Keep Your Eyes Open

Okay, guys, I’m soundtracking this one. In 3… 2… 1…

Why this theme? For one simple, very good reason.

The best piece of writing advice I have ever gotten came from a book I read recently. What was this sage piece of wisdom? Let me share it with you: “Don’t look away.”

Three simple words that changed my story method forever.

Why, you ask? Because until that point, I had been looking away. Away from embarrassing moments. Away from painful moments. Away from moments that could make you cry they’re so wonderful or could make you cry for other reasons. I had been stopping before I hit reality. And what’s the one thing every writer must bring a touch of to their story? That’s right. Reality.

As writers, our first and most important job is to tell a story. But our second most important job is to not look away from those everyday moments that make life… well… life. How are we supposed to bring readers to their knees or make them swoon or laugh or cry if we look away before the full effect takes place?

I’m not just talking about when we’re researching, either. Yes, it’s good to watch an entire moment play out before you, but the whole point of keeping your eyes open is so you can write it accurately. What does the audience gain if you end a touching (thrilling, tear-jerking) scene before its full conclusion, or if you skip the parts you think are “too emotional”.

Answer: nothing.

I know it’s difficult to write and it drains you emotionally, but I beg of you to put in those raw emotions. That’s what makes your characters real.

Is she heartbroken? Show her sobs.

Is he angry? Show his rage. ALL of it.

Study body language and psychology. See what makes your characters tick and how they react to a situation that throws them out of their comfort zone. It’s okay to do this! You know why? Because the second best piece of advice I’ve gotten is: “Kill your darlings.”

Don’t be so attached or so fearful for a character that you just can’t hurt them. Reality, remember? Everyone gets hurt, that’s the horrible truth. Hearts break, people lie or miscommunicate, and everyone has bad days. Just look around you. That girl sitting in the corner Starbucks booth all alone? What’s her story? That busboy in the restaurant that you pay absolutely no attention to – Why does he work there? The mom with three little kids in the grocery store – Is she alone or did she choose to be by herself?

Why?

That is the biggest question you should ever ask yourself. Why do things happen around you? Why are people where they are at this moment. Listen for the stories and when you find them: Don’t. Look. Away.

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What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever gotten?

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Did you like what you read today? Do you have questions, comments, or cat-killing curiosity about something? If so, please either comment on this post or visit the Contact page and drop me a note!

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“Return to Go”

The all-mighty rejection letter.

You know the one. The one that starts “We regret to inform you” and goes downhill from there. The one that crushes your soul (like a grape) every time you get a new one. And it seems they’re all the same, right? All telling you that you haven’t made it.

Do not pass “Go”.

Do not collect 200 dollars.

I know the feeling, because I’ve been there. Every writer has. Some are lucky enough to get someone who will walk them through the process of rejection until they’re finally accepted. Others, notsomuch.

What does one do with a crushed-grape soul?

First, I fully believe in going to the kitchen, finding a pan of brownies or an entire cake, and eating them. Something about it gives just the right amount of comfort for a grieving writer. It soothes the nerves and definitely boosts your endorphin level… Not really, but I’m trying to give you some hope here.

After you’ve gorged yourself on Marie Antoinette’s final piece of advice (“Let them eat cake”), It gets a little tougher to deal with. Because the next thing you have to do is return to go. Sweep aside your shattered plans, pick up the intact pieces of your dreams, and begin again. Grab that notebook. Turn on your computer. Put your fingers to the keyboard. And let it all flow out onto the page.

Writers work magic with words and emotion. No better time to write emotion than when you’re swimming in a sea of it.

Thirdly, stop thinking of them as “rejection” letters. Sure, the editor/agent/friend/magazine didn’t like that particular piece of work, but they’re not rejecting you as a person. Choose to turn that lie on its head and think of them as “not yet” letters. Most famous writers got hundreds — some thousands — of those letters before they hit their big break. All it takes is one person who believes in you enough to give you a shot.

The name of the writer game is Perseverance! (and a lot of determination) Don’t spend valuable writing time moping about the contract you didn’t get. Return to go and start the race toward the best finish line ever. The contract you have YET to get.

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I’m interested. Worst rejection letter you’ve ever gotten and best rejection letter you’ve ever gotten. What are they?

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Did you like what you read today? Do you have questions, comments, or cat-killing curiosity about something? If so, please either comment on this post or visit the Contact page and drop me a note!

It was good to have you as a visitor today! Please drop by again, or become family by following the Write Knowledge. Thank You

Who Are You?

You’ve heard it everywhere and read it in every article on writing. Ever. And you’re probably tired of hearing it. What phrase could that be?

“Find your voice.”

But how? And where? How do you know what “your voice” is in writing? How do you make yourself unique?

(Random joke time! How do you catch a unique rabbit? Unique up on it! How do you catch a tame rabbit? Tame way. Okay, I’m better.)

I’ve found that the only non-stressful way to find your voice and keep it is to write like you talk. No, this does not mean that you can add in a bunch of “ums” and “likes” and other filler words like that. It means use your wit, sarcasm, dry humor, sense of suspense. Use what’s inside you and pour it out into your narrative.

For example, I find that my narrative (the part of the story between what the characters are saying) tends to have a ton of sarcasm in it. It really isn’t that surprising, to me. I grew up in a family that uses a lot of sarcasm, and so it comes naturally to me. However, I know several people who don’t understand how I do that, how I make things funny, because they can’t do that without a ton of planning. And you know what? That’s okay. Because their voice doesn’t have to be my voice, and my voice doesn’t have to be theirs.

“But how do I find my voice, Megan?”

So glad you asked!

First, sit down and think about what makes you unique. This doesn’t have to be something in your voice, not yet. For me, I think I’m unique because I smile a lot. I mean A LOT. People are always asking why. For one of my friends, it’s the fact she wears glasses all the time, and never contacts.

Do you have that unique part of you centered in your brain? Good. Now you know how to find something unique about yourself and you know you ARE unique.

So go take a look at your writing. What do you do that makes you sound different from other authors? Is it your unique adjectives? Or maybe you have a tendency to use short, realistic sentences. Find what’s different and exploit it. (No, exploitation is not always a bad thing) Use what’s YOURS. Find YOUR uniqueness and run with it.

You’ll never regret it.

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What makes your writing unique? Comment and let me know!!!

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Did you like what you read today? Do you have questions, comments, or cat-killing curiosity about something? If so, please either comment on this post or visit the Contact page and drop me a note!

It was good to have you as a visitor today! Please drop by again, or become family by following the Write Knowledge. Thank You

Independence

Happy Independence Day!

Today, I want to tell you a story, and hopefully I’ll do it justice. So, here goes.

      He pulled his feet up to the bench. In the dark depths below him, dingy grey water soiled the old wood. Occasionally, orange flame lit the shimmering surface. Another explosion rocked the ship, and Francis raised himself up until he could see through the barred window and beyond. Across the harbor. His eyes searched for any sign that the battle tides had turned.

Red lines zipped through the smoke-stained sky and ripped apart whatever they touched. Even at this distance, he could hear the screams of his countrymen. Friends, colleagues, maybe even family. This cursed war had gone on too long.

Francis could not understand, couldn’t even fathom, how those who had worked so long together could suddenly turn asunder and tear each other apart. So he did what he always did when the pain grew unbearable and the confusion strangled his mind. Francis didn’t have paper or a pen, but in his mind he wrote.

He thought of the rockets and bombs shattering his hopes and dreams. He thought of all he had seen before the sun set. The flag flying high above the fort. He took all these things and he turned them into words. Deep, heartfelt words that captured his wayward agony and reigned it in so others could feel it too. Words that described his hope that all would be well.

Through the night, Francis kept watch. Rain pelted those on land and on sea, but it did nothing to dampen the smoke blurring the lines. The endless discharges revealed only one thing that kept his spirits alive. Waving pleats of red, white, and blue vibrating against the night air.

As the sun graced the horizon with her gilded beauty, the battle abated. And, above it all, the flag stood tall.

They released Francis that morning, and the first thing he did was retrieve a letter from his pocket and a pen from a nearby desk. With all his heart, he scribbled out the words that had formed themselves in his mind the previous night. When he ran out of room on the back of the letter, the margins became his masterpiece. Scribbles turned to sentences, and sentences to a final picture of what he had witnessed.

     Rocket’s red glare…

     Over the land of the free and the home of the brave.

In case you didn’t realize, this is the story of Francis Scott Key, the man who wrote our National Anthem. It was not written during the Revolutionary War, as most people would think. Instead, it was written during the War of 1812. He sat as a prisoner aboard a British flagship and watched his people get bombarded without a warning. His only hope, his only eager anticipation, was seeing that flag still waving. As long as it waved, he knew Baltimore (that’s where the battle was) was safe. And, thus, America was safe.

But, Megan, what does this have to do with Independence Day? Wouldn’t a Revolutionary War story fit better since that’s when we gained our independence?

Ah, you see? That’s the point I want to make.

The War of 1812 was something of a continuation of the Revolutionary War. Unresolved issues escalated and England thought they could easily beat us and regain control of “The Colonies”. Obviously, they were wrong and we won that war. Yippee! Yay Americans! (No offense to my British friends. I love ya!)

So, again, what does this have to do with Independence Day? I’ll tell you.

Independence is not a one-time event. It’s a boxing match.

Independence is not something you can fight for once and then walk around going “Hey, look at me! I won the gold medal! I’m independent!”

Have you ever seen a boxing match? No? How about the movie “Rocky”? (Or Rocky II, Rocky III, Rocky IV, etc.) Boxers don’t punch the other guy once and expect him to stay down. They keep punching. When they get knocked down, when they’re bruised and so bloody you can hardly recognize them anymore, they get back up and they do NOT give up. They will fight to the death to win what they know is theirs. They will do anything to prove they are the better man.

Independence is not something we won during the Revolutionary War and just get to bask in the glory now. Independence is an ongoing fight. Every time someone threatens our country, our way of life, they threaten our independence. We can’t sit back and let people take what our ancestors worked so hard to keep. We must understand that the only reason our country is considered so great is because people worked hard, fought hard, to keep us free. To keep us independent.

We can’t think that we’re entitled to this freedom. We can’t sit back and do nothing. Francis Scott Key was imprisoned, and so he did the only thing he could. He recorded history from his perspective. He put his raw emotions on a page and proved just how much of a patriot he really was. Even in his darkest hour, he was thinking about his country and the people fighting to keep him free.

If he can do that much from a ship’s cell, what’s keeping you from doing greater things with your freedom?

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Did you like what you read today? Do you have questions, comments, or cat-killing curiosity about something? If so, please either comment on this post or visit the Contact page and drop me a note!

It was good to have you as a visitor today! Please drop by again, or become family by following the Write Knowledge. Thank You