Trailers of the Bookish Variety

A reminder: This post courtesy of Julie Jarnagin’s 101 Blog Post Ideas for Writers.

61. Book Trailers

Book trailers. Book trailers. Book. Trailers.

Is this a thing? Really?

Google tells me that it is and that there are apparently tons of websites specifically dedicated to producing and sharing them. I’ll be honest, when I first saw those two words together I just assumed that it meant something like a synopsis…a quick blurb that reveals just enough about your novel to make people want to know more. But then I did my little Google search and found out the truth…people spend time and money to create little movie trailers for their novels. Literal, live-action trailers for their novels.

I must admit, this concept has me pulled in two different directions. On the one hand I find it so hard to believe that writers are doing this, that they find the time and resources to put something like this together. On the other hand I find myself imagining what my book trailer would look like…

Fade in on a typical young woman laying asleep in her bed. Slowly zoom in on her serene, dreamless face…

*BANG!* Her eyes shoot open.

Fade to the woman peering out her apartment door; pan back to see several other neighbors doing the same.

Fade to the woman peering up the stairwell; zoom in toward the back of her head as she looks up to where the steady thud echoes over and over…

Screams; the camera shakes as the apartment building erupts into chaos. Sirens and screams fill the air and the light of a fire blazes in the background.

Fade to the woman holding a bloodied kitchen knife in her shaking hand; a shambling body, covered in stab wounds, shambles into the shot as the woman takes a deep breath and shrieks.

Eh? Eh? Bah, whaddaya want? I’m a novelist, not a screenwriter.

Write Everyday!

A reminder: This post courtesy of Julie Jarnagin’s 101 Blog Post Ideas for Writers.

48. Advice you wish someone had given you

Over the past couple of years I’ve been delving deeper and deeper into the social networking aspect of being a writer. I run this blog, tweet when I think of something I think is worth saying, and browse the ‘net for interesting material written by my fellow online authors. During this social journey I’ve found myself regularly stumbling across bits of advice on various aspects of writing, managing the lifestyle of a writer, getting published, and so on. Everyone out there (myself included) feels the need to impart our little pieces of wisdom, and there is one particular tidbit that I’ve seen come up on a very regular basis:

Write Everyday.

There is a saying going around, based on an idea posed by Malcolm Gladwell, that a person needs 10,000 hours of practice with something in order to become an expert. While that number may not be accurate for everyone (natural talent – or lack thereof – have to account for something as well), it’s an understandable concept. In order to become good at something you have to practice, or in other words, spend a lot of time working on it. As with anything, writing is something that takes a good deal of time and effort to become good at (and you should never stop trying to get better), and therefore you should Write Everyday.

It seems ridiculously obvious to me now, but I really wish someone would have imparted this particular piece of advice on me when I was much younger, when it first became apparent to me that I would always want to be a writer regardless of whatever else occurred in my life. If I had taken the time to Write Everyday since the third grade just imagine how much practice I would have behind me! Imagine how many words I would have put to paper, how many finished stories I might have to my name! Imagine how much more confident I might be, how much closer I may have come toward publication! And while it is never too late to change, to do what you think you should be doing, you can’t deny the fact that I would have benefited from this idea much more earlier in my life. These days I have many more responsibilities: I have a demanding work schedule, a husband and daughter who both require my time and attention, a household that needs taking care of, and a host of other daily tasks and concerns that require dealing with. These days it is much harder to Write Everyday, but if I had known to do so when I was younger I could have had years of this practice behind my belt before all these other responsibilities came to light.

In conclusion, if there are any younguns out there right now who aspire to become writers and have somehow managed to stumble across this blog, I’m giving you the advice that I never got: WRITE EVERYDAY!

I Don’t Even Have Time to Manage!

A reminder: This post courtesy of Julie Jarnagin’s 101 Blog Post Ideas for Writers.

32. Time management systems for writers

I know I’ve said this before about other topics, but if there is one thing that I should not be commenting on, it’s ‘time management’. The very existence of a thing known as ‘time management’ eludes and confuses me. At my very best I’ve been known to accomplish one or two things a day that I had actually set out to do. Most of the time I accomplish only the herculean task of clothing and feeding myself, and rolling around on the living room floor with the baby.

That said, I know that time management is (should be?) very important for writers. We have to be able to find the time to pluck out x-number of words a day, plus keep up to snuff on our social media, plus deal with all the other aspects of everyday life, which for many of us means a day job. It’s just not something I’ve ever gotten a hold on. I write when I can, and when I can I write a lot. That’s about the best I’ve been able to manage.

I’m aware that there are many apps out there for both Apple and Android products, as well as many websites such as LifeHacker that were created for just this sort of thing, but somehow I don’t even manage to find the time to look into these things. How sad is that? I can’t find the time to look into time management. And despite my own failure to initiate change, I do suggest that anyone looking at working on their time management skills do a little research on Google…trust me, there are tons of aids out there if you can muster up a little initiative.

A Little Push

A reminder: This post courtesy of Julie Jarnagin’s 101 Blog Post Ideas for Writers.

29. Encourage other writers to keep going

I suspect that it is an inevitable truth that at some point (and possibly multiple, regularly occurring points) every writer feels like giving up. Whether you’re an amateur working on your first real manuscript or a published professional having issues in editing, writers are a naturally self-depreciating breed. As my rage comic indicated, we have a tendency to flow through repeating stages of “I’m so awesome!” and “I’m such a hack!” It is a tendency we share with artists, musicians, and other creative peoples who put a little piece of their own selves into their work.

Some of this constant shift in attitude can be attributed to physiology (moods, hormones, emotional state due to outside forces, etc), but much of it is likely due to the lifestyle of a writer and the inability of people in general to fairly, and without bias, judge themselves.

The lifestyle may break may would-be writers because they simply can’t (or feel that they can’t) handle it. The life of a writer may seem simple and carefree to many, but in reality it can be very stressful and difficult. Deadlines may lead to anxiety and burnout. Disagreements with editors and agents can cause frustration and a feeling of losing creative control. Rejections from published and poor critiques/reviews can create doubt, depression, and the belief that you’ll never be successful. It’s a mentally and emotionally exhausting situation to volunteer for.

And then there’s that bit about being unable to judge ourselves. As humans, we are notorious for this, not just involving creative processes, but in every aspect of our lives. One only needs to observe drivers on the highway to understand the concept. Everyone on the road believes that they are an excellent driver, while everyone else is a dangerous SOB who needs to be arrested. It’s the same with writers, except that in our case it works at both ends of the spectrum. Either you think you rock (even if you don’t) while everyone else is a hack, or else everyone else is amazing while you’re a miserable failure (even if you aren’t).

So, in conclusion, being a writer is wrought with emotional distress, time management impossibilities, peer-to-peer conflict, pain of rejection, and psychological issues, and on top of all that you might never become successful enough to make a living out of it.

And here I am, supposedly about to tell you to keep going. Hmm…

Here’s the thing…have you ever heard the phrase that nothing worth doing is easy? While it may not be a logical descriptor for every person in every situation, it still rings true a good deal of the time. Do you think the athletes who go to the Olympics just breeze through the events without any training? Do you think young army recruits just walk through the door and all of a sudden they’re a high-ranking officer? Hell, do you think pregnant women just have a squat and a grunt and a beautiful, perfectly healthy baby just pops out?

If you really care about something – genuinely want it with all your heart, then you’ll do what you have to do and endure what you have to endure to make that dream a reality. Olympians know that they’re going to have to push their bodies to the limit, but they crave that gold, so they move through it. Privates-in-training know they’re going to be trained hard and disparaged at every turn, but they want to serve, so they deal with it. And women know damn well that childbirth is like to be a painful, miserable event that makes them feel like they’re going to die, but they want to bring a life into the world so they damn well manage it.

So if you really want to be a writer, write. Put your heart and soul into it and deal with whatever you have to deal with as a result, because in the end that’s the only true way to get what you want. You have to be willing to do whatever is necessary, end of discussion. If you aren’t willing, well…I guess you didn’t really want it very much in the first place, did you?

Day jobs ruin everything, am I right?

A reminder: This post courtesy of Julie Jarnagin’s 101 Blog Post Ideas for Writers.

28. Write about the time you almost gave up writing for good

I won’t pretend that it’s an interesting story, but yes, there was a time when I almost gave up writing for good. It came as a result of my first post-graduate, degree-relevant job. You see, up to and including the moment when I graduated from university, I had only ever had part-time jobs. I’d worked summers, or evenings and weekends. I had positions that were Monday to Friday, 9-5 deals, but those would only ever last two or three months. Alternatively, the jobs I held in between those were 2-4 days per week, not even necessarily full 8-hour shifts. What I’m getting at here is that I had a lot of spare time to write. Even when I had the (temporary) full-time positions, they were the kinds of jobs where you could haul out a notebook and scribble away while you waited for something to do. Even at my most busy, when I was going to university during the day and working during the evenings, I’d still find time to write during free classes and slow shifts.

That changed quite dramatically when I started working at the paper mill. For one thing, this wasn’t the kind of job where you had down-time that you could fill however you pleased. Most of the time I was busy as hell, and even when I wasn’t it would be frowned upon if I curled up at my desk with a notebook. It was the kind of job where you were expected to be doing something even if there was no something to do. For another thing, this was a full-time, permanent position. I no longer had random slots of time to myself, multiple days off at any given time, and I got no breaks. I’m not talking about break-time during the work day – of course I got those, it’s illegal not to give them. I’m talking about chunks of time – days, weeks, or even months – during which I was completely off. This was a permanent job. After a few months that reality started to set in. I was going to do this job every day, five days a week, four weeks a month, twelve months a year. That first year I didn’t even get my two weeks of vacation because I couldn’t afford to take it (vacation pay is based on previous year’s earnings and since I got hired in December that would have meant I’d get approximately $80 for my two weeks).

With all that said and done, you also have to add in to the equation the fact that I was all alone in the world. I’d had to move an hour and a half from home for the job, while my boyfriend (now husband) was still back home finishing his own university program. Since I was living alone I had to do 100% of the stuff you have to do when you live alone: the grocery shopping, the cooking, the dishes, the laundry, the errands, etc etc etc. To make a long story short (is it too late for that?) I didn’t have a lot of spare time to myself. The spare time I did have I mostly filled with brainless things like watching tv and playing on my computer because I was just too exhausted to do anything else.

It took a while to work my way out of this rut. Eventually my future-hubby moved up with me and I had help around the house again. He would end up getting a job at the mill as well and as time went on things seemed to even out, become more second-nature, and calm down a bit. I’m still as busy as I ever was, but it doesn’t feel as busy because I’m used to it. So a while back I stumbled across NaNoWriMo for the first time and thought, “Hey, you know what? I miss writing. I should start writing again.” It’s been slow-going, and I still don’t always find the time I need to actually do it, but I’ve committed myself to keeping writing as part of my life. It’s important to me, even if it never takes me any further than my own laptop.

Genre Wars

A reminder: This post courtesy of Julie Jarnagin’s 101 Blog Post Ideas for Writers.

18. If you could write any genre (and it would sell), what would it be?

Fantasy, definitely. No question. I enjoy writing other genres as well (hello, zombies!) but fantasy is definitely the most fun for me. I love being able to do anything I want, create anything I want, and be able to say, “Hey, it’s okay! It doesn’t have to make sense, it’s fantasy!”

I guess that’s a kind of black and white way of looking at it, but let’s put it this way. If I had made the main character in my zombie novel have some kind of supernatural special power or ability, people would scoff and wave it off as ridiculous. Even though we already have an extraordinary premise (the zombies), the story is still set in the “real” world, and the crazy premise is actually one that we can almost believe as being plausible. Even though you know better, the idea of something that’s so ingrained into our storytelling history (monsters and the like) intermingling with the “real” world makes an acceptable level of sense. Superpowers, on the other hand, are pure fantasy and thus don’t have any place in a story where “plausible” things are happening.

Does that make any sense? Oh well, it works in my brain anyway. 😛

Continuing on from that thought process (however flawed it may be), writing fantasy allows you to pretty much do whatever the heck you please. Want a dragon in there? Boom! Dragon! Want your main character to be able to transform into an animal? Bam! Done! Anything your childish imagination can come up with is fair game because, hey, it’s fantasy!

“Shh…it’s not a video game, it’s research!”

A reminder: This post courtesy of Julie Jarnagin’s 101 Blog Post Ideas for Writers.

16. How you researched your last book

This prompt made me laugh a little. It was one of those, “Ha ha…seriously?” kind of laughs.

Research? Ha ha…seriously?

I’m not the researching type. I’m not really the “preparation of any kind” type, at least not when it comes to writing. I tend to just…go. I don’t do layouts or outlines, I don’t create character sheets or brainstorm scenes ahead of time. I just tend to…write. I get ideas, and I produce them in prose form. That’s about all there is to my process.

In my defense, most of what I write is original to my brain. I don’t really need to research much because I’m making it all up as I go along anyway.

I will admit, however, that every now I get ideas as a result of inadvertent research. For instance, the zombie book I’ve been working on, tentatively titled “Nowhere to Hide”, came into being because over the past few years I’ve been rather immersed in zombie media. I’ve watched a ton of zombie movies with my husband, read several zombie books and ‘survival guides’, and played a number of zombie-killin’ video games. Eventually all this lead to my deciding to write my own zombie story, and by extension all the watching/reading/playing I’d been doing became akin to research. I took things I liked and scraped things I didn’t.

Is that close enough? Am I any less a “real” writer because I don’t do “real” research? 😛

Meh, close enough.

A reminder: This post courtesy of Julie Jarnagin’s 101 Blog Post Ideas for Writers.

14. A list of your favorite industry blogs

I did a bit of a double-take when I read this one. ‘Industry blogs’? I thought. Does anyone actually read multiple industry blogs?

Maybe someone does, but not me. I barely read enough blogs in general to make a decent list, never mind industry blogs. The closest thing I can give for this entry is the Office of Letters and Light blog. It’s the blog run by the people who run NaNoWriMo and Script Frenzy (and most recently, Camp NaNo). Besides keeping everyone up to date on what is happening with their events, the blog is full of writers who post some interesting writing-based entries. Stop by if you have a chance, and while you’re at it, sign up for NaNoWriMo this year!

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Have you enjoyed the first 14 days of the 101 Blog Post Ideas for Writers? Stay tuned for the next round during my next rotation out West!

Simplicity

A reminder: This post courtesy of Julie Jarnagin’s 101 Blog Post Ideas for Writers.

12. What novelists can learn from screenplays

I can’t honestly say that I’ve ever written a screenplay. I’ve once or twice considered participating in Script Frenzy, which is run by the same people who do NaNoWriMo and is basically a challenge to write a screenplay in one month, but I’ve never gotten around to it. I prefer prose, so my motivation to actually take part in this challenge is low. But I have actually read a couple of screenplays, mostly because my best friend gave me a Buffy the Vampire Slayer screenplay book that she needed for one of her courses in college. So I’m going to base my meager response on that book…bear with me.

I think one major thing that novelists can learn from screenplays is simplicity. Screenplays are mostly dialogue with a bit of description thrown in as a general idea of what’s happening nearby. Many novels are the exact opposite. I’m as guilty as any other author for over-describing things, or so I’ve been told by critique-readers. As the creator of an entire world, writers tend to want to describe everything down to the tiniest detail, so that the reader can see it exactly as they’re imagining it. The problem with that is that half the fun is in the imagination part. Sometimes the reader wants to be able to figure it out themselves, instead of having a million-and-one details shoved down their throat. George R.R. Martin is famous for this. He creates an amazingly expansive world with characters upon characters upon characters, but his descriptive style leaves the reader constantly struggling to hold torrents of information in their brain, only to eventually realize that 99% of that information was completely irrelevant to the plot.

So, yeah. Simplicity. Learn how to use it.

Prompts

A reminder: This post courtesy of Julie Jarnagin’s 101 Blog Post Ideas for Writers.

10. Creative prompts for other writers

Now here’s a twist. Usually I’m the one searching for prompts, not the one giving them. I’m concerned about my ability to come up with a prompt that is actually useful, so if you come across this list and decide to use one of the prompts I’ve given, please let me know if it was any good! 🙂

– Your character wakes up on a perfectly normal day, has breakfast, gets ready for the day, and walks out of their home to find…silence. Every other human (or if you’re really keen, every other creature) on the planet has mysteriously vanished overnight, with no signs as to what may have happened to them…

– Your character is vacationing on a sunny resort, perhaps taking a walk on the beach, when all of a sudden they are grabbed from behind and dosed with chloroform…

– Your character is a futuristic astronaut, exploring new worlds for breathable atmospheres and signs of life. On a newly discovered planet, on which your character is supposed to have been the first person to set foot, your character stumbles across a small human child, playing all alone in a field…

– Your character finds his/herself standing alone on a busy city street with no recollection of how they got there or who they are. All they have is their wallet, full of credit cards and store membership cards, but their ID has been stolen…

Hope these help someone! 😀