Monday, June 19, 2017

4 Tips to Make Sense of Writing Tips

Hey all! Before I get into today's post, I just wanted to remind you guys of my new Before and After feature. It could be a way for you to get your hands on a really inexpensive custom design, so if you haven't yet, go check out my announcement.

Okay! Time to get into the post. This is last week's vlog that went live a bit too late, which is why it's only being put on my blog today. As always, the script follows the video, but if you choose that, you're missing an awesome Vader impersonation...



Show don’t tell. Never stop writing. Only write when you’re feeling inspired. Never start with a dream sequence. Never use a narrator. Never use prologues. Always plan ahead of writing. Never plan ahead. Edit as you write. NEVER edit as you write.

That’s only a small sample of the writing rules that one can get out there. And as you can see, a lot of it is contradictory. So what’s a writer to do?

In my sixteen or so years of writing stories, I’ve managed to develop a way to approach writing rules that makes it all… well… make a bit more sense. And since I’m awesome, I thought I’d share the tips with you.

Yes, I’m aware that this is a tip vlog about understanding tips, but there you go.

Let’s just get into it.


Tip #1: Before you even start researching writing, it’s a good idea to develop your own set of best practices first. 


The truth is that it’s a mad, senseless writing world out there. It seems like every writer has “advice” out there, and as someone who’s been around the block, a lot of advice out there is patently bad.

Terrible. Terrible advice.

And if you go into your research armed with your own personalized knowledge of what already works for you, you’re not going to be confused into the dark side all that easily. *Insert Vader Breath Here.*

Seriously though. If you know what works and someone’s acting like you’re doing it wrong, you know to roll your eyes and disregard at will.

Which brings me to my next tip.


Tip #2: If someone’s trying to convince you that theirs is the only, best way… they’re giving you bad advice. 


I don’t care what they’re saying. If they start off from the point of view that there is no other way to succeed at writing, you can’t trust the rest of what they’re saying. The guys that seem a bit hesitant, usually prefacing with a disclaimer of “I know other people do things differently and it works for them, but I find that…” usually are the ones that are worth listening to.

In particular, and this is a sad thing, there are some big names out there that try to sell themselves and their writing by making themselves seem like these literary geniuses that have the soul true knowledge to writing success.

DON’T LISTEN TO THEM.

Another bonus rule of thumb: If someone sounds like they’re talking out their arse, they probably are.

Tip #3: Understand why something is considered to be a rule.


Despite everything, some writers have a real, legitimate desire to help others, but because they’re not that experienced yet, they don’t quite understand what they’re saying. So their response is to come across as being dead certain about absolutes.

Never use adverbs. 
Never start with dream sequences. 
Never open with prologues.
Always do this. 
Never do that. 

The problem with subscribing yourself to these absolutes is that you’re actually limiting your own writing. But at the same time, those “rules” are there for a reason. So if you know those reasons, you’ll also know when and how you can bend the rules.

And that neatly brings me to my final tip.


Tip #4: Treat writing rules not as the x number writing commandments, but rather as guidelines. 


As I said before, a lot of the “rules” out there are considered to be such for some really good reasons.

That does not mean you’re doomed to always follow them slavishly. You’re the writer. You’re literally the master of your own story.

And if you say that rule doesn’t apply to you, that rule doesn’t apply to you.

Just remember, though, that if veering off from the rules results in bad writing, your readers will kick your ass for it. So don’t be irresponsible either.

And that’s basically it for me. Next week, I’ll share my own list of off-the-beaten-path writing rules that you might find useful. In the comments, let everyone know, which writing rules do you often disregard? 

Friday, June 16, 2017

A Bit of News

Hey Everyone!

Yeah, I know today is supposed to be a vlog update, but alas, everything is running late for me. (Refer to Wednesday's post for a deeper understanding.)

As it is, the fact that I had to shoot late meant that I had to do some heavy editing to make the video look good, which also means it's taking longer to render the edited video. Then I planned to upload render and upload early this morning, but Windows decided to update, which meant I'm now still waiting for the video to render. Sigh.

Anyhoodles. I thought I'd get some news and admin out of the way instead.

YouTube Posting Schedule for This Week

As a result of the delay, the YouTube post will go live for my Patreon patrons today, and everyone else tomorrow night. The blog post that includes the script will go live on Monday.

I Am Planning to Bring Before and After Back

For those of you wondering what the hay I'm talking about... Last year, I had a bit of a short-lived blog post series featuring me picking images and then turning them into something awesome using Photoshop, something like a cover image, excerpt banner or whatever. The idea originally was to post Before and Afters regularly in order to keep learning new things and also to keep my skills sharp, but then I thought... Why don't I open this up a little more? 

So this is what I'm thinking. Send me an email at mishagericke(AT)gmail(DOT)com and tell me what you want me to do. For example: 

Cover Image for a [insert genre here] book. It's about... [insert description here] and I'm thinking [insert what you think would look cool]. And then let me know what you want written on it.

Then (and this is the cool bit), I will put a price on the image and you can mail me to buy it with up to three adjustments. The price will be determined mostly by the cost of the images and partially by the amount of work I did, but my vision for now is to keep it more in line with pre-made cover costs than custom costs. 

Yes, that means you will get a custom cover in the pre-made price range. And if you buy it, it's yours. If not, I'm probably putting it on a pre-made list somewhere. 

Sounds good? Then do get in touch. 

What's up on your end of the world? 



Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Ever had one of those days?

You might have picked up that I'm starting to be more active on my social networks, including this blog. And the thing is that I've been wanting to get back to my usual MWF posting schedule again.

But man.

Today is just crap.

Have you ever felt like someone put your life on slow mo while time just marches on?

That's what my day was like today.

It seemed simple enough.

Wake up. Wash the floors. Move the horses. Write a vlog post. Write today's blog post. Record vlog post. Move horses back. Edit vlog post.

How did it go?

Woke up.

Wash floor, only to be told we have to move the horses now and oops! We and all the dogs are over the wet tiles.

Move the horses. Takes longer than usual.

Return to floor. Wash it a second time.

Brother and dogs walk over the floor again. So I hand him the mop.

Sit down to write vlog post. Get called to early lunch.

Sit down to write vlog post. Remember admin stuff I have to help my brother/assistant with.

Sit down to write vlog post.

It's time to move the horses back. But this time, they have to put on blankets, which they DO NOT LIKE. This takes two hours.

Return to record vlog post. 1) It's dinner time and 2) Battery's dead.

Charge battery.

Record video. Keep forgetting what I want to say, making me take twice as long to record because I keep having to check the script.

Download video.

"Open" video editing software. The program and the others in its suite need to update before I can open and use it.

It's 10 p.m.

*headdesk*

But at the same time... I have so much to be grateful for.

How is/was your day? 

Monday, June 12, 2017

Keep Calm and Chill Out: 4 Reasons Why Pushing Through Exhaustion Is a Bad Idea


My vlog post from last week has gotten me thinking a lot about why I almost always have to get to the point of burning out before I feel “okay” with taking a break.

In a lot of ways, I think it comes down to this whole mentality of Keep Calm and Carry On.

Don’t get me wrong. Yes, carrying on despite adversity is often the best thing we can do. But sometimes, I think we’re carrying on a little bit too far. And this is why:


1) Forcing ourselves to keep going despite exhaustion only exhausts us more. 


Yeah yeah I know. Thank you, Captain Obvious. Obviously doing things when you’re already tired makes the tiredness worse. It’s common sense.

And yet, we ignore this common sense all the time.

What’s more, people expect it from us. They even praise use for doing it. Think I’m crazy? Take a look around at people who are positively bragging about the fact that they’re living off of coffee and pulling all-nighter after all-nighter. And then see the comments. Only a few “buzzkills” will think to say, “Five nights in a row already? This is really bad for you. Please go get some sleep.”

And sometimes, that’s fine. We often do need to push through exhaustion, because we quite simply are exhausted all the time. So if we don’t push ourselves, we wouldn’t get anywhere.

But as with my five-all-nighters-in-a-row example, there are limits, and we’re all but ignoring them all the time.

2) There’s so much more to exhaustion than being tired. 


So let me tell you a little story. I committed to writing because it was my lifeline after I had proverbially drowned myself in a study course I’d hated.

I knew in the first week of my studies (in 2007) that I wasn’t enjoying the course, but the Keep Calm and Carry On thing struck again. And I carried on. And on. Often giving up my sleep—all-nighters for the win, right? The faculty acted as if this wasn’t only normal, but to be expected as a prerequisite for success.

Half way through 2008, I seriously considered throwing myself in front of a car to be a valid alternative to going to class.

It wasn’t even that I was suicidal. I don’t think. But I was exhausted. Mentally. Physically. Emotionally. And by ignoring my exhaustion for about 18 months, I had lost the capacity for normal emotions about a class. I had lost most of the capacity to think straight. I say “most,” because in the moment I was about to take that step, something in my mind went “WTF ARE YOU DOING?????!!!!!!!” and I had a moment of clarity.

I crossed the street and skipped class. Instead I went to administration and changed my degree.

But here’s the thing. The damage was done.

3) Medium term exhaustion leads to long term damage. 


So I had taken myself out of the nightmare degree and made sure to get more sleep. Did that make me feel better?

No more than quitting smoking after being diagnosed cures lung cancer.

My mom not-so-secretly thought I was taking drugs because, simply put, I was broken more than a year after leaving that degree.

I literally can’t remember the second semester of my second year (2008). I know I passed most of my subjects, but the one I failed... It’s like a hole in my brain. I can’t even remember sitting for the exam.

I had issues at fencing practice in 2009. Why? Because parrying and self-defense is important if you want to win. And my self-preservation instincts had been all but destroyed. I could literally see the hits coming in, but my brain just wouldn’t react defensively.

My short term memory was blown.

And worse, I, a trivia queen, couldn’t recall whole chunks of the knowledge I’ve gathered over my entire life.

In the end, the only thing that stopped me from being clinically diagnosed with depression in 2010 (I think. Kinda hazy on the date there.) was the fact that I had 3D awareness in the psychologist’s test.

Everything else was blown to hell, as a direct result of my exhaustion.

I knew something was wrong, but didn’t realize how bad it was until the psychologist gave me a four digit phrase that I couldn’t repeat back five seconds after I’d heard it.

When did I start to feel normal? 2013.

As in a whole five years after I had quit exhausting myself. 18 months of damage, five years of recovery.

4) Exhaustion is like boiling a frog.


Yeah, I know quite a few of you might be thinking Oh this would never be as bad for me. I’m in total control. 

The thing is, pushing yourself through exhaustion isn’t a once-off. It’s cumulative. You know the analogy of boiling frogs, right?

Toss a frog into boiling water and it jumps out. Put it in cold water and then put it to boil.

It’s the same thing with exhaustion. Every time we push through, we’re tiring ourselves out just a little bit more.

And you might be thinking Huh. This isn’t that bad. But that’s just you acclimating yourself to your new normal of exhaustion.

If there isn’t a finite, certain end to the causes of your exhaustion, your new normal might end up being the complete destruction of your health and mind.

So when it’s looking like the crap that’s exhausting you just isn’t ending, the logical reaction isn’t to carry on.

It’s to pace yourself. To take a step back and pare back to the absolute minimum so that you can get to the end with most of yourself intact. Life is hard enough as a marathon, without you doing repeated 100m sprints as you go.

What about you? Do you have a tendency to push yourself too far? How do you deal with exhaustion? 

Friday, June 9, 2017

The Importance of Stepping Back

Hey lovely people! My vlog post ended up coming a week late, because I caught the flu. Sigh. Really complicated everything. It's finally done, though, so I hope you enjoy it. :-)

Going off of the comments I got last time, I decided to keep posting my script below the video for those of you who prefer to read.

And if you're not a Blogger user who somehow got to this blog, you can find this same post on Wordpress here.


I want to talk about a really understated bit of advice that can be vital to your survival as a writer. Namely: That sometimes, you just need to step back, take your foot off the gas pedal.

As you might know from my more recent vlog updates, things haven’t been going well with me lately. Basically, nothing has been quite going my way since 2014, but that was okay, because I was taught that old truism that we all get fed with mother’s milk:

If you work hard, everything will work out. 


Eh…

Turns out not so much.

See, in the years since 2014, I’d worked 16 hour days, often more in order to do more, and I’d do that until I was on the edge of breaking emotionally. I never stopped writing. Never stopped building at businesses and marketing and literally anything that I *knew* would get me ahead.

And it just kept feeling like everything was turning to dust under my feet.

The worst part? None of the hours I’d spent, of the health I’d risked, of the life I’d postponed… none of it actually meant anything.

Because there are always assholes out to get you. And they will steal your life and your hours of work and your very soul if they can, just to benefit themselves.

So yeah. After relentlessly pushing myself for almost four years, there came a point where I just…couldn’t. Not going to go into detail, but I came to the point where I was so exhausted that I couldn’t fight anymore.

I couldn’t keep acting like everything was okay and that it was business as usual, because it wasn’t.

And so, I pulled back. From as much as I could. Obviously there are some commitments you can’t avoid without incurring long-term damage, but if there was something I could leave with a cost I could tolerate, I did it.

This sadly included my writing, because the stresses of my life had basically drained my creativity. So instead of forcing myself to write, I forced myself not to. Instead, I spent my writing hours doing needlepoint or crocheting. Anything with an almost mindless, repetitive motion.

What this did was it allowed me to grieve. It allowed me to feel. It let me process my pain and frustration instead of allowing me to suppress them like I’d been doing for years. It put me in a place where I could regain some perspective. Where I could look at the problems and at least get to the point where I could see the value in the things I was doing again.

And that’s probably the most important thing about stepping back. When we’re writers, we basically take on an extra job, and when we’re published, marketing that book becomes another job. Which means that it’s go go go go all the time with no stopping, and when things aren’t going as well as they should, it’s so easy to be overwhelmed. It’s too easy to lose the meaning of what we’re doing in the mad rush to get it all done.

So it becomes imperative that we step back and breathe at least for a few days, just to regain a sense of balance before taking everything on again.

What do you do to recharge when you're pulling back? 

Friday, May 26, 2017

Update Day, May 2017

Hey all! I decided I'm going to try something different today. As you know, I have been vlogging for a while, but I also realized that not everyone can watch the video whenever they visit my blog. 

So today, I decided to put the video up top, and then follow it with the script from which the video is based. Please let me know what you think of this format!


Gosh, I can’t believe how much time has been flying by lately. It seemed like a few days ago that I last posted a vlog update, so I was quite shocked to see that it was three months ago. But there you go. Sometimes life and time get in the way, and the next thing you know, it’s the end of May. Ugh. Untentional rhyme.

But because we’re now on the last Friday of May, it’s time for me to share an update for my GotGoals bloghop. In case you’re wondering what the hell I’m talking about…

I’m co-hosting a bloghop with Jen and Brittney, where we set some crazy, big or just really important writerly goals. Then on the last Friday of the month, we post updates on the progress we’ve made.

I also find it useful to set smaller monthly goals, which I then use as stepping stones toward my bigger goals.



So how did I do? 

Well, for the fact that I somehow completely let time get away from me this month, surprisingly well. Okay so I have to say that I didn’t set the bar particularly high, because I was trying to find my feet after quite a lot of crap. But I did say I wanted to write an average of five minutes per day.

And you know what? I hit that average on day two. It’s funny how averages work that way.

That said, the one thing that did take a hit this month was my freelancing. I’ve basically been endlessly working on some job or the other for the past three months, then got a big job at the end of last month and then… crickets. The frustrating thing is that I got that job and it was supposed to take two weeks, but my client hit a snag with the content I’m supposed to format. It’s really not her fault or anything like that, but the net effect is that I’m stuck waiting for her to get back to me. I know eventually that’ll get done, though, so it’s nice to know the money is still hanging around somewhere, waiting for me.

Then I went from nothing to having three jobs to do, but they all only came in over this past weekend, so I will only be able to record the income in June.

So things are really not going badly, but the sudden three week silence really got to me, because I’ve let everything else fall by the way-side over the past few months. It’s really annoying when I wish I could say I spent my empty days writing, but no, they were all spent catching up on a huge admin backlog.

I just realized that if I want to make any progress to the next level, and… you know, actually have more than five minutes a day to write, I need to get some help in. Luckily for me, I have an awesome brother who wants some flexible part time hours while he studies, et voila. I now have an assistant who’s going to help me keep everything rolling on schedule.

Which means that I’ll be able to regularly update as well. Eh…hopefully.

So with that in mind, next month’s goals: 


1) Write an average of 10 minutes every day.
2) Earn $1000 of writing or publishing related income.
3) Weekly updates to my vlog.
4) Sort out the snarling mess that is my social networks as a whole.

That’s it from me for this month. Please do leave me a comment about today's post structure. And how did your month go? Got any crazy writing goals that you’re chasing down? If you'd like to join the bloghop, you can find more information here

Monday, May 22, 2017

Putting Your Memories into the Story by Yolanda Renée

Hey everyone! Today I want to welcome Yolanda Renée to the Five Year Project as part of her blog tour for her new book, The Snowman. Take it away, Yolanda!

Putting Your Memories into the Story


Write what you know, we’ve all been told to do this, and I do it consistently. No, I don’t know anything about killing a person, or catching the culprit, at least personally, but I have studied and researched the topic. However, I do know a little about Alaska since I’ve lived there, and thanks to Google maps I can explore new and interesting places that I haven’t visited. I described 4th Avenue, written as Fourth Avenue, in my story because I could see it from my bedroom window when I lived in Anchorage, and yes it held some very risqué establishments. I’ve also purchased Alaskan Pottery that’s featured in the Reincarnation Chapter. I’ve visited several of the parks, Stowy’s favorite body dumping sites, such as Earthquake Park, a park created after the 1964, 9.4 earthquake that caused a residential neighborhood to slid into the ocean.

One of my first introduction to the state was the immense size of the bears that greet you as you walk through the Anchorage airport. Polar Bears, Kodiak’s, and grizzlies all skillfully preserved by taxidermists, (Stowy’s chosen hobby) all very intimidating.

I do that with all my stories, put a little of my memories into the mix, even statements once made to me by unsuspecting friends, or co-workers. Like when I first told folks that I was visiting Alaska during vacation. “Why would you want to visit that forsaken iceberg?” A former boss asked. I couldn’t believe his ignorance about our 49th state, but I never forgot his statement and allowed Fern Jenkins to use it when describing where she’d rather spend Thanksgiving.

“Don’t be foolish. Home is where Thanksgiving happens. Here. Not some forsaken iceberg.”

Another interesting side note might be the story as to how Stowy Jenkins got his name, Stone. I took that from a story my father told me about his father. How he’d taken my dad out to learn how to swim in an old coal mining quarry and threw him in. It was sink or swim! He swam, of course, but Stowy claims to have sunk like a rock – hence his nickname, Stone. This is a family story that I allowed Stowy to appropriate. He needed a good lie, and I’m sure way back when, that learning to swim in West Virginia happened this way more than once. Yes, my family is originally from West Virginia, and the name Stowy, is a family name. Another of my writing habits, using family names. . .

Writing what you know isn’t that difficult and I think it makes fiction writing all the more real! What do you think? Do you use your life in your stories? Please share a story or two in the comments.

Thanks, Misha, for hosting The Snowman Tour!

About Yolanda Renée



At one time Alaska called to me, and I answered. I learned to sleep under the midnight sun, survive in below zero temperatures, and hike the Mountain Ranges. I've traveled from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez, and the memories are some of my most valued. The wonders, mysteries and incredible beauty that is Alaska has never left me and thus now influence my writing.

Despite my adventurous spirit, I achieved my educational goals, married, and I have two handsome sons. Writing is now my focus, my newest adventure!

You can connect with me here:

Blog    *     Facebook     *     Twitter     *     Pinterest     *     Email


It takes a true artist to pursue his victims in the art of seduction, and Stowy Jenkins is no exception, especially with blood as his medium.

Stowy Jenkins, aka, Stone, and as Alaskans refer to him, the Snowman, is a true artist. His muse, Gigi, is the ultimate inspiration for his painting. Her rejection inspires him to use a very unusual medium…blood.

While art may be his passion, the taste for blood is his obsession, and multiple murders, the result.

Rookie, Detective Steven Quaid, is no fan of the Snowman’s murderous exhibitions. A twisted and deadly relationship bond the two men and neither knows who will come out of it alive.

Buy on Amazon

Thanks for visiting, Yolanda! It's always nice to have you stop by. :-) 

What about you, awesome readers? Do you include your memories in your writing?

Monday, May 15, 2017

Back, and I've brought back-up.

Hey lovely people.

So as I mentioned before, things are going better here, but I've still been quiet.

The reason for this is rather silly and kind of good, but annoying all the same.

The truth is, I've been so busy with freelancing jobs that I haven't been able to even so much as look at any of my social networks for almost two months. The only exception being my monthly update posts, and even that one I almost missed in April because I was so busy and exhausted.

In fact, it's come to the point where I didn't know how to get ahead again. I already had my first inkling back when I first hit my $500 goal.

I'd made it and that's *AMAZING*, but I only just made it. As in, I hardly had any time left after doing the work. But for the past few months, I've been doing month after month at around a $300 level, but unable to break through the barrier simply because I'm not ready to raise my rates to make more money per job, but I don't have more time to work either. And the worst is, it's not actually the work that's killing me. It's all the admin that comes with it.

But then I had a bright idea.

My brother was talking about how he wants a really nice and flexible part-time job while he studies, and I realized I could really offer him that. In exchange for a fixed percentage of my writing/editing income, he's going to start working for me for a month to see if we can make things work.

If it does work out and we can streamline the work, I might finally be able to do more, and finish my book, and actually have time to visit blogs etc. etc. And if that's the case, he can actually make a really nice income right along with me, all while studying at the same time.

I'm really excited about this, because it might be an excellent way to expand the overall publishing business that is me.

How are you guys doing?


Saturday, April 29, 2017

Update Day: DOH!

Sigh.

It's finally happened. After three years, I finally managed to forget my own bloghop. >_<

I remembered on Thursday and then yesterday, I had to clean out the garage (it was a public holiday in South Africa) and I was so exhausted by the end of it (huge garage... looooooooooots of stuff) that I completely forgot about literally everything I was supposed to do.

Sorry!

But I have to at least give a bit of an update, so here's my Update Day post anyhow. For those of you wondering what all this is about, a bunch of us have set some huge or just super important goals. On the last Friday of every month, we post updates on how we're doing. The accountability and encouragement just does wonders.

You're more than welcome to sign up. All you have to do is click here.


Last month, I decided to be a bit more kind to myself than I was lately, so I haven't really set much in the way of writing and money goals. 

It's just hard to chase down goals (impossible, even) if you're barely able to keep going because it feels like you're drowning. 

To give you an idea of where I was this past month, you can check out my previous post. It wasn't pretty. 

But then you guys reminded me that sometimes, it's just necessary to step back. So I decided to go quiet. To stop pushing and prodding myself. 

I picked up my needlework again because the repetition of stitch after stitch just soothes me. And good thing, because there's about 250,000 stitches to my current project.

And slowly, without me really realizing it, I started to feel better. 

So for this month, I'm going to see if I can maintain what I've been managing lately, plus a few minutes of writing every day. Let's say five minutes.

Just a simple addition, to see if I can ease myself in as simply and as painfully as possible. 

How are you doing?