Personal Milestones & October Goals

It’s September 30th… Tomorrow is October… Where has this year gone?

So yesterday was a complicated day for me. It was the anniversary of losing my grandfather, and even though it hurts knowing that I won’t be seeing his smile or hearing his laugh this holiday season, I spent the day doing what I do best: working.

Anytime there’s a significant date (for most, this is birthdays or other holidays), I take a few moments to reflect on what’s happened this past year, eg. how I’ve grown, what I’ve accomplished, etc.

In the past year, I wrote my third complete MS, had it beta read, and have deconstructed it to paste it back together. That deconstruction started mid-May and here I am, entering October, with only a few new chapters left to write/revise before I begin to polish for querying. It’s surreal, seeing how close I am to turning the page on this chapter of my journey (pun SO intended).

But (and I’m going to get super sappy here) I couldn’t have gotten this far without the support of my friends, family, and the writing community.

My poor friends and family. I apparently have two modes of conversation: writing and discussing world issues. I do try to act like a human being, but that never lasts long. People bring up a movie or tv show, I mention the writing or cinematography, then the conversation begins to lull. Woops.

But I have some of the most loving and compassionate people in my life. A couple weeks ago, I was experiencing this insane bit of writers doubt, so I called my dad, who I haven’t discussed my writing with very much in the past. And he was fantastic, truly, wonderfully fantastic. He didn’t give me a “it’s all going to be all right” pat on the head, but a “you’ve been working so hard toward this; you’ll continue to do so until you make it happen” pep talk. It was exactly what I needed in that moment… I may have teared up in the middle of Starbucks… I love my dad.

And since I’ve already climbed onto this sappy soapbox, let me tell you about my very lovely CP’s. There’s a lot that makes up the perfect CP. You want someone who will keep you excited about your project while still pushing you to write better stories. And I’ve found a brilliant group of writers who put up with my neurosis. All I can say is thank God for Twitter and Facebook DM’s. Otherwise, my brain would be rolling around on the floor because my skull couldn’t contain it. My dear friend, Lynanne (check out her blog, Daybreak In Autumn), is a fellow YA fantasy writer who will go back and forth with me about characters, plots, and world building; not to mention discussing YA books, trends, as well as some choice manga’s and anime’s.

Then there’s all of you beautiful people who visit this blog and leave wonderfully supportive comments. I wasn’t sure where this blog would go when I started, but I don’t think I was prepared for all the positive feedback! I remember reading a comment a few months ago and I was crying (again at Starbucks) because I felt so humbled and thankful for a stranger’s support. (Looking at you, Nicolette Elzie & Aura Eadon! Check out their blogs, A Little Bookish, A Little Writerly and Into The Imagination Vortex.)

Ok, ok. I’ll stop with the sap.

So I’ve added a few new things to this blog (Personal Musings being one of them), but I’ve also started posting book reviews. On top of finishing up the current draft of Guarded (the current WIP & Book 1 of my YA F series) and preparing for drafting Enveloped (NaNo 2015 Novel & Book 3 of the series), I’ll be posting my reviews of Sarah J. Maas’s Throne of Glass series. I’ve already posted my review of book 1, Throne of Glass. You can check that out here. A new review will be posted every Friday before noon CST.

What about ya’ll? What are your October goals? Who keeps you motivated? Share in the comments below.

Happy writing!

Working Mindset & Imposed Deadlines

Writing is work. Plain and simple. In order to have something worth reading, you have to put the time in. There’s no other way. You have to do the work.

I know I’ve spoken many times about how it’s okay for the first draft to be rough. You’re getting a sense of your characters, their motivations, your world and all of its rules. Unfortunately once you finish that first draft, the lengthy revision stage begins to weigh down on you. It’s crushing and intimidating and awful. But it doesn’t have to be.

Don’t get me wrong, I have had my fair share of self-deprecating rants about how my writing is god-awful and metaphors are the devil. Seriously, I’ve spent HOURS getting just one metaphor right. All because I desperately want others to love my characters and their stories as much as I do.

But I recently had a revelation about my writing process and what helps me stay productive. I know this won’t work for everyone, but here it is…

1. Take your story one draft at a time.

The hard truth of it is that you’re not going to become John Green overnight. It’s not going to happen. Even John Green didn’t become John Green overnight. It took multiple drafts and revisions to create books like The Fault In Our Stars and Paper Towns. So while I would love for the next draft of my WIP to be the last, I’m not going to stress myself out about it because in all honesty, I know it won’t be. But I’m also not going to think about how many revisions stand between me and querying because that’s a daunting idea that will only bring on another wave of crippling self-doubt.

2. Admit you are a baby writer. There are things you simply haven’t learned yet.

This isn’t an insult, I promise. Think of it more as your tether to reality. Like I said in No. 1, it takes time to cultivate your skill. So give yourself opportunities to grow and learn. Join a critique group or find critique partners. Go to writing conferences and workshops. Take a class. Your writing will thank you for it.

3. Don’t stop writing.

I know this one is hard, but seriously, your writing won’t improve if you sit back and wait for it to do so. You have to put in the words in order to grasp what it means to create a novel. Sarah J. Maas has said in multiple interviews how her first draft of Throne of Glass was its own learning experience. And if you’ve written more than one MS, you also know this to be true. So keep writing, keep learning.

4. Give yourself a deadline.

I don’t mean, “THIS BOOK SHOULD BE DONE BY NOV 1st!” No, because you’ll drive yourself crazy that way… trust me, I know. Give yourself word count goals or chapter goals. Start each week by saying, “I’m going to accomplish [X] this week.” And do it! Make and keep promises to your work and yourself. Confidence in one’s writing ability is a cumulative thing. Each promise you keep builds on the last until writing/editing is a part of your regular routine.

A really great place to start is with the Twitter Monthly Writing Challenge. It’s a commitment to writing 500 words a day. The community is incredibly supportive and encouraging. You can learn more here.


What about ya’ll? What revelations have you had about your writing that keeps you productive? Share in the comments below.

Happy Writing!

It’s Okay To Not Be Perfect

I think it’s common for writers to feel the need to be perfect. Write the perfect word. Tell the perfect story. Create the perfect character.

But here’s the reality of it: no one is perfect.

Not even John Green, the biggest name in YA Contemporary at the moment, is perfect. He even pointed out a typo in his author’s notes for The Fault In Our Stars on his YouTube channel, Vlogbrothers. (If you haven’t read the book, do it! Also, check out John and Hank Green’s YouTube channel! It’s my weekly dose of humanity reminding me to be awesome! DFTBA, Nerdfighteria! – Please excuse the excessive exclamation points; all of them are necessary.)

If this particular video, 5 Worst Typos of History, John Green goes through some of the worst typography errors from the U.S. Constitution to a specific printing of the King James Bible. But he ends with asking for forgiveness for any other errors that might exist within the pages of TFIOS.

Though I’m not sure Mr. Green meant for this to be inspirational, I found it a little uplifting, especially when trudging through this rewrite. Writing a book is hard. Publishing a book is even harder. All we can really do is try to put out the best product we can. It’s okay if your prose isn’t as gorgeous as Laini Taylor’s. It’s okay if your world isn’t as sprawling as George R.R. Martin’s.

This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t edit your stuff. Far from it. No rough draft is going to be the best version of your story. So find beta readers and trusted critique partners to review your manuscript. You should always strive to be the best storyteller you can be, but don’t drive yourself crazy when your writing doesn’t match up to authors like Green and Taylor.

Happy Writing!

Laini Taylor’s books include the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy. It’s one of those YA Fantasy series that takes a trope like Angels and Demons and flips it on its head for a unique and exciting adventure. Also, the writing is GORGEOUS.  

If you don’t know who George R.R. Martin is, you’ve been living under a rock. He’s the author of the epic Game of Thrones books. 

4 Tips in Killing Your Darlings

So last week, I talked about improving your narrative and touched on the idea of killing your darlings. Because this is what I’m currently [painfully] dealing with in my own rewrite, I thought I’d share a little of what’s been working for me.

Tip No. 1 – Identify Your Darlings

Killing your darlings is a little difficult when you don’t realize what they are. Please know I’m not trying to offend your genius, but sometimes your darlings sneak up on you. My most current darling came in the form of a two-sentence moment that had hung on to the MS since draft two.

Now into draft six, I’ve been dredging through Chapter 3 for a bit because I’ve been trying to keep this moment for whatever reason. In the words of YouTuber Grace Helbig, “I don’t know.” Once I realized that it was a darling, it was cut into the graveyard of manuscript outtakes.

Tip No. 2 – Have a Manuscript Outtakes Document

I did not come up with this idea, but it is a concept that I wish I had adopted earlier. The gorgeously talented J.L. Gribble, debut novel Steel Victory comes out this week – order a copy NOW, gave me the idea a few weeks ago during a critique session.

This does a couple of things: 1) You’re still hanging onto your darlings, so killing them from the MS is a little easier, 2) If you do ever have an opportunity to use them, they’re there at the ready, and 3) If by some chance you do get published and acquire a fan-base, you now have outtakes to share with them as easy promotional items.

Tip No. 3 – Follow Kurt Vonnegut’s Rules on Writing

Specifically (and I mentioned this last time) that each sentence should either develop character or advance plot. It took me a while to understand what this really meant because in my little baby writer brain, I looked at my MS and said “but it does develop character; it does advance plot.” In reality, I was focusing on the wrong things, making the beginning narrative slow and boring. It “technically” did what I needed it to – develop the relationships of my two main characters and set the stage for what’s up against them – but I was focusing so much on what made my characters who they were instead of who they are in the moment that the plot was stagnant. This is a hard concept to wrap your head around, but once it clicks, you’ll see the improvements in the writing.

See the full list of Vonnegut’s Rules here.

Tip No. 4 – Have a Trusted Writing Buddy

I think I’ve developed a strange dependency on my uber talented group of writer friends because I know without a doubt that my writing would not be improving without them. Going back to what I was saying before about my headache that is Chapter 3, that darling I didn’t realize was a darling – yeah, my friend and CP Chelsea was kind enough to tell me, “I think that’s going a little far.” Which of course hit a switch in my head, causing an immediate ::face:palm::. I had been struggling with the writing because I was trying to keep something that didn’t belong there. I was trying to save a darling.

Once I transferred said darling over to the graveyard, it opened the way for me to concentrate on the plot movement and figure out how to close out the chapter (which will hopefully happen tonight).

I hope these tips help you as much as they’ve helped me. What about you? Do you have any tips on killing the darlings in your WIP? Share them in the comments below.

Happy Writing!

Leveling Up: What happens when your writing improves mid-WIP

So most of us are in a continuous state of evolution and growth. From personal to political, we’re constantly changing. This is a good thing.

Except when you’re at the forefront of the latest draft of your WIP and you have no idea whether or not what you’re writing is going in the right direction. I want to pull my hair out. This is a thing.

I’ve been writing fiction most of my life, but that doesn’t mean it was good fiction. My first full-length novel ended up in the dark abyss of projects that will never EVER see the light of day. It was written in Middle School, very few things written that young are worth reading without MAJOR revisions, usually a total rewrite.

Over the years, I’ve gone through numerous growth spurts in my writing skill level. From Middle School to High School. High School to College. College to Military. Military to Private Sector. These were all gradual evolutions that I managed to pass through without grow pains. But this latest one, after my first experience with beta-readers, is KICKING MY ASS!

The notes that I received from the betas weren’t harsh enough to warrant a total rewrite, but that’s pretty much what’s taking place. Since writing the vomit draft of the current WIP, I’ve been trying to polish my skills in the narrative arena. I’m great with dialogue, I’m great with pacing, I’m pretty solid on the plotting front, but narrative – a well-crafted, well-rounded, says-everything-you-need-it-to-and-communicates-to-the-reader-what’s-in-your-head narrative – is my nemesis.

Luckily, I have a wonderfully talented and patient group of writer friends who are helping me smooth out some of the kinks. Safe to say I owe them all a giant gift basket when all this is said and done. But here’s what I’ve learned so far in my epic battle with a properly fleshed-out narrative:

1. Take your time. I know how excited you are for the next plot point or big character moment, but when you’re sitting there, revising your work, really sink into each moment. Doing this may create some needed world building or reveal a character gem you had either forgotten or hadn’t discovered yet.

2. Apply Kurt Vonnegut’s rules on writing to your work. Here’s a link. A friend of mine introduced me to these rules a few months ago, but it took a beta-read for them to sink in. If you followed the link, I want to single out rule No. 4, “Every sentence must do one of two things – reveal character or advance the action.” Be meticulous in your placement of information. It’s painful when you first start doing this, but the new draft is totally worth the frustration.

3. Be merciless in your revision. I know we’ve all heard the phrase “kill your darlings,” but I feel the need to bring it up here. I don’t mean kill your characters, the phrase really goes quite deeper than that. Maybe everyone else knew this and I was the slow one, but here’s my two cents anyway. “Darlings” refers to everything in your manuscript, from characters and plots to sentences and word choice. It doesn’t matter if it is the best paragraph you’ve ever written in your entire life. If it doesn’t do anything to support the narrative, axe it.

I’m sure I’ll rant about the pains of writing narrative in future posts, but this is it for now. I’m off to go slave away on the WIP. 🙂

Happy Writing!