Wednesday, April 4, 2018

IWSG: The Worst Advice You'll Ever Hear About Writing

Life is a tug o war.

Writing is a tug o war.

And I'm not talking about wrestling time out of the day to actually do it. How torn are you?

Recently, I found myself reading a book that got me pondering: what is it that keeps you hooked? (And feel free to apply this to life as well.) You want a great plot. You want awesome characters you  can root for. You want drama, surprises, and an ending that leaves you satisfied. What don't you want?


I'm not talking about plot confusion, although that's pretty bad. I'm talking about emotional confusion. My daughter recently went through the terrible twos. My husband was confused about the sudden onset of tantrums. Why was our perfect angel a wreck? According to my research, two is the age at which kids start to process multiple emotions at once, and it's overwhelming. They can't handle it.

Adults aren't much different.

Writing/life really boils down to two things: Action VS Tension.

Action is pretty obvious. Things happen. We/characters react. Based on those reactions, we are improved or lessened, pushed toward our goals or further away. Action comes from outward forces, and then our response.

Tension is quieter. It's the subtle shifting of a mood, the emotional reaction to action. It's a building sense of peace or frustration, and I hate to tell you this, but you have ALL control over this aspect in life.

When it comes to writing/life, I think we really have to ask WHAT DO I WANT TO FEEL? WHAT DO I WANT MY READERS TO FEEL? When we analyze life/writing from this perspective, we are empowered to get to the heart of the matter. When we face life on this level, we can change the helplessness of "feeling, just because." Root out the confusion. Take a solid direction.

Some of the worst writing advice out there (and life advice) is to focus on the plot: How are we getting from point A to Z. The amazing parts are in the feels along the way, the shift from joy to sorrow, sorrow to joy. The experience is what makes the ending worth it.

On a related note, how about the IWSG question for the month: When your writing life is a bit cloudy or filled with rain, what do you do to dig down and keep on writing?

I switch stories and find one that loves me for the moment. It's easy to do when you have 20+ WIP's just waiting for their day in the sun. Eventually I find the clarity to come back.

Huge thanks for hosting
Alex Cavanaugh
Olga Godim, Chemist Ken,
Renee Scattergood, and Tamara Narayan!

I have a SPECIAL privilege this month. Growing up, I knew one writer: the woman down the street with 5 kids (whom I occasionally babysat for). Today I get to introduce you to her FABULOUS daughter, Michelle R. Reid, whose debut novel has just launched! Does that rock or what?

Alice didn’t fall down a rabbit hole. She was pushed down a staircase by a white Playboy bunny. She wakes up in Oz as the newest participant of the 27th Alice Games. If Alice can survive the journey to the Emerald Castle and select Red Queen as ruler, Oz has momentary peace and Alice can go home. If Alice dies along the way, then Oz will turn into a hellish, eternal winter.

Alice suspects there’s more than that. If other Alices from Earth have already played, why is Oz still broken and frozen in time, repeating the Alice Games over and over? It’s time to unveil all the secrets and make this the last Alice Games ever played.

Then she meets the knight Ace, a charming distraction and possibly a threat. Ace’s past is as dark as Oz’s, yet Alice’s heart tells her that he’s the key to ending the Alice Games forever. Falling in love is irrational because she’s going home at the end, dead or alive. But oh, that smile. For once in her life, she doesn’t know if she should listen to reason, or trust an emotion she’s never put much credit in. With her life on the line, she can’t afford to be wrong.

Buy your copy on Amazon.

Ready to meet the author? From Michelle:

Stories have always been important in my life. From skits I made up for my friends while jumping on the trampoline (Moon Prism Power!), to my first full length novel I wrote in 8th grade choir against my teacher's wishes.

I am married to a wonder man and we have three very active kids that keep me on my toes. In college I studied Zoology, Biology, Art, and English. I drove my counselor nuts. I finally settled on wanting to be an author like my mom. (Alysia S. Knight--check her out!)

'Curiosity killed the cat' is a good saying for me. I love to figure out how all the pieces of the puzzles fit--whether it be in a book, movie, or real life situation. I like to take what I've learned and weave it into my books.

Michelle. gave me two truths and one lie to test your "lie detector" skills. If you guess the lie, right or wrong, you will be entered to win a PRINT or eBOOK of ALICE GAMES. (Open internationally for eBook, US only for print.) DON'T HAVE A BLOGGER ACCOUNT WITH AN EMAIL ON THE PROFILE? No problem. LEAVE YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS IN THE COMMENTS OR EMAIL IT TO WITH YOUR SCREEN ALIAS.

You have until Tuesday, May 1st at 2 p.m. EDT to guess. Be sure to come back for the answer on May 2nd, 8 a.m. EDT.

1. I'm a certified falconer.
2. I was seriously studying to be a Manga artist when I was 18 years old.
3. The first time I saw Jurassic Park, I was eight, in a dark basement, alone, at Crystal's house! 

So sleuths, which is the lie? What's the worst advice you've ever received? What's your current life tug o war? Do you like fairy tale mashups?


  1. "Alice" sounds like a great book! Congrats on the release to Michelle. I'm going to go with #3 for the lie.

    20+WIPs - wow! That is one impressive imagination.

    Cheers - Ellen |

  2. A deep but accurate thought this morning.
    I'm guessing the second one is the lie.

  3. Great post! I'll go with #1 for the lie ;)

  4. I'm going with #1 as the lie.

    Worst advice I ever got was to stop reading to free up writing time. That may have been wise, but then what would be the point of life without the joy of reading, right?

  5. I remember the two's, even though the three's were the worst! Love how you tied it into writing, and fantastic quote. I'm going to go with #1 as the lie.

  6. Great post. I love how you explained tension vs action :-)

  7. I can honestly say that focusing too much on the plot has wrecked a few stories for me and slowed down my reading on some others. Plot driven novels can be a lot of fun, but it’s the emotional connection that people will remember long term. It’s funny because I was actually thinking about that quote the other day and wondering who it was from. :)

    So much congratulations to Michelle!! Alice Games sounds like a lot of fun. Ace Knight sounds fun. ^_^ I’m going with #3 for the lie.

  8. Wow, that Alice book looks great. I love retellings of popular tales and legends.

  9. I am guessing number 2. The terrible twos? I remember those with my kids. Sign language helped tremendously and I wasn’t sure if it would but it could be because my son is a kinesthetic learner so using his hands helped the tension. I love all the cheese! Good luck with your family adventures and happy IWSG day :)

  10. A great plot won't matter if our readers can't connect emotionally. (Even worse if we don't connect while writing it.)

  11. Thought provoking post, reading should be an experience and I want to feel the emotions!
    I'll go with #1 as the lie.
    Congrats on your new book, Michelle.

  12. I'll guess the lie is #2.

    So many modern or younger writers focus far too much on rushing the plot along, while the overall journey through life with the characters falls by the wayside. Why not take time to slowly savor that experience, instead of thinking only about going from Point A to Point B as swiftly as possible?

  13. 20 WIPS waiting around for you? Arg! Having that many unfinished drafts would kill me. I need to finish one first.

  14. I definitely remember how a book made me feel, and I'm much more likely to recommend it to my friends.

    Congrats to Michelle on the launch of her debut :-) I'll go for #3 as the lie

  15. You given me some food for thought on writing/life. Thanks for that. :-)

    Anna from elements of emaginette

  16. Alice sounds like an exciting read and such an interesting twist! Congrats, Michelle. I'm going with #1 as the lie.

    Feels. Yes. Thanks for the reminder. Must ratchet up the feel factor.

  17. 20+ WIP! Wow, I read that twice. :)

    I love the premise of Alice Games. I'm guessing #1 is a lie.

  18. Sometimes I wish I could throw myself down in a temper tantrum. Not really, but it may help release some steam. The age of three was pretty bad for my kids too!

    It's certainly good to engage the reader for writing and art.

    1. I'm a certified falconer. (false)
    2. I was seriously studying to be a Manga artist when I was 18 years old. (true)
    3. The first time I saw Jurassic Park, I was eight, in a dark basement, alone, at Crystal's house! (true)

  19. Good idea to switch projects to keep motivated. :)

  20. Yipes! Twenty WIPs waiting in the wings??? I am duly impressed, young lady. ;)

    "Alice Games" sounds like a fresh imaginative tale. Best wishes to the author!

    As for which is the fib, I'll go with number two.

  21. That gif of the two-year-old tantrum is what I look like even at my advance age. I'm just a bit taller and more energetic in my leg kicking. You should hear the screams!

  22. I switch projects, too. Sometimes the change helps spark my creativity. Good luck with your little one. The twos and threes can be challenging. (Same thing with the teen years!)

  23. I do the switch up sometimes too. Alice Games sounds interesting, congrats on the release.

  24. Lol, very sound advice:) For some reason our kids progress from the terrible 2s to the terrible 3s.

  25. I'm big on analyzing each book I read about why it worked and appealed to me. I hope I manage some of those reasons in my own writing. Have fun with the tantrum twos

  26. I remember how a book makes me feel over the plot. Especially if it punches me in the feels.

  27. Totally agree about the emotional part of story. I think Michelle's lie is #1.

  28. wish I could throw a tantrum at least sometimes... I'd put in an Oscar worthy performance.

  29. I love your advice. I too analyse books that appeal to me. They help me through a lot of what ifs.
    All the best.
    Shalom aleichem,
    Pat G @ EverythingMustChange

  30. Oh my gosh, Crystal. One of my twins did the same tantrum, legs kicking, arms flailing, face burned red. Yikes! Don't miss those days. I love Maya's words. I always have. Thanks for sharing them.

    Bravo to Michelle on her new release. All the luck with that. As for the lie, I'm going to say it's #1, the falconer.

  31. "I switch stories and find one that loves me for the moment." That is great advice! I have a bunch (maybe not 20) of WIPs that one day will get my full attention. Your point about control of emotion is spot on. We may not control circumstances, but we are generally responsible for our response to circumstances.

  32. Writing is ever so difficult. I'm in awe of those that write well.

    I think #1 is a lie.

    Have a fabulous day, Crystal. ♥

  33. What a thought-provoking post. You're right. In fiction, it's the emotional journey that counts the most, not the physical one.
    Thanks for visiting my blog today. I got your message. I don't know why you couldn't comment. I haven't changed anything in my setting since I started blogging 5 years ago. It might be some sort of incompatibility between Wordpress and Blogspot platforms. I found that I can't comment on Blogspot as a Wordpress user. I have to comment as a Google user for my comments to be accepted, although that's the only reason I sign in to my Google account. Go figure.

  34. I know with running I get burned out but I don't quit. I will cut back on mileage though for a bit.
    At two they are in the stage of autonomy vs. Shame and doubt. They want their independence but then when they can't have their way the tantrums erupt. It helps if they can have some choices. Like you pick out two appropriate outfits and then they get to pick one.

  35. Oh my gosh! I totally forgot about the IWSG today.

    I love how you said that you pick a story that loves you and not the other way around. I feel like when you're writing a story like that, you're writing has an opportunity to shine through and you can still enjoy it.


  36. That is so true about two year olds. She has one smart mama!

    I start with character, then move on to plot. I don't think there's any one correct way to write.

    Onto the lie...#3! Congrats, Michelle!

  37. #2?

    I totally get the two-year-old thing - felt that, had kids who've been there, and yes, it's tough to process all of the emotions at once. I think this happens a second time in the teen years with hormones added in for extra kicks.

    I like characters first ... and worlds. :)

    Congrats, Michelle!

  38. Thank you so much for this post. I've always heard that if you're moved to emotion while you write something, it won't work on the page but I have a hard time believing that. I understand that we can't get caught up in the emotion and forget the story but if it doesn't move me to feel something - joy, fear, anger, annoyance, terror - why should it do that for anyone else?

    And YES to switching WIP's when you're having a time writing. That always works for me. So does music :)

  39. I agree that emotional hooks help maintain my interest in a story.

  40. Yay! I’m not alone with my many, many stories waiting on my hard drive!

  41. Agree with you that writing is not all plot though it is the favorite part to write. Good luck dealing with the terrible two's and everything else that I imagine goes on in your crazy life

  42. Ah, emotions. The feels. That's where my writing needs work.

    I'm going to guess the lie is #2. And yes, I do love a good fairy tale mashup.

  43. What an interesting idea for a story. Congratulations, Michelle. It's okay for a two-year-old to have a tantrum or two. That's part of growing up. Alas, adults are not allowed. :) My guess for the lie is # 2.

  44. Congrats to Michelle! How excellent that you get to host her. :)

    I totally, totally, totally agree that emotions are where it's at. All the great plot in the world means nothing to me if I'm not feeling the feels.

  45. You are so right. The plot is just a string, the emotions are the instrument it is tightened onto that makes it sing.
    Like you, I flip to another project while I work things out. It makes me feel like I am constantly moving forward, and so far I also come back and continue on the project I was struggling with. I think #3 is the lie.

  46. Congratulations Michelle! This is an interesting story premise. Lie? #2 ??

  47. Great post about the importance of feelings to a story!

  48. Great post, Crystal. Kudos. On some days, I can certainly empathize with the two year olds;)
    Michelle, what a fascinating storyline. Love the cover.
    I'll say #3 is the lie;)

  49. I will guess #1 is the lie.

    People will forgive a plot hole more readily than they will a contradiction in character. There was an early episode of the old Star Trek where Spock smiled for no reason. Fans scream about that much more than any plot problems.

  50. Thank you for a wonderful post! I babysit my granddaughter who just turned 2, so far, so good, but....I remember those 2's and 3' son had terrible tantrums...

    Congrats to Michelle. I pick lie #2

  51. An excellent post, Crystal! It's all about feeling when it comes to story-telling. I enjoyed reading about Michelle's book and her life. Kudos to her for following her passions at university!

  52. you have 20+ WIPs??? Oh my gosh! I'm impressed.
    Oh, and "The experience is what makes the ending worth it." So true!

  53. I'm going to guess number 1 is the lie.

  54. You're dead right about our focus as writers. We tend to dig into the plot and forget the emotional connection we need to make with the reader!
    Lie is #3

  55. Perfect timing. I'm struggling with this in my WIP. That tug-o-war analogy makes sense to me.

  56. For me, it's never usually the plot that's problematic. It's the characters. :) Congrats to Michelle!

  57. Wow how cool that you are able to share Michelle's work now. Congratulations to her!
    And great points as usual about writing and life. :)

  58. And that is definitely excellent advice. No matter how good the plot, we'll soon be turned off if we don't empathise with the characters and feel what they feel. I'll go for #1 as the lie.

  59. Hmm. I'm going to go with #1 being the lie.

    Depending on my reading mood, I do enjoy a good fairytale mash up now and then.

    The worst advice would be to use different dialogue tags, you know, because said is boring. Spice it up! There are so many options! (No. Just no.)

  60. I'll guess number 2 as the lie. I love the premise of this book, so I hope I win.

    The worst advice? Quit, because the world has enough authors. That may be true and it may be true that I will never become a NYT bestseller, but, BUT, writing makes me feel better and that's priceless.

  61. Hi, Crystal,

    Wow.... 2 already! GEEZ, how time flies.

    I agree, plot isn't the only feature to focus on... emotion, settings, and great character development are equally important...It's a balance of all that makes a great story.

    CONGRATS MICHELLE! What a wonderful premise and blurb. Very intriguing~

    As far as the LIE.... this one is a difficult call because you studied both subjects in college. But the third seems to be questionable. SO I say #3

  62. I love the premise of that story, it sounds intriguing.

    And when the going gets tough I don't have multiple WIPs to fall back on. I'm much more of a linear one-story-at-a-time person so I'm more likely to delve into what's not working with this one. If I do switch tracks, it will usually be set aside for a long while. Bizarrely, though ('cos I'm full of contradictions) I will often jump to a different scene in the same story that catches my interest and come back to fill in the gaps later.

  63. Emotion is where a story lives. I agree.

  64. This sounds like a pretty cool mash-up. It's also cool that Michelle, her mother, and her former babysitter are all writers.
    As for the lie, I'd say #2.

  65. Great post!
    It's hard to get back up on the writing horse sometimes.

    The book cover is awesome and sounds like a good read. I say #3 is a lie.

  66. A great post!
    The book sounds excellent!
    I will put #1 as a lie.

  67. That's a brilliant point about Action vs Tension!

    And that book looks wonderful :)


  68. Hmm- this is a tricky one. I think the lie is #1.
    Sounds like a fascinating book. Best of luck to Michelle!

    Interesting about the terrible twos and processing multiple emotions. I had no idea!

  69. I use a plot, of course, but I focus on my characters more than anything. Emotions is part of that.

    I love how you put this in perspective for life. A good reminded for me right now.

  70. Really helpful writing tips :) You're totally right, we're more likely to remember emotions more than anything. Congrats to Michelle! It sounds like a very cool book. We'll have to go for #3 for the lie.

    ~ Luna & Saturn @ Pendragons

  71. I agree that focussing on the plot at the expense of emotion is a mistake. Maybe for some that kind of book works, but it's not what I want to read – or write.

  72. Enjoyed reading your post, thank you.

    Have a great April.

    All the best Jan

  73. What do I do when I'm confused about how/what to write? I either take a break or I keep pushing myself. It all depends on how long I have that feeling.

  74. Haha. I think I have almost that many wips waiting in the wiongs should need something to write. And I agree that characters are what drives the story for me. If I don't love them I don't care where they're going or how they get there or who's trying to stop them.

    Oh those pesky truths and lies. I'm going to say that #2 is the lie.

  75. That's a good idea to switch to another work for a bit. That's what I'm planning to do before returning to the work I was working on.

    Congrats to Michelle! I'm guessing #1 as the lie.

  76. Great idea, switching between stories. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. I'm going with number 2.
    Great premise for a story and how cool is that relationship!

  77. I'm guessing the lie is #2 the Manga artist...
    My current life tug of war is figuring out which direction to take now that I have my bachelor's degree. I haven't been able to get a job in my field. In fact, I haven't gotten any offers at all! It's kinda depressing, because I think I would be an excellent worker no matter where I ended up, though I don't have much experience in my field yet. But, I'll expand my search and keep looking.
    And I LOVE fairy tale mashups!!!

  78. I like switching projects too! Funny, I always feel as though I shouldn't be focusing on emotion, since that comes easily for me in writing, and I struggle with plot!

  79. Great post! I want my readers to feel connected to the world and characters I've created. In real life I want people to feel connected to me, emotionally.

  80. First, how cool that someone you babysat is published now! For some reason, Alice retellings fascinate me. I also switch projects. And, argh, number 2?

  81. Crystal, thank you for dropping by my blog while I was overwhelmed with my pain. Those toddler years are tough times, I had them with my oldest... Val skipped that stage, she saved it up for the teenage years... lol

    Writing really is about wanting people to feel better... it's good when we can do that ❤

  82. Great post, Crystal. Sorry I missed it last month.

    I would love more peace in my life. I haven't figured out how to accomplish that yet, but I'm trying. For a chronic worrier, it isn't easy.


Hit me with your cheese!