Pep Talk: Write Garbage

Pep Talk: Write Garbage | Sarah Biren Writes

It is a truth universally acknowledged that writing a book is hard. It takes time, patience, blood, sweat, tears, and coffee. When the going is rough, we doubt ourselves and want to chuck our computers out the window. When the going is good, we doubt ourselves and wonder if we should chuck our computers all the same.

A good book is a balance of pretty prose, developed plots, intriguing openings, satisfying resolutions, realistic characters, and more, all swept together in a mess of ideas that are easier to imagine than actually write. And that’s where many writers get stuck.

Getting inspired is the fun part. It’s the only part of the process that involves no effort. A brilliant idea floats into your mind and bows before you with the request to be written. So you write it. At least, you start.

I have more unfinished stories than finished, and I’m sure you have too.

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Behind the Genre: An Introduction

Behind the Genre: An Introduction | Sarah Biren

New Series!

While creating a story it’s critical to know your audience, and thereby, your genre. Although we writer folk value creative expression over a business outlook, we must know our market to get published. This series will analyze the various book genres and how they pertain to storytelling.

Why Genre Matters

Imagine a book with a romantic plot is promoted as an action thriller. Readers who love thrillers will buy the book, expecting a fast-paced, suspense-filled adventure, but instead find a sappy love story. Even if the book is well-written, it will receive negative reviews from the duped audience. However, if it’s marketed as a romance, readers will buy and enjoy it for what it is. For publishers, books categorized badly can ruin their ratings and sales.

Similarly, the age group matters as well, whether it’s Children, Young Adult, Adult literature, and all of the smaller categories in between. There are vague lines on what content is appropriate for each section. A YA book marketed as Adult may seem juvenile or too simplistic for adult readers, while books with adult content marketed as YA can cause a backlash to the author and publisher for selling explicit content to young readers.

Besides for proper categorization for marketing, the genre is crucial for storytelling as well. There are defining trends expected in different stories, for example, a young protagonist in a middle-grade book or a mystery to solve in a detective novel. Yes, we artists love to defy the status quo, but your book should fit a genre and heed to a certain amount of reader expectations.

Picking a Genre for Your Book

Behind the Genre: An Introduction

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Why You Need a Book Bible For Your Novel

Why You Need a Book Bible For Your Novel

Bible or codex, call it what you want. You need somewhere to store all of the scribbles for your novel. I call mine an almanac.

It’s very easy to lose papers in a shuffle. You can have a great idea for a scene, quickly write it on a napkin, and then someone throws it away. Now, what was that great idea again? It’s gone forever.

Or you could have a sketch of your villain or a list of his descriptions, and when you are writing his scene, you forget what color eyes he had. Were they blue or grey? Wait, you wrote that down somewhere… but that paper is nowhere to be found. Now you have to read through the entire manuscript to see if you mentioned his eyes or just write it whichever way to edit it later.

This is where a book bible comes in. This is a place to store any information or details you have about your book. This could be a folder in your computer, on an app, or in a physical folder or binder. If you are artsy, you can design a pretty cover or include character sketches. If you are a minimalist, your bible might be pretty thin.

Do I Need A Book Bible?

Why You Need a Book Bible For Your Novel

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How Neil Gaiman’s ‘Make Good Art’ Speech Inspired My Writing Career

How Neil Gaiman's 'Make Good Art' Speech Inspired My Writing Career

There’s always a story behind the story.

Writers don’t write because they have nothing better to do. They write because there is a story they must tell. It’s a difficult craft. It involves discipline and motivation to sit for hours on end, typing words that might never be published. There’s no guts or glory, or a guarantee of success. There’s only hope in what they can accomplish and the fears and doubts that accompany it.

No one hears the author’s story. It is usually hidden behind their work. Yet today I’d like to tell mine. There’s something that changed my life I’d like to share in the hope it will change yours.

When I Began Writing

Like most writers, I was an avid reader. When I learned that there were people behind books, and they write for a living, I longed for that career as well.

I cowrote my first novel with a good friend in seventh grade. It was a story about a princess who quests to find twelve magical jewels to defeat an evil lord. In my innocent mind, writing was simple and inspiration was everywhere. I began stories about genies, warring tribes, people living inside a volcano, fairy tale retellings, historical fiction. Anything that crossed my mind, I wrote.

Needless to say, I failed to finish any novels in high school. However, at that point, completion was not important. The important part was writing, relentless writing, and I improved with every story. Experience and practice can teach more about the craft than studying it.

During that time, I began a historical novel that I was passionate about. I decided this was going to be the one I finished. It took me years to write the first draft of Lethal Shores and my writing became better with every chapter.

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Top 10 Writer Stereotypes that are Totally Wrong

Top 10 False Writer Stereotypes

Writers have a strange name in today’s media. In romantic stories, they are depicted as tortured artists, struggling to get their big break. Their clothes are disheveled and their hair is a mess. They moan over their typewriter, crumbling pages and throwing them onto the floor covered by papers and takeout boxes. One day, they find someone who becomes their muse and suddenly their book gets published and their dreams come true.

On the flip side, in horror stories, the writer is a middle-aged man who is addicted to alcohol or drugs. Either he is tortured by the supernatural antagonist or he goes psycho. Fun for everyone.

Then there are the famous writers in the real world whose books get turned into movies. We don’t know much about them except that they are loaded.

These three examples lead to a lot of misconceptions about writers.

Top 10 False Writer Stereotypes

top 10 false writer stereotypes

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How to Beat Writer’s Block

We all know the feeling. We sit at a desk with our computers or notebooks, ready to write all the words, except the words aren’t coming. It feels as if there is a mental block stopping you from writing. It’s uncomfortable — sometimes painful — to watch the blinking cursor, mocking your helplessness. This feeling can continue for days, weeks, months, even years.

My Worst Case of Writer’s Block

When I was in high school, I pitched my novel in progress to a municipal magazine. A few weeks later, they agreed the serialize the story. I still have that acceptance email. At that point, the story was not finished, but the fifteen written chapters gave me over a year to continue writing for the monthly publication.

The euphoria of being published was accompanied by bitter anxiety. I would flip through the magazine just to see my name in print but not to read the work. For some reason, I kept finding mistakes in the printed version, second-guessing every detail and character.

I received many positive comments on the story, which were incredible to hear, but increased the stress at the same time. I wrote the story because I like to write; I was not mentally prepared to have people read them, as naive as that seems.

What if they hate it? What if they think it’s too violent? What if they don’t like the characters? What if they guess the ending? These thoughts tormented me as each chapter was published. Months later, I failed to continue writing the story.

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How to Create a Writing Space

“Oh, I would totally write if I ever had the time,” said many non-writers.

That’s why I call them non-writers.

“Ho hum, I have nothing else to do with my life so I’ll write a book,” said no writer ever. In fact, some writers find this excuse insulting to the sacrifices they made to accomplish their writing goals.

Here’s the hard truth: Nobody has time for writing. We all have jobs, hobbies (which don’t include writing), families, friends, social engagements, and life requirements like sleep, food, doctor appointments, and carpools. So how are books written?

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed,” said Ernest Hemingway.

A book is not something you begin “whenever you have the time.”

Writing is hard. Plotting stories is hard. Creating a plausible world and characters is hard. It’s a long-term commitment. And guess what? Long-term commitments are hard too. If you are serious about writing, welcome to the club. And I am so sorry.

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