Destroying the Cycle of Tearing Yourself Down

Brilliant Blog on Destroying Self-Doubt

Some Actor

Yesterday I went through an “irrational day”. What this looks like for me is a hibernation of introspection. I dove right into the quagmire of human emotion and self doubt, violently tearing apart all of the choices in my career. I held them up to what I perceived as the light of truth, trying to find the next grain of sand to mix into my foundation. All I found was a reflective pool of negativity. Showing only my deepest insecurities, body dysmorphia, and illogical thoughts. This sent up a red flag because this is an abnormal and damaging mindset. This is something that happens to us artistic types and can trap you in a horrible shame spiral.

Here’s how I get out of that crazy nonsense 🙂

Fist thing I did was get sweaty. I hopped onto my bike and rode around for a while, not thinking about anything but…

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Getting Out of Your Own Way

Sooner or later (and probably repeatedly) we all manage to tie our own proverbial shoelaces together before we sprint after something.

Most of the time, we don’t do it on purpose. We usually think we’re doing the right thing or making the best choice.

That is especially true in writing.

Writing a novel can be such a huge undertaking. You’re building your whole world and portraying a select few journeys through that world, all while trying to grab your reader’s attention without being garish.

I know that I struggle with too much subtlety. Or at least, what I see in my mind as subtlety. It’s probably more accurate to call it a failure to inform your reader (lol).

So here’s my lesson for today: Yes, you want your book to have subtlety, but there are important things you have to find a way to convey to your reader. You can’t raise the stakes with scene (action) and sequel (down time) if your reader doesn’t know exactly what the stakes are.

If you fail to properly build the intensity of the focal points of your story, you’ll end up with one of two things happening:

1.) Conflict and climax that the reader isn’t fully invested in the outcome of.


2.) Conflict and climax that the reader doesn’t fully understand.

Both will completely pull the teeth out of your story. The best and most gripping stories are ones we care about the characters and the outcome, and ones where we understand the dynamics and forces at work (at least, the important ones. In mysteries this is not the case, but your reader is expecting not to understand, and to eventually discover)

Book Cover 11

I am now undertaking what I hope to be the final round of editing for my novel, Hood, Book One of the American Rebirth Series. (Though I feel like I’ve said this before.) I find that as much as I try to make concepts clear, I’m still working on smoothly informing the reader of important aspects of the story. I know that I tend to be overly subtle, hoping the reader will read between the lines. My lesson to myself is relax, the reader will do that on his own. You don’t have to make his or her job harder by not telling them what they need to know.

Hopefully, I’ll have the book out next month. But I’m endeavoring to not rush the process. I’d rather it come out in its best possible form than just push it out because… well, I can’t wait to get it out there 😀

-Evan Pickering

6 Things About Writing Dialogue You Need To Know

There is nothing, NOTHING more story-killing than bad dialogue.


It can be a book, a movie, a show, anything. Specifically here we’re talking about books or short stories. But the second someone says something completely contrived or unrealistic or just wildly out of character. . . you hear that sound? That’s the sound of the fictive dream being shattered.

Dialogue is so very important. It is a exceedingly tough line to walk to have your characters feel genuine, engaging, and true to themselves all while keeping the rhythm of the story. It only takes a little incongruency to make your readers go “Huh?”

Your characters have voices. They speak to each other, to the reader, to you. They hide things, they lie, they mask emotions, they show emotions, they speak their minds, they put themselves on the line. And ultimately, the dialogue is what makes your readers love your story. After all, it’s how your beloved characters interact and show themselves in the world you’ve created.

Every writer has a different relationship with dialogue. Some tend to love it, some tend to hate it. Sooner or later we all feel both ways. I tend to love it, but I also tend to rewrite the living hell out of it. Dialogue I thought was awesome one week I think needs serious change a week later.

So here are my tips on dialogue:

1. Focus on character realism without getting too hung up on it.

It is of critical importance that your characters stay true to themselves when they speak. But that doesn’t mean they always have to have the same opinion, feelings or actions. After all, people change their minds all the time. If your story is doing its job, your characters should be changing a lot through the conflict, so it’s natural that what they say will change. But make sure whatever is happening, whatever your characters are saying, that it’s true to their personality, that it makes sense to their internal beliefs.

2. Don’t get cute.

You know what I mean. Good dialogue should feel real. In real conversations, people change the subject, misunderstand each other, don’t respond, answer simply or talk nervously. Don’t write some binary rolling complex thought train all the time. Yes, dialogue should be action-reaction… but keep in mind that characters have motives, people want to steer conversations certain ways for different reasons. The trick is, simultaneously you have to keep the dialogue in a pace and form that drives the story. Don’t let your characters take over the narrative drive all the time.

3. Keep it simple. Shorter is often more powerful.

“I can’t have you second guessin’ yourself,” Bill said.
Owen worked his jaw, staring out the window as the rain collected and fell in wild paths down the glass.
“There’s no room for it. We won’t survive.”
“I heard you.” Owen turned, moving away from the conversation.

Okay, that’s just a random sample I made up. But you get the point. People often speak very simply, and from a writing/reading perspective, the more short and punchy something is, the harder it hits the reader. Granted, you want to vary sentence length and conversation based on the mood of the scene and of the characters. But the more you can trim the better. Just think of Pulp Fiction. One of the best and most memorable lines in that movie, a movie featuring plenty of outstanding dialogue is: “Zed’s dead baby.”

4. Get Some Distance.

Any writer worth his salt is going to spend a heck of a lot of time editing. As I’ve said in previous posts, editing is really the true bread and butter of writing. But when it comes to dialogue (and your story,) you’ll get so close to the words that you can become numb to them.

It’ll feel hard to tell whether you’re actually making positive revisions or just changes for the sake of changing. For that reason, It’s very very valuable to set your manuscript aside for awhile. Weeks, months, whatever it takes. Don’t look at it. Don’t even open it up. Read some other books you love, read some editing and writing nonfiction if you want. Come back to it once some distance has grown so you can be more objective and look at it with an honest lens. Otherwise, you’ll drive yourself crazy.

5. Use your voice.

When you re-read it, read the dialogue aloud to yourself. In character. It might feel weird, but do it. Try to act out each character as you speak their words. Hearing it all out loud does wonders for figuring out what makes sense and what doesn’t, what has normal speaking rhythm and what doesn’t. You want your words to read smoothly like spoken word.

6. Ultimately, put yourself / your stamp on your dialogue.

There’s all kinds of rules and guidelines out there for writing. Much like the ones I’ve put up above. But the bottom line is that millions and millions of stories have been written and told over and over. So at the end of the day, only one thing will seperate your story from anyone elses. Your voice. You as the writer, your feelings, your experiences, your own flavor to your dialogue. At the end of the day you’ll live or die by the unique elements of you as a writer that you bring to your story. So don’t steamroll what makes you you as a writer. Let it fly (within the context of your characters, ofc.)

Book Cover 11Here’s some shameless plugging for my novel above, hopefully it will be done by sometime next month! I promise I’ll let you all know when it goes live. Enjoy your writing and keep it rollin’, peeps.

-Evan Pickering

Starting Over. . . And I’m not Talking About Stories this Time

I’ve got to got to got to move on, where do you move if what you’re movin’ from is yourself?  -Modest Mouse

Alright. I’m taking a break from writing to air some personal thoughts. Enjoy my catharsis:

I would say that this time in my life is one of transition. But if I’m being honest, the past 5 or so years of my life have felt like a time of transition.

The good news, and the bad news, in some ways, is that I am pretty damn adept at putting myself into other scenarios and perspectives. I can see myself in a more settled position with a good job and a family, and know that that me would long for freedom, for personal time for my hobbies and pursuits. I can see the me that would leave my hometown, go travel again or move somewhere new. It would be invigorating, but I would miss my loved ones, and feel a sense of missing out on precious time pursuing my goals.

I’m 28 years old. Most everyone I love is married, has kids, or is in a serious relationship. Most of the people I know have moved away. If I’m being an honest, I’m a man-child in some ways. Perhaps that’s needless self-degradation–I’ve always been a kid at heart. I knew I would be that way as an adult even when I was very young. . .


But I feel as though I’ve got so much more I want to do and figure out about myself. At 28 with this kind of mindset, you feel alone in a very real way.

Not alone in any sort of sad way, because I know I have so many people that love me, whom I love–people who would do anything for me. (and I, anything for them.)

I feel alone simply in that I am so starkly on my own in a place of change. No longer are the days where I get to hang out with my friends and family regularly, goofing around. I don’t even live near most of them anymore. The people I love are settling in to their families and their lives–a beautiful thing. But I can’t see clearly what I want for myself.

I see the glory of getting married and having kids. I visualize it all the time. But also, I love dearly my personal time, and the freedom of being on my own. I have more hobbies and pursuits than I have time to give to them–god, I feel like I want to learn everything, try everything, just do it all and enjoy the growth that comes with it. Part of me wants to spend my whole life selfishly pursuing every skill and hobby (writing being the chiefest.)

But the desire to get a home, settle in, raise a family is always there. I know in doing so many of my personal pursuits fall away–the sacrifice you make for raising kids (which seems to me to be by all accounts a life-changingly beautiful, incredible thing.)

Other People’s lives seem more interesting ’cause they ain’t mine. -Modest Mouse

I’m not so naive as to think I’m the only 28 year old to think this way. In fact, I’m sure this a very, very common occurrence.

But I feel so powerfully connected to my past, mostly because my past is unilaterally amazing– I’ve had an incredible life by all accounts. Lucky and blessed are not the right words. In poker, we call it a heater when everything is going right. For sure, many things have gone extremely wrong/sideways in my life. But on the whole, I’ve been on a heater for nearly 30 years.

But my enjoyment of the present feels as though it’s being soundly clocked regularly by a cartoonish mallet named “Former Clarity.” I feel old and alone, though I know I’m not. I feel young and goofy as hell at heart, though I know I’m matured and maturing.

I want to start over. Not back in time, but start over anew right now. Clear out the clutter and figure out which rhetoric that’s chiming away inside my brain is true and genuine thought and feeling, and what is fear and paranoia and unfocused memory babble.

When I was younger, I had a clarity on such things. As I get older, everything seems to get more ambiguous. Maybe that’s just what comes from years of learning.

I know that starting over’s not what life’s about, but my thoughts were so loud I couldn’t hear my mouth. -Modest Mouse

Maybe starting over is all wrong. Maybe there is no such thing as starting over. I think that’s more the truth. But I know assuredly, something is changing for me. I can almost feel it. I just don’t know what the change is yet. It’s like a fragrant aroma that you recognize, but can’t remember the memory connected to the smell, despite how impossibly familiar it is.

In the meantime, I’ll take a deep breath, stop worrying, and let go. I’m old enough now to know sooner or later I will figure it out. That’s how it’s worked in the past. The harder you cling to something, the more you force it out of your fingers. So let go.

-Evan Pickering