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How to Make Your Writing Smell Better

Fog settled over the village and I thought the houses looked like they were huddling together in the cold.

One house stood apart from the others, a tilting mess with off-colored smoke pouring out of the chimney. A sign with the word Alchem- etched in fading white letters hung over the front door.

The house seemed to shudder as I approached. Before I could knock, the door slammed open, and a horse-sized plume of smoke belched from inside. The alchemist stumbled out of the house, coughing and clapping his beard between both hands to put out the last of the flames.

“Ah, you must be my three o’clock.” The alchemist hacked something from his throat, apologized, and stuck an ashy hand out to greet me, “P.S. Hoffman, correct?”

“Thank you for meeting me on such short notice.”

“Not to worry, not to worry. I know just the thing to sort out your problem. Now, were you the one with the fissures? No, that was someone else, you were…” He scratched at the blackened tips of his beard, frowning.

I cupped a hand around my mouth, whispering, “I’m here about the -“

OH YES. YOU’RE THE WRITER WITH THE BORING STORIES!” The alchemist shouted, stamping his foot triumphantly. The house shuddered again.

“Don’t be shy now, come in, I have just the thing for you.”

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Photo by Alex Vargas

7 Useful Writers You Should Follow on Twitter

I tried it, I dipped my toes into Twitter. And it was like dipping my toes into acid.

Somehow, I just knew it wasn’t my thing. But after all the flesh melted off of my bones, and I lost the ability to feel anything, I found something I liked. And then, something else. And something else and ohnoI’monTwitternow. I tweeted. I’m a twitterer… er?

I swear, it’s good for your writing. Twitter teaches you how to be concise, how to connect with your readers (though I hear it’s better for connecting with agents or editors), and who knows? You might learn something about writing!

Here are some of the people I’ve started following, and a few reasons why YOU should follow them, if you want to improve your writing.

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Photo Credit: Mike Prosser

3 Reasons to Love a Minecraft Sellout

In this post, I’m going to break away from writing to talk about successful artists and sellouts.

You work hard. You write stories (or make games, or direct films, etc.), and one day someone recognizes you. They compliment you, they tell you how much they love your work. They tell you it’s changed their life.

Feels good, doesn’t it?

But your story doesn’t stop there. People start to recognize you everywhere you go. Your work has hooked into something fundamental, something mysteriously powerful, and the mainstream has carried it far out of your control. People are obsessed with your work, hundreds, millions.

Your work doesn’t belong to you anymore. What would you do?

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Art by Luis Royo

What is Your Genre?

The room is dark, your candles burn low. Your lover has given up calling you back to bed, and is snoring gently in the other room. But you have important work to do.

Yes, you have a murder to plot.

And somewhere a forbidden romance is swelling to it’s climax.

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Photo Credit: El Nata

The Strange Painter (Under 500 Fiction)

I found her along the ruins of a wall, painting symbols and figures that made no sense to me. She was an ancient thing, with four legs supporting a hunched torso, and two lanky arms that nearly touched the grass when she bent them.

She dipped her slender, bony fingers into the pouches that hung around of her neck, and brought them out, dripping with paint.

“What are you doing?” I asked her.

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Photo Credit: Liz West

Time Management with Tomato Timers

I am reading a book by media analyst Howard Rheingold called Net Smart: How to Thrive Online, a book about empowering yourself through new media. In the first chapter he dissects our ability to pay attention for more than fifty pages. So naturally, I had trouble paying attention.

But I finished it, and it was interesting (debatable at points, but interesting). As an exercise, I’ve recorded a log of my activities below.

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What Do You Listen To While Writing?

I have a problem with sounds. I write in libraries and other public places frequently, and I can’t stand hearing other people when I’m trying to think. The slightest phrase, or a peel of laughter will destroy my concentration.

So I listen to music when I write. I’m even doing it right now. Soundtracks to movies, video games, and most instrumental music are the hidden heartbeat behind all of my writing. Currently, I’m listening to the entire Lord of the Rings soundtrack (I was listening to one of those mournful Elven pieces when I wrote Friends Long Gone. Those lyrics haunt me so).

I know everyone isn’t like me. I know some of you out there can work with all that background noise. I know some of you feed off of hearing other people’s conversations, or you love surrounding yourself with the sounds of productivity.

I have to know, what do YOU listen to when you write? Do you have one album you play over and over again? Do you jack up the volume on the television just to have something on? Do you wear earplugs like jewelry, because silence is golden?

Tell me what you think in the comments below! Don’t forget to like or follow, as I love to check out other blogs.

Friends Long Gone – (Under 150)

We were doing things with the rocks our mothers had told us not to do. They said bugs and snakes lived under the rocks, but I think they were just afraid we would break something. We thought we knew what we were doing. 

When we stood together, people mistook us for twins. The same night-colored hair, the same laugh (though I always thought her smile was prettier).

When we played on the rocks, we always played two sides of the same story. She was the queen, and I was the witch. Or I was the knight, and she was the dragon. 

Now and then I see her, and I wave, and she waves back (I’m still jealous of her smile). I will never regret playing where our mothers told us not to. Sometimes, I wish we were still there, on the rocks, together.  

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Photo by Marceo Santos

This was a response to my latest, most unpopular post How to Write like a Girl. Like, Follow, or tell me what you thought!

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How to Write like a Girl

This is post is a general outline for how to TEACH YOURSELF how to write like the opposite gender.

As a writer, it is your job to figure out what other people are thinking. Even the opposite gender. Where does she spend her time? Why is he looking at me like that? What kind of person would do that? For some, the mind of the opposite sex is a mystery.

For some writers, this poses a difficult problem, often resulting in poorly written stereotypes. So, I want to share a few tips with you on how you can write as either sex (and anything in between).

People First

If you’ve gotten this far, I’m going to assume you are aware of the anatomical differences between women and men. And yes, you should probably work those into your character.

As a writer, you need to focus on more than the surface. You need to think about what makes your character tick.

  • What do they think about being a man/woman/other?
  • How do they present themselves (clothes, posture, etc.)?
  • How do they react towards others of their own gender?
  • How do they react to other genders?
  • How does the world they live in react to their gender?

If you’re having  trouble  with any of these things, go talk to your friends, your siblings, someone you can read pretty well, and watch how they interact with their world. Try not to freak them out though (this is an important skill to learn)! Listen to the way they talk, the things they left unsaid, the way they position themselves, or check themselves out in the mirror. Watch how they interact with the world around them.

There. That’s it. You are now officially certified to write someone of the opposite gender. The first and only lesson to writing someone of the opposite gender is that first, you must write a human being.

Know Your Audience

More women read romance novels than men. More men read military science fiction than women. Does this matter? You bet your sweet androgynous ass it does.

If you’re going to get the attention of these people, you need to write what they want to read. It’s probably fine to skimp on the depth of that hunky piece of man-meat in your romance novel, but you have to nail the voice of the female protagonist.

It is ridiculous to say that one gender thinks more about relationships, or sex, or emotions than the other. But don’t let that stop you from creating horribly offensive stereotypes. Just look at this story written in tandem by a female and male student.

Seriously, though. If you need a stereotypical manly-man, or an obvious, curvaceous seductress your imagination can conjure, feel free. There are no rules in writing, only strongly worded suggestions.

But take a look at the fantasy series ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ (written by the deceptively cherubic George R. R. Martin). In his books, he writes stereotypical characters with a purpose: to turn them into deep, complex, unexpected champions. For example, one character, Sansa, is the perfect princess in the beginning of the series, but as Martin explores her character, she evolves into a devious, self-saving, woman of inner strength.

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Beloved Author, and (Fictional) Mass Murderer George R. R. Martin

After everything, that really is the key to writing the opposite sex: Everyone is complex, everyone is a mystery (even to themselves, at times), and the first thing you should worry about is writing human beings. All people have this tendency to grow, and so should your characters.

Writing Challenge: From the Perspective of the Opposite Gender

You’ve got an interview with a small company, and you’re about to meet your new boss. You’re called into the boss’s office, and they appear too interested in you. You realize that your soon-to-be boss is hitting on you, hard. How do you react?

Pay special attention to how your character talks, how they move, and especially how they feel about these overt advances. Tell me how it goes!