Category Archives: Random Writer Bits

Update version… oh nevermind.

It’s been awhile, folks. Here’s a quick sum up of things that have happened in the last four months:

  • Graduated college (May)
  • Enrolled at Pace University, NY (April)
  • Moved back home (June)
  • Got my first iPhone (June)
  • Started Freelancing work (June)

There haven’t been a lot of big things happening, I suppose, but the end-of-semester craze caught me up and took me away. The post-graduation weeks were spent taking it easy and preparing myself for the transition home. Now, I’m preparing myself for a transition to New York and full-adult life.

I’ve signed up for four classes at Pace University, starting in the fall, and I’m honored to have been chosen for a graduate assistantship. This means that I’ll be crazy busy doing the things I love, which is okay. Also, I’ll be in New York City. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think that I’d be able to go there, much less go to graduate school there! How crazy is that?! When people ask me how I feel about it, obviously I talk about my excitement. But there’s also a form of awe that replaces my excitement. New York City? Really?

Regardless of how I’m feeling at any given moment, it’s happening! And I’ll be sharing all my adventures and misadventures (probably more of these than the former) with you guys, step by baby step (though probably on my other blog).

In terms of writing, I’d like to record a few goals here so as to give myself something creative to aim for over the summer. I tried (and failed) to participate in April’s CampNaNoWriMo, so I’m going to try again in July. I haven’t decided what I want to do for it this year, but I think I might expand the novel that I started for my senior thesis.
Also, cool thing to note:

  • Got published for the first time!

Granted, it was in my school’s literary arts magazine, but I’ll take it. I plan to republish the piece in a few days time for your enjoyment =)

On another note, I’ve been considering doing more creative Nonfiction writing. I took a class on it this past semester, and I realized that I very much enjoyed that kind of writing. In order to consider exploring and understanding my style in the CNF form, I am going to keep writing… and hopefully publishing, some on here.

Another thing that I want to begin exploring and writing on is the website Medium. I’m fascinated by the diversity of content and style, so I think it’d be worth delving into. I have yet to post anything on the site, but once I do, be assured that you guys will hear of it. =)

I think that is all for now. Forgive me for my hiatus! Sometimes life claims you and there’s nothing you can do to stop it.

I did it!

Well guys, even though it’s been three days, I’d like to announce:

I COMPLETED CAMP NaNoWriMo! 50,000 words in one month.

Did I think I could do it?
At the beginning, yeah, I did pretty well. 1,600 words a day isn’t too difficult. However, life started to get busy, what with my internship and a trip to Florida for my grandfather’s funeral service, and random busy things happening in life. I started to skip daily writing and I got about 30,000 words behind.

That’s when I thought, “Crap… I can’t do this. What was I thinking?! But I SAID I’d do it. I have to.”

So I started writing like a maniac. Conveniently, it was about that time that I recalled I’d come across something called a “writing scrimmage” on Twitter. Basically what that is is a 30 minute slot of time in which you do nothing but write, trying to get as many words on the page as possible. That became my strategy to getting the thousands of words I needed to get written in about ten days time.

And let me tell you, word scrimmaging is extremely effective. I started off clocking between 600-800 words per thirty minutes, but by the end, I was going at 1,200-1,300 per 30 minutes. You learn to get past the horrible writing that’s coming out of your fingers. I had to keep reminding myself that it’s only a first draft. Over and over again.

Technically, I finished a day early, and this was because the website said July 31st at midnight. I hate midnight deadlines because you never know if they mean, literally, when the day turns, or if they mean the end of said day/beginning of next day. It’s confusing. So, just in case, I finished on July 30th around 11:15 pm. I started writing at 2:30pm and marathoned through it. Am I glad I did? Yes. I’ve got a substantial novel to… keep working on. Once I hit 45,000 words, I realized that it wasn’t even close to being finished, and I’ll blame it on the way I write. I’m a long-winded writer, so it takes me awhile to get to the real juicy stuff. I have to write everything that’s in my head, whatever needs explaining, in order for me to proceed onto the real story. First drafts have a lot of explanation/telling in them, and more often than not, there’s a LOT to go through, especially if I’m writing about 3 characters. Geez. That and the story kept doing twists and turns that I didn’t plan for. By the end of the novel, the characters I had originally started with were on vacation… figuratively AND literally. Such is the life of writing a novel though… it writes itself if you let it.

Over all, Camp NaNoWriMo was an excellent experience. I learned a lot about my writing style and the issues I have. Research is one of those things I resist doing until I absolutely need to. I tend to write about menial action, and I have issues summarizing whatever is happening. I have to write it out exactly how I see it in my head (where the hands are going, his expression and the way it changes. It’s super mediocre). There are more weaknesses I came across, but they don’t come to mind just yet. Regardless, I’m glad that I was able to just WRITE and not worry about making it perfect. Now, whenever anyone asks me what it’s about, I panic and scramble to piece together what exactly it is that I wrote in July. Because, in my opinion, as it stands, it’s only just a three-week old fetus that hasn’t any particular shape or form. Honestly, do I know where it’s going? Maybe. I can almost guarantee you that it isn’t about the characters I originally started with, though.

Will I do it again in November? Keeping my fingers crossed… I plan to. Most certainly, because, if I have people to keep me accountable, and what with my ability to get at least 1,300 words down in thirty minutes, I could devote 45 minutes to the novel in a day, and that’s not much, even for a college student!

Anyway, ’til next time!

 

Self Publishing? e-Books?

We’re all familiar with the wonderful world of e-Books, right? With the rise of iPads and Nooks and Kindles and every other kind of tablet and e-reader, e-books have risen in popularity. Naturally. One tablet or reader is easier to carry around than a sack of books, especially when there’s limited bag space (airplanes, buses, etc), there’s little need to actually HOLD it  (so if you’re one of those weirdos who can work out and read at the same time, kudos to you!), and it’s significantly cheaper. All of these are pros, technically, and I’m sure they’re good; I’m convinced they’re good and beneficial for the constantly moving world we live in.

However, I grieve for the plight of real books. I’m one of those people who absolutely LOVES the feeling of a hefty book in my hands; I like the fact that my bag is heavy because of all the different books I have in there, I treasure the smell of an old book, and the way it’s easier to engage with a story if I’m actually turning the page. Naturally, I’m very determined to try to go the way of traditional publishing… I want the satisfaction of being accepted by an established publisher.

There is a problem, however. The more I think and talk about it, and the more familiar I become with the publishing world, how it operates, and the future of books, the less hopeful I am that my dream will come true. Self-publishing has this stigma attached to it because literally anybody can do it, and as a result (so I’ve heard, anyways) crap can be spread all over the place, and because of that, the good stuff that is self-published often gets overlooked. There’s also something ridiculously unofficial about self-publishing.

And now, I realize that I started this blog post on one leg and have switched to the other (e-books to self-publishing). However, these two are so closely woven together that it’s hard to talk about one and not the other. As much as I don’t like to say it, publishing in e-book format is a necessity these days because of the popularity of the e-reader. And I’m sure that it’s a helpful tool that allows people to read more than they normally would. However, that still doesn’t really help the sadness I feel when I think of a coffee shop filled with people reading electronically. There’s something very, very wrong with that picture…

But back to self-publishing. As I’ve probably mentioned in another blog post, I’m enthralled with the idea of working for a publishing company, be it as someone who sorts through unsolicited manuscripts, or as a basic editor, or someone who works with the author through edits; every aspect of that kind of job makes me SO excited and pumped. However, the realization that good publishing companies whose main priority it is to publish GOOD material (and not just the stuff in high demand *coughvampireromancecheesyscrapboardstuffcough*) may not be around long enough for me to really get my hands in, or they might run on volunteer-basis more than position-basis (which would be sad… particularly from a survival standpoint). So, I’m concerned.

So I decided to start networking on Twitter, and that’s proved a little fruitful. I found AEC Stellar Publishing, and I’m on a list of editors, so that’s a beginning. I’m starting to wonder if my future isn’t in outsourced editing services… and I’m scared about that because that means a LOT of initiative that I was not born with (or nurtured into), so it will be an uphill battle. But being an editor is something that I’m convinced I’m called to do, and by editor I mean that in whatever way you want to take it. I usually imagine myself sitting in a coffee shop or a sunlit living room surrounded by manuscripts and colorful pens… sometimes with an author sitting opposite or beside me, discussing their manuscript. There’s a passion for storytelling and words in my soul that I can hardly express, and discussing story ideas and plot points are just the beginning of what really makes me excited and inspired. It’s a cool passion and I’m really curious how it pans out, especially post-grad. Should I go to grad school? Try my hand at teaching? Part of me expects that I’ll be put in an instructor position at some point, and that freaks me out. Talking and workshopping writing is one thing, being the leader of something like a workshop is quite another. I’m sensing there’s a lot of fear that I’m going to have to get over at some point… but I’m okay with that. Might be a struggle, but it’ll be worth it.

So to sum up this post, I’m realizing that it’s vital to recognize the trends of the day, prepare myself well for the skills that I may need to know with a changing publishing environment, and embrace the change rather than try to pretend that it isn’t happening.

I’ll still be a firm believer in the hard-copy though. I will have a big, special place for my books in the house of my future.

A Gift

I was sitting in the kitchen eating a banana, listening to my mom and little sister go back and forth over a story my sister had written. Naturally, I was intrigued. I listened for awhile and tried to encourage a discouraged sister with pieces of advice about writing. She probably didn’t care, but it was worth a shot.

I watched my mom and sister, and a thought crossed my mind: what kind of role do gifts and specific skills play, specifically in writing? I can consider at my writing and process right now, read a story from my childhood and wonder how-on-eath I ever got to where I am. What is it that shaped me? How much of a gift did I really have to begin with? I like to think of myself as a person who has a strong understanding and passion for the English language; sometimes I feel confidence in that assumption, and other times I feel like I have no gift at all. I guess everyone goes through those phases because it’s part of life. But, regardless of my feelings, my question remains the same. How does gifting affect someone’s ability to write?

I can say that for me, a lot of my development came from online roleplaying (I know… don’t judge me. You’ve done weird things too). I faithfully wrote almost everyday, multiple times from April 2007 till probably about October or November 2010. I’m not totally sure on the ending date, because there were random weeks or months that I would try to get back into it for the sake of the discipline. However, college took over my life, and writing unfortunately became a back-burner priority. I can look back on the posts I made all those years and years ago only because I like to see how far I’ve come. It was because of my constant exposure to better writers that I was driven to get better, and as a result of associating with everyone’s writing, my vocabulary expanded, my sense of event progression sharpened, my ability to keep track of a lot of different events was honed (I did write with several characters at a time, and there was a lot of chat box plotting before and while a thread was in progress), and, in general, I had a better idea of how words worked. Then, as I said, college took over my life. However, as a Creative Writing major, I only continued to gain a better understanding of how writing worked and what it took to write a solid piece, both prose and essay; in fact, essays don’t daunt me anymore because I know how they work (or are supposed to work.. they still don’t always come out well).. and I ENJOY writing them. Who woulda thought? During my roleplaying days, constructive criticism never happened because this activity was a stress-reliever in many ways. We all did it for the fun of it, and benefited from that, however, it wasn’t designed as a writing purified, if you know what I mean. When I got to Union, however, it was all geared toward criticism and finding strengths and weaknesses in the plots and characters, and in general bettering each writer. All good stuff, and I’ll forever be thankful for each of the professors and students who have contributed so much to my learning.

So again, I ask, how much does gifting play into the make-up of a good writer?

From everything I’ve been thinking about, and learning, I’d venture to say that a good writer comes more often through of the discipline of honing the little (or lot) of gifting that he or she has than they do out of pure gift. Think of diamonds… they’re only worth so much when they’ve been cut and polished and placed. There IS an initial gift that a person has, a solid foundation to begin the building on, but without the dedicated shaping and hard work toward betterment, there won’t be anything to show for it. And this is why it’s important to be persistent. I’ve  just realized that there is value in both collaborating and enjoying being a writer with other writers, and in engaging in constructive criticism and the appraisal of the written word. Work and play, you could say.

Another thing that seems to play a big role in developing the basic gift a person has is a desire to do so. Going back to the kitchen, I watched my sister get very discouraged and frustrated when mistakes in grammar or weaknesses in her story progression were pointed out. For a half-minute, I was surprised at her response; I have learned to love criticism and the red pen as much as I love my parents (and maybe more, if that’s possible…), however, she hasn’t gotten there. She hasn’t realized how valuable revision is. To her, a story is done as soon as the first draft has “the end” written on the last line. Hopefully one day, she’ll get to the point where that “the end” is only just the beginning, and that instead of frustration she’ll experience joy when someone comes along and rips her work to shreds. =) It sounds violent, but sometimes in violence there’s beauty… and by violence I’m thinking turbulent seas and the desolation of winter (when the world is stripped of life.. or so it seems), and such like things. Not actual violence.

Anyway, I digress.

As I said, a desire to improve is what enables a person to muddle through all the growing pains of learning, and the discipline of trying to improve is what makes the cake.

So, what do you guys think about gift versus discipline? Can a totally ungifted writer discipline themselves into a good writer? What are your experiences with developing your gift of writing?

 

(Sidenote Update: I’ve read “The Perks of Being a Wall Flower”, “Atonement”, and I’ve almost finished  “The Silmarillion” since my last post. I have Fahrenheit 451 and… another book whose title I can’t remember on the list. I might watch the “Perks” movie and write a review of both, comparing them and whatnot… we’ll see. I’ve been busier than I anticipated this summer)

New books!

There are few things that please my heart more than finding impeccable editions of beloved books at the thrift store, new books to read (at the thrift store, library, friend’s bookshelves, or wherever else one can discover new books), and 85% dark chocolate. What makes these things even better?

CHEAP.

New books!

I procured these guys for less than $3.42 at a local Goodwill store. It made my heart happy. I’ve determined that I will collect each and every Redwall book there is, which requires just a tiny explanation. As a child/young teen, I absolutely LOVED Redwall will all my heart. Animals were a huge thing for me as a kid: I wrote a series of “The Little (insert any type of animal name)” stories, which continued for who knows how long, and then I spent at least four years co-administrating a roleplaying forum in which I created characters in animal form and interacted with other people’s characters. In running the risk of making myself look kind of weird and nerdy, the roleplaying phase of my life was the part that helped me realize the passionate love I have for writing. Not to mention, some of the plots and characters me and my role play buddies came up with were legit.

But, back to Redwall.
I loved it mostly because of the animal world it was set in. In my young mind, barely anything could beat an otter with swift slingshot skills, or squirrels with frightening accuracy in the practice of archery. Even as a junior in college, Redwall holds a very soft spot in my heart, and I intend to impart this crazy love to my children someday, hence why I am determined to own every book in the series. So far I believe I own five… and there’s at least 20. Maybe. I’ll have to make a list.

What about Great Expectations? Well, I’ve heard mixed reviews, so I thought I’d read it and form my own opinion. Dickens is not my favorite author, especially considering that his books start out slow. It’s difficult to stick to the story until about halfway through… then it gets interesting. I managed to read the first 50 pages today, and I’m hoping to have it done by the first week of next month. We’ll see how school cooperates though. I figured that if I owned it I’d be more likely to finish reading it than if I borrowed it from the library. Plus I need to start getting great classics to fill up my future library!

Any writer can tell you how very, very valuable a good name resource is.
I’m a TERRIBLE namer. I have favorite names that come and go, I forget my character’s names all the time, I change them. Heck, I have to think for a LONG time before I can come up with anything… and the worst part about that is that I must have a name before I can start creating. It’s a writer’s tic, and it’s a tic that ticks me off sometimes. I’ve lost so many ideas because I spent too much time trying to come up with the “perfect name”, something I’m sure someone else can relate to.

It’s hard to pass up a good book deal. =)

Also, exciting news! cosmologicallyconstant over at gravatar suggested a post on beauty in writing and how it’s created! I’m super excited to have my first topic suggestion, and I’ll definitely see what I can do about getting a response up over the next week. No promises on how well thought-out it’ll be, but I’ll have something =)

Thanks for reading!