Saturday, November 24, 2018

How I Write Humor

I had a friend reply to my newsletter the other day, and one of the questions she asked me is how I write humor. That really made me think, and I told her I might have to make my answer into a blog post. So this one's for Katja.

Humor is actually really hard for me. When I first began writing Martin Hospitality and knew I wanted to see the story through to publication ... I lost my ability to write humor.

What if it's lame? This became a fear for me, so I hesitated to do anything semi-funny. I resorted to a little teasing and some sarcasm. But even then ... What if it's overused? And trust me, sarcasm can be overused.

I still wouldn't say I write a whole of humor. I'm never going to be a comedy writer--it's not my gift. At the same time, no one wants a boring, lifeless manuscript.

So these days, I think these are some things that helped me find my own happy humor medium (see what I did there?)

  • I let my own sense of humor be part of my author voice.
  • I've loosened up to worry less about it being lame.
  • If it is lame, make it lame for the characters!! *MC 1: makes a bad joke* *MC 2: rolls his eyes*
  • Humor doesn't have to be character humor; it can also be in the way you present information (again, find your own sense of humor as part of your author voice).
  • I have to trust my own judgment over what humor ideas to follow.
  • I typically create my humor mostly be playing devil's advocate in my head as I write (this often turns into a sarcastic reply from a character).
  • Play to the flaws in a line of dialogue!! I love seeing other characters nitpick at a loophole for misunderstanding.
  • ^AKA worry less about perfect writing and have fun with it
  • When in doubt, write it. Your alpha/beta readers will laugh if it's funny or tell you if it stinks.
I'd say that being funny still doesn't feel very funny to me as a writer. But overall, those things above help me achieve a balance that I'm not too embarrassed about. Let's say I wouldn't enjoy reading my books aloud (or hearing them read aloud). But as long as the readers like it, I'm happy.

It comes down to finding something you're comfortable with and that furthers the story, character, shapes your voice ... It's a useful tool, and there's no one way to master it!

Have fun finding your humor style! Teasing, sarcasm, joking, outlandishness, good turns of phrase, dialogue ... It's really an open playing field. Just don't overthink it.
Now I'm curious. xD How do you write humor?

Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 17, 2018

The Funny Thing About Book Reviews

I've talked about reviews some before on here, but there was a review incident recently that made me realize some new things about how we review as readers. And I think it all comes down to perception.

I hate giving books a low rating. I really, really do. And I'm not a fluffy person, so it's always befuddled me as to why that's hard. Even my negative reviews are packed full of positive things.

And what I realized recently is that oftentimes reviews come down to perception.

Let me explain.

When a book is very poorly written, doesn't engage me, makes me angry (in a bad way), I don't finish it ... I don't have much of a problem hitting the one or two-star button and walking away. It's when I feel like the problem was me that I flounder.

I mean, we've all read That Book. The one that everyone adores and recommends. Then you read it, and you keep checking the cover to make sure it's the same book. I hate that!! I often feel that if it's so well-liked, maybe the book itself is fine. Maybe it's just not for me. Yes, that is a legit thing.

Because I think reviews come down to perception.

For example, one of Those Books for me was Unblemished by Sara Ella. Generally well-liked or loved. Yet I felt super meh about it and haven't ever picked up the sequel, although I hear it gets better. So I felt really guilty rating it 3 stars.

But that's OK! Just because I didn't like it doesn't make it a bad book any more than a book should be defined by its negative reviews! Because there wasn't anything "wrong" with it. It was well-written and overall pretty original and interesting with a good message. Just ... not for me.

That's because I perceived it differently than other people. I wasn't a fan of the main character or her voice and got confused several times. It just felt a little flat. That could be because of me, my personal experience, my convictions or beliefs ... you name it.

Sometimes I've read a book and gotten a completely different perception of the plot and the meanings behind it all than someone else. (I read a whole ranting review on Fawkes the other day about how judgmental and misleading it was and thought ... wow. But hey, it was the reviewer's perception.)

I think the really important thing to remember here is that the reader's perception does not necessarily equal the author's perception. Ideally, it should. But any given book is not for every reader!

So when I don't read something the way an author intended for me to, it's not really their fault that I leave the book 3 stars. In fact, it may say nothing negative at all about them as a writer. It simply wasn't for me.

This means that we should be very careful passing judgment on what an author based on what we got out of their book. Because we don't actually know what they intended! There's a difference between reading and reading into something. 

Every truly negative review I've ever received has done one of two things:

  • taken something I wrote the opposite way of what I intended (so we actually agree at the end of the day; they're just convinced I'm a small-minded person now), or
  • disagreed with me from the get-go and so surprise, surprise they didn't like the book because they didn't agree with where I was coming from (be that grammatical or core beliefs).

You know what? It stings, but it happens!

Overall, I feel much better about leaving and receiving negative reviews--and even writing my books--knowing that it cannot be for everyone. That's just due to the uniqueness of people and the one-track nature of a story. Do your best, but embrace it!

If I'm honest, the subjectiveness of reading is beautiful. It's part of why I love it so and why it prompts good discussion (and disagreement). John Barton said, "You never step into the same book twice, because you are different each time you read it."

I think that's lovely. But that's just my perception. ;)
Do you agree or disagree with this whole perception notion? Anything to add?

If you want to read more about my thoughts on reviews, you can read about why authors love reviews more than chocolate and how I write a book review.

ALSO, there is a party happening on Facebook on Sunday, Nov 18th! Check it out HERE. :)

Saturday, November 10, 2018

How to Be a Consistent Blogger

This is a topic on my mind at the moment since it's 11am on Saturday and I just realized I hadn't even started a blog post for this week. That happened to me a lot when I first began blogging, too. Looking back, I have a few tips on how to remain consistent!

If I've ever edited for you, you know I say "consistency is the key" ... like twenty gazillion times. Same goes with just about everything else in life but especially blogging.

In order to be consistent when I first started out, I:

  • set a low goal (at least one post a week)
  • made a schedule (every Saturday morning)
  • and occasionally planned ahead (schedule post feature, anyone?)
I'd say the only other thing I've really added to that list is keeping a running list of post ideas. I have several unfinished posts in my blog drafts, and I have an ongoing list of ideas in the notes on my phone. Yes, there are some ideas I'll probably never use. But it's great to have a starting point when I have days like today with zero ideas.

It's also really nice to have a go-to post style. I prefer to not do pictures because that takes too much time and effort. Most of my posts are tips or how-to posts. I also enjoy tying them to whatever's new to me in the writing world--what I'm learning.

So consistent blogging? That came to mind because I'm late on this post. ;)

There's no one formula for everyone, but trust me: it's well worth the time to find your comfort zone. It's very helpful for when you're in more of a crunch! Though, in general, I found that the more I blogged the more I remembered and looked forward to blogging. 

It all comes down to willpower, honestly. I've been blogging for a while now and so I don't intend to miss this Saturday even if I am late. It's all about the track record and being around to engage all you wonderful peeps on a regular basis!!
Do you struggle with consistency in blogging? What's your favorite kind of blog post to write?

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Tips for Meeting Your Deadline

NaNo has begun! It's a month of crazy goals (like 50,000 words in a month). But whether it's NaNo or something else, how on earth do people reach that deadline? Good question. I have a few tips to share for next time you're in a time crunch.

First, let me say that meeting a deadline is not easy. It will probably never be easy. In fact, it's really, really hard. But it's not impossible.

And, no, I'm not an expert deadline-meeter. I've failed to meet a self-imposed deadline so many times that I've learned many things to share with you today. (Just look at the time stamp on this blog post if you dn't believe me.)

Make it Attainable

Sometimes you're not always the one setting the deadline or goal. But if you are, by all means, make it something you can reach! Difficult and challenging, yes. But 50k in a month is way more doable than 150k. Just saying. I'm aiming for 30k this time even though that still won't count as a success for NaNo. I know I'll thank myself later.

Motivate Yourself

I've been skimming Write Your Novel in 30 Days by Jeff Gerke. One of his good points was that writing is made up of many small victories, not just the primary victory of hitting your goal. Guess what? If you celebrate those little victories, you have more frequent rewards to look forward to! Motivation, baby.

(Example: I'm starving and should be eating lunch, but I'm motivating myself to finish the blog post with my hunger.)

Okay, so maybe pick a better (and less painful) motivator than starvation. We're talking a movie night, expensive coffee, and a dinner out when you finish ... Nice things that will actually motivate you.

Buckle Down

This is what reaching most deadlines requires. Pretend you're in Antartica for a month and go off the grid. Keep your phone on silent, ignore your family, don't take extra work shifts. Ideally, we'd all like to go to a cabin for six weeks, but for me it just means taking on less instead of doing less. Just don't do anything extra.

That allows you to buckle down and get it done. It's not always pleasant, but it's a reward in and of itself when you finish! Spend some time finding what works best for you before you get started so you've got your ideal space, your time, and then just knock. it. out.

Find a Partner

Everyone is statistically more successful with an accountability partner. Everyone. Whether it's a group (like Camp NaNo cabins) or one person, find somebody! Someone who will tell you to suck it up and get it done, but who will also listen to your problems and give you ideas, and try to encourage you. Writing is already hard before adding a deadline! So if you can find another writer who's willing to prod you along, you'll have someone who understands.

Take Breaks

You'll also need someone who can tell you to take breaks. Breaks are vital to success because otherwise you'll burn out. (Trust me, I'm the burnout queen.) So even when you're on a deadline, you have to eat, sleep, and still take breaks. Even though it feels counterproductive to take a nap, a walk, or watch an episode of something ... it might be just what you need. 

My go-to break is Netflix. It's the ultimate form of chill and as long as I have the willpower to pick only one episode, it's got a fixed end. Besides, as a writer, I almost always get an idea when watching something. Being a writer isn't only about writing.

I'm sure there are two hundred other tips I could throw at you, but I feel like that's a good start (and I'm still starving).
How do you meet a deadline? What incentives help motivate you?