has a place of honor alongside Steven King’s On Writing in my library. It doesn’t make writing less hard, but it does help greatly to teach one to push past the wall (or if you’re an Oatmeal reader, the writing equivalent of the Blerch).

I realize I have been remiss in both writing and blogging and I do hope to remedy this.

Ta

–M

Microfiction Monday

Bleeding into sloshed Saturday/Sunday because it’s been quite the week.

We were fools.

No surprise there. The collected knowledge of mankind can’t much compare to strange eons of things we aren’t meant to comprehend, but we did think we had a handle on some things. Our stories were rife with warnings. Don’t open the strange book. Don’t speak aloud the spell. Don’t open the creepy tomb. Don’t go poking around in things you can’t understand. Don’t summon entities bigger than your head.

Well. In our collective arrogance we forgot that things that last have a propensity for change. In the end we forgot a warning we should heed, because it never occurred to us that things would adapt. That they would change.

So I say to you, far, far too late.

Don’t click the link.

Sloshed Saturday

Missed Writing Wednesday due to extreme laziness.

However, considering I’ve been imbibing, it seemed an opportune time to put in a Sloshed Saturday post. Happy 4th of July, all, I hope it was enjoyable.

Lazy writing.

I’ve been thinking about this off and on. As a consumer and occasional contributor to TVTropes.org, I have an obvious interest in themes and shortcuts; the language of fiction is rife with such things. The Hero, the Villain, the Sudden but Inevitable Betrayal… Tropes can be used beautifully in the hands of someone who knows what they’re doing, someone who is skilled, and can tread lightly on ground already packed tight by many feet… to torture the metaphor.

There are, however, tropes I rarely see used well. But of course people try. Ad nauseum. So here’s my thoughts on lazy writing.

Rule 1: don’t kill the pet.

No, really. Just don’t do it. Yes. It’s been done effectively. Yes, Neil Gaiman has done it and he’s not a lazy writer. However. 9 times out of 10, it’s cheap. It’s a shorthand to pull at emotions that the writer can’t quite reach genuinely. It’s a gut punch the writer pulls just out of pure laziness when they can’t muster up any other way to make their audience react. Can’t seem to figure out how to engage your readers/watchers/etc? Animal cruelty!

Just.

Stop.

9 times out of 10 you’ve just lost readers. Your pointless attempt at making them feel something has made them feel something all right–that you’re a lazy hack who’s not very creative.

Sound harsh? Good. Most people need to stop this shit.

Here’s why it’s lazy: many of us won’t admit it outright, but it’s easier to feel sympathy for animals than people much of the time. An innocent pet, a loving dog, a soft cat, a quiet bunny… we can’t do the mental gymnastics necessary to tell ourselves they sort of deserved it. They’re innocents. Therefore it’s a lazy option to garner our outrage, having your totally evil no really character kill them just for the evulz. This is the point at which you often lose my interest. If you can’t make me care without resorting to cheap shots, why should I continue reading your story? Clearly you don’t care, why should I?

I’ll refrain from mentioning things by name. I don’t want to become embroiled in drama. But mark my words.

It is the rare individual that can carry this off without coming off as crass and lazy.

The other thing I’m going to put into this category is rape as drama/backstory/etc.

Yes, absolutely this can work as something in a piece of fiction. But it’s something that must be handled very, very carefully. And oh so many are not up to the challenge. Oh so many come off as cheap sensationalist showboating, and quite tiresome not to mention misogynistic. Because let’s be honest, the number of men raped in fiction is minuscule compared to women, and scenes involving men are pretty much never sexualized. And, considering statistics, you’ve probably alienated a lot of your audience if you treat it as some sort of drama. And much of the time lazy writers use that as the only thing that could possibly develop a female character. It’s really quite off-putting.

And please don’t give me the historical accuracy argument. Dysentery is historically accurate too, but I don’t see loving wordcounts devoted to that in popular fiction.

The point is, try to be creative for the love of Cthulhu. Stop snagging on the lazy and easy and cheap. This is a plea not only to fledgling writers but established ones who will likely never see this blog. Just please, stop being so bland and predictable and infuriating. Don’t kill the pet, don’t do the rape story, don’t force the outrage. It’s not only lazy, it’s frankly insulting to your readers unless you’re some sort of god of writing and have a lot more going for your story and characters than that.

Here’s the test: if you can make something compelling without either of those things, think long and hard about whether or not you need it in the first place.

If you can’t, you’re lazy and need to work much, much harder.

This has just been a splattering of my opinion, but I stand by my advice.

–M