I made a planner for Preptober

It was the fourth of July. Then I blinked, and now it’s halfway through September. 

I love this time of year, and I hate how fast it seems to go. My to-do list right now is packed with tasks and events. Next week is Banned Books Week, the holidays are starting. We’re starting recordings for the next season of AA soon. It’s a busy time when all I want to do is warm up a pot of apple cider and read about cult leaders on my back porch.

And now, Preptober is in two weeks! Clearly, I need a plan if I’m going to get everything done.

So, I made a planner. And I thought you might like it too. So, I put it in my Ko-fi store for a dollar.

Preptober planner

The Preptober planner is six pages plus a cute cover page that will guide you through simple tasks each week. By the end of October, you’ll have a plan in place for how you’re going to write, when you’re going to write, and what you’re going to write. I’ll be printing out one for myself and getting in some planning time in October. 

Probably with some warm apple cider. 

I hope you’ll join me. It’s a great way to ensure you succeed in writing your novel, and it helps support Paper Beats World.

And I hope you’ll be here next week for Banned Books Week. We’ll have extra content galore because the stupidest thing anyone can ever do is ban a book. 

My favorite Skillshare classes for writers

If you spend any time online, you’ve seen an ad for Skillshare. Every Youtuber I watch is working with them. And all that pitching got to me. I’ve had a subscription to Skillshare for almost a year now.

I’m not working with them. I’m not an affiliate, and I’m getting no money for this post. But I know that I’ve found myself subscribed to one service or another with little to no idea what I was supposed to do to it. 

If you as well have subscribed to Skillshare and are now a little daunted by the selections, I’ve got you. I’ve done a lot of the classes on the platform. So today I want to share with you the five best Skillshare classes that I’ve taken. 

Write an Irresistible Query Letter, Blair Thornburgh

I’ve struggled with query letters. I think all professional writers have that one part of the submission process that they just hate. It’s a toss-up for me, whether it’s query letters or blurbs.

Now that I’ve taken this class, blurbs are my least favorite. It made me think about my novel in a different way. And, even better, it gave me an easy-to-follow template to create a query letter that doesn’t feel like it was written from a template.

Writing Suspense: How to write stories that thrill in any genre, Benjamin Percy

Suspense isn’t a genre I write. But it’s an aspect of every well-written story. And this class, man, was so good. The exercises and explanations are just so helpful. I learned so much about story structure and giving clues through a story.

5 Techniques to Generate Creative Writing Ideas, Alison Stein

This class, my goodness. I wrote out so many pages of ideas for this class. And if I need new ideas, I go back to it. The class was entertaining, inspiring, and left me with a ton of blog posts. At least one of which I recently sold. 

Writing Flash Fiction, Hannah Lee Kidder

I love writing little flash pieces. They take little time and are easy to share on social media. Plus, they can be an emotional gut-punch when done well.

This class helped me do them well. If you’ve read a flash piece of mine and you liked it, thank this class. If you want to write flash pieces, take this class. 

Instagram Poetry, Alison Malee

Finally, this class was a ton of fun. I’m always looking for interesting new ways to show my art. And blending poetry with visual art is rewarding. It’s something that I like doing on a day off or in the evening while watching tv. Again, this class inspired me to do more of it. It also, I hope, helped me do it better.

So those are my top five Skillshare classes. What do you think? What’s the best class you’ve taken? Let us know in the comments below.

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You can also support Paper Beats World on Ko-fi.

My favorite stationary for writing and bullet journaling

<a href="http://Image by <a href="https://pixabay.com/users/monfocus-2516394/?utm_source=link-attribution&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=image&utm_content=3297317">Monfocus</a&gt; from <a href="https://pixabay.com/?utm_source=link-attribution&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=image&utm_content=3297317">PixabayToday’s lovely art is from Monfocus.

After a long month of cleaning and organizing our whole lives, let’s take things down a notch today. Let’s talk about one of my favorite things and something you probably like too.

Let’s talk about stationary. 

Specifically, this is a list of the products I use to write rough drafts and keep my bullet journal. This isn’t a sponsored post, I don’t get kickbacks for any of these products. They’re just what I’ve found works best for me over the years.

LePen

I’ve talked about these pens pretty frequently. It’s because I’ve been writing with them for six years now. They’re beautiful, come in a ton of colors, and they write on almost anything. I don’t know what it is about a felt tip pen that makes me so happy. But it does.

These are great because I can use them for literally anything. I write rough drafts, write in my bullet journal and planner with them. They’re just one of those things I have to keep on hand at all times.

Good old composition notebooks

If you’ve read any fiction from me, chances are it started life as a rough draft written longhand in a composition notebook.

I mean like the old black and white marble covered ones we used to use in school. 

They’re cheap, let’s start with that. So I feel comfortable writing absolute shit in them. I also love that they’re hard covered, so I can more easily take them places to work on novels outside of my home. Easily the best notebooks to write rough drafts in.

George Stanley notebooks

I do enjoy something a little more long-lasting for my writer’s notebook, though. I stumbled upon one of these notebooks at Staples years ago. After using it for quite some time, I was impressed by the quality. The coil doesn’t come apart, the paper is thick, the cover is solid. I drag my notebook all over the place, as any good writer should. So I need a notebook that’s going to stand up to that sort of abuse. Yes, these notebooks are a bit pricey. But it’s the sort of thing I need to invest in.

Index cards

Another staple in my office is index cards. I use these mostly for outlining. So almost any novel starts with me buying a fresh new pack. 

What a feeling that is. 

I love this because I can write out plot points on the cards and then spread them all out over the floor while I’m figuring the story out. It looks a little mad, to be honest. 

Post its, multiple sized

No writer should be without post its. They play a part in most of my editing. I use them to mark out chapters, keep notes in rough drafts, leave messages and reminders in books. Essentially anytime I need a layer of paper on top of paper, this is what I reach for. 

If I can get them, I also like the little tab markers for keeping drafts in order.

Moleskine

I think these have fallen out of style for bullet journals, but I honestly don’t care. I love these things.

I always get the lined hard covered ones, but I’ll switch up the color. I love everything about them. I love their hardcover. I love the little ribbon to mark my place. I love the envelope in the back to store things. I love the creamy paper that rarely bleeds. I love how soft the paper feels. I love the elastic holder.

Sometimes you can grab these on sale if $20 is too much to drop on a notebook. And keep in mind, I don’t go through these. I might fill two a year. If I went through any more, I don’t think I’d buy the super expensive ones.

Tombow Brush pens

These are a recent find, but I love them. These brush pens are used in my bullet journal and for any drawing I do. Their colors are bright and vivid. They last forever. And they just feel so artsy. 

They also cost a decent amount, usually $3.50 per pen. So it’s a good damn thing they last awhile. 

Sakura Gelly Roll 

Because I like to do a lot of layering in my drawing, gelly roll pens are a must. I use them to draw over ink I’ve already put down. This is especially useful with a white one. It helps me give dimension to drawings or make them look like they’re shining. 

Pilot Precise V5 in red

In red and red only. I use these pens for just one thing, editing. 

The pen tip is super sharp, and it makes me feel like I’m literally cutting the fat out of my drafts. The ink stands out well and doesn’t dull when I’m shuffling through pages for months. 

So that’s it. Those are the tools of my trade and where most of my money goes. But now I want to hear what you think. What are your favorite stationery supplies? Let us know in the comments.

You can support Paper Beats World on Patreon and Ko-fi.

Should we even do Nanowrimo this year?

2020 has been a dumpster fire of a year. Literally, the worst one I’ve ever lived through. I’m not going to try to make light of this.

So what if we don’t do Nanowrimo this year? What if we throw our hands up and say it’s too much. With everything else we’re dealing with, who could add writing a novel in there? Shouldn’t we all spend November trying to just survive and figure out how to have Thanksgiving on Zoom?

Hell no. 

Mind you, I’m not shaming anyone who doesn’t participate. But I’ll be doing it. And if you were thinking of writing a novel this year, you should do it too. Here’s why.

Publishers are still buying books

Agents and publishers are still accepting queries. Books are still coming out. People are still reading. So why not write a book?

Fiction can reach hearts and change minds.

If you’re feeling helpless, write about it. Write about your story of 2020. Write out your anger, your pain. Write about losing your job, your freedom. Whatever this year has been for you, write it out. 

Or you could write a fictionalized story about a country that let a deadly pandemic run wild even though they had the means to fix it and save thousands of lives. Just a thought.

Fiction can reach hearts and minds that straight facts can’t. Think of how many times fiction has hit you right between the eyes and made you see the world differently. You have the opportunity to do that now. Writing is the voice we have in addition to voting.

Vote!

So let’s use every tool we have. Get your story into the world. 

It’s a needed creative outlet

Okay, so not everyone wants to change the world with their words. Some people just want to create something. 

It’s in our nature to need a creative outlet. To make something. To paint, sing, write, draw, knit, whatever. If you just want to write a little something for fun or to say you did it, go for it! Write something and don’t worry about what you’re going to do with it later. Just love the process.

We can get something good out of this year 

We know how hard this year has been. There hasn’t been a lot to be happy about. Everything went wrong. People will be spending holidays without loved ones they had last year. 

We have to get some good out of this year, damn it. Any good we can. And if we can end the year on a high note, be able to say we did this one big thing, that’s a win. 

Let’s win just a little this year, together.

Like what you read? Support Paper Beats World on Ko-fi

Things to remember when writing different classes

Today’s cover art is from Anastacia Cooper.

As an author, no one is more critical of my work than me. No one is a bigger fan than me, either. But we all know how fantasy fans are. We only truly rip apart what we love most. And when it comes to Woven, I’m always thinking of things I wish I’d done better. I’ve written other books since then, and I’m sure I’ll find a thousand faults with them over time. 

One thing I’ve struggled with in Woven is that three of the four main characters were noble from birth. While not a single character was supposed to be running things, everyone but Victor was a princess or prince.

That was fun and all, but it was also really limiting. How someone sees the world differs dramatically in different social classes. So when I was writing Grace, her point of view was far different than Lenore’s. Honestly, it was a lot closer to my point of view. 

Today I wanted to share with you the four things I had to shift my writing perspective when writing for Grace.

Dialog

The first change is almost cosmetic, but it’s important. It was how people talked. A princess is going to talk far differently than a common woman, and honestly, it’s a lot more fun writing for the latter. A lot more telling people off and swearing up a storm.

Work

Another big change was the work each character did. Grace goes through many changes in this book, as her responsibilities change. She goes from keeping a house and feeding her family to running a castle. What she even considers work changes from the start of the book to the end. Things that once were chores seem like a vacation now.

What’s important to remember is that what a character does every day is always going to seem easier and more boring than something new. Someone who is used to washing, mending, cleaning and gardening is going to consider a day of meetings, decision making and paperwork freaking exhausting! This was a real shock to me when I transitioned from retail to a desk job years ago. I didn’t think using my brain would be so tiring but man! 

Appreciation

This is something I’ve experienced in my own life. What you appreciate and what you take for granted depends largely on what you’re used to. And as much as we all try not to take things for granted, we all do it. I took for granted that I was healthy until my cholesterol got all messed up. But I’ve never taken my next paycheck for granted. I’ve never taken my home or the health of my loved ones for granted.

Grace will never take a meal for granted. She’ll never take the safety of her home or family for granted.

She does take for granted that her oldest friend and protector, Calvin, will always be there to protect her. That she can depend on him so long as he can depend on her. 

Like most of us, the things she takes for granted are often the things she losses. 

Fears

In a related note, what scares us is often tied to what we take for granted. What we’re certain we won’t ever lose. 

In Woven, Lenore fears largely for her people. She’s not often scared for herself because she’s always been physically safe. She’s never skipped a meal, never had to scape and suffer. But she fears that she’s going to fail her people. And that she cannot abide. 

Grace is afraid that she won’t have food for her family. She’s afraid that soldiers are going to kill them. She’s afraid that they will simply not survive. And it’s likely that no matter how many years of comfort she may or may not have, those fears will probably never go away. 

After writing for nobility and writing for average people, I do have a preference. And if you liked me writing about princesses, I might have some bad news for you. I think I like writing about regular people more. The reason is pretty simple and I hope you’ll agree. 

I love writing people who don’t have the overt power to make changes, but they do it anyway. I mean, isn’t that what we’re all trying to do, change our communities and worlds for the better? My real-life heroes are not usually destined for greatness. They’re everyday people who decided to make a difference.

The Best Movies for Storytelling

I’m low key in love with movies. Okay, not low key. I really love movies. And I’m as crazy eclectic with my movie love as I am with music. (Remember, I’m the weirdo that has Eminem, Sugarland and Elton John on my tablet, right along with Cher and Panic! At The Disco.)

It goes further than that, though. As I say over and over, my whole life is about good stories. I write them, read them, watch them and listen to them. But, part of PBW is that I also love to share them. I’ve also been watching a lot of top ten videos with my kids. So, with that spirit in mind, here are ten movies every writer can learn from. It’s surprising to me that most people haven’t heard of a lot of these. If you haven’t seen any of them, and you’re looking for something to do this weekend, here you go. And if you’re so inclined, please share with us your favorite movies in the comments below.

Saving Mr. Banks

This is probably the most popular and newest of the movies on this list. It’s the story of how the Disney movie, Mary Poppins, was made. A highly dramatized version, mind you.

At it’s core, though, it’s the story of a young woman with a sad childhood who becomes a writer. Then, she has to watch her story turn into a movie with dancing penguins. (According to the movie, she hated that.) This also makes her come to terms with her past.

Maybe don’t watch this with your smaller kids, but my older daughter loved it.

The Incredibles

I really love Pixar in general. It’s widely understood that Pixar is a creative powerhouse. And The Incredibles is a great example. Being a huge comic book fan girl, I jumped on that movie to start with, but if you’ve never read a comic book or seen any super hero movie, you’ll still love this. Even if you don’t have kids, watch it.

It’s all about super heroes that are being sued, so that they need to be placed in a relocation program. That is, until a super jealous genius decides to look up his childhood hero.

Star ship Troopers

This movie is amazing, and it’s based on the book by the same name. It’s a dark, dystopian future story about a future where people are only considered citizens if they serve in the military. Which is a little worse than it would be right now, because Earth is at war with a scary bug alien race. It’s also got Neil Patrick Harris as a psychic with a pet ferret.

Children of The Damned

The original black and white, not the remake. Based on the book, The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham, this is probably one of the coolest Science Fiction story ever. Everyone in a small town suddenly falls asleep. When they come to, every woman who can be pregnant is. The children who come from this weird rapey situation are all blond with blue eyes. (I don’t think this is a Nazi reference at all, do you?) The kids all have weird manipulation powers. Very dark, and very emotional. Imagine knowing that this child you carried is actually evil, and probably not human. (I know my kids have those days, but still.)

Shaun of The Dead

Is it a little low brow? Yeah, kind of but watch me care. Shaun of The Dead is a zombie movie, but it’s a comedy. It’s about a man named Shaun who is kind of a loser. He’s got a crappy job, two asshole flatmates and his girlfriend is getting ready to leave him. Oh, and some shitty pens that leak red on his shirt. Then zombies start attacking people, and it actually takes people awhile to realize that there are zombies around. The thing I like about this movie the most is that the government acted like I would expect the government to act. They didn’t suck!

House on Haunted Hill

Again, I’m talking about the black and white original, not the remake. Now, before we go to far, the special effects are terrible! At one point there’s a skeleton walking around with fishing line holding him up. You can see it.

Despite this, the acting is super awesome. Vincent Price, my goodness I love that man, played his snooty and rich character to perfection. Of course, being an old school horror movie, only the bad wife and her lover die. Even so, it’s a creepy movie. I’m a little biased, though, because the darling husband and I went on our first date at a local movie house. They played some old black and white horror movies during one awesome summer.

Looper

I want to be careful talking about this movie, because despite the awesome stars who were in it (Bruce Willis, Joseph Gordon Levitt and Jeff Daniels) a lot of people haven’t even heard of it. And the ending is killer.

Basically, the story is based in a world that has two big differences from ours. Time travel is real, and illegal, and telepathy is real. Mobsters send people back in time to be assassinated. Eventually, the people who are in the past who are assassinating for the mob will kill themselves, thereby closing their own loop. This is the story of one man who is trying really hard to close his own loop, but his future self is just too damn fast.

Jakob The Liar

This movie is why I’m in love with Leiv Shcriber. He’s in it with Robin Williams, who plays the main character, Jakob, who lives in a Jewish Ghetto in Germany during WWII. I guess I don’t have to tell you what sort of life that is. He accidentally finds out a bit of news about the war, and spreads it around. When people start wondering how he found this out, he makes the mistake of telling his friend Mischa, (Mr. Schriber) that he has a radio. This all gets even more dangerous when a little girl, who snuck into the ghetto to save herself from going to a concentration camp. It’s a Robin Williams movie, so I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that you’ll choke on your own spit from laughing, then cry your eyes out at the end.

Dogma

This might not be the movie for you if you’re easily offended. But it is a very deep movie, if you can get past the sex jokes. Some of my favorite religious quotes come from this movie, such as, “Catholics don’t celebrate their faith, they mourn it!” Love that.

It’s a story about a woman who works at an abortion clinic who finds herself responsible for saving the world when two fallen angels are trying to get back into Heaven. What they don’t know is that if they get back into Heaven, all of Heaven, Earth and Hell will cease to exist. Again, not one to watch with the little ones. But a good one if you feel like getting some good ideas. Also, a great example of getting a religious message across without being an ass.

Pleasantville

This is, and has been, my favorite movie ever. It’s the story of a boy who’s parents are divorced. He’s a big old nerd who is totally obsessed with his favorite show, Pleasantville. His sister, a rather slutty girl and not the smartest, has a date on the same night as a marathon of his favorite show. They end up in the show, a creepy black and white world that rather resembles Stepford. But as Bud and Sue, the two main characters, start teaching people about ‘the real world’ things start turning color.

I don’t have any way to explain the beauty of this show. If you, like me, wish you’d been born in the fifties so you could have been involved in that cultural explosion, you’ll love this. Imagine a little micro society evolution, decades of sex and rock and roll shoved into a tiny town all in a few days.

I’m sure I didn’t mention all of the amazing movies that writers can learn from. If you know one I missed, please share it with us below.

It Takes Time To Be a Writer

Happy Mothers Day, to all Mammas, Step Moms, Mother In Laws, and anyone who’s been a maternal influence.

We’ve been lied to, all of us aspiring writers. Oh, it was with the best of intentions, as most lies are. But it was a lie, all the same. We have been told that it doesn’t take nearly as much time as we all think to become a great writer. We have been told, over and over, if we can devote whatever spare minutes we have in a day, we will prevail. We will become writers.

Well, I shouldn’t say that it’s a total lie. Every good lie has a kernel of truth, after all. If you are just trying to become a writer, short stories work very well in small segments of time. Even novel length manuscripts can be written like that. Sure, it can, I’ve done it. Often my short stories are written between calls at my day job. I’ve said the same thing. If you are establishing a writing routine in your life, and all you have is maybe five minutes while your little one takes a nap, or 15 minutes on the bus to work, you slay that time! You make that story, because it’s better than nothing. Yes, you can write a whole book, minutes at a time. And if you’re writing, you’re a writer.

But I’ve learned better. if you intend to do something with your writing, then it’s going to take more than little sips of time. And everyone needs to stop telling this lie, because it’s hurting writers.

It doesn’t take into account editing

If you’ve never sat down, and edited a long piece of work, this might be something you’re not aware of, but you can’t just edit a page at a time and expect awesome results. For one thing, you’ve got to see your piece as a whole so you can find and patch plot holes. Usually, when I’m rough drafting I can’t remember half of what happened in part one by the time I get to part three. So if I put a gun on the mantle, I forgot that it needed to go off. It can also be frustrating as hell. You read a flawed paragraph, and you free write to fix it. Then you don’t get to write it until later. I know, when this has happened to me, I’ve forgotten my brilliant fix by that time. Generally I try to not edit unless I’ll have at least an hour to commit to the project.

It doesn’t take into account submitting

When you’re looking for an agent or editor to send your work to, prepare to spend a lot of time online. Don’t forget that before an agent accepts you, you have to accept them. Do they represent your genre? Have they had successful sales recently? What’s their standing on Predators and Editors? Then, there’s the query writing process, which should not be rushed. Again, this can take up to an hour, at least, if you’ve been doing it awhile.

It doesn’t take into account learning about the craft

If you’re a writer, you’ve also got to be a reader. Read books for pleasure, yes, but also to learn from them. Read articles to learn, listen to podcasts. This takes time, man, lots of time. Sure, you can dip into a book for five minutes or so, but if you intend to finish the book there had better be a lot of five minute increments built into you day.

Not just learning, but practicing. Free writing, trying to write from a different POV, learning poetry forms, all of this takes time. And if you short change your practice, you short change your writing career.

It doesn’t take into account marketing

I don’t spend as much time on marketing and self promotion as I should, most likely. I’m getting better at it, but there are so many things to do. I send my book to book review sights, pitch it on social media, run ad campaigns, and all the other crap I do to make sure people hear about my books. It takes time, and traditional writers have to do a lot of this too, your publisher won’t always do it for you. Most writers have websites or blogs they maintain, like myself. PBW accounts for about four hours a week, easy. You might say that marketing isn’t really writing, and you’re totally right. But how else will anyone hear about your book? Sure, word of mouth is great, but it’s hard to get that when no one has read it at all.

It doesn’t take into account all the insane little things like getting a bar code, compiling a story into a book, or the hours and hours you can spend designing a damned cover.

I spent nearly a week preparing Days to be published. Not a week full of five minutes here and there, a week of two to four hours at a time working. It required time, it required focus. It required my monsters to be in school. I then spent hours getting everything on the Gumroad and Tablo websites. It wasn’t hard work, but it was time consuming work, and certainly not something I could have done a little at a time.

It discourages us from making serious lifestyle changes that could allow for better, longer writing sessions.

Deciding to be a writer, not as a hobby but as a career, is a commitment. And the further you get into it, the more it will demand of your time. For me, that meant I had to cut some things out of my life to make room for it. I cut my addiction to time management games, I stopped reading as many comic books, I narrowed the time I spend watching tv. Once I started valuing my writing time, I stopped talking to some people that, quite frankly, it was better for me to not talk to. I still spend time with the people I value. Not as much as I’d like, but that’s because of time and work constraints.

Not only have I cut bad habits out of my life, I’ve added good ones. I commit to writing time in the morning before work. I bring my writing with me, and work on it whenever I have time.

I’m really glad that I did all of those things. Writing has brought fulfillment to my life in such a way that nothing else but my children ever did. I miss my comic books, but it’s worth it to me.

Another thing I want you to keep in mind is that while I might be able to commit to an hour, five minutes at a time, I probably won’t get as much writing done as if I sat down for a whole hour and wrote. I didn’t have to stop and start so many times. Now, if I have just five minutes, I’ll take them. But I reach for those longer sessions, and I do what I need to to get them.

It makes us feel guilty that we’re not producing more

And this is the worst one, in my opinion. Telling people, “I did this, and I did it with just the end bits of time through my day,” makes some people, including me, feel guilty. What am I doing wrong that I can’t do the same thing? Why are her five minutes more productive than mine? Am I just stupid, what the hell is wrong with me?

No, stop that. Nothing is wrong with you, that person is lying. It’s the same mentality that makes people put on a full face of make up, take a selfie, then post it with a #nofilter #Iwokeuplikethis. No you didn’t you liar. We just all think we should be effortlessly beautiful, productive, patient and tidy. Well let me tell you, it’s not happening at my house, and probably not at yours either. If I’m going to have a productive day, I have to be up by 6:30 at the latest, at my desk by 7:00 and off to work by 9:15. Now, if I don’t manage that, I’ll fit in time whenever I can, but I really push to manage that. I have to.

Please, don’t think that this means that you don’t have the time to be a writer. It’s very likely that you do. And if all the time you have to give to it right now is five minutes, give that time. But you’re going to need more that than eventually. Anyone who tells you otherwise, is a liar.

The Real Life Writer

So, when I started writing out a theme for last month, I ran into a bit of a snag. I thought that journalism was a great theme, and it turned out to be so. But I really had to stretch to find post ideas for all four weeks. I think I did pretty well, but I don’t like to have to write what I feel is ‘filler work’. I won’t tell you which piece I wrote last month that would fall under that category, because I feel like all of them turned out pretty strong. But I think the month would have been stronger if I hadn’t had to do that.

This month, I had the opposite problem. I sat down with my list of post ideas, and I saw a theme right away.

Real Life Writing

It’s perfect. It’s all about living your life as a writer in today’s world. All kinds of ideas popped out at me, from presenting yourself as a creative professional, to running your home efficiently so that you have more time to write, to what tools I use on a daily basis to work. It was clear, to me, that I wasn’t going to fit all of this in one month. This is two months, at least.

So I decided to change things up.

From now on, a theme will last here on Paper Beats World for as long as I have ideas to write about. If you have any questions or suggestions that you’d like me to write about in any given theme, please let me know at nicolecluttrell86@Gmail.com. I’ll be happy to hear from you, and I’ll try to answer as many of your questions as I can.

I can’t tell you how excited I am about the Real Life Writer. I think we have a lot to share with each other. I’d love to hear from you, what you do in your real life. Please let us know!

Would Your Book Pass The Bedchel Test?

Do you know what the Bechdel Test is? I only heard of it recently, which makes me sad as a feminist.

The Bechdel test, named for the cartoonist Alison Bechdel who came up with it in a comic called Dykes to Watch Out For, consists of three rules. If a movie didn’t follow these three rules, the character in question wouldn’t go see it.

  1. The movie must have at least two female characters.
  2. They have to talk to each other,
  3. About something other than a man.

I thought this was silly, until I made a chart of all the movies I like that don’t pass that test. I’d like to share that with you. If you don’t see a movie on here, please keep in mind that I am being honest and I won’t add a movie on here if I haven’t seen it. I also have not listed all the movies I’ve ever seen, I would  be here all day. This is a list of the movies I’ve watched over the past 12 months, that are fairly well known.

Movies that Pass

The Hunger Games

Catching Fire

Mockingjay Pt 1

Frozen (Disney got a win)

Thor

Star Wars, Episode 7

Maleficent

Descendants (I have two pre teen daughters, don’t judge me.)

Mona Lisa’s Smile

Scream 1,2,3

Paranormal Activities 1-5

Dogma

Movies that don’t pass

Captain America

Iron Man 1,2,3

Avatar

The Avengers

Independence Day

Star Wars, 1-6

All Three Batman movies from the recent trilogy

Jersey Boys

All the Indiana Jones movies

All the James Bond movies

All the Men in Black movies

Jakob The Liar

Patch Adams

All 7 Freddy Kruger movies

Star Trek, 2009

Star Trek, Into Darkness

Yes, Stan Lee can be blamed for a lot of list two. We all know he was a sexist asshat, despite being a brilliant writer. He’s still an asshat.

What kills me is this; why doesn’t every movie pass this test? Is it really that hard to have two women in a book talk about something other than boys? I had to add some movies that were specifically known to be ‘feminist friendly’ to fluff that first list out.

Why? Why is it really so hard to ‘include’ women, when we are fifty percent of the population? Why do more than fifty percent of movies fail this test?

Now, I like all of the movies on the bottom list, don’t get me wrong. But, ladies and gentlemen, hear me loud and clear;

Representation Matters

I’m not the only person who’s said it, and I pray I won’t be the last. To have just one woman shown as a real person instead of background eye candy, it sends the message that this is the exception. Sure, Black Widow is badass, but we sure got Pepper Potts reminding us how women really do live to take care of men.

And don’t tell me those kinds of movies don’t sell. We’ve got Katniss, who is freaking awesome, her sister who’s just as awesome, and Joanna, and President Coin. The cast is pretty balanced with awesome women and men. Seems like those movies are doing just fine in the box office.

As writers we don’t always consider ourselves part of the ‘entertainment industry’. We should, because a lot of those movies up there were books first. Even the ones that weren’t were screen written.

And so, as one member of the entertainment industry to another, let me ask you, would your book pass the Bechdel Test?

Said Is Not Dead!

I’ve been seeing this phrase around the internet recently, and I’ve got to tell you, it’s pissing me off.  “Said is dead.”  Have you seen this?  I really hope that it’s just a trend, and it dies a merciless death soon.

Said is a simple word.  He said, she said, they said.  I like simple words when I’m writing, and I’m not alone.  Steven King and I might not agree on outlines or how many sex scenes a horror story needs, but we do agree on this.  At least according to his book On Writing, which should be on every indie author’s reading list.

I understand that there are a lot of reasons people want to use more complex words, especially in transition.  You might think they’re boring, or that maybe your line of dialog wasn’t clear, so it needs a little help.  Maybe you just want to show off how smart you are.  Here, though, are five reasons why you should reconsider.

You should always use the right word for the situation

For example, the word very. (This is about all simple words, not just said)  I hate the word very when used in description.  The sun was not very bright.  It was blistering, it was sparkling.  He had never seen a brighter sun.  The writer who uses very in description is being lazy.  They are half assing it.

But, your characters should be free to use very whenever they please, so long as the dialog rings true for them.  If “the sun is very bright today,” sounds like what your character would say, then let her say it.  The same goes for any simple word.

If a simple word will do, it’s probably best to just use it

Especially if it was the first word that came to mind.  That is most likely to be the most natural, and most comfortable word.  Which means that it’s less likely to jar the reader.  If I read a line with the word pejorative, for instance, that’s jarring.  I know what it means, but negative would have worked just as well.  Now I’ve got the chant from that Simpson’s episode where Homer is accused of pinching the baby sitter’s bottom because she had candy stuck to her.  Totally great episode, but now I’m not thinking about your story anymore.  Complex words, when not needed, confuse laymen and distract word nerds.

Using complex words doesn’t mean you’re talking down to your readers

The New York Times is written to a fifth grade reading level.  Let’s just start with that.  So if such a well known big name newspaper is aiming there, you shouldn’t feel bad at all about writing to a similar level.  But always remember that simple words do not equal a simple thought.  Think of Steinbeck, author of such books as Of Mice And Men and Grapes Of Wrath.  Do you consider those books condescending?  Me either, yet the language is the very simplest.

If you’re writing for kids, don’t listen to me

I have a pretty impressive vocabulary, because I watch Simpsons and read Calvin and Hobbs.  I am not making that up.  My monsters are even better than I was at their age, because they read Calvin and Hobbs and Series of Unfortunate Events.  I love children writers who use great stories to teach difficult words.

I, however, am not writing for kids, so I really do not care to expand my audience’s vocabulary.  I would settle for teaching people to use the words they already know better.

Finally, the number one reason to use simple words

Your job as a fiction writer is to tell a story.  Your job as a non fiction writer is to convey information in an entertaining way.  Whatever words you chose should help you do that, not distract from it.  Just use said, and tell the damn story.

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