Spewing Bad Writing Advice

I spew plenty of advice all the time, especially when it comes to writing.

So here goes nothing.

The first sentence of your story should make readers want to read the second. So on and so forth.

Try to establish a conflict or some kind of tension as early as possible. If you can do so in the first paragraph, fantastic. If the conflict arises on page one hundred and ninety-nine, you may want to revisit everything before it.

What's necessary? What isn't?

Clean up your messes. It's fine to info dump everything in your head on the page the first time around, but take care of them when you come back to edit.

If you listen to nothing else I say, for which I don't blame you, hear me out on this: you are not obligated to follow anyone's writing advice. Listen. Learn. But you are your own writer.

What works for you may not work for someone else. Similarly, what works for others might not work for you. So you should do what works best for your own writing.

Make your reader care. Give them a reason to. Many even.

Dare to say something different. Think about what others are saying and say the complete opposite. Play devil's advocate.

Never neglect any element of storytelling. Create a compelling character or twenty. Throw them into a messy situation with conflict. Advance your story's plot at a good pace. Establish setting, location. Think about themes.

When you're stuck, consider the five senses. What can your protagonist see or hear? How do they feel? Does he or she smell something strange? Don't forget about taste.

Be unpredictable. Do the unexpected. Surprise yourself and subsequently your readers as well.

Take writing one word at a time, one day at a time.

Writing an entire novel or 100,000 words can seem daunting.

But writing 1,000 words or one page every day for a year isn't so bad.

I'm a broken record, aren't I?

A Confession And Reflection

I have a confession to make. I didn't participate in Camp NaNoWriMo this July. Explains the lack of Camp this and Camp that in my blog posts, doesn't it?

I began the month with every intention to write a novel from scratch. Writing 50,000 words wasn't exactly my goal. I just wanted to write a lot of words for a new novel I could potentially publish one day. Perhaps not traditionally but possibly.

Instead, I wrote a bit of everything. Some prose and poems, fiction and nonfiction.

I don't consider July to be a complete failure. After all, I wrote every day.

Even though I didn't manage to complete the first draft of a novel, I did come out of July with some good writing. Pieces I will likely work on further in the future.

I think I needed a month of writing whatever I wanted. Especially since I worked on a novel not that long ago in April. It's like I went straight from April to July, skipping May and June entirely.

Also, I wanted a slight break from everything. From feeling pressured to meet a certain word count, feeling obligated to stick to a singular story, etc.

I like to believe I've spent the past 30 days or so regrouping. I did some soul-searching wherein I ask myself what in the Herminia do I want in this life. And, to be quite honest, I still don't know.

Right now I want to continue writing as long as possible. Wherever I go, whoever I am a year from now or a decade down the road, I hope I'll always remember my humble beginnings.

I cherish the memory of when I first reached for pen and paper, when I finally let my thoughts flow freely. It seemed so easy at the time.

My first ever Camp NaNoWriMo coincided with an attempt at finishing my first novel. I'll spare all of you the boring details. But even now, I can recall a younger Herminia pressing keys with her not so nimble fingers several years ago. She had a blast.

So I owe it to myself to have as much fun as I used to or more every time I voluntarily face the blank page.

A Pawn | A Short Story

They targeted her. The men set their sights on Ava and didn't rest until they had her where they wanted. Then they made a call.

"Hello Ava?" came the voice on the other end.

"Ava can't come to the phone right now, Joshua. She's a little tied up." That sent the trio of guys gathered around the phone into a chorus of laughter.

"What the hell? Let her go. This has nothing to do with her, Lawrence." Joshua started breathing faster.

Lawrence flicked his gaze to Ava who was unconscious. "By association she has everything to do with this."

"She knows nothing."

"You underestimate her intelligence, Joshie boy. She knows more than you think."

Josh gritted his teeth together. "I swear to God if you so much as touch a hair on her head, you'll—"

"What, huh?" Lawrence chuckled. "Don't worry. She's fine. Isn't that right, Ava?" He grinned as he walked over to her in the corner of the room.

"You'll—" Josh began but Lawrence had hung up before he could get another word out.

Lawrence ran his hand through Ava's long hair. "I'm going to make your boss pay for what he's done. You're just a pawn in this game." He shook his head. "How could someone so smart be so stupid? You would've been fine if you had minded your own damn business. But you decided to get involved, stick your head where it doesn't belong. Unlucky. Or maybe I should say you deserve what's coming."

He clenched his other hand into a fist, but it was precisely that moment Ava woke up.

Her eyelids fluttered open, exposing two dark irises contrasted against the bright whites of her eyes. She took in Lawrence's gruffy face and pale skin before her world went dark again.

22 Lessons I Learned About Writing

These are twenty-two things I have learned as a writer. Or I’m still learning. Or I hope to learn.

  1. Start writing.
  2. Believe in your story.
  3. Take it one word at a time.
  4. Hold onto your dreams.
  5. Pursue your passion.
  6. Set small goals.
  7. Never settle for less than your best.
  8. Make the right sacrifices.
  9. Stay true to your vision.
  10. Write for yourself.
  11. Be your own critic.
  12. Be your own cheerleader.
  13. Don’t let the bad days win.
  14. Talk to other writers.
  15. Accept rejection.
  16. Embrace failure.
  17. Find a support system.
  18. Ask for help when needed.
  19. Exercise your brain and body.
  20. Remember why you started.
  21. Forgive yourself.
  22. Finish your stories.

What’s a lesson you’ve learned?

Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Quit Writing Now Or Ever

  1. You’re a sadist.
  2. You like learning.
  3. You love writing.
  4. You hate everything else.
  5. You’re bad at things that don’t involve words.
  6. You enjoy creating characters.
  7. You enjoy building worlds.
  8. You don’t know what you’d do with your life without writing.
  9. You rise to the challenge of putting words down on the page.
  10. You think writing is your calling.
  11. You need to escape from the horrors of the real world and retreat to another one.
  12. You feel bad before you write.
  13. You feel like a boss while writing.
  14. You feel better after having written.
  15. You rather write than pay for therapy.
  16. You rather write a story than read one.
  17. You write on your own terms.
  18. You want to be published.
  19. You want to prove people wrong.
  20. You don’t care if no one reads your work.
  21. You don’t care if everyone reads your work.
  22. You don’t want to quit writing.

My Writing Journey

I don’t remember the day I learned to pick up a pencil and put it to paper. Oh, how I wish I did. Being able to write changed my life.

I’m beyond grateful for getting an education. Because of it, I can read and write not just my name but also anything I want.

Before I fell for languages, English especially, I enjoyed and even excelled in mathematics. Mainly because it was so simple, straightforward. It was black and white. You were wrong or right.

Early on, I did better in math than in reading, writing, or oral communication. But throughout elementary, I must have read a boat load of books in my free time. Somewhere along the way my love for reading manifested into something more.

I went back to visit my elementary school teachers, and one of them still remembers how I used to write stories all the time. Although I don’t remember writing a lot as a kid, I recall reading anything in sight. 

In grade 8, I took on a full-length novel. Granted it took me about 2 years to finish the first draft because I took extended breaks along the way. But one of my proudest accomplishments to date is finishing that novel. It come out to 70,000+ words.

I started taking writing more seriously when I was in high school. Especially after I entered my first writing contest when I was in grade 9. I must have been about 13 years old, going on 14. 

I never thought twice about the contest until I heard back from them. Actually my English teacher got the news first because I put her name down and the high school I attended. So she pulled me aside during my math class. I thought I got in trouble. Little did I know my world was about to be rocked. 

She showed me the congratulatory letter with my name on it. I almost didn’t believe her. I never told my teacher that I had entered the contest. Come to think of it, I didn’t tell anyone.

Not only did I get the short piece published, I placed in the top ten of my age division, which happened to be the highest honour for that particular competition.

Later, I applied for my high school yearbook committee, specifically the journalism department. I got rejected. 

I think I owe that yearbook team a big thank you. Had it not been for them, I think I wouldn’t have started blogging, at least not as early as I did anyway.

Out of boredom, I created a blog in April 2013 at 15 years old. I guess I thought blogging would be the logical next step. 

I made it a habit to write every day in early 2015. Took me long enough.

I also got into journaling that same year on my birthday (August 22). I love having a place to write down my thoughts and feelings, worries and concerns. I know no one will read it. And so I can be brutally honest. 

I’m not sure when exactly I decided I wanted to be a writer. But I continue to hope I’ll be able to write for a living. I’d want nothing more.

In the past and even now, but more so back then, writing was my escape. I loved being able to get away from the real world that sucked at the best of times, and go somewhere else for a while.

At some point I loved stories so much I wanted to tell my own. I wanted to share my story. Which is why I write and blog and do what I do every day.

I think I love the freedom that comes with creating something from nothing. Writing is the one thing I have complete control over. I control what happens and when. I write on my own terms, not anyone else’s. 

In many ways, words changed my life for the better. I don’t know where I’d be or who I would’ve become had it not been for writing. 

Regardless of whether or not I become a published writer, I hope I never stop writing. On my own terms. To please myself. For my sake. Above all, I hope I write for the rest of my life because it makes me happy, happier than anything else in the world.

How Has Writing Changed Your Life?

Without a shadow of a doubt, writing has changed my life in incredible ways. 

I’m about to attempt to explain how much impact writing had on my life. And continues to have. I’m not sure how sappy or sentimental this post will be. You’ve been warned. 

Writing gave me hope. Hope for a better future. Hope for something more, something greater. 

I know life doesn’t always treat us kindly. But we fall down and somehow manage to get up. We carry on. We cope.

Putting pen to paper helped me cope. It was an escape. I could get away from the real world temporarily. Sometimes human beings just need a respite from life, however brief. 

I looked forward to writing. I still do.

I felt excited thinking about fictional characters and imaginary people. It got me through the day.

Writing made me dream.

And wish.

I dreamt about people I didn’t know.

And wished I could tell their story, do justice to it.

Telling stories put things into perspective for me.

Getting my thoughts and feelings down on paper made me step back from the situation to look at it from other angles. The act of creating a character me consider other people’s perspectives.

Writing changed my life. For the better.

So now I pose this question for you to ponder: how has writing changed your life?

A Different Kind Of Work | A Short Story

I shoot my eyes to the screen and wonder not for the first time why I’m doing this. Why I deliberately put myself through a task so difficult it’s brought me to tears on more than one occasion.

The buzz of my phone makes me jump. I’m more alert and aware now. But I ignore the notification because I refuse to give in to distractions, however tempting. 

I breathe in and out. A slow inhale. Then I release my breath for a longer count. I don’t keep track of the seconds I’m inhaling or exhaling, but after a minute of doing this, I’m calmer. My heart rate slows ever so slightly.

A cup of water stands beside me. I reach for the handle, take a sip. Relish the cool liquid as it travels down my throat. I realize I drink when I’m at a loss for words. When I hope to clear my head so I can think more carefully.

Already I’m tempted to take another sip. 

My desk lamp provides enough illumination to work by. The light casts shadows against my face.

On my right is a window. Through the slit of the curtains, I can see that it’s dark outside. But the night sky with millions of stars is a welcome sight. 

I glance at all I have to do still. The tabs open in the web browser. The textbook open on my desk.

I used to want to grow up. To be an adult. To feel grown-up. To have more responsibilities. Now that’s the last thing I want.

So I channel my energy elsewhere in hopes that it’ll lead me some place better.

If not, I don’t know what I’ll do.

I know I’m wishing, but I’m also working towards a vision only I can see.

Advice For Aspiring Writers 

I love giving bad writing advice. 

  • When you want to quit, remember why you started.
  • You don’t have to get your story right the first time. Or the fifteenth.
  • Your piece should be as long as it needs to be. No more. No less.
  • Read what you want, when you want, where you want. Just read something.
  • Write often. Even when you don’t feel like it.
  • Turn off your inner critic while writing. Turn on the critic while editing. 
  • Let that idea in your head make it into the paper. A bad page is better than a blank one. 
  • Have fun with the first draft. It doesn’t have to be perfect. First drafts are supposed to suck. Editing exists for a reason.
  • Get better and better with every failure. Not trying is worse than failing.
  • Adjust. Change what doesn’t work. Improve what does.
  • Stop worrying. You’re wasting time you’ll never get back.
  • Make the most of what you have. Even and especially when you don’t have much. 
  • Keep learning. Don’t ever stop learning.
  • Live your life. Then relive your life through writing. 
  • Never settle for anything less than your best. Why do anything if you aren’t going to give it your all?

I also love soliciting good writing advice.

Crowded | A Short Story

The girl fingered the edge of her black shirt. She watched as people gathered around. The crowd grew larger with each passing minute; however, she didn’t walk any closer and no one paid her any attention.

Everyone else began cheering or clapping. There were shouts and screams. The girl on the periphery had her mouth drawn in a tight line while her hands stayed by her side.

She started to walk away. Her feet carried her in the opposite direction, away from the crowd. Nevertheless, the loud cheers reached her ears.

Walking faster, she nearly tripped over a crack in the ground. But the girl stayed upright.

But her fingers still clutched the edge of her shirt.

Her fingers hurt.