Ways to Battle Writer’s Block

Back in 2008, I had a big writer’s block and I wrote this on my LiveJournal blog And I think Some of you All might relate.


I know. I know!

I am the queen of WRITE NO MATTER WHAT.

I am the princess of WRITE EVEN WHEN YOU DON’T WANT TO.

But I can’t write. I write two sentences and then I lose it.  

I think I’m one of those people who can only write when they are happy. And I’m not happy. I am so far from happy.  I know I always seem happy, but right now I’m really REALLY unhappy.

Writer people out there do you have advice?

I need advice.


Please?


I initially friends locked this entry back in 2008 because:


1. I liked to pretend I’m not neurotic in case I ever run for office again.
2. I didn’t want my mom to call and ask me what’s wrong.

But, I think maybe it’s better for people to see how all writers can be insecure or have bad days and how some of us can be open about it (not that it’s better to be open about it… it’s fine to be whatever way you are), but more importantly how freaking amazing the Livejournal community was at giving .id

Look at how nice people were. You guys were all so amazing. Crud. Now I’m crying. Bad Carrie, bad.


LiveJournal isn’t a space I hang out anymore, but I still have things archived and it showed me all this great advice and empathy that was out there and that? That makes me happy and have faith even when the world tries to take faith away from me.


Advice #1

 I think today calls for a warm blanket, a comfy couch, and a really good book.

Hoping you feel better soon…..

This counts as “advice I give, and really should take myself, but usually don’t”:

Advice #2


Maybe you can give yourself a set amount of time–15 minutes, half an hour, nothing drastic–and set some kind of timer, and tell yourself that for that time you will write, no matter how awful it comes out. And then at the end of that time, if you still feel awful and it isn’t working, you get to stop for the day and do something comforting. Probably you’ll end up stopping, but maybe you’ll get something you can use in that short time. And if you don’t want to stop, if it’s starting to work, then keep going. The one thing you’re not allowed to do is to beat yourself up over whatever you do or don’t get done, because that won’t help at all.

I know it’s weird, but I have to make those kinds of bargains with myself all the time!

Advice #3

Get away from your computer? Just sit and visualize your story for a while–could be several hours. Take notes if you have to, but don’t hold the pen or notebook in your hand when you’re not HAVING to scribble?

Tea? Chocolate? Play with the animals?

Good luck–it’ll come!

Advice #4

My advice is to wallow.

I mean it.

Wallow.

Write about why life sucks right now…then delete it.

Be home alone and rant and rave.

Throw a tantrum–kicking legs and all.

Bawl.

Bawl some more.

Let the writing sit.

Seven months went by for me, and look. You are still here, LJ Land is still here, my stories are still here, my agent (bless her!) is still here… My friends are all still here. Now, I’m not saying you should take a break from LJ Land, no way! I’d miss you too much! I’m just saying, it’s okay. It’s okay to not feel like writing.

Relax. Let yourself ‘not write’.

It’ll be there tomorrow and the next day and the next….

HUGS!!!!

*hugs* and *chocolate*

Advice #5



Go watch some TV – an episode of something/a film you love, sad, funny whatever, it doesn’t matter. Give yourself and your brain a break. Then do the fool-your-brain thing – say you’re only going to write 100 words [or 50] and that will be it. Then pat yourself on the back for a good job done, and if you want to go for bonus wordage, then do the next 100. And tell yourself that it can be about anything.

And more *hugs*

Advice #6

This may cause your daughter to hate me forever and plot vengeance.

You need to dance. Put on the happiest song, (kudos if it’s a geeky, embaressing song) and dance in the living room. Revel in your geekiness and the groans of humiliation from others.

Don’t write. Read. Soak in hot, fragrant water. Drink/eat lots of chocolate. Visit your friends…the writing will be waiting for you when you come back. Till then, tons of HUGS and good thoughts, Carrie!!

Advice #7

Having emotions means you are not one of the sheeple.

If that doesn’t make yo smile, consider this: “The good writing of any age has always been the product of someone’s neurosis, and we’d have a mighty dull literature if all the writers that came along were a bunch of happy chuckleheads.” ~William Styron, interview, Writers at Work, 1958

If that doesn’t help, I suppose I could call and do the choo-choo thing and sing songs. But that’s really an emergency procedure.

Advice #8

Aw, Carrie! {hugs}

I’m a big believer in WRITE NO MATTER WHAT…unless you can’t. 🙂 I think there are times when I weasel my way out of writing because I’m being a slacker – that’s not cool. But there are other times that I take a break because I can feel inside that no matter how long I sit there stabbing keys, nothing worthwhile is going to appear on the page and in the meantime I’m feeling darker and darker inside (and not the good kind of dark, if that makes any sense).

Take a break (like everyone else suggested) – whether it’s for a day or a week or whatever. Be gentle with yourself. You’ll feel the whatever-it-is ease inside you when you’re able to sit at the keyboard again. Just make sure you’re paying attention and not coddling yourself *too* much. 😉

Last Thoughts

I hope one of those writers’ advice helps you if you’re here because of writers’ block. No one way will work for everyone. No one way will even always work for ourselves. Be gentle with yourself the same way you would be for the ones you love.


LET’S HANG OUT!

HEY! DO YOU WANT TO SPEND MORE TIME TOGETHER?

MAYBE TAKE A COURSE, CHILL ON SOCIAL MEDIA, BUY ART OR A BOOK, OR LISTEN TO OUR PODCAST?

JUST CLICK ON THIS LINK AND FIND OUT HOW WE CAN.

And to hear our podcast latest episode for DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE, all about Making Sexy Mission Statements and Writing Platforms, click here. And all about Why Brilliant People Sometimes Aren’t The Successes We Expect is here.

Don’t Be So Wordy, Punk, plus Stabbings and Vampires

Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Don't Be So Wordy, Punk, plus Stabbings and Vampires
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A lot of us humans and writers spend a lot of time trying to impress people by being extra wordy.

And it seems like we’re all trying to avoid the word “because.”

This is extremely cruel to the word “because,” which probably gets hurt feelings, but it’s also super cruel to your readers and/or listeners who deserve clarity.

They need to understand what you’re putting down.

So, when it comes to “because,” we do not need to say:

  • The reason is because (that’s redundant).
  • Due to the fact that
  • On the grounds that
  • On account of


If you sound like a lawyer in a bad tv procedural?

You’re trying too hard.

HERE IS CONTRARY ADVICE….

“BECAUSE” OR “SINCE” CAN SOMETIMES FORCE YOU TO BE WORDY.

With the words ‘because’ and ‘since,’ you can almost always use either one. They are interchangeable BFFs.

Here are some examples.

  • Because I hate you, I decided to date.
  • Since I hate you, I decided to date.

They both mean “because” here because they are synonyms.

But sometimes “since” means “from the time’ instead of ‘because.’

Since we went to Disney, I’ve been crushing on Pluto.

That means “ever since the time they went to Disney” not “because.”

But you might not know that, right?

So, instead you might want to be wordy.

You don’t want to be ambiguous and have people wondering if you mean “because” or “ever since the time they went to Disney.”

The whole point in writing and talking is for people to understand you, so don’t be a schmuck. Be clear.


WRITING TIP OF THE POD

Don’t be wordy and know what your words mean and what they’re conveying to the reader.

DOG TIP FOR LIFE

Listen more than you speak. Look for clues in your environment and people’s actions so you can really understand them.

RANDOM THOUGHT

To hear about punks, stabbings and vampires, you have to listen to the podcast file. Sorry! We only put the advice part in the notes.


SHOUT OUT!

The music we’ve clipped and shortened in this podcast is awesome and is made available through the Creative Commons License. Here’s a link to that and the artist’s website. Who is this artist and what is this song?  It’s “Summer Spliff” by Broke For Free.

HELP US AND DO AN AWESOME GOOD DEED

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness on the DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE podcast as we talk about random thoughts, writing advice and life tips. We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow. There’s a new episode every Tuesday!

Thanks so much for being one of the 254,000 downloads if you’ve given us a listen!

almost dead book by carrie jones
almost dead book by carrie jones

HEAR MY BOOK BABY (AND MORE) ON PATREON

My Patreon site I read and print chapters of unpublished YA novels. THE LAST GODS and SAINT and now ALMOST DEAD.

I also share some writing tips that are also going to be on Teachable as the WRITING CLASS OF AWESOME and send people art.

It’s a super fun place to hang out, learn, read, and see my weirdness in its true form.

And I’m starting up a brand new, adult paranormal set at a Maine campground. You can read the first chapter here.

Secret Writing Advice

Do not sign up with a local internet provider who will allegedly embezzle funds from his employees’ 401k accounts and then disconnect the service, the server and the phone lines and then everyone (including your editors and agent and mother) will try to send you an email and they will get a message that you don’t exist.

No. Sorry. That’s not it. 

Although that is good important advice I wish someone had told me before it happened.

Below is my real advice and it’s not about computer fraud or even strictly about the craft of writing. Instead, it’s about the mind state of being a writer.

Yes, the mind state.

Yes, that sounds hokey.

MY ADVICE:

The thing is that sometimes writing is easy.


The thing is that sometimes writing is not… easy.

These are the days of writers. People blog. They text. They NaNoWriMo. You are one of those people. You know that it’s hard.

I know that it is not easy for me to be one of those people, a writer in the days of writers, and especially in these times of economic turmoil where people are getting laid off or fired and entire publishing houses are restructuring, trying to stay alive.

Let me tell you something about writers in these days of writers. 

Sometimes when we look at a page we see the world.

Sometimes when we look at a page we see hope. Sometimes when we look at a page we see nothing at all.

But here’s the big secret….

Writers matter. Stories matter. You matter.

It all matters despite the economy, or maybe even more so because of it.
It all matters despite the fact that the whole world can write and blog and text, or maybe even more so because of it.

So we lurch.

So we bother.

So we search our mirrors and our lives.

So we search in hearts and in actions and we make stories.

No matter what: We make stories.

So go on. Read and study, think and play, feel the truths that form solid hard in the gut and in the throat. Write your stories, blogs, texts, and poems and don’t worry if it’s Proust or gobbley gook or even if it will get published.

Worry will keep you from creating. And we all worry too much about too many things. Writing and the joy of creation should not be one of those things.

That’s my secret advice: Just write.

You owe it to the world and the world owes it to you.

LET’S HANG OUT!

HEY! DO YOU WANT TO SPEND MORE TIME TOGETHER?

MAYBE TAKE A COURSE, CHILL ON SOCIAL MEDIA, BUY ART OR A BOOK, OR LISTEN TO OUR PODCAST?

JUST CLICK ON THIS LINK AND FIND OUT HOW WE CAN.

And to hear our podcast latest episode for DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE, all about Making Sexy Mission Statements and Writing Platforms, click here. And all about Why Brilliant People Sometimes Aren’t The Successes We Expect is here.

How To Become a Successful Writer The Key Writing Advice to Keep In Your Brain

Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
How To Become a Successful Writer The Key Writing Advice to Keep In Your Brain
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If you are the kind of writer who wants clicks and readers, this is the podcast for you. Yes! A helpful podcast from us weirdos. I know, right?

Here’s the first one.

Get Rid of The Crap

Seriously. Get rid of the words, the repetition, the flowery language that exists JUST to be flowery but has nothing to do with your message, your character or your plot.

Don’t have people nod and say yes at the same time. One is enough.

Don’t have people think to themselves. We know they are thinking to themselves.

Unnecessary words are blah. Nobody wants to be blah. Nobody wants to read blah either except maybe that one fourth grade teacher and maybe your honors freshman English teacher, the one who yelled about James Joyce a lot.

Let Your Title Be a Promise and a Gift.

That’s right. Give your readers something. Your title is a promise and a gift.

Think to yourself: Why would anyone care about reading this?

For this podcast, the answer to that would be that people care because they want the tools to be a better writer. Figure out why you’re writing what you’re writing and give that to the reader.

This goes for books too. Even if your answer is just – I want to provide readers an escape. It works.

Actually Write Your Story

Don’t just talk about writing. Write.

Don’t stare at the blank page. Write.

You can always revise. Revision is good. But you can’t revise a blank document or a page full of nothing.

I once had a reporter who was THE BEST guy. He was my best friend. I loved him with all my heart, but he would have writer’s block all the way up to deadline. I’m a chill human. I hate being demanding, but I would have to go into his office every deadline and implore him to write.

“My lede isn’t perfect,” he’d say.

“Done matters. Perfect doesn’t matter.”

I would write ten stories to his one story, over and over again. And the thing was? People liked my stories better. That quest for perfection makes us crazy. But it also keeps us from getting things done.

Don’t Try To Be Someone Else

You should write like you. Not like Anne Lamont or the million other lovelies out there. Not like T-Nehisi Cotes who is brilliant.

You have a unique experience and voice. Use that in your stories. Be brave. Be absolutely who you are. Don’t be shy about it, shout your voice into the world.

WRITING TIP OF THE POD

Write. Be yourself. Don’t write extra words just to be extra or fill up your word count. And your title is a promise to your reader/listener. Don’t break the promise.

DOG TIP FOR LIFE

Focus on your wants. Don’t add fluff. Don’t be fluff.

SHOUT OUT!

The music we’ve clipped and shortened in this podcast is awesome and is made available through the Creative Commons License. Here’s a link to that and the artist’s website. Who is this artist and what is this song?  It’s “Summer Spliff” by Broke For Free.


LET’S HANG OUT!

HEY! DO YOU WANT TO SPEND MORE TIME TOGETHER?

MAYBE TAKE A COURSE, CHILL ON SOCIAL MEDIA, BUY ART OR A BOOK, OR LISTEN TO OUR PODCAST?

JUST CLICK ON THIS LINK AND FIND OUT HOW WE CAN.

And to hear our podcast latest episode for DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE, all about Making Sexy Mission Statements and Writing Platforms, click here. And all about Why Brilliant People Sometimes Aren’t The Successes We Expect is here.

HELP US AND DO AN AWESOME GOOD DEED

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness on the DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE podcast as we talk about random thoughts, writing advice and life tips. We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow. There’s a new episode every Tuesday!

Thanks so much for being one of the 254,000 downloads if you’ve given us a listen!

It Doesn’t Matter If The Rock Retweets You

Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
It Doesn’t Matter If The Rock Retweets You
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Okay, you all. We know this is harsh, but it’s truth time.  Life isn’t about random interactions. Success isn’t about it either.

When Carrie became Andrew Yang’s Twitter friend, it made her super happy, but it didn’t actually do anything for her. When the Rock retweeted her tweet about disabilities…

Full disclosure: Carrie has no depth perception and also has epilepsy.

…but when that happened? It was cool because it was the Rock, but it didn’t make her suddenly more successful or cooler.

The Rock would never remember that retweet. Andrew Yang isn’t going to remember being Carrie’s Twitter friend.

It was a nice moment, but Carrie doesn’t really need that moment to make her feel cooler or more validated as a human being. That’s because though she presents as really insecure, she’s actually pretty cool with herself. And other people’s perceptions – even when they are the Rock or Andrew Yang? They don’t matter.

There’s a guy in our town who is a bit off and he thinks we are basically Satan incarnate. Does Shaun care? Not one for one freaking second. Why? Because he knows who the hell he is. He’s cool with himself. For the same reason when there are rumors about him or Carrie or even his bffs, does he care? Nope. That’s because he knows he’s the sh*t. He knows who he is.

It’s confidence, but it’s also about knowing that you can’t control what other people think about you all the time.

But there’s another side to this, too.

You want to connect with your people, your readers, your audience, your friends, by being you, your authentic self, and you can’t do that if you’re busy worrying about what everyone else is thinking about you.

When you’re all ME ME ME all the time because you need to be an influencer or sell your book or whatever, you lose who you are and any connections you get? They aren’t even about you. They are about the false perception of you.

But it’s more than that, too.

When all you care about is people’s perceptions of you, you stop caring about people.

And then, you’re basically an egotistical sh*t. Is that who you want to become? No. So, focus on the work. Focus on making connections where you care about the other person. Having the Rock retweet you doesn’t mean you’re going to be a movie star or an international bestseller.

What makes you succeed is the work you do, the care you give, the problems you help other people with.

Carrie is a successful novelist. Her books have won awards, been NYT and international bestsellers, but that’s because she took the time to learn to write and to understand people. She now uses those skills to help other people write their own books.

And those people? The ones she coaches and teaches and gets to know so well as they make their stories? Those are the people that matter to Carrie, that make her a success. Not the Rock. No offense to the Rock! 

Pretending to be someone else, being preoccupied with others’ perceptions of you? It destroys you. Don’t be destroyed. Celebrate who you are and who other people are too.

Writing Tip of the Pod

Don’t pretend to be another writer or adopt their style. Be you. Write what you want to write.

Dog Tip For Life

Be the dog you’re meant to be. Have your values align with your actions. And bark a lot about it if that’s your thing.

SHOUT OUT!

The music we’ve clipped and shortened in this podcast is awesome and is made available through the Creative Commons License. Here’s a link to that and the artist’s website. Who is this artist and what is this song?  It’s “Summer Spliff” by Broke For Free.


HELP US AND DO AN AWESOME GOOD DEED

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness on the DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE podcast as we talk about random thoughts, writing advice and life tips. We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow. There’s a new episode every Tuesday!

Thanks so much for being one of the 254,000 downloads if you’ve given us a listen!

FREE BOOK? YES! I AM SERIOUS.

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Making Powerful First Lines

Everyone talks about first lines and how important they are for establishing voice, setting the tone, hooking your reader and never letting go.

It’s intriguing to see how first lines change or don’t. I checked out some of my first and last lines from my books and they are below and we’ll be talking about first lines for a few posts. This is just the first one.

But before we do, let me ask:

Do you have any favorites from books?

What was it that grabbed you?

Do you do that in your own books?

How Do You Make A Powerful First Line? What are the Traits?

  • You make it mysterious.
  • You make it have a strong voice.
  • You make it surprising.
  • You make it goofy or funny.
  • You make it understandable.
  • You make it authentic.

Here are Some Examples From My Books

Mostly they show how my first lines changed or didn’t. And how they met those above qualities or didn’t. Just like all of you, I’ve learned and evolved or devolved during these years.

Tips on Having a Gay (ex) Boyfriend

Original:
He wants to know why it happens.

Final:
He wants to know why it happens.


Love (and other uses for duct tape)

Original:

You think you know people and then it turns out you don’t.

Final:

You think you know people and then it turns out you don’t.


Girl, Hero

Original:
Dear, Mr. Wayne, My mother’s got a man coming to see her.

Final:
Dear, Mr. Wayne, My mother’s got a man coming to see her.

Need (2009):

Original: My parents drove me to the airport with the air conditioner on full blast.

Current: Everybody has fears, right?

TIME STOPPERS

Original: The dog raced through the Maine woods, keeping up with the little car speeding down the rural road.

Revision For a Long Time: “Remember, you’re not special, Annie,” Mrs. Betsey said.

Final: “Remember , you’re not special, Annie,” Mrs. Betsey told the small girl next to her as they stood on the rickety wooden step of the trailer.



Weird (not published yet, YA paranormal)


Original: Blake and I lie naked on the grass in my backyard, looking up at the sky and we’re all lazy feeling, because, yes, we had sex, and no, having sex is not a big deal.

Current: Blake and I lie naked on the grass in my backyard, looking up at the sky and we’re all lazy feeling, because, yes, we had sex, and no, having sex is not a big deal.

Flying:


Original: I wake up scared.
Current: I wake up scared

The Fae (not published yet, MG fantasy)

Original: The first cat shuddered and stalked through the yard to sit under the biggest maple tree. 


Current: Somebody had locked him in.


How about you? Have you ever gone back and looked at your first lines then and now. It’s kind of scary. Seriously. Do you want to share?


Sharing is good.


LET’S HANG OUT!

HEY! DO YOU WANT TO SPEND MORE TIME TOGETHER?

MAYBE TAKE A COURSE, CHILL ON SOCIAL MEDIA, BUY ART OR A BOOK, OR LISTEN TO OUR PODCAST?

JUST CLICK ON THIS LINK AND FIND OUT HOW WE CAN.

And to hear our podcast latest episode for DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE, all about Making Sexy Mission Statements and Writing Platforms, click here. And all about Why Brilliant People Sometimes Aren’t The Successes We Expect is here.


NEW BOOK ALERT!

My little novella (It’s spare. It’s sad) is out and it’s just $1,99. It is a book of my heart and I am so worried about it, honestly.

There’s a bit more about it here.

CARRIE’S TEACHABLE CLASS!

I have a quick, pre-recorded Teachable class designed to make you a killer scene writer in just one day. It’s fun. It’s fast. And you get to become a better writer for just $25, which is an amazing deal.

Carrie Jones Books is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com

Writing Pet Peeves

Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Writing Pet Peeves
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Carrie’s number one writing pet peeve is when authors write,

I thought to myself.

Seriously. You are always thinking to yourself, sweet writer, unless you’re telepathically communicating to a zombie hamster and then all bets are off.

But the thing is that I, Carrie, get why authors like myself do this. It’s because:

  1. We’re worried that the reader isn’t going to get what we’re saying.
  2. We’re padding our daily word count totals for NaNoWriMo, national novel writing month where you try to write a 50,000-word novel in November.

But here’s the thing. Your readers are smart or smart enough to know that when your characters are thinking, they are doing that to themselves and not anyone else.

Cut those words, sweeties. Trust the readers. Trust your writing.

If you say, “I think” or “I thought,” everyone knows it’s to yourself… unless, you know, telepathic zombie hamsters.

So how about you? What are your writing pet peeves?

WRITING TIP OF THE POD

Trust your readers. Don’t write down to them. Believe in your words.

DOG TIP FOR LIFE

You don’t need to be insecure. Be proud of what you’re doing, who you are and what you’re putting down for the world to hear.

SHOUT OUT!

SHOUT OUT!

The music we’ve clipped and shortened in this podcast is awesome and is made available through the Creative Commons License. Here’s a link to that and the artist’s website. Who is this artist and what is this song?  It’s “Summer Spliff” by Broke For Free.

HELP US AND DO AN AWESOME GOOD DEED

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness on the DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE podcast as we talk about random thoughts, writing advice and life tips. We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow. There’s a new episode every Tuesday!

Thanks so much for being one of the 254,000 downloads if you’ve given us a listen!


CHILL WITH US

LET’S HANG OUT!

HEY! DO YOU WANT TO SPEND MORE TIME TOGETHER?

MAYBE TAKE A COURSE, CHILL ON SOCIAL MEDIA, BUY ART OR A BOOK, OR LISTEN TO OUR PODCAST?

JUST CLICK ON THIS LINK AND FIND OUT HOW WE CAN.

And to hear our podcast latest episode for DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE, all about Making Sexy Mission Statements and Writing Platforms, click here. And all about Why Brilliant People Sometimes Aren’t The Successes We Expect is here.


NEW BOOK ALERT!

My little novella (It’s spare. It’s sad) is out and it’s just $1,99. It is a book of my heart and I am so worried about it, honestly.

There’s a bit more about it here.

Carrie Jones Books is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com

Thrill Me, Baby. Thrill Me. Let’s Talk About Story Tension.

My first three books are hardly suspenseful in that Marvel movie way. There are no car chases. There are no end-of-the-world scenarios. They’re stories about identity and love with a little angst thrown in the side. They aren’t even in the typical story’s narrative arc.

So, you’re probably wondering why I’m blogging about suspense.

Because I like it.

I’m one of those writers who likes to try new things… ALL THE TIME. I am very easily bored, so back in 2008, I thought about what one of the hardest things for me to do would be. The answer was easy: WRITE SOMETHING SUSPENSEFUL.

And because of that? It’s why my NEED series was created.

It was hard. It was SO hard. But worth it. My first attempt (while not up at the suspense level of Stephen King or that guy who writes those books that become Tom Cruise movies) came out with Bloomsbury. It’s called NEED.

So when I was trying to figure out to do, I found a great article by Carol Davis Luce called WRITING SUSPENSE THAT’LL KILL YOUR READERS. For a couple of weeks, I’m going to talk about Carol’s points and hopefully expand on them.

And I’m inserting some old photos of my daughter, Em, and our old dog Tala to make it fun.

So, how do we write something suspenseful? 



The first part is tension.


Tension is what keeps us reading.

Tension is what keeps us reading at 3 a.m. when we have to get up at 6 a.m. and go to school or work.

Tension is what makes us read a book while walking between classes. It makes us ignore the hottie across the cafeteria or even in our own bedroom. It makes us ignore the cute doggy next to us, the one who really wants to get walked.

Tala the Big, White Dog says, “I am the cute dog she’s talking about.”

Poor Tala.

Tension.

Without it, a book gets put back on the shelf, abandoned on the kitchen counter, forgotten in a locker, or possibly flushed down the toilet. Without it, dogs get walked.

According to Luce, “Tension is the act of building or prolonging a crisis. It’s the bump in the night, the ticking bomb; it’s making readers aware of peril.”

Or it’s what William J Reynolds calls, “I gotta know!”

Why Do Readers Keep Reading?

Your readers keep reading because the need to know what happens next is there. The tension is there. He calls a story without suspense “like coffee without caffeine – no kick and not very addicting.”

So, that’s what we’re going to be talking about for a couple of blog posts: Tension. Suspense. How to turn nice, normal readers into addicts who will open that door in your book (I mean turn the page) no matter what horrors might be there or what dogs might resent it.

The next few entries will be about techniques to put the tension back into your love life… Oops, I mean your stories. Your written down stories! Geesh. I’m sorry I couldn’t find anything to read last night and I had to read some book about love and relationships by the guy who started Eharmony. I have no idea how it got in my house, but it’s obviously impacted me.

Anyway, stay with me, and we’ll interview horror novelist Steven Wedel and some others. It should be a fun, tension-filled couple of posts.


Carrie: So tell me Tala, what do you think about suspense?
Tala: Woof.

Carrie: You think it’s over-rated?
Tala: Woof. Woof! Snort. Kashow. Yip. Woof!

Carrie: You think that a dog’s life is hard enough and that the suspense of when we are going to actually take a walk… that suspense… that suspense is killing you and therefore I should stop blogging about how to put suspense in stories? 
Tala: Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrr…..

Carrie: Okay. Um, where’s your leash?

Tala: Good human. Good. Finally you get it.

*One of the biggest tensions may be whether or not I get all these posts up and posted.


NEW BOOK ALERT!

My little novella (It’s spare. It’s sad) is out and it’s just $1,99. It is a book of my heart and I am so worried about it, honestly.

There’s a bit more about it here.

OCTOBER FIRST IS TOMORROW! IT IS ALMOST TODAY!

Carrie Jones Books is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com

Mayo Vs Miracle Whip, Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Chill

Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Mayo Vs Miracle Whip, Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Chill
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Ruth Bader Ginsberg died last week and our timelines lit up with people mourning her death and some people exulting in it.

Politics are often polarizing, but grief is often communal with people experiencing different amounts and aspects of it, but shared grief can be such a powerful thing.

Kindness matters. Even to the dead. Action and beliefs matter. Especially to the still living.

No matter what you think of her court decisions, which were meant to heal the ‘fractures in federal law,’ Ginsberg has some very good advice about marriage and words, which is why we’re talking about her now.

Back in 2016, Justice Ginsberg wrote about her mother-in-law’s life advice.

“’In every good marriage,’ she counseled, ‘it helps sometimes to be a little deaf.’ I have followed that advice assiduously, and not only at home through 56 years of a marital partnership nonpareil. I have employed it as well in every workplace, including the Supreme Court. When a thoughtless or unkind word is spoken, best tune out. Reacting in anger or annoyance will not advance one’s ability to persuade.”

Ginsberg

Ginsberg talked about how both her mother’s push for her to be independent and her professor’s focus on language influenced her, propelling her to rise in the ranks to become a Supreme Court justice.

“At Cornell University, my professor of European literature, Vladimir Nabokov, changed the way I read and the way I write. Words could paint pictures, I learned from him. Choosing the right word, and the right word order, he illustrated, could make an enormous difference in conveying an image or an idea.”

Ginsberg

Words influence thought influence action. Putting them in the right order? It makes all the difference.

She also spoke about the dynamics on the court where nine justices sit, saying,

“Despite our strong disagreements on cardinal issues — think, for example, of controls on political campaign spending, affirmative action, access to abortion — we genuinely respect one another, even enjoy one another’s company.

“Collegiality is crucial to the success of our mission. We could not do the job the Constitution assigns to us if we didn’t — to use one of Justice Antonin Scalia’s favorite expressions — ‘get over it!’”

That might be the best marriage advice of all.

Ginsberg excerpted in the NYT

WRITING TIP FOR LIFE

Your word choice and word order matter. Be selective.

DOG TIP FOR LIFE

Getting over it allows you to feel better and make your relationships stronger. Dwelling is never a good move. And selective hearing? Giving yourself time to react so that you don’t act rashly? Always a wise choice.

SHOUT OUT

SHOUT OUT!

The music we’ve clipped and shortened in this podcast is awesome and is made available through the Creative Commons License. Here’s a link to that and the artist’s website. Who is this artist and what is this song?  It’s “Summer Spliff” by Broke For Free.

HELP US AND DO AN AWESOME GOOD DEED

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness on the DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE podcast as we talk about random thoughts, writing advice and life tips. We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow. There’s a new episode every Tuesday!

Thanks so much for being one of the 254,000 downloads if you’ve given us a listen!

Flour Tattoos and Hyperbole is the Biggest Danger in the World (That’s Hyperbole right there)

Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Flour Tattoos and Hyperbole is the Biggest Danger in the World (That's Hyperbole right there)
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So, this woman, Aileen Weintraub on the Huffington Post, has an article that’s headline is, “I’m a Grown Woman and I Still Sleep with a Stuffed Animal.”

“George is my deep, dark secret, and I’m sharing our story now in the time of COVID-19 because many of us are quietly struggling.”

Aileen Weintraub

And the article is sweet and lovely, and poor Aileen had COVID-19 and was terribly sick and was even more stressed because George, her stuffed dog has been with her for thirty years and she didn’t know if her stuffed animal would be able to go with her if she had to come to the hospital.

And she was ashamed because stuffed animals are allegedly “transitional objects.”

She wrote,

“I love my family, but this little hound doesn’t take up much room and he doesn’t shift the sheets. I don’t have to explain myself to him. He doesn’t ask questions and he’s always there, a personal touchstone I can depend on. George doesn’t judge. He never complains and I never have to cook for him. He never rummages through the fridge and tells me there is no food in the house. He doesn’t leave towels on the floor. He doesn’t bark while I’m on a conference call. George gets me.

“When I was quarantined for 16 days as the coronavirus ravaged my body, no one in my family could touch me. I communicated with them via text or through a closed door. But George was there. He is so quiet that it would be easy to forget him. I never do.

“George is my deep dark secret, and I’m sharing our story now in the time of COVID-19 because no matter how strong, confident or successful a person may appear, the truth is that many of us are quietly struggling. When everything seems hopeless, when it looks like we will never get out of the hellfire that is 2020, perhaps it’s OK to admit to finding softness and comfort from something as simple and familiar as an old threadbare stuffy.”

Aileen Weintraub

God bless this lady because if George, the stuffed animal in her bed, is her deep dark secret? What a nice life she’s had.

What Is Hyperbole?

Hyperbole is basically defined as an exaggeration that people use to emphasize an effect. It’s extravagant. It’s bullshit. It comes from the Greek word for “excess.”

I’m not sure if this ‘deep dark secret’ is hyperbole, but it sure feels like one.

And the problem with hyperbole? Is that it’s not truth. It’s inauthentic. It’s the tool of politicians and apparently op-ed writers and we’re all freaking too used to it. We don’t examine the extravagant claims of influencers, writers. Headlines and tweets and speeches and email subject lines are full of them.

 In writing fiction especially, hyperbole can be a brilliant tool. Listen to this Monty Python bit about being completely not rich.

You were lucky. We lived for three months in a brown paper bag in a septic tank. We used to have to get up at six o’clock in the morning, clean the bag, eat a crust of stale bread, go to work down mill for 14 hours a day and when we got home, our Dad would thrash us to sleep with his belt!​

Monty Python people

The Problem

Writers, you can use hyperbole but don’t use it in your nonfiction. Even Aristotle was anti-hyperbole saying it was amateur and childlike and that it was the tool of bad, angry politicians.

Why is it bad?

It’s bad because it’s used to manipulate us and our emotions. It makes normal things suddenly feel over the top, excessive, the deepest and darkest of secrets or the most terrifying moments of existence. It’s when someone yells at you for your opinion or your actions and you call it an ‘attack’ in which you are in fear of your life. It’s when you’re pushing for your agenda and twisting truth so that you can be the savior or the victim and it is dangerous AF.

And it’s normal now. We’re used to seeing the exaggeration of truths becoming lies. No, that article is not going to make you instantly a best selling book writer or super fit in three fast weeks. No, that politician isn’t going to save your country. No, that person with an opinion different than yours does not deserve to die.

Hyperbole pulls us away from the truth. In the excess and exaggeration often comes an otherness, an us versus them mentality that prevents us from finding truths, middle roads, and we become so engrossed in it that we see a story about a woman’s deepest, darkest secret being about sleeping with her stuffed animal and we believe it.

We’ve got to return to truth, to discourse, to authenticity.

And we have to do it before it’s too late before that extremism is the norm, exaggeration is the defacto position for all of us, before we forget what truth even is.

WRITING TIP OF THE POD

Write truth. Write things that resonate. Hyperbole is a great tool, but it shouldn’t be your go-t0 response.

DOG TIP FOR LIFE

Don’t hyperbolize the simple stuff.

SHOUT OUT

The music we’ve clipped and shortened in this podcast is awesome and is made available through the Creative Commons License. Here’s a link to that and the artist’s website. Who is this artist and what is this song?  It’s “Summer Spliff” by Broke For Free.

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