What I learned while writing the first draft of my novel

Man.

Novels, huh? Crazy stuff. Am I right? Just full of all sorts of letters and words and chapters and sub-chapters and…appendices? Do novels have appendices?

Or do those get removed if they get too inflamed.

Bad dum tss.

But in all seriousness folks, I spent the last year writing the first draft of my novel. And after completing such a foolhardy venture, I’d thought you’d appreciate some advice – from one amateur to another.

So, here are some of the top things I learned:

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Beware of Inspiration[al posters]

Listen. I get it.

Sometimes, life can be pretty shitty. Whether it’s your job or the incessant talk about the election or certain countries (which shall remain nameless *ahem*BRITAIN*ahem*) leaving international political unions or if it’s just the constantly looming shadow across our lives that is the NPR pledge drive, sometimes life can just bring you down.

Which is why I totally understand the purpose of inspirational posters and pictures. Like the one with the cat who’s just hanging in there. Or the ones with those beautiful pictures of nature, like a sun setting behind the backdrop of a forest. And there are all of those countless pictures of people doing…squats, I guess? Or maybe they’re lunges? Fitness stuff? Whatever.

And then, there’s this image that I’ve seen floating around Twitter.

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Write What You [REDACTED]

“Write what you know.”

I know. You’ve heard that before. But have you ever really looked into it? I mean, have you ever really looked deeply into it. Well if you’re in the mood to be overwhelmed, go ahead and type those four little words into Google. I’ll wait here. Take your time. No rush. I’ve got nothing better to do. Trust me. My social life is utterly repug right now. Really. It’s quite depressing. I’ve got plenty of time to kill.

Plenty.

Finished yet?

If so, I bet you ended up seeing a cacophony of opinions and think pieces on the subject – more than you ever thought fifteen letters could possibly elicit.

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Losing What You Create

A while back ago, I wrote a story about cats.

More specifically, I wrote a story about a bunch of goddamn asshole cats.

And in what can only be described as a clear and bold exemplification of my creative prowess, I entitled said story: A Bunch of Goddamn Asshole Cats.

Admittedly, it was a simple tale, one which followed the conversation of two characters:

  1. The narrator, who is plagued by a deranged cat that lives in his apartment and attacks him at every waking moment of his life; and
  2. The narrator’s friend, who advises the narrator that the only possible solution to his problem is not to get rid of the troublesome cat but, rather, to simply acquire more goddamn asshole cats to protect himself with.

I had written the story as — what I had considered to be, at least — a thinly veiled satirical allegory for a controversial sociopolitical issue. Truth be told, part of me was worried that the story was a bit too thinly veiled, and that people would be turned off by its overtly political message. Nevertheless, I decided to post the piece online, and was even fortunate enough to have it picked up by a small publication, Vagabonds Magazine.

And life was, as it occasionally is, OK.

Nobody chased me with pitchforks. Nobody called me a communist. Or a Nazi. Or a fascist. Or whatever other label there might be for being an overall and all around very bad person. There really was no negative backlash, against either myself or my story.

But that’s not to say that everything went swimmingly.

Because, very quickly, I completely lost control over what my story was about.

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How to deal with Being an Okay Writer

I’ll throw this out there: I am not a great writer.

Hell, I’m not even a good writer.

Nope. I’m an okay writer — at best. An aspiring yet nevertheless average, mostly mediocre, run-of-the-mill and middle-of-the-road sort of okay writer.

Don’t believe me?

Just look at a sampling of the feedback I’ve gotten on some of my works:

“Desperate.”

“Trying too hard to be too highbrow.”

“You just spent a paragraph describing something that I don’t even care about.”

“This is the most depressing thing I’ve ever read. Seriously. If you’re contemplating suicide, please let me know.”

“I don’t get why this is supposed to be funny.”

Yup. That is all real feedback I’ve gotten in the not-so-distant past.

And that’s all just from one guy.

…and he’s my friend.

Continue reading “How to deal with Being an Okay Writer”