Two Rules I Follow (and One I Should) When Writing

Whenever I do manage to write regularly, there are some self-imposed rules I try to follow, and then others that I don’t.  Then there are others still that I discover along the way, even if I’ve known of them previously.

Firstly, I’ve tried to follow the 500 words per day dictum, and have been met with only modest success.  It’s not that I can’t physically write 500 words a day, but doing so, day in and day out, really wears me down after a while.  I would guess it’s the whole “quota” aspect of it.  Lately, I’ve tried sticking to about 500 words a day on average, but have focused more on the time I’m putting in as opposed to a word count.  Saying that I devote, say, about 20-30 minutes a day to writing new stuff gives me the time needed to continue writing, but without having to check a word count tool every few minutes for whether or not I’ve gotten to some kind of established finish line.

Secondly, there’s the dictum about writing what you know.  This is one of those rules I patently DON’T follow.  I have never understood nor particularly agreed with this concept, as there would be no science fiction or fantasy without it, for one.  For another, my life as it is is pretty mundane.  That’s not a complaint, it’s just the truth.  I work, I come home, I hang out with my friends and loved ones, and I play a lot of video games whenever I’m not writing.  I have no problem incorporating some of these elements into my fiction, but it’s not like I’ve ever been a monster slayer, or had spider-powers (much as I might wish for them).  Hell, I’ve only ever fired a gun a couple of times, but I don’t feel like I know now how the mind of a sharpshooter or an international assassin works.

So, I tend to wing it.

I can do research and interview people to back up what I write, but otherwise, I’m very much just playing things by ear.  Because otherwise, my stories simply won’t get written.

Finally, there’s the rule I haven’t followed much, but probably should.

Often, when I come to write, I’m an emotional blank slate.  I can sometimes induce feelings in the course of writing, and sometimes it feels like I’m just trying to fill space, or entertain myself.  Other times, rarer times, I come to the desk with an overriding emotion in place: anger, sadness, joy, curiosity, and so on.  And when I set those feelings into my fingertips and onto the keyboard–man, what comes out is often so cathartic.

I need to do this more often.  I need to develop a habitual trigger that brings me to the keyboard whenever I’m in a state of high emotions, because even though it’s often frightening to put to words whatever I may be feeling, it also makes for easier (and I would argue better) writing in general.  When I let the feelings out through my stories, they feel a lot more genuine, more connected to me personally, and they also just tend to flow from me a lot quicker.

I think if I can just let fly some of those emotions onto the paper of my choice, I can do a better job of meeting the first rule (500 words a day, 20-30 minutes a day) and flouting the second (write only what you know).

Just some thoughts.

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A Spoiler-Free Review of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

As a lifelong Star Wars fan, I’ll be one of the first to admit that I wasn’t exactly chomping at the bit to see Rogue One.  I was originally more excited about the Spider-Man: Homecoming trailer, but when that dropped on the internet, I held on to the fact that Alan Tudyk was voicing the droid, K-2SO.  It’s nothing personal, but the knowledge that Disney was going to make a Star Wars film every year, but a “main” title only every other year, I was waiting to get back into the exploits of the Skywalker clan, especially when I only got a silent 30 seconds of Luke Skywalker at the end of the last film.

rgjyqwmw7alhlucwpltbSo, with all that said, I was delightfully surprised to find Rogue One an excellent entry into the Star Wars mythos.  In addition to strong main characters with more than just memorable personalities, as well as a cleverly crafted plot that both sets up A New Hope beautifully as well as resolves a notorious long-standing question fans have had about that film, we also get a film that has a strong emotional core that does a good job of showing the high stakes that make up the conflict between the Empire and the Rebel Alliance.  It’s well executed, though far from flawless, and manages to be both fun and strong on substance.

With the exception of Empire Strikes Back, and possibly A New Hope, I would say this is the strongest film in the franchise so far.  The heroes are realistic, with strong motivations, and the villains are unsettling in how evil they are portrayed.  This Empire, personified in the character of Orson Krennic, is a far cry from the one that seems to merely go through the motions of doing villainous things, and instead we see a collective entity that derives a psychotic pleasure from crushing those who would oppose it under its heel in the most painful of ways possible.  It makes for great conflict, and gives viewers a reason to root for the ensemble of ragtag heroes, led by  Jyn Erso, Cassian Andor, and K-2SO.

zz39a7930fThere are some flaws, though I would say they’re relatively minor.  A few of the cameos are good and add to the feel of the universe, though some just feel tacked on for sake of doing so.  The CG effects done for certain legacy characters were of varying quality, and occasionally took me out of the story–I think I would have preferred they re-cast the parts.  And finally, there were one or two physical challenge-style obstacles that had no practical place in the narrative, and just make people wonder what drunk designer could have possibly kept his job after placing said contraption where it ended up.

In many ways, I would liken Rogue One to Star Wars the same way I would liken Deep Space Nine to Star Trek: it’s probably the darkest, yet ultimately the most life-affirming of the franchise so far.  There’s an undeniable sense of the importance of giving your all to an important cause, no matter the personal cost.  It is without a doubt, perhaps not the best of the Star Wars films, but one of–if not the most–meaningful of them, particularly given the cultural and social climate we find ourselves these days.  Definitely worth a view for any fan of the franchise, and anyone who simply likes good storytelling.