Category Archives: Writing as An Emotional Outlet

I Will Always Keep Writing

A Guest Post by Amanda Faith

When I was really young, apparently my favorite thing was to “write” with pen and paper. Granted, no one but maybe an alien could have read it, but at least I committed something to paper.

I was fortunate in the fact that my sixth grade English teacher, Mrs. Clay, was my biggest inspiration as a child. It was my first year in a new school, and she took me under her wing. I think she saw a terrified child with a lot of potential. With her encouragement and guidance, I entered my first writing contest. It turned out to be a lot of fun. I had to write a short story, illustrate it, and create a cover to make it like a real book. I didn’t win, but it was so much fun. It was also comforting to get recognized for something I had created. It’s amazing that after all this time I still remember it. That story, and that teacher, meant so much to me.

My grandfather was another major inspiration in my life. He was a musician. He sang and yodeled, played the guitar and harmonica, worked in the music industry, and was a fantastic songwriter. He was also a ghostwriter for some of the major country performers in Nashville back in the 50s, 60s, and 70s. He taught me how to play the guitar and how to use my story ideas to create songs. He was so much fun. Even as sad as a lot of my stories were as a child, he would help me put such a twist on them that the good guy always won in the end.

There were times in my life I almost gave up writing completely. As a teenager, I lived with an extremely abusive father. Kids were never his idea of an accomplishment. But since I was the product of the pill not working and my mother ran away when I was eight, he was stuck with me. He would make sure I knew weekly how much of a loser I was, how I was never wanted, how he wished I would go away, how worthless I was, etc. There was the physical abuse, too. If I wrote anything, he would tear it up in my face and tell me how horrible it was and that I would never amount to anything. I would hide my writing, not wanting to give him more ammo for his rages. I still had to write. It was cathartic; having to pour out emotions that I couldn’t do otherwise. I couldn’t show anyone. I never thought they were good enough or that people would laugh at me. After a particularly terrifying incident, I left home at fifteen and never went back. I don’t have any of those stories. The day after I left, my father burned anything I had left behind, trying to blot out my memory.

After graduating high school at sixteen, I didn’t write a lot. What I did write was more along the lines of a thought or two here and there. I was too scared and too beaten down to try anything creative. I had to survive. But in time, I began to write again. At first, it was smaller projects. Poetry came first. I could pour out a lot of emotion in poetry. There was so much hurt and grief. It was a cleansing, of sorts. This cleansing took about ten years, but at least I was able to become strong enough to know I wanted to write. I did just that. I had some of my poetry published in anthologies.

I always loved reading. I would devour books. Going to the library was a weekly adventure to see what new book or what new author I would discover next. I was always drawn to science fiction and fantasy. It was my escape, my dream world. My first short story publication was in 1995 called “Dream Trap.” It was my first published step into science fiction as a writer.

2012-10-04 10.09.35My love for science fiction and fantasy has not wavered. My first book, Strength of Spirit, is an urban fantasy. It came out in 2012 with MuseItUp Publishing. In 2014, it won the 2014 Gold Global eBook Award for Paranormal Mystery. I was so thrilled. Not only is this book my first professional publication, it won an award.

I have come a long way. There is still so much to learn and so much to do in life. There is an adventure around the corner. Even though I look back and still see that scared, beaten child, I know I am so much more than that. My writing is a testament that I overcame great distress and agony to write and to be published. I still polish my craft and still want to learn from others. It empowers me and sparks my creativity. I don’t believe a writer can ever know “enough” or even know what enough is. Writing is an ever-growing process, one that flows and should not become stagnate.

 

 

About the Author:Author
Award-winning author Amanda Faith may have been raised in Dayton, but her heart and home is in the South. With a lifelong love of teaching and writing, she had plenty of encouragement from teachers and friends along the way.

Teaching English and doing paranormal investigations doesn’t slow her down from having a great time with a plethora of hobbies. Her published credits include short stories, poetry, several journal articles, her doctoral dissertation, and her award-winning book Strength of Spirit. She is a staff writer for The Daily Dragon at Dragon Con and an intern for Kevin J. Anderson and Rebecca Moesta at WordFire Press. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English, a Masters in Education-English, and a Doctorate in Education-Teacher Leadership. Check out her website at www.amandafaith.net.

 

Turning Experiences into Method Acting

A Guest Post from Emily Godhand

Back in February of this year I was able to attend to Kevin J. Anderson and Rebecca Moesta’s “SuperStars Writing Seminar” on a scholarship from Wattpad. This was a seminar to “teach you the business of being a writer” and boasted many instructors well known in the industry. I was given the opportunity to learn from individuals such as Jody Lynn Nye, Todd McCaffrey, James A. Owen, and Kevin and Rebecca themselves. And those are just the people I had the great fortune of meeting!

When I first learned I was picked for the scholarship, I was beyond excited to the point of being in actual disbelief. I felt like I had been eating a chocolate bar named Wattpad and was enjoying something pleasant and made me happy, and then suddenly I was holding a shiny golden ticket in my hand. But as happy as I was, I was so nervous I thought maybe it was a set up to a middle school joke come back to haunt me. You know the kind where someone said something positive and then laughed at you for actually believing it? That can’t just have been me, right?

Sometimes I can turn pretense into an art form and act full of grace and charm, when internally I’m screaming and shivering like a naked chihuahua about to piss itself. Factor in that crowds and hotels greatly trigger my PTSD, and I was ready to curl up in the corner, hug my knees, and rock back and forth until the world made sense again.

Within this internal cesspool of doubt and insecurity, and amidst schoolyard worries of “Will the other kids like me?” and “What if I’m not prepared enough? or worse, “What if they don’t like my story?!”, I did have those sickly feelings of hope and anticipation that this was going to be something wonderful at best, and at worst, great fodder for your writing.

ImAWriter_Godhand

Because new experiences can be a writer’s bread and butter.

And yet, writers have a certain reputation for being reclusive and introverted, withdrawn into a world of our own making where reality is just a thing for those without imagination. It’s true, writing is hard work that takes focus and some of us need our solitude to do that. The long nights fueled by IV drip caffeine. The sweat forming at your brow from the intensity of your thinking. Putting ass-in-chair for hours to finish that latest chapter. The incredible amount of work we put into our writing to the point that we should probably eat something. Preferably every day. And maybe even two or three times if we can afford to be away from your keyboard that long. I’m sure for some of us (…me) our core muscles are neglected to the point we’ve melted into hunched monstrosities with T-rex arms, and we haven’t seen the blessed light of day such that we shriek and cower when some well-intentioned soul opens the curtain. ((…just me?))

When I sat down to write, and I would have trouble describing something, or conveying an emotion, I was always given the advice “write what you know”. Then felt frustrated because I didn’t think I knew anything except maybe what it’s like to hide within the tiny walls of my office with just the rats and ennui for company. …And maybe also some random, dated pop-culture references. If I needed to write about characters that were self-absorbed recluses with awkward social skills and crippling self-doubt I had that down. Because that’s all I’d ever know unless I faced my anxiety as much as was healthy and explored the world around me. By not seeking out new experiences, especially challenging ones, I was limiting what I knew, and therefore limiting what I could write about.

I figured, I spend countless hours pretending to be individuals who face their fears and the unknown, so surely, truly, I could learn a little from method acting and borrow some of the character’s strength to be able to go to this seminar. And if I couldn’t and ended up numb and dumb with fear and anxiety? I write thrillers and horror stories. I could certainly make use of those feelings in my work.

I was fooling myself if I ever thought I could glean the secrets of the universe to translate onto pages by doing the same routine every day. I’m a human being first, and human beings tend to crave variety and novelty. Writing is hard enough, but it’s hard to write believably about things you haven’t seen or experienced.

When I needed to describe 16th Street Mall in downtown Denver, I put on some pants, left the house, and went to downtown Denver. I needed to know more than what it looked like, and I had the opportunity to learn. The pictures I found online were stunning, but photographers are known for getting the best shots of a place. It’d be the difference between your wedding photos and waking up to your partner in the morning. There’s a different type of beauty in authenticity.

2006-07-14-Denver_Skyline_MidnightWhat, it doesn’t always look like this?

The staged photos in the best light may not convey the actual feeling of being there: the noises, the smells, the weather, the conversations, the dress, the atmosphere. When I did go downtown, I witnessed a dirgesinger get heckled by buskers who broke into Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy”. I got to speak to the buskers about their experiences and see how many artists were on the street. I couldn’t have done any of that from my house, and while it may not have made a significant difference in the overall plot of my story, those tiny details weren’t unnoticed by my readers, and contributed to their immersion in the story.

In that particular chapter there were several twists and turns and horror elements, but the realistic description of downtown Denver was what really hooked my readers. They also had comments on something else they liked, sure, but nearly every single person commented on the description of downtown Denver.

* The way you discuss Denver, it really comes to life and makes elements like the “prophet” even creepier.

* I love the way you describe Denver. You completely capture that downtown urban feel. The characters you create are all rich and vivid.

* I’ve never been to Denver. 16th Street sounds amazing.

* Sounds like a really neat downtown area, very artistically stimulating.

* Gotta say I loved the downtown scene, with the preacher and the singers. It kind of eased off the tension for a moment and painted a vivid picture of things that make the city unique.

….Success!

Still, it’s one thing to do something as simple as go downtown in my own city and simply report what I found there. It’s another to use my own experiences and feelings to empathize with my character and convey what they are feeling, especially if they are painful or negative.

When I had to do this with my main character’s recovery from her trauma and the first month of her PTSD, it was like finding that mental storage closet where you had shoved all your memories. And as your hand hovers over the knob, you’re not sure if some musty linens are going to fall on your head, or if they’re going to have every crawling, putrid thing topple down with them.

It was probably the hardest thing I ever had to write because it felt like tearing open an infected wound to clean it. Yet I would say it is also probably the truest expression of my own voice since for the most part I just told how I felt and my own experiences, and put those words in my character’s mouth.

This particular scene received the most praise out of all 60+ chapters (as of this writing).

* I can feel Annie’s sense of desperation to understand what happened, and her frustration at the world for wanting her to figure it out too fast.

* I can really feel Annie’s confusion, distress, her anger and frustration. My favourite part by far was her speech to the psychiatrist. Although I really hated him, he was written well.

* The psychology of grief and trauma came across as very genuine. The feeling of loss over someone’s death rarely manifests itself directly, at least not until years after the event.

* I think anyone who reads this is going to be able to feel the pain Annie is going through right now, and the way you’ve described her trying to cope is heartbreaking. I think this is probably one of your best chapters as far as the use of language goes, and I feel bad for Annie’s mom too… Just trying to help but she has no idea how. 🙁

So, how did things go at the Superstars Writing Seminar? Next time you read a piece by me about a character finding acceptance and understanding with a group when she was afraid of rejection, you’ll know.

About the Author:Author
Emily Godhand is a paranormal thriller author who lives in a book fort in Denver, CO, with seven rats who revere her as their Queen.

As former psychiatric technician, she draws her inspirations from her work and the constant nightmares she’s had for 13 years. As such, her works tend to focus on an exploration of trauma, immortality, and human consciousness.

Read her latest work on Wattpad, where she is an Ambassador.

Are You Bored or Burned Out by Your Story?

You’re tired of writing the short story before you’ve even finished it. You’re 40,000 words into the novel and are falling asleep at the keyboard. You’ve worked hard on your world building, done the research done your character profiles and have the main elements of your plot chart, the writing should come easily but it doesn’t.

Don’t panic! The inability to write because your work doesn’t feel interesting at this moment doesn’t mean that you’re a bad writer. It means that you’re stuck and that you need to answer one simple question to get through this:

Are you bored or are you burned out?

Burn out happens when we’ve been at it too long – our brains need a rest from processing information and creating a work of art. Writing takes lots of energy – physical, creative and emotional. That’s when you need to give yourself a break But sometimes when you’re feeling bored it’s your brain’s way of telling you that information is missing. I had that experience when I was doing the world building and background work for my new series. I had had so much fun world building and I wanted to write the novel so I could share it. No matter how hard I tried, it wouldn’t happen. Three times I started the beginning and each time I set it aside. It wasn’t fun anymore. I grew bored. So, I let it rest and when I reviewed my research, I realized that I hadn’t thought through a critical element. My brain, in the form of boredom and frustration, was telling me that I was missing something.

Sometimes I write three to ten pages of background material (important but boring stuff) because I need to get grounded in the setting and characters. Once I’ve done that, then the story begins. So, write, write and write some more. It’s not boredom per se that you’re experiencing, it’s simply that you’re going through the first step of needing to become part of that world, to unclutter your brain by getting information and relationships out of your head.

What happens when you’re genuinely bored with what you’re writing? When you’re sick of the plot and the characters? When it’s not exciting anymore and it feels like work and not fun?

Sometimes, it’s not fun and when that’s the case we need to simply write our way through it until it becomes fun. There may be technical reasons why this is so but many times those aren’t apparent until we’ve finished the novel and are revising it. So don’t stop writing. Write through the scene or section and get to the fun part!

Feeling bored may be the result of not getting to the interesting parts of the story. You’re missing mood, emotion, action and reaction because there’s too much inconsequential description, the reader isn’t an idiot and doesn’t need that level of detail, it reads like a technical manual, and yes, it’s simply boring writing! So in this case, the problem may not be with you but with what you’re writing. Again, get it out of your system, then write the real story.

But what if you’re bored because you’re derailed and don’t even know it? Check your plot chart. Write out chapter summaries or summarize your scenes in point form. Ask yourself: where does the story begin and what is the disaster in the opening quarter that compels my charter to act? What is the story goal? What is the climax? What is happening to the protagonist between the middle and the end which makes it challenging for him to achieve his goals? It may be that somewhere in the swampy middle that you need to increase action and tension, up the stakes in order to make things dicier for your character and more exciting for yourself. This solution also works if you’re bored because your characters and plot feel boring.

Boredom may mean that you need a break. We get tired – it happens. Do something different for a bit: write a short story or a poem; paint the fence; go to a movie; bake something – give your brain a break and do something fun! Beware though that you aren’t using boredom as an excuse to procrastinate – that it’s an excuse to do the fun things and not write! If that’s the case, the surest way to quell boredom is by applying the BICFOK cure – Butt in Chair, Fingers on Keyboard.

Yawn! I’m not bored – I simply need a nap!

The Great Spring Migration

The spring migration is late this year but I only learned that because someone died.

A close friend’s death pulled me from my concrete world, forcing me to travel across endless prairie, to see spring repaint winter’s stark world with the tender greens waving away the north wind’s last cold breaths. And in my journey to mourn, I see the spring migration – gathering energy to fly to thawing northern nesting grounds by fervently feeding on the last crop’s stubble, not one stray seed left behind. A friend had died and with her, part of my heart died yet here was nature, hopeful, fervent, telling me the cycle must continue, that despite all that happens, life stops for no one.

This journey takes me back to the farmstead home where I grew up – right in the middle of the great spring migration. Flocks of Greater and Lesser Canada geese, cranes and Snow geese formed feathery swarms. Circling gracefully down to water, then like arrows shot into the sky they circle yet again searching for perfect feeding fields.

The choruses of honks and krooos carried by cool spring winds are a music once familiar, now alien, to my ears. These choruses are the excitement of spring, the energy of rebirth and creativity and somehow, through my tears of grieving, I am stilled to peace.

A walk across stubble fields, still too wet for seeding, floods me with memories, once known in my youth but now seem otherworldly. Who was that person who remembers where the trees once grew, where cattle grazed in pastures, where weeds were pulled from garden rows at a nickel a pail? Who is this person who now deigns to wear sandals through straw stubble, ankles scratched – a child of the city now – alien worlds converging, lifetimes past and present merging.

Walking along a windrow, a prairie chicken is spooked from the grass. My partner is now lost in his memories of times hunting before pesticides and farming diminished this delicacy. As we share the past I realize that few words can bring to life the images, the memories, the smells, the aching muscles, the laughter accompanying sliding down haystacks in winter … time has made the once familiar foreign. The migration darkens the sky above us as birds swarm debating if this field will yield enough scattered grain. I feel the noisy migration sweep my old ghosts away for their focus is on today – it is all that matters and all that ever will matter.

At 4 a.m., the winds change and I know, lying in the dark, protected from the diamond sky and sun’s first yawning, that it is time – that this is the last night of honking and krooing wakefulness and that silence will ensue. I leap from my bed to watch the geese and cranes, their last grazing of grain speckled stubble fields completed, rise to the skies, circling, a choir in flight, summoning all to follow, their v-shaped lines flapping arrows aimed at northern nesting grounds.

Then, the earth gasps at the timeless glory of the final migration before relaxing with a sigh. But, the silence I expect never comes.

Instead, I hear the almost quiet – the earth’s soft belches and burps of spring moving to summer. Frogs croaking bass melody day and night, the percussion of duck calls, crows cawing oblivious to the frog’s melody, the crescendo and decrescendo of wind whispering then whistling through budding trees – the new, softer melodies of insects crawling over warming ground, farmers preparing the land for seeding, hoes working gardens. The south wind, carrying the frenzied migration northward now blends these spring choruses to new compositions.

Ah yes, the rhythm, the balance of the earth, timeless beyond man – these things I now ponder. And I also wonder about the worlds I create as I now sit in my walled home, in my city of concrete and asphalt and unearthly noise. Do my characters wander through worlds which gasp, belch and burp? Are they aware of the subtle things which affect their lives? Am I aware of these things? Maybe. Maybe not. But I now know that sometimes we and our characters need to take the time to breathe – to feel the change, to feel the sorrow and the timelessness of life.