Hello, dear readers, and welcome!
Today I am writing my last post in my NaNoWriMo Prepping series, and I hope to impart some final bits of NaNo wisdom. I also hope you've enjoyed the series, and would like to extend a special thanks to everyone who has shared the posts with others. You're all awesome!
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As of this writing, there are only three -- you read that right, three -- days left until this year's NaNoWriMo, and I hope that, like me, you are excited for what is to come. The more a writer writes, even if the words are a sloppy, awful first draft, the better at writing a writer becomes, so remember that while your main goal for NaNo should be having fun, and gaining good writing practices (though the 50K mark is great, too), you are also doing this to become a better writer in the future, whether it's better at writing e-mails, letters, tweets, or some form of fiction.
As I said last post, there will always be a time in novel planning (or thinking, for those of you who are pantsers; you can't write a story without a sliver of an idea, after all) where you will have to actually sit down and begin writing, throwing all fears away. That time is almost upon us for NaNo, so now is when we gather our courage to make sure our steadfastness remains throughout the month.
Novel writing -- or, writing in general -- is an experience unlike any other, I think. It's very personal, very tedious, and even in challenges like NaNo, there is so much work to be done -- both during and after the writing. But what many manuals and talks about writing forget to include is how fun it can be, and even on the (many) days when it won't be fun, how rewarding. When you sit back after a month's work, or a day's work, or an hour's work, don't just look at how many words you wrote, but what you've actually accomplished in the story. It may be something small, but without tiny grains of sand, we would have no desert.
Have we learned your character's favorite color or place? Have we met a new friend or enemy? Has a large decision been made, or unmade? Has the love of your protagonist's life made an appearance? Has there been a death in the family, or a birth? Have your characters stumbled upon a lost city, or a new town? Has someone muttered that one line of dialogue that you think is simply hilarious or profound?
I have taken to attempting to write at least 500 words (though I often write more) a day for the last month, which for me has been busy elsewhere. It might not sound like many words to work with, but you would be amazed at the things that can happen in 500 words -- or 100, or 10, or 5. "She pressed onward" is three words, and yet those three words have the potential to change an entire story. Just imagine what new, exciting things will be happening when you're writing 1,677 words per day! Don't look at the number, look at the possibilities.
Have courage in your writing, and stand firm. This month is going to be full of as many blocks and frustrations as it is full of good points and elations, but that is simply the life of a writer, and the life of a book. No matter what happens, keep your courage, and keep moving towards the finish line -- and even if you don't make it to 50k, be proud of yourself for writing.
Hello, dear readers, and welcome!
Today I have for you the third, and next to last, post in my "NaNoWriMo Prepping" series, to get you ready for this year's NaNo. Enjoy!
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There remains a little over a week, as of this writing, until November officially starts, and there is still time to plan, but...when do we reach the end of our planning stage, and the beginning of our writing stage?
The most obvious answer, at least when it comes to NaNo, is November 1st, but in the "normal" world of writing, there really is never a set date. You can plan the entirety of your novel out (though I can guarantee you that it will change direction on you almost every time), you can draw up character sketches, draw out your world (if you're working in another one), and that is great, but somewhere along the line we have to sit down and actually begin writing, or the story will never start, and therefore never end.
It's easy to feel as though we will "mess the story up", or as though we aren't ready to begin writing. We might think we merely need some more planning -- and we might -- or we need to find new names for our characters -- and we might -- but eventually we have to stop planning, stop dreaming, and actually sit down and write. Something never started is something never finished.
Don't be fooled: writing is the hardest part of, well, being a writer. Revision can be difficult, but at least you have something to work with, and compared to actually putting words to paper, planning is not that difficult. Writing is where the hardship comes in, but writing the actual material is also the heart of being a writer, because without that first draft, wonderful or terrible, you would never have a second, third, fourth, so on and so forth draft to work with.
"You can't edit what you haven't written." This is the motto for my NaNo region, and it's true -- without words, you can't edit.
But that doesn't mean we have to be afraid of those words, or feel like we are going to "mess up" our story. It's your story, writer, and therefore if you're happy with it, you can't really mess it up. Will that mean it will need revision after the first draft is done? Most certainly! I heavily believe in, and enjoy, the revision process, but before we can get to fine-tuning our story, we must first have a story.
One of the things I like about NaNo is the fact that, because you have a time limit (and a somewhat crazy one, at that, though entirely doable), you really don't have time to doubt yourself. I've mentioned this before, but it fits well here. When NaNo begins, we can no longer hide behind plans or fears, because it will be time to write -- because we only have thirty days -- and that's part of the fun of it. This is a practice to get you in the habit of writing daily, whether you end up writing 1,667 words every day after NaNo or not (most writers don't, at least the ones I know).
You may be a young writer, or an old writer, or maybe you're just going to try NaNo and see if you can do it. You may end up loving or hating writing; you may end up writing more books, or never writing one again. Whatever the case, when November rolls around, remember that it's time to start writing, and don't be afraid to delve right in.
Hello, dear readers, and welcome!
Somewhere in between preparations for this year's NaNoWriMo and Halloween, I entirely forgot to write this post, for my 4-year publishing anniversary! So, I decided to remedy that by writing it now.
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Wow, four years! I certainly doesn't seem like it, but when I look back I can see just how much has happened between now and then, and just how much I have grown.
That is, perhaps, the largest bit: that I have grown -- as a writer, and as a person. Learning more about business, especially this fickle and often tiresome business, has lead to definite changes in my life, some good and some bad. But overall, I feel that through experiencing the ups and downs that I have managed, I have come out all the stronger for my challenges.
So I will offer some advice, as I often like to do. This advice doesn't stretch just to publishing, but to life, as well:
I often like to speak on the topic of being yourself, because the more I go through, the more importance I put upon it, and the more I realize its importance, but the other two I don't speak concerning quite as often. They are immeasurably important, however, as I said, not only in the publishing business, but in life, as well.
There are plenty of stars in the sky, but some shine brighter than others -- so are there people, and thus do they shine. It isn't due to the fact that some people are not "worth" as much as others, because everyone is worthy, but because some people are not afraid to take their life by the reigns, and drive themselves forward. I am working on not being afraid.
It takes a mass amount of courage to write a book, and to publish it, but as I am finding, it takes an even greater amount of courage to go against the grain. In this sense, I mean to allow a book the time it needs to become, to really shape -- to allow ourselves time to get to know our characters, to plot out our plot, to do our best to make this book into everything it can be. We all too often try and rush to the next thing, while the moment, the journey, slips past us. It takes courage to slow down, to wait. We might have to let go of some things in the process, and we might have to devote more time, but this is where our passion appears.
Publishing is about more than just numbers, sales, and how many retailers you have your book available through -- or it should be, at least. I think the thing that writers often forget is that, self-published or not, we are writers first, and owe it to our stories to allow them to be crafted with care, not ease.
As I look back over four years, I can definitely see a change in my schedule. I used to, prior to publishing, spend months and months, sometimes even years, on a project, but once I started publishing I wrote faster, released faster, and attempted to keep up with the other writers. This may work for some people, but not so for me. What resulted were multiple unfinished or half-finished products, books I eventually had to pull off the proverbial shelf because I so hated them, books I had to re-write and re-release, or abandon forever. I nearly lost my will to write last year, so caught up in insecurity over not writing and releasing fast enough, and feeling as though I would never get anywhere in publishing because of it. Can you see where confidence might come in?
I have always known, and heard, this, but last year really drilled it into my mind: if you are publishing to make money, then you are in the wrong business. Most to-be authors will, when told this, point to moneymakers in the writing world, both traditionally and self-published, and expect to become them. It is possible, certainly, but it isn't likely. The mere math concerning how many books are available, not to mention published weekly or daily, or even monthly, is both astonishing and will make the blood leave your face. The probability of success as determined by plenty of money is not high in this business, but if we are writers working by passion, then that doesn't really matter.
Stop crunching numbers, writer, and get back to writing. It's a sad truth that you may never sell a million copies, that you may never even see any money until your fifth book or later, and that even then you may not make more than $500 per year, if that, but don't let that stop you. Passion isn't about money, it's about work, and if your work is writing, then get to writing. The passionate writer has to write in order to be, money or no money, so don't give your passion away simply because it isn't lucrative at the moment, if ever -- as Tolkien wrote: "all that is gold does not glitter". Indeed.
This leads into confidence, even when it seems as though we are "failing" by not making money (which I utterly believe is a lie). The confident writer is the writer who gets things done. The moment the writer loses their confidence, or allows lack of confidence to creep towards them slowly, is the moment that they either have trouble or give up writing. We cannot afford to think that our writing will always be terrible, that we don't write as well as we once did, that we are going to write the story "wrong", that our ideas are terrible, or that, worst of all, maybe we have lost our writing talent. Confidence doesn't mean that we can't admit to our faults, admit to the parts in our story that need work (because a story always needs work after its first, second, etc. draft), but we shouldn't be so terrified of our abilities that we feel inadequate. Having confidence isn't having haughtiness, merely being centered in the fact that we can do our work, and do it well. It doesn't matter if anyone else is doing it, or if it has been "done" plenty of other times, but with other twists; you are not out to please anyone.
Repeat after me: I am a fantastic author.
Whenever you are feeling depleted or as if you are on the edge of losing confidence, as my French teacher used to say: répéter, répéter, répéter!
After I realized that the way I was writing was not working for me, I began to change things, to have more confidence. It wasn't easy at first, with a few years of "I'm not keeping up/I'm not good enough" behind me, but I managed -- one step at a time, one affirmation at a time. Now I am beginning to exercise confidence not only in what I'm writing, but in how I'm writing it; I may not be as fast as others, and I may take longer, but I am confident of my own process and what it puts forth. The moment we start to sink into old thoughts of "not good enough", we can shake them off with affirmation, and keep working. All diamonds need polishing before they can shine.
But I will step aside from the writing process for a moment, because one of the things that I've learned about publishing is that we do need to, even on the business side, be all of the above things, as well. Perhaps confidence is an obvious asset, but what about passion and self? I see so many writers on social media, throwing their books at others, clogging up internet space, sometimes being unknowing nuisances, and I wonder what type of passion they have, because often I can't see it.
I cannot say that using social media to get word out about your books is bad, because it isn't -- it's a necessary tool -- but in the same token, all too often the author's sense of self disappears, whether for the author themselves, or for the reader of their social content. I am not a person who could stand on the side of the road, flashing a sale sign, like others I see (especially around this time of year, the Holidays). I like to talk about my stories, but more than anything, I like to talk about stories -- to share information, essays, critical analysis, things that inspire me; I am an intellectual, stimulated by knowledge, not a billboard. If I were to only promote my books, and nothing else, I would feel like a fake -- and I can't say that I haven't felt like a fake in the past, and don't still feel like a fake at times, when I do promote my work, because I am also someone who finds it difficult to spend much time on social sites.
The act of promotion isn't a bad thing, rather how you go about it. I've said before that doing things your way, matching your marketing, etc., to your abilities and desires is a good thing, but as often, it takes me a while to listen to myself.
The heart of the matter lies within the fact that we as authors, publishers, and people fall too far into the crowd and the way that things "should be" done, rather than living and working with passion, confidence, and self. The heart of the matter is always the story, the words, the literature, and that is what should be shared -- the story and the author, from whence the story comes. Sales are great, reviews are great, but what about the work, the passion that went into it, the confidence that it's amazing, and the writer who brings all of these things together?
There is so much to write about publishing and writing itself that it cannot all be contained in a simple post -- or even three. Life itself is a learning process, not to mention publishing, but the thing that is amazing is that at hallmarks, such as my publishing anniversary, we can look back and see how far we have come -- not with a frown or frustration over what could have been done, but with pride that we have matured and come so far forward.
So, keep moving forward, writer, keep going towards whatever you want to accomplish. This is your life, your legacy, what you will devote hours and years of time to. Make it count, and make it beautiful. Have confidence that you are doing your best; allow your passion to drive you even further into artistic heights; enjoy the journey as you be yourself, and become closer to your work.
If you've lost that wide-eyed, enthusiastic draw towards writing that you had once, before all of the "not good enough" and the "this is the right way" comments, then chase after it, writer, and grasp onto it with both hands. This is your life, your writing, your stories, so make the most of it.
Don't go backwards, but forwards.
Hello, dear readers, and welcome!
The subject of today's post in the NaNoWriMo prep series is one that is quite near and dear to my heart--
Learning to say the word "no".
In writing, there are plenty of things we must learn to say "no" to: that little voice that tells us we don't have the time; that plot point or idea that another person is pushing upon us (usually trying to be helpful); the opinions of others concerning what should and should not be written. I, however, find that the most frustrating "person" of all to say "no" to is this:
Your inner perceiver of the world.
This person is different than your inner critic, who we all wrestle with, as well. Your inner perceiver has ideas about what is supposed to happen, much like the people mentioned above who think they know what should and should not be written. Your inner perceiver will shoot down ideas not because they are silly or half-baked, as your inner critic will, but because they are too odd or crazy, too outside the scope of "normal" for the world.
But let me ask you: is your favorite book in the world really a "normal" one? If it is considered not all too odd now, how was it perceived when it was first published?
My favorite book is Peter Pan (Peter and Wendy), by J.M. Barrie, adapted from the famous play...which so many found odd and unsellable that the author had a hard time finding anyone who would stage it at first. Imagine the surprise of those people who turned their noses up at the thought of a flying boy, fairies, and the Neverland when the play became a huge success.
Your inner perceiver can be dangerous, and hard to get rid of, but as NaNo comes along, I always try to remind myself that getting rid of this perceiver is important.
I've mentioned before that with NaNo -- with writing in general, actually -- comes great ideas, many of them odd or crazy, many of them which will seem to have nothing to do with your story at first. When those ideas come, and your perceiver or critic tries to push them away, exercise your use of the word "no", and go with your idea, no matter how strange it may seem at first. You may not like what you wrote in the end, but it is something to work with -- and chances are that instead of disliking it, you will be glad that you wrote it after all.
The best stories are born when we throw aside doubt, and have confidence in ourselves as creators.
Blog News ~
So, just a few small updates this week.
Books: All links on the site (to books, etc.) have been added, with more distributors coming soon! You can now purchase most of my books from iBooks and BN, as well as Smashwords, with paperbacks also available.
InkTober: Secondly, it seems that I will not be doing anything else for InkTober. With preparing for my region's NaNoWriMo, among other things in my life at the moment, InkTober has not fit well into my schedule this year, and most drawings that I've tried have been too hurried for my taste, which only leaves me feeling frustrated. I hope to try InkTober again next year, when things are a bit more settled, but we will see. Thank you for dropping by to visit my artwork!
Hello, dear readers, and welcome!
I hope you're enjoying your October so far, and are looking even more forward to NaNoWriMo right around the corner. This post comes from a chat I had with my good writerly friend El the other day, and I know it pertains to an area that I have struggled with over time:
But the title of the post relates to inspiration, Alexandra, so what do you mean? Well, in this case the two go hand in hand. Let me explain.
El, as I have said, has been "out" of writing for quite some time, and her interests have certainly changed. She used to like more Paranormal stories, and she still does, but she's definitely shifting towards Fantasy in her writing (I will try to stray as far as possible from the confusing world that is genres and sub-genres, for everyone's sanity; it can be noted that Fantasy and Paranormal are at times they same thing...sigh). So recently El asked me what I recommended to get her to understand more about Fantasy.
Alright, so I lied. I will speak a bit about genres. My advice is this: don't worry about them. Targeting your book to a specific (or more often, more than one specific) genre can be useful for marketing down the road, but genre really has little to do with the writing process itself; it only makes one frustrated, in my experience. All too often writers try and stick to tropes within a genre, if they worry about genres, and that generally isn't good for anyone's health or creativity (unless you're writing a parody, and want to make fun of those tropes). I don't pay too much attention to genre until I go to actually publish the work...but I do pay attention to writers.
Anyway, more on that in a moment! As I was saying, El asked what I thought might help her understand Fantasy better, what might make her "write it the right way". I basically told her what I said above, but I also told her what helps me: finding things I love through others writers, and emulating those things -- gaining new ideas, seeing how aspects I love have been presented before.
They say that the best artists are artists who steal (from others, from nature, from history), and I definitely believe that is true. Nothing is new, and when you embrace that, the pressure of trying to write something completely new vanishes, and then you can work more freely. Stealing is completely different from copying, however, I want to note, so keep that in mind -- copying is for the realm of fan fiction, not original fiction; we want to write love notes to those who have come before us, not plagiarize. Find what inspires you, and why, and see how you can use it.
To put this into better perspective, T.S. Eliot said: "Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different. The good poet welds his theft into a whole of feeling which is unique, utterly different from that from which it was torn."
So, what inspires you? I've spoken about this many times before, but I want to take it a step further--
What do you know about what inspires you? How much research have you done?
I've stated many times that J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, and of course my favorite author Madeline L'Engle, have had big impacts on my writing, and have taught me plenty about writing itself, and about what type of stories I want to tell. But was it enough just reading their work, and seeing how they wrote? Maybe it could have been enough, but in the end I wanted more, and I have something to tell you: I learned so much more from wanting more.
Anyone can read an author's work, but what about the author? What about their life, and the things that led to them creating their work? How did they feel about writing, what practices did they have, who did they emulate, what books did they cherish, what myths and histories did they draw from? What is the backstory behind their writing, and where can you see new ideas that never had a chance to be born?
If you want to be inspired to write a great book, you have to put the work in. Inspiration comes from anywhere and everywhere, but if you have an interest, chase after it. Find out all you can about whatever interests you, whatever you believe you will be putting into your story. Be careful not to overwhelm yourself, but don't stop at reading a favorite author's work -- step outside of that work, and discover more. What you look for may not be necessarily about the author themselves, but about what they wrote, what they added to literature, what devices they employed, but do more than scratch the surface.
The tiniest thing can lead to a new idea, and it will bring you closer to those you admire. When I told El that genre really didn't matter, she found it odd, because most of the time people tell you the genre matters too much, but the lack of importance as far as genre has been true for me. Genre is just a label (and interestingly enough, when my mother was young, they had yet to employ genres at all), but the story and its author are real; what inspired them is real.
So, fellow or future writer, do some research. Find a new favorite author, see what types of books are similar in idea to what you want to write, discover your author's backstory, find an essay they wrote concerning writing, take a walk in the park. Grab a notebook, and anything that inspires you, write it down and keep it close when you're in the middle of NaNo, and in need of some inspiration.
Look beyond the ordinary, writer, and your work will exceed the ordinary, as well.
Some of my (non-fiction) book recommendations, in case you're interested:
A Circle of Quiet ~ by Madeline L'Engle
Steal Like An Artist ~ by Austin Kleon
It's Not Easy Being Green: And Other Things To Consider ~ by Jim Henson
Brain Storm ~ by Don Hahn
The Imagineering Way ~ by The Disney Imagineers
On Writing ~ by Stephen King
The Art Of The Hobbit By J.R.R. Tolkien ~ (His actual art, not that film nonsense.)
Also for interest, a piece Tolkien wrote about fantasy stories, in PDF, which is very interesting: it can be found here.
Updates: InkTober and Tumblr ~
So, I've discovered something about InkTober, this year of which is my first year doing it: I don't like drawing fast. I love to sketch, but sketching in ink isn't really my forte, and I'm never happy about a "badly done" drawing; it is apparently much easier to make myself write than draw quickly, probably due to the ease of words...or more practice, or something. So, I've decided to slow my InkTober down to one drawing a week. My schedule is busier than anticipated, and I really want to do my best with these drawings.
Also, my Tumblr...I've been debating about this for a while, and I've finally decided to close it. It has become too distracting for me, and too much to keep up with, and I want to dedicate myself more fully to my work. Thank you to everyone who has followed, liked, re-blogged, and commented, but I will be shutting the Tumblr down this week. Thank you for your understanding.
Hello, dear readers, and welcome!
In case you missed yesterday's first InkTober post, happy October! If you're anything like me, you almost can't wait for it to be November (although you can wait for Halloween to be over, because you love Halloween).
As promised, this is the first of my NaNoWriMo Prepping posts, and I'll be doing more throughout the month to get you all ready and excited for NaNo! Please enjoy!
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Every year around November I receive the same set of emotions: excitement and worry. Excitement is of course for the upcoming writing, the fellow Wrimos I will meet, the parties and write-ins, and just the general welcoming feeling of NaNo. But worry is the emotion that always attempts to gobble me up, chewing on me with its extremely sharp teeth.
Worry stems from many places: What if I can't find an idea? What if my idea sucks? What if I change my mind about what I want to write? What if I fall behind? What if the other Wrimos are crazy?
As a NaNo veteran -- well, I've been doing NaNo for six years; does that make me a veteran? -- I can honestly say that this is one of the biggest things about NaNo I've learned:
None of those worries matter.
I'm not saying that you don't matter, simply that your worries don't. We all are nervous about our ideas, about writing and trying something new, especially if we are new to writing or to NaNo, but in the end everything always works out.
There is something magical about NaNo that gets into your system once November begins, and doesn't leave. I'm not saying that it makes the month or the writing easy, because it certainly doesn't, but the experience is special, and the bonds you form during November -- both with your fellow authors and your story -- are special, too. I would never trade what I've learned from the hardships of NaNo for an easy-going month, but I have learned that worrying over my novel will not do me any good.
Worrying stifles creativity, so stop it now. It will take your enjoyment out of NaNo before NaNo even starts. NaNo is a fun challenge, but above all it's a fun time. You may not win your first year, or any of your others, but winning isn't really what NaNo is about -- it's about trying, about getting into good writing habits, about community.
Take your idea, and run with it, whenever it comes to you. Get out there and meet other writers in your area (and make MLs like me happy, because we put a lot of work into arranging write-ins and parties), and make new friends. Have an exciting November!
If you're worried, I understand. I've been bit by the worry bug myself this year, but I've managed to squash it, because I know what it does. Allow yourself to let excitement take over instead, remind yourself that everything will work out in the end, and be proud of yourself for trying something new.
Today is the first day of InkTober! So, a happy October to all of you, and I hope you're excited for what I consider the official start of autumn.
Here is my first drawing for InkTober!
Today I wanted to work on using my brush pens and some color -- and also without doing a pencil sketch first -- and this is what happened! I love drawing flowers, particularly roses or vines, although my roses always seem to end up large (*sigh*).
Materials used: Sakura Brush Pen (black ink and red ink), Faber-Castelle brush pens (gold, green, and fuchsia).
I really like this design, so I've gone ahead and added a blue background, and uploaded it to RedBubble, where you can purchase it on prints, totes, and more. Thanks for your support!