Tackling the Big Issues

Usually, before I start writing my monthly blog post, I amble mindlessly around the internet looking for some quick inspiration.

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Where shall I find inspiraton for my blog post today? (Image: Various Google images)

I scroll down my Twitterfeed, past all the people advertising their awesome books, and the latest football match, and what insane things the politicians of the world are doing. I look at Facebook, at my WordPress feed, listen to a song or two, peruse my book collection and muse why I own two copies of Black Beauty and three copies of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, and consider doing a tally of all the inspirational quotes on the interwebs.

Eventually, I find some post that makes me go “Ooh! That’s interesting.” Often, I wonder if it’s too risque to post on the subject, but then I question how many posts I can make on doing what you love (damn it, do what you love! Stop wasting your life doing what you hate!). Sometimes it’s a little ridiculous; after all, people on Facebook aren’t afraid to say how much they absolutely hate Justin Bieber/Nickelback/Coldplay or condemn/adore the current political leader or state how people who love cupcakes should go burn in hell because obviously broccoli is the best. (Note: Obviously chocolate trumps both. Or chocolate cupcakes)

Is this why Generic Author A decides to write a supernatural YA trilogy about a girl named Angel Ivy-Rose Heavensby who finds out she’s an angel and has to struggle with her love for newbie werewolf Rolf Wolff, while wondering if she actually loves childhood friend Vladimir Dracul who turns out to be—you guessed it—a vampire? Is it why Generic Author B decided to revamp that series as a sexy romance with a naive girl-woman and a jaw-droppingly attractive quadrillionaire? Or why writers decide to write the same old thing, albeit with a slightly different title and character premise?

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The series would look something like this. (Images: Various Google Images)

Well, some of them probably write those because they like the genre. They aren’t embarrassed to admit they liked reading the latest smash hit, and they enjoy writing stories based on that. That’s all good and dandy.

However, if you’re only writing a rip-off of the current craze because you want the ca$h or to become famous, that’s never a good sign. Remember the vampire craze? Sure, it was fine at the start, but nowadays there are far too many YA vampire novels. Do you want to be known as one of the countless imitations, or do you want to write something different and possibly start the next craze? Just remember: People will remember Twilight and Harry Potter in fifty years, but they won’t remember the ones that followed them just to cash in.

And, since I seem to have trailed off from my main point, I really should get back to that before… Hey, look, the Blerch!

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Damn it. Well, anyway, what I’m trying to say is… Don’t just write what’s in because you’re scared to write your espionage novel that tackles rape culture/American gun culture/proves a point to Holohoaxers. This doesn’t mean popular fiction books can’t do that, but if it’s the five-hundredth zombie book based on The Walking Dead, then people aren’t going to notice the issue. They’re going to see it and go, “Oh, f***, not another f***ing zombie novel!” like some Gordon Ramsay clone.

When the faceless on the internet criticise The Hunger Games, for example, for being just another YA love triangle, they don’t seem to realise the books stray away from that, mainly focusing on the horrors of living in a world where teenagers face the possibility of being sent to fight to the death every year. However, since that was the first in the dystopian-universe-where-chosen-one-can-only-save-the-universe, readers actually think about it. Now there are so many of them around, readers don’t take stock of that meaning, they just read it, expecting it to be the same as the original, or toss it to the side because it’s just like the original.

If you see someone (or, if we’re being realistic, lots of people) on Facebook or elsewhere criticising something, remember you have the ability to actually do more than just criticise. Whether you’re a writer or whatever, you can quit that pointless complaining that nobody’s really listening to anyway, and get that out in the world (whether through a book or elsewhere) to show people you’re actively trying to do something.

If you post a comment on YouTube saying that people who like cupcakes are evil because they’re loony lefties, you’re not adding anything. If you just read that comment and don’t react at all, or do react but are too worried to respond, you’re not adding anything. However, if you paint a painting showing a cupcake slowly melting in the sun, or write “4 Reasons Why Cupcakes Are Better than Muffins” for Cracked, then you’re doing something.

Congratulations! You’re not just being a zombie, but you’re actually going to have more of an effect than if you just moaned about it to your friends. And, as ever, as long as you’re not intending to do something bad/illegal, then good on you!

Captivate Your Readers: 5 Tips for Unique Fiction Writing

I know it’s been a while since I last blogged, but that supposedly mythical Real World has grabbed me by my ears and dragged me up into the air and out of this supposed Fantasy World in which I write.

I’m just kidding. Writing isn’t just something that people living in a so-called ivory tower can do.

Look at moi

Speaking of ivory towers, this one doesn’t look that bad to live in.

Especially with the advent of the internet and a multitude of blogs – just like this one – anyone can write. It means that there’s a hell of a lot more novels floating around, but that doesn’t mean you should give up.

Of course, you can still write for fun, which I love to do. There are so many pieces that I’ve written in the heat of the moment, instead of focusing on editing my novella, and then discarded into the recycle bin on my laptop the very next day.

So how do you write something unique? Something so captivating, so full of utter fascination and…

First things first: Nothing is truly unique.

I suppose you’ve been told that before.

You’ve probably also been told; “Nothing’s unique, [insert your name here]. You’ve just got to take an old idea and make it your own.”

“But I’ve already got a unique idea,” you respond furiously. “My story about the Vibrating Lizard Man, and the captivating story of the war veteran forced to stop aliens from taking over earth (and it’s not set in the United States), has never been written about before.”

I’m sure you’re correct about the Vibrating Lizard Man. Still, there’s probably googol amount of aliens-invading-earth stories, and at least a quarter would involve a war veteran.

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However, that’s not to say ‘War Vet: UFO Confessions’ can’t be published and, within the month, have a movie deal and a huge fan base.

It’s how you make the story unique.

Yeah, yeah, I probably should stop saying the U word.

“So, what do I do now?” I hear you inquire. “I may be procrastinating right now, but I want to hear what your tips are!”

Sadly, there probably isn’t one specific way to make your stories unique. There’s always the gamble of creating an entirely new genre or whatnot – such as J. R. R. Tolkien and science fiction, and Stephen King with modern horror – but you always have the risk of failing spectacularly.

What do you do then?

  1. Read tips from authors who have made it big. Look up your favourite authors, but don’t take them too seriously. Some say they just wrote their piece and an elf suddenly appeared and BAM! the book was internationally acclaimed.
  2. Keep writing. Unless the piece is set to harm lives of innocent people, then keep on going. The worst thing that could happen is that your book isn’t an international bestseller.
  3. Can’t think of how to make your dull story have more oomph? Look around for inspiration – Read more. Stop saying your piece is dull. Writers are always so damn pessimistic.
  4. Relax! If all else fails, and you still think your fiction is duller than striped pyjamas, don’t despair and throw it out. Read more – I know I said it before, but it bears repeating.
  5. Finally, some people like sweet and simple. A lot of bestsellers aren’t new or ground-breaking. Remember that most people are afraid of change. A good ol’ fashioned romance or whatnot. Everything has its market.

Whether you want to stand out or blend in, or whether you’re full of crazy new ideas or not, keep on writing.

Read more and write more.

As long as you don’t post advertisements for your unique new ★★★★★ novel every six seconds on Twitter, good luck!