Category Archives: Writing

Do More Than Dare to Dream

Have you ever had a dream for so long that you can’t remember a time when you weren’t wishing for it to come true? Where it reaches a point that, since you can’t remember never wanting that dream, that sometimes, you forget what exactly it is that you really want?

It’s not a surprise that I really want to an author, with my books out in the world and published, homed on the shelves of your local bookstore.

But what does that look like, exactly?

In my mind, it looks a little something like this:

If my dream came true, I’d know what it feels like to experience not only a request for a full manuscript, but also the infamous “Call” from an agent offering representation, where we squee about my book and our shared vision for it, and then I promptly go make a plethora of other phone calls to my parents and my siblings, best friends and my man, probably a crying mess of emotions, telling them that I’ve found my advocate, my partner in crime, who has the means and the methods to make my dream finally come true, and together, we’re going to make it happen.

I’d also eat a lot of celebratory ice cream.

I’d know work; hard work. I’d meet other individuals who believed in my book, like editors and publishing houses, who’d instruct me how to make my book reach that next level required before publication and I’d go back to the editing board. Again, as many times as necessary. I’d experience working under a deadline, sending frantic emails to my agent at 3am and then texting them the next morning and apologizing for my freakout, but could they please tell me that latest scene that’s been plaguing me since day one is finally there?

I’d know waiting. Waiting for my agent to read my manuscript and offer feedback. Waiting for editors and publishing reps to respond, after my manuscript is finally ready and sent out into the publishing world, hoping to be snatched up. I’d know rejection, when we have to cross a hopeful house off the list–potentially all of them, forcing me to go back to the drawing board. I’d know elation–alongside more tears and more ice cream–when a deal has been made between my agent and a publishing house, and my dream really becomes a reality, when a publication date is set. I’d know excitement, as I have to keep that news under wraps for weeks, if not longer, before it can be announced. I’d learn about every step in the process, taking a book from manuscript to print, and I’d make a lot of friends along the way.

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Then, it will all be a whirlwind that takes ages to complete, but hopefully I don’t focus on the wait too much, because I’m too busy working on the next book, building my platform and meeting my agent in person for the first time to spend staring at a calendar, counting down to my book’s birthday (though we all know that’s going to happen anyway). My book will debut and I’ll get to do my first ever book signing, full of awkwardness, sweaty palms and blushing red nerves on my part (plus, a really shite signature). I’ll go on a book tour. I’ll be torn between looking up reviews on Goodreads and avoiding them like the plague. I’ll stay up late at night, crying both tears of happiness and tears of pain, when readers both love and hate my book.

I’ll keep writing.

I’ll no longer be a debut author. Now, working under deadlines and dealing with contracts will become more familiar than foreign. Maybe I’ll make enough to quit my day job so I can work part-time at something I really love, instead. I’ll get chances to meet agents, editors, authors and industry professionals I’ve always admired and, hopefully, turn some of those idols into friends. I’ll randomly sign books whenever I go to a bookstore and fill up my Instagram with too many shots of the same cover that I probably collapsed on the ground and cried over, when I first saw it and held my ARC copies of my own book in my hands. I’ll start speaking at book shops, after getting established, talking with readers and aspiring authors about my own journey, desperate to hear about theirs and hopefully, ideally, inspire them to go forward and write the next book that obsess over.

There’ll be fanmail, both with love and hate. When fan art appears, that’s when I’ll truly know I’ve made it (please, ship all my characters). Selling foreign or cinematic rights to any of my works would be incredible and beyond the scope of what I could imagine possible.

Yet, at the end of the day, I’d be doing the same thing I’ve been doing since before I can really remember: sitting down and writing word after word, attempting to tell the stories that somehow snuck into my head coherently onto paper.

But instead of hoping people will one day read them, I’ll look at my bookshelf, see an actual, physical copies of books I wrote sitting there, beside all my favorites; and I’ll know, that if I keep on putting in the work, readers can, and will, continue to read my stories.

Cheers.

PS: I just started revising the book (again) that I hope kicks off making this dream–every element of this dream, the good, the difficult, the surreal and the challenging–a reality. It’s been a struggle, so I just needed to remind myself the life I hope to live, one day. My stories will continue to get written, no matter if this dream comes true or not. But, for me, I want to do more than dare to dream this dream will become a reality.

I’m going to work to make it so.

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My Most Recent Writing Mind Suck

Writing has been a…really interesting endeavor, recently.

A lot of battling back and forth with my own mind, trying to decide whether I’m actually shit or if I’m borderline brilliant (because my brain doesn’t have any go-between, apparently). A lot of questioning whether the story I’m writing is one I should be writing at all and if I’m ever going to make a career out of my passion. A lot of days where I only get 100 words written, only to be followed up the next day with 3,000.

This afternoon, I was introduced to an interesting complication to further complicate my mind suck, of sorts.

You see, I’ve been working on my rewrite of THE RESISTANCE, tentatively titled in this new draft as THE CLEANSING. I’ve never experienced so much back and forth with a book before, so much questioning surrounding it. There’s been plenty of times where I wanted to give it up all together, to work on something else, but I kept pushing. I’m on track to finish the first draft (if it falls in the 80,000 word range) by the end of December. I’d love to just get a draft done and then I can focus on, you know, actually making this story good in the next round. That’s what the first draft is for, right? Plus, this book is also meant to solidify my writing habits again, which is another reason I don’t want to table it.

Not to mention that I tabled a different project earlier this year and that was really hard. It made me feel like a failure (which I know isn’t true). If I were to table two projects in one year, what does that mean? My confidence as a writer has already been shaky enough, as late. I don’t want to do anything to jeopardize that, especially as I’m just getting into the groove of rebuilding it.

And yet.

Let me describe that glorious complication.

I got some feedback on my novel, ARTEMIS SMITH AND THE VIRTUOUS MARRIAGE QUEST. A novel that I wrote last year and have slowly been editing away. The novel that I really want to query, after this latest rounds of revisions. I’ve just been waiting on some feedback from my latest round of beta readers before I started the next round of edits. So far, ARTEMIS has received the same type of feedback, but always with the same problem.

A problem that, based on a discussion with my critique partner this afternoon, I might–finally–have a solution for.

She also might have told me that Angry Robots put out an open call for unsolicited SFF manuscripts, due by December 31st.

And my book fits exactly into what they want (I hope).

*cue glorious excitement and utter terror*

So, now I have a choice: do I switch to editing this novel and getting it ready to send to Angry Robot, as well as to query agents when most of them reopen in January (thus tabling the sci-fi novel that’s been giving me so much trouble and not meeting that self-given deadline and “not winning” NaNoWriMo)? Do I continue to work on the sci-fi manuscript and edit ARTEMIS when I get done? Or do I try to work on both projects at once, meeting my self-set deadline and not (albeit falsely) feel like a failure for tabling two books in one year, while also meeting the Angry Robot deadline?

Honestly?

After writing those choices out, my gut leans towards working on Artemis and making it shine for Angry Robots and agents.

Sure, I’d be setting aside my sci-fi novel, for now, and that makes my insides twist for reasons I’m not really sure I understand, i.e., why do I equate tabling a project to work on later as failure?* It’s something I’ve been struggling to write, beyond the point of just your typical writing struggles, I think. Whereas Artemis…Artemis, I’m passionate about. I’m excited about that story and I’m so excited to finally have a potential solution to this problem that’s been nagging at me for almost a year.

So why does switching to work on my passion project, my project that’s *just this close* to querying, make me feel so guilty?

I’m not entirely sure, at the moment, where that guilt comes from. I’m sure another blog post will show up, sometime, to try and flesh this mindset out. But I do know this: I’m excited about Artemis and where this story is heading and I’m really damn hopeful about his future. I’m ready to put in the work and see what happens next.

Cheers.

* I’d really love to get some feedback from you, if you have some time, on your thoughts about this idea. Do you have similar struggles? What are your opinions of this mindset? Any advice you have to combat it?


Finally: A Writing Update

I started writing a new book last week.

I was both really excited and really nervous about it. Excited because working on the outline for the novel helped me figure out a lot of details and really understand the story that I want to tell, not to mention the characters who are going to be living through it. I think this is a controversial story, as far as how well people might like it (it’s a tragedy, after all). but it’s still an idea that’s been stuck in my head for a while, so I want to give it a shot. Nervous because it’s been almost a year since I’ve written anything that’s a novel-length work. After being in a rut for so long, it’s been hard to get back into the swing of things again.

Which became even more evident after I started writing again.

I wrote twice last week. Once, last Monday, I believe. I had mapped out some time–two hours each day–where I would dedicate to writing. The goal being at least an hour, but having two mapped out, in case something got in the way and I couldn’t write or I was on a roll and wanted to write longer. So I sat down and started writing.

After roughly an hour and a half, I got 400 words written.

Not bad, really. But I wasn’t feeling it, afterwards. I felt like the words were shit and everything I was doing was wrong. As such, the rest of the week, I kept finding other things to do during the time I blocked out to write, whether it was blogging or reading or emails or figuring out what I want to buy everyone for Christmas. It was obvious I was avoiding opening up that document, because it just felt like shit.

Then, on Thursday, I forced myself to continue working (with a little help from an empty To-Do list).

By the end of the night, I had almost 4,000 words.

Granted, about half of those were recycled from the project that I scrapped that this one is being fleshed out from; same generally premise, only a lot better and more detailed, with different characters and conflict. But I was trying to rewrite a scene that I had the general bone structure for in a previous book. So, I decided to copy that scene over and see if it still fit, with a little more fine tuning.

It took a lot of fine tuning, but I cannot describe how great that felt, writing that night. Not only did I get the first chapter written, but I also discovered that my character has a little bit of snark to him that I wasn’t expecting. And that’s going to have some interesting consequences for the novel and how it plays out.

Writing like that? It was like waking up after a really long nap. Or stretching out and preparing to go for a run after not being able to for months. The muscles I used to hone daily were sore and a little out of shape, but they were still there. They still worked. They just needed a little more encouragement, is all.

How interesting, then, that after a busy weekend, when I finally have time to write again this week, that I’m suddenly apprehensive again; that I’m looking through my fresh To-Do List and trying to decide what I can do first, instead of writing. Those nerves have crept up again, that doubt always lingering attempting to make itself cozy in the forefront of my mind.

I need to do two things:

  1. Stop thinking about publishing. I keep thinking, as I’m writing, about this book’s future. Is it marketable? Will agents like it? How will reader’s response? Is it good enough to query? Yet the plain truth is, none of those questions matter–hell, none of the answers to those questions matter–if the book itself doesn’t get written. I can’t do anything with a blank page. I can’t sell a story that hasn’t been written yet.
  2. Just write. I just need to write the damn thing. If this draft sucks? So what? If this story never gets published? So what? If no one ever reads it but me? Yeah, so what? Even if this story “goes nowhere,” I’ll still learn a lot by writing it. It’s still a story I really want to tell. It’s probably the most challenging thing I’ve written so far and something I really want to figure out. So I’m going to write it and, if it gets published in the future, fantastic. If it doesn’t, it’s still not a waste of my time and right now, the only audience that matters is me.

*tries to think of a clever way to end this post, but fails, so decides to do this instead, so she can actually go write and try and meet her word count goal for the day*

Cheers.


The Priority of Time

Looking up some quotes for another blog post this week, I stumbled across this one:

The site that deprives you of productivity one minute at a time. Replacing productivity with entertainment since 2010.

That…really hit me hard.

Everyone gets 24 hours in a day. It’s not an uncommon mantra for people to complain about–still–not having enough time in the day to get everything done that you want to. I know I certainly do. Every week, it seems, something gets left on my To-List that I really should have gotten done and is carried over to the next week. Or, I struggle to choose between reading that next chapter, playing a video game or watching an episode of TV, because each hour of free time is just so precious and I don’t want to waste it, even though I want to do all of those things. Then there are things that I really want to do–like writing and running–that, when I don’t complete them, my first excuse is, “I didn’t have enough time.”

When I’m really saying, “Eh, it’s just not important enough to me to make time a priority to ensure that gets done.”

Again, it hits really hard, especially with the writing aspect. Because I started a new novel this week. Wrote almost 500 words. But I’ve only written once, even though my plan was to write at least four days this week. My To-Do List wasn’t even as long as it usually was, yet still, writing hasn’t happened. Everything else on my To-Do List has come first.

Including writing and publishing this post.

Then I read that quote and I wonder; I wonder and I reflect, back to a time when I was writing every day, last year. How great it felt. How I do have the capability to make writing a priority, like I claim it to be.

I just need to do it again.

Social media is what I’ve cut back on the most. I don’t have anything on my phone besides Instagram, Spotify, FitBit, Goodreads and my Mint Budgeting App. Only one of those do I interact with anyone else and that is if something likes a picture I posted. I only check Facebook and Twitter and my blog when I’m on my computer. And my computer, I only log into on the weekdays. But even when I log in to check these sites, I could minimize my time scrolling and be doing other things; more productive things, more enjoyable things, less toxic things. Sure, there is the fear that I’ll miss out, especially with Twitter, when it’s how I connect with authors and agents and other writers. But when it’s taking away from some of the time I could be used to write the books I want to connect with them about?

Yeah, I think it’s okay to lessen that impact a little bit by not getting on Twitter as much; by checking Facebook, scrolling through once to catch up and then logging off; by finding other ways to stay in touch with people I care about that don’t involve social media.

Also, learning to actually listen to my alarm might also help give me, oh, I dunno, anywhere between two and three hours back each morning to actually get shit done.

Reading that quote was not only a nice, sucker punch for my own life, to reevaluate the use of my own time, but it made me think about some of the interactions I have with people closest to me and remind me that this is a problem that everyone struggles with. Makes me think about all those times a texting conversation has dropped because someone forgets or doesn’t have time to respond. Or how we run out of time to schedule dates with our friends and family, even though we really want to see them.

I recently sent out a copy of my book to some friends and family closest to me; the “last testing round,” if you were, before I do one more round of revisions and then query. I sent it to maybe…half a dozen people? Maybe a few more? I asked them to try and read it by November 1st, so I could spend the rest of the year editing and then query early next year. I sent it during the end of August/early September.

So far, three people have started it and another person has read it completely. Time–the lack thereof–is usually the excuse. Trust me, I get that. It is an excuse I go to often and, in many cases, in my mind, is a valid excuse. Especially in a case like this, where those who would read this book would be doing so as an immense favor to me. Still, I cannot help but wonder, if those who haven’t started it changed their language from, “I’m too busy,” or “I just haven’t had time,” to “I’m really sorry, reading your book just isn’t a priority to me right now,” how many people would actually read it or change their mind. Maybe it wouldn’t be a priority. And hey, that’s okay.

Still. It’s a bit enlightening. And perhaps, even a little bit unfair, to put it in that light. It’s easy to feel like shit, after re-framing your mind and looking what how often you use that excuse and when. But, personally, it’s been a real eye-opener, and made me reevaluate what exactly I’m okay with labeling as a priority and what I’m okay with not. At the moment, I’m really glad running and working out has been a priority, as well as blogging. I’m posting more on here than I ever have before. However, I’m really upset that writing and reading are not.

Now, I need to make the changes in my life to rectify that.

Cheers.


Obtaining Feedback: A Query

In order to understand this post, I’m gonna need you to read this post. It’s by Chuck Wendig, who, if you’re familiar with his blog, always writes really awesome posts, told through colorful language, containing webs upon webs of wonderful tangents. If you don’t have time to read his entire post but what to know what I’m referencing in this post, just read his first bullet, titled 1. Fuck Your Critique Groups.

I read the entire post, most of which had me nodding. But it was that first bullet that really had me scratching my head and being genuinely perplexed. I mean, one, he admitted to not being a huge fan of Tolkien, so, you know…

Image result for uruk hai GIF

I’m just kidding, I was not that offended.

Image result for lying cat

Ahem.

Anyway. 

Aside from that revelation, I was really intrigued by Wendig’s discussion. Of course, when he writes about writing advice, he always offers the caveat that tells you to not just assume his word is law because he wrote it or that it will work for you because it works for him, because everyone and their process and writing style are different, so the shit and the advice that works varies. That makes sense. He also warned us that most of the advice he was about to give was labeled “unconventional,” so it wasn’t guaranteed to be popular opinion or belief. Fair enough. But he brought up a particularly interesting point:

And that’s chiefly the problem with a lot of critique groups — they understandably comprise writers, not editors. Their opinions on work are driven from the question of, how would I write this? which is analogous to changing how you have sex because some other weirdo gets off on different peccadillos.

Just ignore that last half (even though it’s hilarious in his post). Reading that, it was sort of like a “duh” moment for me. In the past year and a half, I started actively searching for beta readers and becoming a beta reader for some people. I’ve had some pretty good experiences, but it also made me realize that a lot of the advice I give is based off my own writing style and my own preferences. Which isn’t necessarily always the right call, especially in someone else’s manuscript. Hell, half the time, it isn’t the right call in my own manuscript.

So that leaves me with a question. A query, if you will.

How do I improve my writing?

Say Wendig is onto something and a critique group, if you’re not lucky enough to be in an awesome one that shares your vision and understands your story like you do and is able to point out the weaker points, isn’t the best call. How do you improve your story, after you’ve edited it so many times you either think the entire thing is glorious or you think the entire thing is shit, and another pair of eyes is what you need? Go to a professional editor, sure. But what if you can’t afford that? Do you just do the best you can, query it and hope it’s good enough? Or do you create a group with writers you respect and hope the feedback you get is useful?

Say you go the latter route and join a group. You get a bunch of feedback. How do you avoid the feedback that derails you utterly and ruins what, if you hadn’t received that feedback, actually could have been a really amazing thing? How do you learn to sort through and, to be blunt and honest about it, judge the value of the feedback coming your way and determine its matches your vision of your story?

I’m not really sure what the answer to this is.

Hell, like Wendig has mentioned before, I’m not sure if there even is a one-size-fits-all answer. Once again, it is a case-by-case determination, which I realize, isn’t really helpful. What I have determined, however, is I need to–always–write stories that I enjoy. I want to love my work, even if that work goes against the trend or doesn’t fit into the market. I want it to always be mine and true to my heart, no matter who, if anyone, I go to for advice and feedback.

I’d really love to hear some ideas that spurt from this, either from my post here or Wendig’s post, linked above. How do you navigate the editing waters?

Cheers.


The Musings Behind “The Start of the World”

I had a lot of fun writing the latest short story for the Muses, which you can read here. I’d love to hear your thoughts and see what you thought about it. But not only that story, but also the stories from the rest of the Muses from this prompt, if you have the time and the inclination. We’d all really appreciate it.

I’m not sure if this is ironic, technically, but I fell into the same trap that I did with the previous prompt. As soon as I saw the prompt–the last entry in an explorer’s journal–I knew exactly what I was going to write about. I knew I wanted to do a sort of bookend effect with a previous story I’d written, for the prompt “you were born with the ability to feel what’s underneath the ground and for the first time, you say, “We should not dig here.”

That story might be my favorite out of the ones I’ve written since the Muses first began. The narrator has a lot of spunk and is a bit questionable in his character, which created a mix of responses from readers regarding their sympathy towards him. I loved the premise, too–not to mention that my Dad helped me come up with it, a collaboration that meant a lot. It was written like a journal entry, where my narrator described how he might have been the catalyst to triggering the beginning of the end of the world. So when I saw this month’s prompt, I knew it would be really fun to write the last journal entry from his story.

Yet, like I said, I fell into the same trap as the last prompt, where I immediately knew what I was going to write about and then ended up not writing the piece until a few days before it was due. It actually worked out, for the last prompt. I’m not so sure about this one. Don’t get me wrong–I still like the story I wrote. However, I was hoping to have more of the in-between fleshed out inside my head, so I could give this “last” entry more substance. You know, so the entry would be my narrator reminiscing about the adventures he’s had saving the world, dropping hints and making references to events that, theoretically, we as the readers would have already read, since it was all recorded in his journal. Yet, in reality, we haven’t, since we’ve only gotten the first and last page as two separate stories. I was hoping to create some suspense, making readers wonder how the same man that triggered the end of the world managed to save it.

But, because I waited so last minute, I didn’t have the time to flesh out the in-between events, so the last journal entry felt a little…flat, to me. I still had a good time writing it and trying to get back into that snarky voice with a narrator who is likable to some while disliked by many, but I definitely think I could have done better. Hopefully, for my next story, I’ll actually put in the time it deserves, instead of letting life get in the way. But until then, thanks, as always, for supporting both me and my fellow Muses as we continue to write, grow and learn.

Your support means everything.

Cheers.


Breakthrough or Bust

Whoa, friends.

I may be jumping ahead of myself, considering I’m still riding a holy-shit-I-think-I-figured-out-this-plot writer’s high after spending the past two hours outlining, but friends, I really do think I might have figured out the plot for my rewrite.

If you know me, I bet it’s come to no surprise that my standalone sci-fi tragedy has now expanded into a tragic trilogy, with the first two books completely mapped out–not half bad, considering what I had this morning, which was filled with holes, lacking in conflict and making me want to bang my head against the wall. Now, I have a steady base to go forward, a clear understanding of what’s happening, a closeness with my characters that makes me confident I can write them and make their motives clear, plus a revised plot that threads throughout the trilogy that makes my heart accelerate with giddy anticipation and excitement.

Sure, I still have no idea how to wrap up this trilogy, which might seem like a red flag to everyone, because yeah, usually the writer knows the end goal before she’s going to get there. And yep, I have no idea how this one is going to end. It’s set up so there is a lot of opportunity, but at the moment, I couldn’t tell you what will happen. Sure, there is still a lot that might change and maybe I’ll talk to my man about it and he’ll be like, “Babe, that’s actually worse than what you started with originally.” Or maybe I’ll write it and realize that it is complete shit and I’m in over my head and, even though it felt like a breakthrough, it actually was a bust.

But.

This afternoon, I pulled up my outline and then closed it half a dozen times, at a loss of where this story needed to go next or what I was meant to do with it. I went and did some other things, but I hated wasting so much time I had available to write and I wanted to figure this shit out. So I opened it again and kept trying. Half an hour went by without anything to show for it, but I kept going. I kept pushing, challenging myself and writing any idea that came to mind, erasing most of it by the end.

Until I had it.

It’s the closest feeling to an epiphany moment I can describe personally experiencing. One moment, I  was banging my head against the wall and the next, I had a plot twist that suddenly, helped everything else make sense. Reorder a few events in the first book and there the tension I was missing was; there, the opportunity to heighten it and make the first book feel like a real story, even if that cliffhanger ending might want to make readers, if I pull this off right, want to bang their own heads into a wall.

It may amount to nothing, but at the moment, hot damn, it’s a start. And a start is exactly what I’ll take, right now. Because I can run with this. I can create a story around this and, through a shit-ton of work, make this story work. 

So let’s get started, shall we?

Cheers.