Monday’s Writerly Quote

We’ve all been through it, or are going through it. And if you haven’t, hold on to your keyboard, you will in the near future. You finish a rough draft, pat yourself on the back for a job well done. After all, lots of people say they’re going to write novels, but you, my friend, have actually done it.

Now what? The EDITING! And with that editing comes some suffering. Why? I’ll let Stephen King explain.

Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.

Hold up a sec, Stephen! Are you saying I need to kill off my characters? But I’ve got sequels in the making. Nooooooo!

No. What Stephen means is find those scenes that you spent a lot of time on, or those supporting characters you are enamored with, or those bits of phrases and sentences you really thought you wrote brilliantly and be ready to kill them like Uma Thurman looking for sweet revenge after being in a coma.

Here’s the thing: those scenes, sentences, characters, they may be weighing your book down. But it’s hard, because you love them so much. You spent a lot of time on said scene. Or everyone in your writer’s group told you that opening sentence was brilliant. Guess what? Doesn’t matter. Because if you’re serious about telling a good story, even things you love most must be up for execution. It doesn’t mean you’ll get rid of everything you love, it just means you must be willing to.

I had what I thought was a great opener for SHADE. It spelled danger, coupled with an intriguing concept. The line got me high praises at a writer’s conference and I felt pretty darn good about it if I do say so myself. But guess what? I had to kill it. Noooooo! Really, I did. I kept trying to force it in elsewhere. But it’s brilliant, I reasoned. It must remaineth! Nope. I killed it. It doesn’t show up anywhere in the novel. The idea of it does, but not the line itself. But once I got rid of it, I was able to move forward in a slightly different direction and have gained a lot more opportunities with SHADE since.

So kill your darlings my friend. Besides, it’s the one time it’s completely okay to murder something.

Have you had to kill any darlings? Any that were excruciating to do away with? Or do you disagree and shield those darlings like a mama bear?

Monday’s Writerly Quote

Have you ever considered why you’re blogging? Especially you writers out there. Why are you blogging? To build your platform, perhaps? But why?

Something I believe in strongly is the philosophy of karma. Those things you send out are returned to you. If you fill your world with negative energy, the negative energy returns. But if you fill your world with positive energy, it’s positive energy that will ultimately surround you.

I think for many of us, perhaps blogging begins as a way to build a platform, but then we realize (or at least I came to realize) it’s being a part of a community. And helping those you can along the way.

Which brings us to today’s quote, via your favorite green philosopher, Yoda:

Always pass on what you have learned.

Something I try to do with my blog is share all the experiences I’ve had on my writing journey. I want to impart all the knowledge I’ve gained, hoping it helps someone in a way I would have liked to be helped earlier in my journey. And the great thing is that because I’ve connected with a lot of you, I learn things I didn’t know or gain new perspectives I might not have otherwise thanks to you doing the same.

There’s room enough for us all in this industry, especially these days with our technology. We should always cheer when one of us reaches success and encourage each other as we strive for our own successes. Part of the way we do that is passing on what we’ve learned.

I encourage you, if you haven’t already, to look at your blog not just as a platform for yourself, but as a platform to help others. Help your fellow writers. Make it about what you can do for everyone else, and focus less on what everyone else can do for you.

We can typically tell when a writer’s blog is meant solely for us to admire them. The blogs I tend to check regularly are the ones where the author interacts with their followers. Many of you have become pals and are a big part of the reason I keep going with this blog.

Those are the kinds of bloggers we should be—ones that encourage each other to be our best selves in every way.

Be those bloggers, my friends. And I’ll do my best to be that kind of blogger to you.

How are you passing on those things that you have learned? Why do you blog? Do you benefit from being a part of this writing community? What do you like about this writing community?

Monday’s Writerly Quote

Do you ever re-watch particular scenes of movies or re-read certain parts of a book because you loved that moment so much? You probably know what I mean. You can skip through most of a story for that one moment when you really felt something, be it surprise, elation, fear—whatever. But the story creator did it so well, sometimes you have to revisit that moment, to feel it again.

This brings me to today’s quote by Robert Frost:

No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.

We know what’s coming in our stories, but we can still write it in a way that surprises us, or makes us cry, or gives us that elation. I always think of Back to the Future. I know Marty is going to make it in time for the lightning. I know Doc Brown will plug in that cable in time. And yet I’m still on the edge of my seat even though I’ve seen this movie a bajillion times.

That’s what we should strive for in our writing. Sure, maybe not every scene will have you in the height of emotion—but every scene should at least be building for that moment.

Go back to your work in progress. Are there scenes in there you love? Why do you love them? What about scenes you find boring? Odds are if you think they’re boring, your audience will too. Tension can help. But most important is to make every scene matter. Every scene should either be eliciting a strong emotional connection or working toward building that connection.

Even in the scenes you love, you may have to do some hard editing. We have to be both willing to kill our darlings and create them at the same time.

Viktor Krum?! Why? WHYYYYYYYYY?!

That’s why I’m always pushing for people to read Story and Writing the Breakout Novel, because they’re two books I fully believe can help you take blah scenes to fabulous. You want your readers unable to put your book down, don’t you? You want them to glance at the clock, notice it’s 1AM and promise they’ll quit after one more chapter.

If you’re not crying, they’re not crying. If you’re not surprised, they’re not surprised. Make them cry. Surprise them. Go through the hard edits so it happens.

Do you agree with Mr. Frost? Have you written difficult scenes that got you to tears (or nearly)? Do you read certain parts of your books again and again? Why? What would you add to Mr. Frost’s advice? Let us know in the comments!

Monday’s Writerly Quote

Ever have those moments? Maybe you go to a conference and hear what all the other writers have written and you look at your own story and contemplate how your shining diamond just became a worthless chunk of glass. Maybe you get a rejection letter where the agent is severely honest in their feedback. Or maybe you’re just having one of those days, staring at the computer screen, wondering if you’re really cut out for this business.

I think most of us have those moments of self-doubt, be they brief or long. I think this quote is best suited for moments like those, coming from Neil Gaiman:

Start telling the stories that only you can tell, because there’ll always be better writers than you and there’ll always be smarter writers than you. There will always be people who are much better at doing this or doing that—but you are the only you… There are better writers than me out there, there are smarter writers, there are people who can plot better—there are all those kinds of things, but there’s nobody who can write a Neil Gaiman story like I can.

Someone might write better prose than you. Maybe their descriptions are pure poetry, while you feel yours is just getting the job done. Maybe you bump into someone who seems to have the most marketable idea in the universe, while perhaps the market seems saturated with ideas like yours. And maybe you just keep bumping into tons of people who seem much further along on the writing path than you are.

But that’s not really the point, is it? The point is to tell your stories. As Mr. Gaiman said, there will always be better and smarter writers, and that’s okay. Tell the stories only you can tell and be proud of it.

That’s not to say you don’t strive to become better every day. Hone those writing skills daily. Read everything you can. Don’t settle for less than the best in your writing. But when you find yourself worrying or comparing yourself to other writers, pull up this quote and remember you’re writing the story only you can write.

You are the only you.

Do you agree with Mr. Gaiman? Are you trying to write the stories only you can write? What do you do when doubt starts to creep in? How do you keep it away? What advice would you add to Mr. Gaiman’s statement? Let us know in the comments below.

Monday’s Writerly Quote

I have a blogging friend some of you may know. Daphne. And currently Daphne is stuck in what she has named Hotel Hell. Her family got evicted from their apartment and while searching for another, they’re basically all crammed together in a small room.

But you know what I think? Daphne is the sort of person that encompasses this quote below, and I just know her trying experience at Hotel Hell will one day turn into bestseller material.

The quote from Terry Brooks:

Fiction writers are strange beasts. They are, like all writers, observers first and foremost. Everything that happens to and around them is potential material for a story, and they look at it that way.

I think, we too, should look at life’s trying moments as adventures or at least fodder for future stories. After all, we have to pull from our own experiences to give our stories the depth they need. Call it the positivity in me, if you must, but I really believe there’s lemonade to be made of any situation. And you can even add mint to make it extra delicious.

So make minty lemonade my friends, and then stick it in your stories.

Have you had a difficult time in your past that you draw upon for your stories? Do you see everything around you as potential material for a story? Where do you get most of your inspiration?