Monday, February 24, 2014

Does a Tidy Desk Mean a Tidy Mind?

Warning: the images in this post may be disturbing--especially if you like a tidy work environment.

This photo clearly shows I've recently cleaned up
Today I thought I'd share the mess that is my office. I clean up my work area once every 4-6 months depending on whether the piles of papers and notes threaten to topple, or if I want to avoid writing, then I tell myself that cleaning my desk is justifiable. I'm still doing something toward my writing, right?

For a while I bought into the saying that an untidy desk reflects an untidy mind. So out of embarrassment, I'd clean up. Funny thing was any chaos I might've been harbouring didn't suddenly disappear. On seeing a clean desk, no clear skies came rolling in and no golden ta-da moment of inspiration struck. My mind is a chaotic soup of what-ifs, doubts, crazy worlds, and weird characters. No clean desk is going to change that. (Or maybe I'm just used to the mess so it's no longer a distraction).

After doing some reading, I discovered that an untidy desk often enables creative types. “Disorderly environments seem to inspire breaking free of tradition, which can produce fresh insights,” according to Dr Vohs, a behavioural scientist at the University of Minnesota. I like the sound of that! But that's me. How about you?
This desk would be messier if I had more room
Does a clean desk or work area make a difference to the way you work or think?

I've continued the discussion in the IWSG Facebook group as well. Feel free to pop on over and post a pic of your area.

IWSG news: Today, Alex J Cavanaugh has a guest post at How to Write Shop, talking about the Insecure Writer's Support Group. Please pop on over and support our awesome group, or find out more about the group.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Writing Likeable Characters

I've often heard the advice that writers should strive to create likeable characters. Unfortunately the term 'likeable' is often misunderstood to mean someone you'd want to get to know in real life. As a result, writers turn their creations into sugar sweet confectionery that's neither likeable nor realistic.

I just finished reading The Diviners by Libba Bray. It's a young adult book set in the 1920's. It's a wonderful read, but I'm not sure I'd want to make the main character my best friend. She's far too selfish. Oddly enough, she's likeable nonetheless. Why? Because she's interesting. She's bold and open-minded and just a little bit sassy.

I also recently read Bloody Waters by Jason Franks. It's about a girl named Clarice and her rock band, Bloody Waters, as they rise to stardom with the aid of a deal done with the devil. Another fantastic read. I definitely would not want to know Clarice in real life, yet she's a fabulous character to journey with through the novel. She speaks her mind, is as rough as sandpaper, and will take out anyone who gets in her way.

Another great example of unlikeable likeable characters is to read pretty much any of the books written by Joe Abercrombie. The Blade Itself is his first novel. It's full of horrible people capable of doing horrible things, yet I was drawn to them anyway. He turned the sanitised fantasies into something new and engaging.

So when you hear the call for 'likeable' characters, think instead 'interesting'--characters with depth, inner conflicts and flaws. Realistic characters with no rainbows and unicorns in sight. It's the quirks that make the characters likeable and encourages readers to read more.

What stories have you read with unlikeable likeable characters? What do you think made those characters work?

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Best Writing Advice Part 2 #IWSG

There's something deeply encouraging about hearing great advice from peers who genuinely understand what it means to choose writing as a career path. In the last month I've been especially encouraged by all my wonderful bloggy friends who have left comments here and on the Insecure Writer's Support Group website. It's because of your readiness to share great advice and to support each other. I'm truly warmed and gratified to be a part of this community.

Consequently, I want to share just some of the advice given in the comments for my post, The Best Writing Advice Ever. It would be a shame for these tips to become lost in the comments. In my post, I wrote that the best advice I've ever been given is to keep writing and don't give up. I put out the question, what other advice have you been given that's been invaluable? Below are some of your answers:

Stephen Tremp, L Diane Wolfe and Kittie Howard mentioned how important it is to write about what you love: "Write what you're passionate about. If you don't, it will show."—L Diane Wolfe

Along similar lines, Patsy Collins said, "Write what you enjoy rather than what you think will sell".

"Often as beginners we spend too much time worrying about all the advice." A very true statement (and one I wish to expand on in a future post) from S P Bowers.

Jemi Fraser was the first to mention how important it is to read. Laura Pauling also emphasised this, along with Jay Noel and Nas

Madeline Mora-Summonte mentioned the importance of hard work and quoted Stephen King: "Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work."

Toinette Thomas said the best advice she was given was to get some beta readers.

Susan Gowley/Kelley said, "As soon as you finish one project, dig into the next or have more than one going at a time."

"Just keep writing everyday." --Pat Hatt

"Finish what you start." --Chris Andrews and Charlotte Brentwood

Nicole Singer shared what her crit group told her on her first day: "Don't take what we say personally, but take it to heart."

"Put a manuscript away and don't revise it immediately." Wise words from Medeia Sharif.

"'There's an audience for everything.' We shouldn't be discouraged if we feel like our writing isn't as epic as someone else's. It's the core emotions and feel that carry book, and there WILL be people who identify with your core." --Crystal Collier

Denise Covey shared advice she read in Donald Maas' writing tips: Dig deep to make the story worth reading.

And to finish off with a chuckle, Shallee McArthur shared what a teacher once told her: The two keys to a good book are to have a unique take on something, and not to suck.

From this great pool of advice, which have you recently found the most encouraging and helpful? Which do you find particularly difficult to follow through on? Is there any other advice you'd like to share?

This post was written for the Insecure Writer's Support Group. On the first Wednesday of every month, we post about our insecurities or share encouragement. To join the group or find out more info, click here.

Note: Alex J Cavanaugh, our resident Ninja Captain extraordinaire, would like everyone to know that his book, CassaFire, the second of a wonderful space opera series, is on sale for a short time at just 99c. If you haven't yet read this series, now is a brilliant time to start (the first book is CassaStar). If you aren't a scifi fan, then don't worry, this series appeals to non-scifi readers too.