Lazette Gifford
Publisher & Editor


Into the Coffin

By Colette Warner
Colette Warner

School. Peers. Life!

If you are a writer, some people are going to think you're strange.  Especially if you want to do odd things, like check out coffins.  And there is always going to be things that interfere with your writing.

You're sitting at your desk, writing along happily, and then they all hit you, one by one, like the blows of a sledge hammer. Your main character, George, has just discovered his lost love is really his older-sister's ex husband's new wife -- and suddenly you realize you have a six page paper due the next day! You slowly, painfully, minimize your work in progress. Just clicking the mouse feels like ripping your fingernails out. You start writing the school paper and you're just getting into the subject when your 'significant other' calls the cell and your dad knocks on the door at the same time, telling you to gather the trash. You answer both with a 'yes' but don't get up. How can one teen do all three things at once?

And still your work in progress calls to you. George is just begging to run to his love's house.

Your fingers itch to start typing on the keyboard again, but you get up anyway, taking out the trash and then coming back to write that paper. You know you won't get any fiction writing done that night.

Welcome to the hassles of teen-aged life, a time of hormones, the opposite sex, and hobbies. But writing isn't your hobby, it's your passion. How do you deal with all of the obstacles in your way?

Believe it or not, there are ways to deal with your life and still write.

First, peer pressure. How many times has a teen in school been ridiculed by other kids for being different? It happens every day in every place on earth. But how can a kid deal with that? Two ways: ignore your peers, and get your emotions out in your writing.

"Ignore them? But they're everywhere!" Yes, I know the feeling. You're walking happily down the hall, thinking of the next scene when someone grabs your writing folder out of your hand and starts tearing out the pages, laughing at you.

What the heck do you do?

Well, hopefully you have a lot of back-ups, first of all. Second, don't give them the satisfaction of the win. If this person's doing that to your stuff just because of who you are, they've got some real issues. Believe me: I've been on both sides. Just keep walking and move on.

When you're sitting in front of the computer, staring at the screen with the cursor blinking on a beautiful, empty canvas, then tear your foe apart. Use your anger to your advantage, describing how your fists clenched and your legs itched to jump on your attacker, how your arm twitched with the need to knock his jaw out of its socket. Take a sword to him, gut him, do whatever you want to him in your story. Take this, and each and every opportunity during your day, to study emotion. How do you and other people react in certain situations? Describing emotion is a wonderful way to show and not tell, as well as making the story a heck-of-a lot more interesting. Make readers feel like they are there, experiencing the things your character is going through.

So, next time Bubba comes a-walking down the hall rolling up his sleeves, study the grotesque, evil grin on his face and the way his eye twitches when he looks you in the face. Next thing you know, Bubba could be your antagonist -- the kind of guy everyone loves to hate.

But what if your friends are the ones who are keeping you from writing?

Well, if they can't accept you for who you are, you don't need them. If they knew how much you adore writing, they wouldn't try to stop you. You should not change who you are for anyone. Indulge yourself, not the world.

And school? Ah yes, the people, the classes, the homework... Don't you remember? That thing that interrupts your writing. Oh yeah.

School can be a hassle. Take it from someone who takes the maximum load of classes each year. It can kill your writing time, especially if your teachers aim to make sure you don't have a life outside of their classroom. The best thing I can suggest is be organized. If you're not an organized person you'd be surprised at how well planning your time out actually works. I've had nights where I've had to study for a test, write two papers, and read at least two hundred pages in a book, and I've still come out with one thousand words on my story before the night was over. The only way I could achieve this was with a strict schedule that I had to keep, no exceptions. I would work in half-hour to hour spurts and have five-minute breaks in between. I was finished with homework by nine at night and I began writing then. I was in bed and asleep by eleven, two hours before I normally thought about hitting the sack.

One has to remember that not writing every night is all right too. Sometimes life just doesn't allow for it. Brainstorm for your story during breaks so you can get started the next day with everything planned out. It will waste less time on your homework.

A lot of school requires writing, too. Essays are a great way to expand your literary skills from a grammar and spelling point of view, as well as making your stuff understandable. Try to take an interest in your subject and look constantly for story ideas. I've gotten many novel ideas from my essays from history. Use everything to your advantage when you write other things: you never know what you'll find.

Now, how many times has this scenario happened to you? You're talking to a teacher, specifically one who is interested in literary things, and she asks you if you write at home for your paper to be that good. You grin and say "Yeah, I'm writing a novel, actually. I'm about sixty-thousand words in, it's going great." And your heart flutters as you expect the teacher to break out in a smile and keep asking you about your book- but she doesn't. On the contrary, she frowns and cocks her head to the side, examining you like you're a side-show freak.

And of course, this isn't the first time it's happened. You've told other people about it and they have the same reaction. Your parents yell at you everyday for being on the computer too long and when you say you're writing they come back with "Well, you need to do something productive with your time."

Ouch. That always hurts, and nearly all teen-writers experience it at some time in their lives.

With these sorts of comments you might start feeling like no one understands. You want to do this the rest of your life; you love it. You're not just playing around; you're doing something that might make you rich in joy and wealth in the future. You want to paint pictures through your words for the rest of your life and they don't understand.

You have to keep going with it. If this is what you truly love, you can't let people throw you down and guilt you out of it. If your English teachers laugh and say that you'll never get published, ignore them. In fact, make that your drive to write more.

You'll show them. When you've gotten five offers from agents and three from publishers, you'll take your slips and shove them in your teachers' faces. You'll tell them that you performed the impossible and you'll laugh when they stare at you with their jaw hanging open. Then you'll tuck the slips safely into your coat pocket, walking out of the school, satisfied.

Well, I wouldn't suggest really doing that, but have the idea be another motive to write.

Don't let your fear of people thinking you're strange, stupid, or young get in the way of your writing. If you're writing about vampires and don't know what it feels like to sleep in a coffin, do something about it! Go to the funeral home and inspect them, from width and height to the comfort of the pillow. Even ask to try one out! Just never be afraid: step into the coffin.