IWSG Post #12

DECEMBER QUESTION: As you look back on 2017, with all its successes and failures, if you could backtrack, what would you do differently?

When it comes to writing…

I could not be happier with my NaNoWriMo success this year. A lot of it was building on my momentum from last year, which is ultimately what I want to do. I need to just finish a project, and then I can go from there! And the way I want to get there is writing a little bit every day.

Planning ahead of time and getting a complete timeline worked out for the story really, really helped.

If I’d thought of it more ahead of time I might have spent more time researching baseball teams and all that. My main characters are happily bonding over things I know nothing about, haha.

#catsofinstagram #christmascookies #catmascookies

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When it comes to everything else…

I would go back in time and start actively balancing my checkbook earlier in the year. At least that would have felt like the sky was falling all at once when financial disaster finally hit.

Most everything I would do differently has to do with how I’ve been spending money.

One of the things I wanted to do this year was get more into yoga, and it happened relatively late in the year but it has happened! We made a friend who is now hosting a yoga group in the loft of her house. I finally have a reason to dig out my yoga mat. Success!

I’ve been baking and cooking more lately. The only thing I would change about that would be to start doing it sooner. It’s been very therapeutic, creativity inspiring, and also a lot of fun to share the recipes here.

And I’m not going to lie, the only way that could have happened is if I’d quit my job earlier. It had just become a place I didn’t want to be anymore, and was running me into the ground.

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IWSG Post #11

NOVEMBER QUESTION: Win or not, do you usually finish your NaNo project? Have any of them gone on to be published?

I haven’t finished my past two NaNo novels, although I did hit the 50k words mark on both. This year I’m working on the second draft of one of them, with the eventual aim to publish.

Actually, I’m cheating a little. I started writing the prologue a little early, with all new content before I get to the point in the story where I started it last year. But hey, if it helps me finish, I don’t care!

IWSG Post #10

OCTOBER QUESTION: Have you ever slipped any of your personal information into your characters, either by accident or on purpose?

AHAHAHAHAHAHA— Yes. Both. I’m not sure it’s possible not to.

You know the stupid advice of “write what you know”? It’s trite, but stick with me here. The only thing you’re capable of writing is what you know. This includes everything you’ve experienced, everything you’ve read, everyone you’ve ever met.

It includes every emotion you’ve ever experienced, and everything you can extrapolate, based on those feelings, about situations you’ve never personally been in. That’s always there.

Then there are the things that define your experiences. The things which, maybe you’re not entirely sure you can escape enough to convincingly write outside of your own context. This is why young writers are often asked to write things like, if you’re a girl write about a guy experiencing XYZ, and vice versa — to challenge your personal context. And you have to do that if you write fiction. That’s what fiction is.

But sometimes it helps to keep some of the same building blocks. Start with what’s familiar and extrapolate from there. If your character has parents who closely resemble your own parents, you don’t have to stretch as much to figure out the dynamic your character has with them, the quirks your character might have inherited from them, the books and tv shows your character was exposed to growing up.

For example, my parents are huge nerds. I grew up watching Star Trek TNG and Voyager, the Star Trek and Star Wars movies, 2001: Space Odyssey, anything with George Clooney (because my mom has a thing for George Clooney), and the History Channel (because my dad has a thing for the History Channel). On the other hand, my partner grew up with a dad who loved watching Westerns. You know how many Westerns I’ve watched in my life? Almost zero. We both think the other had kind of a weird childhood.

I can write a character whose parents both had 9 to 5+ jobs in computers, easy. Many of my characters are huge Star Trek fans. Many of my characters are blonde and 5’5″. Many of my characters have only one, younger sibling. And many of them don’t have any of those qualities, but those are some of my defaults because, hey, it has to be something. I can build other details on top of what I know that don’t necessarily have anything to do with me, and as long as it feels organic that’s the important thing.

And… I will admit to a few self-inserts. Sort of. Some details were significantly changed and that character had her own thoughts and feelings. But the similarities did make her a hell of a lot easier to write.

IWSG Post #09

(This post was written and scheduled in advance, as today I get to have a super fun endoscopy and expect to be pretty loopy from the sedation. Bleh.)

unnamedAUGUST QUESTION: What are your pet peeves when reading/writing/editing?

These are all pet peeves that I attend to while writing, as well as editing and, to a lesser extent because it’s not like there’s anything I can do about it, reading.

They won’t suit everyone. I know that the first one probably lead to a lot of my peers in writing classes throughout the years lose patience with reading all the comments I left in the margins on their work when critiquing… For my part, I frequently felt like my stories weren’t getting enough scrutiny when it was time for my work to be critiqued.

  • Consecutive sentences and/or paragraph that all start or end with the same word or series of words. Exception: when it is done intentionally (and effectively) for emphasis.
  • Lack of Oxford comma. I like it, I use it, and I want to see it.
  • Dialogue where two speakers’ words are lumped in the same paragraph, making it harder to tell who’s talking if your brain skips the one or two cue words. Incorrect punctuation going in or out of the quotation marks — because if what follows the dialogue is a vocal action in any tense (said, says, etc.) it should always be punctuated with a comma, not a period, which then continues the sentence. If what follows is a physical action, then it should be a period.
  • Substitutions for said that don’t really describe a physically possible way of talking, like “smirked” instead of “said with a smirk” — because a smirk is a facial expression not a description of speech. Or “quaked” or “trembled” — also not speaking verbs. I got all of these examples from one of those Said is Dead posters, which tend to have mostly good suggestions with some real stinkers mixed in.
  • “As if” when it should be “as though.”
  • “Would of.” Are you kidding me?

IWSG Post #08

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JUNE QUESTION: Did you ever say “I quit”? If so, what happened to make you come back to writing?

(Who has two thumbs and hasn’t answered an IWSG question since February? And also totally forgot to post this a couple weeks ago? This girl.)

I don’t think I’ve ever walked away from writing as a whole.

There are plenty of drafts I’ve walked away from though. I walked away from one story in high school because it just read too much like Grapes of Wrath, a book I did not particularly enjoy but happened to be reading for lit class at the time. I walked away from my first NaNoWriMo attempt, also in high school, before finishing because it was just not good, haha.

I walked away from a couple of writing communities over the years, all fanfic related. One was all but inactive by the time I joined anyway. Another one was a little bit full of drama and many fans who were… let’s call them blunt. Plus, I got sick for a bit and got behind watching the show, took a break to avoid spoilers, and just sorta never jumped back in. The third was less fic writing and more rp based (role play, meaning I was writing as my chucaracter and pantsing it the hole way along with everyone else), and moving away from that one was more a combo of having less time to devote to keeping up and a bunch of my rp friends drifting away from it too.

With each of those I walked away with more than I’d started with. I learned so much from my three fandoms before moving on: how to work with betas, how to share my writing regularly with other people, how to write quickly and be able to post quickly to keep up with the pace of rp threads. There’s a fair amount of my writing still on the internet that I’m not necessarily proud of, quality-wise, but I’m proud of the fact that I did it. I’m also never going to read it again, because I don’t have to and I don’t wanna.

For the most part, my breaks from writing have been due to a lull in mood and energy. I take a break to focus on getting through the daily grind, and when I get back to a place where I have energy to spare again I wrote.

IWSG Post #07

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March IWSG Day Question: Have you ever pulled out a really old story and reworked it? Did it work out?

Recently, actually. It didn’t work out, but I did end up rereading some short pieces I wrote in 2010 and probably haven’t revisited since. It’s fascinating to read stuff you no longer have any idea where you were going with.

The reason it didn’t work out is because the new idea that had inspired me to look through my old writing didn’t quite fit with the characters I’d been thinking of. Which is kind of irritating, because I miss them and had gotten all excited over the idea that I might be able to get down a new piece of their story… but when I read back over what I had so far, I realized it wasn’t something that would happen to them.

But that’s okay, because I still wrote the new idea. Part one, anyway. The rest is still in progress and was partly spurred on by wanting to find something new to ground the initial concept in.

Maybe I’ll pull the old story out and fiddle with it next, after I’m done with this new project. It’s nice to be reminded of a story that I know I’ll put down on paper some day but don’t feel pressured or rushed to do so. Over the past two years that’s basically what my NaNoWriMo novels have been — big fancy excuses . I haven’t finished them either yet, but that’s okay too. They’ll come together when they’re ready.

(I’m still coasting on the gleeful fact that in the past two years and even just the past few months I’ve done a lot more original creative writing than I have in years. This should last for a while and I’m content with that.)

IWSG Post #06

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FEBRUARY QUESTION: How has being a writer changed your experience as a reader?

I think the biggest impact is in my book choice. A lot of my reading happens via audiobook in my car, and if there’s a particular story I’m working on I tend to queue up books that (a) I’ve read before and (b) fit the subject, general theme, or ambiance of what I’m trying to write. It puts me in the right headspace for what I want to do… or at the very least doesn’t yank me out of it.

For example, when working on Growing Magic I tend towards books where I really admire the world building, or the rules of magic, or if it just has a really cool adventure plot that vibes with what I want my characters to experience.

Audiobooks also help me de-stress after work. I like to think of it as holding harsh reality at bay so that I can go home and write rather than go home and lay on the floor experiencing existential crises.

When a person is lucky enough to live inside a story, to live inside an imaginary world, the pains of this world disappear. For as long as the story goes on, reality no longer exists.

Paul Auster

IWSG Post #05

JANUARY QUESTION: What writing rule do you wish you’d never heard?

Oh… there are a couple. Some are just on the list because I’m a slightly obsessive person and knowing these “rules” makes me pretty annoying when reading over someone else’s work. But I have to say that the rule I genuinely wish I’d never heard is…

Write every day. 

I know, I know it’s a good habit. It’s a good goal, but I beat myself up a little on the inside whenever I don’t meet it. The discouragement of not living by the rule outweighs the benefits of living by it successfully, for me. I feel weirdly as though I’m constantly competing against myself. That said, participating in NaNoWriMo has kicked me into a higher gear than usual lately and I do want to try and keep that up. Maybe just not mandatory every day.

And now, the rules I do appreciate but obsess over more than I should:

  • Only use said, with limited variations such as whispered or yelled. Don’t get into “he grated out” or “she snorted” territory, because you don’t talk literally through your teeth or your nose. (I think the gist of this is something I picked up from Stephen King’s On Writing.)
  • Use any “-ly” words as sparingly as possible because it’s telling rather than showing. (Also from On Writing.)
  • Consecutive sentences and consecutive paragraphs should not start with the same word or phrase. (Not sure where this came from, but if I see two sentences in a paragraph start with the same words I start counting how many nearby sentences do the same. It’s exhausting.)
  • If you have back and forth dialogue and then descriptions of what different characters are doing/thinking/etc., it goes in the same paragraph as what they’re saying. Someone else does something? Separate paragraph. (Not sure if this is real advice or just a thing I do. I can’t remember if I got it from anywhere besides just generally being a bookworm.)

IWSG Post #03

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NOVEMBER’S QUESTION: What is your favorite aspect of being a writer?

Look at me remembering this in time and posting during NaNoWriMo! These are a few of my favorite things:

* Getting lost in daydreaming about a story. I enjoy this part even more than actually writing it.

* This is work I can do in my pajamas before I’m even out of bed for the day. I mean, I don’t get paid for it and I usually have to get out of bed anyway and go in to the office, but still. Weekends are great.

* Writing to try and make sense of reality or explain something to myself. I did this a lot with research papers in college, but it works with fiction too.

* The “ah ha!” feeling of finally figuring out a solution to a troublesome plot hole.

* Character building. I love taking an idea for a person and fleshing them out into a believable, unique character with their own hopes, dreams, and motivations. Even if they sometimes take an odd turn and develop traits I hadn’t expected or planned for in their story.

* Being impartial. As the writer I don’t feel like it’s my place to pick a stance one way or another about what happens in my stories — not that I don’t, but I keep it out of my writing because that responsibility falls on the characters that live in inhabit the story. As a person who’s never been terribly good at picking sides, it’s a nice reprieve.

* Feedback. I really enjoy getting constructive criticism and figuring out which comments I should take into account and then working the suggestions and new ideas into my writing. Honestly, I don’t think I would have turned out this way if it hadn’t been for college writing classes and seriously getting into writing fanfiction at roughly the same time. The support, camaraderie, and positive feedback (from either source) was enough of a counter note to the negative crap (from either source) that I ended up fairly resilient.

 

IWSG Post #02

The Insecure Writer's Support Group

October 5th Question: When do you know your story is ready?

I don’t, really.

For the last several years, I haven’t felt like I really finished anything. Even when I was writing a lot of fanfiction, I generated and posted it at breakneck speed before my insecurity could stop me. Typos? It’s just the internet. I don’t know my audience all that personally and I can go back and fix any typos or other glaring errors I catch later on if I’m really that fussed about it.

Aside from the crushing self-doubt that’s slowed my creative output to a trickle, I feel like this is a fairly reasonable attitude. When I do get something published, I’ll probably know even less of my audience. The biggest difference is that once it’s submitted and put in print, I won’t be able to go back to make changes — and yet I keep stumbling across editions from various authors where they have, gasp, made changes. The 10th anniversary edition of American Gods by Neil Gaiman, for instance. Or the 35th anniversary audiobook edition of The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks, annotated with all the author’s comments about his editors’ input, his original thought processes, and pithy little “Well, what do you think?” comments. Even big names like these came back to their stories after a few years and thought of more things they could do to make the story really complete, really ready for the next generation of first-time readers.

No one ever feels like the story is quite done. The best you can ever do is get to the end, edit well, get good eyeballs and feedback on it before it’s published, and move on to the next story. Give it some time to settle.

“Personally, I think you learn more from finishing things, from seeing them in print, wincing, and then figuring out what you did wrong, than you could ever do from eternally rewriting the same thing. But that’s me, and I came from comics where I simply didn’t have the liberty of rewriting a story until I was happy with it, because it needed to be out that month, so I needed to get it more or less right first time. Once I disliked a Sandman story on proofreading it so much that I asked if it could be pulled and buried and was told no, it couldn’t, which is why the world got to read the Emperor Norton story, “Three Septembers and a January”, although I no longer have any idea why I thought it was a bad story, and I’m pleased that Tom Peyer ignored my yelps.” ~ Neil Gaiman

On the off chance things still bother me by the time I’ve made it big, I’ll revise them then.