The Big Scary Fear Monster Is Really the Rock Star of Your Novel

Write Better Now
Write Better Now
The Big Scary Fear Monster Is Really the Rock Star of Your Novel
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Hi, welcome to Write Better Now, a podcast of quick, weekly writing tips meant to help you become a better writer. We’re your hosts with NYT bestselling author Carrie Jones and copyeditor extraordinaire Shaun Farrar. Thank you for joining us.


One of my favorite writing exercises is super simple. I take a bunch of novelists and ask them:

What is your protagonists more afraid of happening than anything else in the whole freaking universe?

We authors talk a lot about what our characters wants are, their yearnings, their goals, but we often forget about the dark side. Cue scary ominous music.

The fears are linked to a couple of really important things:

  1. Obstacles
  2. Motivations

Obstacles are easy. As the novel’s hero goes out in search of his goal to get his love, there are things that obstruct him. A terrorist. A snake. His sexy best friend who likes the same person. The obstacles GIVE him fear that he won’t get what he wants—the goal of the story, his perfect result, the yearning. The fear MOTIVATES him to keep trying.

But fear motivates in another way as well. When you make your character imagine the worst thing in the world—the fear can also hold him back from getting what he wants.

When you think about your character’s biggest fear, the deepest fear, the conceptual fear, the root fear, the FEAR OF ALL FEARS, you realize that it’s this fear that MOTIVATES the character. He isn’t just running to something. He’s running away from something.

Is it death? Isolation? Humiliation? Loss of wealth? Actual success? Failure? Humiliation? Aging? The big unknown?

Whatever it is, that root fear pushes your adorable character into the arms of the story, searching and working toward things that take him away from that big scary fear monster.


Hey, thanks for listening to Write Better Now. These podcasts and more writing tips are at Carrie’s website, carriejonesbooks.blog. There’s also a donation button there. Even a dollar inspires a happy dance in us, so thank you for your support.

The music you hear is made available through the creative commons and it’s a bit of a shortened track from the fantastic Mr.ruiz and the track is Arctic Air and the album is Winter Haze Summer Daze.

Don’t Be Chunky – Put Your Dialogue in Paragraphs

Write Better Now
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Don't Be Chunky - Put Your Dialogue in Paragraphs
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Hi, welcome to Write Better Now, a podcast of quick, weekly writing tips meant to help you become a better writer. We’re your hosts with NYT bestselling author Carrie Jones and copyeditor extraordinaire Shaun Farrar. Thank you for joining us.


It’s a super quick writing tip again today. Ready?

When you’re writing dialogue, make every new speaker a new paragraph. If you’re writing kids books? You might as well just keep each dialogue a paragraph of their own?

Why? Our brains are wired to read each paragraph as a new speaker. If we jumble a bunch of different speakers into one paragraph, it slows down the reader’s pace of reading and also can get their brain all hitched up as they try to figure out who is talking and when.

Why else? It makes more white space on the page. The more white space on the page, the less intimidating the text is for the reader—especially the reluctant reader.

So don’t write a paragraph like this:

Carrie said, “Please support our channel.” Shaun nodded and said, “We are insecure.” “That’s true.” They laughed. Shaun added, “Wow. This is boring dialogue to prove a point.”

Instead write the paragraphs like this:

Carrie said, “Please support our channel.”

Shaun nodded and said, “We are insecure.”

“That’s true.”

They laughed.

Shaun added, “Wow. This is boring dialogue to prove a point.”

Pretty easy, right? Now we know who said “that’s true” even though there wasn’t a dialogue tag there. No readers’ brains hitched during the reading of that dialogue and all is good with the world.

For other posts about writing dialogue, check out below:


Hey, thanks for listening to Write Better Now. These podcasts and more writing tips are at Carrie’s website, carriejonesbooks.blog. There’s also a donation button there. Even a dollar inspires a happy dance in us, so thank you for your support.

The music you hear is made available through the creative commons and it’s a bit of a shortened track from the fantastic Mr.ruiz and the track is Arctic Air and the album is Winter Haze Summer Daze.

Don’t Chunk! The Brain Science Behind Bad Exposition

Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Don't Chunk! The Brain Science Behind Bad Exposition
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Hi, welcome to Write Better Now, a podcast of quick, weekly writing tips meant to help you become a better writer. We’re your hosts with NYT bestselling author Carrie Jones and copyeditor extraordinaire Shaun Farrar. Thank you for joining us.


This week it’s not so much a writing tip, but a writing explanation as we dive a little deeper into why too much exposition is bad.

It’s all about the human brain.

But before we start, once again, exposition is just a literary device that according to Masterclass:

“Is meant to relay background information about a main character, setting, event or other element of the narrative. Exposition comes from the Latin word expositionem, which literally means “showing forth.”

And in a story, exposition often bores the reader or breaks up the forward motion of the plot.

So why does that suck?

There’s a thing called working memory. Most of our brains can only keep four or five things inside our memory at one time.

That’s not super good. JUST FOUR OR FIVE THINGS!

So, our brains adapted because our brains are awesome and they do this cool thing called “chunking.”

As Anne Hawley, writing for Story Grid explains,

“Chunking is when we group ideas so that together they occupy only one of the four or five available memory slots in our brain.”

 Or the APA Dictionary of Psychology says chunking is

“the process by which the mind divides large pieces of information into smaller units (chunks) that are easier to retain in short-term memory … one item in memory can stand for multiple other items”.

She cites Steven Pinker who wrote The Sense of Style and gives this example:

M D P H D R S V P C E O I H O P

 If we don’t chunk those sixteen letters together, we would have a much harder time remembering them.

But we can chunk them like this:

M D  

P H D  

R S V P

C E O

I H O P

And voila! You think about the doctor and the Ph.D. who rsvp’d to the ceo of Ihop.

Amazing, right?

So, exposition inserted into our stories as an info dump? It keeps us from chunking. It makes our brain work harder and that can take our brains out of the story.

SPOILER ALERT: Be kind to readers’ brains. Most of them don’t want to be taken out of the story, but immersed in it.


Hey, thanks for listening to Write Better Now. These podcasts and more writing tips are at Carrie’s website, carriejonesbooks.blog. There’s also a donation button there. Even a dollar inspires a happy dance in us, so thank you for your support.

The music you hear is made available through the creative commons and it’s a bit of a shortened track from the fantastic Mr.ruiz and the track is Arctic Air and the album is Winter Haze Summer Daze.

How to Conquer The Beast Called Exposition

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How to Conquer The Beast Called Exposition
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Exposition.

It’s a beast. And I never have a problem with it as a writer until I’m writing middle grade fiction.

This podcast we’re going to explain what exactly an agent or editor or writing coach or a teacher means when they look disdainfully down their noses at you and say, “You have too much exposition!”

Anne Hawley writes for The Story Grid:

There’s a tendency among many writers, myself included, to explain too much, and I’ve become ruthless about weeding out as much exposition as possible. So my gut reaction to the client’s question was, “None of the above. Get rid of it.”

Here are some definitions:

“Exposition is a literary device used to introduce background information about events, settings, characters, or other elements of a work to the audience or readers. The word comes from the Latin language, and its literal meaning is ‘a showing forth.’ Exposition is crucial to any story, for without it nothing makes sense.” Literary Devices.net

“Exposition means facts—the information about setting, biography, and characterization that the audience needs to know to follow and comprehend the events of the story.” —Robert McKee, Story (p. 334).

Over on Carrie’s new substack newsletter, we’ll share some examples of this.

So, while some exposition is allowed in a story, it’s something you want to clean up as much as possible. You want to be in the scenes with the characters as much as you can and this is especially true in the very beginning and that last third of the novel.

That’s because in the beginning the reader needs to be immersed so that they’ll keep reading and hooked along. In the end that’s because the reader has stayed with you for all these words and now they want to have the big emotional payoff. That doesn’t happen with exposition. That happens when you’re immersed in the scene.

Exposition can be ALL THESE THINGS SO LOOK HERE:

  1. Just an info drop where the narrator is telling (not showing a bunch of information).
  2. Too much internal dialogue for too long.
  3. Flashbacks.
  4. Dialogue sometimes. I know, right? Dialogue is action, but sometimes dialogue is an info dump particularly when a villain is explaining their motives or in science fiction or fantasy when a character is explaining the world to the noob.
  5. Letters pulled out or emails and presented as a block. Read it with the character instead.
  6. Those long, long paragraphs where you go on forever and ever describing setting and senses.

Hawley also has this great example:

Let’s go to the mall,” Heather said.

Imani thought back to the last time she had been to the mall. The terror she had felt at the sound of the first shot fired, the screams of people fleeing for their lives, the crash of displays falling over as customers dove under racks and counters for cover. It had been the worst day of her life.

“I don’t want to go,” Imani replied.

However vivid Imani’s recollection is in that middle paragraph, it does little to reveal her character. It explains some things about Imani, but it’s an info-dump—a Big Block of Explanation.

The block interrupts the action—that is, the dialogue between Heather and Imani—by referring you to a past whose details may or may not be relevant at this point in the story. Here’s what happens in your brain:

You expend energy time-jumping to Imani’s past.

You process terror, shots fired, screams, crashes, and people diving under racks. By the time you get to Imani’s response, all your memory slots are engaged, and you’ve lost sight of what Heather said.

So you expend more brainpower backtracking in the text to remind yourself of Heather’s initial suggestion.

Exposition? It’s a beast and it’s a beast that keeps your reader from being immersed. We’ll talk about it more again soon, but the first step to battling this monster? It’s knowing where to look.

Hey, thanks for listening to Write Better Now. These podcasts and more writing tips are at Carrie’s website, carriejonesbooks.blog. There’s also a donation button there. Even a dollar inspires a happy dance in us, so thank you for your support.

The music you hear is made available through the creative commons and it’s a bit of a shortened track from the fantastic Mr.ruiz and the track is Arctic Air and the album is Winter Haze Summer Daze.

Three Hot Tips To Make Awesome First Pages

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Three Hot Tips To Make Awesome First Pages
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Hi, welcome to Write Better Now, a podcast of quick, weekly writing tips meant to help you become a better writer. We’re your hosts with NYT bestselling author Carrie Jones and copyeditor extraordinaire Shaun Farrar. Thank you for joining us.


Carrie has been talking to a lot of her authors lately about the beginning of their stories and how to make them awesome. And Carrie has a lot of tips for the writers she works with, but we’re going to be fast here.

Make it Tense AF

You don’t want to make readers in our time wait for the good stuff. Nobody is into waiting right now. It’s all instant gratification all the time. This is even true for most books. Too many details. Too much setting or exposition. And too little tension means that readers aren’t going to want to read on. Your first page should make the reader ask a question that they want the answer to.

Show Us What Your Book and Character Are About

This tip really means we want to see the core of your character and what they are yearning for on the very first page. If your book is a mystery, let us see it. If your book is an erotic novel about a hamster and a gerbil, we need to know that, too. The first thing the reader sees your main character doing? That shows the reader who that character is. If she’s running to rescue someone because she hears yelling? That tells us something about her. If she’s running away because she hears yelling? That tells us something about her, too.

Show Us Where They Hell We Are

Nothing is more annoying than a book that has no grounding elements. Let us readers know where the characters are hanging out. Are we in this century? This world? A cold climate? A warm one? What part of the year is it? Let the reader know where your characters are.

Bonus Tip: You don’t want a prologue unless you really need it and you probably don’t need it. We know! We know! It’s super sexy to start with all that backstory instead of trying to expertly twist it into the forward-moving scenes. But it’s also super lazy. And agents don’t like them if you’re trying to get traditionally published.

Spoiler: You can’t just give up after the first ten pages. You want to make sure that your whole book is fantastic and keeps hooking the reader and making them want to read more.


Hey, thanks for listening to Write Better Now. These podcasts and more writing tips are at Carrie’s website, carriejonesbooks.blog. There’s also a donation button there. Even a dollar inspires a happy dance in us, so thank you for your support.

The music you hear is made available through the creative commons and it’s a bit of a shortened track from the fantastic Mr.ruiz and the track is Arctic Air and the album is Winter Haze Summer Daze.

Never Shut Up: You Get To Write History

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Never Shut Up: You Get To Write History
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Hi, welcome to Write Better Now, a podcast of quick, weekly writing tips meant to help you become a better writer. We’re your hosts with NYT bestselling author Carrie Jones and copyeditor extraordinaire Shaun Farrar. Thank you for joining us.


What is your story? Really? It’s more than you’re a writer. You’re a citizen of your community, your country, your world. You might be a certain race, religion, a sex (or not). You might have a faith, an economic status, a job. You might have hobbies, traits.

But you might not think you have a story especially when you see huge events unfolding in the world. You might think that your voice doesn’t matter, that your viewpoint doesn’t either. You might be used to people shouting you down when you say things they might not agree with or don’t want to hear.

This week we wanted to touch on how big events happen and we find them so harrowing and we think: Who am I to tell this story? I’m not in the Ukraine. I’m not on the frontlines of human rights struggles in Texas or Florida or China. I am not this or I am not that.

But here’s the thing. We are all witnesses or witnesses of witnesses. We all are a part of this world and the moments of this world. And we all get to tell our moments and our stories if we want to. Perspective and voice doesn’t just belong to people in power and it doesn’t not belong to people who see, who can testify, who can witness.

In Tell It Slant: Writing and Shaping Creative Nonfiction, Brenda Miller and Suzanne Paola write, “Our role as writers can be that of witness. … Think of yourself as a witness and your writing will take on greater weight and urgency.”

Daisy Hernandez has a great essay where she comes to terms with her aversion to the term ‘witness’ when it comes to literature.

She writes (link below):

“While it may well be that no book has ever prevented genocide or fascism, we still have a necessity for literature to testify to the political conditions of our lives—not only so that we might have a record of those we have lost, but also that we might have a reason to gather with others to read and to continue resisting.”

She prefers the term ‘testimony.’

“In contrast to witness, I love the word testimonio, testimony. I love how it sounds: serious and engaged, aware of itself. Intentional. It says: I have made a decision, and I am here to testify.”

Intention is important. Connections are important. And so are authentic narratives. We learn by story, but we also learn how to be human via stories.

Connections happen because humanity happens. And even if you think that you’re not an important piece to the story that unfolds, you are. We all come through things through our own psychographics and demographics and bubbles and experiences. Each piece and understanding of the stories of our times matter.

George Sand wrote,

“Everyone has his own story, and everyone could arouse interest in the romance of his life if he could but comprehend it.”

Here’s the thing: There are enough buttheads out there in the world trying to prevent people from having a voice and trying to keep others from hearing that voice. It could be a company or government censoring tweets, political statements, books. It could be an ideological group banning books. It could be a sibling shouting at you to “Shut the hell up” when you talk about feminism.

But you can’t. You must not shut the hell up. As long as you can fight, fight. As long as you can write, write. As long as you can survive, survive.


Here are a couple of exercises adapted from Tell It Slant

What event (national or world) do you remember super well? How did you know about it? Were you there? Were you not there? Where were you when you heard about that event? What in your life resonated because of it? Write about it.

What part of you do people think is cool? When you meet people and they are socially aware enough to ask you questions, what do they want to know? Now, imagine your life the way someone two hundred in the years in the future would find interesting. What bits of history would they want to know about? Write about that.


American University has some great writer as witness texts, but there are so many more, but here are some to start you off.

Previous Writer as Witness Texts

  • Rising Out of Hatred: The Awakening of a Former White Nationalist, by Eli Saslow, winner of the 2019 Dayton Literary Peace Prize for Nonfiction.
  • The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, by Elizabeth Kolbert, winner of the 2015 Pulitzer Prize in the General Nonfiction Category
  • Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right, by Arlie Russell Hochschild, National Book Award finalist
  • We Gon’ Be Alright: Notes on Race and Resegregation, by Jeff Chang, the Northern California Nonfiction Book of the Year
  • Notes from No Man’s Land, by Eula Biss, winner of the Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism.
  • The Good Soldiers, by David Finkel, a “Best Book of the Year” for the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, the Boston Globe, the Christian Science Monitor, and others, and the winner of the Helen Bernstein Book Award for Excellence in Journalism.
  • The Devil’s Highway: A True Story, by Luis Alberto Urrea, a Pulitzer Prize Finalist and winner of the Lannen Literary Award.
  • Savage Inequalities, by Jonathan Kozol, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. 

LINK WE MENTION

https://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2021/01/11/literature-of-witness/ideas/essay/


Hey, thanks for listening to Write Better Now. These podcasts and more writing tips are at Carrie’s website, carriejonesbooks.blog. There’s also a donation button there. Even a dollar inspires a happy dance in us, so thank you for your support.

The music you hear is made available through the creative commons and it’s a bit of a shortened track from the fantastic Mr.ruiz and the track is Arctic Air and the album is Winter Haze Summer Daze.

I Lost My Damn Theme How Do I Find It

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I Lost My Damn Theme How Do I Find It
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Hi, welcome to Write Better Now, a podcast of quick, weekly writing tips meant to help you become a better writer. We’re your hosts with NYT bestselling author Carrie Jones and copyeditor extraordinaire Shaun Farrar. Thank you for joining us.


Last week on our podcast we talked about theme, and we’re going back there again.

We know! We know! So scary. Why risk it again? We risk it for you, dear listener. Like a matyr-parent from the early 2000s, we’re writing your college essays and yelling at the soccer coach and doing the work.

Once again, what actually is a theme?

So, the theme is the central idea of your story.

According to aresearchguide.com:

“A theme in a story is the major idea that the story leans or surrounds. It comments on human experience, and more often a story relates to real life situations. All stories have at least one theme.

“A theme gives the general view of the story. It gives the reader the insight into how the story characters live to pursue something good, the results of conflicts and how all these choices come to pass in their lives. In a story, there can be major and minor themes.

   A major theme is an idea the writer keeps on repeating in his work, portraying it as the most significant idea.

   The minor theme is the idea that appears briefly in the story.

“A theme needs to be compelling and captivating. You need to think carefully when choosing a theme for your story.”

Let’s go simple: It’s the idea your story is about and it’s good to include a verb in that idea and a noun/subject.

Some writing coaches will say to never ever explicitly state your theme. Some coaches will say you should absolutely have a character state your theme early on in your story (first act) but have your main character not get it.

Over on the blog writerswrite, they give examples of themes:

Crime pays.

Honesty is the best policy.

Who dares wins.

Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.

Home is where the heart is.

The past is a foreign country – they do things differently there.

You never really know anybody.

People are predictable.

People with nothing to lose are dangerous.

Love conquers all.

Blood is thicker than water.

You can choose your friends but you can’t choose your family.

What does not kill you makes you stranger.

That site uses the Lajos Egri Theme Cheat Sheet, which is from Ljos’s book: The Art of Dramatic Writing.

This is from the writerswrite blog.

And, according to Amanda Patterson who wrote that fantastic post, a theme is important and helps you actually write your novel because you then can make sure that every scene in your novel works toward that theme.

Over on the aresearchguide, they say,

“A theme gives a story meaning and hence creating an emotional impact. A theme creates a difference between a great story that readers can relate to and a mediocre one. The theme adds an in-depth and creates a connection to the story. It is necessary for an author to have a good and clear understanding of the theme (h)as this is the key to crafting great and awesome stories that readers will love.”

But it’s over on Amanda’s brilliant post that the three steps, the three really helpful steps, show up. These are a direct quote.


Hey, thanks for listening to Write Better Now. These podcasts and more writing tips are at Carrie’s website, carriejonesbooks.blog. There’s also a donation button there. Even a dollar inspires a happy dance in us, so thank you for your support.

The music you hear is made available through the creative commons and it’s a bit of a shortened track from the fantastic Mr.ruiz and the track is Arctic Air and the album is Winter Haze Summer Daze.

How to Use Foreshadowing in Your Story’s Opener Like a Boss

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Write Better Now
How to Use Foreshadowing in Your Story’s Opener Like a Boss
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Hi, welcome to Write Better Now, a podcast of quick, weekly writing tips meant to help you become a better writer. We’re your hosts with NYT bestselling author Carrie Jones and copyeditor extraordinaire Shaun Farrar. Thank you for joining us.

One of the coolest things you can do when writing fiction or longer nonfiction is to foreshadow the ending of your story in the beginning of your story.

Foreshadowing according to litcharts.com is:

A literary device in which authors hint at plot developments that don’t actually occur until later in the story. Foreshadowing can be achieved directly or indirectly, by making explicit statements or leaving subtle clues about what will happen later in the text. The Russian author Anton Chekhov summarized foreshadowing when he wrote, “If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off.” The description of the gun on the wall, in other words, should foreshadow its later use.

You want to tell the reader that something is going to happen, give them a clue about what it might be.

Foreshadowing can be subtle, mysterious, or direct.

Over on the Reedsy blog they shrink the types to two: direct and indirect. And explain them as follows:

Direct foreshadowing occurs when an outcome is directly hinted at or indicated. It gives readers a nugget of information, prompting them to want more.

Indirect foreshadowing occurs when an outcome is indirectly hinted at or indicated. It subtly nods at a future event but is typically only apparent to readers after that outcome or event has occurred.

Foreshadowing when it’s direct can be a fantastic way to hook the reader into wanting to gobble up the story. A great example they use is Lauren Oliver’s Before I Die, which opens with:

“They say that just before you die your whole life flashes before your eyes, but that’s not how it happened for me.”

So the reader knows that the narrator is going to die and what they want to know is how. It’s damn direct, right?

An indirect style of foreshadowing can be something as simple as

   The air grew chill as I walked toward the beach. Winter is coming.

Now we know the air is chill and cold is coming and we indirectly think:

Oh, something is going to happen because it’s cold and winter is almost here and someone is probably going to die.

The symbols in our culture can carry a lot of metaphorical and foreshadowing weight in our stories.

So we want to use it like a boss and give the readers a little wink so that they are hooked into the story but also feel like they are figuring out the story as they go along. It’s pretty cool.

Hey, thanks for listening to Write Better Now. These podcasts and more writing tips are at Carrie’s website, carriejonesbooks.blog. There’s also a donation button there. Even a dollar inspires a happy dance in us, so thank you for your support. The music you hear is made available through the creative commons and it’s a bit of a shortened track from the fantastic Mr.ruiz and the track is Arctic Air and the album is Winter Haze Summer Daze.

https://freemusicarchive.org/music/mrruiz/winter-haze-summer-daze

Carrie Does Poetry – “Santa’s Apology”

If Santa came would he apologize, the way people do now . . .

Carrie Does Poems
Carrie Does Poems
Carrie Does Poetry - "Santa's Apology"
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If Santa came would he

apologize, the way

people do now, and maybe

tweet about his perpetuated inequities

Yes, this child received

so much and this one so little.

A deluxe game system for one

And an orange for another. Yes, I gave one

a country and another a drunk uncle

whose spittle smells of gingerbread elves.

Or would he go quiet for months

(maybe years) until he was

emotionally ready to apologize

through his scotch-stained teeth

and say he’s gone through

extensive self-reflection;

therapy with Mrs. Claus

and the elves; and he’s ready

to be a better saint, a fairer man.

Hey, thanks for listening to Carrie Does Poems. These podcasts and more writing tips are at Carrie’s website, carriejonesbooks.blog. There’s also a donation button there. Even a dollar inspires a happy dance in Carrie, so thank you for your support. The music you hear is made available through the creative commons and it’s a bit of a shortened track from the fantastic Eric Van der Westen and the track is called A Feather and off the album The Crown Lobster Trilogy.

While Carrie only posts poems weekly here, she has them (in written form) almost every weekday over on Medium. You should check it out!

https://freemusicarchive.org/music/eric-van-der-westen/the-crown-lobster-trilogy-selection

Be Brave Friday – The Year I Wrote Too Much

So, this Be Brave Friday is on the last Friday of 2021 and I’m starting a whole lot of scary stuff this year.

Scary Stuff I’m Starting

  1. I’m starting my own classes to teach people online about writing and they are super cheap because I want people to be able to learn even when they aren’t wealthy. Yes, this makes me worried about my own bank account. That’s why it’s being brave. 🙂
  2. We’re revisioning the DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE podcast and starting a new one called WRITE BETTER NOW.
  3. I’m been writing poetry on Medium and I’m going to keep writing it, but also sharing it in a podcast. CARRIE DOES POETRY. I couldn’t think of a cool title.
  4. I’m going to keep writing and not give up. Sometimes, I think that’s the bravest thing of all.

But since it’s the end of 2021, it’s also a time where I should be brave and reflect for a hot second. This is the year I wrote too much.

I decided to have an experiment and try to put out one novel a month, every month, all year long. And I did it.

But at what cost?

Probably at the cost of my brain. No! No. Just kidding.

I learned that:

  1. The pressure to write does keep me writing, but I also learned that 50,000-75,000 words times 12 months? It’s a lot of words. Especially if you add in what I do on my patreon.
  2. I’m still not good with criticism.
  3. I’m terrible at marketing my own books.
  4. That I miss doing things like going outside.
  5. I miss painting.
  6. I should have used a pen name to not impact my traditional publishing career. Oops.
  7. I’m really good with deadlines and pressure. Thank you former newspaper career.
  8. I really really need to write sex scenes. And I really really haven’t.

And I also learned that:

  • I still love writing.
  • I miss writing things that are a bit less genre and I can’t do that in a fast turn-around. I have two, really complicated stories that I want to get done and I haven’t had time to do that.
  • Writing adult novels is fun. And I apparently need to put in sex scenes. Yes. I am repeating this. Who knew? Not this uptight human.

The Bad Things About Writing Too Much

But the big thing is that I maybe wrote too much. Because I didn’t just write and revise my own novels, I wrote blog posts and podcasts and editorial letters for the writers I edit, mentor, and coach, and that? It turned out to be a lot of writing.

My typing fingers ache a little bit.

And I’ve gotten in a bit of a rut from my self-imposed experiment and the pressure of doing one big novel a month and getting it out there.

And I started thinking, “Keep producing. Hurry. Make it good. It isn’t good enough. Oh my freaking word, Carrie. Earn money to support the family. HURRY! HURRY!”

Which has made me:

  1. More anxious
  2. More cranky
  3. Even more obsessed about making enough money.
  4. Very American, I think.

Sounds healthy, right?

And I’ve had some big fails.

  1. Our Be Brave Stories podcast (where we share other people’s stories about being brave) has floundered because I didn’t market it enough to get people to actually SHARE their stories.
  2. I’ve failed to solicit sponsorships for our other podcasts.
  3. As I’ve recently mentioned, I totally failed about marketing anything and everything.
  4. I haven’t done nearly enough author-to-author podcasts.
  5. I haven’t done nearly enough painting or poems.
  6. I haven’t magically owned a book store.
  7. I never say things like, “Hey! If you appreciate this podcast episode or blog post, send me a $1. I know it feels like nothing to you, but it means everything to me.” I think this is because one set of my grandparents lived in Canada and I somehow got the “DO NOT EVER ASK FOR MONEY GENE.”
  8. I am at my body’s maximum density (for me) because I sit in the chair way too much.
  9. I suddenly look old. And my knees hurt. And my hips hurt. And my ego hurts. Like it snuck up on me. Is this from squinting at the computer too much?
  10. I am still not any braver. I mean, I try so hard to do things that I am afraid to do and I do them all the time, but I haven’t become any less anxious about putting books out, talking on podcasts, or writing the books of my heart.

Here’s the thing though: If you love something, you need to do it. If you want to make a living at something, you need to find people who support you doing that. If you are making a living at it (like I am), you need to remember to be thankful and gasp in the moments where things are going well and allow yourself to be happy.

I am very bad at that.

It’s good to experiment, to push boundaries and to also take stock and say: Um. Maybe twelve novels in twelve months isn’t the best idea? And change it up to six. 🙂

How about you? Brave things going on? New leaps? New adventures? New worries? Am I alone?


My little, creepy book baby is out in the world because who doesn’t want sad, quirky, horror with some romantic bits for the holiday season?

It’s a young adult novel (upper) called WHEN YOU BRING THEM BACK, please buy it!

It’s super fun.

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