Ask and ye shall receive… Not buying into writer stereotypes

Some of you might remember a few months back I had a post about like minded writers and finding individuals to share in the crazed, caffeine fueled awesome that is novel writing. Essentially I wanted writing buddies who could be counted upon to give honest opinions and to spur me on when my inspiration was lowest. And in my moment of lonely grumblings, I put an ad of sorts on the National Novel Writing Month forums and lo and behold, I’ve now established a small writing group of about 20 young women, all with similar interests, ages and favorite genres. 

Ask and ye shall receive…

When I’d written that post, I believed that I was alone in wishing for others who didn’t buy into the lonely writer mentality. But I was wrong. And apparently so are all of those people who contend that a writers work is intensely private and therefore it should be kept quiet and hidden until perfect. If you want to work alone and never tell anyone about your projects until they’re complete go for it. Who am I to stop you?

I just want you let you know that if you truly feel alone and are bothered by the the absence of other creative individuals in your life or people to bounce your work off of, you aren’t alone. Somewhere out there, made closer by the joy of the internet, someone is wishing for the same thing you are. 

In short, I’m here to tell you that no matter what it is your doing, and no matter what you’ve been told, who you are as a writer (or artist, or musician etc.) isn’t defined by what others tell you it means to be a writer. You are defined by your actions and the people with whom you share them. 

Happy Scribbling. 

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Finishing books and finding new stories.

For the past several months I’ve been working hard at completing the first book in a series I’m currently writing and I can’t even begin to tell you the number of times that I wanted to just take a break and working on something else.

It wasn’t that I didn’t know where the stories was going, or that it wasn’t any good, I was simply drained from having done so much work on it for so long. I’d been working within the series and specifically on that book for seven straight months without a break and it’s been back and forth across my desk for a year and a half now.Though I didn’t work on it consistently throughout that time of course. I wrote 1 complete novel and got about half way through 5 others in that time. But with my college schedule and life at hand, it took nearly 2 years for that book to reach it’s completion. Just in time for me to submit it to the Break though novel of the year Award hosted by Amazon, actually. 

Now, everyone varies I suppose, on how long it takes them to get an idea, to the point where they are ready to submit it to agents, or contests or publishing houses, so I don’t feel bad about this novel’s shelf life, however, I’d like to address something that will probably bother each of us writers and some point in our careers. 

Knowing when your book is done. Not just written, but edited and revised and pieced together as well as you could manage. I say this because, while I submitted my book to the Amazon contest, and while I think it will stand up fairly well on it’s own, I can still think of things I’d like to improve. I could spent another seven months, taking things out, adding them back in again, and still wind up with the same story I have right now. 

It’s hard to let your stories stand on their own two feet when you’ve held them in your hand for months, even years at a time. But if you don’t let go, your first book might be your last. You might forgo all the great novel ideas you’ve ever had, just because this one, could be a little bit better. 

Well fuck that. 

That’s what I’m here to say today. Don’t let your book consume you. If you find yourself changing the verbs of the same sentence ten times in a week, let go of it. Get out something new and just write. Yes, you want your books to be successful and for others to enjoy reading them, but there comes a point when editing and revising just become counter productive. So let your work out into the world and start on something new. 

It took me exactly 20 months to get from start to finish with this novel but, to put that in perspective, I spent 3 months writing the first draft, 5 months ignoring it, 1 month rereading revising,3 months ignoring, 1 month revising, and then 7 months fixing flaws in the series as a whole (9 planned books) editing, rewriting the entire book once, and editing twice more over. Over all the book saw 12 months of work, and 7 revision of both parts or the document as a whole. The first draft was 124k, the final was 54k. (This was the first book I ever wrote.)

To put that in an even better perspective. The book I’m currently working on was one of those that I got about half way through in the past year and a half. It has seen two weeks of work. One writing (where I wrote 32k, 12 of which was in the first day), and one week of plotting out the second half of the novel. I’ve got about 50k left to go according to my outline and I think It will be completely written before the month is up and edited before March is over. (This is the fifth I’ve started.)

This should serve as proof to those of you who are your first book that no, not all books are created equal. And now that I’ve gone through the whole process with one book, I’ve got a much better idea of my voice, and my own abilities. Make it through your first book ladies and gents and your well on your way to getting the hang of it. 

 

Happy Scribbling to you all and a lovely 1am too.

How to write. A tale of cash flows and story woes.

I’ve gotten a lot of emails recently for writing classes. Classes on character development, hole proofing your plot, revising your novel, creating a best seller, etc. The thing is, they’re a load of crap. For 300 bucks we can perfect your novel. For five easy payments of 24.99 you can have the magical secrets of great writing. For your soul and hard earned cash we can trick you, the poor, naive writers of the world, into thinking that a novel is so easily quantifiable that one ridiculous class can change your future.

I mean honestly. If these assholes had the secret ingredient to producing novels that would make you as rich as Rowling, or as famous as Steven King, don’t you think they’d be out there, cashing in on their novels instead of widening the pool of writers with a million  perfect manuscripts? 

I find it all rather infuriating. Everything included in all the various how to write books and classes of the world, can, with a few dedicated hours on Google, be found and learned for free. There is tons of advice about how to plot, how to create memorable characters, how to edit and publish, that no matter who you are and how you want to do it, you’ll find something, eventually, that works for you. 

Now aside from all the lovely articles out there on hundreds of thousands of various blogs and writing forums of the internet, you could always just go to your local library. If you really need guidance about writing, or editing, or whatever, libraries are the perfect place to not get sucked into this cashing sucking machine that takes advantage of inexperienced writers. 

Now you may be thinking to yourself, hold up, wait a minute. Just because you pay for one of these classes instead of spending hours skimming web pages doesn’t mean you’ve been duped. And yeah, as much as I hate paying for anything I don’t have to, that is true. If you want someone to give you all their tips and tricks, whether they work for you or not, fine. You’re not a bad person or a bad writer for having a go at it. But let me just make one more point. 

The biggest reason why I personally think writing courses are a load of shit is that no matter what they tell you, you will never be able to write a successful or meaningful book just by following their instructions. Why? Because these class teach all of the things you need to know about writing except the most important thing. Heart. The soul of your story isn’t in a bullet pointed list. It’s not in the dictionary or a grammar guide. The single most important part of your work, is you. 

 

If you want to write stories, and you like reading, but you have no idea what your doing and need someone to tell you where to start, I personally don’t think you’re gonna make it. 

 

If you need to write stories, and you love reading and you had no idea what you were doing and didn’t care and followed your heart to write a tale that meant something to you, and once you finished, took the time to learn about perfect grammar and spell checking, and cleaning up your dialogue and cutting out some of the fat from your world… Well, the most important thing for your story is already there. And no one else could have given that spark to your writing.

 

You can learn how to write. But you can’t learn passion or love for telling a tale. 

 

So save you cash and just write. Please. Just write. All you need is your thirst for the story and some paper. 

 

Happy scribbling. 

Finding daily motivation

This is a picture heavy post. You’ve been warned.

So I’m an odd sort of lady. I tend to waffle between being, super calm/carefree and being an emotionally over charged wreck. If my shoe lace breaks then the world is ending. If I find a chocolate on my desk, it’s Christmas. I probably need medication now that I think about it, but regardless…

At the beginning of November, I decided to try a new method of journaling. To try and keep my mood swings in check, I’d start each day with a page of wisdom. The date would go in the top corner, and my only rule was that I had to spend at least five minutes thinking about it before I filled the page. As an added bonus, I colored them with a pack of highlighters. So when you get to this pictures near the bottom of this post don’t be surprised if they burn your eyes.

Some days I found quotes from other writers, but most days I just made it up as I went along. Stickers? Sure. Drawings? Why not. Whatever I thought would get me through the day and keep my focused on the task at hand, I wrote down.

I’ll be the first to admit that some day went better than others, but for the most part, this idea turned out to have some pretty cool consequences. Like I’ve got about 30 pages of things the motivate me personally to look back at any time I’m feeling like a Doctor Who marathon should take precedence over my novel.

If you struggle to keep your goals in check on a daily basis, or you find that you’re easily swayed by the thought of tumblr/youtube/facebook/netflix/etc. binge, then you might want to try adding this to your routine.

I should also add, that this was a two part process. The first page of the day was always colorful and creative. But the second page was just important. Opposite my cheerleading pages, was a list of goals for the day and a list of obstacles. If I knew I’d be seeing friends, it’s an obstacle. Didn’t get enough sleep last night? Well your naps, might get in the way of what you planned to do for the day. A lot of the time, I was just over ambitious.

But I will say that these pages helped me to increase my output of everything for the month.

Since December 4th, I have read 6 books (The Heroes of Olympus anyone?),  written 8 blog posts, worked out 15 of 30 days(currently the 30th), and managed to completely edit one of my novels from beginning to end. I’ve also still managed to watch an obscene amount of tv…Though I don’t think that’s an accomplishment. A great deal of other time went into planning a number of other projects too, and I dare say I wouldn’t have been as productive without my journals egging me on each day, reminding me of good days.

If you don’t think this is for you, keep doing whatever you’re doing. If your interested, feel free to take a look at my motivation pages for the month.  ^__^

 

The wonderful thing about writing

The wonderful thing about writing is, well, everything. The other day I began a journal entry on this topic and later realized that it would make a decent post. So without further ado…

1. No fancy supplies.

A writer can write on a thousand dollar computer or in a dollar store notebook, or on a cell phone, or with finger paint if you so choose. There is no limitation on what you can use to produce your work. Pens, pencils, laptops whatever. Which means writing is accessible to everyone.

2. Anytime, anywhere.

At home, at the office, on a bus or train, while walking, on the treadmill, in a coffee shop, etc. You can write anywhere. I written in classes, or trams and buses, in my bed, at the library, at McDonald’s, at cafes, restaurants, bars, under tables, on top of tables, the gym, even at my treadmill desk. There are no limits on places to practice your craft.

3. No qualifications.

I attended university for French and international affairs, not creative writing. You don’t need a degree, license, or anyone’s approval to start writing. You get to decide when and where and how you write all on your own and there no wrong way to do start.

4. No limit to what you can do.

Romance, fantasy, sci-fi, literary, fiction and non-fiction, western, crime, mystery, horror, whatever. Children’s, young adult, adult, teen, middle grade, take your pick. If one doesn’t work for you pick another. Hell you can even change your pov or your choice of persons. All the options are at your disposal.

All of these reasons as well as more basically mean that absolutely anyone can be a writer. You don’t need anything special, you can be any kind of writer, anytime, anywhere.

I think sometimes it’s easy to forget about the stories that need to be told and get caught up and overwhelmed by all the things we don’t have. Degrees, expensive writing programs, someone’s approval. But really, the only thing that sets writers apart from one another is passion. Passion for the story, for the characters, for the reader, for the escape.

So go ahead, forget all the reasons why you can’t or you shouldn’t be a writer. And write.

Because writing is a wonderful thing.