Monday, October 28, 2013

this brain is on fire

Best-selling author Laini Taylor (I know you must be rolling your eyes at my adoration of Queen Laini, but I think she's awesomeness drizzled on awesome so suck it) offers a solid guideline on how to write the most kickass novel you can possibly write:


1. Daydream. A lot. (required)
2. Get a notebook that’s just right, with good paper that won’t curl and that you can’t see the ink through, but that isn't so precious you’ll be afraid to “mess it up.” This is for ideas.
3. Think up stories until you've got an idea you love, that sets your mind on fire with possibilities. 
4. Take that idea and cross-examine the bejeezus out of it. In your notebook, ask it EVERYTHING. WHY and WHO and HOW and WHEN and REALLY, ARE YOU SURE? And again HOW and WHY and HOW and WHY. Think and think and think. Think way past the borders of your idea, so that the world you dream up is like a big huge trampoline you won’t fall off the edge of if you jump too high.
5. Do some research on things that come up in your brainstorming. You’ll find out marvelous marvelous things that will make your story richer, and that can give you a missing puzzle piece that pulls everything together.
6. Write.7. Write.8. Write.
9. Learn what you need as a writer and develop your own rhythm and routine. Routine is good. Like a just-right notebook, find a just-right place to write. A haven. 
10. Write.11. Write.12. Write.
13. When you get to a place where the story halts like a stubborn mule and just won’t go anywhere, resort to daydreaming mode. But not some wishy-washy namby-pamby brainstorming: ferocious, knife-strapped-to-your-thigh brainstorming! List every possible damn thing that might happen, even if it means carrying that mule over your shoulder back several scenes and taking a different turn in the labyrinth. Open your mind. Write down everything, even if it seems stupid, and keep thinking, keep asking yourself questions. Sometimes drastic measures are called for, like erasing a character who isn't really pulling his weight, and replacing him with somebody who will give your mule just the kick in the ass it needs. Don’t be timid.
14. Keep writing until you've got a first draft, then celebrate your deep genius and tell everyone you've written a book! Gloat!
15. Wait a while. A few weeks, perhaps. Then read your draft as if it was something you’d picked up at the bookstore. Figure out what you love and what you don’t. Be absolutely honest with yourself about the boring parts, and about the parts where the author is clearly forcing the characters to do things, where motivations don’t ring true, where it rambles. Think how to fix it. 
16. Rewrite.17. Rewrite.18. Rewrite.
19. Gloat even more with the completion of the second draft. Get people to read it and give your compliments and pour champagne over your head. 
20. Repeat steps 15 - 18, as many times as needed. 

See what I mean by Laini-style writing? She brings even lists to life with her writing.

AND, as if she's not awesome enough, she also shared a series of essays on writing on this site. It is INVALUABLE, along with this inspiring post.

It's such a relief to know that a talented writer like Laini Taylor also has bad writing days that feel so similar to the ones you go through. To know that she managed to push through all that to produce books as mind-blowingly spectacular as the DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE series is inspiring. Her posts on writing are always so encouraging, and she provides such elaborate detailed insight on her own writing process. She probably has no idea how helpful her blog is for other writers.

I truly believe that sometimes the only path to the "right way" is through a dozen wrong ways. Hopefully not more than a dozen! Sometimes I even get it right the first time or second, and that's wonderful, but if I don't, I keep at it. Because I really want to be a writer!  
Do you? 
Yes, yes and a thousand times HECK YES. So I'm trying out her suggestion:

Make a list of favorite things
Think up things that light your mind on fire. Get into a free-writing mentality and start listing them. Let one thing lead to another. Items on the list can be single words or whole paragraphs or anything in between. If ideas start to click and you want to go off on a tangent, DO. 

Here's my list:

Wings of any kind, in any form: battered, gilded, bloodied, ravaged, burnt, or white as unsullied snow. The drifting of loose feathers and the spreading of wings.


Masks and face paint. From the most ornate masks for masquerade balls to the most primitive face paints smeared on for survival.

Carnival lights. Dancing, coloured lights against the indigo sky.

Over-ripe fruits bursting with juice that run down their sides. 

Bones and teeth, bleached white by the sun and tinted yellow by time, blackened by neglect and stained red by fresh death.

Feral children, with their wide wary eyes.

Kisses salted with tears and half-forgotten memories.

Alleys filled with the acrid aftertaste of a fire and the ghostly trails of smoke.

(I obviously need therapy. But if it gets the words flowing, I'm a happy patient.)

Now, your turn. What sets your brain on fire and makes those words flow out of your fingers? Happy writing, guys!

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