Tag Archives: Motivational

A “I Finished Writing My Fifth Book” Freak Out Moment

So, about half an hour ago, I did a thing. I finished a book. But not just any book. My fifth book. A book that I began tentatively planning earlier this spring. A book that, when I made my goals for the year, I didn’t plan to start writing until around October. Did I imagine that I would actually finish this thing this year? Hell no. Did I imagine that once I moved out of my apartment, I’d be averaging roughly 5,000 words a day? That’s impossible. Did I think that I could jump from 35K to 75K in just six days? That’s ridiculous.

Yet I sit here, at work, with an hour left of my shift, and I was able to type something that resonates with, “This story will continue in the next book.”

My emotions right now are everywhere.

I feel powerful.

I feel excite. So excite, I mean, so dang excite, I’m completely forgetting the finer points of grammar! (If you completely missed that reference, stop reading this celebratory post and go watch this video by Olan Rogers. You’re welcome.)

I feel on top of the world.

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I am in shock and complete and utter awe.

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I feel apprehensive, as I cannot contain this freak out moment of being so excited, so I’ve texted everyone close to me, blasted it on social media and now I’m writing this blog post; apprehensive that people will think I’m bragging or riding on a high horse. But I can’t help it.

I’m just so damn stoked.

I’ve written five books, you guys. Five freaking novels have been penned by my fingers slamming down on the keys of a keyboard (but most often the backspace key, no judgement). Over the span of these novels, I’m now unhealthily-emotionally-attached to three different main characters and enough secondary characters to make my head spin.

Despite every rejection letter, I have not stopped. Despite every shout of doubt that rings in the back of my mind, I have held onto my stubborn ways and kept writing. Despite every person who has ever question why I went to college for Creative Writing. Despite every time someone asked me what I really wanted to be when I grew up. Despite every time I felt like I sinking into a hole in the ground (where no Hobbits lived and that is no hole I want to be a part of!) because my passion was worthless because my books would never get picked up, they would never sell, no one would ever actually like them because none of them would ever be good enough.

Despite it all, because of it all, I kept writing.

And now I claim that I’ve written five books. One more and then half a dozen novels have the claim of a young woman named Nicole Evans to them. And this one was so special to me, because it is about a regular bloke named Artemis Smith who is 67 years old. He’s a writer whose written 25 books and never been published, yet he’s never given up, either. And he’s stayed positive throughout it all, no matter what life has thrown his way or how deep he slips into depressive doubts. By the end of this book, he still hasn’t made it, but he’s getting closer. And he’s not giving up. He never will. I love him for it and I strive to emulate him (even if he is very much inspired by my own struggles and hopes and aspirations, so pulling some Inception shit right now).

So here’s to stubbornness and creativity. To smaller paychecks that equate to more writing time. To dedication and channeling the Muses. To the celebratory ice cream I’m allowing myself to buy before I get home and unashamedly eat most of it as I play Mass Effect until the sun comes up.

But most of all, here’s to every single person whose believed in me, encouraged me, inspired me and told me I could make it one day. I promise you I’m trying. And I promise that I’m loving it.

Cheers.

 

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Tropes and Clichés

I’ve been thinking a lot about tropes and clichés lately. Between editing a previous trilogy with a  foundation built on tropes–including everything from the Chosen One to vampires and werewolves to old men who know all yet tell nothing–and planning a new series that uses even more–and this time, purposefully–plus simply observing the dialogue surrounding the industry, with the constant desire to have something new, without clichés and tropes, grace the bookshelves; it is hard not to think about these things and form an opinion about them. Are using clichés and tropes good? bad? Do they help or hurt your writing? Does writing become less if they are incorporated?

I don’t have an answer to those questions. Opinions, sure, but no answers. Because every answer to them is subjective, like the opinions that help form those answers. Here are my subjective musings:

I’m very thankful for the tropes and clichés I’ve incorporated into my writing, because they have taught me a lot. I know the Chosen One plotline has been done a lot in fantasy. That didn’t stop me from writing a book about a boy who was chosen, through luck and unfortunate circumstance, to save the world. It also wasn’t the reason I wrote that book, either, to incorporate those clichés. Instead, I simply wrote a book about a kid named Darryn, who just so happened to fit the Chosen One mold. As I learned more about Darryn, that was what he fit into. That is how the story took shape and I went with it. Does that make him and his story cliché? Absolutely. Does that make him impossible to be unique?

I don’t think so.

Yes, his story incorporates a ton of tropes. Yet he is still different because it is a new story. It is a story written by my hand, with different characters and a different world. Will it feel familiar, one day, to readers, if it ever makes it that far and has a chance to be read widely? Yes, definitely. Yet will they find something they still enjoy, something to complain about, something they hate, something they love, regardless of how many tropes I used?

I hope so.

In my quest of querying and publication, Darryn hasn’t gotten the light of day due to the tropes that build the foundation of his world. And I understand that, 100%. It isn’t the most original storyline. Though I wish Darryn would get a chance, I haven’t given up hope on him yet. One day, I think his story will be read. And that will be exciting, tropes or no tropes. To be quite honest, however–and show my own naiveté–I didn’t realize how many tropes I incorporated until I started trying to get it published. And while I have my own spin on them, they are still tropes and they are still roadblocks, currently, in my publishing journey.

But in my writing journey, they have only opened doors.

You see, like many creative souls and many people in general, I doubted myself and I doubted my craft. I still do. Even as I began mapping out Darryn’s story, discovering what was going to happen next, I doubted whether I had the chops to make it happen. It took me a long time to start writing it, because I doubted myself as a writer. So perhaps, unconsciously, tropes surfaced in the story to give me confidence; writing something similar that I have read dozens of times and enjoyed might help convince myself this “writer thing” isn’t a fluke. I don’t know. I never really thought about it. And despite having the dream to get published one day, I didn’t write Darryn’s story to get published. I wrote it because I had a desire to tell it and that desire outweighed any other fears or doubts or tribulations. It was the story on my heart and so I wrote it. And then I edited it. Over and over again. I tried to craft it in a way that readers would enjoy reading it and maybe, yes, one day, it would get published.

And then it got rejected. Over and over again.

Too long, they said. Too generic, too cliché. Not original, not unique. Try again next time. 

Though the rejections hurt at first–and the doubt that I could never write anything original and would always be a cliché-writer took hold–eventually, I shook off the negativity and continued Darryn’s story. It might not be “good enough” to be published, but he certainly wasn’t done with me. So I wrote the second book. Then, the third. Two prequel-type books linger in the back in my mind. Seeds have been planted to allow for a sequel-series, if I wanted to explore that avenue. Then, editing all the while, I moved onto a separate book, in a new genre, new age range and an entirely different plot. And I finished it. And now, as I slowly plan out the bare minimum for a nine/ten book series, eager to start writing it despite having no idea where it is going, I’ve shared the central idea with a few people; friends and family and a few writing colleagues. The initial response:

Wow, that sounds awesome! Or: It’s going to be a lot of work, but I can’t wait to read it once you’re done. And, my favorite: That’s so unique. I love that idea.

Unique, they said. Calling one of my stories unique, when my first work has so many tropes, it was as if I was trying to pack them all in, instead of being completely unaware until after the fact. Of course, I recognize all this is biased praise, looking at the source. Yet it got me thinking and here’s what I conclude:

Clichés and tropes aren’t for everybody. They have been around for ages and at some point, they worked, enough to become the elements in stories that, now, agents groan over and audiences beg for something different. Some people label them as overdone. Some people hate them. Some people use them as the mark of a “poor” writer. These people may be right. I do agree that branching out and trying to create new, engaging storylines is never a bad thing. I hope to write stories that reach that calibre, one day. At the same time, a little familiarity never hurt me, and also, excites me, in a way. When I read a new book with tropes and clichés as center-pieces for the plot, it makes me wonder: if I’ve read this plotline a dozen times and here it threads again, what did the author do to make it different? It’s almost like a game, setting up my expectations through familiarity and then suddenly changing them when the twist hits. I think that is another way to make something unique.

Personally, I will always be indebted to clichés and tropes. They helped build the first novel I ever attempted and didn’t give up on, but instead, finished. They helped me thicken my skin through the rejection process. By unknowingly using them and suddenly having them pointed out to me, I became more aware as a reader and a writer, and started challenging myself to think outside the box. And now, as I begin work on my next series, they have been the direct inspiration–and will play a major role–within that series; a series that has already been coined unique (even biasedly-coined) and I haven’t even written a page yet.

Should you use clichés and tropes in your writing? That’s up to you and the stories you want to tell. If you want to be published, the more creative you can get and the more outside-the-box you can think, they better your chances are. You might want to stay away. But if you have a story in your heart where tropes abound, write that story. Sure, it may not get published. But it matters. It is your story and it will help you, in some form. Tell the stories in your heart. Listen to advice and criticism, but never abandon yourself and your work. Stay true to that, keep fighting, keep writing, keep learning, and you’ll make it, in whatever form “making it” takes.

Cheers.


The Power Over Your Own Mentality

I got a lot of positive feedback regarding my The Demons of Doubt post from yesterday (which I really, really appreciate; thank you). It also brought up an idea inspired by my own musing and discussions that I–having that writer’s soul–decided to craft a blog post around: mentality. But not just that, but pointing out the obvious–yet still difficult to wield and control consistently–power you have over shaping that mentality.

Today was a good day for me. I slept in (despite having weird dreams), took a shower and shaved (Lord, that was overdue; also, you’re welcome for that slipped in TMI moment), picked up the house, did some laundry and started replaying the Trespasser DLC from my favorite game, Dragon Age: Inquisition, because I just want to understand those twists a bit more (and get killed by Qunari again, apparently). All of this I did before work, which I’m currently at. While at work, I managed to reply to some emails, learned a new aspect of my job I didn’t realize I needed to know, completed my To-Do List for work, did some critiquing for a new writer I’ve connected with and now am writing this blog. It’s been a solid, productive day.

Oh, I’ve also been stuck in a limbo of putting off reading the last 200 pages of the book I’m currently devouring and finding the perfect moment to sit down and read those last 200 pages. Because I know once I open that book again, I’m not closing it until it’s done (I won’t have that much self-control). Yet I’m also not ready for it to be over, since the next book doesn’t come up until November. But that’s a blog post/review that I’ll be hitting you with this weekend, so stay tuned.

Throughout the day,  my situation–and the fears and stresses paired with it–came up in my thoughts over and over. Sometimes, I shut it out. Yet commuting, I failed to shut them out, so I contemplated. I mused. And instead of focusing on what was stressing me out, I thought about some of the goals I want to work towards. Writing wise, I not only want to write more consistently, but I have a work-in-progress to complete, a finished trilogy to trim and polish and another series (perhaps two or even three!) to draft. In other aspects of my life, I want to find another job. I want to start working out again. Eventually, I’d like to find an apartment or tiny house that I can nerd out in by decorating with gaming posters and LOTR décor.

These goals, and more, I want to accomplish. And my mindset this weekend would have set me on a path of impossible thinking; a path believing that I couldn’t accomplish all of those goals (some of which are needs) because of all the Catch-22’s punching me in the throat. Repeatedly. Yet today, instead, I thought about how I could make things work. My monologue went something like this as I drove down the back roads that had become so familiar:

So, there is this job as an international student advisor I’m stoked about and really wanna apply for. Need to do that. If I get that, commuting is going to be hell. So will eating. How am I going to work out? Well, the Rec is open until midnight, so if I bring my gym clothes and go run for 30 minutes and shower at the Rec, I could drive home afterwards and get roughly 5-6 hours of sleep. Yeah, that’s not happening until I move to Lawrence. I’ll walk Shadow until then. I really need to start doing that again. Oh, sleep. I miss you so much already. Better sleep as much as possible while I can. Meals…geez, that’s not going to be fun, but if I cook four meals between Saturday and Sunday, I could pack leftovers for dinner most of the week. Portable lunches are easy and cereal? Easy. Writing time? Part-time job. Bam, done. Weekends, too. Gotta keep that high on the priority–ohmygosh, look, a beaver! 

One: I know, it’s scary inside my head while I’m thinking. Two: I really did see a beaver on my way to work tonight and yes, I was really, really excited about it.

I’ll sum up what those thoughts actually mean, in the grand scheme of things. I do have a job in mind for a second job that I’d love to apply for that works 8-5, which would make my work day 8-5 and 6-10. So yeah, commuting would suck, sleep would disappear, long hours loom and trying to eat healthy might become even more challenging that it already is. But it is obviously doable (as my ramblings above eventually got to). And it’d be easier to manage once I moved and financially would help, a lot. And, if I got that job, I’d be working two jobs where I would be happy, which is a big deal to me. Plus, I am really lucky to have a part-time job currently that, once I complete the To-Do list left for me and after I make sure the students are on-task, allows me to do whatever else I please while I’m there, as long as I’m present and available. So blogging and writing time can easily be squeezed in there. If that is suddenly taken away, that’s what my weekends are for. If NaNoWriMo has taught me anything, it is how much time you really have for anything, if you give it priority during your time. And I’m not afraid to give writing that priority, any more.

So what does all of this have to do with powering your own mentality? This weekend, I focused on how difficult life is and will continue to be for me. Tears ensued, my mood was glum and I wasn’t very productive, to be honest. Today, I faced the same facts–life is difficult and some aspects about my situation are hard–but instead of focusing on how hard they are going to be, I focused on my goals and tried to plan around the difficulties. I tried to find solutions, even hypothetically while I drove and got excited about spotting tiny animals. And that is a switch in perspective from my weekend and it shows, not only in my mood today (which was great!) but also in my productively levels and the hope and excitement–and yes, of course, still fear–I now feel towards the future after making these tentative plans and potential schedules.

Does this mean that I’m going to be Miss Positive Thinking throughout this entire process? Nope, not at all. Are tears still in my future? Definitely. Will I still get stressed out, feel shitty and believe everything is impossible? Yep, occasionally. Yet I also got a solid reminder, reflecting and juxtaposing my two experiences and mentalities regarding my current situation, that I do have some control on my mentality. I can actively work to have a better mindset, even when things get hard. And when I fail to do so, that’s okay. It’s important to remember that, because those emotions–that stress and fear–are just as valid and important to feel as elation and joy and courage and hope. It’s a mixture of all those emotions that will help me be successful, especially if I believe that I will be, despite whatever wants to get in my way (if this concept is completely missing you, watch Inside Out. Go. Right now).

So that’s what I’m going to refocus and do: believe in myself and actively work to keep my mentality positive, open and flexible.

Cheers.


Patience is a…Reward?

Out of all the famous and clichéd phrases, one that I live the most by (or the one I think about most often) is “Patience is a Virtue.” My Aunt taught it to me when I was a young, impatient thing while we were at the bookstore and I just wanted the next book in the series she was buying me to be out (I think I was also impatient regarding the line wait time and how we had to wait at a restaurant later when my stomach was trying to eat my spleen and very vocal about it…) Needless to say, I’m not impatient now, thanks to her scolding (made more powerful by the fact that she never scolded). I actually like to think I’m a rather patient person. But sometimes, there are these cute little reminders that tell me I’m not always patient, even when I really need to be.

Particularly when I want to pitch my manuscript yet I know said manuscript needs more work. Being patient becomes especially hard after I’ve been editing it for ages and don’t particularly want to edit it any more.

I’ve edited the manuscript in question over a dozen times (and more often than not, the word count increased instead of decreased; weird how that happens). Looking at where the story is now versus where it started is such a mind-blowing transformation to me, on how much it has improved. And that isn’t me trying to be cocky or claiming I’ve written the next great American novel. That’s me recognizing where my story started and appreciating practically five years worth of work being put into it to improve it. Plus, I can’t imagine trying to get the first draft of the story published. It wasn’t near ready. I knew it then and I knew it now.

So that’s why, after trying to get the numerously-edited version represented and realizing that it still isn’t ready, makes me a bit impatient and makes me groan inside.

As I’ve started entering into more contests and queried more agents (thus, receiving more rejections), I’ve realized that despite the leaps and bounds my manuscript has taken, it still isn’t ready, for various reasons. I’m still learning about this manuscript and this story, which is both invigorating and insane, considering the work I’ve put into it. And as a recent contest popped up that I wanted to enter–and planned to–it took conscious effort to realize that I shouldn’t be entering it when I know my manuscript isn’t ready. I just didn’t want to do the work involved. So not only am I being impatient with my work, but I’m also being lazy.

Talk about a slap to the face to a project I’ve spent five years on–and I’ve slapped myself, no less!

Because here’s the thing: yeah, there are a lot of writing contests going on that I would love to enter, particularly for the communities that surround them and what I can learn from them. Yeah, I’m itching for an agent to love my story as many readers have (again, not trying to be cocky, but confident) so I can take the next step in making my dream come true. But rushing it not only hurts my manuscript and ruins a possible opportunity, but it is also disrespectful towards the work I’ve already put into it, as well as any work others have (and still are, bless them). This story is the first I’ve finished on such a scale (a trilogy!). Yes, editing is a never-ending progress, so eventually I will hit a point where it is ready “enough” and I’ll query again. But until then, I need to respect the story and respect myself enough to be patient and put in the work, to give my all to a story I love so much and to give it the best chance it can possibly have of being told. Because once it is ready–truly ready–it will get picked up. It will find representation and it will get published.

Respect yourself. Respect your work. Give it the time and attention it deserves. Listen to the feedback and the lessons and then actually incorporate them. Don’t just rush into the next set of queries or the next contest because that is more exciting or the thought of reading through that chapter again makes your head hurt. Your patience–and the work you put because of said patience–will reward you, in time. So take breaks. Let your manuscript breathe. Find critique partners to read it while you write something new, rejuvenate your mojo. And then get back to it, refreshed and energized–even if that means you spent six months doing so and will spend a few more editing, before you can enter the query trenches again. Don’t put a deadline on dreams. Instead, believe in them and believe in yourself enough to work for them, so one day, you can watch them come true.

Cheers.


Profession of Rejection

I think you could label choosing to be a writer as a career as embarking on a profession of rejection. (It is just such a catchy phrase, I kind of love it). And what I mean by that is exactly what is says: when you commit to writing, you’re also committing to being rejected. A lot. And I’m not just talking about query letters. Which will happen. A lot. I’m up to the double digits, personally, and I wouldn’t even label myself as querying “seriously.” I’ve undergone a few rounds of sending out emails with my query imbedded (not attached; they won’t even look at it otherwise; what is attached is the soft, faint threads of hope I have at getting representation, at finding that agents that’s like, “Yes! I want you, Pikachu.” And by Pikachu, they mean my manuscript and, through my manuscript, me. Though I’d willingly turn myself into a Pokémon, if that helped me achieve representation).

Anyway, long side rant aside, I’ve not queried furiously (yet), but in a few rounds of sending out half a dozen to even a full dozen queries, I’ve received only rejections. At first, it was very disheartening. Not only were they rejections for representation, and rejecting my story, but they almost never come with an answer or explanation as to why it is being rejected. And I totally understand that agents don’t have time to personalize queries and offer paragraphs of explanation as to why that particular query doesn’t suit them personally. Hell, most agents don’t even have time to send a rejection, resulting in a silent exclamation of “no” after a certain period of time. But, as a writer, it is very difficult to improve a story when I’m not getting feedback about what is “wrong” with it (though, I think I did receive a bit of insight as to why my manuscript has been getting rejected so often, which I will write about in a separate post).

Yet that is only one level of rejection a writer faces. Another thing a writer can do is enter different contests, such as pitching contests, query contests, agent and editor contests–you name it, they probably have it. Yet due to the high demand and popularity of said contests, there is a certain risk to entering them: not everyone can obviously win. I’m slowly perusing the contest realm and though no official announcements have been made of yet concerning the two I have entered, I think I’ll be getting a fair share of rejection on that front, too (again, this belief is spawned from a recent revelation I mention earlier). I also applied to go to a writing conference over the summer–another great tool to help writers improve, often costing money and a lot of time, but what a great way to learn so much. It was with a professor and writer that I love dearly and was very excited, eager and hopeful to work with. I got an email this morning that, while I was very close to making it in, I should probably reapply next year. A bummer, but I was honestly just excited I was so closely considered, that it kind of erased the bummed-out reaction I initially felt.

But say you get published. How exciting! Someone liked your work well enough to represent you and then managed to stick with you long enough to help you achieve your dream and get published. Now, you’re on the shelves and making your way to Rowling status. You can’t experience rejection after experiencing success, can you? Well, technically, as a writer, rejection is one of the constants of your profession. One form is that, despite being read, you won’t be loved by all. Some will probably dislike your book. Maybe even hate it. Maybe think it is the worst thing they’ve ever read. Might even Tweet about it. While that isn’t the same as getting rejected by an agent or losing in a contest, I think it has a special type of sting to it (especially if it’s not just a Tweet, but you discover an entire book review or, even worse, one of your inspirations didn’t like it and gave it a two star rating on Goodreads). Then, of course, once you start your next project, you’ll have to go through the process  all over again, if your agent doesn’t like the idea (forcing you to find another) or if you have to go to a different publishing house.

This post might seem overwhelmingly negative, but that is not my intent. Instead, I simply wanted to point out that writing and rejection go hand-in-hand. I don’t think you can be successful within the industry without developing a thick skin (something I’ve always struggled with) and dedicating a wall to your rejection letter collection. In realizing this, I think it is another reason for any aspiring writer to query to all the agents that seem like a good fit (after doing their research on said agents, of course); enter into all of the contests you can find; go to those conventions and enter to participate in a workshop; find a writing circle and beta readers and critique partners and get feedback on your manuscript; because all of these things, and more, will not only (potentially) give you exposure to rejection, harsh criticism and different perspectives, but they are also the resources, opportunities and experiences a writer has to grow and improve their craft, until eventually they reach a point where rejections don’t only cover their wall, but a few copies of their books sit on their shelves, too. For me personally, I think recognizing that writing is a profession of rejection, and rejection–in some form–will always be a constant companion, makes me actually relax a bit more and will help me learn to not take those who dislike my writing so personally, but instead question it, learn from it and grow from that response. Because in the end, everything I’ve gone through as a writer helps me improve. Every rejection–even the ones I don’t fully understand just yet.

Don’t fear rejection. Embrace it and chase after the chance to be rejected. Because you can’t be rejected or criticized unless you’ve done something. For writers, that means having a completed project and taking the next step after finishing a draft (and editing ten more). Plus, having the confidence and the kudos to take that next step. And that, my friends, is an accomplishment in itself that no amount of rejection can take away.

Cheers.


Writing: the Why and the How

When I introduce myself as a writer, responses are always varied. Some are with piqued interest, some with feigned respect, most with slight confusion and snarky jokes related to the “starving artist” role (which my bank account has unfortunately taken to heart). A follow-up question, if asked, is usually, “What do you write?” Of course, based on how I judge their initial reaction, my own response varies from the brief genre mention–“Oh, I write fantasy and dabble in science fiction”–to the overwhelming let-me-tell-you-about-all-of-my-planned-life-works that has happened on maybe one or two occasions. Yet what has been a really rare response to my proclamation as a storyteller has been not what, but why or how.

“Why do you write? How do you do it? What is your process like?”

Perhaps I’m not often asked these questions because usually, people don’t want to go that in-depth into my brain about my craft (which could also result from the fact that I’m not surrounded by many fellow writers and people are less likely to “get it”). Or perhaps it is because I’m not published, and thus, cannot be taken seriously. Honestly, I never noticed the absence of these questions in juxtaposition to the overwhelming inquiry of the “what” until a colleague and friend of mine asked exactly that. We were sitting outside of class–both of us writers, talking about what we were working on–when she asked me why I wrote. I was so taken off-guard by the question, I don’t think I gave her a proper response, even after I attempted and she proceeded with asking follow-up questions (regarding process and the how). So, here is my attempt to give a proper response now–or, as close to proper as I can, as rereading this, I realize this post goes everywhere. I apologize, but I think that’s just the nature of this particular beast.

Why do I write? I’ve reached the point in my memory loss where I can’t remember when I first “decided” to be a writer, as I don’t think it was ever a decision for me. It’s as natural as it can be (and that doesn’t mean that I’m automatically good at it or that I’m destined to be a great writer; but it is natural). It was always just fact. I read a lot as a kid–and still do–so I was living within my imagination more often than I ever did in reality. I distinctly remember in the 6th grade (or maybe 5th?) writing a story that featured all of my classmates. I can hardly remember the plot, but I do remember there being flying pigs and skeletons with red eyes that carried buckets of blood-stained daggers; I remember thinking how terrifying that was and giving myself nightmares from these skeletons I had created. Then, in 8th/9th grade, I remember starting to write a book that was supposed to be the start of a seven-book series. I got roughly 100 pages in before I stopped, but I had at least two different English teachers and a college professor read through the draft. I still have the edits from the professor and his kind note about how I should continue to chase my dream of being a writer. It was very kind of him, as looking back, while the imagination was full-throttle, the writing quality was less so.

The point of going down memory lane is that I can’t remember a time in my life when I wasn’t writing stories. And while I said–and believe–that I don’t remember ever deciding to be writer–storytelling is as much a part of my DNA as my blue eyes or brown hair–I do believe that it wasn’t until college and afterwards that I made the conscious choice to continue pursuing being a writer, no matter what. Writing takes skill and practice and dedication, and all of those things are choices. I believe a person can choose to improve their skills, take the time to practice and dedicate their free-time to writing stories. And anyone can do that, if they have that desire. It says nothing about the skill that person has as a writer, but anyone can choose to be one and practice being one.

Yet, for me, personally, it goes farther beyond making that choice and intentionally honing my skills and trying to improve and praying (and working) to get published. I don’t write for the glory of writing. I don’t write because it is what I’m “good” at–though being told I have a certain amount of skill that cannot be taught was encouraging, especially during my adolescent years. I write because the act of doing so makes me feel whole. Reality sucks. I have a great life and am blessed immeasurably, yet I still constantly have a desire to escape and go somewhere else. That’s where reading comes in. But I also have an innate, inbred, thriving desire to create. And that’s where writing comes in.

When I sit down to write, it usually starts off slow, no matter what project I’m working on. I’ll have to read a couple paragraphs, fix a word or two, before I can get into it. But once I start moving, it becomes almost effortless. Eventually, I reach a point to where it is much harder to stop writing than it was to start. Because in those moments when I’m immersed in a story created within my own head, fueled by my heart, I feel more whole and content than in any other time to date in my life. You know the cheesy saying about how people are “meant” to do things? Yeah, that cheesy saying comes to life when I’m living in my own word, breathing life into characters who constantly mold and shapes themselves.

That’s the other main reason I’m fascinated by the question of why do I, personally, write: my characters create themselves so much more than I do. It ties in with my process, which, it hurts me to say, I’ve never been able to find the words to describe accurately. My stories are usually born on a whim, from me imagining myself doing anything other than what I’m actually doing. For example, I’ll jump in the shower. Except it isn’t just a shower. It’s a shower installed on an airship. Or in the barracks. Or whatever location my mind wants to create (usually inspired by whatever book I’m reading or game I’m playing, at first, before it twists and distorts itself and takes a life entirely on its own). But it’s not just a shower on an airship or in the barracks. It’s a shower being taken right after a major battle, where mud and blood are still caked on the body. Or it’s the first shower being taken in three weeks. And suddenly, instead of imagining myself in this slowly-building situation, a character starts to form. She’s an assassin who just failed her first mission. She’s the newest member of an all-male crew and she’s self-conscious as to how they will react. Slowly, I’m taken out of the equation and instead, this new person I didn’t know existed, with life unfamiliar to mine, is created. Finally, the most important part: the questions. I’m left wondering: what is her word like? What is her personality? her past? How does she fit into society? Who surrounds her? And slowly, like removing layers of an onion, more and more is revealed to me until I have enough to form a story, create a life.

Guys, this happens all the time. While I’m showering. Doing dishes. Driving. Working. Working out. Dreaming. Eating. If I’m not dreaming up a new world, I’m fascinated by one I’m already working on and actually writing down, reliving scenes or creating new ones I want to write later that day. My brain is constantly coming up with new scenarios, new worlds, new people and new lives to explore. Except, when I finally daydream enough to have a solid…ish idea for a story and sit down to write, I don’t feel like the creator. No, instead I feel like a prisoner, the onlooker, the spy. Once a character is born inside my head, they take shape and create themselves on their own accord. I’m simply at their mercy, trying to record the events of their lives quickly enough that it still makes sense at the end of the day, accurately enough that I do them justice and beautifully enough that others one day will be as captivated reading it as I was watching it unfurl and writing it down. I can’t list the amount of times I’ve been writing a story, with a plan of where it was supposed to go, and then, while writing, realized I was wrong and taking it a completely different direction that was not part of my plan, but once I realized it, was exactly where the story needed to go; where it was meant to go. In my completed trilogy, about a dozen scenes throughout the three manuscripts were planned and stayed as planned. All the rest of it–and almost the entire second book–fell into place, as if I was being instructed what to say by those characters who were living it. Because they all feel real to me. All the characters inside my head. All the ones I record. They all feel very, very real, which makes writing about them 20 times more enjoyable and 20 times more heartbreaking.

I’m still not sure if my process makes sense. I’m sure many see it as insane and not only a little bit odd. But my mind is constantly creating, constantly living somewhere other than my presence place. I write because I am a tool for my own creations. In many ways, despite creating them myself, I feel like I owe my characters to record their journeys, almost as if they were given to me instead of created by me. As if I were the “chosen one” to receive their stories and get the “chance” to slave away and record them. So yes, I write to stay whole. I write to feel complete. I write to express myself–and my characters. Most simply, I write because I must. Because I’m not me when I’m not writing; not fully. Publishing is a dream, but it is never the ultimatum. When I’m 80, I’ll either have shelves filled with the books I wrote or a flashdrive with manuscripts completed but never published. However, not writing is never an option. It is never a choice, despite the choice being there. It simply is.

Cheers.


Pushing Forward

So, I know I’ve written about this before, but I’m in that stage again. I don’t have a title for it. It’s the You’re-Not-Cut-Out-To-Be-A-Writer stage. It’s not that I don’t have the drive or the ambition or the dream. I mean hell, I’ve going through round three of editing my debut and this thing isn’t exactly what you’d call short. That’s just it, though. I’m going through round *three* of rereading and rewriting and reediting and I am still changing things by the paragraph; still finding phrases that I can’t believe I wrote in the first place and still changing ideas and characters and even major plot twists. And I am taking Fiction Writing II this semester, with the same professor that hated all my writing the previous semester, who first helped really plant the seed in my head that maybe I’m not good enough for this line of business after all. And although I’ve only survived one critique so far and it was definitely better than my first one in Fiction Writing I, it still wasn’t exactly well liked. And while I’ve started round three of edits, I actually haven’t gotten a chance to sit down and work on my story in months, now that school is back in business. But the doubt is still there. It still lingers and sometimes, it overpowers….and it makes me wonder, why am I even trying this in the first place?

One of my closest friends has been with me in this journey from the beginning (because I forced her to be, but we’ll ignore that for now). She’s read the novel from beginning to end and given me feedback that I really appreciate and needed. So she mailed me some of her most recent edits of the earlier chapters. I’ve been itching to write but a huge part of me is so terrified that this story that I’ve invested my heart and soul into is not going to be enough in the end and that fear, that self-doubt, has held me back more than 18 credit hours and two jobs have. And I think my friend realized that. So she also mailed me a copy of a short story I wrote ages ago, that I didn’t even realize she had. And I read it.

And my goodness, was it shit.

It actually made me laugh, how horrid this story I wrote five or six years ago was. I can’t even remember the context of why I wrote it in the first place. My friend wrote in her letter to me that she was sending me this story to help me see how far I have come in a few shorts years that has passed since I wrote it. And I honestly think that my worst chapter in my debut is gold compared to what I had written.

So what does that make my best chapter?

It was definitely an eye opener for me. I am no J.K. Rowling or Ken Follet, by any means. And I may never be, to be honest. My story may have elements within it (the young boy on a quest to save the world) that have been seen in other works of brilliant fiction. It may be cliched in some ways. Hell, sometimes it is downright corny. But why do these things suddenly deem this story as unworthy? Just because it is familiar in some ways does not mean that it is horrid, as I have come to worry and believe. Because while there are elements that are familiar, there are also things that are new: new characters, new relationships, new twists, new worlds, new ideas, new conflicts, new resolutions, new evolutions. And the most important thing is something that I mentioned earlier: I have poured my heart and soul into this story. I believe in it more than I believe in a lot of other things, most definitely more than I have ever believed in myself (isn’t that a paradox?). So what I wonder is, how can a story with so much heart and so much work and so much determination be ruled out from possibly being someone’s favorite fiction, one day? What right do I have of denying the world this story just because of my own insecurities?

I have no right. Which is why tonight, I am taking a few hours for myself and going through the edits my friend sent me and delving back into this story that I love and fear so much. Because publishing this novel is my dream. And no matter how insecure I become or how much I doubt myself, I’m too stubborn to let anything stop me from going after this dream with as much fervor as I can muster…including myself.

So please, if you have a dream, don’t let anything or anyone stop you from going after it. Every single one of us deserves to achieve it. You have that dream for a reason. Now go achieve it.

Cheers,

Nicole

“A single dream is more powerful than a thousand realities.” — J.R.R. Tolkien