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Some Explanations For Suck

Andrew’s log: Thursday. 11:25am.

Susan popped up on gchat last night and we started talking about the latest episode of The Walking Dead, which was THE best one of the season so far. Don’t know what I’m talking about? Go to Netflix, Redbox, Amazon, wherever you have to go and start watching this show NOW. /plug

Later on, she asked how I was doing with the whole Writerly Discouragement Thing. I told her I was still discouraged because of a noticeable lack of improvement in my writing. The problem, as I saw it, was having a pretty good handle on story planning, but a serious weakness in putting those plans into words strangers would find entertaining.

She thought I might be in a plateau, which I sort of believed. Sort of because calling a writing slump a plateau can easily be an excuse for never getting better. “Yeah, I suck right now, but it’s just a temporary thing. I’m in a plateau. Any minute now, I’ll be AWESOME!” This is all going on in my head even though I know it’s not what Susan meant. One of the many fantastic qualities about her is that she says what she means. As a simple minded male, I need this or my brain melts. Simple biology.

So, I’m in a plateau. How? And why does it feel never-ending? Susan came up with a great video game analogy that answered my question, which shall be known as:

The Level-Up Plateau

At the beginning of a video game, the obstacles are easy, the foes are inept and you move through the game at a brisk pace. At some point, the obstacles take a little more thinking to overcome and a foe comes along whose got your number. He laughs in your face as you repeatedly try to conquer him and move on to the next level. And then, all of the sudden . . . you’ve got his number. You kick his ass without breaking a sweat and jump off the couch, controller in hand yelling at the TV screen, “Bitch, pleeze. You ain’t shit!” Just me?

That makes sense and doesn’t sound like I’m making an excuse because even though the win felt easy, it took a lot of failure to get there. Susan went on to say that my extended slump of non-improvement might be a sign of passing the easier levels.

Hmm . . . interesting.

We also talked about having a few crappy manuscripts under one’s belt before having something worthy. As of now, I’m up to two and a half and when I look back at those, the biggest problem was a lack of proper story structure. I know a lot more about structure now and writing with that in mind is a lot harder than writing the way I used to.

BUT . . .

At least I have a reason for my funk I can wrap my brain around that doesn’t sound like an excuse or a cop-out. It sounds like I’m on the right path. Sounds like it. I don’t know for sure if I’m on said path, but, with Susan’s help, I’ve got a pretty good plan to help me find out.

 

 

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This Is It . . . Ground Zero

I don’t know if I’ll ever find my writing voice. And if that’s true, it means I’m not cut out to be a published writer. It doesn’t matter how bad I want to be one or how hard I try at it. If the talent’s not in my DNA, then it’s not in there. And that’s . . . very disappointing.

I think the barometer for gauging talent goes something like this: if you love doing something, really love it, then it’s probably something you can be good at. I’m not much of a believer in that. To me, the love makes you try your hardest to get good, but in order to completely succeed, you need the ability in your DNA. Up until recently, I thought I had that. Now I’m not so sure.

A while back Susan and Kait broke it to me that my writing needed more work. They were a little worried I’d get discouraged by their advice, but that’s not what’s happening. This has been building in my subconscious for a while now I think.

The way Susan put it, my writing is pretty good, but it doesn’t read like I wrote it. It lacks the all important Voice. Which means my writing either won’t connect with the reader or after reading a full story by me, it’ll leave the reader with a meh kind of feeling. No lasting impression or worse, no desire to read any future work by me. If that’s all I can hope for, why bother publishing?

But if don’t try, how will you know for sure?

Not the time to be rational, Brain. Did you forget what we read yesterday?

Yesterday’s post on Kait’s blog was titled: What Makes You STOP Reading An Otherwise Good Book? Say what? Out of my head, Nolan. :shakes fist like a mustache twirling villain: Between what she wrote and the comments that followed, connecting with the story enough to care what happens next is way up on the criteria for keeping a reader interested. Couldn’t agree more. And . . . uh oh.

My wife’s been super supportive because she’s the reigning Best Wife Ever and doesn’t want me to give up. I’m not and I don’t see a day where I’d totally stop writing, but I’m seriously questioning my future as a published writer. That’s why I’m journaling. If this doesn’t help me find my Voice, it’s not getting found.

As a companion piece to this article, go read Susan’s latest: I, Antagonist, part 1: The Procrastination. It’s full of analytical goodness about procrastination, which I’m sure is playing its part in my current mood.

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Maybe The Universe is Speaking to Me Too

Hey, friends. Your old pal Andrew here. Of course.

Been awhile since I blogged. Haven’t had anything to say and when I did, no time to write it. Yesterday, my buddy Susan wrote about the Universe wanting her to journal. It’s something she’s talked to me about to help me be more comfortable with my writing. Great idea, but I never seem to have the time for it.

Well, yesterday I wrote one and it felt good to just blurt out my feelings. When I read it over, I thought it might make a good blog post, which lead to thinking maybe I should journal right here. Mocete Studios approved me within thirty seconds, so tomorrow I’ll start journaling. It definitely won’t be a daily journal, but I’m going to try super hard to at least make it a weekly one. We’ll see.

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Adventures in Tree Trimming

This time last year, I was about to start a second  job. Thirty-five extra hours, which was as close to full-time as I could get without actually calling it full-time. I had one day off a week and after a few days working both jobs, that day was strictly for rest. As a consequence, I never put our Christmas tree up. Even if I did, I know my wife would’ve been bummed out decorating alone and wouldn’t have asked me to help because I was so tired. So, no tree. But this year I was back to one job. Game on.

I made sure to get the tree up right after Thanksgiving so my wife and I could have it decorated before December. Then she’d have all month to enjoy it. We decorated Sunday night, putting more ornaments on the tree than we ever have.

Probably shouldn’t have done that.

Our tree was a four and a half footer and because it was so short, we always placed it on a table. Six years of Christmases and there was never a need to fasten the legs down or secure the tree with wire.

Probably should’ve done that.

About two hours later, my wife was in the bedroom and I was in the living room (with the tree) working on a Christmas playlist when I caught something in my periphery. Next thing I knew the tree was taking a dive off the table. Looking back, since I was about a foot away from the tree, I may have had a chance at catching it before it hit the floor. I think my eyes weren’t believing what they were seeing just long enough for me to miss my window for saving the tree.

We have a lot of glass ornaments and it sounded like they all shattered on impact. It was loud. Of course, my wife was already coming out of the bedroom asking me what the noise was. For a split second, I wanted to just stand in front of the wreckage and say it was nothing or make up an excuse like really bad gas and hope she bought it.

To say she was upset when she saw our poor tree would be an understatement. There were tears. Many tears. But once we started cleaning up, we found out only three ornaments broke. One, unfortunately, was irreplaceable.

Putting this tree back up was out of the question. In that moment, I think my wife didn’t want to have any tree.

That was not an option.

I hopped on the internet and found some sturdier trees for to choose from. Once she picked out the one she wanted, I ordered it, selecting the store pick-up option, went out to Target for more ornaments (this one’s an extra two feet taller) during my lunch break the next day, and got the tree on my way home.

This lead to her, unknowingly, nominating me for Facebook husband of the year. Many of her friends liked reading about what I did, but this was the part of her status update that really got me:

I may have lost some ornaments last night, but he gave me a wonderful new memory of him showing me how much he loves me.

You can call me a Clueless Male Person, but I never saw what I was doing as that. I just wanted to solve the problem so she wouldn’t be upset. My feelings seem to come out fine when I write, but in actual speaking english? Not so much. Probably something we guys lost when our X broke off into a Y. Made me feel good to know even though it doesn’t come out a lot, my wife knows I love her.

As a bonus, the cynic in me got a nice reminder that sometimes an even better result can come out of something bad. Makes it a little sweeter that I got this reminder around the holidays.

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The Opinion On Everything Age

This morning I read an interesting observation on Facebook from Lisa Nowak. She’s noticed a big decline in presidential signs/bumper stickers in her hometown and every response cited the same two reasons for this:

No one’s mind is ever changed because of them and they invite trouble.

I agreed with everyone and don’t think this is limited to political opinions. For certain issues, I think it’s smarter to keep our opinions to ourselves. I still believe we’re entitled to our free speech, but we’re fooling ourselves if we think we can broadcast it anywhere we want without consequence.

Suppose you have presidential bumper sticker on your car. Many people who see it will form an immediate opinion about you and everything you stand for. Based on a name. One name. They know nothing about your background, how you grew up or any of your personal life experiences that shaped your opinion. Most people will quietly disagree with you and move on, but I think there’s always a chance of attracting the attention of someone who can’t move on. Their belief is so strong in the opposite direction, it’s impossible to imagine how anyone could think differently. I don’t want to be on that person’s radar.

This isn’t some sudden shift in human behavior. There have always been people ready to act against others who don’t agree with them. I think social media has changed the culture.

These days, many of us have our own little slice of the internet we lay claim to. Our forum to post our thoughts and beliefs. And if someone doesn’t agree, we can engage, block, unfriend or delete the offending commenter from existence. Unfortunately, this mentality has slipped into the real world and you’ve got people with no problem telling anyone who’ll listen what they think about everything.

Is this everyone’s right? Of course.

Is it a good idea to exercise this right everywhere? In a perfect world, sure. If anyone knows where that is, let me know.

Personally, I don’t share anything on social media, I wouldn’t share in person. I look at it as just another precaution that’s a part of everyday life.

Thoughts?

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Feeling Bad For Villains When They Lose

I make evil look good.

I finished watching the first season of Once Upon a Time last weekend, and found it both entertaining and a great example of fully-formed villains.

If you’ve never seen the show, it takes place in the fictional town of Storybrooke, where fairy tale characters, like Snow White and Red Riding Hood, live in our world as real people with no memory of who they were. The Evil Queen, who’s now the mayor of Storybrooke, has taken away their memories with a curse, so none of them will ever have their happy endings.

Every episode deals with two stories: The present one in Storybrooke, and flashbacks to the fairy tale world to give you the story behind the fairy tale and insight into what the characters were like before the curse. The writers’ treatment of the Evil Queen was awesome.

Hey, who wants to help me steal Pinocchio’s lunch money?

For the majority of the season, I watched The Evil Queen killing, lying, manipulating, you know, being evil and then came the episode where her origin was revealed. I was shown a woman who barely resembled the monster I’d come to know. She smiled, had hope and was capable of being in love.

And then I watched it all be ripped away.

I couldn’t believe I felt bad for her, despite knowing her future evil ways. (Nice acting, Lana Parrilla!) At this point, she’s at her lowest and has to decide whether she wants to forgive or seek revenge. Even though I knew what she’d choose, it didn’t lessen the impact of it. It did the total opposite. (Nice writing, Once Upon a Time, writers!)

There were hints of her humanity throughout the season, but that episode brought it all together. So when she does lose, I don’t feel a simple, “Yeah! Take that, you evil see you next Tuesday, you!” It’s more of a, “You had this coming, evil person, but I wish your life would’ve gone in a different direction.” Because dammit, those clever writers got me wanting the Evil Queen to have a happy ending.

Evil? Ewww! I’d rather hug a unicorn.

Not every villain requires the full This is Why I’m Evil treatment, but I’m definitely going to look into the villains I write, to see if their origins add depth and can create more compassion for the reader to feel.

Ever look at a villain thinking he/she got a raw deal?

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Thanks, Resident Evil

Had a nice response from yesterday’s post about my writing slump. In the comments, Lauralynn suggested I might not want to finish writing this particular story bad enough, which is a fair assumption based on my situation. It got me thinking about writing as a whole. Is it something I really, really, really want to do? Or is it something fun, like a hobby? Well, I’ve come to the conclusion that this is more than a hobby to me and I have Resident Evil to thank for it.

Yesterday, I watched Resident Evil Afterlife, the fourth movie of the franchise. They’re fun action movies that don’t require much thought. You just sit back and watch Milla Jovovich make things go boom. So, as I’m watching this one (definitely the best sequel) I found myself pulling the story apart and putting it back together the way I’d write it. Right off the bat, I envisioned the story broken into two movies because the opening action sequence seemed more like a final battle with the big boss. I started thinking about what the story before it would be like. For the rest of the movie, AKA Part Two of Andrew’s Zombie Epic, I thought about ways I’d develop the characters more because I liked them a lot and wanted to learn more than what the movie provided.

All my ideas were still hanging around in my head long after the movie was over. I think that means something about really, really, really wanting to write. I know everyone’s got an opinion on movies, but I think most people complain about what they didn’t like without having alternatives. And if they do have alternatives, it’s not something that’s on their mind very long. I think that’s where writers and everyone else differ. Those ideas don’t go away and, in some cases, become the seed of a brand new story. And it’s not enough to tell a few friends how it’ll go, the writer wants EVERYONE to know. And that’s still not the end of it because the writer is so pleased with his awesome, he believes people will PAY to read his story.

That’s me. Not just some random asshole with an opinion. I’m a special kind of asshole. How do you like them apples?

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