Frozen – How to Beat the Blank Page!

What do you do when you sit down in front of that blank piece of paper, blank screen, or partially complete manuscript and you have nothing, I mean NOTHING to say? Let’s face it, this is an experience we’ve all had as writers, especially fiction writers. Whether you’re just starting a story or smack in the middle of it, we’ve all frozen up.

shutterstock_63759181And after the freezing comes the fear:

  • Is this story wrong?
  • Will I ever have a good idea again?
  • Do I just suck as a writer?

After years of writing, I’ve found the source of my deep freeze usually stems from two areas:

1. Am I missing something I need to know about my world?

  • This applies both to realistic and fantastic fiction, though your approach to answering that question may differ. For example, in a recent, non-speculative fiction novel, I had to write a scene about a man who was having a heart attack. The story was set in modern day, but characters had neither a working cell phone nor a landline telephone. I had a number of characters on the scene, one who was trained in CPR. My story got stuck rather quickly because I needed some basic information: (a) how long could a person be under CPR before being reasonably revived (b) how long a person could perform CPR without succumbing to exhaustion (c) how far the runner would need to go in order to find someone with a working cell-phone? A bit of research into the terrain and the intricacies of CPR and I was good to go!
  • The same thing can apply more deeply. For example, is your magical system unclear? What do people eat in your world, what are the obligations of a host to a guest, how long does it take to travel from village A to B and etc. Sometimes the answer is just learning more about your world, whatever it is. The danger of this, of course, is spending the next two weeks playing the research game. So how do you escape this trap? For me, I always ask myself, what is the minimum I need to know to write the scene? Get specific. For example, I need to know what the obligation of a host is to a particular guest, but only insofar as it’s relevant to the scene at hand. I can fill in the rest later, should it become relevant. The more important a detail is to your story, the more you need to fill it in, but if it’s a minor thing, don’t spend more than a ten or fifteen minutes looking/making it up.

So how do get yourself unfrozen when faced with a world building problem? Here is my favorite site for developing my world: Patricia Wrede’s Fantasy Worldbuilding Questions. It is VERY detailed, and I don’t start with doing everything here, but I try to touch on the high points as I like to have a fair amount of worldbuilding done before I start writing. I also find that these questions apply just as well to science fiction as to fantasy worlds.

LINK: http://www.sfwa.org/2009/08/fantasy-worldbuilding-questions/

2. Am I missing something I need to know about a character in the scene?

  • Main character: Is there something important that I don’t “know” about my main character that I need to know in order to start this story/write this scene? Do I know enough about this person’s past in order to understand her present? Do I have a good feel for her voice?
  • Supporting Characters: Is there something I need to know about non-main character in the scene? I especially love to ask this of minor characters. What’s the butler’s story? How about that kid in the corner shining shoes? The fool? The family dog? The most important question for me about minor characters is “what do they want?” Either that or, “what is their secret”. Both of these are fun. Even something as simple as the man serving wine wants to get back to the kitchen and see his  boyfriend gives me some idea of how he’s acting in the scene. His boyfriend is the main character’s brother makes things even more fun.

So how do you learn more about your characters? For me, the best method for finding out what I’m missing is to do a character journal. If it’s a main character, I’ve generally done a character journal either before I start the book or at least somewhere in Chapter 1. But for minor characters, I may not know anything about them at all. So my first step is to look at each minor character and ask myself, “What are you doing in this scene? Why are you here?” and most importantly, “What do you want?” or “what is your secret?” Usually my instincts for this are pretty good, and it only takes 1-2 characters for me to find out who the important (seemingly unimportant) person in the scene is. Once I know who this person is, what they want, and what they’re hiding, the scene usually gets unstuck rather quickly and it’s full speed ahead!

My favorite resource for character journaling is in Alice Orr’s book No More Rejections. I’ve used the character journaling techniques in this book for over a decade and they’ve work for me. What I like about her approach is that you answer the question in the first person and there are many questions like, “I think my best feature is ____” which allows you to really get into the psychology of how the character feels about herself as opposed to merely a physical list of traits. I’ve applied this approach to character lists I’ve found for free online, but hers is the best, in my opinion.

LINK: http://www.amazon.com/No-More-Rejections-Secrets-Manuscript/dp/1582972850/

So that’s my approach, first I check my world, and then I check my characters. What do you do to get unstuck? Feel free to post in the comments below.

Stranger in a Strange Land: How to Take Your Reader to New Worlds

In the summer of 2007, on the first day of my first week of the Odyssey Fantastic Fiction Writing Workshop (an excellent program that was well worth blowing my savings at the time and living without income for six weeks,) our teacher and fearless leader Jeanne Cavelos led a fascinating discussion on what unique expectations readers bring to speculative fiction as opposed to realist genres. One thing she noted was that speculative readers (scifi/fantasy/horror) are looking for an experience of estrangement. They like being immersed in a world or experience that they don’t fully understand and then filling in the pieces from context. I know this is true for me, and I bet it’s true for a lot of you who are following this blog as well.

Imageshutterstock.com

I dig estrangement. I love the idea of exploring strange new worlds, and when I travel, one of my favorite things is to just get lost and see where I end up. Wanting something completely different was one thing that brought me to Japan to live and teach in spring of 2010. I’d studied Japanese off and on, and though circumstances prevented me from my dream of living Japan for many years, when I had the opportunity, I jumped in whole hog and had the time of my life.

As a foreigner living in a place where English was often not spoken, I had to learn to live and work in my second language (and second culture). I was also partially illiterate and the system of measurement was in metric, which really messed me up because I never knew how faraway things were or what the temperature really was. Much of my daily life was about picking up thing from context and challenging my own assumptions about how the world was supposed to work. In short, I was living estrangement. To add to the fun, after three years when I went home in spring, 2013, I was once again a stranger in a strange land as my habits, assumptions, and life were out of step with that of my family and friends. Within a month or so, I had adjusted back to my life in the States, but the experience lingers.

Now, a year later, I’m sitting under a kotatasu in a hostel in Sapporo, Japan, having returned for a one month visit. Returning to a country with a vastly different culture has gotten me thinking again about estrangement and how it works in fiction, and like someone who makes stuff up for a living and expects random strangers to believe it at least for some time and pages, I’m going to spin some theories about estrangement and then give some ideas on how to apply them to your own writing. Disclaimer: like much of my life in Japan, I’m winging it. There are two types of estrangement that I think are important to discuss and apply when thinking of how to construct cultures and societies different from your own in fiction. I will call them Category 1 and Category 2.

Category 1 has to do with taking an extreme or opposing viewpoint to a binary that exists in your culture.

For example: Cultural assumption: Woman are biologically made to bear and raise children and have to struggle to be equal to men in non-domestically related work.

Response: I will write a world where men are seen in that light, whether it’s by a change in male anatomy or an idea that women bear the children and the men stay in the house to raise them, etc. Or I’ll make my main character exist in a culture where this assumption doesn’t exist so you see about 50/50% division of careers (either in or out of the home). This is often done to great (and not so great) effect in SF, Fantasy and even Horror fiction.

Living in a world where there is a core cultural assumption that exists on the opposite of a binary than your own is quite estranging. For example, in my second year of teaching at Japanese Elementary schools, I came head to head with this sort of cultural binary when I decided that I wanted to incorporate phonics education into my work with the students. Though my classes were conversation based, because I worked at six schools and taught grades 1-6, I didn’t get a lot of time to work with my students, especially grades 1-4. I knew that after elementary school, they would be moved to a heavily reading and grammar based Junior High school educational model, and it seemed to me that the faster I could get them reading, the easier time they’d have retaining what they’d already learned, interacting with written English outside of class, and in their future education when they left me. I’d come to this thought both through training at my company and other reading I’d done on EFL education. At five of my six schools, I had a great deal of flexibility in lesson planning and execution, so incorporating phonics wasn’t really a problem (beyond my own learning curve in presenting it).

At my sixth school, however, they had a well-established and excellent curriculum for teaching English, and I was actually and only an assistant. I’d assumed, with this school’s really strong commitment to teaching English, that once I presented the benefits of incorporating five or so minutes of phonics pronunciation education into what they were doing, it would be a no brainer and I was really excited to see how the students at this school, who already had an intensive English curriculum, would improve with this addition of phonics.

Alas, it was not to be. I was frankly bewildered at the abrupt rejection of the idea and assumed it was because my Japanese wasn’t strong enough to effectively present the idea. I had a moment with one of the school advisers, a woman who spoke perfect English and whose opinion I deeply respected, and presented the idea again. She also said no, and when I asked why, she said, “and if our students improve so much from learning this, what about their Junior High school teacher next year? How will she be able to handle the difference in skill level between our students and her other students? That will be very difficult for her.”

Mind…blown…

I realized suddenly that this was a clear example of a cultural assumption coming in at the opposite side of the individualism vs. collectivism binary that we often see in writings about Japan (and we often see over-romanticized and oversimplified in my experience). I’m an individualist, raised in an individualist culture. Those kids were “mine” and I wanted them to be the best, period. I didn’t (and still don’t, tbh) care about how difficult it makes the Junior High School teacher’s life, and my cultural assumption was, “if I can teach my students to do something better, then this makes me a better teacher and thus I am successful at my job.”

Confronting a world where individualism wasn’t naturally favored was highly estranging for me. I also realized that there had been a lot of very subtle things that were truly different in my daily life as a part of coming at the binary from the opposite side that I simply hadn’t noticed. It was shown in how decisions were made at the school, for example, which students in each grade were selected for having produced the best calligraphy in the new year (a complex, time consuming group effort that had bewildered me at the time).

The individualism vs. collectivism binary is something that we understand culturally, though we certainly skew strongly to one side of it in the US and many Western cultures. Because it’s a binary that exists in our culture, which is why I placed it under Category 1. Here’s some good approaches for writing Category 1 estrangement in my experience:

Step 1:  Take a binary that you take for granted in your culture. If you’re American, just watch any political speech during a Presidential campaign season if you’re stuck for ideas.

Step 2: Challenge it. For example: Democracy is the shining light of freedom (what if it’s not?); We want all of our children to be well educated (what if your made up culture doesn’t; what if they only want certain types of children to be educated or what if they don’t want anyone to be educated?); In order to lead a county, you must be the most patriotic (what if it’s the opposite?), etc. If you don’t like politics, you can always look at fashion magazines instead. What if thin isn’t attractive? What if light skin and long hair isn’t favored? Etc. All of these things are different and create a feeling of a different world, but all of these things exist within your own existing assumptions and cultural binaries, hence they are Category 1.

Category 2, in my mind, is bringing in cultural assumptions that exist out of established binaries. In truth, these aren’t any different to write than challenging Category 1 assumptions, but they are more difficult to find because you really have to think OUTSIDE of your own boxes. For example: the binary Men vs. Women doesn’t take into account the concept of fluid or different genders outside of male/female. The moment you create a third or a fourth gender, or a period of life where people are not seen to have gender, you are no longer taking a position within an existing binary, but instead creating a truly different cultural assumption. Note, I’m saying gender here and not sex, though you can certainly create a sex based biological difference between non male/female genders, I think it’s equally, if not more, estranging to create multiple genders outside of obvious (to us) biological differences.

An example from my life in Japan that really brought this concept to life for me was the experience of living for three years in a place where monotheism was not the norm. If you grow up in the US, whether or not you are polytheistic, you live in a larger culture that assumes (Judeo/Christian) monotheism as the norm. Further, this binary’s opposite in the USA is atheism. In short, there is literally no room made for polytheism or animism (or other ‘isms’) in everyday life in the States. This assumption of monotheism (and its opposite being atheism) permeates every aspect of our lives. When we sneeze, we don’t say “Gods bless you.” Only one God blesses America. When you’re surprised, it’s “Oh my God!” or “My gosh” if you think the first one is blasphemous. Do you want to enjoy a feeling of estrangement? Try explaining the meaning of these expressions to a classroom full of students or a group of friends who have no assumption of monotheism (and no particular interest in it beyond the academic). Try explaining curse words and the Devil. Then listen to your students explain their cultural and religious traditions and their relationship to their Gods. Try living in a world where Christmas is a dating holiday and people rush to KFC for their Christmas chicken dinner.

One very interesting cultural experience I had here was attending church with my Brazilian friends. As members of the minority religion, my Brazilian Christian friends had to travel an hour to find a church that was their denomination, which happened to be in a building in the middle of a rice field. (Lots of buildings are in the middle of rice fields where I lived in Japan.) Contrast this to temples, which are a dime a dozen (there were two within walking distance of my apartment) and on Japanese holidays they are packed with young and old alike. The Church was also full, mostly with foreigners whose religion was as thought about by mainstream Japanese culture as often as we in the States think about Shintoism. Fantasy novels often have polytheistic cultures, but I can’t think of that many we see in SF, though Battlestar Galactica, the TV series, comes to mind. In my SF reading experience, if you have a religion in SF, especially among human beings, it’s monotheistic (and generally recognizably Judeo-Christian). This is in part, I think, due to another Western cultural assumption that society moves from animism and polytheism to monotheism and then with the introduction of technology, to secular atheism. Not everyone believes this, but I think it’s an assumption we see a lot in SF, and like all assumptions, we chose it and other cultures have chosen different ones.

So how do you take step away from Category 1 estrangement (taking a position on an existing binary) and step into Category 2 (creating another option)? I think a good way to do this is to take an existing binary and ask yourself what exists outside of it. Instead of taking a binary like White vs. Black, why not have some other colors too? Why not have a cultural assumption that through science, one gains a better comprehension of the various Gods that exist in the universe? Why not have a culture where there are four natural genders that people pass through as they age, in varying order depending on other cultural factors? In my opinion, both Category 1 and Category 2 estrangement can be used to create great speculative fiction. However, it’s easier to work within what you already know. Like a fish who has lived its entire life at the bottom of the ocean, the concept of running is not obvious. It’s weird and wonderful and estranging in the best way. It’s something our readers are looking for when you take them to strange lands in their minds.

Next question: How do you step out of your own assumptions? Well, you can go live in or at least travel to a different country for a while. I recommend it, but it involves you uprooting your life and it isn’t so cheap. Another thing you can do is meet and talk to people who are from other countries. Learn a new language and make some new friends. (believe me, as someone who has lived and traveled abroad, the help and insight you can provide will be invaluable to their lives). You can also read books by people from other countries and cultures. Autobiographies and realist fiction is great from other cultures is great. What assumptions are common to other cultures, and how are they different from yours both within your own cultural binaries and outside of them? Work to get your mind blown. It’s uncomfortable, unnatural and downright weird. Isn’t that the point?

A Writer’s Guide to Managing Your Social Media Addiction

ImageIn spite of my best efforts, I kill a lot of time on social media. I’m on Facebook and Twitter, and though I’ve managed to stay strong and avoid Tumblr, I assume it’s only a matter of time before I succumb to that, as well. I’ve always been a person who is vulnerable to the siren’s call of the Internet. I remember those AOL CD-roms and spending money on an hourly basis in the 8th and 9th grades to sit in a chat room, generally about Star Trek, and engage in typed conversations with 10-15 strangers. We shared deep moments of communication, including: Age/Sex/Location check and “Data or Spock?” I spent hours doing this every day, just for the thrill of knowing that I was talking with someone all of the way in Oklahoma, which as far as I was concerned might as well have been as far away as Mars and certainly a weirder place to live.

I think in part it’s because since I was a kid, reading sci-fi stories and watching movies with future technology my iPhone now puts to shame, I’ve been waiting for a world where I can hold a computer in my pocket. I’m an oddball among my writer friends. Not only do I love eBooks, I’m also happily sending my paperbacks (and even many of my precious hardcovers) to the used bookstore in favor of my digital library. eBooks truly saved my literary butt when I lived in Japan, allowing me to keep up with new books by my favorite authors and read new books too just like I was living in the States. In fact, the Internet was my main way of keeping up with events and family at home, and I was grateful for social media for allowing me to maintain my relationships in an easy and fun way.

Now though, after close to a year back home, I’ve noticed that the Internet, specifically social media, is taking over my life. And not in a good way. The inter-connectivity I’ve always craved is actually getting too invasive, what with the push notifications (even my flashlight wants to send them to me) and the feeling that I really should respond to this post or that message/tweet RIGHT NOW! And this issue is being exacerbated by the fact that I am now doing most of my professional work in front of a computer screen, a new experience for me. I’m living my dream, making my living through my pen (mostly writing to spec and some editing, but hey…it pays the bills), and as such the distraction of the Internet is always front and center. So managing my internet social media addiction is increasingly vital to my happiness and creative life. And I’m betting I’m not alone, hence this post.

Other creative professionals approach this issue in varying ways:

Benedict Cumberbatch, of Sherlock fame, has taken the hands off approach and chooses not to participate at all: http://www.mirror.co.uk/tv/tv-news/sherlock-actor-benedict-cumberbatch-admits-3143719

ImageLaudable, but as I’m managing all of my professional social media marketing (and my brain would probably explode if I didn’t look at least one adorable kitten video daily) that’s not going to work for me.

ImageFor most of us, personally and professionally, life requires some degree of social media engagement. These are the tools we use to keep in touch with family, friends, professional contacts and eventually fans. Facebook allows me to keep up with my friends overseas and coordinate visits as well as other business. It also is allowing me to build my personal mailing list so that I can send notification of new releases and book specials to my readership. It reminds me of my friends’ birthdays (I suck at that) and lets me know when events are happening in my city.

WikiHow (http://www.wikihow.com/Defeat-a-Social-Networking-Addiction) suggests that the first step towards dealing with social media addiction is to admit you have a problem. Probably, if you’re still reading this, you know you have a problem. I think it’s more important to determine how severe a problem you truly have with social media. You may be perfectly happy with your social media usage, even if it is a couple of hours a day that you could be doing something else. Until recently, mine has actually been manageable, in large part because I had too much else going on in my life to spend hours and hours online. Now though, my life has settled down, and this gives me more time to kill…literally. Hence, I’m feeling like it’s time to make a change.

So here’s my six step trial program

Step 1: Admit you want to make a change in your relationship to social media. As I said above, until recently, I was perfectly happy with my social media usage, though, for other people, it might have seemed a bit much. Lots of people complain about using Facebook too much, but actually they really aren’t bothered by it. They keep rocking on with their goals and it’s just not a big deal. That might be you, and that’s cool. But if you are feeling like your social media usage is detracting from other important areas of your life, and you think that’s a problem, then it’s time to make a change. Also, if your family/friends think it’s enough of a problem to express this to you, that’s also a clue that you want to make a change, for example: you’re too busy checking your Facebook to interact with people at parties or are more concerned with your hotel WIFI in Beijing than seeing the Great Wall.

Step 2: So you’ve decided you want to make a change. One piece of obvious advice is to ask yourself how many minutes to hours daily you want to spend on social media, and then stick to that plan. So, you want to spend a half hour a day on social media. Okay, set a timer for 30 minutes and turn off the social media when it goes off. Even better, do this at the end of the day when you’re done working (instead of in the morning when you wake up and then at lunch, and again midafternoon and etc.)

As I said, this is obvious, and it doesn’t work very well in my experience for two reasons:

  1. You have to pick a goal that is actually something you will do. If you’re spending 3-4 hours on social media throughout your day, trying to cut down to 15 minutes/day is not going to work unless you have incredible self-discipline. Which, face it, you probably don’t because otherwise you wouldn’t be spending 3-4 hours on Facebook daily. I personally don’t have incredible self-discipline, so I’m aiming for 30 minutes, 2x/day for Facebook and 10 minutes daily for Twitter. After I get my work done. (And remember to set that timer. There’s one in your smartphone. It’s smart like that.)And after you’ve turned off your push notifications (or whatever they’re called on your phone, and if you manage Facebook pages, turn off the notifications on your Pages app as well), the next step is to let your close friends know that you aren’t going to get on Facebook and Twitter until the evening, so if they really want to contact you, send a text message. Or make a phone call. Weird, I know.
  2. You probably have a smartphone, and it LOVES to let you know about any changes to your social media accounts. For example, I have an iPhone that sends me PUSH notifications whenever anything happens on my Facebook and Twitter. I don’t even think about them. Most of us don’t. Did you know you can turn these off? It’s in your phone settings. After you’ve decided how long you want to spend on social media, go to your settings and turn off your notifications (if you manage Facebook pages, turn off the notifications on your Pages app as well). It will feel like a kick in the gut when you do this. You’ll glance at your phone, wondering if someone has sent you a message that is eagerly awaiting your response. Remind yourself that a few hours won’t make a difference. Unless you’re a freelance bomb disarming specialist whose clients contact you through Facebook and Twitter, in which case, keep those notifications on.

Step 3: Stick to your plan for a minimum of 28 days (or 1 month if that’s easier to remember). It takes 28 days to make/break a habit. Saying you’ll stop something for a week is easy, but after the week is done, you’ll just go back to your old ways. Pick a month when you are not having major life changes like moving, major house construction or traveling, because that’s not your norm, and you are trying to reset your norm. Also, if you can, start in the spring. The weather is nice so you’ll want to go outside. For example, as I’m going to be traveling for the next month, I’ll start resetting my relationship with social media after I get back from my trip. As a bonus, it will be spring. I did turn off those push notifications though.

Step 4: Clear your cookies and any remembered passwords for your Facebook and Twitter on your computer. It’s easy to just click okay if you go to the page, which you will do automatically for the first few days, but if you have to type it in you’ll at least have to pay attention to what you’re doing.

Step 5: Find something else to do. This is the time to take that art class or start that exercise regime or dance class or do ANYTHING that will keep you out of the face of temptation. I can also say, a major reason why I waste time (there’s a difference between spending time and wasting time) on social media is because I have some spare time. Then that free moment turns into an hour where I really did want to get something else done (like writing,) but the social media just got out of hand. So sign up for a class. Volunteer. Get out of the house. Or give yourself a writing goal, and turn off your web browser while you’re working on it. There’s software you can get to help with this, if you don’t trust yourself, or you can always go to a café and not ask for their WIFI password.

BONUS: Keep your social media posts/shares away from subjects that inspire intense debate that you then have to moderate. For example, in the past week, I’ve made the mistake of sharing a post that inspired a debate on religion in science education and another that inspired a debate on gay activism and religion. I have deep, passionate stances on these subjects. So do all of my friends. They don’t all agree, and once the sparks start flying, everyone has to express themselves. I have never met anyone who has changed her political or religious views based on a Facebook or Twitter thread, but such conversations will take you hours into the night before all parties just agree to disagree. Or stalks off in a virtual huff. So if you’re trying to limit your time on social media, don’t start the conversation. And don’t jump in on someone else’s controversial thread, no matter how much you disagree with the other parties involved. This is incredibly difficult if you are an activist type, but if your goal is actual change, quit shouting into the echo-box and instead take 5 minutes and give $5 to an organization that supports your views. That will save you hours of useless social media debate and maybe even accomplish something. In the words of the famous rap artist, DMX, “Don’t start nothing, it won’t be nothing. You wanna start something, it’s gon be something.”

ImageImage Source: http://ionetheurbandaily.files.wordpress.com/2012/05/dmx-the-weigh-in.jpg

Like with any addiction, you are going to suffer stress and withdrawal symptoms from kicking your social media addiction. You might fall off of the wagon. Forgive yourself and try again. You can get yourself to the level of social media usage that fits ideally into your life. Or at least to a point where social media isn’t controlling your life. Trust me, if you don’t pick up these skills now, how are you going to handle your internet brain-node in the future?

Links for further reference:
http://voices.yahoo.com/social-media-addiction-symptoms-treatment-12045080.html?cat=5
http://www.wikihow.com/Defeat-a-Social-Networking-Addiction

My Precious: On Killing Your Darlings

As writers, we’re often given the advice to “kill your darlings.” The general interpretation of this (in my mind at least) is not to get so attached to a sentence, plotline, or character that you allow them to take away from instead of add to your story. In short, nothing is precious.

Pic of Golem from LotR: http://cynicritics.com/tag/gollum/

I generally like this advice, especially when it comes to plotting. If one of my characters has a secret that will destroy my story if discovered, I make sure that secret comes out as quickly as possible. In my mind, it’s impossible to create something new if your mind is all cluttered up with your initial plot ideas.

That said, some people take this advice too far:

  • So you think it’s your best sentence – cut it immediately.
  • You think that subplot is important – EXTERMINATE!

This is how I ended up rewriting the first sentence of my very first novel (a 150,000 word monstrosity of magical martial arts battles and epic swordfights that will never see the light of day) over 20 times. One of the most difficult parts about (re)writing is knowing what to save and what to kill. And the harder truth of it is, this never gets easier. Well, maybe it does for some people, but it hasn’t for me.

For example, I’ve already scrapped two ideas for this blog entry alone. I even wrote three paragraphs about Nelson Mandela and they aren’t terrible…just wrong. The thing is, writing walks that terrifying razors’ edge of complete passion and necessary objectivity. This is why many (most) of us join writers groups. Sometimes we need someone else to tell us when an idea’s got to go.

But there are other things that we take on as precious that we don’t even think about. Stereotypes (the hero is tall, muscular and male). Assumptions (education will be the same 100 years from now, resembling a 21st century high school drama). Western ideas of plot structure and design. Which of these darlings should we kill or keep?

Image of Anissa Pierce aka Thunder: http://www.comicvine.com/thunder/4005-3407/

I’ve been thinking about killing darlings lately because in spite of the fact I’m well familiar with the concept of not letting my writing become too precious to me, I’ve managed to fall into that trap anyhow. In the past six years, I’ve drafted at least 10 short stories and a fair number of novels and novel parts, all of which are currently fossilizing on my hard drive. I keep saying “I’ll revise this” and “I’ll send that out when I get this thing done” but ultimately, I’m not doing anything. And so my work stagnates, precious and unread.

So I’ve decided I’m going to put one out there, for free, and collect the most salvageable of the rest for $.99c in a kindle ebook this month. By doing this, I’ll reduce the clutter in my brain so that I can create new things. And who knows, someone might even like it.