Friday, June 26, 2015

Mrs. Weasley's Chocolate Fudge Inspired by Harry Potter and The Sorcerer's Stone

I grew up with certain sets of rules, some of them unspoken, like:

Don’t play in the freeway…that probably won't end well. 

Don’t wear trashy clothes…you’re better than that.

Don’t start eating until everyone’s seated (not that I ever followed this one)…it's impolite.

Don’t read the Harry Potter books…they’re not good. 

That last one was always a bit vague. I knew it had something to do with the fact that people thought the book promoted witchcraft….and maybe it was an agent of the devil? I wasn’t really sure. And I didn’t really care.

At least not at first. But when I got a bit older, it started bothering me. Almost everyone I knew said that Harry Potter was evil. I didn’t know whether that was true, but I had the nagging suspicion that it wasn’t. So, instead of getting information from people who, upon inquiry, had never actually read the book themselves, I decided to go right to the source.

I started reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, half expecting it to be saturated with detailed instructions on how to cast hexes…or maybe extremely subtle underlying messages that were trying to turn people into devil-worshipers.

But it didn’t have any of that. I went into the series as a research project, and came out having discovered a beautiful story. The Harry Potter series is full of sweet messages about looking deeper, not judging people based on looks or even apparent actions. It teaches people to never give up, to always be brave (thanks for that, Neville), and how important family and friends are.
Which is why I chose Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone as the book of the month. Not only is it a good book, but it’s an important one. At least to me.

And anyone who attacks this book on the grounds of it being 'evil,' well, I will respectfully announce that that person has no idea what he/she is talking about. *casts shield charm* *realizes it doesn't work* *runs*

I think we all know the plot, but I’m going to tell you anyway because it’s fun:

Harry Potter didn’t know his parents were wizards. He didn’t know they were killed by Vol—er, He Who Must Not Be Named. And, until a giant shows up on the doorstop, he didn’t know he was going to go to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry when he turned 11. But he soon finds himself on a train headed to the wizarding boarding school. Scrawny and a bit shy, he’s happy to make friends with a red-headed boy named Ron and a kid called Neville who can never find his toad. He thinks that maybe, here with people of his kind, he’ll be able to fit in like he was unable to in the muggle world. But it turns out that there are still things he doesn’t understand...things that people are keeping from him. Why does everyone seem to know who he is? And why does the greasy haired Professor Snape hate him so much? And why on earth is there a three-headed dog named Fluffy guarding a stone of unimaginable power in a restricted area of the Hogwarts castle? With the help of Ron and a bossy witch named Hermoine who fears getting expelled more than death, Harry sets out to discover the truth. But the truth, as the headmaster Dumbledore says, is “a beautiful and terrible thing, and should therefore be treated with great caution.” 

One of the aspects I love the most about this book, aside from the brilliantly humorous writing style, is the Weasley family. Nobody can deny Fred and George’s awesomeness, and the relationship between them and Percy the Prefect is hilarious. This is one of the only books in which I find Ron a bearable, even likeable, character. But it’s Mrs. Weasley who is my favorite. She ends up becoming a mother-figure to Harry later in the series, and this is hinted at in the first book.

She only met him once and was all kindness, helping him find his way onto platform nine and three-quarters. And she made him a sweater and some chocolate fudge for Christmas. I think this was partly because she wanted to be nice to Ron’s new friend. But I’m sure it also had to do with the fact that she looked at this orphaned boy who had lived under a staircase for years and decided that she was going to try to make up for all of the love he never got at home. Because that’s just what Mrs. Weasley does.

I’ve always loved that about her, so I thought it would be fun to make the fudge she sent Harry for Christmas. It’s chocolate, partly because that’s what it is in the book, and partly because, as Lupin taught us in The Prisoner of Azkaban, chocolate will make anybody feel better.

Because my younger brother has to follow a paleo diet, I tailored the recipe to fit this restriction. So not only is it chocolate, but it's healthy. Somewhat. Here’s the recipe:

Paleo Fudge
Ingredients –
  • 1 cup of melted coconut oil
  • 1 cup of cashew butter. I used salted because I like the way chocolate and salt go together, but that’s just me. You can also use almond butter if you want….but it comes out a bit more almond tasting.
  • ¾ cup of unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup of maple syrup, depending on whether or not you like sweets as much as Ron
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon…because cinnamon makes everything taste better. Except for scrambled eggs. Just don't even try. 
Directions –

1. Put all ingredients in a vitamix…or some other blender. Though if you don’t own one, you should probably look into buying a vitamix, especially if you have health restrictions. My vitamix is basically the equivalent of the Elder Wand…I can do anything with this puppy.
2. Line mini muffin tins with more melted coconut oil. Fill each tin up about half to three-quarters of the way full. This will give you enough for two sheets of mini muffin tins. 
3. Put in freezer for exactly 9 and 3/4 minutes. Okay, just kidding. It needs to go in for 30 minutes to an hour, then pop them out of their tins with a knife and refrigerate. Or eat. I prefer eat.

After I made these, I seriously considered running through the house and yelling “Troll! Troll in the dungeon!” so that my family would run away and leave me to eat them by myself. But I decided against it because it wouldn’t be believable. After all, we don’t have a dungeon….Or a troll. A shame, really. But that’s nothing compared to having to come to terms with the fact that, no matter how badly I wish for it, quidditch will never be a real sport.

At least I can levitate a plate of Mrs. Weasley inspired fudge. With Photoshop. But still. 
What about you? Are you a Harry Potter fan? I'd love to hear about your favorite bits from the first book! And if you've never read Harry Potter, either because you haven't gotten around to it or because some crazy person told you it was horrible, I'd encourage you to check it out. It's one of my favorite series: fun writing style, master world-building, great messages, and awesome characters. I'm interested to hear what you think of it!

Related articles:
Gluten and Dairy Free Seed-cake, Apple-tart, and Nut Round Recipes Inspired by The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
In Which I Make Mini Cottleston Pies Inspired by A.A. Milne's The World of Pooh
Rosa Hubermann's Pea Soup Inspired by The Book Thief

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Friday, June 19, 2015

How to Know When to Stop Editing Your Novel

You did it. You finished your novel. Well, at least the first draft. So you edit it for plot holes, then for sentence structure. Then for grammar and punctuation mistakes. NOW it’s finished. But wait, that one scene needs some tweaking. Okay, good. Just tighten the plot and maybe change that character’s hair color. There. It’s done. Almost. On second thought, the symbolism could use a lot of work….

And on and on it goes. The unending loop of editing and ‘minor’ fixes.

When I started writing, nobody warned me about this. Nobody said, “Hey, don’t get lost in the editing wheel! Books (and their authors) have died in there.” And I wish they had. Because I was laughably unprepared for what takes place after a writer finishes the first few stages of editing.

I didn’t know about the endless tweaking, the nit-picking changes, the addictiveness of reconstructing and embellishing scenes. And I had no idea how to tell when it was time to stop editing and just move on.

Much like the penrose stairs in Inception, a writer can trudge up and down the steps of editing their novel, never realizing that they’re not going anywhere.

It’s pathetic, really. Often we can’t tell that we’re going in circles and labor under the illusion that we’re going upwards towards perfection.

So how are we supposed to differentiate between a novel that needs more editing and a novel that needs to move to the next stage? Here are some flags that might be telling you to stop editing:
The thought of touching your novel makes you sick. This one is obvious. If you’ve gotten to the point where you have edited, reworked, and thought about this novel for so long that you’re sick of it, well, that probably means it’s time to be done.

You have unrealistic expectations. You’re waiting and waiting for your novel to become perfect. I hate to break it to you buddy, but your writing is never going to be perfect. I know this because I have a completed novel on my hands that I just sent out to an agent. It’s a great novel, but I still feel like it can use work. And of course it still can use work, but I had to accept that I’ve done all I can with it with the tools that I have. The same goes for you. After a certain point, you need to realize that you’ve done the best that you can for now. Let go of that utopian image you have for you novel. Perfectionism kills stories, bores readers, and drives writer's to drink....What? I'm talking about coffee, okay? Don't freak out. The point is this: your book is good. It does not have to be perfect. It just has to be better than it was before.

You are adding entire scenes and chapters rather than reducing the word count. Now, this rule only applies if you’ve already gone through several rounds of both macro and micro editing. If you have already made major changes to chapter structures and plot points, and yet you find yourself going back and adding more chunks of story, then there's something wrong. It either means you are grasping at reasons to not send your novel out into the world or you are being a crazy perfectionist (see above). Both are unhealthy. After you’ve gone through your major stages of editing, you shouldn’t still be making huge changes to the novel. You should either be condensing or walking away.

You haven’t taken a break from editing. You do a round of macro editing, let it sit for a few weeks, go back and do more macro editing, let it sit. If needed, macro edit some more and then turn to micro editing. After the micro editing, you let it sit for at least a month. If you don’t do this, you are going to end up way too close to your novel. No break means that you are going to be up-close and personal with your novel for far too long. You’ll start psychoanalyzing every character, going crazy over every sentence. You need to take a break, step back, and give both you and your novel some space. After that time is over, then you’ll be able to think more rationally about your novel and be able to logically decide whether it’s time to just move on.

You feel like you’re not moving anywhere. If you feel like your editing has hit a dead end and don’t know what to fix next, then you’re probably ready to be done. Seriously. When you notice that your editing isn’t necessarily making your novel better, or (horror of horrors) notice that it’s making the book worse, then shut it down. You’ve agonized over this enough.

You can read it without blushing at the thought of having others read it. This is a good indicator that your story is ready. Okay, so you may feel a bit uncomfortable letting others read it, but that is normal and very different from feeling actual embarrassment about your work as a writer. If the thought of letting somebody read your story doesn’t fill you with shame and if you don’t find yourself making excuses for it every time you send it to someone, then you should be fine.  

You’ve spent 10+ years on this novel. Dude. NO.

Making the decision to stop editing and send your baby book out to literary agents is difficult and scary. Many writers have the tendency to be crippled with insecurity and thus fall back on editing to postpone the inevitable. Don’t let that be you. It’s important to be able to recognize when it’s time to stop editing and move on. 

It's easy to get caught in the penrose staircase of editing. Try to stop and look for flags that might be trying to tell you that you're going in circles. They may not be as obvious as a lady who's dropped her stack of papers (what, you thought I'd let you leave without slipping in one last Inception reference?), but they are there. Just keep your eyes peeled. 

Have you ever finished a book? What made you realize that your novel was ready?

Related article:
5 Steps to Fighting Off Writer's Insecurity (And Your Overactive Inner Critic) 
Write What YOU Want To Write: Why You Shouldn't Follow The Current Writing Trend
Be A Writer, Not An Author
Controlling Your Plot Bunnies: How to Write A Novel From Start to Finish Without Getting Distracted

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Monday, June 15, 2015

Tea with Tumnus: An Awesome Blog on Writing, Books, Movies, and More

I’m here to tell you about the next big blog.

On June 10 of 2015, Tea with Tumnus was made available to the public. This blog will provide tips on everything writing related, critiques on books, movies, and music, rants and raves about various fandoms, the occasional recipe, and more. It is written by the amazing Susannah Metzler, an aspiring science fiction/fantasy author, film score fanatic, movie lover, and fan of all things nerd.

I have every reason to believe that this blog will be one of the best things that has ever happened to the Muggle universe.
This is simply my unbiased opinion. It has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that Susannah is my close friend.

Oh, who am I kidding? This has EVERYTHING to do with the fact that Susannah is my friend. It is because she is my friend that I know exactly how awesome she is. You may remember her from my blog post about the Battle of the Five Armies. She was the one who dressed up as an elf to go see the movie with me and another friend. Once, I gave her a jar of dirt of as a present. She’s probably one of the few people on earth would be excited about something like that…. Pirates of the Caribbean fans will understand why.

It’s because she’s my friend that I have had the privilege of reading her short stories, parts of her books, and listening to her outline stories for new novels. I’ve seen her writing up close, and it’s because of this that I can say that her blog will be (and already is) nothing short of epic.

I’ve been waiting a year now for her to enter the blogging circle so that I can brag about her mad writing skills, awesome nerdiness, and cool knowledge of the musical world. Now that she’s finally started up her Wordpress blog, I’m going to pull a Lion King and hold her site up for all to see.

If you are a writer, nerd, a fan of film scores, movies, and books (which you probably are, otherwise you wouldn’t be on my blog right now), then you’re going to love her blog.

If you’re not any of those, then you are still going to love her blog.

You have no choice in the matter. It’s simply a fact of life. Go check out Tea with Tumnus (mandatory), subscribe (mandatory), leave a few comments (optional), and share on your social media (not even close to optional).

What? You think you won’t like it? I find your lack of faith disturbing. Have I ever steered you wrong? Nope. And I’m not going to start now. 

So grab your towel, hop into your TARDIS (or your Millennium Falcon, whichever one), turn on your favorite John Williams film score (or, if you’re like me, Hans Zimmer film score), and maybe bring a time-turner, because you’ll probably end up spending more time over there than you have to spare.

It is a fairly new blog, but more (extremely epic) posts are coming soon. Clearly, I’m very excited to see where this goes.
A while ago, the hashtag #authorsforauthors was trending on Twitter. I love the concept of writers sticking together and promoting and supporting each other’s craft. Not only is this a cool practice, but it’s a great way to stumble across other talented creatives. So what about you? Do you have any blogs by writer buddies that you want to showcase? Leave a comment below! I’ll be sure to check it out.

Related articles:
This is The Blog You Are Looking For: Constant Collectible - The Ultimate Geek Site

Don’t freak out. I know I don’t usually post on Mondays, so I realize this is a bit out of the ordinary. Rest easy knowing that I will still be posting my usual writing-related article this Friday. If you haven't already, feel free to look around. If you like what you see, subscribe by email to have my posts delivered straight to your inbox!

Friday, June 12, 2015

5 Steps to Fighting Off Writer's Insecurity

You are not good enough to be a writer.

You never have been. You never will be.

Everything you write sucks and you can’t do anything about it….Except maybe to give up on writing and find some corner to hide in.

That’s what a very, very loud voice tells me on a regular basis. I call him Wowbagger (you get major nerd points if you understand this reference) and sometimes it’s impossible to get him to stop talking. I imagine him to look something like this:
If you are a writer, you know exactly what I am talking about. We all have a voice inside us that tells us that we’re not worth the eraser crumbs on our desk, that our writing is no good, that we will never make it. A mixture of insecurity and an extremely overactive inner critic, this voice gets very difficult to deal with.

I’ve been toting Wowbagger around for a while and I’ve gotten really sick of him lately. It’s because of him that I haven’t yet sent out any query letters to agents. I finished my book a year ago and, honestly, I could have started querying 8 months ago if I had been able to shake this feeling of not being ready, not being good enough. I have finally decided to shut Wowbagger down and go for it. I tell myself that my book is ready, my proposal is good, and that I am an epic writer. And, what’s more, I actually believe it.

How did I get to this point? And, more importantly, how can you get to this point? Let me show you some steps you can take to get rid of your own Wowbagger. Or, you know, if you’re not crazy enough to name your own insecurity and want to be boring about it, then here are some steps you can take to combat writer's insecurity and deal with your inner critic:
1. Recognize that it’s all up to you. Nobody but yourself can help you get rid of your insecurity. While it does make it worse to have people telling you that your writing sucks, and while it does help to have people telling you that you rock, it’s not up to them to fix this problem. I have tons of people telling me that I’m a good writer: both people that I know and complete strangers. And while it helps a bit, there’s still that part of me that tells me that they’re wrong or delusional. That’s what I had to fix first. If you stop believing that you have what it takes, then there is no way that you can make it out of this. It’s up to you to believe, not only that you are a good writer, but also that you can’t rely on other people to build you up or make you feel good about your craft. Forget support groups or avoiding harsh reviewers. That won’t fix anything because they’re not the problem: You are.

2. Stop comparing yourself to other writers. You will never be like other writers. You are unique. Your style is unique. Comparing yourself to others is always going to set you up for failure. Not because you’re not as good as them, but because you are not like them. One of my favorite quotes is this one by Albert Einstein:
If you judge yourself by your ability to write like somebody else, I can promise you that you will fail. Because you aren’t meant to write like anyone else. You are you, you are a writer, and you are unlike anyone else. You’re the only one of your kind, so embrace that. Don’t look at the other writers, just look forward at where you want to go and run for it.

3. Don’t be so sensitive. Writing is unlike most careers because it takes the very personal practice of penning stories and then holds it up for millions to see. Yes, our stories are personal to us, but if you want to become an author, these stories are no longer sacred. It’s time that we accept that. People will read them. Some will like them. Some will have their lives changed by them. Other will not like them, will laugh at and criticize them. Do not take this personally. When you decided to put your writing out in public, you decided put your heart out there for all to see. However, most people don’t see your heart, they see stories and a professional writer behind them. You may feel like you’re being attacked, but you’re not. You may feel like beating people up (maybe in an elevator?) because it kind of feels personal, but it’s not. If they criticize, you need to suck it up and move on. Just because some don’t like your writing doesn’t mean that you suck. However, remember to:

4. Use your insecurity to your advantage. It can be difficult to think rationally about your writing when you have a voice inside you telling you that you’re awful, I know. But try to focus on listening to what Wowbagger is saying to you. Sometimes he has valid points…if he says your characters are shallow, then go back and see if they are. If so, fix them. But, if you’ve already fixed them several times over, then it’s time to tell Wowbagger to shut up and mind his own business. Sometimes your insecurities can help point out real flaws, so it’s important not to shut that voice down completely. But it is important to be discerning about what is true and what is false. If it’s a vague insecurity, it’s probably not true. If it’s something very specific (and something that you haven’t already attempted to rectify), then it may be worth looking into.

5. Stop expecting your writing to be perfect. Honestly, you can write, rewrite, scream at, edit, cry, and edit some more and you still won’t be happy with parts of your story. That is normal. No artist is truly satisfied with their craft. You’ll never get it to look, or feel, exactly how you imagined, and that’s okay. After a certain point, you just have to let it go. No, stop it! Turn off the Elsa music and listen to me: your writing should be good, not perfect. You work hard to get it to a point where it’s good enough and then you just have to move on. Sometimes it’s hard to know when you’ve hit the ‘just move on’ point (I’m wrote a blog post about that here, if you're interested). You’ll just drag yourself down if you keep trying to strive for Legolas-like perfection. Personally, I’ve always found Legolas’s flawlessness disturbing. There’s something wrong with a guy who can fight orcs while keeping his hair perfect, his clothes clean, and his brow perspiration-free. It’s not natural. Same goes for writers. I have never read a book that couldn’t somehow  be improved…and I would be very surprised, if not disturbed, if I ever do.  

I know it's hard, but you can do this. If you have a voice inside of you telling you that you can't be a writer, then step up to the challenge. Prove it wrong. This is your dream, so get out there and fight for it. In the words of Christopher Robin: Always remember that you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. 

You don't have to feel insecure about your writing. It's your choice. And I hope you choose to believe in yourself, in your writing, in your dreams. Because you are a good you, a good writer, and it's a good dream. 

Do you believe me? If you struggle with writer's insecurity, how are you working to fix it? I'd love to hear how other artists work to fight off their insecurities! 

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Friday, June 5, 2015

Keeping it Classy: When is it OK to Use Profanity in Your Fiction Writing?

It is an indisputable fact of life that people eat by placing food in their mouths, chewing, and swallowing. It is also a truth that dogs have four legs and that drinking ocean water is a bad idea. The earth is round (presumably so that stupid people can’t fall off of its edge), wars result in death, and the pockets on women’s jeans are always far too small.

It is also a fact that almost everyone has uttered what society has deemed to be a ‘bad word’ at some point in their life.

The fact that this is a fact does not, in fact, help writers answer a question we have struggled with for quite some time: when is it okay to use swear words in novels?

The answer?

I do not have one. I do have many ideas. Ideas about pointers, rules of thumbs, do’s and don’ts, tips, and things to remember when using strong language in fiction. Keep in mind that I am talking about YA fiction or any kind of fiction that is meant to be enjoyed by all age groups excluding children (children’s stories should never have curse words in them, though hopefully you already knew that). So here we go:

Rule of thumb: Don’t do it. If that means cleaning your character’s mouths out with soap (or, perhaps, your own mouth), then so be it. Avoid them like they’re…well, like they’re bad, because technically they are.

Exceptions to this rule of thumb:
  • When you use them in moments of tension. A king with a speech impediment that has to address an entire nation and is so stressed that he can only think of four-letter words. A hand grenade rolls around the corner and a bad word slips out. A man’s wife jumps out of a window 30+ floors up and there’s nothing he can do about it except scream and curse. You get the picture. These are all understandable and, to some extent, acceptable. However, they should not be done too often. Then it becomes a lame way to convey tension without using the millions of other words we writers are supposed to be good at using. 
  • When you use it to reflect a character's personality. It is possible to pull this off while staying 'classy' by using mild swear words, very infrequently, in moments of tension, and only when it fits the character. J.K. Rowling did a great job of this with Ron. One of the ways she made him look like your average goof-ball of a teenaged boy was to give him his trademark "bloody hell" exclamation. Rooster Cogburn from True Grit is another good example of this technique. His use of language matched his rough and brutal personality. It also worked to set him apart from his more scrupulous partner Mattie, as well as from the other US Marshals. However, I do need to say that there are a lot of awesome character tags to pull from, and cursing shouldn't be your go to.
  • When you use them in moments of justifiable anger. I know some people may disagree with me, but there are certain circumstances that allow the use of strong language. In fact, sometimes it can make a scene better. Before you leave me curse-free hate comments telling me I’m wrong, let me point out some instances where this is true:
    • Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride, bleeding to death and determined to avenge the death of his father: “I want my father back, you son of a -----!" 
    • Mrs. Weasley from Harry Potter, protecting her daughter from a psychotic witch: “Not my daughter, you -----!"
    • Rhett Butler from Gone with the Wind, finally giving Scarlett what she has coming to her: “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a ----."
    • And, my and my brother’s personal favorite, Papillon from Papillon, telling off the entire world for trying to ruin his life: “I’m still here, you --------!" 
These are all characters who we see repeatedly put through not-so-great situations. And so, when they finally decide that they aren’t going to take it anymore, well, we stand up and cheer. At least I do. I see no problem with characters having a moment where they snap. It's believable and relatable. But if you do this more than once or twice, it becomes a cheap attempt to add umph to a scene, so don’t do it.

Pointer: Keep your audience in mind. For example, this is the second time I have written this post. Why the second, you ask? Well, the first time I was rolling along just great. I had gotten two brilliant and funny pages (which I must say were more brilliant and funny than the ones you are reading right now), Pandora was playing the perfect kind of music, the words were flowing, and I was having an insane amount of fun. And then, without warning, my computer died. Once I got it plugged in and turned back on, I found that all that was left of my beautiful blog post was half of my opening sentence. So I took the most logical course of action that I could think of:  I clenched my fists and swore.  I will not tell you exactly what words I used because I know my audience and I know that most of you come here expecting to get clean (if not cynical and sarcastic) pieces of writing. So that is what I try to give you. The same should go for you when you use profanity in your novels.

Rule of thumb: If you think you shouldn’t or aren’t sure, then don’t. Don’t use for a ‘shock and awe’ effect. Do NOT use simply because you want to show your independence.

Exceptions to this rule of thumb: Absolutely none.

Pointer: remember that cursing is ‘louder’ on paper than in ‘real life.’ I’m not sure how this is the case, but it’s true: curse words stand out much more when you read them. That’s why they are so easily overused, so be careful.

Rule of thumb: Vulgar or obscene language should never be used.

Exception to this rule of thumb: Some may argue that it’s alright for ‘bad guys’ to make obscene comments since they’re supposed to act badly. I, for one, think that this is not a good idea. Certain terms are derogatory, boorish, and best left alone. Once again, if you need bad language to up the ante in your story, there is something wrong with the way you write.

Pointer: Remember that making bad language funny is harder to pull off than you may think. I’ve seen a lot of books and movies try to making cursing funny. About 80% of them fail miserably, and about 79% of them fail in a way that makes the beholder wince. About 19% of people are able to get it right, but I’m pretty sure they all work for Marvel. Think Rocket’s ‘standing in a circle’ line and the ongoing ‘language’ banter in Age of Ultron. If you know for certain that you fall into the remaining 1% that can get it right, then go for it. If not, please spare us all and don’t even go there.

Bonus tip: Your character should not curse just to make your dialogue realistic. Lots of people use foul language. I get it. However, that does not make it a legitimate reason to put curse words into your dialogue. For example, one of the first things we learn as writers is to avoid using all of the “waffling” words in dialogue: ums, errs, hms, likes, wells, uhuhs. Sure, people use them all the time in real life. But, in written dialogue, they are annoying and they slow things down. The same goes for cursing. Maybe people do talk that way, but that doesn’t mean you have to use bad words in your dialogue. Making your writing realistic at the price of being irritating is not worth it. There are many other better ways to make your dialogue lifelike.

Finding a good balance can be very difficult, I know. Just ask yourself: Is it necessary? Does it make it better? And, most importantly: how am I going to feel when [insert name of a person you respect and want to make proud] reads this?

And, when all else fails and you simply can’t figure out what to do, bang your head against a wall and curse. Oh, wait. On second thought, maybe that’s not such a good idea….

In case you’re wondering, which you probably aren't, I do not use profanity in my books or short stories. Stylistically, I find them unnecessary. Ethically, I don’t see how they would help my goal of bringing entertaining and clean fiction to teenagers.

What about you? What tips or rules do you use when using profanity in your writing…or do you just avoid it altogether? From a purely artistic point of view, what do you think of using strong language in fiction? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Tumor Troubles Part Three: Bottom Barrels and Facing the Future- A Guest Post by Caroline Reinhart

So this week is the final post of Tumor Troubles. =( But don't worry, you can always check me out on my blog, Emojis, Corn, and Survival Tips for Teens! =D And if you check Google+ or Facebook, I'll try to keep you updated there. I haven't put anything up there yet because I didn't know if anyone was interested, but comment below if you want to hear updates about my condition. I'll gladly do it if people want. :)

Now, back to the final chapters of my story. As time went on, medicines increased and changed. It reached the point where I was taking triple the recommended adult dosage of my bromocriptine just so that my prolactin levels would go down. Along with this came some serious side effects; anxiety attacks, memory loss, and worst of all, depression (Not medically diagnosed depression, just the feeling of ). This came with a few incidences, though.

One thing doctors are notorious for doing is saying one thing and recanting it the next. This happened to me. A lot. And each time it hurt even more. The first time was with my vision. The doctors had led us to believe that it would all return after the procedure. We waited and waited, but with little results. We would visit my optometrists very frequently because we knew that something was wrong, but the guy had a terrible bedside manner and the appointments were...unpleasant (I'll spare you the gory details, but it included three hours of waiting in four different waiting rooms just for five minutes of him staring at a computer before telling us good-bye and ZERO information). When we finally did corner this guy and get him to spill the beans, he revealed to us shocking news: It wasn't ever getting better and he knew it all along. Apparently, he thought we knew. But how could we when the guy barely even looked at us half the time?

Things kept getting worse from there. Hormone therapy was no more than a patch taken twice a week with minimal results (They didn't want anything to come too fast, which was the opposite of my wishes). The tumor wasn't all gone (Once tissue is in there, it stays. No one enlightened us on this, and the doctor actually laughed as she explained it. I about dropped dead then and there). All these things may seem very small, but they were a big deal to me. I didn't like not knowing things and couldn't help but feel lied to. People would say, "They weren't lying, they just didn't know," but when you're in this situation, it feels like a lie. You're given hope and that hope is taken away. It's like stealing, but much worse.

There were also other occurrences. A company similar to "Make-A-Wish" said that they would grant me one, just to give them the list and they'd be off. My mom explained that my condition was not cancer or terminal, but they guaranteed that I was going to be getting it. Well, I guess they didn't understand what that meant because six weeks later, after calling them a gazillion times, my mom finally got a reply saying that I could forget the wish. The doctor in charge wanted to focus on - surprise, surprise - terminal cancer kids. Now, I could handle that. It was those people's money and they reserved the right to use it however they wanted to. What I had a harder time accepting was this: they didn't plan on telling us. They figured that we would forget about it or move on, so they didn't see the need in letting us know. In my opinion, that was just plain rude. I was entitled to an explanation, I was not a whiny seven-year-old. The fact that they treated me like an ignorant child is what made me angry. It wasn't like I was going to cry on the floor!

Anyway, things just kept getting worse and worse. I got severely depressed. I didn't know what to do. And that's when I started writing.

I had been looking for a job that I could do from home for awhile, but never really got that far. Freelance writing kept popping up, but I wasn't interested at the time. Then, my English class started a poetry unit. While other kids complained about how stupid it was, I delved into poetry like no one's business. I bought a notebook and dedicated it just to my art. It's about half-way full at the moment. I just swallowed it up.

This later led to things like writing on Teen Ink and my blog. I had tried blogging in the past, but it never led to much. Usually I just gave up after awhile. But this time I stuck with it. And Emojicorn has reached almost 3000 viewers in its infancy!

I still get depressed. Side effect of the medication. But I have been able to bounce back up more easily. Plus, I have God to help me out with it, (you can check out that part of the story here.) Life is not always easy, but at least we have Christ to get us through it.

Today, I'm in a bit of a waiting period. The doctors at my hospital can't help me much anymore. But I'm going to be spending some time in California this summer to see if a hospital there can do anything. Who knows? Maybe I'll even meet Hannah along the way. ;)

No matter what happens, though, I know it will be for the best. God has got it. I mean, He's led me this far!

The reason I'm telling my story is because somewhere in the great, big world is a person like me: Alone and scared and clueless about what to do. What I want that person to understand is that you are NOT alone. Your pain may be exclusive to you, but you're not the first to have to struggle. And you're not the first to BE THE FIRST, anyway. Sometimes being first sucks, I get that. But sometimes, like being first in line for chocolate cake =P, it's awesome.

Thanks so much for taking the time to read these past few weeks. I hope that they have inspired you or helped in some little way. What I'm hoping now is that you'll share this story with others and then, maybe they'll get inspired, too. Who knows? Maybe they'll become an inspire-er! Like the people who wrote this song!

To see more of Caroline's posts, check out her Facebook page. Also, don't forget to read her blog, Emojis, Corn, and Survival Tips for Teens, as well as Hannah's blog here. Have a great day and God bless you!

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