A Busy Writer

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Have you ever stopped and looked at your life? I don’t mean literally. I mean, looking at everything that you do, everything that happens in your life, the things you can control and the things you can’t. I do it a lot, especially when I can’t sleep, and I wonder about my life.

When my head’s in the game, I’m what I call a busy writer. Usually, I’m  too busy. This is a result of me taking on too many projects all at once, which usually results in a project overload. At the moment, I’ve got a few things going on:

1. I blog here, for a start. Okay, so I tend to miss my posts because of a bad memory, but this is one of the things I do every single week. I won’t even count the weekend job for this.

2. I maintain my own blog and website. Both need regular updating, and when things in my life don’t quite go according to plan, neither gets very much attention.

3. I’m writing a non-fiction book. I’ve only revealed details of it to a few select people, but it’s going to become quite time consuming once I get my head down and write.

4. I have a research paper to write for college. The actual writing isn’t a problem. It’s all the parts before it that are causing me some major delays. As in, I haven’t touched it all summer.

5. I have fictional works to write. Time consuming, and I’ve lost all motivation to do much of late. Once I get back into the game – and it’s all a mindset thing – I’ll be flying through them. Well, not literally. My laptop wouldn’t like that.

6. Learning. I made it quite clear on my blog that I like to learn. This month, I’m supposed to start cooking. So far, nothing, but I do have a fancy new cook book and blog. I just need to get the ingredients and the time to make something. Then I can officially say I’ve started.

I’m sure there’s more, but I can’t think of anything right now. My point, though, is that when I’m actually in the right frame of mind, managing all these projects and tasks is actually possible. Sure, it involves jumping around from place to place, but seeing the end results really helps to keep up the motivation. When you take on a lot of work, be sure to plan your time to be sure you use it all accordingly. If you’re out of work or school, plan your day in such a way that you’re working from X-Y am/pm, and actually do the work.

Does that seem too hard?

It’s not, if you really care about what you’re doing. This doesn’t just apply to writing, of course, but my limited experience with other hobbies or businesses does hinder the examples I can give you. Just remind yourself that you have something important to do, and set that time in your day-planner to actually do it.

Me? I actually remembered to post this week. Now I need to find something else to do while you get your day planned and get some work done! Make the most of this and every day, and you’ll surprise yourself with how productive you can be!

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All Great Tales

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Important before I start: Doctor Who  has just finished, and this post is a little bit about it. If you wish not to receive any spoilers for the first part of the Season 5 finale (part one of two), then you may wish to bookmark this page and come back at a later date when you have seen the episode. I may spoil a few things for you. You have been sufficiently warned.

Now, for once I have a thing or two to say that might actually help people in how they think about stories. I know, Paul with a thing or two to say about writing. A thing or two that’s based on the experience of reading or viewing someone else’s work, too, so you know this isn’t just a giant advert for something I’ve written. Two things I’ll be referring to: Doctor Who: The Pandorica Opens and Stories. In that order.

So, to begin: what did this episode, this particular episode, of Doctor Who teach us about story? Assuming you’ve seen it, you’ll have noticed a few things. A few very obvious things. (Quick side note: The Doctor missing the obvious – very funny! Almost worthy of an “LOL” …but nothing justifies that. I’ll settle with, “Paul started rocking in his chair laughing quietly, for fear he would startle his brother, and the neighbours.”) First obvious thing: the best heroes from the series were back – that’s Vincent Van Gogh, Liz 10 and the wonderful River Song. Second obvious thing: most of the best villains from the whole five seasons were back – that includes the Daleks, the Cybermen (whom Amy hadn’t met), the Slitheen (mentioned by name) and many, many more. Third obvious thing: the episode ended on a climax.

Now, why are these obvious things important? The first two are separate to the third in this regard. What they’ve done is bring the whole thing together at the end. When we write, we should aim to include the important parts of the whole of the story. The climax of the book, play or script shouldn’t ignore everything that’s happened before. Everything should be incorporated. Hence, heroes and villains returning.

This is where Harry Potter was a great big flop. First six books – continuity. Everyone understood why Harry lived, why Voldemort was feared, stuff like that. But no one knew why Voldemort was so afraid of Dumbledore. So, JK Rowling decides, “I think I’m going to give Dumbledore a strong wand.” (Side note the second, for the benefit of those with a less dirty mind than me, I made a sex joke. Geddit?) But she couldn’t just give Dumbledore the strong wand. She had to do something else. She had just brought in that absolutely stupid idea of the horcruxes, so she needed to give the good guys weapons, and she needed to get Harry out of Hogwarts. So she gave him a more-than-magical invisibility cloak. It was the best one ever. And she gave Voldemort something that’d grant him immortality. Yet… he turned it into a horcrux? Bit useless then, isn’t it? And these three changes to the whole of the series were completely out of sync with everything else.

So, back to the Doctor and his troubles – surrounded by everyone he hates. Bad, right? Out of nowhere? A bit. On both accounts. You might wonder – how did all that happen? Well, if you were paying attention, and I most definitely was, you will have seen some more obvious things throughout the fifth season. They were all the same – a crack in space and time. Now, if you paid extra special attention, you will have seen that there was one in the keyhole of the TARDIS. They showed it briefly. And the Doctor wonders why his key gets jammed? Slight hole in the universe, Doctor.

So why is that important? Because he’s been blamed for breaking the universe. A bit true, though he didn’t mean to. My guess – he was pulled to the cracks in the universe because there was one in the TARDIS, but he put the cracks there through the TARDIS itself. This has yet to be confirmed. The other half to this theory is that someone hacked into the TARDIS (the “Silence will fall” guy… or whatever he specifically said). They broke it so that it would break everything else. Clear a path. No more Doctor. No more TARDIS. Nothing left to stop this BIG BAD. Most likely, he’s the one who brought the allegiance together, the one that consisted of all the other BIG BADS from throughout the show.

So, continuity. Characters brought back for the final battle (but in a significantly different way than Russel T Davies devised at the end of season four), cracks in the universe in most episodes, and it all led to one point that was constantly referred to in the show. Brilliant.

This brings me to Stories. I know, big leap. Stories is a collection of short stories edited by Neil Gaiman and Al Sarantonio. Now, I’m still reading it, but the fiction of it isn’t what’s relevant to this lesson in fiction. It’s Gaiman’s words at the start, the four words that have been implanted into every good story without the author realising it (or maybe they did, and they’re intentionally brilliant at what they did). The four words are “And then what happened..?” Yup, that simple. We’ve seen it at the end of Doctor Who, I’ve seen it in books (even my own… I was impressed with myself when I realised I’d done that… then I got back to editing so that my “And then what happened..?” moment would actually mean something) and I’ve seen it in other TV shows. Write an “And then what happened..?” story and you’re sorted. Children say it, the rest of us crave it. Not just in fiction, mind you. I recall many stories told by friends where I’ve sat there just wanting to scream at them – AND THEN WHAT HAPPENED? YOU STOPPED TALKING! This is how chapters end in books – the author stops talking.

So, All Great Tales contain these elements – continuity, reference to previous chapters (or episodes/books) and the element of “And then what happened?” This is my advice to you as you write or as you edit: if you’re missing one of these things and you really shouldn’t be (chapters that don’t relate to each other, like those with different characters in them entirely, are except from that sort of reference, or you reveal something the current character doesn’t know already. This is BAD.) then you need to fix the problem. It is a problem, trust me. I’ve just shown you where it was a problem in the last Harry Potter. And was everyone happy with that? Nope. Simple answer. Don’t make the same mistake as JK Rowling.

Okay, time for me to stop pretending I know what I’m talking about. Thoughts, comments, additions to necessary elements, etc – leave them below. (Side note the third: if this was a YouTube video, I’d tell you to put all those things in my pants! Paul = mature)

Peace out!