A Writing Journey

Archive for the ‘Writing and Revision’ Category

What have I been up to in the Writing World this week?

Okay, so I’m still getting back in the swing of writing after my very long slump. Part of that is blogging every week, even if I have little to nothing to say. At least right now it is little, rather than nothing.

This past week I have started thinking more in depth with where I am going when I finish writing book 3 of my Salvation trilogy. Not to say I’m anywhere close to being done with the trilogy (still have tons of edits and revisions on book two, and still polishing book one, let alone finishing book 3!). I’ve decided who the major players are, what perspectives I’m writing from, and what has transpired to lead to the events that take place in the next story. I’ve also decided that it begins with a daughter burying her mother. Maybe not the most creative in terms of cliches, but I hope to make it unique, all the same.

In the meantime, I’ve written about a page more of the third book in the Salvation trilogy – which is more than I’ve written for probably four or five months now. The title of the third book is Heart of the World, in case I haven’t mentioned that yet.

This week I have some time off from work, and my goal is to write at least a page a day. Not a lot, I know, but I think it’s important to keep goals attainable and right now I know  that a page a day is an attainable goal, but anything more than that would be overwhelming for me. That’s just how it goes when coming back from a slump.

How do you get yourself back into the swing of things after a slump?

Adventure well,

Emily

Tips for getting unstuck

I’ve stalled again. My notebooks full of my third book sit lifelessly on my desk or, in the vague hope that I will spill some ink on the page, in my purse as I flit to and fro through my life. I wrote the first, minor climax and resolved one of the plot lines that has been constant from the first book. It was necessary for the story, as the final climax has a different beast – though to be honest I’m playing with the idea of completely changing the order of the climaxes. But I’m in the middle, and the middle is always the hardest part.

Why is the middle so tough? For me, it’s because I’m goal-oriented. I see what the beginning is, I know what the ending is, but I don’t know how to get there. (It is an unfortunate flaw that I am the same way in my daily life. Talk about frustrating.) Figuring out the important parts of the journey is my next step, but even when I have them (laid out in outline form, no less) I struggle to connect the dots. Considering the number of posts and articles about why it is hard to write the middle – I know I’m not alone.

Rather than rehash why it is so hard, I want to give some tips that help me get through it.

1.Read.

2.Do something else, anything else, for 10-20 minutes, then come back to writing and power through the sticky spots.

3.Get some sleep. I get cranky and cry a lot if I get frustrated/stuck and need sleep. I’ve learned this, and know that if I feel like I am about to cry from frustration, I need to take a nap (or just go to bed for the night).

4.Ask for help. Often talking to my writer friends helps me feel motivated to get through the tough spots. Even more, they may have insight on why your story is stuck – something may not be working and you might not be noticing it.

5.Take a bath. Seriously, it can be like a mini sensory-deprivation tank and helps get the mind spinning.

6.Spend time NOT thinking. watch a movie. Play a video game. Sometimes your brain needs a rest.

7.Do what is right for you. If these tips don’t help, do something that you find relaxing.

8.Most of all, don’t give up. Sometimes it’s hard. We all have writing cycles – I’ve blogged about that here before. If you know what your writing cycle is – don’t try to force it to be something else and know that yes, you’re still a writer even if you aren’t currently writing. You need that recharge time so give it to yourself.

Good luck with your middle! (And I’ll do my best to follow my own advice, too!)

Take care,

Emily

Why Hire an Editor?

It seems these days that everyone is DIY-ing everything. And why not? It’s fun to make your own decorations, gifts, and cards. But one thing you should not DIY is editing.* That’s right, I said you shouldn’t edit all by yourself. This is a lesson it took me most of high school and the first year of college to learn. I was an avid self-editor. While self-editing is an important step in the editing process, it isn’t the only step.

So why shouldn’t you rely solely on yourself (or worse, spell-check) for all of your editing needs? For starters, you know your story. You know exactly what you mean when you write certain phrases – the same phrases that befuddle readers. If you only self-edit, you are going to miss an important opportunity to improve your writing ability. You might, even with your story bible, miss a detail that you changed in one place but not another (we’re humans, after all).

Another excellent reason is that spell-check doesn’t catch everything. I’m sure you’ve seen it yourself. You write see instead of seen and spell check doesn’t catch it. You’ve probably read and reread and rewritten your work so many times that you skim, and you miss it too. A second pair of eyes will help you beat typos like those.

Okay, okay, you say, but why hire someone when friends will edit for free, or some beta readers will, for free, read and give feedback about what passages don’t work? Simple: you get what you pay for. Friends will often be slow-going (especially when you are an adult writer and your friends are also adults) and, unless they are also writers/readers, they may not edit to the standard you need. Many friends and family readers will only tell you what you want to hear, for fear of hurting your feelings. This is unproductive if you are trying to improve your craft. In the blogging community or writers’ workshops** you may find people who are willing to give the feedback you need, but unless they have an incentive to get it done, they, too, will likely lag. It’s no fault of theirs – people simply have to take care of things happening in their own lives first. An editor, however, will be on a schedule. It is in their best interest to get the work done, and do it well so that their reputation prospers.

I get it, you may not have much money right now. Luckily there are a wide range of editors out there, with all sorts of different fees. There are both professional and freelance editors, some with specific skill sets or preferences for projects, and some who are open to taking on just about any project. If you are really strapped for cash but want to hire an editor, and if you have a computer, you can always earn some extra money with things like Smart Panel, MintVine, SwagBucks, and so many other similar sites. If you aspire to be a published author, you really should hire an editor. Your chances of being accepted by a publisher will increase because a better manuscript means less work for them. The same for story, article or poetry submissions to publishers and magazines. In some cases, even blog posts can benefit from hiring an editor.

So take a look around, find someone who meets your needs, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. That’s what the editors are there for. To help your writing become the best it can be.

Take care,

Emily

*Of course start with doing it yourself. Clean up your writing as much as you can, that’s your job as the writer.

**Sometimes the writers you find in workshops or other locations take their role too far, and are crueler to your writing than they need to be. I’ve seen it happen. Always choose someone you trust.

The Unknown

Do you ever get to that point in your project, when you start to wonder what you’ll write  next? Not the next page or chapter, but your next book. I’m there now. I’ve finished yet another edit of Quest for Salvation (one that I was itching to do and once I got that rejection letter, I knew I could do it!), finished typing up the sequel, and I’m about 1/3 -1/2 of the way done with the third. I have an outline that takes me to the end, and I’ve been making steady progress.

So what will come next? I have lots of ideas, some I’ve even started writing out the first few pages. But they don’t feel right yet. It could be because I’m still immersed in Lacey’s world, it could be because I’ve spent so much time there building it up that everything else just feels hollow. I logically know that the next project I settle on will grow and develop to be just as good, if not better, than my current one.

To be honest, I’m trying my best to push back this worry and just focus on the writing – which works when I am actually, physically writing. I know I have a long way to go and a lot of time left with these manuscripts – after all book 2 is only a first draft – yeesh!

But I also like to plan ahead. And that means starting to think what I will do next. Will I stay in the same world and pick a different character, a different time? I have plenty to choose from! And a part of me yearns to write those stories as well. Another part, however, whispers, “Go somewhere else for a while. See different worlds. Don’t neglect your other ideas.” And it is this voice that has me wondering what, then, I will write next.

For now, I will keep writing what I’m writing, keep stewing on other ideas, and when the time comes, I will have another idea settled to shape and form and make great.

Take care,

Emily

Serial Saturday – Onaemi 2

 

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Photo by me, at bird sanctuary.

If you haven’t read part one, check here first. Enjoy and have a lovely day!

Auntie was a good woman. From the moment I was her Niece, she stopped treating me as if I did not understand, she stopped talking in whispers over my head. The moment I was her Niece, she began to teach me. I was not a good learner. My mind was to full of sky and wind. If she tried to teach me inside, I would be daydreaming out the window and door. If she tried to teach me outside, I would fill her with questions about the clouds, grasses, and winged things.

She stopped trying to teach me, and let my learning take it’s own path. Maybe I could not read like the children in the villages, but I could identify every butterfly and moth, every bird and beetle. I could tell her which days would be rained, and which would be clear. Seasons passed. I saw the changing of colors, felt the air turn crisp and comforting. Then the death of the land, when the crisp air became sharp and the earth was covered in white rain. She taught me about snow, and about how the earth was sleeping, not dead. Then the air turned soft again, and the earth woke with buds and blossoms. From hot to cold to hot again.

The other children did not like me. Said I was strange and unfriendly. I did not intend to be either, but my interests diverged from theirs so wholly that there was no bridging the gap. So Auntie was my teacher, but in friendships I was lacking. So she brought me an injured bird, and told me to tend it.

From crisp to soft I tended that bird, all through the sleeping months. When blossoms came again I took the bird, clasped firmly but not unkind in my hands and marched into the hills. There I set the bird free. She flew, a beautiful thing, and I watched her until she faded from my sight. I stayed in the hills, listening to the hum of new bees, and stumbled on a broken egg.

It was the size of my torso then, chipped and empty and clean. So clean, I knew, that it was not a fresh egg. I tapped it and it did not shatter. The shell glistened and shone, though it was not a bright color like a robin’s egg. It was brown, mottled, and cast a sheen that dazzled me into almost forgetting it was their. I could not take the whole thing to show Auntie, so I broke a corner off and knotted it in the hem of my shirt.

Wind buffeted me and when I looked up, I saw a great bird – a dragon, I later learned – with scales and leathery wings. It called, trumpeted, howled. The sound washed through me and I knew it mourned, knew it’s baby had been snatched away, it’s mate killed. I reached for the dragon, telling it in silent words that I’d felt it’s pain. For a breath of time it turned it’s gaze on me, great black eyes boring into my soul. And then the dragon shot high into the sky and disappeared.

I ran all the way home, my mind abuzz with the voices of nature all around me. They broadcasted their lives, tiny though they were, and to me each of them became the most important creature in the world.

Auntie took one look at me and cursed, a habit she’d long since broken. I don’t know why she cursed. When I showed her the bit of egg, she took it from me gently, wrapped it up, and put it on top of the mantle. She told me that I needed to stay inside for a time, and when I asked her why, she told me I was ill. I didn’t feel ill, but I listened to her, because she had taught me so many things, this too she must know.

Long Time

Long time no write – and in more ways than one!

So where did we leave off? Well, I was prepping for NaNoWriMo. Let me tell you, I failed miserably. I had everything scheduled and a decent idea of what I was going to be writing and then I just didn’t. I don’t feel bad about it. I’m not a winter writer – my creative faculties are suppressed by the cold and dark. If you ever experience depression or SAD you know what I mean.

But I’m returning to creativity! For Valentine’s day my boyfriend got me a bunch of art supplies – which of course I have been using in making maps (what else, really?). And that sparks my creativity. I’ve got a few ideas for new stories, and of course all of my old ones (which I should really go through one of these days).

Yesterday I got my first rejection letter! It didn’t sting as much as I thought it would – but that’s probably because I didn’t dwell on it too much – I had other things to do/think about. Another reason is probably the lack of writing lately – I can’t feel too bad about something I’m not actively pursuing.

Of course, that’s about to change! I’m getting back to the ol’ writing game, even if it’s slow and painful (which it probably will be). And I put the letter up on my wall to remind me that I can do better – which I will!

My first step is to finish writing book three of the Salvation trilogy (and finish typing book 2). I guess I better go dig them up out of storage!

In the meantime, I’ll share some of my maps that I’ve done lately. I’m also thinking about doing a sort of mini-series to help me get back into writing – nothing very intense or long, but a few paragraphs here every couple days or so. I bring it up only because I’m thinking of putting it directly here, on Adventures in Writing. Which kind of needs a new title. Hmm. Things to think about.

I’ve been awake for nearly 24 hours – forgive my rambling!

Write on, my friends!

Should You Continue With a Story You Just Don’t Feel?

A question many writers face (okay, at least the writers I talk to) is whether or not to continue a story when you aren’t feeling it. Maybe you had a great idea to start with, maybe you have been beating your head against this wall for years and it isn’t going anywhere, maybe you challenged yourself*.

So my answer comes in two parts.

The first part: yes, keep writing. But maybe do a little more building (if it’s still in the “new story” stage). Think about political and economic systems and how they will affect your characters. Think about the resources they have. Building not doing it for you? Work on characters. And, of course, feel free to take breaks. I’m not saying 20-minute breaks. I’m saying let that story sit for a few days without writing. Does this mean you aren’t working on it? Of course not. It means you are thinking, and letting your creative juices refill. (I firmly believe that we can’t be creative every single moment of every single day. We wear ourselves out and prevent anything new and meaningful from taking shape. We need respite.)

The second part: no, let the story go. Let me tell you a quick story. When I was in high school I had a best friend who was also a writer. And guess what we did most of the times we hung out? We wrote together. We finished an entire novel. And then we had a falling out. We made up, eventually, but we never wrote together again. I told her I wanted to go ahead with the story we created and continue with the characters and she was okay with that. Clearly I wanted to change the story some, edit and revise and improve. It hasn’t really gone anywhere. Every now and then I come back to it and beat my head against that story some more. What I need to do is let it go. (I really, really need to just let it go and quit trying to spin it so there is life there again. It’s dead, it’s gone.)

I’m guessing you’ve heard this next little tidbit before: write what you want to read. Or better yet, write what makes you come alive. If the thing you are working on feels like a prison, a death sentence, mud caked on your skin or some really awful illness, let it go. Obviously our writing is going to give us headaches sometimes. A headache is not a reason to quit. Push through that shit. Even if you’ve got some broken bone, get yourself the help you need (okay, maybe a plot hole means reworking something in the early story). But if it doesn’t make you feel alive, drop it and run.

Write on,

Emily

*And yeah, this came up because my nano short story has made me feel dead inside. Romance ain’t my thing. And though I finished the story (rising action, climax, and falling action), I did not make word count. And I don’t have it in me to meet it. I’m about 4,000 shy. I learned my lesson. I will not write romance again.

Writing Update (With this Super Creative Title!)

Work on book two has officially picked up again. Yesterday I wrote, slowly and with too many interruptions, for about four and a half hours. I’m very happy with that. And guess what: I feel like writing more today!

I know many times we have to push through the days we just don’t feel like writing, but I believe that is a detriment to creativity. I believe that you should fill those days with activities that will rekindle your desire to write – the thing I’ve found to help is 1) going frolfing (frisbee golf) or other physical activity and 2) not stressing about things that, in all honesty, don’t deserve the stress.

Hang in there, writers.

I finished it

*Happy dance* Well, not really because I’m pooped. But guess what! I finished another round of edits on QFS. This one’s it. As soon as I get printer ink and more paper (and I guess an envelope and a wee bit of cash) I’m sending this baby off. No longer will it be in my hands!

I guess I ought to get on that cover letter! Whoo!

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