Wednesday, January 8, 2014

IWSG - Conflicting Advice


 
 


The Insecure Writer’s Support Group

 
Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds! Visit the main page on Alex's blog for the complete signup list!

This month I'm honored to be one of the co-hosts for IWSG, along with: Bob Milne, Julie Dao, and Sarah Foster.

Let go of your fears. Push through your fears. Embrace your fears.

I've heard all of these in discussions about writing and finally figured out they mean the same thing. It's all in how you look at it – is the glass half full or half empty? It's still a half glass of liquid, no matter what you call it. The difference lies in how you assimilate the message.

A good friend once had a discussion on his blog about putting your characters in the worst possible situation. I'd heard this before and complained in the comments that I automatically think of death as the worst situation and I can't kill my MC! He said something profound to me that clicked. He said, "Turn it around. Make death the best possible thing that can happen to your characters."

I can't remember if I ever properly thanked Jay Noel for his insight and wisdom, so if I didn't, THANK YOU, JAY!

That solution really cleared up the fog in my brain. Don't worry. More fog immediately replaced it. You don't have to worry about me suddenly making sense.

Can you think of any conflicting messages you've received where one way clicked better than the others, even though they all meant the same thing?
Remember to visit others on the IWSG list and share the love!

112 comments:

  1. Oh my, that is perhaps the biggest blog hop I have ever seen. And my mind is entranced with the sort of situations which would make death seem preferable. Going away to consider this further...

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    1. Should I be scared with the scenarios you're likely to come up with, EC? ;)

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  2. I recently had a situation where I felt the only options all lead to a dead end and while talking with someone, realized I hadn't thought of humor to get out of it. This was a very serious situation and to think of humor, I couldn't see a way of making that work. But I did, and it did and I hope I remember this next time I get in a tight spot!!! Thanks for co-hosting this month!

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    1. Hi, Lisa! That's always such a great feeling when someone says something that clicks, isn't it?

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  3. What great advice--make death the preferable alternative.
    Something clicked for me when Holly Lisle explained in the novel revision course that every change in my story needs to matter. Why does it matter? Because the change is irreversible (... sometimes that means someone has to die.)
    I might have trouble with this because I hate killing my characters too, but at least I understand it!

    Thanks for co-hosting this month!

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    1. I like that, Kirsten. Sometimes we forget that everything has to matter or it doesn't belong there. Thanks for sharing! :)

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  4. Thanks for hosting this month!

    I believe we are given the tools to write. But sometimes we don't use the screw driver to place the screw but as a pry bar. THAT is creative writing :D

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    1. Oh, yes! Or cans for hammers... ;) Very creative thinking, CD!

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  5. Thanks for co-hosting this month. Something clicked in my mind when you put death out there as the preferred option. Goose bumps. Readers love it, writers love to mess with readers' minds. LOL. Thanks!

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    1. I'm honored to think I helped your process in some way, JQ! :)

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  6. Make death the best thing? Wow, that really opens up the door for situations more horrible than death.
    Thanks for co-hosting today!

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    1. A door you want to slam closed again, Alex!
      It's my pleasure to help co-host such a wonderful group. :)

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  7. I think most writing advice is filled with conflicting thoughts! I like this idea though. Anything that helps me flip my paradigm of thunkin' is good. Thanks for sharing. That Jay sure is a smart fellah.

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    1. That Jay really is a smart fellah, Julie! I'm glad to have helped your thunkin'. ;)

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  8. It's a way to look at it, but sometimes death could be the easy way out. I agree that most advice is conflicting because so much depends on the situation, on the giver, and on the receiver. Not one thing works for everybody.

    http://lucindawhitney.com/2014/01/miscellaneous/insecure-writers-support-group/

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    1. Exactly, Cindy. I was very confused by it all when I first began writing. It took awhile to figure out each person writes differently. Thanks for stopping by!

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  9. Thanks for being a host today. Jay gave you great advice. Something else I've heard is make your MC choose between the sucky and the suckier. Either way they're screwed. Best wishes for a great new year.

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    1. That's a great way to put it, Diane! Sucky or suckier...I like it! :)

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  10. I've been told both to get more habitual with my writing, and to just 'write when the words come' - I've always been scared that the words might not come, so have been working toward the habit direction instead :)

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    1. Hi, ayjay! I suppose the best habit would be to own both of those. Why not? :)

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  11. Interesting to think of death being the best thing that can happen to a character, but I can see how it might be. Thanks for stopping by my blog. Hope I catch on to how this all works.

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    1. You did just fine, Beverly!
      I know that I struggle with causing my characters protracted pain - where they wish they were dead - so the message worked for me. :)

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  12. Nothing like a good character getting killed off when you watch an amazing movie or show though - you love to hate the writer! And you simply can't get enough of his writing!

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    1. Very true, MJ! George RR Martin, anyone? :)

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  13. Dare is a great way to challenge yourself as a writer and your characters. Dare to face the fears!
    Thanks for co-hosting the IWSG this month!
    Play off the Page

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    1. And it really feels daring to do so, Mary. Good advice! :)

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  14. Oh yes. I didn't understand or figure out how to 'strategically' do preplanning for a story that worked for me until I read Save the Cat. And character motivation... a gal once said simply, "Every character has to want something." Aha.

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    1. Isn't it funny how a change of wording brings on the "aha" moment, M Pax? Those light bulb moments are the best! :)

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  15. Conflicting messages from people? Every day. Here's what Carl Icahn said of compliments and advice: consider what you thought of all their other opinions.

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    1. That's a great way of looking at it, Michael. Why would you consider their advice on something important if you don't care for their other opinions - and yet we do that all the time. Thanks for sharing!

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  16. Ooo, I love that! Sometimes death is truly the best thing that can happen. And it is all about how you look at things. Flipping the coin on the other side. :)

    Thanks for co-hosting!

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    1. Exactly, Cherie. Jay gave me the flip side of the coin! :)

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  17. Hi, River,

    To say I've been receiving conflicting advice since I started this journey would be an understatement.

    Over time, I've learned to use what works for me and ignore what doesn't.

    Thanks for hosting this time around.

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    1. You're right, J.L. Use what works and ignore the rest. :)

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  18. I definitely can think of many ways to torture my characters where they wish for death! BWUHAHAHA! Now that just makes me sound evil, but I swear, I'm just a writer.

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    1. Sure, Christine. Sure. ;) We all know how SWEET you are. Bwahaaha!

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  19. That is amazing advice. Jay just shot up a notch on the awesomeness scale. According to my readers, I'm good at torturing my characters, sometimes too good. I even had to scale it back a bit on this last draft. Yikes! What other industry pushes you to be depraved and then praises you for it? ;)

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    1. Jay is full of awesome, Crystal! That's great that you're good at torture...I mean, torturing your characters. ;)

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  20. Thank you for co-hosting! Awesome piece of advice. I'm going to keep that in mind.

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  21. Hi River! Thanks for being one of the cohosts this time. Jay's right about putting your characters in mortal danger. It's hard to think of ways to get them into trouble and then out again. It requires a lot of foreshadowing and rewriting. But if it's done right, your ms will be amazing! :)

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    1. It is hard, Lexa, especially the "getting them out of it" part. LOL! Dying is so much easier... ;)

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  22. If you really want conflicting advice, just ask a question about showing vs telling and sit back and watch. No one agrees on the subject (except in the most obvious of cases). Thanks for co-hosting this month's IWSG.

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    1. Very true, Ken! There are shades of gray there.

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  23. Conflicting advice? There's an abundance, so much that it boggles the brain!
    Some thought-provoking comments here.
    Thanks for co-hosting the IWSG this month!

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    1. That's what I love most about posting, Michelle. The comments are worth their weight in gold!

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  24. The conflicting advice goes with this business, I believe. Thanks for cohosting.

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    1. Hi, Susan! I suppose we naturally assume that if something works best for us, then it should for everyone else. What a boring world this would be, though, if we were all wired the same way. :)

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  25. That is good and interesting advice! I need to try that. Thank you for co-hosting!!

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  26. I'm sure I've heard conflicting advice. Can't think of any right now. I do like how Jay spun his. Thanks for co-hosting!

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  27. Not so much conflicting advice, but I often need to be told things several times before I get it.

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    1. Me too, Patsy. ;) Sometimes it just doesn't stick.

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  28. Excellent advice, River. When I think about the worse possible thing happening, it centres on my loved ones and not myself. Makes sense what he said.

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    1. Exactly, Joylene. There are so many ways to hurt a character, including through other people.

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  29. Jay had some brilliant advice. I will have to remember that (meaning: write it down!)

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    1. Yes, Patricia! Write it down is always excellent advice...and not on a scrap of paper that gets lost on my desk. :)

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  30. Jay's idea gives one a lot to think about. Awesome!

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    1. I'm very thankful to Jay for telling me this, Cindy. :)

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  31. That has definitely happenend to me. What a great way to express it - yay for Jay. Thanks for co-hosting. :)

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    1. Hi, Kimberly! I have a feeling it's happened to Jay before, too. ;)

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  32. River, I think your post and the comments, especially Diane Burton's "Either way they're screwed," verify how I feel as a writer: sadistic. The MC in the series I just completed complains about the gods' forcing him to fight in a horrific war (one he helped start). The gods didn't make him do anything. I did.

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    1. ROFL, Ron! You're brutal - an excellent talent for a writer. Besides, it's probably the only way you can keep your mind off the frozen tundra you're in right now. Brrrr...

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    2. Brutal, that describes this winter so far. Those damned gods!

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    3. They're having snowball fights at your expense!

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  33. I wonder if the best way to write really isn't so much to put your characters in the worst situation possible, but to create the least likely negative thing to happen to them that they could ever expect. I think that element of surprise keeps the reader in suspense better than a predictable near-death scene.

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    1. Definitely, Cathy. It does need to be something unexpected, otherwise the reader guesses it ahead of time and gets bored. :)

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  34. When I first started in my critique group, one of the others wrote a comic strip about this. It's just about resonance, really. Whatever makes sense to you, that will be your springboard. Even bad advice helps you strengthen your convictions, really.

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    1. Hi, Shell Flower! A comic strip is a fun way to get a point across. :)

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  35. I hear ya! It's hard to work through everyone's convoluted thought process and decide what to do.

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    1. And we are a convoluted bunch, Jamie, with our twisted, writerly thoughts. ;)

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  36. You know, I came over here yesterday when you only had a few comments and got sidetracked...I read it, thought I wrote something, but today I thought (as I read your thoughtful comment on my blog), "Hmm, did I ever finish over at Rio's?" Oh, and by the way, that's my pet name for you—Rio. ;)

    Anyhoo...good post! And thanks for co-hosting!

    M.L. Swift, Writer: The Best is Yet to Come

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    1. I feel special now, Mike! You gave me a pet name that doesn't conjure up images of a striking cobra. :)

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  37. The best advice I've received on writing has always conflicted with what I thought I knew. When I was in college, my writing professors would ALWAYS tell me something about my story that I didn't want to hear. I would take their advice, however, and the story would turn around and be better than I could write alone.

    Thanks for sharing this! There are many times I look at my characters and ask "what?". They always tell me to stop playing it safe, stop making them tip-toe through their lives and let them bull-rage through the china shop of my preconceived notions. That's frightening...but it always (when I listen) works!

    Thanks for co-hosting!
    Jen

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    1. Yes, Jen! I tend to make my characters tip-toe. More bull-rage needs to happen...and I need to listen, even if it's painful. :)

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  38. Very insightful! And I love what Jay Noel said in reply to your comment. Thanks for sharing!

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  39. I love the message. Look at it from every angle. Thanks for sharing and for co-hosting.

    Leanne ( http://readfaced.wordpress.com/ )

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    1. That's an excellent way to put it, Leanne. Look at it from every angle. :)

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  40. Great inspiration. If you can learn to let go of your fear, you can really go far in life. I find sometimes it is the little things that really stop people from reaching great heights.

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    1. I think you're right, Lilith. The little things stop us along the way and weigh us down.

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  41. I've nevver heard of this writing techique, but I like it. Trying to think of the best and or worst possible thing to happen to a character could open up so many possibilities. As far as applying this to personal fears, I've always been a little twisted. I'm not a dare devil or super brave, but I think I get over a lot of my fears simply because I can always think of something worst than death.

    Thank you for sharing and for co-hosting. Great job!

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    1. Hi, Toinette! That's great that you can use a technique to conquer your fears. I'm afraid I end up scaring myself silly when I imagine twisted things. :)

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  42. Thank you for visiting my blog and commenting on it. I am new to this community and thus am just learning how to navigate and read as many blogs as I can without spending all day doing it! (Any tips?) I will remember what your friend said about killing characters. Have never thought of it that way before.

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    1. Tips, 3chairs? LOL! I haven't figured out how to do that yet, either! I try to set a time factor, though, otherwise I'd spend all day reading too!

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    2. Laughing here, too! I clicked on one of the blogs from the list (kind of randomly) and learned about something called the A to Z challenge. While it sounds like something that would help me find that ever-elusive voice I keep trying to find, I'm wary of one more sign-up thing. Thank you, River! I'm Jenny, by the way.

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    3. Nice to meet you, Jenny! The A to Z is a fun challenge. You get Sundays off. :) Even if you decide not to do it, do follow some of the blogs during April. It's fun to see what they come up with! I've done it (on my old blog) for the last 3 years and will be again. :)

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    4. I see. So, it's just an April thing? Starting on April Fool's Day? Maybe I'll try it. A group of us who met for write-ins in November (NaNoWriMo) are going to start meeting again on Sunday afternoons, starting this weekend. I need this kind of motivation! Best wishes to you with your writing this year.

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    5. Yep! April first would be "A" day and so on. With Sundays off, it is 26 days, one for each letter. :)

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  43. Short answer: all the time. I can be really dense.
    Happy 2014 :)

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    1. Haha! Me, too, Carol. :) Happy 2014 to you and welcome back!

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  44. You got me thinking, River. Thanks. I realize this happened to me the other day. We've heard for years that deep breathing helps you relax. I've even taught this in training sessions. I never had words to explain why it helps, though. Yesterday, a wise fellow therapist said it simply: you can't relax and be anxious at the same time. It makes sense. I don't know if I'm totally off the mark from your post, but I thought it was pretty cool to have the palatable explanation.

    Thank you for co-hosting this one.

    I hope you're able to reach new heights, in spite of your fears, in 2014. And I love your photo on this page.

    xoRobyn

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    1. Hi, Robyn. Yes, it's that differently worded explanation that makes the light bulb go off! :) The sea and sailing ship photo is part of Blogger's stock. Beautiful, isn't it?

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  45. I've had lots of good writing advice over the last 4 years or so of blogging. Sometimes its obvious - once someone else points it out - and other times it takes deep thought to accept. Perspective is also a matter of timing, IMO.

    .......dhole

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    1. Hi, Donna. I agree, perspective is all about timing! :)

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  46. Hey River,

    Ah yes, a bit of lateral thinking, thinking outside the blog, or book, or box, opens up a new world of possibilities. I get plenty of writing advice from Penny the Jack Russell dog and modest internet superstar!

    The only conflict I can think of is that Penny has told me I'm a character created by her. Not sure what happens to me next.

    Have a peaceful weekend.

    Gary :)

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    1. Hi, Gary! I do hope Penny writes some wonderful scenes for you. I'll ask her to do so as a special favor to me. ;) Have a great weekend!

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  47. Thans for co-hosting!! <3

    I don't think I've gotten those types of messages.

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    1. Hi, Debra! At some point you will, like the ongoing debate over whether to outline or pantser. :)

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  48. Language is abstract and beautiful, but that abstraction can make it hard to communicate precisely. If you try and carry out as much of the advice as you think makes sense to you, hopefully some of it will help!

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    1. Hi, Joe. Yes, that's the trick of it, I think. Take what makes sense to you and ignore the rest. :)

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  49. I can't stop thinking about death as the best possible scenario. It really helps spice up a story when you think outside the box. Thanks for co-hosting the IWSG, River!

    Julie

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    1. The idea really spins your head, doesn't it, Julie? :)

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  50. Thanks for co-hosting this latest edition of IWSG.

    And yes, once in a while, I catch lightning in a bottle and something pretty good comes out of my mouth. Lol. Glad I could help!

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    1. LOL, Jay! I like that...lightning in a bottle. It was excellent advice and I thank you for it! :)

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  51. Conflicting advice is all I seem to get! Sometimes I just ignore it all and sulk. :-)

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    1. That works, too, Lee! Sulking is my tried and tested standby mode. :D

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  52. Now what you are asking is super tricky. I see why people may hold back but overcoming a lifelong fear is hard work. I think it is something that should be worked on.

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    1. Hi Lady Lilith! I think that's true with anything in our lives. We are continually a work in progress. :)

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  53. Wow - considering death as the best thing that could happen - sound pretty harsh but probably makes for an entertaining read.

    Conflicting advice - you must plan before you start writing vs pantsing. Read something today that suggested that my pantsing nature will never get me published. Ah well. We also need to do what works.

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    1. Yes, kirstyes! The outline vs pantsing debate will rage on forever I think. Different people work in different ways. It took me a long time to learn that. There isn't one right way to do anything. :)

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