The Beginning Writer is on hiatus.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Sorry guys, but I have to take a break from the blog. If you have been following my posts you'll know that I have a mental illness and have been struggling a lot more lately to deal with it. So, for right now, I have to take care of myself and do what is best for me and that means stepping back for a while. I need to make my mental health a priority right now so my main focuses for the time being will be work and writing my first book. 

If you are interested in how things are going you are welcome to follow me on Twitter. I'm pretty active over there and I always welcome new friends. 

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Living (and Writing) With Depression

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

This post is going to be a little different than most. I didn't plan this post out ahead of time. This is all coming straight from my head to the page. 

I don't talk about myself much on the blog, but you should know that when I was 19, I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder. That was a long time ago, but I still struggle everyday. My Bipolar Disorder is pretty stable right now but the Borderline disorder makes every day a chore. 

I always dreamed of being a writer. Actually, I had a lot of dreams, but life doesn't always work out the way you hoped it would. I struggled for twenty years, and even though I don't have much to show for it, I am still not giving up. I still have dreams. I still want to be a writer. 

I love writing, studying writing, and working on this blog. But then depression hits. Sometimes it's brought on by something specific, sometimes it's purely chemical, but either way, it knocks me on my ass and makes doing anything but staring at the TV screen seem impossible. When I am in the thick of it, I don't know how to do anything other than breathe through the next five minutes, and the five minutes after that, and the five minutes after that. There is nothing else I can do. 

Once the worst of it passes, I can breathe a little easier but the world around me is still out of focus. When I try to concentrate, any moment of clarity floats away as soon as I try to grab it. When I try to think of reading or writing anything, a brick smashes down on my head and then makes itself at home right behind my eyes. Everything goes dark. 

The only way I've found to get through times like these is to try not to isolate myself and simply give it time. For me, for now, the fog lifts eventually. Eventually, I am able to see clearly again and the thoughts and ideas start to come more freely. I can think again. I can write again. I can work again. 

So, if a week or two goes by without my sharing a post on the blog, you will know now that it's isn't because I don't care to post. It isn't because I have given up. It's only because living with a mental illness is hard. It's no fun losing control of your own thoughts and emotions. I can only do my best and always keep fighting. 


Quotes To Inspire and Guide You (part 4)

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

I love quotes. I've been collecting them for years. There's just something about these compact bits of inspiration or advice that really appeals to me. I collect quotes that speak to me, teach me something, or motivate me in some way. But most of all, I collect quotes that help me feel a little less alone. Hopefully, you'll find something here that makes you feel the same way.


"If you want to write, you can. Fear stops most people from writing, not lack of talent, whatever that is. Who am I? What right do I have to speak? Who will listen to me if I do? You're a human being, with a unique story to tell, and you have every right. If you speak with passion. Many of us will listen. We need stories to live, all of us. We live by story. Yours enlarges the circle."
   - Richard Rhodes

"Believe in your own identity and your own opinions. Proceed with confidence, generating it, if necessary, by pure willpower. Writing is an act of ego and you might as well admit it. Use it's energy to keep yourself going."
                          -William Zinsser

"Writing is a very hard thing to do because it covers such a long space of time, and if you get discouraged it is not a bad sign, but a good one. If you think you are not doing it will, you are thinking the way real novelists do. I never knew anyone who did not feel greatly discouraged at times, and some get desperate, and I have always found that to be a good symptom."
               -Maxwell Perkins

"A note: despair at the badness of the book; can't think how I ever could write such stuff, and with such excitement: that's yesterday: today I think it good again. A note, by way of advising other Virginias with other books that this is the way of the thing: up down up down, and Lord know the truth."
                         -Virginia Woolf

"The best advice on writing I ever received was: Invent your confidence. When your're trying something new, insecurity and stage fright come with the territory. Many wonderful writers (and other artists) have been plagued by insecurity throughout their professional lives. How could it be otherwise? By its nature, art involves risk. It's not easy, but sometimes one has to invent one's confidence.

My own best advice to young writers is: follow your curiosity and passion. What fascinates you will probably fascinate others. But, even if it doesn't, you will have devoted your life to what you love. An important corollary is that it's no use trying to write like someone else. Discover what's uniquely yours."
                          -Diane Ackerman

"You have to assume that the act of writing is the most important of all. If you start worrying about people's feelings, then you'll get nowhere at all."

                          -Norman Mailer

"Be persistent. Editors change; editorial tastes change; markets change. Too many beginning writers give up too easily."
                      -John Jakes

"Take out another notebook, pick up another pen, and just write, just write, just write. In the middle of the world, make one positive step. In the center of chaos, make one definitive act. Just write. Say yes, stay alive, be awake. Just write. Just write. Just write."
                      -Natalie Goldberg


"Find a subject you care about and which you in your heart feel others should care about. It is this genuine caring, not your games with language, which will be the most compelling and seductive element in your style."
                     -Kurt Vonnegut

"You can write about anything, and if you write well enough, even the reader with no intrinsic interest in the subject will become involved."
                     -Tracy Kidder

"Writers don't write from experience, though many are resistant to admit that they don't. I want to be clear about this. If you wrote from experience, you'd get maybe one book, maybe three poems. Writers write from empathy."
                      -Nikki Giovanni


"Use your eyes and ears. Think. still read. And then, when you have found your idea, don't be afraid of it, or of your pen and paper; write it down as nearly as possible as you would express it in speech; swiftly, un-self-consciously, without stopping to think about the form of it all. Revise it afterwards, but only afterwards. To stop and think about form in mid-career, while the idea is still in motion is like throwing out your clutch halfway up a hill and having to start in low again. You never get back to your old momentum."
                -David Lambuth

"Don't think and then write it down. Think on paper."
                      -Harry Kemelman

"If you write, good ideas must come welling up into you so that you have something to write. If good ideas do not come at once, or for a long time, do not be troubled at all. Wait for them. Put down little ideas no matter how insignificant they are. But do not feel, any more, guilty about idleness and solitude."
              -Brenda Ueland

"Put your notes away before you begin a draft. What you remember is probably what should be remembered; what you forget is probably what should be forgotten. No matter; you'll have a chance to go back to your notes after the draft is completed. What is important is to achieve a draft which allows the writing to flow."
                     -Donald M. Murray

Rules and Commandments

"A good rule for writers: Do not explain overmuch."
                     -W. Somerset Maugham

"The best rule for writing, as well as for speaking, is to use always the simplest words that will accurately convey your thought."
                     -David Lambuth

"Writing has laws of perspective, of light and shade, just as painting does, or music. If you are born knowing them, fine. If not, learn them. Then rearrange the rules to suit yourself."
                     -Truman Capote

"There are so many different kinds of writing and so many ways to work that the only rule is this: do what works. Almost everything has been tried and found to succeed for somebody. The methods, even the ideas, of successful writers contradict contradict each other in a most heartening way, and the only element I find common to all successful writers is persistence, an overwhelming determination to succeed."
              -Sophy Burnham

Do you have a favorite quote? Let me know and I will add it here.

I'll talk to you guys soon!


Using Point of View Correctly

Wednesday, August 30, 2017
using point of view correctly, examples, narration, style

Anyone can tell you that good writing flows easily from beginning to end without reminding the reader that there is a writer behind the words. Unfortunately, many beginning writers sometimes ruin that flow by constantly reinserting their point of view character back into the narrative. Once you've moved the reader into the story, you don't want to yank him out again by placing your character in every sentence. 

Kristen Johnson Ingram, an author of over twenty books and instructor for, calls this the "viewpoint intruder." 

"He noticed..."

In the book Crafting Novels and Short Stories, Ms. Ingram provides us with several great examples of viewpoint intrusion. The first one she mentions is the use of the word, noticed. She provides an example:

The others were laughing and talking as they sat down at the table. As Kirk reached across the table for the bread, he noticed his hands. His fingers were long and brown, and he noticed how the light gleamed off his wedding ring. 

In this example, Ms. Ingram points out that the writer has inserted not one, but two intrusive "notices." He noticed his hands and noticed the gleam on his wedding ring. The scene would be smoother if she wrote it more like this:

Kirk reached across the table for the bread. His fingers were long and brown, and light gleamed on his wedding ring. 

Here's another example, this one from an essay:

I looked over at Jenny propped up on the hospital bed. I could see her bright smile, but I knew she was in pain. 

"I looked" and "I could see" are both unnecessary intrusions (and we might even include "I knew"). The point of view character has been in the hospital for some time, thinking about Jenny's circumstances. So all she needed was, "Jenny was propped up on the bed. She was smiling, but I knew she was in pain." Or even, "Jenny was propped up in the bed, smiling in spite of her pain."

Use Your Senses

Ms. Ingram also talks about how easy it is for the viewpoint intruder to take over when we are writing about sensory impressions. She gives us another example:

Rob opened the door. He could smell fried chicken and onions, and he heard the butter crackling in the skillet. His mouth watered from hunger. 

Rob's senses are great but you can use them better by implying, not reminding us of, his presence until you need it:

Rob opened the door. The aroma of fried chicken crackling in the skillet with onion made his mouth water. 

Stay Vigilant 

Try not to be too hard on yourself when you catch your point of view character creeping into your narrative. It happens to the best writers. We just need to stay vigilant and keep a look out for those moments when we've allowed viewpoint intrusion to take over and then we just have to get rid of them. With practice, we'll get better and better at weeding them out. 

Have you been letting your character's viewpoint intrude on your narrative? 

Until next week!


Kristen Johnson Ingram's Author Page on Amazon

How To Create Unique Characters

Wednesday, August 23, 2017
creating unique characters, character creation, writing, ideas, brainstorming, inspiration

I'm in the character creation stage of a new story so as part of my series on new beginnings, I want to go over some great brainstorming tips I found. Today, I'm going to share something from one of my favorite books on writing, The Art and Craft of Storytelling: A Comprehensive Guide to Classic Writing Techniques, by Nancy Lamb, where the author reminds us that our challenge as writers is to "create a character that lives and breathes on the page, a character that laughs and cries and makes the reader feel those emotions." She tells us:

When you approach your characters, remember it is not only the hero that must stand out. All the characters in your story, major and minor characters, should occupy a unique place in your own imagination in order for them to occupy that same status in the reader's imagination.

A Matter of Authenticity

Before you become too involved in writing your story, take the time to do everything you can to establish the essence of your character in your own mind.

A strong character doesn't behave the way you want him to. A strong character behaves the way he should. Every time you write a new scene ask yourself if your hero's action is authentic. 

If you are writing about a woman who is excruciatingly shy, she can't walk into a party where she doesn't know anyone and introduce herself to the nearest stranger. Not going to happen.

Keep in mind that the actions of the character must be organic; they must grow naturally from the heart and mind of that character. Once you've established this foundation, you can move forward into your story with confidence. 

How To Create Unique Characters

There are endless ways to flesh out a character. One way to create multiple dimensions in the person who inhabits the pages of your book is to imagine different aspects of that character's inner and outer life. Here's a list of possible character traits for you to consider. This is a taking-off point. A framework to help you invent fully rounded and interesting characters. Add to it. Subtract from it. Embellish, embroider, and expand it. But most of all, use it.

Personality: Is your character aggressive or passive? Brave or fearful? Confident or shy? Creative? Eccentric? Introverted or extroverted? Logical? Optimistic or pessimistic? Paranoid? Risk-adverse or risk-taking?

Defining traits: Could your character be described as a bully or an underdog? A geek or a loner? A joiner or a leader? On the other hand, is he cold and warm? Confrontational and eager to please? Defiant and indifferent? Disliked? Feared? The life of the party or reclusive? 

Origin: DId your character grow up in an urban or rural area? In the big city or a small town? On which continent? In which country? With one parent or both? Was he an orphan? (How did these things affect his world view?) 

Home: Where does your character hang his hat? In a city or the suburbs? On the coast or in the plains? On an island? In the desert?

Shelter: What kind of building does your character live in? Apartment? Farm? House? What architecture style? Mansion? Public housing? Ranch? Shack? On the street?

Family Constellation: Does your character have children or grandchildren? Are her grandparents still living? Is she single, married, separated, or divorced? What's her relationship with her parent(s) or stepparent(s)? Where does she fall in the birth order? Does she have any pets?

Best Friends: Who are your character's best friends? What genders are they? How did they meet? What's the nature of the relationships? What interests do they share? How often do they communicate with one another? 

Interests: What is your character passionate about? Art, music, film, literature? Animals? The environment? Science and technology? Politics and religion? Culture, cuisine, and travel? Sports and games?

Dislikes: What repulses and irritates your character? Leafy green vegetables? Classical music? The opposite sex? Rude drivers? 

Favorites: What's your character's favorite...artist? Book or author? Clothing line? Color? Song? Flower? Food? Game? Sport? Movie or TV show?

Hobbies: When your character isn't at work, she's spending her time....antiquing? Camping? Coin or stamp collecting? Gaming? Gardening? Cooking? Painting, drawing, or sculpting? Parachute jumping or rock climbing? Shopping? Volunteering? 

Clothes: How does your character dress? Casual, trendy, sloppy, formal? Does he take pride in his appearance? Does he spend money on clothes?

Names: Does your character have a nickname? If so, what does that name reflect? Her appearance, circumstance, personality? Does she like or hate her nickname? If she's married, did she take her spouses name?

Body language: How does your character carry himself? Does he stand straight? Make eye-contact? Have a limp handshake? Walk as if defeated, with slumped shoulders? Glide gracefully down hallways? Trip and fall often? 

As you apply these particulars, preferences, and circumstances to your character, as yourself the following questions:

  • Is my character too bland? Too homogeneous?
  • How do the traits reflect the heart and spirit of my character?
  • How do they demonstrate who he is and what he stands for?
  • How do these traits indicate emotional conflict?
  • What do they say about his inner life?
  • What do they say about his outer life?
  • How do the traits indicate the complexity of the character?
  • What other traits, circumstances, or preferences can add depth and texture and conflicts to the character?

That's it for today! I hope this was as helpful to you as it was for me. If you have any questions or comments, let me know.

Until next week!


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