Sunday, September 22, 2013

Don't Just Get Mad, Get Writing

Why bother turning that frown upside down when you can turn it into dark, twisted writing instead? I've been in a bit of a foul mood over the last couple of days because of this and that and I finally decided to do something other that brood.

You know those characters or scenes which are tricky to write? The ones which are just such a stretch that writing them feels something like laying down in a pit and having molten metal poured over top of you? The ones you have to get so far out of your own comfort-zone to really nail down that it doesn't even feel like you wrote it anymore? Well, as it turns out, emotional extremes tap into something innate which draws us out of our heads temporarily. We become someone slightly different yet slightly the same. There's Amanda A and Amanda B. Amanda A can't zone in on mental disorders and fact checking because Amanda B is screaming about how this character is psychotic and desperate to have a raw, gritty breakdown. Run with what your B-side tells you to do.

We all have a little crazy in us and when we're emotional it's much easier to tap into that crazy. While writing doesn't help resolve my problems, it's certainly one of the healthier outlets out there and keeps me sane until I decide I'm ready to deal with them. Next time you're in a bad mood, why not give writing a try? You might surprise yourself.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Outlines. Why I Hate Them & Why I Made One.

Ladies and gentlemen, I have just realized something extraordinarily life-changing. Pokemon are not getting uglier. Those of us born to generations Red and Blue have simply grown older. We're jaded. We're like the angry old man who sits on the porch and shakes his fist at kids who get too close to his lawn of 150 original, perfect blades of grass. While I pity the seven-year-old who excitedly begins his first Pokemon adventure with X and Y, who am I to tell him that he's doing it wrong? A sentimental old fool who begins every battle with "Back in the day we played our Pokemon in black and white, two-dimensional peace. I think that's what heaven will be like some...TURN DOWN THAT DUBSTEP NONSENSE!"

So that's my nerd rant. I should probably talk about writing now to redeem myself a bit.

I wrote an outline! Resentfully and with some help from my Absolut friend, I wrote it! This might not sound like some grand achievement to most of you, but let me explain. I haven't written an start-to-finish outline for anything other than school papers. Even back then I only wrote them if they were being collected for a grade. I do not outline. Plain and simple. I prefer to write things as they come to me, living in the moment just like my character does. Yes, it's a bit reckless and has gotten me into a fair share of (long) writer's blocks, but I hate laying out the entire story before it happens. I enjoy sharing that 'what now' moment with my character and I feel that it lends to the believability of the story.

So what was different about this time, you ask? Well, put simply, it's complicated. There are too many elements that I have to juggle and I'm not familiar enough with any of said elements to neglect a single one. As I've mentioned before, I looooove research because a story's integrity and believability are very high on my priority list. I'm learning some hardcore hacking and coding, digging into subdivisions of the CIA with limited public access, crosschecking facts with professional and basically setting myself up for a fun conversations with the NSA. It's a lot. So the other night as I sat there surveying the mess in front me I realized how easily something could get lost in the pages to come--something including me.

Thus, the outline was born.

It took four hours and sixteen pages (I don't mess around with my bullet points) AND IT IS MAGNIFICENT. That said, however, I will strive to never write another outline as long as I live. It will be helpful to me as the story progresses, yes, and it's not set in stone or anything, yes, but my God I cried at least twice! Spoilers! Spoilers everywhere! I feel like I've completely ruined the story for myself. It's not a journey anymore, it's a game of connect the dots.

Do I regret outlining? A bit, yeah, but at the same time I feel like I can focus more on writing the story now and less about getting my facts in place. I guess it's a double-edge sword. Outlines make stories easier in the long run and help keep writers out of ruts, but if you're weird like me it isn't always worth it. I'm sure things will change as I write and the story may even end up going in completely different directions. For now, though, I'm off to play a game of connect the dots.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Lonely Writer

This is mostly just a rambling entry about how writing got me through the worst years of my life. If you're looking for advice or great words-of-wisdom entry, please hit the page down button twice and you'll be redirected.

I started writing when I was young because I didn't have any friends. Thanks to my dad, we moved around a lot and it was difficult to maintain friendships. After a while I didn't see the point in trying to make friends at all because I was just going to move away from them in a few months anyway. By the time middle school came along I was socially inept. As a result, I was bullied mercilessly to the point where I seriously and frequently considered killing myself. Life was hard and I didn't understand why everyone else had it so much easier than me.

My teachers seemed to know that something was going on and advised me to meet with a counselor. Per her suggestion, I very resentfully started keeping a journal.  I wrote about boys who would never like me the way I liked them and girls who I wanted so badly to be. After a while, though, I realized how incredibly pathetic my existence was and started a journal as someone else.

The character I created started out perfect. Happy, popular, attractive and rich. I relished in the fictional existence for maybe three entries before growing bored. Perfection, I discovered, was boring. I started weaving in problems for my character, only little things at first to make their lives more interesting.

Life became more bearable. It was a downhill slope from there.

I carried the journal with me everywhere, writing in it during class, lunch and recess. It was my only outlet for a long time. I created more characters and with those characters came more problems and more possibilities and so, so much more than my own world could offer. I finished my first full length novel (which I now realize was excessively/embarrassingly longer than a standard novel) at 14.

All at once, the downhill slope dropped out from underneath me. The free-fall began.

I don't know when exactly the transformation started, but suddenly that creative, witty and damn confident person I became when I was writing was strutting around campus. I was still far from being the HBIC, but I finally was able to be me and not give a flying flip about what anyone else thought. I said what I wanted, did what I wanted and wore what I wanted. The best part of all? I loved who I was. The less I cared, the more friends I made.

Sure, you could blame puberty for the changes that happened during that time, but I know it was all thanks to writing. It worked me out of my shell. It was a safe haven where nobody could judge me. It was what I could always rely on no matter where my family moved or what sort of hell I went through there. Without it I wouldn't have made it through what so many call "the best years of our lives"--the years which almost killed me.

There you go. Rambling complete.

Moral of the story #1: Don't pick on that girl just because she's different. One day she's going to be a fierce, fine, femme fatale rocking the world off it's axis and hell bent on revenge.

Moral of the story #2: If you are that girl, hang in there. It gets better and the revenge you get on them down the line will be oh so sweet.