Tuesday, June 11, 2013

It's Not About Originality (It's About Not Being Blind)

Look around you.

Everything you see, everything you do, everything you associate yourself with is guilty of unoriginality in some way or another.

Originality! Wait, I don't see it.

This is where most of my dread comes from in writing. I constantly worry that what I have written has it been done before, better even. And that people will brush my work away, wrinkling their noses in disgust. Because I am garbage.

But we hear it. We hear people say that The Hunger Games is just a teen angst version of Battle Royale. We hear people say that Divergent is just a less intense, matrix-themed Hunger Games. But on what grounds? Where do we stop looking at something as it's own entity and see it merely as an unrelated expansion of what's already been done? And then done again?

So far, Harry Potter is the only novel set that I hear people go on about how original it was, and how special it was. I never finished the Harry Potter series, partially because my sister's obsession with it sort of led me astray, but what I read didn't seem any more original than the books I mentioned above. Stronger, more dynamic world building, perhaps, but nothing that truly appealed to my interests.

Everything is original. And everything is cliche. You really can't avoid it. And when you think you are, you're usually falling into another trap. That's why I have to stress that character motivation their choices, and they choices the author makes are essential for a less contrived product.

Example: Two boys were the best of friends, until friend A (let's call him Aaron) grows up to be a sexy beast over the summer and is instantly thrown into popularity when he returns to high school in the fall. Friend B (Baron!) has no such luck. Still short and stick bone skinny, he watches his friend get sucked into the limelight while he's left in the dark.

Sound familiar? Good!

A million people could write a story with this premise and people would still buy more than one of these books. One, people may like to read certain plots. Over and over. Two, if the stories are told in different, interesting ways, then you are not going to feel like you're reading the same thing. Over and over.

Because a lot of things could happen. Maybe the story is told to the more popular guy's point of view, which usually doesn't happen. Maybe Baron becomes the unlikely bad guy by teaming up with someone and wreaking chaos on the populars. Maybe they were gay lovers, and the story progresses beyond high school and their journeys of navigating adulthood without each other's support. Maybe Baron has a disability. Maybe Aaron doesn't want to be popular. Maybe he doesn't want to be friends with Baron anymore either. Hmmm....

Cliches are only cliche because they work. The important thing is not to be outright cliche because no one wants to hear the same story over again. Because even if you have different characters and a different setting, people aren't stupid. They're not going to see past your gimmick. And if they do read it, they're probably not going to like it.

Life's a competition. I think when the author realizes this, two things happen.

1. You try to replicate what has been done before. It's less creative, but safer.

2. You try to push yourself as far as you can and come out with a work of staggering genius. Maybe.

Your pick.

Monday, June 10, 2013

A Good Bye Lullaby

I'm feeling nostalgic today.

It could be the rain. It's probably the rain--but I feel like singing a song. But I don't want to make you tone deaf.

So listen to this  and write on.

What's Your Super Power?

My sister tells me that I have the power to annoy people without trying.

I don't know how useful that is, but I'll accept her statement. I'm annoying. I talk to much at home because I never say anything at school, and I sing at random, high pitched intervals for reasons I don't even know.

But if I had a choice, I think I know what it would be.

Yes. I would want to be a blue man.
Teleportation and agility.

Now, I'm not going to go all geeky on you and tell you the extent of Night Crawler's powers ( you can read all about it right here) but just know that he has the basic ability to teleport place to place, and has athletic abilities that rival any Olympian.

Only, unlike NC, I would like to be able to teleport anywhere and everywhere without it exhausting me. Plus it would eliminate travel expenses and stress. Which are the two reasons why I hate traveling. And I would like to have great agility because that only goes hand in hand with teleportation, right?

So this isn't a post about writing. Shocker. But I'd like to think writing is my normal person power.

Tell me, what's yours?

And don't pick something stupid like being about to eat whatever you want without getting fat and dying of high cholesterol.

 Too easy and not very super.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Motivation is Motion (So Stop Thinking)

I'm not going to pretend to be a motivational speaker.

Because even when my younger brother asks me for advice, he always mumbles away how terrible it is. I think this is because even if you try to advise someone (no matter how well you know them) the advice you give them can never be authentic.

My words aren't to help him. They are to help him if I were him.

I don't know if that completely makes sense, but it goes into the whole if you put yourself in someone else's shoes mentality. I like my shoes. Hell, I don't even think that I'm that fond of wearing shoes.

So what am I supposed to do in your shoes? Let alone my brother's size twelve shoes?

And as I used to think of ways to help someone vocally, it occurred to me that I do not get much out of someone telling me things. If I see you do something, or if you encourage me to do something, then there's some progress.

There's motivation.

This kind of reminds me of a TV show. I don't know if you've seen the episode of How I Met Your Mother where the character Barney tells his friend-hitman-compadre Ted to stop thinking. But Ted's a thinker. He probably read the book "Oh, the Thinks you Can Think!" repetitively as a child. Anyway, once Ted has this mentality (and a little alcohol) in his system, he ends up doing some pretty courageous (and stupid) things he would have never attempted.

A pineapple? Holy crap, I messed up bad...

Now I'm not saying, "Go out! Be as reckless as possible! Just do, don't think!" But I'm not advocating a total think-happy existence. Because it's not a happy one. It's actually sort of dismal.

Because when you think about things, you remember the odds of life. Like the fact that your book might not get published. Or the fact that you probably won't even finish it. You think about how many other people are trying to do whatever it is you want to do. And a lot of them are better at it then you, too.

You think about how much high school sucked. Not really in the sense that you were bullied, or mocked out-rightly, but in some sense you wished you were. You think about how being completely ignored hurts in a numbing kind of way. But it hurt all the same.

Okay, okay. Enough of the sad feelings. I'm trying to say that your mind can destroy you before anyone else does. Or it can produce great things. But sometimes you have to distance yourself from your thoughts, and just do something.

Stop thinking about how much you hate math and just finish your math homework.

Stop thinking about how scared you are of your audition and just rock it.

Stop thinking about how hard it is to publish a novel and just write it.

Just do it.

And see what happens.

Expectations and Sequels (It's a Deadly Combination)

Expectations are a terrible thing.

And when you have a sequel, expectations come out with vengeance. Why?

I'll tell you.

Book One 

Maybe you've heard of the book you're about to pick up. Maybe you haven't. But the cover's pretty, the summary sounds interesting, and there's money in your pocket. You buy it. You read it, no expectations. You grow with these characters. You decide which ones you like, which ones you hate, which one(s) become(s) your new fictional lover(s). You enjoy the action and setting. You put down the book.

That was a good book.

Post Book One 
Now you have opinions. There are certain things characters did in the first book that made you love them. So now you expect those characters to do those same things. But in a different way/setting. You begin to formulate how this and that is going to happen in the sequel. Nancy and Ralph are going to become lovers. Merlin Prep will be taken over by a zombie apocalypse. Duffy will realize that she's in love with Ralph and that her favorite teacher was turned into a zombie. Duffy will become a zombie slayer.

Wait, this sounds familiar....

Duffy the zombie slayer.

Book Two

It was nothing you expected. At all. And frankly you're a little bit peeved at the author. How dare he/she not think your ideas were wonderful? With every page you read, you begin to loath the text more and more. You finish it, admit that it wasn't all that bad, but not as good as the first you read impartially. Ultimate conclusion? You hate this book.

You know, unless you're that happy-go-lucky person who gives five stars to everything they read. Then your expectations were blown. Immensely.

But you're not them. You're still mumbling. Bemoaning.

"The trilogy better be better!"  You say, not realizing your doing it again. Expecting...

And then the cycle repeats. 

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Shine Bright Like Erudite

When I asked my brother (who had just finished reading Divergent) what faction I would be, I was surprised that he didn't suggest that I would be Erudite. My younger brother has the tendency to go on irritated tangents about how 'smart' I am, how 'highly' our parents seem to regard me compared to him and our other siblings.

Because I have swag like that (whatever swag is...) I usually dismiss him. I brush my hand in the air and then through my hair and tell him that I just study and manipulate situations to my favor (see my Candor post). I'm no smarter than anyone else. Anyone who thinks they're not smart are dumbing themselves down.

But am I an intellectual? Do I constantly strive to know how the world works? Do I want to be an astro-physist?

No. Not really. And I can't say. Though, being an astro-physist sounds really cool.

But I'm pretty sure that the only reasons I well in school are for insecure, very non-abnegation reasons such as:

1. I'm very jealous when it comes to others succeeding. But I try to see how/why those people got there and try to emulate them.

2. I don't like to look bad. I look bad without trying, so I'm not going to look bad at my own hand. Even if I personally prefer to be lazy. You know, until I get bored.

I do not actively pursue all knowledge. I am not Erudite.

Why are you taking my picture? I am supposed to be planning a hostile invasion. Ahem, I mean studying.

But everyone has the potential to learn something--to be intelligent--if they want to. Intelligence comes in many forms. And everyone has taken that test in middle school that tells you what type of intelligence you are. I tested highest for mathematical-logical intelligence.

 Hostile invasion....I mean, math...

But my feelings for math range anywhere between neutral and the occasional pure hatred for the subject. I prefer reading, writing, and music far more. But I am a very logical person. I am a little bit more reasonable than I wish I was, and I always tried to act smarter than everyone else when I was a young girl. Now I'm just trying to be me. Whoever I am. And you should try to be the smartest you. You decide what that smartness is. Smartness is a word, right?

Big book of diseases + hipster glasses = erudite swag

A Piece of Cake (If Only Writing Was One)

Writing a novel is one of those things where you can have your cake and eat it too.

You know, if you can finish it. And recently I read some statistics that I'm too lazy to pull up a link to (okay not really) that says that 75% of the people who attempt to create a novel won't finish it.

Why is that? Especially when we all thought publishing was the biggest obstacle?

Because it really isn't.

The finished product is what you are trying to sell. So if you can't finish that, there's nothing to be sold.

And even if you are that glorious 25% that makes it through their manuscript, that doesn't mean that you've baked a good product. And that fact--the fact that you could have poured your soul into something for months and years only to be left with an undesirable product is enough to make you scared of actually trying in the first place.

But a lot of things are scary. A lot of things scare me. Cake usually doesn't, but it might as well if I'm too afraid to write.

If you haven't guessed the them of this post, then the following picture will explain it for you.

Scared of me already? Just wait and see what I'll do to your thighs!

Cake! Somewhere along getting dressed for the day and coming down stairs, the thought randomly occurred to me. I wasn't looking for an analogy of how writing was for me, but it came anyway.

Written works and the confection are similar in the sense of how they are both made, how they are supposed to appear, and how they are ultimately made for public consumption.  I've broken it down into three categories.

You put in a bunch of ingredients in a pan, put it in the oven and hope that everything turns out well. Writing is sort of the same. Except your pan is your word processor, your oven = your computer, and your ingredients are words.

When you bake, you try no to deviate from the from the instructions. However, when you write, you kind of have to if you want to come across as being original.

But there is a balance between adding your own personal kick and making something completely bogus. And you can taste the batter, decide if you're really on the right track, but once its in the oven there's not much you can do. And when the cake comes out all done, whether it's deflating on the side, or plump and tasty looking, the product is usually much different than you could have ever imagined in it's elementary stages. And its a sight--good, but usually kind of bad--worth seeing. Don't give up too quickly.

Don't judge a book by its cover. But we do anyway. I do. Personally I resist books that look old and books that have people on them. Why? I don't know. I'm just picky in the worst possible ways. Now going back to cakes. Most people expect a cake to have frosting on it, right? Right. So does that mean that you have to have sparklers on the end, and miniature cars and figurines dancing to a micro-music chip inside the cake? No. Actually, most would prefer one without that. An author needs to know what is necessary. Most cakes are not complete without frosting. So have frosting. But don't slap in on and say "There. Are you happy now world?" Because no one likes a half-assed attempt. They are paying money for that cake/book. So have a nice cover. A dynamic summary. Something that you know will catch someone's attention. Because at a bake sale/ book store what is going to make your work special? Eye-popping frosting!

So someone has bought your book/cake! But is that all you want? Or do you want that person to actually enjoy it, instead of spitting it out back at your face, and writing hurtful reviews about you on their blog/goodreeds? I don't think I have to answer that for you. Pay attention to the substance. Try to be original (please refer to preparation) but not too far fetched. Because people would probably prefer a bland cake/book over a disgusting one. Writing is work. And that work should shine above everything else. And if it's not shining, you may have to start over again. And again. And until you've mastered the culinary art of the story you want to tell.

So what are you waiting for? Go bake your f*#@ing cake! It doesn't really matter if you don't know what your getting into. Just know what you're getting out of it.

Just don't over-indulge in the cake eating. Then writing won't be your only problem...

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Why Being a Writer Makes you Just as Crazy as you are Creative


I've taken a few days off from writing my manuscript, and in doing so, I've been doing a lot of reflecting. And although I have not had separation anxiety just yet, I know I would have if I wasn't writing this.

So speaking about writing, I just wanted to take a little time to discuss how it makes me--us--crazy. With creativity.

So here are the top five things I've noticed I've been doing ever since I've been in writing overdrive, starting around May 12th.

1. You say things internally (and sometimes out loud) like, "What the hell should I make Scarlet's hair color?" or "Ugh, I have to kill Raymond today."

2. You see people in public who look just like the characters you envisioned/created in your stories. So you smile at them all giddy and mesmerized until they walk off, thinking you're a freak. But sadly less of a freak then you actually are.

3. You get discouraged at least four times a day. The usual reason being: holy-crap-my-manuscript-isn't-original-or-good-enough-why-is-this-so-hard-stop-laughing-at-me-other-published-authors-and-life. Then you're inspired, just like that, by pretty uninspiring things, like banana peels, a stapler or Ke$ha.

4. You daydream. A lot. Sometimes great ideas just pop in your head and you get lost a labyrinth of your own thoughts. And no one can find you until you've straightened them out. This will take months and/or years.

5. People (non-writer people) stop asking what you're doing. Because they tried, and just can't understand. And you don't have the time to tell them. They can read about it later, after all.

Now back to math. Or writing.

Writing is good.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Can You Trust a Candor? (How Manipulation is Everything)

I wouldn't. 

You know, unless I was one. Because if you can't trust yourself, who can you trust?

And don't answer Candor. 

Moving on, I've been talking about choices and decisions lately, and I feel that truth is an important virtue. But it's not everything.

And I know that you probably can't see it from my sporadic, air-headed appeal, but I'm actually a very manipulative person.

Like, I can get you to do all of my bidding without a blink of an eye. 

Well, maybe if I really wanted to. But that kind of control takes work. And if you haven't heard from my friendly friends and family, I've been very unmotivated lately. But don't worry. I'm not bossy, particularly stuck up, or downright unpleasant. Most of the time. 

But I feel like manipulation only works if you trust yourself. Then you can prey on the weaknesses of others.

And that's always fun.

Got a secret? I'll destroy you with it.

Secrets are destructive. My good friends (I wish we were...) the Pierces sing it best here. Secrets fall hand in hand (ha, Abnegation) with trust, and ultimately manipulation.

To have control in any situation (or over people) you have to trust in yourself, and expel truths that are necessary to be known. For example, if you know that you have to be a eighteen or older to participate in an event in college, and you are only a humble 17 year-old college sophomore (That's me!) who doesn't  blab about your age to random strangers (oops, guilty...) everyone's probably going to assume that you are old enough to partake in the activity. After all, sophomore undergrads tend to range from 19-20 in age. So here's where manipulation comes in. Playing with public assumptions.

Don't assume yourself. No, that can be as destructive as telling secrets. Keep your secrets. But let others assume. And when they do, use their ignorance to your advantage.

But I'm getting a bit off topic. The point of this post was to say that I dressed up like the Candor. Black and white and no grays in between. But we all know life doesn't work like that. Because my favorite color just so happens to be gray.

How's the look on my face? Candor? Dauntless? Candaunt? Ugh, choices!

So the ultimate question now is, would I chose Candor as my faction?

Well, I'm smiling, aren't I?

Monday, June 3, 2013

Oh, the lack of decisions...

I know. It sort of sounds like I'm talking about choices again.

But I'm not. So don't cut me off.

Sorry, if that came off as rude. Still feeling a little Dauntless...

Moving on, I just wanted to share a few words with you about my feelings on the writing process and what I've been struggling with the most as I write my manuscript. Decisions. Of the lack of them.

You've heard it all. Either you have writer's block, or you know where you'd like to go with a story, but you just have no damn idea how to get there. And as you go on your journey, you find your options limited. The road to success (aka the completion of your manuscript because I'm not guaranteeing it's going to get you published once you finish it, you silly kid!) is blocked for today. Your car breaks down in the middle of nowhere. Curse, limitations.

And then you wonder. Like how on earth can something that requires your imagination seems so hard to put together? After all, a fictional story is made from the fabric of your thoughts sewn together by the words you use to describe them. It's all you. That's suppose to be good! Writers tend to introverts anyways!

But its hard. Ridiculously hard. And the worst thing about it is that as you try to go through with it, the more you hate the manuscript. And every other written work you see seems to shine like a diamond compared to your dull, overexposed-only-to-you story.

And maybe those other novels are diamonds. But that's because they've been polished, and gone through whatever long process it takes to make a rock of a rough first draft into a sparkly, hard covered work of blinding creative genius.

So keep motivated. I keep motivated by keeping deadlines. At the same time, I assure myself that even if I really, really, absolutely hate my manuscript at the end of this process, I can hide it away--burn it in the back yard even.

And if I roast marshmallows over the ashes of hours and hours of hard work and dedication, its not a complete waste because I completed something. I am stronger for next time. I am still a success.

So my point in all of this? We often feel limited midway through our stories, when the appeal of writing a best seller, or just something you can be proud of is being drowned by all of the work it takes to get to that point.

But ask yourself, is it really writer's block, or a lack of motivation?

Decide quickly.

Don't Mess With Me. I'm Dauntless.

SEE. I told you I'd post about Divergent!
Putting my sick obsession aside (which could only mean me bringing it out...) I mentioned that I was tie in how discipline is related to choices. And choices is a strong theme of Divergent

So I made some choices today. I woke up on time. Did math even through I really didn't want to (discipline!). And got dressed.

And when I walked to the mirror in my dinning room to examine myself, I couldn't help but stand frozen, mesmerized at myself. No, I am not self-absorbed. Well, not that self-absorbed. 

Anyway, it wasn't me that I found particularly impressive. It was my outfit choice. I had subconsciously chosen my faction. And that faction was Dauntless.

You really wanna mess with me, pansycake? 

Naturally, I did the un-Dauntless thing after I came to this conclusion, which was squealing at my reflection internally and trying to act cool for the rest of the day. I tried to do that eyebrow narrowing, squint thing that hardcore people like Four and Tris are capable of, but because it's me we're talking about, I looked more like Christina, and it came out more like this:

You scared, Peter? 

And this: 

What about you, Four?

Personally, I don't think the last one was that bad. But all in all, everything was in good fun. And as I still wear my dauntless-inspired clothing to type this post, there are three important things I feel should be considered and accepted:

1. Your choices define you. But you also define your choices. It's your homework to decipher what the latter means. Clue: It's all in this post. And sometimes the clothes. 

2. Oh my gargoyles, I have to dress up as every other faction and post it on my blog! And don't worry, I don't feel foolish, because this is just way too much fun. Because as we all know, I should be doing my math homework. Thank heavens for choices, right? I might be feeling Erudite tomorrow...

3. Veronica Roth is one of the most visionary-badass-creative people on earth. Don't pretend you don't know who she is.

Dauntless out. 

Discipline, and Other Things I Don't Have Time For

I hate math.

I hate math because I could be writing. And when I could be writing, I could be happier. And when I'm happier, I'm not stressed. And when you're stressed, you die a premature death.

I do not want to die a premature death.

So instead I expel all of the annoying negativity in my life with this face. It's pretty, isn't it?

I am the master of my mind! Wait, why does it feel like it's exploding?

The point I'm trying to make is that we often have to do things we don't want. And even when we are doing things we do want to *cough* work on the CR manuscript *cough* there are still things I have to do that I don't entirely want to.Like writing out certain scenes. Research. Math.

I don't think that I hate anything, but often its easier to point out what we don't like verses what we actually like and want to pursue.

So push on, even if you don't want to. Because most of the time you have no choice.

But we'll talk about choices if I discuss Divergent.

Sigh. Discipline, remember?

When I discuss Divergent.