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A Writer's Rule



So far this morning I have spilled coffee on my office floor. Spilled coffee on my desk (two separate incidents) and poked myself in my own eye with my glasses.


Yes, it did hurt.


It's barely 9 am. I have plans that involve me leaving the house later and I'm a tiny bit concerned about being unsupervised out there if I can't even get my glasses on without causing self harm. So instead, I do what comforts me best. I write. Rather, I plot. Here's where it gets interesting. You know the old question for us writers.


Plotter or pantser?


This debate has been raging in the writing community for years. There are entire courses devoted to it.

There are advantages to both I suppose. Plotters spend a massive amount of time on world building and creating character tics. Some of the more ambitious ones even create their own languages for their characters. There's much to be said for this method. If you plot this meticulously, you know exactly where your story is going and it can make it a lot easier. Sub-plots are developed, story arcs are defined from beginning to end and plot holes are neatly plugged.


No surprises. Character A starts out in a car headed to Kansas City and they take a pre-planned route with no unforeseen incidents to get there.


Things are different for a pantser. You just write and let the story go where it may. You put pen to paper, fingers to keyboard and just let the words free flow. Characters emerge at will. Plot lines boil to the surface on their own. Ideas emerge and break free-kind of like free range chickens. But like the eggs from said chickens, is the result actually better? There are arguments for both. But don't take sides just yet.

You see, there's a third option and that's where I fall.


I start with a written plot. An outline, if you will. A general idea. Maybe some plot lines emerge. Maybe some character traits. Maybe some world building. It's a great place to start. Though try as I might, I can never stick to it. Character A will be walking along following the plan when something will come out of the blue and force them to run, jump or-you know, do whatever. Some characters are lost along the way. Some are born. Some pop up out of the mist and demand to be fleshed out. This does sometimes take me around a bush or two but eventually a character's voice will emerge. It may or may not align with the outline but I've learned not to fight it.


Unconventional. Unscripted. Unexpected. Maybe it's all or none of these. But that's the beauty of writing. As long as the end result is a well crafted story, there are no rules. This works for me.

What works for you?

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Failure Is Not The End



Who likes making decisions? Please raise your hand. Go on. I dare you. The back and forth in your mind. The what ifs and the how comes and the possible outcomes- they can drive you mad. Are decisive people born with a special DNA sequencing that allows them to ignore what could be coming around the bend? Or is the curse of the ones with imagination that forces them to live out what could happen before it actually happens?


Or is it just good old fashioned fear? Fear of failure. Fear of change. Fear of success. After all, if you succeed, change is guaranteed. And what if success isn't what you thought it would be? What if it doesn't bring you the squealing happiness of a three year old on a Christmas morning? What if it's just a bit, well...more mundane?


What is that saying? "What if I take that leap and I fall? But, my darling, what if you fly?" You never know what's waiting for you on the other side of the crevasse. If you take those short steps and cross that bridge, or ocean. If you take that new position or walk away from the old. Who knows what could happen? You might sink like a stone.


Or you just might soar like an eagle. This is why fear is so dangerous. I mean what are all the 'what ifs' about? Just because you sink doesn't mean you die. You make the leap count. You learn from your mistakes. Next time, you'll jump higher, practice longer, work with a mentor, prepare harder. As long as you're alive, you're allowed a next time.


And that's what life's about. It's not about guarantees. It's not about cheating your way in, skipping the bruised knees and black eyes. No, the bruised knees and black eyes are your battle wounds, proof that you did it the hard way, the right way. Proof that you tried and you're going to try again and again and again. Cuz that's who you are. When your bones ache and you're slumped in a corner wiping away tears of disappointment and anger, you're not fading away. You're earning your title. Your moniker. After every bout you emerge stronger and you're earning your rank of battle hardened warrior.


In the words of Edmund Vance Cook's poem How Did You Die?

The harder you're thrown, why the higher you bounce;


Be proud of your blackened eye!

It isn't the fact that you're licked that counts;

It's how did you fight and why?


Ignore the fear. Make the decision. Try one more time. Then once more. We only get one shot on this planet. Make it count. You deserve it.




P.S. I would strongly recommend reading the entire poem by Edmund Vance Cook "How Did You Die."  It's worth the two minutes.

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Can You Imagine?

Have you ever wanted to hang out with a fictional character? Or maybe not fictional, just historical. Can you imagine being there when Jane Eyre decided she was done being a door mat and finally stood up and said 'No'! Or chatting with Janie Crawford from Zora Neal Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God. What must it have been like to watch Samson carry off the gates of the city. Can you imagine the terror and astonishmet that filled the onlookers?


We crawl into other worlds to visit our fictional characters for as long we can. How many of us have gone through that closet in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe? Did you ever see yourself riding with them? What about traveling with Frodo as he took the ring back to Mordor in Lord of the Rings? Yes, we've all seen the movies, but to be a part of that group!


We enjoy all of these stories but if a genie granted you a wish to spend an afternoon with one fictional or historical character-who would it be?


I know it's against the rules, but I would have to wish for more wishes. There's just too many interesting people to meet. Too many back stories we can never know. Let's jump across that little pond and land in England during the reign of Henry the VIII. Let's chat with his wife. Anne Boleyn? No Catherine, his first wife. What strength of character she had to have. Her husband demanded an heir and she only produced a living daughter. She was under immense pressure as his wandering gaze struck close to home. One of her biographer's noted that Catherine prayed often during her trials and she was once heard praying, "Lord you must love me to try me so much."


Then there's Mekeda, the Queen of Sheba. Her visit to King Solomon is well known. Let's not forget Princess Rani Lakshmibai of Jhansi. This queen of the Maratha ruled the princely state of Jhansi in North India. According to legend, she died in the heat of battle with the reins of her horse in her teeth and a sword in each hand. Feel those goose bumps?


The list goes on and on. These are men and women who lived one day at a time just like us. But they lived their lives to the fullest and they became legends. They saw greatness even in the worst of times. If you can see it, you can achieve it.


So tell me...can you imagine? Who would you most like to meet and why?


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