A List of Lists

Writing clickbait is something I can never bring myself to do. In the age of attention, we should only devote precious online energy to those who have taken the time to pique and hold our interest. These come in the form of YouTube channels, well-written blogs (not this one), news outlets who’re still fighting the good fight, podcasts and dedicated personalities.

Something that shouldn’t grab our attention, are headlines such as:

8 WAYS TO GET BOYS TO LIKE YOU, NUMBER SIX WILL MAKE YOU CRY TEARS OF LIQUID DIAMONDS

You see, why display one number numerically and the other as a word? Why promote a topic that prays on the anxieties of being a teenager? And why promise tears made of liquid diamonds when we all know that emeralds are the most precious stone one can squeeze from tear ducts?

These list articles are usually the digital equivalent of woman-hating, women’s magazines. The sort that say you’re hideous just because Chris Hemsworth wouldn’t date you, and so you should buy these specific beauty products in order to bag yourself a Marvel superhero.

They’re exactly the same because adverts relating to the topic they’re talking about are often strewed around the page, or even hidden in plain sight within the article itself.

These lists are the most basic-form of CONSUME-based advertising, and don’t deserve our attention. They make young people hate themselves, even more than they already do, and peddle cheaply made products as a solution to all of your problems. A more honest clickbait headline on these websites would be — 8 Things You Should Buy or Our Shareholders Will Throw Sacks of Diamonds at Our Heads Until Death

Why are they always going on about diamonds in these list titles?

TOP 50 STAR WARS MOVIES, RANKED!!! YOU WON’T BELIEVE WHAT WE HAVE AT NUMBER ONE!

It’s Empire Strikes Back. It’s always Empire Strikes Back. These lists would genuinely be more interesting if they went with something like The Phantom Menace or Dexter Jettster: The Animated Adventures.

Media is subjective, one person’s Fantastic Four is another person’s Thor: Ragnarok. Nothing is gained by one individual ranking 25+ media products in a list, with a single sentence following each entry.

Opinions of reviewers and critics do matter, as they can help judge if we should spend time/money/energy on something.

However, if you’re deciding whether or not to watch something based off of one line in a list of RANKED media texts, then you should just consumer all of them. You don’t care about how good something is, clearly, so you should guzzle them all down like a greedy little media goblin.

That sounds mean, maybe I deserve some backlash for that comment. Like 10 Times Matt Went Too Far With His Words: RANKED, or something — A real sick burn.

I’m only being mean because you deserve better. Find a reviewer you like, or even better, find several. Find someone who will at least analyse the film in a 10+ minute YouTube video, or have the decency to write a 1,000 word review.

Sure, it takes time, but far less time than you’ll spend endlessly scrolling through a timeline that’s 50% advertisements and 50% Becky complaining that her fourth engagement has been called off. Maybe it’s not them Becky, maybe it’s not them.

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NINE TIPS FOR GETTING MORE LIKES ON YOUR INSTAGRAM: HOW TO BE RELEVANT IN 9 EASY STEPS

These are the preaching to the choir advice lists. The blind leading the blind in a race to the bottom of the attention tree.

While there’s nothing wrong with a blog being about blogging tips and advice, you should always be adding something new to the conversation, and not just the same regurgitated methods that are second-nature at this point. 

Follow people, like things, engage, interact, make yourself famous by sheer distant connection kid, and you’ll go far in this digital playground.

So many blogs I see are about blogging, and made entirely of lists about how to blog and use social media. Surely they’re just a network of people who’re following and liking each other’s content, even though it’s virtually identical.

If you want genuine advice, you should find successful blogs and see what it is you like about them, what it is they do well and what can be improved on. It’s the whole “do as I do, not as I say” thing.

Very few people will give you decent blogging advice, because it’s all been said before. You should check out popular, focused bloggers, as they’ll be leading by example.

This is not a popular or focused blog.

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FOUR THINGS EVERY SELF-RESPECTING INTERNET USER SHOULD HATE

Finally there’s the hate-filled, holier-than-thou lists. The people who think they’re so smart because they’ve figured out the structure of a successful format and yet fail to fully capitalise on the medium. They tell themselves it’s because they’re principled, when in reality they know very little about pop culture, and so can’t write a list worthy enough of attention.

I’m talking about the people who will write lists about lists because they think they’re being “meta” or “edgy” by pointing out what everyone already knows anyway — The facts of the internet that people choose to ignore so they don’t go completely crazy with modern, digital living.

He’s probably sat somewhere right now, typing out another one of these so-called “lists”. I bet he’s getting pretty close to the end as well, and is trying to think of a big finish that strikes a balance between humerous and poignant.

He’s probably worrying if Chris Hemsworth was a good example of a popular attractive male, because he doesn’t have a clue what people like or want.

He’s now thinking that he can’t finish with something like that, because a simple call-back doesn’t cut it anymore and every single reader has already figured out that he’s talking about himself, so the twist has been and gone.

I suppose I could just end it by saying that writing clickbait is hard, and even though there are far better ways to spend our time, the people who write it are probably just like you, only without the plague of neurosis.

Yeah, that’ll do.


Today is Monday, November 19th and don’t you dare give that yellow-haired, ex-wrestler the time of day.

Tip My Jar?

If you like what I write and can spare a dollar, then it’d be a greatly appreciated act of kindness! If you like what I write and can’t spare a dollar then I greatly appreciate you! If you hate what I write and also can’t spare a dollar, then why are you still reading this?

$1.00

NaNoWriMo 2018

Tomorrow is the start of National Novel Writing Month, that time of the year that writers give themselves a collective, organised deadline in order to encourage, promote and help each other. The aim is to write 50,000 words in a month, which will act as the start of a novel, most of a novel, or a complete work.

I first attempted NaNoWriMo back in 2012, where it became apparent (fairly fast) that I wouldn’t make it to 50,000 words. I think I finished the month closer to 20,000 words, if I’m being generous.

University work and my declining mental health were both contributing factors, but I had a lot of fun writing that story, and elements from it have featured in my later works. It’s cool to know that some of my anxieties, imaginations and thought-processes are consistent enough to be recurring themes.

After moving to Colorado at the end of Summer 2017, I started to wander a little, and needed something to focus on. I knew I wanted to get back into creative writing, as I hadn’t done much since graduating. November rolled around and I thought I’d give NaNoWriMo another go. It had been five years, so surely enough personal growth had occurred for me to be victorious this time?

Well, yes and no. I did finish the 61,000 word novel, but not until just before Christmas. I’ve written about this book before, about how I’m still happy with a lot of the story elements, and that with several redrafts it could be a good slice of fiction. The key takeaway from last year is the idea that I can finish a longterm project with my own discipline, without the fear of a school or professional deadline.

And if I can do it, with all of this mess rattling around my brain, then so can you!

My current project, that YA dystopian novel I’ve been blogging about, is on its third complete draft. I’ve revised some chapters more times than others, but everything has had at least three rewrites, to the point where I’m now waiting on some feedback before I write another (and then submit for querying!)

I’ve decided that whilst I’m waiting for feedback, I’m going to write the opening several chapters of the second book in the series (of a planned four). I’ve been frantically plotting out the story of the last few days, which itself is based on ideas I’ve had swimming around my mind since I started writing the first book. My character arcs are mapped out and I feel as ready for a first draft as I ever will.

I don’t think I’m going to pledge to NaNoWriMo, but seeing everyone gear up to write their 50,000 words has certainly given me the itch, the pull, the drive. My logic, and self-justification, is that by writing the opening “act” of my second book, it will help to inform the next redraft of my first.

If I had the time to attempt the 120,000 words (that will likely make up the first draft of the second book) for NaNoWriMo then I would. However, with podcast editing and the rewriting of the first book, I don’t think I have the time. At least not without neglecting other projects, and I’m currently enjoying the balance of productivity I have going.

This sort-of turned into a bit of an update on my works and that’s not really what I wanted.

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What I really want to say is good luck to anyone who is taking part in NaNoWriMo 2018, it’s a lot of fun and the online community can be extremely motivating. Remember to not spend too much time on social media, and if you do, then stick to the NaNoWriMo tags. Although try not to get lost in those either.

Oh, and don’t get angry that people are posting the exact same writing memes over and over again in exchange for thousands of likes and retweets. How do they have time to do that and write their book? They don’t. They’re fishing for an audience that they’ll never be able to provide content for. Just keep your head down and your story will come to life, which is beautiful.

If you’re writing your first novel, don’t put pressure on yourself to hit the 50,000 word mark by the end of November. The point is to show how much you can write if you apply yourself. If that means 10,000 words, then that also means you could write a novel in six months! Which is pretty good going.

Don’t worry if you haven’t meticulously planned your story. I didn’t plan my novel for last year at all, I just followed an idea and fleshed it out along the way. Writing is rewriting, so maybe it’s more important that you put your fingers to the keys for an extended period of time, in order to teach yourself a discipline. That’s certainly what I needed this time last year.

Finally, have some fun with it! NaNoWriMo is a silly, motivational project that we all contribute towards, and it shouldn’t be taken too seriously. Use it as an opportunity for self-growth, to improve on an area of your writing that you know is lacking a little something.

Struggle to finish projects?

Write something fun that keeps you engaged. You need to prove to yourself that you can finish a project, so maybe this story is just for you.

Struggle with dialogue?

Write an emotive drama. Step out of your genre-fiction comfort zone for a month and return to your fantasy kingdom with the tools for more realistic conversation.

Struggle with world-building?

Write a fictionalised encyclopaedia for NaNoWriMo, there are no limits to what constitutes a story, as long as it’s engaging. Tell the world about a place, its laws, its people, all from the perspective of an archivist.

Struggle with characters?

Tell a micro story with an intense, central protagonist. Keep the world small, with few characters, but give them big, three-dimensional personalities.

Struggle with narrative?

Start with where you want your characters to end up and then ask how/why they got there, and what they had to do to be in that place. Honestly, that’s 90% of stories.

Struggle with self-confidence?

You’ve got this. This year is your year, because last year was mine and it’s your turn now. You are capable of all that you can imagine — That’s storytelling.


Today is Wednesday, October 31st and it’s all a little bit spooky out there today. Also snowy. It snowed.

Tip My Jar?

If you like what I write and can spare a dollar, then it’d be a greatly appreciated act of kindness! If you like what I write and can’t spare a dollar then I greatly appreciate you! If you hate what I write and also can’t spare a dollar, then why are you still reading this?

$1.00

World Mental Health Day +2

Wednesday was World Mental Health Day and mid-week I chose not to write something about it over my morning coffee. I sent out a little tweet and scrolled through Twitter for a bit, but other than that I just wanted to have a normal, productive day.

By the way, that’s my Twitter. You should follow me, and I’ll follow you. Then we can all be connected in a early 21st century consciousness sort of way. Brilliant!

Part of my constant recovery from anxiety and depression has been to stay busy. There are definitely other factors involved, but the general rule of thumb for me is the more productive I’ve been that day, the lower the likelihood of anxiety sneaking its way into my mind.

I’m incredibly neurotic, which is such a cliché for a writer. So burn me, burn me now. When my anxiety boils over I end up with three of four trains of thought going on at once. It’s all linked to a chemical imbalance in the fight or flight mechanism, which it turns out is used for more than just extremely dangerous situations. It’s actually used in most decisions, no matter how passive they may be.

It’s why anxiety is on the rise in young people. It’s not because they’re “snowflakes” or “liberal cucks” who “can’t handle the real world”, it’s because the world has more and more decisions to be made from such an early age. Should I like that status? Should I add them as a friend? Should I even make a social media account?

I’m not saying that pre-social media folk didn’t have to make decisions, but the results of anyone’s actions are now quantifiable in the number of friends or likes you have. The consequences of a young persons actions are reflected back on them in such a precise way. So if you force enough decisions on the early mind, then that fight or flight response is going to become fairly erratic and imbalanced.

I can’t imagine taking my underdeveloped brain from ten years ago and putting it into today’s environment. In fact — I can imagine it, I just don’t want to.

As I mentioned, I’ve found that staying busy has been the most useful element of my recovery. Although I should say that it’s on top of a diagnosis, CBT, meditation and breathing exercises. I don’t think I’d be where I am today without at least some of each of the above.

Staying busy doesn’t make my anxiety go away, but it allows it less room to breathe when it creeps up on me. If I’m writing, which takes up at least two of the trains of thought in my head, then I’m rooted in something tangible whenever I start to panic. If that makes sense?

It’s like if you have to be hit by a car — You have no choice in the matter, it’s going to happen. Would you rather let it happen without any protection, or would you rather wear a helmet and body-armour?

By writing, I lessen the impact of the blow. You might have something else that keeps your mind occupied, and that’s amazing — Keep it up. A lot of neuroticism is about your response to certain stimulus, but I’ve found that by keeping your mind at least partially stimulated on something at all times — Well, it makes for less painful car accidents.

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I didn’t want to write the above words on World Mental Health Day itself. Partly because I’ve noticed a trend that I’m starting to worry about.

Let me first say that awareness is brilliant. Everyone needs to have an understanding of mental health problems, at least to a level where we can have conversations about them. Talking, quite literally, saves lives.

The posts I’ve made on this blog which have had the most views/likes have been ones where I’ve discussed my mental health. Which both does and doesn’t sit right with me. This lead me down a rabbit-hole of mental health specific blogs, who made-up the majority of likes and engagements. If I tag this post right, then I’m sure these words will be no different.

Or maybe not after what I’m about to say, which genuinely comes from a place of love:

Maybe there’s a point at which mental health awareness tips over into glamourising, and even profiting from, very serious illnesses.

I’m not talking about the teenager who posts their personal struggles to an audience of twenty. They’re working through what they have going on by talking to the void, and we all know that’s better than keeping it locked away. They may not have an understanding of their illness, and they may not have been to visit a medical professional for proper diagnosis (an understanding always helps, even if you don’t want/can’t afford therapy), but they’re trying to connect for sincere reasons and that’s beautiful.

I’m talking about the blogs with thousands of followers, who post fairly vapid mental health tips in pastel-coloured text boxes. Some of the language they use is alarmingly simplistic and sometimes misinformed. They have ads all across their blog and cross-promote each other on a regular basis, to drive-up traffic.

Mental health issues are complex, and my concern is that some people who’re genuinely suffering are either being misinformed, or think that visiting these blogs is enough of a therapy for them. Which, short term, it may be. But I can’t form an understanding of how they would impact someone long term, especially when their main advice on, say, anxiety is as follows:

  • Drink a warm beverage
  • Talk to a loved one
  • Wrap yourself in a blanket
  • Tell yourself you’re awesome
  • Tell yourself you’re double-awesome

I’m not going to name any names, as maybe they don’t even know what they’re doing. Maybe they’re just caught-up in blogging about something that’s “trendy” at the moment. But they make anxiety sound like a f***ing Pinterest board, which is a sick and damaging joke.

Anyone who is in the grips of an anxiety attack, knows how difficult the above five bullet-points are to achieve. Especially that hot beverage part, so many choices involved.

If we really want governments to take the funding of mental health seriously, then some people need to stop treating it like its a hobby by choice. Poor mental health is messy, and the remedies, therapies and treatments aren’t as simple as a graphic. You wouldn’t attempt heart surgery with a comfy pillow and some pixie-sticks, so why treat mental health so flippantly?

Finally, I’m aware of the slight irony here — That I myself am currently blogging about mental health. You should talk, absolutely. Talk to the void if that means you’re talking to someone. Just don’t try and make mental illnesses a marketable feature for your Wednesday Wisdom. They’re not a fashionable trend to be worn on days you feel like connecting to a wider audience — They’re closer to a Lady GaGa meat-dress in the hot, Arizonan sun.

Stay busy, breathe and look after yourself.


Today is Friday, October 12th and if I left this little part out of the blog would anyone notice?

Here’s a charity donation link instead of a tip jar:

https://afsp.donordrive.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=donate.general

Register to Vote!

I’m incredibly proud to live in a state where you can register to vote on the day of an election. That’s right, in Colorado you can still be bugged into voting by people all the way up to (and including) November 6th. This is extremely democratic no matter how you look at it. A strong democracy should do nothing to limit the voice (vote) of the individual citizen.

For some states the voter deadline was as early as yesterday — A whole month before the midterm elections. It’s no surprise that these states are largely Republican strongholds, as they’re the party who’ve done everything in their power for the last fifty years to suppress the votes of anyone who isn’t old or white. Presumably they’d also want to limit the female vote, but requiring extra, mandatory ID cards for “Uterine-Americans” does seem a little obvious.

Better people than myself have discussed the attempts of powerful politicians to limit the voting rights of American citizens, so watch this Last Week Tonight video from a couple of years ago (if you want to), as it has plenty of strong sources and case studies.

My point is that a strong democracy would do anything it could to help its citizens to vote, and being able to register until the day of an election (or at least the week of) is an excellent place to start.

For most states, the deadline to register to vote will be in the next couple of weeks, and I wanted to use my space today to plead a case for democracy.

As a new immigrant in the United States, I can’t vote in this election, or the next one, but maybe the one after that. It’ll be the 2022 midterms before I should be able to use my democratic voice in America for the first time, providing the paperwork goes through in time. So it’ll more likely be the 2024 elections. So, honestly, you should vote simply because I can’t.

I won’t tell you how to vote, because ultimately that should be your decision based on the issues you care about. I’d much rather you voted for a hard-right Republican than not vote at all. Which sounds counterproductive to my own personal ideologies, but it’s true. If you vote then you’re a part of the conversation, and it gives you the right to do that thing we all love to do so much — Complain.

I’m of the opinion that if you don’t vote then you don’t have the right to complain about anything in society that upsets you. If you only care about local issues, then smaller elections (especially during the midterms) are exactly how you can make a difference with fairly minimal effort.

Look to specific plans that local candidates are pushing for — Are those plans something you care about? Then vote for that candidate! The more people who vote in smaller elections, the more pressure that’s then put on the winner to fulfil their promises.

Why don’t we have a giant wall? Why isn’t Hillary in jail? Why haven’t we seen Obama’s Kenyan birth certificate? Well because President Trump lost the popular vote of course!

(Sarcasm, that was sarcasm)

It’s perfectly reasonable to have the opinion that all politicians are a bunch of thieving, lying, arse-holes. Especially as some of them are! If that’s the case then I encourage you to register to vote anyway, and then “spoil your ballot” with a protest vote. Write your opinions on your ballot paper, or simply ruin it by doodling a picture of a giant cat. You’ll still count as someone who voted, and you’ve successfully voiced your displeasure for the current system, as well as your pro-giant cat status.

Obviously there are more constructive ways to change the world, but personally I’d rather you did this than not vote at all. At least this way you can join the public conversation of general disgruntlement and wholeheartedly complain about the current establishment.

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I’m incredibly passionate about the idea that every vote matters, because it really does. I’ve witnessed a surprising number of recounts in the UK, because an election has come to within fifty or so votes. I’m certain it’ll be the same for some elections in the US. Think about the special election in Alabama last year, Doug Jones beat out alleged pedophile Roy Moore, but only by 1.7% of the votes.

Sure, your state/district might be absolutely safe red or blue, but by voting you help to either keep that seat safe, or to decrease the gap and make politicians worried. And at the very least your vote contributes to national statistics.

For example, if you hadn’t reluctantly voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election (you wanted Bernie, but hey ho) then Trump might’ve won the popular vote as well as the Presidency. Losing the popular vote gave people across the country hope — Hope that sane people still make up the majority. So thanks for voting!

One way to think of voting is that it keeps the tyranny at bay. Some people in office want as few people to vote as possible, so they can pass laws in their own interests. The higher the voter turnout, the greater the pressure.

Despite all of its flaws, I love America. It’s a great experiment of a society and aims to be a shining light for democracy across the world. In recent years however, it feels like it’s slowly losing grip on that goal. America is its people, and that means everyone, not just the wealthy white dudes at the top. The more people who vote, the brighter that light shines.

Please register to vote if you still can, and if you missed the deadline then remember to do it ahead of the 2020 Presidential election. It’s never too late to start caring. Your voice matters because it strengthens democracy and sticks two-fingers to the establishment in the most effective way possible. Wow, voting is punk-rock — It’s DIY, individualistic and you can change the world.

Click here if you haven’t registered, you’ll be helped by a friendly non-partisan website.

I’d love to hear that some of my readers are planning on voting, so comment below to let me know if you are. Also, comment below if you don’t plan on voting — I’d genuinely love to hear why, and I promise I’ll be kind, as I respect your individual choices.


Today is Wednesday, October 10th and I’m half-way through a complete new draft edit of my WIP. I have some feedback and everything is getting brilliantly real.

Tip My Jar?

If you like what I write and can spare a dollar, then it’d be a greatly appreciated act of kindness! If you like what I write and can’t spare a dollar then I greatly appreciate you! If you hate what I write and also can’t spare a dollar, then why are you still reading this?

$1.00

Six Tips For Redrafting

Editing your own WIP can be an absolute nightmare. It’s like looking into a fantastical mirror and seeing all aspects of your internal thought-processes reflected back at you. Sure you see that clever bit of wordplay, or that great dialogue exchange between your protagonist and antagonist — but you also have to look at the sentences you wrote when you were tired, and start plugging some of the plot holes that you’re certain weren’t there before.

Now that I’m two weeks into editing my YA dystopian novel, I’d like to offer some very amateur advice, as well as some tips I’ve learned over the years when it comes to being self-critical on other long-form projects.

1. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

Once I’m in the zone I can write at a decent pace, and with that comes a lot of basic grammar or spelling errors. It took a while, but eventually I learned to not give myself grief and label myself a “poor writer” for making such basic errors during a first draft.

Your software may pick-up on many of these mistakes, but often it’ll “correct” the sentence to something else entirely, leaving you with a three-hundred-some page document filled with facepalm-level mishaps.

You’re a writer, a storyteller, a world-builder; Absolute perfect grammar first-time is for the people who know the theory but lack the imagination to sit down every day and dream. Correcting simple mistakes are what the second, third, fourth and fifth drafts are for — So don’t give yourself a hard time when rereading your WIP for the first time.

I’m sure some people are brilliant at storytelling and produce perfect grammar first time, but I’m not one of these people, and you shouldn’t worry if you’re not either.

2. Character Voice

If I had to name a strength of mine (I’m terrible, everything I do is terrible), I’d say that my dialogue is always fairly decent. I love getting in the mind of a character and figuring out how they would communicate certain things.

In my initial draft I try to keep this in mind, but often in fast-paced or transitional scenes, mindfulness of character voice can fall to the wayside in favour of action-description or general descriptive language.

Whenever you’re reading a line of dialogue you’ve written, ask yourself; Is this how this character would say that? Think about their personality, how they choose to express themselves, vocal patterns, inflections, dialects etc. It can be tedious, sure, but I guarantee your characters will seem more, well, like characters.

In my opinion, a reader should be able to take a line of dialogue out of context and know exactly who said that line.

3. Telegraphing and Foreshadowing

Something I’m enjoying whilst redrafting this novel is the opportunity to hint at certain elements of the narrative, particularly in the early to mid chapters. In the past I’ve written surreal or character-driven stories, so writing something more conventional and attempting to keep the plot as air-tight as possible has been new and interesting.

In my first draft I (hope I) telegraphed the plot devices needed in my foreshadowed dramatic conclusion. However, during my first rewrite I’ve been adding in small sentences here and there — where appropriate — that foreshadow other aspects of the narrative.

This doesn’t mean you should be blunt in the first half of your WIP about everything that happens in the second half. Just think about character growth and how you can plant the seeds for it before the event that causes the growth happens. If you need a certain object in a dramatic scene later on, mention that object casually when initially describing the room it’s in.

Keep it subtle, the sort of quiet telegraphing that audiences don’t notice until a potential second read, or after the reveal has happened at the very least.

4. Restructuring the Building

If you’ve planned your novel out in great detail beforehand (hi), then you shouldn’t need to restructure the narrative in any major way. A whole chapter won’t need to be put in an entirely new place, because you drew up very specific blueprints and you stuck to them.

However, just because you followed your plans as though they were gospel, doesn’t mean you can’t shift the pattern of a conversation, the action in a scene, or simply the order in which two minor events happen. If it means an overall improvement to the flow of the narrative, then you definitely should.

It could be that you didn’t plan much before putting fingers to keyboard, and that’s perfectly fine! Everyone writes in different ways, and as long as you get a finished story at the end, it doesn’t matter how you got there. If that’s the case then don’t be afraid to make major changes to the order of your events. On a second read you might realise that it’s much better for your protagonist to endure struggle #2 before they go-through struggle #1.

Of course that means that struggle #2 becomes struggle #1, but I’m sure you have more memorable names for key dramatic events than “Struggles #1 and #2” — Which sounds like the name of an edgy emo album.

5. One Step at a Time

I loathe myself on the best of days, so to read the thoughts I’ve spewed out of my head-box and onto the screen can be painful. I know that other writers will be able to empathise with this.

Re-reading hundreds of pages of your own writing can be daunting, but if you take it one chapter at a time — one chapter a day even — you’ll still have performed an entire redraft in around a month. Which is better than curling into a ball, crying and not redrafting anything at all because it all seems so hopeless, pointless and meaningless (all the less’s).

There’s absolutely a lot of hard work still in front of you, but it’s much more encouraging to look back at the ten steps you’ve taken, than it is to look at the dark and shadowy ten steps ahead. Just get your head down and focus on that next step, then before you know it you’ll have crossed the bridge. Did I say we were on a bridge? Or a path? Ah it doesn’t matter now. What matters is you’re doing it!

6. Remember, You Did It!

If the mental anguish ever gets to be too much, remind yourself just how far you’ve come. You already grew a single idea into a story that can be read and enjoyed by other people, and that’s bloody brilliant.

You’ve already achieved something, remind yourself of that daily as you strive to achieve the next thing. I’m with you, I’m in your corner. We’re writers, we have each other’s backs in this creative struggle. You can do this — And the best part is that you know you can.


Today is Tuesday, September 25th and this evening my friends and I are going to watch people in pants pretend to fight.

Tip My Jar?

If you like what I write and can spare a dollar, then it’d be a greatly appreciated act of kindness! If you like what I write and can’t spare a dollar then I greatly appreciate you! If you hate what I write and also can’t spare a dollar, then why are you still reading this?

$1.00

Writing Anxious Characters

I’m an extremely anxious person and I think that comes across in a lot of my writing. My protagonists are often anxious beings, because that’s the mindset I understand well enough to portray at the centre of a story.

I avoid using the words ‘anxious’ or ‘anxiety’ in my writing as much as possible, as I think they are all-encompassing and easy words to describe a much more complex physical and emotional reaction.

My stories are either in dream-like worlds, distorted realities or far-away dystopian futures, which hardly follow the much-repeated motto of “write what you know”. Despite what I can extrapolate from current governments, we’re not quite in a classically dystopian society just yet — so beyond dreaming, and living under Trump, I can’t say that I intimately know the settings I write about.

That’s why I tend to make my central characters anxious and neurotic people. If the situation isn’t familiar, then at least the subjects navigating it will be. As someone with a fairly serious anxiety disorder, I don’t make my characters quite as stricken as I am — as they actually need to be able to mobilise and get things done beyond reclusively working at home.

Their call to action is my call to action.

I think that anxiety in characters makes for a well-rounded, three-dimensional individual. The way I’m about to explain this — via a list of character flaws and strengths — will make it appear as though I use anxiety as a quick cheat-sheet for character development at the start of a novel. Which may well be the case. But I’d like to think that if anyone gets to do this, it would be a writer who could portray the feelings and sensations of the mental health issue accurately, through experience.

So here are the strengths and weaknesses of an anxious character:

Weaknesses

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Neurosis — This relates to over-thinking. My protagonists will often over-think a situation to the point that nothing practical is being done. The situation is well analysed, which helps provide exposition or potential solutions, but to what end? That’s why some of my secondary characters are the more get-up and go types.

Selfishness — Anxiety sufferers worst fear is being labelled as selfish. The truth is, from the outside perspective we often seem so. We’re inwardly thinking about other people all the time, but take very few practical steps because we assume that everyone is thinking about the world in this way. So, my protagonists often assume that those around them are thinking in the same way that they are, and therefore lead others down paths they wouldn’t normally go on.

Panic — My characters with anxiety will emotionally react first and think second. After they’ve thought, they’ll combine the logic with their original emotional response to create a positive, but it’s that original reaction that often lands them in trouble.

Weight of the World — Given that my protagonists are usually in a situation where there’s something wrong with their environment or the world they live in — that means there’s always something to be fixed. Through neurosis and selfish thinking, my anxious characters will take on more than they can handle before they decide to reach out for help, making the problem worse than it would’ve been had they worked as a team from the start.

Strengths

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Empathy — Many studies have linked anxiety disorders with a heightened sense of empathy. My protagonists feel for people, and notice when others’ emotions are declining or when they are suffering in silence. Asking how people are feeling is what gets people talking, and so the plot is pushed forward through little moments of empathy.

Analysis — Like an in-control neurosis. As long as my character has someone around them to keep them grounded, so they can use their anxiousness as a method of problem-solving, then this is definitely a positive. They’ll look at a situation from multiple angles and decide the best course of action.

Leadership — Anxious people make for great leaders of talented teams. Put an anxious person in a room full of people who simply want to follow, and the anxious person won’t do a good job. But, put an anxious person in charge of a group where each member has very specific talents, and they’ll co-ordinate that group to the best of its’ ability. Given that my secondary characters usually have specific talents, traits and skills — my analytical and introspective protagonists slot into natural, situational, leadership roles.

An Alarm Bell — Other than during dramatic second-act twists from the antagonists, my protagonists can usually tell when something is about to go wrong. Due to the constant analysis of their environment, they understand when they’re about to push something too far, or when danger is coming. With dramatic writing this leads to a lot of situations where my protagonists can go right to the edge without falling. At least this is the case earlier on in the narrative, sometimes you have to fall.

This isn’t to say that all of my protagonists are simply walking balls of anxiety who behave in these exact ways, with these exact traits, in everything I write. They have much more layered on top of them; Everything else that goes into well-rounded characterisation.

Anxiety typically acts as a base for my central characters because it’s the mindset I know. I’ve grown out of the habit of writing everything in first person present tense, as this pushes me to get across the emotions of a character via third person past tense. Which is a lot more challenging, but equally far more rewarding for the narrative as a whole, as well as for secondary characters who aren’t typically given the luxury of perspective.

I’d love to hear about the general make-up of protagonists in your written works. Do you write what you know situationally, and therefore not worry as much about the characters being so familiar? Or do you, like me, often put a small piece of yourself into each of your central characters? I’m extremely curious.

Best of luck to anyone writing this weekend. I know you can open that document and get some solid words down. Express those thoughts and feelings into words — you silver-minded devils you.


Today is Saturday, August 18th and there is some quality professional wrestling on tonight.

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If you like what I write and can spare a dollar, then it’d be a greatly appreciated act of kindness! If you like what I write and can’t spare a dollar then I greatly appreciate you! If you hate what I write and also can’t spare a dollar, then why are you still reading this?

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Writing With Themes

I’m around 75% of the way through the first draft of my YA dystopian novel. I think I have around 25,000 words to go and things are really starting to ramp up for my fabricated teenagers. I’m up to the writing equivalent of the page-turner chapters; That final handful where the devil himself couldn’t bargain you into putting the book down.

Writing is re-writing, so it’s all far from over. I’ve done second drafts of some of the earlier chapters and so I’ll pick it up from there at the end of the month. This will be the third book I’ve written in a year, and this one has come about a lot faster. It could be because I’m writing YA this time, or third-person past tense — but I’d like to think that it’s due to my increased discipline. Maybe.

As I’m reflecting on the novel and the first draft, I’ve been looking back to the pages of notes that I originally scrawled out for this project. I’d love to post a picture, because they’re quite aesthetically pleasing (for me) — but I can’t find a section that doesn’t contain some major plot revelation or intense character detail.

The interesting part is a small box in the top right-hand corner of my page that contains a list of themes that I want to capture in the novel. I don’t know if other writers think that way, or whether they’re quite happy to let a story be a story, but as someone who’s spent more of his life analysing media than creating it, themes always dance around my focus.

I think both ways are “correct”, and I also think that the only incorrect way of writing is not writing.

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Some of my themes are typical of both YA and dystopian books. Friendship, coming-of-age and rebellion make up my YA themes — I think I’ve managed to hit two out of three well enough so that some fantasised reviewer would use those words in a write-up. Anxiety, government control and propaganda round out my dystopian themes, two of which are done in a fairly traditional way, with my method of presenting propaganda being a little different.

Then there’s a couple of other themes that are influenced by my own personal interests, experiences and recurring elements throughout anything I’ve ever written. In particular these are homelessness, activism and mental health. Three elements which I hope will serve to make my YA dystopian story a slightly more unique read.

It’s not really for me to decide if I’ve conveyed these themes, or done them the justice of scope and realism — but I’ve done my best in the initial draft and can only improve on the foundation I’ve laid for them.

As I’ve written each chapter I’ve thought about which of the themes are featured and how I can best develop that theme. This is on top of narrative and character development of course, I’m not just pushing them to the side in favour of a hypothetical pseudo-intellectual (me, basically me) looking at my work and saying:

“Well oh yes he conveyed that very well, and you really get a sense for both this and that in the later chapters. He writes as though he’s very passionate about X, and yet crippled by Y — 7/10.”

But it’s my themes that have kept me grounded, they’ve stopped me from going off on an improvised “jazz” tangent at least three times a week. If I come up with an idea for a scene that wasn’t in my original plot-outline, I ask myself if it serves to develop one of my themes. If it does then I go ahead and write it, and if it doesn’t then I let it slip away into the back of my mind — to eventually float into the ether of ideas that may reoccur on a later project.

If you’re a writer and you have a current WIP, I challenge you to look for the themes of your work. They’re definitely there — I doubt anyone has ever written anything that doesn’t have a single tangible theme. It could simply be love, death or good vs evil — or something more specific like totalitarianism, abstinence or Buddhism.

I just know that focusing on my themes has really helped me to write this novel. They’ve kept me grounded when I’ve wanted to stray somewhere that only served to have fun with one of the characters. Or when I’ve been lead by my mind to write a scene that would inevitably end up being deleted for lack of relevance; Of which I’ll probably still have many.

Let’s use the comment section on this post to talk themes — Yeah, let’s use the social element for once. I’d love to hear about the themes of your current WIP or a past work you’ve completed, as they’re a great way of providing insight about your narrative without giving away plot details and spoilers.

You can also tell me to shut up, (in the comments, please don’t call me to yell) and tell me that to focus on themes is unnecessarily pretentious, and that kind of thinking gets in the way of a good story — I’m no authority and I love to be criticised.

I almost wrote “punish me ;)” there — what’s wrong with me!?

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Today I’m starting a chapter that I’ve been looking forward to for some time, as I’m allowing myself to be surreal and explore a lot of dream imagery. I’ve written the rest of the novel by-the-numbers, but made sure to telegraph a plot device that would allow me one chapter of bizarre near-horror for my protagonists.

I wish I could elaborate — which I suppose the feeling of wanting to is driving me to finish this project so I can one day share it with the world. So I best get back to it. Have brilliant Friday’s, and be good to someone you don’t know while you’re out and about in this world.


Today is Friday, August 17th and the Spyro Reignited Trilogy has been delayed until November. Oh well.

Tip My Jar?

If you like what I write and can spare a dollar, then it’d be a greatly appreciated act of kindness! If you like what I write and can’t spare a dollar then I greatly appreciate you! If you hate what I write and also can’t spare a dollar, then why are you still reading this?

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