Writing for the YouTube Generation

The attention span of our YouTube Generation – 30 seconds or less.

That’s why we’re Writing All Wrong.

In today’s world of mass media consumption, how do I make my writing stand out?
—Nelly Bridget, Waltham, Pa. 

If you plan to get your reader for the next thirty minutes, get them in the first thirty seconds.

Why?

You’re dealing with internetizens that, on average, don’t watch a YouTube video for longer than 30 seconds. People watch slow, and they read slower.

What’s catching them and keeping them?

Short paragraphs.

Enticing lead-ins — “Advanced healing and regenerative procedures offered to disabled veterans. The cost? Mandatory reenlistment, first in line for combat.”

Narrow questions — “Who consumes the most science fiction today?”

Distilled answers — “The one reason you can’t write a science fiction novel anymore.”

Unresolved solutions —

Writing All Wrong can be reached via email (WritingAllWrong@me.com) and followed on Twitter (@WritingAllWrong).

Five Reasons You Should Quit Writing

I love writing. It’s as if you’re staring at an empty pan, only to realize you know how to cook, and you have bacon on hand. Thus, creation and consumption are born.

Not everyone who writes loves writing. Ask a technical writer. And not everyone who loves writing writes. Ask a reader.

Then you have that not-rare-enough breed, those who love writing more than they love to write

That’s why we’re Writing All Wrong.

What do I need to do to make my writing as good as the writers I interact with online (Facebook, Twitter)? What kinds of questions or things should I talk about with them, so I have some more productive conversations?
—Jameson Cory, Pembroke Pines, Florida. 

Unless you have some existing, established creative outlet of your own, this is why I don’t recommend befriending writers. (And because I’m crotchety and mean, so there.) Writers write. They talk about writing. They joke about writing. They tell others how they can write better. They write about people reading their writing.

So if you’re not writing, what do you feel guilted into doing? Writing. 

Here’s five warning signs you might want to quit writing.

You love reading.

You read one book a day, minimum. The pleasures and machinations of the written word fulfill your soul. To you, the epitome of eros is that evening where you cozy up to the fireplace and snuggle with a good book. You’re the type who will eat dinner out without bothering to care to cook. You don’t need to write if reading makes you happy. Writers need readers.

You love fun.

Don’t tell me you haven’t heard of the “fun ban” for writers? Let’s put it this way: if you’re big on travel, clubbing, filling the void with parties, friends, alcohol, cruises, and material pleasures, then you live a fun life. Writing is insular. You can’t do it at all the fancy restaurants you Instagram. Livetweeting your awesome third European vacation isn’t considered flash fiction. Face it, you live for the thrills for consumption. Read a book on one of your expensive cruises, and we’ll call it even.

You love the myth.

There’s some idiosyncratic appeal to the tortured artists, the pre-hipster hipster who labored over each stroke of the typewriter, every nuance of the pen. The feverish all-nighters, the race to slip under the descending portcullis of deadlines, and the dashing esteem these artisans acclaim. Quit you’re writing while you can keep that myth intact.

You love company.

Nothing wrong with people. Ok, there’s plenty wrong with people, but that notwithstanding, people take time. Effort. Money. Let’s say you’re given the option to spend the night out with friends. And they’re paying. Most everyone says ‘Yes’ to that. Every time. Unless you’re a writer. There’s always something to be written. Sure, there’s the occasional luau here and there, but there’s always the writing now and now.

You love writers.

Most writers/bloggers/content creators can’t get away with being Henry James. There’s a modicum of humor, verve, and interaction they’re obligated to deliver. It’s their job to draw you into their personality and their persona. That’s how they get their prose to sing. It’s nice that you like these folks, but if you like writers for their works and personality, you’re a fan. And not every fan needs to be a writer. Sitting in a garage won’t make you a car. Neither will keeping company with writers make you a writer as well.

Writing All Wrong can be reached via email (WritingAllWrong@me.com) and followed on Twitter (@WritingAllWrong).

Keeping Writing Resolutions

Christmas has been conquered. The holidays, defeated.

New Year’s euphoria continues to run on liquor, rocket feel, and imagined vibes, anticipating a slow crash back into reality. The coma subsides. Here we are, back to the new struggles in 2013, same as the old ones in 2012.

For many, that’s reality. For some, it’s a choice not taken.

That’s why we’re Writing All Wrong.

I don’t really want any more New Year’s resolutions to keep. How do I keep the ones I have?
—Moira Bartlett, Peterborough, Ontario. 

(Editor’s Note: The resolutions/revolutions for 2012 still pack a wallop for 2013: http://writingallwrong.com/2012/01/02/new-years-revolutions/)

That is the trick, isn’t it? All the brainpower goes into resolution making, but it’s the willpower that goes into resolution keeping. If you’re looking to turn your writing resolutions into reality, here are a few New Yearly helps to do just that.

Keep it small and steady.

Unless you’re unemployed, it’s a stretch to set a stretched wordcount goal. “I’m going to write OVER 9000 words PER DAY!” isn’t only stupid, it misses the point of building a habit. If you happen to hold a job, kids, or jobkids, it’s more impressive to build a muscle of writing every day. It’s never the amount that counts. It’s the mounts that amount. Or something.

Look just down the road, not into the future. 

Become best-selling author. Get all the royalties, book deals, chicks, booze, and followers on Twitter to fund my Kickstarter island awesome paradise.” — WRONG (on so many levels).

Find your “down the road.” If you haven’t finished your novel, short story, novella, then finish it off in 2013. If it’s done, then get it represented (or self-pubbed, if that’s your inclination.) If it’s represented, work on a next book. You can build that “island awesome paradise” on the backs of years of finished resolutions.

Take less giant leaps and more small steps.

The time will come when you need to make that big splash. The big publishing break. The joint venture. The cross-collaborative blogging initiative-a-palooza. But don’t be afraid to keep moving forward. Whether it’s more fictions here, more writing snippets there. Keep taking forward strides, maybe even more than the giant leaps. Often will you miss a leap, but rarely will you miss a step.

Look back to look back.

What all did you accomplish in 2012? Maybe it’s not so much doing things different, but better.

In Writing All Wrong City, I kept my audience of nine or ten plodding along with blog posts. Didn’t quit, even though I had the hat ready to hang each week.

I broke off some unnecessary connections and made new ones. Influence is profound, and chose those who’d help my writing, not hinder it with distraction (plugging, advertising, backscratching, pandering).

I finished my second book. This time, I resolved to refashion a plan that would get it off the agency slush pile and into representation. I queried plenty (and smarter) in 2012 than I did in 2011. I won’t say where things stand just yet, but stay tuned.

2013 is a year of reaping what you sow and sowing anew. Make a little, keep a lot.

Writing All Wrong can be reached via email (WritingAllWrong@me.com) and followed on Twitter (@WritingAllWrong).

Gifts for Writers

Writing. Holidays. Good luck.

That’s why we’re Writing All Wrong.

What gifts do you recommend giving writers for Christmas?
—Leonard Ankeny, Marquette, Iowa. 

Great question! Folks, you have it easy when shopping for most writers. Most of us plan ahead, think forward, keep things unsuspenseful in general. There are works to be written. Christmastime isn’t a guessing game. Just ask; they’ll tell you. And hey, you’ll be right on the money with what you get for that brooding writer in your life. Isn’t that easy?

1) Notebooks

Boring, but by golly-geeze, they’re effective. It’s a little rude to whip out one’s smartphone or portable and start writing in the middle of something. “Hey, this is church! You should be listening!” But a notebook? Elegant. Sly. It’s gotten me out of the forefront of a few awkward social gatherings. I recommend the products at Moleskine.

2) Restaurant gift cards

Writing and cooking. They’re great, but they’re mutually exclusive. Anytime you hand that writer a potential “Get out of the Kitchen Free” card, you’ve bestowed freedom. Doesn’t freedom taste awesome? Plenty to find at Restaurant.com

3) Caffeine

Since I can’t quite recommend a bevy of intoxicants and hallucinogens, I’ll recommend legal stimulants. There’s always that person who’s going to run a writer ragged with “real-world” issues, chores, and whatnot. Give back by offering goodies that’ll recharge and supercharge that writing mind. Thinkgeek has some awesome novelties in the caffeine arena, and if you’re looking for excellent caffeine supply by way of coffee, Writing All Wrong chooses Camano Island Coffee Roasters.

4) Software

Really? Why not the ol’ parchment and quill? If you want to write for the market of 1612, be my guest. If you want to write for the market of today, perhaps you should ping that writer in your life, see what his keystrokes are going to. Scrivener has a good following, with a decent feature set that aids the planning and organizing as much as it does writing. If you’re into more minimal tools, I’ve found my writing doing most of its work in Pages (Mac-only, which you should be).

5) Time

Talk about the one thing we could all use more of. In writing, time is a premium. Why not cut your writer friend/spouse/significant other some slack? Maybe they can take the night off of Christmas card writing, extraneous partying, and other such things they’re too polite to decline. Anything you can do that gets time back in a writer’s day: that’s a gift indeed.

Plenty of options: go to. It’s what writers want. And writers, feel free to add to the wish list as you see fit.

Writing All Wrong can be reached via email (WritingAllWrong@me.com) and followed on Twitter (@WritingAllWrong).

NaNoWriMo: Where to Go with your Story?

I had a chance to meet with one of my builders. Building a third home for myself, you see. They’re about a quarter of the way done, but the work’s on hiatus.

“What?” I ask. “You just stopped all of a sudden?”

“Sorry,” say the builders. “We don’t really know where to go from here. Didn’t have plans beforehand.”

That’s why we’re Writing All Wrong.

What do I do when I don’t know where to go with my story?
—Daphne Roberts, Cleveland

(Note: NaNoWriMo is short for Narcissistic Nonsense Writing Motivation or something like that. Simple premise: write a “novel” of fifty-thousand words within the month of November. The prize? Fifty-thousand dollars. In the competition’s 197-year history, only five writers have claimed the prize.)

Go back in time.

November comes every year (except for back in 1126, 1884, and 1902), so you should have planned ahead. Had an idea? That idea just got spent over your first 8,000 words. You needed more.

Keep going somewhere.

You only think you don’t know where to go. You probably do, but it’s that “finished product” mentality holding you back. If you hit that roadblock after 10,000 words, start writing the last 20,000, come back to patch the road later. If there’s a great patch of dialogue between the werewolf boyfriend and the vamp girlfriend, write that. If you have all these great murder scenes in your head, press that ‘Fast Forward’ button, kill people off, and write ‘em up.

Retrace your steps.

Chances are, since you didn’t plan, you got lost. Whatever it was that got you up to the thousands for words: find it. Your dashing and unflawed protagonist. That inane backstory teeming with minutia that only you will find interesting. The formulaic opening to introduce your cast of characters. You liked writing about something. If you can’t summon the willpower to progress a story, we can worry about that some other time. Not NaNaWriMo time.

Just end it already.

Like it is with finding your way somewhere, you know where you start, and you have an idea of where you’ll be ending. Writing isn’t linear. If your novel doesn’t have an ending yet, well, tough luck. Make one up. If it doesn’t work, pull a page from the prog rock playbook and make it a false ending. The more you write of the end, the easier it will be the get there.

Go somewhere crazy.

You subconsciously reject the outlandish, only because it doesn’t seem to be what your story needs. No, wrong thinking. It’s exactly what your NaNoWriMoManUScript needs. Young adult cyberpunk tech-thriller? Throw in a serial Tyrannosaurus. Zombie apocalypse? Have them start a religion, philosophy, academies. Suburban women’s lit dealing with emotional trial over a husband cheating on a trusted friend? Turn that tryst into a full-blown love octagon. High fantasy epic? You don’t need crazy, just drawn-out backstory, maybe a few extended alchemic footnotes, and maybe a sudden war.

Writing All Wrong can be reached via email (WritingAllWrong@me.com) and followed on Twitter (@WritingAllWrong).

What to Write for NaNoWriMo

Remember, remember, the month of November 

The writing of novels a lot; 

I write not of knowing, but NaNoWriMo’ing 

An effort made for naught?

That’s why we’re Writing All Wrong.

What’s the easiest thing to write for NaNoWriMo?

—Katelyn Laek, Tigard, Ore.

(Note: NaNoWriMo is short for Narcissistic Nonsense Writing Motivation or something like that. Simple premise: write a “novel” of fifty-thousand words within the month of November. The prize? Fifty-thousand dollars. In the competition’s 197-year history, only five writers have claimed the prize.)

I’ll break it down by genre. I’ve listed levels of difficulty associated with each novel of 50,000 words worth. If you don’t face much challenge with getting the 50k down anymore, feel free to up the grade on this year’s entry.

GAMING THE SYSTEM: Dadaist hypertext, repetitive incantations, uniform texts found in Borgesian libraries, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,” abstract language narratives.

ALMOST EASIER TO WRITE THAN READ: YA-fiction, middle-grade fiction, crime, mystery, low-concept Sci-fi, urban fantasy, romance, vampire/zombie anythings, horror, autobiography, fanfiction, time travelogues, erotica, Christian fiction.

AVERAGE FARE, BLAND BUT LABOR-INTENSIVE: High-concept sci-fi, high/low fantasy, (anything)slash, holiday, inspirational, memoir, thrillers, military, biography, cyberpunk, chick lit, Westerns, space opera, war stories, queer fiction, courtroom drama.

MODERATELY TAXING, TAKING IT SERIOUSLY: Historically-accurate romance, romantically-accurate history, alternate-history anything, literary sequels, chiastic narratives, technical fiction, Victorian steampunk, non-Christian religious fiction.

TOUGH BUFF STUFF: Epistolary novels, continual stream-of-consciousness regurgitation, pre-Victorian steampunk, literary fiction, Gothic, saga, New Greek tragedy

TOP-SHELF DIFFICULTY: Christian erotica, Christian queer fiction, fictional literary criticism, prehistoric legal cyber-romance, modern Elizabethan drama, elementary school readers, medical texts, absurdist plays, Apocrypha.

WELL-NIGH IMPOSSIBLE: Preschool readers, ad copy, character sketches, haiku.

Writing All Wrong can be reached via email (WritingAllWrong@me.com) and followed on Twitter (@WritingAllWrong).

Don’t Feel Like Writing Anymore?

Sometimes you’re not even writing anything to begin with. Or you’ve stalled, and that’s that. Your writing is problem enough as is, but lacking writing altogether is another pain entirely.

That’s why we’re Writing All Wrong.

What do you do if you don’t feel like writing anymore?

—Tanner Allnutt, Grand Junction, Colo.

I don’t think anyone “feels like writing” all the time. If you do feel that way, congratulations: you’re a robot. But since you don’t — don’t fret right away. For starters, you’ve confirmed that you’re human. That’s worth something. But if you don’t feel like writing anymore, let’s explore why.

“I just finished a novel.” — Valid excuse, but not for long. There’s another work out there needing to be written. You don’t just whip up a banquet and declare you’re “finished with cooking.”

“I just finished a short story.” No, and WHAT THE— you can’t peter out after a short story. That’s the law.

“I’m busy with work.” — Only applies if you have a real job. Not one of those “fart around and time my appearance work when the boss strolls around” jobs, or one where you can rip off tweets every half-hour. If you can do that, you can write.

“I’m looking for work.” Easy! Write. That’s work. You found it! Congrats.

“I can’t think of where to go with my story.” — And of course, your answer is nowhere. I’d hate to be a passenger in your car if you ever got lost.

“I ran out of ideas.” — No.

Life has a way of…” — No…

I only write when I feel like—” No

Here’s the rub: Writing is not a “do when I feel like it” kind of hobby. If that’s been the case for you, find another hobby, like drinking and boozing. No one has trouble feeling the need to do that.

Perhaps that’s it. Are we “needing to feel” like writing, or do we “feel the need?” You can chase a feeling all you want, but a need chases you. If you go without needing to write, then of course you won’t always feel like writing. And in most cases, you won’t. But if you need to do it, one way or another – you’ll do it.

You can suppress feelings until the end of time. Distractions, cheap thrills, procrastinations, obstinacy: you will find an easier feeling, all the time. But a need? No. You need to smoke, drink, eat, party, coffee, drink some more, sleep, all the essentials and the non-essential essentials. They’re at your core, and you will do them even to your ruin.

If you don’t feel like writing anymore? That’s great. Join the club. You’ll get over it. Back to work.

Writing All Wrong can be reached via email (WritingAllWrong@me.com) and followed on Twitter (@WritingAllWrong).