How to Avoid Writer’s Panic

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Your face when you look at your to do list.

What is Writer’s Panic, you may ask? Well, it starts when you realize you haven’t been writing as much as you should. Then it deepens when you realize you’re falling behind. Next you’re neglecting your side projects to the point where they don’t exist, and something completely unrelated to writing completely monopolizes your time.

Now, it might be a happy thing. You could have a baby or adopt a kitten or go on vacation, or there could be a death in the family or a stressful move to another city. Either way, once you settle back in, all you can do is sit there and think about how very, very far behind you are.

Having just had a quarter-life crisis of sorts, I am there. I have an unedited novel from two years ago that still needs finishing, for god’s sake. Follow these steps and you will be up and running in no time.

Step One:

Get over your Writer’s Block. I have a post on that here, and it basically boils down to forcing yourself to write. The easiest way I’ve found is to just write whatever I feel like it whether or not it’s any good. Just sit down in front of the computer and make words happen in some sort of logical order.

Step Two:

Create a list of everything you’ve been working on in the last year or so (or shorter/longer, depending on how long you’ve been away from things). Organize the list in groups of things that are nearly finished, things that you’ve just started, and things you absolutely want to finish.

Step Three:

Decide on what to start on first. Have a short story that just needs editing? The choice is clear. Do you have five half-finished novels and no idea which to start? Think of which one is going to be the easiest to write and which ones you would weep to see go unfinished.

Step Four:

Don’t set any hard deadlines. Until you’re back into the swing of things, deadlines will only make you worry more. You can maybe set goals such as “finish novel B this year” or “write every other day at least” but you have to find a relaxed balance where you can stretch your wings, as it were. It might take time for some people to get back into the groove of things and there’s no use in stressing yourself out when you don’t have to, especially when returning from any kind of stressful break. 

Ask family members and friends help for motivation if you need to. Activities like NaNoWriMo or writing groups can help motivate you without putting any real pressure on you. You just need to remember that writing is supposed to be fun, no matter how much the opposite can seem true sometimes.

To celebrate my return to blogging, I’ve put my book Wildflower Crown for free on Amazon! Click here to claim your copy for Kindle. (It will work on a regular computer too, just download the app!)

Thanks for reading 🙂

Excerpt from Wildflower Crown

Wildflower Crown

Wildflower Crown

© Charlotte Cyprus

Prologue

The woman kept to the shadows, avoiding the torches that lit the streets. A hood concealed her face and black cloth was thrown over the basket in her arms. Little whimpers came from the basket, but the woman shushed it, moving through the unfamiliar village slowly. She avoided the men walking home from the pub and went farther to the outskirts of town where there were smaller houses stuffed with squalling children.

Fog rose up from the ground in the cold night air. The streets were tracks of dirt that the recent rain had turned into mud, and it sucked at the woman’s boots as she struggled to keep herself unnoticed. A pitiful cry came from the basket in her arms. The woman paused to reach her hand in and stroke the baby’s cheek. She was rewarded with a happy gurgle.

The woman was caught off guard. She looked at the baby, so sweet and small and innocent. Had she gone far enough south? The king would be hunting her, she knew. It had been a foolish thing to take revenge on the king, but she hadn’t counted on getting pregnant. The baby’s father had no idea where they were, or that the baby existed, but it was for the best. The babe could live out an anonymous childhood away from the chaos of her own life.

A child’s cry rang out in the night, but it wasn’t her baby. The woman froze and listened hard to find where the noise was coming from. The child called out again, and the woman determined that it was the little house across the street. The roof was crumbling and the door was hanging at an angle. As the crying continued, a light was lit. The woman could see it through the shuttered window.

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The Origin of Wildflower Crown

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Wildflower Crown was a long time in the making. I was fascinated by the thought of someone growing up in the wild and then trying to adapt to normal life. It’d been done before, but typically with men. When someone on an old writing site I used to use gave the prompt, “Someone must defend their home,” Wild was born.

Here is that piece. Literally nothing you read from this will be in the actual book, but I think it’s a nice standalone piece and it’s interesting (to me, at least) how this came to be Wildflower Crown.


As an infant, I was left in a field to die. It was a justified decision of behalf of the farmer who left me there for he was no kin of mine; he had no ties to me. I was a halfing, part forest folk and part human. My parents must have each come from another world, my existence stemming from their union. As I was not fully Other, I could not live among the creatures of the forest, the eldritch presences that lurk and lure travelers to their doom. Nor, as not fully human, could I live among the people, in a small farm or in the poorer districts of a crowded city.

I was caught between the worlds, never to live comfortably in either. My parents, not caring about my fate, left me on the old farmer’s doorstep. He heard my cries, took a look at my glistening hair and unnaturally colored eyes, and left me in the barren hills for the wolves to devour.

Any human child would have died from either the elements or the predators in the area. Being half Other, I survived. The wolves did not make a meal of me. They talked to me. Animals lived between the human world and the world of the Others; that made us one of the same. Therefore, they took me in, fed me in their den, raised me until I was fit to live on my own. I could talk to them, of course, not in words, but through our minds, using a power bestowed upon us by something greater than ourselves. I made friends with the wolves, as much as one can befriend wild beasts, but as all pups are pushed from the den and into the wild, I left them behind for a life of my own.

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How To Be Sarcastic

Those who care about the feelings of others need not apply.

Step One:

Start by adding comments like “Oh, really?” or “I never would have guessed!” after someone says something incredibly obvious. If the person does not realize that you are being sarcastic, continue making them explain whatever they have just told you while you listen with rapt attention.

Step Two:

Never give people a straight answer. If someone asks you how you feel after you broke your leg, for example, say something along the lines of “I feel spiffing! The doctors think that by next week I’ll be back on my feet and taming lions in no time!” The use of outdated language and over-the-top enthusiasm will ensure people that you are being completely sincere and are not at all insulting them.

Step Three:

Talk in a dead tone of voice. Never put any emphasis on a word unless issuing a direct insult. For example, “You wouldn’t believe how excited I am!” should be said in a flat voice, while “I can’t believe how interesting you are!” should have emphasis, so that even those with the thickest of skulls will realize that you are mocking them.

Step Four:

In the event of someone telling you that sarcasm is the lowest form of wit, tell them that stupidity is the highest form of entertainment.

Step Five:

Tell people absolutely random shit. End the sentence with, “What do you think?” For example, if someone asks about the weather, reply with something along the lines of “It may be cloudy now, but I sense that a giant tornado will come and carry us to Oz where we may frolic in the sun with members of the lollipop guild. It’s going to rain, what do you think?”

Step Six:

Always use sarcasm in the presence of authority figures. This includes teachers, parents, bosses, and the police. For example, when asked if you were the one involved in hit and run case, reply with “No, of course it wasn’t me! His brains were all over my car, there was a positive ID on my license plate, and four witnesses saw me drive away, but it couldn’t have been me! I’m sure it was just someone who I happened to have all the above things in common with.”

Step Seven:

Once you have mastered the art of sarcasm, use it on a daily basis. Eventually, you will become so good at it that no one will ever be able to tell whether or not you’re being serious. For example, when your friend asks you about the game last night, and you reply that it was very exciting, your friend will roll your eyes and tell you not to be so goddamn sarcastic. What they won’t know is that you actually were excited about the game, and that you are just such a master that they’ll never know what you’re truly thinking.

Olé.

Grammar Tips for Editing

Now, I am not an English major. I’ve never really paid attention in English class. I have no formal editing training (or writing training, for that matter) but I consider myself a pretty good editor. (Better when editing something I haven’t written, but I believe that’s true for us all).

How did I get good? Practice, the same as anything else. Google is one of my best friends while editing, not only for fact-checking, but for grammar-checking. Here are some of the most common mistakes I make, listed in no particular order.

Farther verses Further

Farther refers to physical distance, like the car was farther away, while further refers to a more abstract concept, like her orgasm can’t be much further.

Lie verses Lay

You lie down next to your lover. You lay down a blanket first (if you wanna get laid). (More here, because I still mess this up.)

Faze verses Phase

Your two-year-old is going through a phase, but the phases of the moon do not faze him because he is not a werewolf. Phase is like a transition, faze means to be affected by something.

Effect verses Affect

The computer was affected by the lightening, though that had no effect on the student’s final essay because he was a fucking hipster who wrote it all out by candle-light. Affect is a verb and effect is a noun. Affect can be a noun, but very rarely, and I’ve only seen it used like that in a psychology journal, so typically you can ignore that exception.

Assent verses Ascent

The mother signed the permission slip as assent for her son’s ascent of Mount Everest. I think this is a mistake people make not realizing that it’s a mistake they could make. If that makes sense.

Wary verses Weary

The owner was weary of how wary the dog was of everyone. Weary is tired and wary is cautious. Again, I think this follows under the same category as the pairing above.

Rein verses Reign

The peasant pulled on the reins in the rain during the reign of King Charles the Butt. If you mess this up in a fantasy novel, your readers will notice. Probably. (A historical novel, too.)

Again, these are either mistakes I make or mistakes I am paranoid about and Google each time I use them. (I’m looking at you, lie verses lay.)

What mistakes do you most commonly make?

 

Love is Obsession?

I admit that at 20 years of age I am not worldly or experienced, nor have I read all the world of literature has to offer. However, it seems like recently, there is a new trend.

Obsession.

Now, obsession isn’t new. It’s been used before and I’ve read it portrayed accurately: as a character flaw.

I love my boyfriend. I am not obsessed with him. I don’t follow him around, go through his phone, or read through his emails. I don’t demand to be with him any second of the day or threaten bodily harm to anyone who touches him. That would not be sexy. That would be creepy.

Only… is it creepy? 50 Shades of Grey, Twilight, Apolonia, and Viper Game. These are all fairly new books that have not love, not romance, but obsession.

Christian Gray stalks Ana, buys her a new car without her permission, and doesn’t allow her to see her male friends.

Edward watches Bella while she sleeps in addition to all the creepy stuff E. L. James stole for 50 Shades.

In Apolonia, the main character is the interest of two boys, both of whom want to follow her around at all times.

Viper Games, a book I’m reading right now, has a main character who is genetically enhanced to be pretty and sexy, and the male lead threatens to kill his own best friends if they dare touch her. Literally, touch. As in, handshake. He tells her not to seduce another man or else she’ll be responsible for their deaths and he doesn’t want that.

*Sigh* Soooo romantic.

Do women want this? To be obsessed over? Is love no longer enough?

Obsession: an idea or thought that continually preoccupies or intrudes on a person’s mind

When a man obsessive over you, you are literally all he thinks about. There is no time for fun or games or work or personality, only you. That’s what the characters in these books are like and these books are flying off the shelves. What’s wrong with the market that this is what is selling? Is it something wrong with women? Have we been duped into believing that love isn’t enough, that we need fanatical devotion and obsession?

What are your thoughts on this? Is this a new trend, or just something I’m now picking up on?

Your Characters Should Hold a Grudge

Your characters should be holding a grudge, possibly several of them. Not against you, of course, unless you’re George R. R. Martin, but against other characters. People that they could reasonably hold a grudge against.

I was thinking about how I owe some guy at my school named Nate a big FUCK YOU for something he did earlier last semester (deets here towards the top) and I realized that I am definitely the kind of person who holds grudges. However, my characters aren’t. They don’t remember that one time that girl got them detention in 4th grade for something they didn’t do or the time their “best friend” decided to ignore them for two year to join the popular kids. Now, just like not all people hold grudges, not all characters do. Some forgive and forget.

However, I think it’s much more fun not to have a character forgive and forget. It can give them motivation to do anything, really. Need your character to get to the next city over for the plot to progress? She has a grudge on an old bully and wants to go make him wash her car. Need your character to be caught by the hunky police officer she’s going to sleep with? Have her being caught egging the house of her ex. You know the one, the guy who stole her cat and cheated on her, not the nice one who wore sweaters. Sweater dude made nice pizza.

Grudges are a great way to add some depth to your character. Is Judy more relaxed but Sally is confrontational? Show that through a conversation about how Sally hasn’t forgiven her first grade teacher for playing favorites and Judy trying to talk her into forgetting about it. It can also add humor to a scene when Sally recounts how incredibly unfair it was that Timmy was given FOUR gummy bears but she was only give ONE. (And yes, these can be adults. Adults can be petty, and all characters need flaws.)

So, Nate, in honor of upcoming Valentine’s Day, here is my gift for you:

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So now I don’t have to worry about flipping you off it I finally see you around campus, because all of my followers now know that I’m crazy.

What’s something one of your characters has held a grudge for?

Author Dos

To accompany my previous post, Author Don’ts, I’ve compiled a list of things you, as a new author, should do.

  1. Be nice to everyone you come in contact with. I’m not talking about every John Doe you bump into on the street, but anyone you contact through your blog/Twitter/review requests, whatever. Always make an effort to sound polite and well-meaning, even if someone is being a twit.
  2. Unplug for a while. Always set aside time to just sit down and do what it is you need to do, whether it’s editing, rewriting, writing, outlining… whatever. Procrastination is your enemy, and Facebook and Twitter are leading the attack.
  3. Write something new. I’m not talking a new manuscript, but a new idea. Relying on cliches and old tropes might get you sales, but you can’t be afraid to be an innovative author!
  4. Keep organized! This applies to everything, from editing notes to review requests. Everything saved on your computer should have smart titles and everything in a physical copy should be together in one place. Keep track of who leaves good reviews and which blogs you come across who offer to do reviews for your genre. Also keep track of your sales and expenses down to the cent, so you can finally celebrate when you’re out of the red and know what your next novel will take.
  5. Edit, edit like the wind! … or something. You don’t want to publish a first draft, or a second draft, or a third draft. Maybe a fourth or fifth draft, depending on how things are going. You want to make your novel perfect to stand out from other novels. Literally anyone can self-publish these days, so you need to establish yourself as a serious author.
  6. Keep your feet on the ground. Most likely, your first novel isn’t going to sell enough copies to allow you to quit your day job. Don’t expect your first book to be a runaway success. Or your second. Or your third. Just keep writing until you build an audience, and watch as that audience grows. It may take some time, but if you try hard, good writing will stand out.
  7. Write a good author bio. Wherever your book is, there will be an author page. You want it to stand out, not read like a formula, 3 kids + cats + Michigan = author. Mine mentions pugs because they are my one true love. If people think of me and say, “Oh, she’s the pug author who wrote that romance book” I’ve succeeded. Don’t forget to link your blog to your page, which I know for a fact can be done both on Amazon and Goodreads.
  8. Keep learning. Not all of us writers majored in English. Even for those of you who did, you don’t know everything. If you’re uncertain about a certain aspect of grammar, look it up. Read essays on character development and the precision of language. It’s important to continue growing as a writer.
  9. Read like your life depends on it, because it does. Your life as a writer, that is. Reading is the best tool we have for increasing literacy, and that’s just what you need to do to be a competent writer.
  10. Help other authors! Without the help of fellow bloggers, I wouldn’t know how to number pages properly on Microsoft Word. For someone formatting their own book, that was an issue. You can build a vast network of reviewers, cover artists, and editors just by connecting with your fellow authors, and having friends who also know your craft is invaluable.

On the topic of number ten, Marigold over on Verses Blurb is giving away free copies of her book. Just click the picture to go to Smashwords, and you can download a free copy in honor of her awesome new cover!

the-black-swan-inheritance-final-cover

Also as a bonus, 21 Tips from Famous Authors.

Why I Enjoy Writing Diverse Characters

It’s too often that I find a historical romance novel I enjoy and when I check out the author’s other work, the characters are all the same. The heroine is a beautiful, graceful woman who doesn’t know she’s beautiful, who is caring and kind but “strong” (I say it in quotes because for a woman to be strong she just needs to be more masculine) and smart. The hero is a big muscled hunk who is clever and honorable. Sure, there will be a few minor differences, like the heroine will have a “temper” or the hero’s lust may overcome his honor when he seduces the heroine against her father’s wishes, but mostly, they’re the same.

I understand that you want to write what your readers want to read. If they liked book one, why not make your second book follow the same formula?

Only… that’d be shit to write. Your characters would be the same. They’d never surprise you, never do anything other than what was planned in your outline. I know that some people argue against this type of creativity, saying that writers are crazy if they think that the characters control the story, but those people take the saying too literally. Once you start writing a character, you get a feel for behaviors. A scene you once thought would be serious turns funny when you realize that your character would crack a joke to ease the tension. You may have thought that your character was too strong to weep for her dying dog, but then you realize how much affection she showed the dog, and that she was be depressed for weeks about it.

I plan characters by thinking of how I could make them different from my current characters. My only published book, Kiss of The Fey, features the outspoken clever Johara and the introverted Xenos. I decided that my next book would feature Wren, who is strong-willed yet silent and Ferran, who is very gentle. Next I thought that I would create Wild, who enjoys things like a child and is very naive, and Daivat who holds honor above all else and is very serious. Another book I have planned is between Orion and Kasmira, both of whom were featured in Kiss of The Fey. One is an alcoholic and the other hates everyone and has a terrible temper.

The important thing to remember when creating a character is that they can’t always have attractive flaws. I have yet another book planned in which the main character will be a quiet, caring girl who isn’t afraid to cry, and her love interest is going to be an impatient asshole who thinks all women are weak.

I enjoy lining my characters up next to each other and seeing how they compare. When they come too close (Johara and Wren became too similar, so I started cutting Wren’s dialogue until she was a much quieter person) I change things, and I even try to make their physical characteristics different. Ferran has very dark skin, Johara is tan, Wren is tall and extremely skinny, Orion is a skinny ginger (who isn’t strong at all), my unnamed man will actually be shorter than the unnamed woman… you get the picture.

I know we all love our characters, so it’s important that you love them for their differences, not because they all have big hearts or kind souls. Quite frankly, Kasmira is a bitch, but it’s my job as a writer to show how her and Orion came together, and to make you like her despite her flaws.

On a more unrelated topic, I’ve found a really awesome character creator here. It’s a little confusing at first, but I’ve managed to start making characters and now I’m only stopping because I need to make food. The only real limitation is that if you want to change body types it’s a pain in the butt, so I didn’t bother. Here are some examples:

johara

Johara

Xenos

Xenos

Kyald

Unnamed Male

Elianna

Unnamed Female

I’m sorry if this post seemed scattered, but break is finally over and I’m still trying to get back into the grove of things, including finishing everything I said I’d do over break and getting back to blogging for realz (and not just posting book reviews, because that’s really all I’ve done over break).