My Goal has Been To Entertain

So, today is a pretty important anniversary.  Paper Beats World is officially, today, a year old.

Honestly, a year ago I didn’t have any faith in my ability to get this far.  Full disclosure, this is not my first blog.

When I was a high school kid I started a political blog, like I had any idea what the hell I was talking about.  I kept it up for about a month, and had one follower that I think must have followed literally every political blog on  the internet.  This was the early 2000’s, so it was possible.

About two years ago, I started a blog called Mad Mod Moms, a blog dedicated to modern mothers.  I blogged under the pen name Mad Hat Mom, shortened to MHM on all of my posts, and worked with my real life best friend who is also a career mom like me.  That didn’t last.  Neither of us had the time, really, and neither of us really wanted to write about parenting that much.  Maybe we would have stuck with it if we’d had any followers, but no one, it seemed, cared to hear what the Mad Mod Moms had to say.

So it was with great fear that I started Paper Beats World.  I don’t know that I would have if not for that fateful phrase my little monster said to me, over a year ago now.  For those of you who haven’t yet read my very first post, “I am a writer,” this is what she said.  “I want to write when I grow up, like as a hobby, like you.”  Thus began my year long tirade against stamp collectors.

I started because I wanted to not only make myself feel like more of a writer, but also help and inspire others to feel like writers too.

I kept going because of you.

Right from the start, you have all been so amazing, all of you who read me.  You like my posts, comment, follow me on social media.  I hope that you’re getting something good from Paper Beats World, for all the good that you have poured into my life.

Over the past year, I have learned so much.  Today, I want to share what I’ve learned with you.

People do not like it when I change themes too often.

I notice a dramatic drop anytime I change the theme of Paper Beats World.  Like crash and burn drop, for at least a week.  So I try to avoid it.  Besides, I like the theme I use now.  It showcases the posts, and that’s what you guys are here for.  I hope.

Free programs help

When I used to look at other people’s blogs, I’d get so jealous of their graphics.  I was sure they must have some intense software or mad art skills to pull that off.  I was also sure that I would never have a way to make those.  And newsletters?  No, no way, not going to happen.  Those sorts of things were for writers with way more time/money/friends with computer graphics degrees.  But then I discovered Canva and Mailchimp.  With them I, for free, make super awesome graphics and put together a really neat newsletter.  It’s just amazing what’s available to use out there.

Schedule Everything!

Because life happens.  As I am very fond of saying, we don’t write in a bubble.  I have, multiple times now, run into emergency situations that prevented me from posting.  But I didn’t miss a beat, because I had already posted everything for the week.  Now with Buffer I can do that with Twitter and Facebook.  I love it.

People in countries will read me

Hello, everyone in Russia, Australia and all the other super cool countries that read me!  You are a constant surprise and an endless source of joy.  It reminds me every day that I am a citizen of planet Earth, not just America.  I love you guys.

No one is going to click on ads on my site, and I don’t care at all

I really don’t.  My first collection of short stories will be done soon, and that’s what I want to do to make money.  Not selling adspace.

One person can make my whole life light up

Some days, I get a like on a post.  Some days, I get a retweet, or a like on Facebook.  And some days, I really need that.  So thanks, guys.  Thanks for this past year, and here’s to many more to come.

Stay tuned.

What to Do When You’re Stuck

What do you do when the ideas don’t come?  When you stare at a blank page, and there is nothing inside your heart or your brain to put on it?  This is something that every writer must face at least sometimes.
What’s worse, for me at least, is when I’m looking at a story, and I just have no idea what to do with it.  The parts that are there are good, they are so good!  But they don’t click together, they don’t make sense, they don’t mesh.  I hate that so much more.
One way or another, if you’re stuck, you’ve got to get unstuck.  I can think of nothing worse.  It’s like all the color goes right out of my life.  Now, I know there are a lot of home remedies for curing writers block.  It’s kind of like hiccups, everyone’s got their own weird thing that works for them.  (Mine’s sugar, pured right on the tip of my toung, then drunk down with warm water.)  So I’m going to try to avoid the cliches like go take a walk or wash your hands.  Not that those things don’t work, I just bet you’ve probably heard them enough.  In fact, if your like me, the next person who tells you to take a walk while suffering writers block is likely to get knocked in the jaw.
Read through your idea book
That’s always my step one, and why I have an idea book to start with.  I don’t need to think of something new, I’ve already thought of a whole little purple moleskin book full of ideas!  I just have to start from there, and see where they take me.  This only works if I’m stuck for a short fiction idea, though. If I’m stuck in the middle of a book, I have a different tool.
Read your story notes
Because you forgot about something.  Some sub plot that you wanted to explore and you haven’t gotten to yet.  Maybe there’s a character that you meant to expand on, a relationship that was supposed to go north or south but instead has broken even.  At very least, your first notes represent your first splash of inspiration for your story.  Don’t discount that.
Go somewhere else
I like coffee shops, personally because sometimes I’m Captain Cliche.  But usually the first sign that I’m suffering from writers block is when I start cleaning during my writing time.  When the call of the dishes is louder than the call of my pen, I need to get out of the house.  It doesn’t matter where, but I need to get out.
Plot Bunnies
A plot bunny, if you don’t know, is an event in your story line that spawns other events by necessity.  Like if a character gets pregnant, or dies, or there’s a natural disaster.  Anything that causes other things to then happen.  Just don’t forget the first law of plot bunnies; just because you write it doesn’t mean it has to stay.  If it’s a dumb plot line that doesn’t fit with the rest of your story but it did get your pen moving again, then it served it’s purpose and it’s time for it to die.  Better one plot bunny than the whole story.
Free write
Alright, so I know this is my cure for everything, but there’s a reason.  It really does cure everything.  I think it works because I know I’m going to throw it away.  There’s no pressure with free writing.  I don’t even put it in a book, except for my morning pages.  Usually I scratch it out onto a loose leaf page and toss it when I’m done.  So if you’re stuck, just get your pen moving, and thow it away later.
Find a contest with a theme
When I look onto a blank page, the possibilities are endless.  Thats…frustrating.  There are so many directions to go, and I sometimes can not make a decision.  If I have a theme to work with, I have a starting point.  I have a direction.  Some of my best work has been inspired by theme contests.  I didnt’ win the contest, but I got the story published elsewhere.  So, I won in the end.
Read writing forums
I love talking shop.  You could probably tell that, what with the writing blog and all.  But I love listening to other people talk shop too.  Sometimes I just need to feel like a writer, surounded by other writers, talking shop like it’s just any other job.  I think sometimes I get caught up in the whole ‘artist’ mindset.  I’m creating!  I’m inventing!  That’s super and all, but sometimes it’s crippling to think like that.  Sometimes I need to see it as a job that needs done, so that my Western Pennsylvania blue collar ‘you go to work with a broken arm because that’s what you do’ mentality kicks in.  Childhood conditoning to the rescue.
Read in general
Okay, this one might be a cliche, but it bears repeating.  If I can’t write, I read.  My tastes vary, but I usually find myself reading young adult fiction or horror.  Short story collections are another favorite of mine.  Anything that reminds me how good a good story feels will do.
Take a day off
Go explore a cave, or walk the dog, or visit the zoo, or sit at the park by the fountain.  Take your bullet journal, but don’t feel compelled to write.  If you haven’t take a break for awhile, that could be why your stuck.  Your brain needs a break just like any other part of your body.
Think about what might be blocking you
Here’s what it comes down to for me.  Usually, writers block means the story isn’t working for me.  If it doesn’t work for me, it’s not going to work for anyone else, so that’s a problem.  I need to figure out why it isn’t working.  More times than one, that has lead me to toss out whole quarters of my books, whole rough drafts of short stories, and once a whole half of a manuscript.  But if it’s not working, it’s not working, and it’s better to scrap the whole thing and start over than to try to make a square peg fit into a circular hole.
I hope that you are never faced with writers block, but you probably will be.  Hopefully, you aren’t stuck there too long.

The Importance of Keeping a Journal for Writers

Not long ago I got that Erin Condron planner I’ve been wanting for about a year.  I was so excited, snoopy dancing around the house.  It holds so much information!

It also held my weekly and daily to do lists, moving them out of my bullet journal.

Now, to be fair, that leaves a lot of things still in my bullet journal.  Here’s a small list of what’s still there after six months.

  • Lists of movies I want to see, books I want to read and songs I want to download.
  • Short story ideas.
  • Notes for Woven
  • Lists of things I want to do every season.

That still leaves all sorts of room, though.  After all, that cuts out my daily, weekly, and monthly goals.  That takes the vast majority of my journal.

Well, I needed to fix that.  I have been really bad about keeping a personal journal my whole life.  Try as I might, I will keep a journal for a day or two, maybe a week, then stop.  But now I’ve got all these lovely journals lying around.

So I’ve been keeping a journal for about two weeks.  And I’m realizing something.  I should have started this a long time ago.  Here’s what I’ve learned after just two weeks of consistent journal keeping.

  • My attention to detail has improved, because I’m writing more of them down.  It’s kind of a good skill for a writer to know.
  • I find that I’m writing about people around me.  Character studies, people, character studies!
  • When I finish my day by writing down details, it helps me to see the day in perspective.  I can see it, good and bad, for what it was.  It was a day, and now it’s over.
  • I think when my hand is moving, and what comes out is not always what I thought would.
  • It’s therapeutic.  Really, it is.  Let’s face it, as a wife, mommy, and crippling introvert, I am not always at liberty to say what I’m thinking.  Sometimes, though, you’ve got to get something out.  Like poison.

Basically, what it comes down to is this; keeping a journal helps you learn people, details and your own brain better.

Of course, because it’s me and I’m always incorporating new things, I added a few new things.  One big one in particular.  I’m listing three things I’m grateful for at the end of every day.  I got the idea from a book called Simple Abundance, by Sarah Ban Breathnah.  As she says, you will just not be the same person after listing your blessings at the end of each night.

If none of those reasons are enough, consider this.  Your story, your every day story, is more interesting than any story you will ever write.  There are reasons why autobiographies are published every year.  Consider I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou or One More Time by Carol Burnett.  I love stories about real people.  It doesn’t need to be about someone famous, though I do love stories about writers.  Everyone’s life is amazing, everyone has stories to tell.  Tell yours.

How Do You Come Up With Your Ideas

Ideas are our raw material. They are the start of everything, the spark of life, the very first atom. You get an idea, and then another, then another that might stick the first two together in a wonderful ball of a story.

As writers, we are little more than idea polishers. We take, them, steal them, collect them, grow them, all of us trying like hell to come up with one that doesn’t look like everyone else. And if you’re the least bit successful, or if you’ve got irritating friends that are amazed by you, you’ve probably been asked where you get them.
Well, where do you get them? Where does anyone get them? I’ve never been the kind of writer who believed much in muses who will sprinkle inspiration dust on us in our sleep. I’ve always been more of the opinion that to get ideas I must live my life and experience the world, and ideas will come to me. Read the paper, go to a museum, go tour a coal mine, that sort of thing. I think that living your life will give you more material than you could ever have time to write about, if you only listen to what’s going on around you.
Of course, you also need the right tools, and know how to use them. Here are the tools I use.
Dream Journals and Idea Journals
Yes, I know, how very twelve year old girl of me, shut up. Your subconcious is two things, honest and illogical. These are awesomely good things when writing fiction, and it behooves you to write this stuff down when it’s presented to you without any effort.
As for an idea journal, I suggested you get one of these on the first of the month. This is the thing that you have with you at all time, so that when you get one of those wonderful bolt from the blue moments you can get it down right then.
Personally, I have my dream journal, private journal and idea notebook as parts of my bullet journal. That makes my life easier, because I only have one book that has all of my story ideas, random observations, rolling to do lists, and random lists in one place. Basically, it’s my external hard drive.
Mind Mapping
I love mind maps.  I am a very visual person, and so the ability to write out my thoughts, and where my thoughts might lead.  I can start with one image, and just shoot of things that it makes me think of.  If I’m working on an outline, for instance, I might have two or three things I know I want to have happen in this book.  I write them down, and start thinking of what could happen due to these things, and how they might be connected to each other, and what plot bunnies might manifest.  Characters that might be good here, snippets of dialog, whatever comes to my mind.  I fill pages, without a single bit of judgement.
Free writing
This is an often mentioned but unappreciated tactic.  Grab a piece of paper, and just start writing.  If you’re trying to think of an idea, just write.  Write about the moon, or the street or the guy that just drove past on his bike with a milk crate attached to the back that had a dog in it. (No lie, he lives in my town).
If you doubt that this would work, just remember that this is just how I came up with Woven.  I was free writing, and came up with the main character.  Just saying.
I don’t know, might have mentioned a few times before, I love lists.  Lists of fears, hates, loves, favorite foods, you name it I love them.  And they can be such a great creative tool.  They make you get past the knee jerk reaction, and streatch.  So, if you’re really stuck for an idea, start listing.  List bad ideas, people you miss, places you wish you were, things you want to do this weekend, whatever interests you at the time.
Writing Prompts and Contests
If all else fails, turn to the internet.  Type writing prompts into Google, then hit ‘I’m Feeling Lucky.’  You will find something random and awesome.
I love writing prompts, because you can give the same prompt to five different writers and get six different stories back.  (There’s always got to be that one guy who comes up with two ideas, you know.)
I also love anthologies and contests that give you a theme to work off.  It helps me direct my creative energy.  When I use that, though, I always throw away the first three story ideas I come up with, because I’m sure that’s what everyone else is writing about.  It’s just the law of averages.  And if an anthology asks for a story about cats, and they get three stories about chasing mice, and one about chasing birds, they’re probably going to print the bird one and the best of the three nice ones.
Once you have your ideas, keep them somewhere versatile until you’re ready to use them.  Personally, if I haven’t used a story idea by the time I’ve finished my bullet journal, they get transitioned into my writing binder, that has a whole mess of lose leaf paper and can be updated weekly.

A Website.

Up ↑