3 Tips That Will Make You A Better Writer

There are many books that explore the craft of writing but these tips are what will really change the way you work and write.

ONE. WRITE EVERY DAY.

By this, I don’t mean that you have to write a specific word count every day, because many people will feel a sense of failure if they don’t accomplish what most professional writers do. But since many of us that are writing have day jobs, trying to crank out 1,200 words daily is almost impossible. The secret is, there is no magic number. Write every day, even if all you can write for that day is ONE SENTENCE. But slowly, if you continue, in a year you’ll finally have a rough draft of a novel.

TWO. COMPLETE ONE PROJECT.

The problem I see with many writers is that they never complete a short story or novel. Instead, they begin a project, and once they struggle they let go and begin another. In the end, many of them end up having ten unfinished projects, and no single finished project to show for their efforts. Focus on completing ONE project so that you can then have something to edit once you’re done. You’ll never see your writing career launch if you’re always in the phase of starting new projects and never completing any of them.

THREE. READ BOOKS IN THE GENRE YOU WRITE.

Publishing is a business, which means that in order to see what is selling in your given genre, you have to read books from that genre. I don’t mean just one or two. I mean, A LOT. You should aim to read at least one book a month. Reading should be seen as a way to study the craft of writing. This will be way more helpful to you than dishing out hundreds of dollars for a writing workshop that lasts three days where you accomplish nothing.

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Poetry: Bad Habit

I’m like a smoker

In need of a cigarette

I need you, even if

I know you’re detrimental

To my health

But the rush you give me

Is worth more

Than saving myself.

smoke

Did you enjoy this poem? You can find this poem and many others in Bleed Like Me: Poems for the Broken

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Happy New Year & 2020 Goals

2020

Happy New Year, peeps! I hope that the new year has begun with a bang or at least in a very pleasant way! Just like the years before, I’ve decided to see what goals I had set last year and what I accomplished during the year, and also what my new goals are for the new year.

2019 Goals & What I accomplished

  • Finish writing Girl That You Fear (DONE, just need to edit now)
  • Finish short story Pink Rabbits (Didn’t do, but DID write Fragile Fruit with Erica Ruhe and will be published by Running Wild Press this summer and also have my short story, Good Sister Bad Sister appear in Betty Bites Back)
  • Write Screenplay (Didn’t happen, but DID begin to write a screenplay)
  • Read over 50 books (I actually read 64)
  • I wanted to focus more on book reviews & author interviews and I did
  • I wanted to try more cream-based cosmetics and I did (esp. from Glossier)
  • I wanted to cover more events but didn’t see any that I was interested in, although I did get to cover Comic-Con and Shriekfest.

2020 GOALS

Writing

  • Edit my novel Girl that You Fear & send to agents
  • Finish editing my novel Wicked Game
  • Write a short film screenplay so I can send to Crypt TV
  • Write a feature-length screenplay
  • Complete another poetry book
  • Promote Strange Girls: Women in Horror Anthology 

Reading

  • Read at least 50 books

Beauty

  • I’ll make this the year that I’ll actually give lip gloss a fair chance (been thinking about trying out either Jeffree Star’s lipglosses or Glossier’s lipgloss)
  • Offer new colours for my Nox Girl Cosmetics Shop
  • Sleep more
  • Try new subscription boxes

Blogging

  • More reviews: films, beauty products, & books
  • Increase readership
  • Will continue my Throwback Thursday segments but won’t do it once a month like last year but once every 2 months
  • Will begin a new segment in my blog that will be once a month called “Love or Hype?” where I’ll try out, watch, read or listen to something that is uber popular but I have never given in to and will report back if I DID enjoy it or if it was just hyped up.

WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR GOALS FOR THE NEW YEAR?

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5 Unique Gifts that Writers Will LOVE to Receive

holiday

Buying gifts can sometimes become a stressful chore, especially when you’re struggling what to give to someone that is close to you. But if you’ve got a writer in your life, don’t worry! I’ve got you covered pals and gals. Below are some seriously awesome gifts that anyone who enjoys writing will be thrilled to receive.

SUBSCRIPTION BOXES

Across The Page

What You’ll Get: Across The Page is a unique subscription box for writers looking to learn and find inspiration from cross-genre writers, specifically screenwriters and playwrights. Each month’s box is curated around a new story and includes a copy of the script, screenplay, book, and movie or stage play. Past boxes have included stories like The Martian, The Handmaid’s Tale, and A Few Good Men.

Scribbler

This box is curated by authors, for authors so of course, I had to include this! Each box comes with one writing theme, one fiction novel, author tips, writing themed gifts, plus the chance to speak to a publishing professional!

BOOKS ON WRITING

savethecat

Save the Cat! Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody

Novelist Jessica Brody presents a comprehensive story-structure guide for novelists that applies the famed Save the Cat! screenwriting methodology to the world of novel writing. Revealing the 15 “beats” (plot points) that comprise a successful story–from the opening image to the finale–this book lays out the Ten Story Genres (Monster in the House; Whydunit; Dude with a Problem) alongside quirky, original insights (Save the Cat; Shard of Glass) to help novelists craft a plot that will captivate–and a novel that will sell.

onwriting

On Writing by Stephen King

The master of horror shares his love for the writing craft and tips on how to do better. The book reads easily, not in a preachy way. It’s in a conversational tone and shows how much King went through to get to where he is. Nobody gets to the top without having a learned a trick or two on the way.

USB DRIVES

As a writer, you always need to save your work and what better way than to keep your precious manuscripts saved than to use the handy USB drives. Every writer needs a couple of them.

foldingdesk

PORTABLE DESK

Don’t always have a desk with you? No worries! Bring the desk with you! Any space can easily become your writing nook with this awesome portable desk.

NOTEBOOKS

When you’re on the go, sometimes writing can be difficult. That’s why any writer will appreciate it if you gift them a notebook. It doesn’t have to be fancy or big. Writers are equal opportunity when it comes to notebooks and journals, we’re not that picky when we just need any scrap of paper to write down our ideas!

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Flash Fiction: Driver, Surprise Me

doll4

I could still feel Rex’s hands wrapped around my neck when I met Damon. I shuddered at the thought. Maybe it was because he was wearing a suit, or maybe because I needed a getaway car, but when Damon stopped the car to ask me if I needed a lift I nodded – still dazed from the lack of oxygen. It was only after I got in that I noticed them. The whole back seat was lined up with porcelain dolls. Their glassy eyes and red lips painted in a perpetual smirk kind of creeped me out.

“Where to?” he asked, dazzling me with his smile.

I gulped – unsure of where I was headed. I hadn’t planned that far ahead when I ran out of the apartment.

“The bus station,” I hesitated.

“Getting out of the city?”

I nodded.

“Where to?”

“Florida,” I lied.

He nodded, as he tried to make small talk but I wasn’t listening.

I kept staring at the rearview mirror so I could steal glances at the dolls. I was transfixed by their disarming beauty and impeccable detail. Each doll dressed in a particular style, goth, hippy, posh, 17th century baroque, to mention a few. Once he caught me staring at them, our gaze met in the mirror for a fraction of a second before I quickly diverted my focus.

I looked down at my hands. Thought about how they had been covered in blood an hour ago. My mind raced, replaying the scene. The blade coming down and his hands around my neck. He didn’t think I had it in me. He thought I was weak. But boy, had he been wrong. Dead wrong. I stifled a chuckle.

“They used to be broken you know…” Damon interrupted my thoughts.

“What?”

“The dolls. I fixed them.” There was something about the way his eyes moved over my body that made me feel as though he were prying into my very core.

“Oh,” I replied. I suddenly felt uncomfortable. The space between us seemed too little at that moment, and I willed him to drive faster. But that wasn’t the case. Instead, he suddenly brought the car to an abrupt stop. I would’ve flung forwards and probably through the windshield if I hadn’t worn my seat belt. Before I had a chance to react, a rag covered my mouth and I blacked out.

I’ve gotten used to it by now. Sitting here and waiting for the night to go by as he drives throughout the city. He fills our nights with music as we ride. The Doors, Nirvana, at times even Queen. We’re in a loop, hapless passengers of a demonic ride. We pass through Soho, Park Avenue, across the Brooklyn Bridge. My glassy eyes take in the city lights while my red lips are frozen in a perpetual smirk.

But I’m no longer broken.

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Upcoming Anthology: Running Wild Stories Volume 4

runningwild

Sometime in April, my friend and fellow Inkblotter, Erica Ruhe and I decided to pen a short story together. We figured that if we could join forces, using our strengths to collaborate then perhaps we could write a very compelling and moving story that both of us could be proud of. That’s how our short story, Fragile Fruit was born.

For some time I wanted to write a short story set in Sicily in the late 1960s. I had always been intrigued by how vastly different Sicily was to the rest of the world during that time when it came to women’s rights. 1968 was widely known as the “peak of the sexual revolution” and yet, in Sicily, it was very common for young men to kidnap girls they fancied and rape them, and then said girl was expected to marry their rapist in what was known as a “rehabilitation marriage.” The only way for a woman to regain her sense of worth and dignity from a rape would be to marry her rapist, which would make her an “honourable woman” again and thus automatically extinguish the crime for the man. Franca Viola was the first woman to stand up to her rapist and say NO. She refused to marry him and it made international news, as many women saw her as a pioneer for cultural progress and emancipation. While many men, on the other hand, saw her as a threat.

franca-viola-alcamo1

Franca Viola, the Sicilian feminist icon that inspired Fragile Fruit

Inspired by Viola’s courage, we decided to pen a story about a girl, Marietta who too, refused to marry her rapist but instead of remaining in her hometown of Maletto, fled to New York in hopes of a new life. Four years later, Marietta is forced to return to Sicily when her mother is on her death bed. She soon finds that she’s going to have to find a way to make peace with her demons and her past before both threaten to overtake her.

But when her rapist Alfio turns up dead a few days after her return, all eyes are on Marietta. But did she really do it?

fv

So, since April I’ve been sending this short story to various literary journals and magazines and of course as the norm of any writing it was rejected by a lot of them, despite each of them stating that they had enjoyed the short story very much. Flash forward to last week when I receive an email from Running Wild Press that Fragile Fruit was selected to be in the upcoming anthology Running Wild Stories Volume 4. Of course, both Erica and I are thrilled about this opportunity and that our creative child finally found a home. I don’t know yet when the anthology will be released (sometime mid-2020), so keep your eyes peeled for that info!

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Poetry: The Way You Left Me

cry

I housed dreams in my heart

You used razor blades to tear them out.

Hope lingered on my lips

You bit down hard till they bled.

You left me bloody and empty.

In a world that wants us to be whole and pristine.

***

Did you enjoy this poem? You can find this poem and many others in Bleed Like Me: Poems for the Broken

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I Was Friends with J.T. Leroy: From Fame to Hoax

jtreal

Laura Albert as “Speedie” and Savannah Knoop as “J.T.” with Asia Argento in 2002

J.T. Leroy was one of the greatest literary hoaxes of the internet era. It’s also proof that reality is much more outrageous than fiction. Up until the New York Times’ Warren St. John uncovered the hoax in January 2006. Up until then, J.T. Leroy blazed the literary scene and was pretty much a rockstar with the celebrity friends (Bono, Madonna, Shirley Manson, Courtney Love, Michael Pitt, Gus Van Sant, and Asia Argento just to name a few). Shirley Manson even went so far as to write not one, but TWO songs inspired by J.T., Cherry Lips (Go Baby Go!) and Bleed Like Me. But J.T. Leroy wasn’t really who he claimed to be, the son of a truckstop whore in West Virginia and former junkie and prostitute himself. He wrote about his childhood in West Virginia in the book The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things and Sarah. Both books were published as fiction, and yet in interviews, he suggested that they were based on fact.

But up until 1999, no one had ever seen Leroy. In fact, Leroy never did book signings or readings. It wasn’t until sometime in 2000 that Leroy began to do public appearances, and he was always disguised by a wig and sunglasses.

In 2006, we found out exactly why he was always in disguise because J.T. Leroy never existed. Rather he was an “avatar” for writer Laura Albert who hired her sister-in-law at the time, Savannah Knoop to portray J.T. in public.

winonajt

Winona Ryder with Savannah Knoop as “J.T.”

How to best describe the moral outrage that many felt when they found out they had been “duped” by the duo were best said by Warren St. John when he stated, “The books are fiction but the marketing device to get us to read them was a lie, pure and simple.”

Recently, a film was made based on Savannah Knoop’s memoir, Girl Boy Girl: How I Became J.T. Leroy, where androgynous It-Girl Kristen Stewart brought to life both Knoop and the enigmatic Leroy, while a wildly unrecognizable Laura Dern played Laura Albert as well as Leroy’s so-called “manager,” the cockney-accented Speedie.

jtkris

Laura Dern playing Laura Albert as “Speedie” and Kristen Stewart playing Savannah Knoop as “J.T. Leroy”

In the film, Asia Argento was played by Diane Kruger (although they changed her name to Eva, probably to avoid any legal issues). Although the film excelled with these actress’ performance, the film lacked to explore how writing was therapeutic for Laura Albert and how that propelled her to hide behind J.T. Leroy. It also failed to address the fact that maybe J.T. wouldn’t have had so many people willing to be helpful towards him had he not been a young, white male. One of the most poignant moments in the movie was towards the end, when after the hoax was exposed and Savannah reveals to Laura Albert that she’s planning to write a book about her experience portraying J.T., Albert replies with, “Remember, just because you played a writer, doesn’t make you a writer.” A little too tongue in cheek.

For years, I’ve avoided writing about J.T. because for me he wasn’t just an author that I admired (he was so young and had already accumulated so many accolades and for someone like me who was an aspiring writer at the time, he was such a great inspiration), but he was also a friend. You see, back in the early 2000s there used to exist Yahoo mail groups, and somehow I found myself being in the one dedicated to J.T. Leroy, which was run by the actual author. At some point sometime in late 2001, he and I began to correspond. And our correspondence lasted up until The New York Times unveiled the hoax in 2006. He and I would talk about books, movies, cartoons (we were both obsessed with Spongebob Squarepants) and chocolates. In fact, on several occasions, I sent him Italian chocolates.

Watching the movie J.T. Leroy was kinda triggering in the sense that it reminded me of so many J.T. things that I had forgotten over the years. It also left me sad, because although he didn’t exist, in some ways he did and his memory remains alive in those that had a chance to be friends with him. Even after all these years, when I visited San Francisco in 2016, I found myself going to places that he had suggested I visit so many years ago (Ghirardelli Square being one of them), and also Polk Street (only because it was predominately featured in Leroy’s final book, Harold’s End.

polk street

Pictured at Polk Street in San Francisco with my cousin in August of 2016

In today’s age of social media, Laura Albert wouldn’t have been capable to pull off the hoax for very long. But for me, the fact that she not only managed to pull it off, but to market J.T. in such a way that had him picking up awesome gigs left and right (he wrote for Vogue, got to interview Billy Corgan’s short-lived band Swan for The Rolling Stone, and wrote the screenplay for Gus Van Sant’s Elephant). In other words, Laura Albert was a master class in marketing and promoting, and I think any author would benefit from being more like her in that regard.

laurabert

Laura Albert the writer using “J.T. Leroy” as her avatar

I know some people in the literary world still shun Laura Albert today, but no one can take away the fact that the novels she wrote provided solace to many of those that had succumbed to the child abuse she depicted in them. Maybe, the hoax went on for so long because we all wanted J.T. to be real, and in believing it, he ultimately became real.

I miss you, J.T. There’s a part of me that still wishes that someday you’ll find your voice again and we’ll get another book.

Here’s hoping, but I’m not holding my breath.

jtbono

Savannah Knoop as “J.T.” with Bono sometime in 2003

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Book Review: We Sold Our Souls by Grady Hendrix

souls

A girl with a guitar never has to apologize for anything.

Release Date: September 18, 2018

Order On Amazon

Price: $18.49 (hard cover)

Plot Summary:

Every morning, Kris Pulaski wakes up in hell. In the 1990s she was lead guitarist of Dürt Würk, a heavy-metal band on the brink of breakout success until lead singer Terry Hunt embarked on a solo career and rocketed to stardom, leaving his bandmates to rot in obscurity.

Now Kris works as night manager of a Best Western; she’s tired, broke, and unhappy. One day everything changes—a shocking act of violence turns her life upside down, and she begins to suspect that Terry sabotaged more than just the band. Kris hits the road, hoping to reunite Dürt Würk and confront the man who ruined her life. Her journey will take her from the Pennsylvania rust belt to a celebrity rehab center to a satanic music festival. A furious power ballad about never giving up, We Sold Our Souls is one woman’s epic journey to reclaim her life—and save her soul.

Grade: A+

Review:

Ever wonder what happens to musicians that don’t make it? Kris Pulaski was the lead guitarist for the heavy metal band called Dürt Würk in the late 90’s. Now, nearly two decades later, she’s a night manager for a Best Western. In other words, it’s hell and her life sucks, while the band’s original lead singer, Terry Hunt reinvented himself with a new sound (nu-metal) and band (Koffin) and became a rock icon. When Kris see s a billboard advertising Terry’s farewell tour, something inside of her sparks Kris to leave her sad life behind and seek out the remaining members of Dürt Würk to get them to confront Terry with her and demand answers over what happened the night the band broke up.

This book was everything you’d want a horror and rock band novel to be. There’s action, gore, and passion for music all woven into a kickass tale of what it means to fight for your dreams and to never give up hope. There were many times where Kris could’ve just given up her mission, but she always prevailed no matter how difficult the task seemed or physically ailing she was. This book isn’t just about some Faustian deal gone awry, the heart of this book is to take a hard look at yourself and see if you’re living for what you believe in or lie Terry, you have sold your dreams in exchange of a cozy life.

I honestly love Kris so much in the novel that if it had been about anyone else, I don’t think the journey would’ve been as much fun or as meaningful. This book has seriously been one of the most fun to read this whole year, because even when there were moments of despair, there was always an underlining hope that maybe our heroine, Kris would save the day.

I highly suggest this book if you love horror, death metal, rock stars, and road trip stories.

*Thank you so much to NetGalley and Quirk Books for the digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

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Film Review: The Vanishing of Sidney Hall

vanishing

I went into this film, much how I often do with indie dramas, without much information about the movie itself other than knowing that Elle Fanning was in the cast (and I’ll watch any movie she’s cast in). When I read the plot summary of the film stating that it was about a former writer who after his ascent to stardom, decides to throw a disappearing act ala J.D. Salinger and travels across America’s libraries and bookstores so that he can burn his Pulitzer Prize-nominated novel, Suburban Tragedy, I decided to give this movie a go instead of my default horror film selection.

The film is directed by former frontman of the rock band Stellastarr, Shawn Christensen, who also helped co-write the script with Jason Dolan. Christensen proved to be a competent storyteller and director a couple of years ago when he won an Academy Award for the short film, Curfew in 2012.

We’re first introduced to the precocious Sidney Hall (Logan Lerman) whilst he’s reading an essay for his English class where he describes a girl he used to fantasize about and masturbate to. Some of the students giggle, while others are appalled, namely the English teacher who wants to report him to the principal. Honestly, I had to suspend belief there for a moment, cause I can’t see anyone in my high school getting away with reading an essay about masturbation in class (the teacher never would’ve allowed a student to read it all the way through without truncating it before it went into NSFW realm). However, I can see why the director opened with that scene, we, the audience are supposed to believe that Sidney Hall isn’t your typical teenager. He’s got talent and talented people can get away with being blunt as long they’re being creative about it.

sidney

Sidney isn’t particularly likable at first, but Christensen provides a “save the cat!” scene, where Sidney agrees to help jock and bully Brett Newport (Blake Jenner) with a favor if Brett in return promises to no longer bully the nerdy outcast at their school. Suddenly, we’re thought to believe that maybe Sidney isn’t such a jerk after all, but merely a misunderstood genius. Which is why we won’t bat an eye when he cheats on his wife (Elle Fanning) later on in life, because after all he can’t be too awful if he did that one act of kindness so many years ago!

The story is told in three parts, teenage Sidney, twenty-something successful Sidney, and thirty-year-old Sidney. Throughout the film we get scenes from all those three-time frames as we try to piece together exactly what happened that inspired Sidney’s debut novel, and also wish to know what caused him to become a hobo-looking book-burning nomad later on in life.

After viewing the film, I noticed that the reviews for it weren’t so positive. However, I loved the movie (maybe it’s because it’s about a writer who strikes it big but then has a major fall from grace moment, coincidentally that’s what made love Words too). Adult Sidney sees himself being stalked by “The Seeker,” (Kyle Chandler) which we don’t exactly know why he’s being pursued by him (if he the authorities or someone he wronged?). I thought the reveal of Chandler’s character was rather clever.

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I found the film to be compelling, emotional, and at times too raw and visceral but you can’t help but keep on watching and hoping that your hero will find some peace.

I recommend this to anyone who loves their indie movies to amp the tragedy and downplay cliché happy endings because if you’re looking for one you won’t find one here.

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