Stranger Things

stranger things 2

If you haven’t started streaming Stranger Things, you need to. Like, now. Still not convinced by that epic promo art? Then allow me…

Fellow Children of the 80s, if you cannot watch the opening scenes and credit sequence without feeling it strike a cord in the deepest pit of your stomach, then you might have been in a coma for some of your childhood. This shows speaks in the language of our yesteryears through the set, the clothes, the homes, and the technology (rotary phones and Christmas lights…just wait). It speaks the language of Stephen King–even if you never read any King, you were familiar with that language, because the movie adaptations of his books were just as influential as the novels themselves. Stranger Things is also fluent in 80s cinema, and you may recognize a lot of images, themes, and motifs. If you aren’t into that stuff, that’s okay. Maybe you’re like me and will just recognize those familiar things in the back of your mind, even if you can’t put your finger on why you love it so much. The show is rife with echoes of E.T., Goonies, alien film staples such as Alien, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and They Live, and a score–let me gush about the score for a minute–that takes cue from John Carpenter, which makes a huge impact on the overall tone. Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein, a pair of relative unknowns, know their shit and they liberally apply that knowledge. As for the Duffer Brothers, the genius creators, they are familiar with all of the above sources and paying hefty homage.

I gotta be honest, I fall in love with movies all the time, but TV shows have to work a lot harder to capture my heart without reservation. It was only after consuming the first season that, in my awed state, I went on a search for what it was that had so endeared me to this Netflix gem. After stumbling around the interwebs, I realized it was nostalgia. A thick, goopy layer of nostalgia poured like honey over phenomenal casting, an engaging, expertly simple story line, and a heavy atmosphere with a self-aware and direct aim.

Who Stranger Things is for:

Everyone: People who love iconic sci-fi, horror, adolescent adventures; Stephen King fans; Goonies fans. The setting plays a huge role in the show, so those who grew up in that decade will find a special place in their hearts for ST.

Please don’t disregard this show because you don’t consider yourself a sci-fi/horror fan. Stranger Things steps outside of its genre(s) to deliver something truly unique. How does it do this? Well, let’s see…

Why Stranger Things is awesome:

PLOT

A great story with a tight plot. As my husband pointed out, there is not a single wasted scene in the eight episodes. The story is so good that even without dramatic cliffhangers–a cheap device to keep viewers watching–you must keep watching.

CHARACTERS

The show is often described as being about the disappearance of Will Byers in small town, Hawkins, Indiana. While that is certainly what drives the plot, it’s such a watered down description in light of the life-like, deftly crafted characters.

My favorite character arc is Chief Hopper’s. Jim Hopper is the unexpectedly observant Chief of Police in this small town where the worst thing that ever happened “was when an owl attacked Eleanor Gillespie because it thought her hair was a nest”. But there’s also the double-shift-working, end-of-her-rope mom, Joyce Byers (Wynona Ryder), who will do anything for her children, including let the entire town think she’s insane. #NoRegrets

Then, you have the healthy dose of adolescent drama, via newly-elevated-to-cool status Nancy, her “what exactly are your intentions, young man” cool guy boyfriend, and social outcast, everyone-probably-thinks-I’m-responsible-for-my-missing-little-brother, Jonathan. And we mustn’t leave out the mute-when-it’s-convenient little girl who loves Eggos and has awesome but also truly terrifying superhero abilities.

I bet you’re wondering why would I compare a show with these characters to the Goonies? Well, it’s because of the trio of D&D-playing, sneaking-out and rule-disobeying friends of the disappeared Will. They provide a lightness of boy wonder and comedy that offsets the heavier themes of the show. But don’t let their jokes and scuffles fool you. They are serious about getting their friend back.

boys

With this motley cast, see why Stranger Things is for everyone? I don’t want to say too much, because I don’t want to give anything away. But I will say that even when these characters make mistakes, you forgive them, and you may even love them more.

INFLUENCES 

The long line of cinematic lineage it takes inspiration from–how can you not appreciate something so broad in scope and beautifully executed? [Potential spoilers in that film reference list–watch the show first.] There’s also covert pop culture references like Silent Hill and Scarlet Johansson’s 2013 Under the Skin.

MULTI-GENRE

Stranger Things has a little bit of everything: humor, heart, sci-fi, adventure, horror, and, of course, romance.

I’ve been on a hunt since mainlining the show for similar shows, movies, books, anything. These two lists suggest what to read and stream after obsessively binge watching Stranger Things. Again, watch the show before perusing these lists lest you be spoil’t.

A Reading List for Everyone Who Is Now Obsessed with Stranger Things

What to Stream After You’re Done Watching Stranger Things

Have you seen Netflix’s latest masterpiece? Why do you love it? If you haven’t seen it, what are you waiting for?! Or I guess I should ask, what are you watching instead? o.O

 

Stephen King: The Metallica of Literature

*If you know nothing of Stephen King’s Carrie, this may contain a spoiler or two. 

Carrie Metallica

Hypothesis

Not to make generalizations here, but almost everyone likes Metallica. Fine. Let me correct my hyperbole: the vast majority of people who have heard them like at least one Metallica song. Stephen King is like the Metallica of literature; he is accessible, even to those readers who don’t particularly care for horror, just as Metallica is enjoyed by people that prefer all types of music to metal. My best friend is a self-professed pop and top 40 lover. I’ve had coworkers and acquaintances which were hardcore fans of rap and others fans of country, predominately. What do they have in common? Well, none of them would say they really enjoyed metal, but they all also liked Metallica. Maybe they aren’t Metallica fans, but they enjoyed the music. Something about Metallica is accessible. Maybe it is in James Hetfield’s just gritty enough voice, or in Kirk Hammet’s and Hetfield’s just catchy enough riffs that are metal while employing easy-to-nod-your-head-to (otherwise known as head-banging) time signatures, so as to have you belting out Enter Sandman while in the car with grandma.

No offense to the hardcore or longtime Metallica fans. I can appreciate their less accessible, complex work from the early days and their recent return to that sound with Death Magnetic (know nothing of the newest album). But the fact is, some of their music is more popular among the masses, just as authors sometimes tap into exactly what the public unwittingly desires at a given moment (YA dystopian, right now. Who knew?). I am not saying that accessibility here means tame horror in King’s case or less profound music in Metallica’s. Merely, that King and Metallica both have something to offer those who don’t dabble in these sometimes intimidating genres.

This post is not a foray into music history; I’m not enough of an expert–or any kind of expert, really–on music or Metallica to claim that. It’s about Stephen King. The point is King’s horror is accessible. That is why people consider it popular literature. Does that mean it has less literary value? No, just the opposite. There are moments in his work that leave you in awe, leave you thinking, this guy knows how to spin a yarn, or, THIS GUY knows how to tap into the human experience, all stardust and muck that it is. And because he can appeal to a wide audience with deep human themes and superior writing that often characterizes literary fiction, he repeatedly presides at the top of bestseller lists.

Opposition

There is some misconception out there that popularity means less respectable or that one is only truly successful as an artist if they are obscure and only appeal to a select group of refined taste. But that’s just not true.

King has a story for everyone, a tone, a theme, and speaks in the language of the everyman. A well-read, damn talented everyman albeit. That is how Stephen King is like the Metallica of literature. Who could make any kind of argument that Metallica, millionaires they are now, aren’t talented even though they’re popular?

The People’s Exhibit A

Where do I take this pain of mine / I run, but it stays right my side / So tear me open, pour me out / There’s things inside that scream and shout / And the pain still hates me /  So hold me, until it sleeps / Just like the curse, just like the stray / You feed it once, and now it stays / So tear me open, but beware / There’s things inside without a care / And the dirt still stains me / So wash me, until I’m clean

–from “Until It Sleeps” by Metallica

Poetry. And universal. Of course you can’t hear it, but you’ve heard them. So you know.

Okay, back to King.

After listening to Carrie on audiobook in my 2015-read-King’s-first-5-books goal, I erroneously assumed it would be boring, that I wouldn’t enjoy it because I’d already seen the two movies and therefore knew the premise. But the truth is, I didn’t know that King’s first book could be so powerful. As I admit in this article for Unnoffical Stephen King Month over at Dark Moon Digest, upon writing it, I had only ever read the beginning two books—terrifying in their own right—of the Dark Tower Series and On Writing, so I knew he was good. But I didn’t think this storyline, which I had assumed was common knowledge, could be so magnificently written, that it could be rife with lessons on storytelling for writers. The thing is, the movies can’t hold a candle to the subplots and tension that King weaves into the novel’s coarse threads. For one, the cinema always goes with a pretty lead and that’s just not the case in King’s version, which makes a big difference. I could go on with other things the movies don’t quite capture, but primarily, in the novel, we see more of Carrie’s rage as it builds and builds to eventually explode in the natural disaster that it does in the end.

The People’s Exhibit B

“Let the streets be filled with the smell of their sacrifice. Let this place be called racca, icahbod, wormwood.

Flex.

And power transformers atop lightpoles bloomed into nacreous purple light, spitting Catherine-wheel sparks. High tension wires fell into the street in pick-up-sticks tangles…”

–from Carrie, Chapter 17

Need I even defend my choice of this excerpt as proof that King’s masterful storytelling is enough to turn any horror naysayer into a believer in its power, at the very least?

This novel has shown me ‘fear in a handful of dust’. Carrie gives us a sheltered and strange girl, mocked and tortured all of her life, and shows us the monsters we construct out of the very darkest parts of ourselves. Carrie shows us that our stories continue being written long after we’re gone, our monsters shaped and molded to the will and needs of those that survive us, regardless of what we wanted to be remembered by.

Conclusion

Even if you don’t like horror, you should give Stephen King a try. He offers a wide buffet, and a few of the dishes really must be sampled before writing him or the entire genre off. He is, after all, a student of human nature, writing about all of its highs and terrifying lows. Stephen King, like Metallica, is a gateway to his genre, a key master to the realm of horror. You don’t have to like being scared or uncomfortable, or like gore to connect with his characters and their startlingly, terrifyingly real circumstances.

Do you agree that Stephen King is accessible horror? Do you know of other authors or works that fit this characterization of gateway to the horror genre? Please recommend them so that we can show the horror-haters there’s really not all that much to fear. 😉

 

Some other enlightening posts on this grave matter:

Thoughts On IT by Stephen King, What it Takes to Enjoy Horror, and Why I Write It

Again, Annie Neugebauer’s 3 Amazing Horror Authors and Why You Should Read Them

Fellow Unnofficial Stephen King Month contributors:

From Nowhere to Geekdom

Stephen King, My Personal Savior

Organic King

And just for fun:

King Still Digs Metal

A Theory on Fear

Art by pishchanska.deviantart.com

First of all, Happy Halloween! With the season and all, I have been indulging in some creepy pastimes. Being the painfully inquisitive person that I am (no, seriously, people hate my incessant question-asking), I’ve spent a lot of time trying to understand the source of my giddy pleasure with a well done horror movie or a book that gives me bone-deep chills. Why am I drawn to this genre? What is the meaning behind it? How does it benefit people for me to write about it?

While listening to Stephen King’s Danse Macabre on audio book, I laughed out loud, furrowed my brow in confusion to some of his references, and nodded my head with his salient points as I drove to and from work. But mostly, it really got me thinking about the core fear that all horror taps. In Danse Macabre, King claims that

“Horror appeals to us because it says, in a symbolic way, things we would be afraid to say out straight…it offers us a chance to exercise (that’s right; not exorcise but exercise) emotions which society demands we keep closely in hand. The horror film is an invitation to indulge in deviant, antisocial behavior by proxy—to commit gratuitous acts of violence, indulge our puerile dreams of power, to give in to our most craven fears. Perhaps more than anything else, the horror story or horror movie says it’s okay to join the mob, to become the total tribal being, to destroy the outsider.”

This justification for horror is a fine argument as to why the genre’s valuable, but it doesn’t seem like enough. Aside from a voyeur enjoyment, there is some living, breathing code at the core of every horror story, some universal language that speaks to us all, even if our fears all differ.

This might be reductive, but what if the basis of ALL of these fears track back to one: fear of the ego’s destruction, the dissolution of self? If you go by Descartes’s philosophy, that thinking necessitates your existence, then would not I, as a signifier for ego, be the most vital, precious thing to me? It’s a logical necessity, leading into and from ‘I think, therefore I am’, just as the ouroboros consumes its tail. Nature even granted us endowments of self-preservation (fight-or-flight) which help us to avoid obliteration and validate that fundamental fear of any self-aware being. The horror genre allows us to indulge in our most basic fear: the end of me. Whether that is by seeing ourselves in a hooded figure, face entirely blacked out—nonexistent as it were—stalking our every move (in the movie When a Stranger Calls, the psycho ventriloquist killer’s face is painted black), or a masked, single-minded murderer (Jason, Michael Meyers), because for one to turn into that murderer is to lose his or her self to the mindless repetitive action of an automaton. And to be on the receiving end of that killer’s ax/knife/machete/shank, well, I don’t need to explain how that relates to the fear of the self’s obliteration, right? Other horror stories that play into the root of all fear are being trapped in the bottom of a canyon, not another soul around for hundreds of miles, starving, dehydrating, essentially eroding out there in the elements along with the wind-shaped rock formations (127 Hours), or learning that your house  wants to destroy/consume you (The Haunting, a movie based on Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House, The Amityville Horror, Mark Z. Danielewski’s literary horror novel, House of Leaves).

haunting
Eleanor being tormented by Hill House in The Haunting, 1999

When you indulge in these horrors, and, facing the possibility of the ego’s destruction, see that you survive, it reaffirms your instinct toward self-preservation, therefore helping you attain a kind of self-actualization as a self-aware being.

In Alien, a sci-fi horror, Ellen Ripley must sacrifice everything to ensure the alien doesn’t get back to earth. In this case, her heroic archetype is raised above the most basic fear of the ego’s destruction, because she puts the preservation of humanity above her own life. In cases like this, the horror of the thing becomes more of a thriller because we are swept away by the hero’s heroics. But I still think it’s there, that fear of destruction, waiting with a partially open maw, acid drool sliming off jagged teeth.

Alien: Isolation, the game
from Alien: Isolation, the game

King explores four recurring archetypes in horror in Danse Macabre: The Vampire (Dracula), the Beast Within (Dr. Jeckyll & Mr. Hyde) the Creature Without a Name (Frankenstein), and the Ghost (The Turn of the Screw.) He says pretty much every monster in horror comes down, in some form, to these four archetypes. King argues that we fear monstrosities because they represent a lack of order. But even fear of things that upset order finds its roots in fear of the ego’s destruction. To know is to be (getting Cartesian again), so anything that disrupts what you’ve come to know disrupts your sense of self, your perspective. Anything lacking order poses the threat of a systematic destruction of the self by overturning its previously held convictions and ideologies, whether you try to outrun that threat or face it head on. Even the fear of the unknown is a fear of ill-preparation to deal with something in order to control it and thereby reign over it so that it does not threaten you. And we’re not just talking basic fear of dying here, we’re talking about fear of dying by whatever means—fear of madness, fear of extinction. You name it, we got it. Because it’s all encapsulated in that one seemingly maintainable and certainly natural fear.

My novels, which arc over many genres, have this common ground. There is always some element of horror present in my work, the whisper of the innermost source of all fear: the dissolution of the self. My main characters all face the threat of their death in some way or another, of the body, mind, and soul. In my completed work, What’s Inside, and my 2014 NaNoWriMo project, Mad Dance on Roseridge, I explore the horror of madness, a strain of that fear. In The Prey and the Predator and its sequel, The Seer, I explore the primitive draw to power that many a villain has followed, but what happens when the protagonist turns to power as a result of these threats? Worse, what happens when she acts on it all to save him or herself from destruction at the hands of the villain?

So the question is, if everything traces back to fear of an event that we have a biological repulsion to, why in god’s name would we be so drawn to it? The answer: A horror film gives you the same almost terrified exhilaration of imminent destruction that we get riding a roller coaster or walking through a haunted house. It arouses; that is, these events put people in a “state of heightened activity in both our mind and body that makes us more alert”. Not only do we “[use] fictional (and sometimes supernatural) events to help us understand our own deepest real fears”, as King claims in his “What’s Scary: A Forenote to the 2010 Edition,” we also write about it to universally appeal or read it to relate to others.

What do you think? Is my fear theory whack? Are fears each separate in their own right? Is all horror, depending on genre and tropes, tapping into something different for each person? Or could all fears, in some way, necessarily root from the fear of the ego’s destruction?

Organic Vs. Outlining

Why it matters…

This argument has been raging for centuries at least. I do not presume to tell anyone to change their process but to present the sides, devil’s-advocate style, and justify why I lean the way I do between these two. My prewriting, novel-planning method is in a constant state of flux as I try to pin it down and find what works best for me, so my goal is to present you with the sides and what I have learned of both approaches thus far.

To plot or not to plot…

https://frankzumbach.wordpress.com/2011/04/25/hamlet-act-v-1/

In the article, Revising your writing again? Blame the modernists , Craig Fehrman writes that “during the 19th century, the Romantics made resisting revision a virtue. The best literature, they believed flowed from spontaneous and organic creative acts. ‘I am like the tyger (in poesy),’ Lord Byron wrote in a letter. ‘If I miss my first spring, I go growling back to my jungle. There is no second. I can’t correct.’ ” This is really the crux of the argument between these two approaches: organic composition is perceived by some to allow for freedom of the creative faculties where outlining inhibits that creativity. While this all-or-nothing mindset of Byron’s seems an extreme perspective, there are authors today that still seem to identify with this approach.

The organic method

In a 1992 Writer’s Digest article, Steven King says of his process,

“There’s no outline, nothing like that. That freezes it, it takes what should be a liquid, plastic, malleable thing to me and turns it into something else. Hey, to me it’s the difference between going to a canvas and painting a picture and going out and buying a Craftsmaster paint-by-the-numbers kit.

This “paint-by-the-numbers” comparison probably derives from the assumption that is tidied up at the end of an outlined novel complete with a red ribbon; every loose thread is pulled together into what might seem to be a too tight braid. Life just isn’t like that—there are often loose threads never addressed again. While not all outlined novels have to feel stiff or too tidy, the opposing organic approach is King’s process and for him, it has paid off.

Another example of a successful writer sharing this perspective is the poet Robert Frost. In his essay “The Figure a Poem Makes”, he makes a valid point about artistic honesty and relevance to the human condition: “No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader.” Again, this seems to have worked for the poet laureate.

The outlining method

At the opposite end of the spectrum from Stephen King and Robert Frost is John Grisham. According to Tony Vanderwarker, in an article written for WU, John Grisham is a stickler for an outline—but a good one. One you put your damn soul into. While Grisham is of an analytical mindset (accounting major and former law practitioner, as the article indicates), his strict outlining guidelines are invaluable. In most cases, the egoistic writer needs to hear Grisham’s advice regarding one’s initial outline draft (yes, multiple drafts of an outline may be required):

 “Throw it out, start over…Takes too much ink to get it going.”

This simple, little statement has been in my brain since reading this WU post—and now you know how long I’ve been procrastinating on writing this blog post (Doh!). If you’re writing any type of modern novel, with the exception of maybe surrealist concepts or some short stories, you’re going to have to outline for a controlled, relevant flow of information. Even if you initially create organically, you will eventually go back through to do some cutting, rearranging, theme-searching (like soul-searching, but this one hurts), in short, revising/rewriting. As a novice, I never considered that everyone—anyone worth their salt at least—does this. But that I am no where near an expert no longer quite a novice, I have learned that very very few authors never reexamine their first draft, even fewer never change a word of their manuscript.

First novel--no outline
First novel–no outline
Second novel--with outline. Which is more well-known?
Second novel–with outline. Which is more well-known?

 

Outline now for revisions later

Revising and outlining go hand in hand, especially with regards to the charges laid against them; they are, after all, the more logic-driven, homework-feeling aspect of writing. Because of this logical aspect of both, outlining now can greatly assist in the revisions/rewriting that will come later. Once you take that raw, unformed idea that sprung forth from your head ready to take on the world like Athena from Zeus’s sick, sick mind, you have to mold it. It saves you time for you later to make sure your plot is on a track now, in the first go-around. Many would argue this, outlining, inhibits creativity. But

something to keep in mind about outlines is that you create them, and you can change them too.

But even then, it might still inhibit some. For me, someone who does not like thrashing in a sea of epistemological uncertainty, especially in the calling I have decided to invest my life in, it works. My own “outlining” is usually just future scenes written out in some rough order in which they’ll happen. But I will say that experimenting with more in-depth outlining for my rewrites and future novels, I have noticed a change in my work, in the direction in which it flows—more focused, less distracted. Middle-of-the-road outlining, as I have termed it, just means setting yourself up with a structure-awareness program as you go.

My critique partner and best friend, OstiumUnity, pretty much outlined her latest novel, Undertow, scene by scene. While she may not be a flighty writer, I am a flighty reader, and I always ask ten thousand questions. Some having to do with faults in logic she may not have seen, but usually it’s just me overthinking it from a writer’s perspective. Before she told me that she had outlined– something she had not done to the same extreme before–I found myself in awe of how much smoother and polished her work seemed, how few questions I had, and how much I could just sit back and be jealous of her mad writing skills—I mean, enjoy the novel. Not only does Undertow feel so thoroughly developed but also natural and right.

Still wondering why I used the term “organic” versus outlining?

The first time I had heard the word “organic” in reference to literature was in one of the most difficult classes of my collegiate career, a little undergrad class called Critical Approaches to Literature. I was terrified, especially when our professor told us to go home and look it up. The next day, after my unfruitful search, she enlightened us: Organic Unity was what Aristotle attributed to a work with a beginning, middle, and end, in which every part of it is inseparable from the cohesive whole. If one part is subtracted from that interdependent whole, the entirety falls apart. Though I use the term organic as natural or unplanned, in this context, I feel my proposal lends itself to this concept of Aristotle’s Organic Unity more than writing without an outline.

While I believe outlining does not necessarily hinder your writing process in lieu of this organic unity, I don’t know that I could ever pass Grisham’s Guantanamo-Bay-esque outlining camp. Incorporating some outlining into your prewriting approach could end up being very worth the payoff though, and I hope I have demystified and de-structuralized it a bit to make it less off-putting.

The Verdict

gavel

Prewriting and preparation are about what works for you and should be a sacred ritual. It should be tailored to what inspires/benefits/encourages/prepares you. If you set pen to paper and just let it take you where you want, then by all means, surprise the hell out of yourself. If you plan every minute detail and that seems to be working for ya, then plan away. Or if you’re somewhere in the middle on this,  for both organic writing and outlined writing often lean on one another—the situation of most writers, I suspect—then keep on keeping on.

Finally, if you humbly came to this post because what you are currently doing does not seem to be working, then, hopefully, some of the pros and cons of both approaches and the experts’ opinions laid out here help you find the path of stress-free, productive, not-throwing-you-cell-phone-because-you’re-procrastinating-with-twitter-at-your-cat* composition.

*(or dog, if you’re a writer you probably have one or the other. It’s easier for them than humans to deal with our type)

Additional sources:

http://surlymuse.com/outlining-for-fun-and-word-count/

http://catherineryanhoward.com/2014/03/17/the-blog-tour-what-why-and-how-i-write/

http://ostiumunity.wordpress.com/2014/05/10/the-journey-and-the-destination/

And if you’re not into outlining, but you like to be organized, check out these writing tips

Want to weigh in? Please do! I would love to hear any additional pros or cons not addressed here. Also, if you have your own post on this subject, I’d love to add it to the additional sources!

6 Ways to Survive Rewrite Hell

Rewriting is HARD. Rewriting will make you want to throw your computer out a window. I keep telling myself there’s some sort of formula here, there’s gotta be some equation for success, completion, and contentment with this novel that I am missing. Unfortunately, there is not. All you can do is chew your cuticles until their bloody and hope you’re making some headway.

I was talking to a friend about a novel she’s dabbling with, and I told her about my rewrite hell. Her reply was, “I don’t want to have to do that. I want to get it right the first time.” The thing is, I don’t think this dabbling friend is quite to the point where you start seeing your work with a different eye, one that isn’t looking from behind rose-colored glasses of our own can-do-no-wrong greatness. Rather than irritating me, like this might have in the past when I would have felt inadequate given that I have to rewrite my novel, I was actually relieved. I wasn’t foolishly throwing myself into a titanic endeavor (this ship won’t sink! Shit…it has sunk) when I began penning this work. I also thought my novel would be good to go when I finished. Because I started writing, whole-heartedly believing in what I was doing, I now have something worthwhile to rewrite. I laid down a foundation in which I could see theme, character, and plot in their rawest forms and extract them to distill them to perfection. My point is, rewrites are a big part of being a writer, and the sooner you accept that, the less crazy–I mean, the happier you’ll be. 🙂 <–see? Happy.

So here is a list of a 6 tips to surviving the sea of madness, self-doubt, joyful torture, an grueling work of rewriting:

1. Every time you have that moment of pure self-doubt, that moment of ‘why do I think I can do this? What on God’s green earth made me think I could be a writer?’, just ask yourself what else you enjoy doing this so much? What gives you as much of a reward after expending so much sweat, blood, and tears? That’s right. Nothing. And THAT is why you keep doing it.

2. In the vein of #1, read one of your favorite books. Recapture the magic you felt when you first read it. Remind yourself that the magic of that novel, in part, composes your own writerly spirit, and that now is the time to pay that great novel/author tribute.

Villette House of Leaves Catcher in the Rye

3. When have trouble getting something out, when that blinking cursor mocks your every false start, just walk away. Do something else, something completely non-related to writing. Some people say TV kills creativity *cough* Stephen King *cough* and sometimes they’re right. But I often find that things that move me, including awesome television programs, offer inspiration, open up my well of creative impetus. It is sometimes in those moments that you aren’t obesessing about your rewrite that you find a way to fix a particular problem or get a eureka moment.

4. Write long-hand. This is something I recently embraced while slogging through the torturous rewrites of my first novel, The Prey and the Predator. Every time I sat down to my computer, all I wanted to do was copy and paste from the old document, which I’d promised myself I would NOT do. The whole point of rewriting was to bring the entirety of the work up to my current writings standards, to update the pieces that I wrote when I was fourteen years old and have been repeatedly cut and resown back together throughout the years, to smooth everything out. The exact way to NOT follow through with this is to cut and paste. So though I refer to a printout of my most recent version of the MS and my newfangled chapter-by-chapter outline, when I restrict myself to writing long-hand, I am wont to create something that contributes to my new, tightened premise that is more focused and succinct.

5. Submit what you feel most uncertain about to a trusted friend. Be this a critique partner or just a friend/family member who willingly reads your stuff and usually enjoys it. Ask them to be honest with you. After forcing out my first chapter of my rewrite, all the while asking myself the questions I mentioned in #1, my critique partner admitted that she felt like she was betraying me by liking it so much. But it is this encouragement, her genuine interest in it, and her helpful suggestions of what could be improved that made me realize it wasn’t as bad as I had imagined it to be. I was just so crippled by fear that I couldn’t see past that to the reality of the situation.

6. Research and network. This is a lonely calling we have rooted ourselves in, for better or worse. It makes a world of difference to feel connected to the wide writerly world out there, other people enduring the same struggles as ourselves and even people seeing success erupt from those hardships. Subscribe to Writer’s Digest, check out the articles on Writer, Unboxed, browse through others’ blogs and comment. It’s a good way to make a writing friend, a new connection in the writing world, a new synapse in a network you will continuously be growing. I feel so in tune to the writing world right now that it’s starting to get downright creepy with Writer’s Digest mirroring whatever my current concerns are. This article for one, assures me that everything I’m doing is just what I’m supposed to be doing. Also, at the risk of sounding like an advertisement for Writer’s Digest, the latest issue had tons of great articles in it on topics I was just fixating on: “What Literary Journals Really Look For”, “34 Markets for Genre Short Stories”, “Science Fiction & Fantasy: Balancing Exposition in Speculative Fiction”, and the eeriest, as I was just wondering what this genre was all about anyway, “Exploring the World of Steampunk”.

Just be open to connections with people, which may mean researching, branching out, and leaving a trail of breadcrumbs back to your online presence via comments on blogs or writing websites. It meant so much to receive an invite to write together sometime from a new friend in the blogosphere; it was all I needed to hear in that moment to assure me that all of this, the public presence though all I want to do is hole up and write, the tweeting, and tumbling (that I never update. Shhh), maintaining this blog, are all worth it. Because there are other people out there, just like me–just like you–who are also afraid sometimes but are genuinely good people sharing in the same struggle.

Did my reassuring, calming Bob Ross tone come through this post and inspire you to keep slogging through your own rewrite hell? What are your methods for coping through these perilous times?