Tag Archives: angst

Thinkin’ on Thursday: Thinkin’ Up More Mayhem

Easy as A, B, C . . . from BB

Did you try it? What??? Writing tense, exciting, possibly even mayhem-filled chapter endings?

This past Tuesday, I suggested that you do so and gave you examples of several books which used this technique to carry you past the last line of a chapter and into the next chapter — whether you wanted to go there or not!

I also quoted a number of ideas which ending each of many chapters in his The Maze Runner trilogy by James Dashner. This set was literally a group of three books you could not put down at the end of a chapter. And THAT’s how to keep your reader, well . . . READING!!!

Here are more of Dashner’s examples ‑‑‑ but hopefully, no spoilers. I’ll name several types of events at chapter ends — not in order and not telling you which of the three books they’re from. Additionally, I’ll keep them as general as possible. Think about what you can dream up to do to your characters that will hurt them the most, that will keep the reader going, even if it IS time for dinner, or bed, or (maybe) even homework! If you end each chapter with ideas like these, you may have a real page turner, or even that page burner:

  • a kid wakes up, in a huge “elevator:” NO memories of any past life (I know, I gave this one Tuesday too, but I sets the stage)
  • a kid fighting a losing battle with a mechanical monster is caught in a lightning storm which morphs into an invisible power field leaving him vulnerable to a white heat
  • a kid is promised a place of safety, but when a group gets there, they are met with only a sign that this is the right place: nothing else is there.
  • a kid is told that all current test subjects may be given their memories back; they must choose to participate or not; then choice is taken away
  • a kid discovers a small insect‑like device which spies on all of them in this strange place — meaning someone is watching them, probably 24/7
  • a kid in the midst of battle is hit with a burning power equal to 1,000 bolts of lightning, falls convulsing and with a total loss of vision
  • a kid finds out survivors have to go back to the beginning where they all met, were challenged, tortured, intimidated or even killed
  • a kid is frequently dazed by a rapid changing of loyalties among friends: who can he really trust?
  • a kid, after horrendous battles and fatigue, is warned in a dream state that things are “about” to get bad for him
  • a kid sees that everyone who’s been here for a while picks on the newbies ‑‑ even a sweet little kid who becomes his only friend
  • a kid is made to choose which of two friends will die immediately: he chooses, knowing the enemy will do the opposite — only he doesn’t
  • a kid is attacked, seriously injured by another boy who seems to have gone completely crazy
  • a kid, in an audience of survivors, is told that the rampant disease affecting and eventually killing much of the population also affects many of their number
  • a kid notices frightening sounds and smells, confronts a mechanical monster with the fate of another boy in his hands

If you didn’t try to write compelling chapter endings before, get to it!!! (And how do you accomplish this kind of angst in romance? Or fantasy? Or historical? Etc., etc., etc.?)

See you next for Spellbinder Saturday!

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Tips on Tuesday: What We Can Learn From Dis-HOPE-ian Books

Easy as A, B, C . . . from BB

Like dystopian writing? Or are you all dystopianed out? They say the popularity is beginning to wane ‑‑‑ publishers want something else, something “new”.

Here’s what the dystopian pieces I read did for me: I started with The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. I don’t normally read horror and/or gruesome kinds of books. This was about as “edgy” as I could stand. Yet I found myself going through radiation treatments for a second bout with cancer when I started the first one and kept turning the pages no matter what. Read them in the waiting room, when I was angst‑ridden, when I needed to be someone else for a while. Couldn’t stop: exciting, nerve‑wracking, challenging, never a dull moment!

Immediately thereafter, I started reading the Divergent series by Veronica Roth. I found this dystopian world to be compelling: exciting, nerve‑wracking, challenging. Well, a little more trouble with the third volume, but not enough to make me give it up.

Next I took on James Dasher’s excellent The Maze Runner trilogy. More of the same. In fact, if anything, even MORE of the “more of the same.” Admittedly, I did have to put it down after book two to read something else — but I think that was because it was #8 of 9 in a row of dystopian. I needed a BREAK from angst, excitement, plot twists and all the rest of it.

It was literally a set of three books you could not put down at the end of a chapter. And how it’s done.

Let me give you some of Dashner’s examples ‑‑‑ but no spoilers. I’ll name some types of events at chapter ends without doing them in order or telling you which book they’re from. And I’ll keep them as general as possible.

Contemplate what you can do to your characters that will hurt them the most. If you end each chapter with ideas like these, you may have a real page turner, if not a page burner.

  • a kid wakes up, in a huge “elevator:” NO memories of any past life (you may guess some facts if you know ANYTHING about it, but I did need to set the stage)
  • a kid loses the one he most cares about, the one he promised to save
  • a kid is incarcerated in a small cell for nearly a month with NO human contact
  • a kid loses his ability to trust when he’s betrayed by a true friend
  • a kid feels responsible for leading friends and foes into overwhelming trouble
  • a kid is berated and beaten for failing to keep an unknown “promise” to a friend
  • a kid finds out he’s trapped by enormous, rock walls that close every night, with no escape
  • a kid finds out his allies are setting explosives to bring down the building they’re all in
  • a kid watches, helpless, as a sick, demented person is run down by the vehicle he’s in
  • a kid is given a secretive note, told he must swear only to open it when the time is “right”
  • a kid shoots a true friend in the head on purpose ‑‑‑ and suffers terrible guilt
  • a kid races away from a deadly mechanical creature, only to confront three more
  • a kid sees that a friend’s sacrifice still leaves everyone else in jeopardy

What are YOU writing? “Go, thou, and do likewise.”

See you next for Thinkin’ on Thursday!


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Tips on Tuesday: Distractions and Writing

Easy as A, B, C . . . from BB

Last April 21, AnnDeeCandee wrote a blog for Throwing Up Words (if you don’t follow this blog, and you’re a writer, you should). She’d been on vacation and was trying to recuperate from . . . the vacation. Of course. You know the drill. She was finding all kinds of reasons not to write — don’t we all? But she suggested three things to do:

  1. List five things that distract you from writing.
  2. List what you are going to do when these things try to distract you from writing.
  3. List all the things you are going to work on with your WIP. Make a plan.

I did all three. As suggested. I even went back to her blog and made a comment thanking her for the suggestions.

Below, I’ll list the five suggestions with my answers which I wrote on April 22 (when I first saw her blog), and a follow up as to where I stand now on all points. Thanks for reading, while I try to be accountable:

  1. Money worries: I should pay what I can online or with checks, stop thinking about the rest, and turn on to my story file. Current: paid all current bills, paid extra on the one that was bugging me the most and which would help the most to pay down in the long run: A+
  2. Internet: stop checking the Internet first every day. Did work first, for about 2 days. Current: back to checking the Internet often — and first too many days: C‑ to D+
  3. Trapped/ Confused/At a Standstill in my story: Read story aloud (R.A.) to myself and talk to myself (fingers on keyboard) until something comes to me. Current: Did not R.A., or talk to myself, but did begin writing whatever came to mind while holding off my “inner editor.” B‑
  4. Clutter: desk & house: Clear desk nightly; get sufficient writing done to devote 30‑60 min to the house per day. Wrote daily, though mostly blogs and answers to emails. Current: probably giving the house the 30‑60 min. most days (though not my desk ! ! !) — but still spending more time writing blogs, journals and email answers than my books. Never fear: I have a deadline coming up and it starts now: WIFYR (Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers), and we already have assignments to do before the June 16‑20 workshop. C-
  5. Appointments/interruptions to “schedule”: Get to appointments on time, keep phone, family & meals from interrupting writing flow and plans. Current: appointments have been kept (or deleted, which also needed to happen). Right about the time I read the Throwing Up Words blog referenced above, the IRS threw us a curve (which had to be dealt with), two separate family crises happened which took up a long week‑end and more, plus a long‑distance family event, with which we could only commiserate on by phone and email, caused some angst for a couple of days . . . but hey, it’s family: A‑

In all my years of public school, getting a B.A. degree, an M.A. degree, another academic endorsement and two more certifications, would I have been happy with the “GPA” displayed above (approximately a 2.5 or B-)? Not At All!!! But I am happy about some of the progress: I worked on each item to some degree. I can see where to spend my next major efforts. And I let family come before personal Plans and Goals. And that’s as it should be!

Accept the challenge to write your own worst five distractions to writing, and what you can do about them. Make your plan. Try it for a week or two, and report in — let me know how you’re doing!

See you next for Thinkin’ on Thursday!

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Tuesday’s Tutor: Teaching Myself a “New” Way to Write

Easy as A, B, C . . . from BB

Here’s a lesson I desperately need to learn (or possibly just be reminded of) myself: Write your first draft from beginning to end without having any of it critiqued, without stopping, without rewriting, without editing.

You’d think I could try that in November. Today, as I write this, it’s the 5th of that month, I’ve signed up for the National Novel Writing Month . . . again . . . and I am bogged down . . . again . . . with doubts, wondering, questioning and have only written 2,749 words. I SHOULD have 8,335 by the end of today.

Mind you, I’ve done this sort of thing over and over in November, which is not a great month for me, generally, to write a lot. And I’ve usually managed to win  . . . by writing most of my story from Thanksgiving morning to the end of the month. And that has NEVER been the end of whatever I was working on for that year, even with 50K plus words.

Brian Klems, online blog editor for Writer’s Digest, published a guest blog by Martha Alderson, known as The Plot Whisperer, entitled “7 Reasons to Write an Entire First Draft Before Going Back to the Beginning,” on October 9, 2013. So “BB” ‑‑‑ Pay Attention ! ! ! Maybe This Will Help [yeah, yeah: I’m willing to try anything]:

1) Rather than stop and start over, stop and start over, stop and start over, allow yourself to write that “rough” draft from beginning to end: you’ll actually finish a draft ALL THE WAY THROUGH! [What a novel idea! ‑ or, I don’t know, maybe it’s a non‑fiction idea! :‑) ]

2) You can’t have a clear idea of what comes earlier [at the beginning!], until you reach the end.

3) You’ll accomplish what you set out to do!

4) Once you have the skeleton in place, you can stand back and “see” your story from a new perspective.

5) Before the entire story is written, how can you know the end? Besides, the climax tells you what belongs in the beginning [see #2 above].

6) The less time you spend making every word perfect, the less painful future cuts/revisions will be. [Imagine your angst in cutting 35, 50, even 100 pages you’ve labored over, written and rewritten—you’re more likely to be emotionally invested in those “perfect” scenes. Cutting isn’t easy, but it doesn’t have to be like killing your babies either.]

7) The greatest benefit: writing a Terrible, Awful, No‑Good, Very Bad first draft can only get better!

So, BB, what have you learned?

BB: Quit rewriting.


BB: Quit fixing.


BB: Quit editing!


BB: Just finish that baby ! ! !

Thanks . . . I think I will!

See you day ‑ after ‑ tomorrow for Thursday’s 13!

To see Ms. Alderson’s offering in its entirety, go HERE

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Sunday Snippets: Whelmed? Or Over-Whelmed?

Easy as A, B, C . . . from BB

Ever had one of those weeks with too much on your plate?  What if the deadlines . . . ALL of the deadlines . . . were self-imposed?  My writing life feels like that just now, so I took notes from Jon Winokur’s thoughts on angst in W.O.W.: Writer’s on Writing:

Writing is pretty crummy on the nerves. ~ Paul Theroux

It’s a nauseous process. ~ Rebecca West

Let’s face it, writing is hell. ~ William Styron

I’m not happy when I’m writing, but I’m more unhappy when I’m not. ~ Fannie Hurst

Writing is so difficult that I often feel that writers, having had their hell on earth, will escape all punishment hereafter. ~ Jessamyn West

See you day-after-tomorrow for Tuesday’s Tutor

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Saturday’s Softcover: My Mother was an “Elizabeth” Too!

Easy as A, B, C . . . from BB

My mother was named Margaret Elizabeth, but I never knew her to go by Margaret, or any of its wonderful permutations: Maggie, Meg, etc. In fact, she didn’t go by any of the changes to Elizabeth either—it was always full throttle: Elizabeth. And she loved movies. She felt very connected to two famous Elizabeths: Queen Elizabeth, who named her son Charles—my brother, almost exactly the same age, is named Charles. And she loved Elizabeth Taylor. So, when I saw Lu Ann Brobst Staheli’s book entitled Just Like Elizabeth Taylor, I knew I “just” had to read it.

The book is tender, frightening, angst-filled in part, funny, and ultimately— mostly—very happy,81N-fns-EuL__SL1500_ though I was in tears at the end.

Liz, named Elizabeth for the movie star, becomes Beth when she runs away from home. How will this young girl, not yet a teen, make her way on her own?  Actually, a lot better than she can do at home where her mother is too weak to give up the boyfriend who beats her, and Liz cannot fend off the boyfriend’s loathsome son.

Plucky girl that she is, she steals some money from the “boyfriend,” and runs away—but only as far as a fairly nearby town. She finds an abandoned shack at a winter-deserted K.O.A. place, where she manages to have bathroom/water/ electric amenities, ekes out her meager “savings” with school lunch and occasional lunch leavings from other students.

As the school year draws closer to an end, “Beth” must find a way to make a friend, save a lunch lady, let her mother know she is still alive, find a more permanent home, and bring justice to her “real” family, while maintaining a decent GPA so she won’t be “found out.”

At every moment, I was aware that the author had taught junior high school for years: she knew the angst, the failures, the desperation of some, the heartlessness of others, and the pluck of the brave. Just before the ending I was in tears: not because it was sad, but because I was so angry at what happened to “Beth” next: pulling all the threads together, the horrific scene had me crying for the unfairness, the drive, the caring this young girl exhibited. It was a fitting triumph, finally.

I know Liz, the lost girl. I know Beth, the loner. I know Elizabeth, the winner. I’ve taught those high school, junior high school and middle school kids too. Read it, and you’ll know them as well!

 See you day after tomorrow for Monday Moans!

A1YSS+kQ4cL__SL1500_BTW, the prolific Staheli also has a book, A Note Worth Taking, about “best” friends, surviving lost friendships, making new friends—you know, all those things we suffered in junior high or middle school. I’m reading it next—you should too: it’s on sale at Amazon for $0.99 through the end of July.

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Sunday’s Snippets: What Are You So Afraid Of?

Easy as A, B, C . . . from BB

Lately, I’ve been hearing from writer friends that they are stuck, or sick of their novel, or nervous about it, or afraid they’re not good enough, or . . . well, you get the idea.

Hey, folks—we’re not alone!  Take a look at some famous writers, as quoted in

W.O.W.: Writer’s on Writing by Jon Winokur on the subject of angst (emphasis added):

Writing is pretty crummy on the nerves. ~ Paul Theroux

I used to greet each morning spitting blood in the washbasin, having the night before gnashed the inside of my mouth while dreaming I had misplaced a comma in my writing of that day, throwing off the pattern of speech given to the character who lived two hundred years ago.  Years later a dentist asked me if I had a history of mental illness, because the mentally ill often exhibit the advanced molar grindings I did. ~ Thomas Sanchez

I find writing very nervous work.  I’m always in a dither when starting a novel—that’s the worst time.  It’s like going to the dentist, because you do make a kind of appointment with yourself. ~ Kingsley Amis

If I feel it [angst], I feel it now and then, but I don’t try to cherish it nor do I feel especially proud of it.  It comes on me, let’s say, as a headache or toothache might come, and I do my best to discourage it. ~ Jorge Luis Borges

Writing is the diametric opposite of having fun.  All of life, as far as I’m concerned, is an excuse not to write.  I just write when fear overtakes me.  It causes paralytic terror.  It’s really scary just getting to the desk—we’re talking now five hours.  My mouth gets dry, my heart beats fast.  I react psychologically the way other people react when the plane loses an engine. ~ Fran Lebowitz

All art is a kind of confession, more or less oblique.  All artists, if they are to survive, are forced, at last, to tell the whole story; to vomit the anguish up. ~ James Baldwin

It’s a nauseous process. ~ Rebecca West

See you day-after-tomorrow on Tuesday’s Tutor!


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