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Double Digits

Today marks 99 days until my goal date to send my novel out into the publishing world.

99 days until December 31st.

99 days of fervently editing my nowhere-near-ready novel, hoping I get it done by my goal.

2017-04-04 12.10.03It isn’t like if I don’t get it where I want it to be by then that it’s the end of the world.  It’s nothing like that at all.  I can always keep it, work on it some more until I’m happy, and then send it off.  There’s only one problem with that.  I will be studying abroad next semester, so who knows when I will have time to write cover letters, send queries, ship a few copies of my 200 page manuscript via snail mail across the Atlantic?  I’m sure I will find a way to do all of these things while abroad if necessary, but the worry is still there.  Worry is always here somewhere, but as my friend Josh said the other night, “Would we really be artists if we didn’t have some doubt in our work?”  (Side note: I would like to revise that sentence to say, “Would we really be artists if we didn’t have some doubt in our work and conquer it?”)

So I have just a few months to see if I can finish this thing off in a total writing time of about a year and two months.  The next steps are the scary full-of-waiting ones, so I am going to focus on what I need to do now, not on the fact that once my writing-child is sent off, I could have to wait a six months to a year just to hear about a rejection.  In the face of that, at least right now I can do something to move forward.  I can make this novel the best it can be.

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NaNoWriMo Season!

Come Write In

National Novel Writing Month is almost here!!!  This is the time of year when I get to be unpaid advertising for this awesome program that begins in November (unless you’re a planner and start your outline before then).

Last year was the first year I successfully finished a NaNoWriMo novel, and I can hardly believe it’s been almost that long.  I felt very ambitious, starting to write a novel only a few weeks before finals, but somehow, that was my least stressful month of college yet.  I think that is maybe because I kept myself busy, so I didn’t have time to worry, but another thing that helped was all the motivation that comes with NaNo.

 

The NaNo website (www.nanowrimo.org) is made for motivation.  It has a word count tracker, a goal setter, badges to earn, and forums full of other people participating in NaNoWriMo who have suggestions and encouragement all month long.  These tools helped me stay on track all month with my word count and keeping my plot going.

To anyone who wants to write a novel:  This may seem daunting, and I know it’s hard to find time in our busy schedules to sit down and write 1,667 words per day, but this is the best way to get a first draft on paper.  That is the hardest part, pulling words together and forming them into plot and characters, so getting it all done in one month helps the excitement and motivation not to dwindle away.  NaNo isn’t for everyone, but it is for anyone willing to try.

Betas: They’re Important

20170324_181645 (2)Writing in itself is hard enough, especially when conquering the massive task of creating an entire novel, but it’s even harder when doing it alone.  Having friends around to ask how it’s going, to show contagious enthusiasm, or to just bounce ideas off of always acts as a great encouragement.  Even if not all of these friends are “creative writing people.”  They don’t have to know the ins and outs of writing in order to be involved in what you’re doing.

On the other hand, though, it is always a good idea to have one or two friends that are also interested in reading or writing to act as Beta readers.  My Beta readers have been lifesavers in the past few months.  As I have become discouraged or stuck, their comments and advice has been there to shove me along.  I can trust that they know what they’re talking about and that the ideas they pose are for the good of the novel.

I have read this thing so many times, I don’t know what I want it to be.  I know it can be so much better, but I don’t know how to fix anything when I am just reading it through on my own.  I come away with an uneasy, dissatisfied feeling.  Fresh eyes are crucial in the editing process, because my Beta readers are able to catch so many things I would never have seen and suggest so many changes that will improve this story by unimaginable lengths.

To everyone out there who has been that friend who submits to reading an unfinished, not-at-its-best draft of anything:  Thank you.

As if Poems aren’t already Surrealist Enough…

al… I love this poetry prompt that will make the meaning of your poem even more blurry.  It’s a surrealist poetry exercise that is handy if you have that writing mood but have no idea what to write.  I get this mood quite a lot, so this prompt really comes in handy.

When it comes to surrealism, most people just think of paintings like the ones by Salvador Dali pictured here, but any kind of art can be surreal.  It’s not for everyone, but it can definitely be fun to play around with.

“Your Words, My Poem” Prompt

  1. Cut out words or phrases from a magazine, newspaper, your own writing, or just fun words you have heard recently.
  2. Mix them up.
  3. Draw some from the pile.
  4. Create a poem using only these strips of words.

Your poem may not make any sense whatsoever, but that’s okay.  It may take some editing, but eventually, your poem will be equally confusing and beautiful.  I’m not sure how that diachotimy works, exactly, but it is quite fun to play with.

Here is my favorite poem that has come from this exercise:

The Day I Regretted Leaving

When phones disappear

I think about your

noisy dishwasher,

ice cubes on the floor.

The first time in a long ellipsis

the chair fell right out from under me

and there is no hope.

We took the elevator lower than the basement.

(What are night terrors?)

You could not remember

the air being sucked out of the room.

So come relax in endless summers past,

Over three years ago you stamped

my initials with

a perfectly good poem thrown in the trash.

Do not inhale or ingest

to change the pigment.

We were on the dark water

like syrup, its blush

that raked heaven for rain

when you could turn back time…

Like aluminum crickets,

ribbons of dance shoes flutter in the wind.

(That’s what plays at an Opera House.)

I must wait here

when the world is crashing down

like slime and incredible harm.

The ground was of memories and images,

checkerboards

I love and remember, as if

my grandpa’s favorite chair was sold.

Magic Happens on its Own Time

A writer’s notebook is a magical thing.  Inside, it contains worlds and imaginations and people.  Whole, complete, terrible, magical people smashed between lines and sheets of paper.  Some of these people are real and some are just characters, but that doesn’t make any of them less of a person.  They exist between those pages with thoughts and dialogue and emotions and problems and passions.  The acts of creating a character or a world or a sense of nostalgia in themselves are not magic, but the act of reading these musings and creations sometimes makes it seem as such.

That’s the beauty of it all.  The act of writing is sometimes hard and tedious and painstakingly slow, but the end result, after all the chicken scratches and editing and late-night ideas and cutting paragraphs and adding whole pages, that end result has an element of magic.  All of that magic is kept between two covers of a notebook or between the edges of a laptop.

This is why it is so important to keep one of these handy.  A notebook, a laptop, a napkin, the back of a receipt, anything to scratch spur-of-the-moment ideas onto.  Ideas can come about at any time, so be ready for them.  Sometimes the unexpected ideas are the best ones.

Writing Home

20170324_182358Everywhere you go, find your place.  Your writing place.  It is true that you can write almost literally anywhere, but it is so much better when you have found that specific place that just works.  This could be anywhere, but it’s a specific anywhere.  It’s that one place that words feel like they are flowing out through your fingers so smoothly you can hardly stop writing.  It’s that place where the anxious need to please everyone dissipates and you can concentrate on actually putting words on paper.  It’s that place where nothing seems to matter, except words.

Needless to say, this place is not magic.  It will have good days and bad days, just like everyone else.  But, it’s a comfortable place where perhaps it’s okay to get distracted by random YouTube videos of that one band you absolutely loved in 7th grade every once in a while.

IMG_20160313_165325Every writer should have one of these places, in my opinion.  Sometimes it’s a physical place.  Other times, it’s a genre of music or a blanket or a particular coffee.  No matter the nature of your Writing Home, I highly recommend finding one.  It is places like these that let you relax and focus on the part of writing you love.  This place most likely won’t be available all the time, but this reminder is needed every once in a while, contrasted with the perfectionism or deadlines or expectations.  These places prove that relaxing can be productive.

The Writing Life

The writing life can easily get interrupted.  Writing habits falter, inspirations ebb, life gets in the way.  I have found it is very difficult for every piece of life to fit perfectly into the puzzle of my ideal, theoretical routine.  In foresight, biking in the morning, working eight hours during the day, writing and reading my Bible at night and getting to bed by a reasonable hour sounds like a great and feasible plan.  In the moment, though, I do not want to wake up early enough to bike, and by the time I get home from work all I want to do is eat and watch Netflix until I fall asleep.  That is, until I realize that December 31st, my goal for having my novel sent off to agents, is only 145 days away.  Less than five months.  And I have so much work to do.

20170808_104642I have characters to more fully develop, plot holes to mend, turns of phrase to tweak.  I have a cover letter to perfect and a list of agents to verify.  Not only that, but school starts next week, so I will have classes and working at the writing center on top of everything else.

But this is perfect.  The start of a new school year means new routines and perfect organization.  It means starting from scratch, so my ideal routine can still be saved.  Altered, but saved nonetheless.  So here’s to a fresh start (again), renewed determination, lots of writing, and even more coffee.  Here’s to not letting the stress keep me from writing and remembering why I write.  Here’s to Fall 2017.

What’s in a Name?

Yesterday, I stumbled upon an idea.  A writing prompt idea, to be precise.  Said idea is as follows:

1. Draw a random name.

2. Draw a random object.

3. Personify said object by describing it and only referring to it by the name you drew.

I plan on trying this out very soon.  Try it with me and let me know how it goes!  Get those adjectives coming!

All I Need is Coffee and a Good Idea

20170627_211306.jpgIt is on days like today, perfect Kentucky-Summer days when I have nowhere to go, that I find myself in a writing slump.  No matter how much I want to be productive and stop being bored, I cannot get myself to sit down and write things.  That is until I get so fidgety and antsy that the only thing I can do is think about how I’m not writing.  So thankfully, we constantly have coffee at my house, and I can get a cup and settle down to the background noise of an old movie and remind myself of what I am currently writing.  The coffee reminds me of why I settled on this idea and why I continue.  Perhaps it is because of the many, many times I drink coffee while I write, or perhaps the many good ideas I have had in coffee shops.

Thank goodness for my coffee and the magnificent possibilities it brings.

Writing is like a tree. A very weird, crazy tree.

I love being excited about writing again.  I love waking up every morning and the first thing I want to do is sit down and write.  I missed that feeling while it was away for that short time.  This feeling, or lack thereof, does not make me more or less of a writer, but it sure does make it a lot easier to write when I have this desire to do so.

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First physical draft of my NaNo 2016 novel

There are so many achievements behind me, like finishing a novel and continuing to edit it, but there are so many more things to write in the future, near or distant.  As I slowly but surely solidify what I want to do with my life (which is a big question that people like to ask very young people), I gain more and more excitement over words and writing.

As my dream of being an author is growing closer and closer to becoming a reality, I cannot help but look back into the past as well as forward into the future.  I remember sitting at my mom’s desktop computer in seventh grade, writing what I thought was going to be the next best seller.  In reality, it was a poorly written romance/adventure/”historical fiction” novella about the French Revolution that, for some reason, I did not feel the need to research for at all.  While this little story will never be published, it was my springboard.  I started there and have grown to where I am now, so I cannot forget it.  That was my proudest achievement in middle school, just as my current novel-in-progress is my masterpiece now.  I still have so far to grow, but the ambition and excitement is there and that is how I know I will continue to grow.  I can’t wait to see where the rest of this summer, as well as this next school year, takes me.

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