A Writing Journey

Posts tagged ‘books’

Writing, Reading, and the Future of my Blog

Happy Sunday, friends!

Well, I didn’t quite hit my goal of a page a day this week, but I did write more than I have in months! It feels good knowing that I can pick back up with just a little will-power.

Other than writing, I have been reading more again. I’m about 3/4 done with “Within the Sanctuary of Winds” by Marie Brennan. Just like her previous books in this serious, I have been totally captivated. I will have a  full review when I finish the book.

In the meantime, I’m trying to come up with some good blog posts for here. I was thinking about doing a full story, chapter by chapter, but I also want to get back to some of my early style posts, talking about elements of fantasy or inspiration and things like that. I would like to know what you think – are there specific things that you think would be beneficial or are there things you have questions about? Let me know and I will work on answering your questions!

Adventure well,

Emily

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Coming Back to Life

There is a lovely blogger at fibijeeves who has inspired me. We had a brief conversation about getting out of writer’s block, and so I am trying to do more writing again. I’ve been busy working at my other blog, Simply Stitched, and of course busy with the big wide world and everything life throws at a person.

But I am coming back. I want to write here, I want to breathe the written word again, I want to live like I used to live: immersed in stories and language and adventure. So here I am, ready to get back out there, ready to reinvest in myself, ready to go questing once again.

Adventure Well,

Emily

When Writing, Have Goals

A notebook full of goals has a prominent position on my desk. Some of the things in the notebook are get a full time jobexercise daily, and (my favorite) finish that book. With each goal, I have four or five “action steps” listed – things I can do with RIGHT NOW to accomplish a goal. Things like “write for a half hour every day” (it’s easier than I expected – especially if I take my notebook to work and do it on break) and “design one project a month.” That one is crochet, by the way. Reasons for why I should follow through on the goal are also there, at the bottom of the page. Feeling accomplished is on almost every page. And guess what – I’ve finished two goals and I DO feel accomplished – which encourages me to keep going.

Having goals is an important part of life, so that we aren’t just dragging our feet from home to job and back again – goals give us purpose. So we had better have some goals when we are writing!

What are my overall writing goals? This question is the key to how writing fits into our lives. Is it a hobby, a career, a passion? Answering this question, truthfully, can help you decide how to focus yourself.

I want you to go past “I want to be a published author” and “I want to be a bestseller” and “I want to reach/change/impact the world.” While those are great goals, they are surface goals. They are the goals every budding writer comes up with. Think a little more personally. What does writing mean to you? How does it impact your life? Where do you see your writing going (think hard about this one – it could go towards editing, copywriting, technical writing, freelancing, books, poetry, and so, so much more)?

When you have that figured out, give yourself some action steps, things you can do today, in this moment, to set yourself on that path, or keep your journey going. (As for me, I’m going to do my half-hour writing as soon as I’m done with this post.)

 

 

If you are a fiction writer, you have to think about more than just your goals – you’ve got a whole cast of characters fighting for attention – fighting for their goals to be fulfilled. Just like our goals give us direction and meaning, so do theirs*. Something more than “the good gal is determined to beat the evil witch.” Because while that can be an overarching goal, that good gal had better have some compelling goals for her own life (or a compelling reason that she’s got to defeat the evil witch). Just like us, they need action steps that they can accomplish to get them closer to their goals. Sure, they will make mistakes (at least they better!), but everything they do should advance the goals (hmm, sounds like some plot-relevant advice, doesn’t it?).

Now, let’s get back to us. When writing our lovely novel, we’ve got the task of keeping everything on track. So stick to your goals, even if your characters lose sight of theirs. Get that book finished, get it published or stowed away or whatever you do with finished manuscripts, and then get on to the next one.

Take care, travelers

*Sure, you can have an aimless character, but you will have to have a fantastic story to make that work – too often aimless characters get drug around and have no say about anything. Of course, your goal-oriented character can also have these things happen, and they can make bad choices based on hopes for accomplishing their goals – being goal-oriented doesn’t mean the story is boring.

What if it’s Not Meant to Be?

I’ve hit a wall. A big wall. A wall that might not be climbable.

It’s QFS. You know,  the novel I’ve been working on for five years. I’ve recently been fiddling with it,  trying different angles for when it may (will?) be met with rejection. Because I want to make it better. So I’ve been working on new ideas on how to make it more. Not longer,  but deeper.

I suck at foreshadowing. Also at villains. And keeping secrets from readers. And plot. I’m terrible at figuring out how a plot and subplot go together.

So where am I with this wall?  Well,  I’m laying on the ground beneath it,  muddy and tired from trying so hard to get up and over after all these other obstacles.

I’ve been trying to improve.I’ve been trying to learn about plotting and foreshadowing and getting better. Nothing.

Maybe it isn’t meant to be. Maybe I’m supposed to not write. I have this crisis every couple of years. And then I get back to it after a few months. But it’s so hard to keep facing the same walls when you’ve tried to learn how to get around them.

I don’t know. I’m stuck.

A Quick Post about Fitz

I was at the bookstore recently and discovered that Robin Hobb has started another trilogy about Fitz! If you don’t know about my unending love for this character (and his story!) check out this post from 2013. And then go check out the books.

Anyway, I admit I’ve fallen down on reading lately (the major exception being Marie Brennan’s A Natural History of Dragons and The Tropic of Serpents) and haven’t read anything by Robin Hobb for what feels like (and probably is) years. Quick reason why: her Liveship Traders trilogy did not capture me the way her Farseer trilogy did, and after the Tawny man trilogy I thought her days of writing about Fitz were over. Now that I know otherwise, I am ready to reinvest in the southern portion of her world (I have a strong belief that one ought to read books in the order they are written – and I’m glad I do that because Hobb is a master of weaving tales together). So I am embarking on the quest to read her Rain Wilds books.

-Emily

“The Tropic of Serpents”

Oh my oh my. I will preface by saying that I have had this book almost since I finished the first, “A Natural History of Dragons.” I’ve been trying with all my might to pace myself on this one, but I had a shift of work this week that encouraged reading, and this morning I could not resist finishing the tale.

I, of course, do not own this image. And I would like to tip my hat to the wonderful artist, Todd Lockwood.

The second book of Isabella Camherst’s forays into the world of dragons was as captivating as the first. Leaving her homeland for a second time, Isabella believes her trip to Eriga will be easier than her last adventure. Marie Brennan has written her heroine with finesse – I am inclined to believe her a real person. Even more amazing is the world in which the books are set.

I noticed in reading book 1 that Brennan has overlaid a fantasy world on the cultures and countries of our own world in historic times. And yet she does this with such precision that there is no doubt as to her creative powers. I found myself on the edge of my seat (again) and begging for those books which she mentions to be real. Brennan writes:

The history of how this process developed has been discussed at greater length by the Yembe historian … I advise those interested in such matters to read her work…

p.300, “The Tropic of Serpents” by Marie Brennan

If only I could read it! There are omissions in the story that, in large part, are due to one of two reasons. 1)That the narrator (Isabella) is keeping a secret for the people she met whose rules prevent her from discussing certain things and 2) that she refers us to other works which, unfortunately, do not exist. I would love to read those other books. Let me be clear: I by no means think that the omissions are a failure of the book. Rather, they add to it’s authenticity and keep me engaged after I am finished reading.

I recommend with all of my heart that you pick up this book (after, of course, reading A Natural History of Dragons). You will not regret it if you do!

-Emily

Self versus Traditional Publishing: Where I Stand and Why

I won’t try to deny that there are great books that are self published, or terrible books that are traditionally published. Both are true. The great self published books are all-too-often hard to find, and the terrible traditionals are much to easy to pick up. It’s a sad situation for an avid reader and a confusing one for a writer.

As a writer, I was raised reading traditionally published (traditional, from here on out) books. I still read mostly traditional books. This isn’t because I have anything against self-published books. Well, maybe I do, which isn’t fair. Most of those authors work just as hard (if not harder in promoting themselves) as any traditional author. But I also see too much about someone writing a book, thinking the first draft is gold, and self-publishing right away. I believe that this harms the authors who do put in the work of polishing their novel to get it ready for readers. Why? Because in the end, readers have to wade through all the “first draft books” to get to the gold. And from my own experience, it’s not something we keep at for long. (If you have found the self published gold, please let me know because I want to read it!)

I’m not sure how we combat that either, because just as many poor novels are published traditionally. And that isn’t even my Big Qualm with self-publishing – it’s my qualm with lazy writers. We have a duty to our readers, whether it is one person or one million.

My Big Qualm* with self publishing is the feeling of unfinishedness. When we as writers have the ability to go back and change the story or make additions or edits for “new editions” – how is that any different from a draft (albeit with beta readers)? How can we call it finished? I know that if I were to self publish, I would never let the story go and thus I would never write anything new. Not everyone feels this way and I am glad for that – different opinions make the world go ’round.

What are your thoughts? If you self-published could you let the story go?

-Emily

*I also have little qualms with self publishing. Like the feeling of worthiness. My brother sent me a link to Amazon self publishing when I finished my first novel. I think he was trying to be supportive, but it came across as “ha, you wrote a stupid story and you want it published, well no one will take it so here, do it yourself.” I know that this is, likely, just a me thing coming from my background, which is why I didn’t include it in the bulk of the post, but it just goes to show that lots of things influence a person’s decision, whether real or fictional! Now get back to writing! 😉

I know I said…

It just so happens that I am really terrible at following my own rules. For instance: I said I wasn’t going to start working on book 3 for a while. I said I was going to at LEAST finish transcribing SOTD onto the computer. Well I just couldn’t resist. I’ve got about a third/half of the outline for 3 done, as well as the first ten pages. To be honest, I was going to write just the first scene tonight but it turned into most of the first chapter. I would keep going but between writing and crochet my hand needs a break!

I’m fairly excited for book three – I’m excited that it’s finally coming to a close (even as I say that I laugh at myself. It will be at LEAST a year of writing the first draft, and many more months editing and reworking. Besides, I haven’t even gotten past the first draft of book 2!). So even as I laugh, I am excited. I’ve known how this story will end for about three years now. Yes, some things have tweaked and changed in that, but the ultimate ending will still be the same and I CAN’T WAIT!

Do you have endings that you just can’t wait to write?

You know, I think part of my excitement is that I have been working on this story, in it’s many forms, since 2010. I wrote the first short story that inspired it all back when I was finishing my freshman year of college. It seems like so long ago now, and a lot of the story and world has changed since then. But some things have not. The main cities bear the same names as first I gave them, there are still mountains that house ancient ruins, the character in that short story has played a minor role in the first two books and will blossom in book 3. (Seriously, I am excited that his story still plays a part in the over all tale.) There is a deep sense of contentment that comes with knowing that I’m almost there. And it’s contentment with energy. I am energized by being so close to the end.

I think, after I finish 3, I will take a break in another world for a while. It’s a little early to say that for sure, but I think I need to let it all rest, to go and explore another strange land – to be an adventurer again rather than a native.

Of course, thinking about the end of this trilogy has also got me a little bittersweet. Again, I know it is premature, but I really am almost there. I’ve been through so much with these characters, this world. I can’t imagine what life will be like when I pack them all up in boxes and move on. When their stories are finished, will I keep thinking about other parts of their lives? Will I want to write them again? I wonder how I will be able to leave them. They are like my friends, and I will miss them.

But not yet! Because I still have plenty of time with them. 🙂 So for now I will be content with that.

Write on, my friends.

-Emily

“A Natural History of Dragons”

I picked up this book because of the cover. Intriguing, is it not? I’m so glad I bought it – on whim that was encouraged by my dear boyfriend. If I hadn’t, I would not have found my favorite book so far this year, or my new favorite author.

A Natural History of Dragons is the story of Isabella, a young woman with a desire to study dragons. The world in which her tale is set is reminiscent of the Victorian England, both in cultural style and writing style. Isabella recounts how society around her was not set up for her to be a learner, and how she dealt with this in order to achieve her dreams (because some sort of dream-achieving must take place if there is to be an interesting story, right?).

This fantasy “memoir” is in fact fantastic – I could barely put it down and read the entire thing in 3 days. I will admit, I am a sucker for memoirs (at least the ones where interesting things actually happen) and fantasy novels (obviously), so this seemed to be written just for me. From the beginning it gripped me as if it were a dragon an I it’s prey (forgive the pun) and did not let me go. A thoroughly enjoyable read, A Natural History of Dragons kept me on the edge of my seat.

Some people might find the fact that it is a fantasy memoir to take away the suspense (after all, we know Isabella has survived to write it), but as I firmly believe: it’s about the journey and not the destination. Knowing that she survives incites my curiosity as to how – and just because we know she survives doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of plot twists in this amazing tale.

Hats off to Marie Brennan, author of this fantastic work. If I can write something half so true as what she has written, I will be happy. Truly, if you are a writer and need a reminder of why you write, pick up this book. It will whisk you into an alternate history in which our world is not even our world, but the ring of familiarity is there.

I give this book five stars (out of five, of course) and recommend that you all pick up a copy and get lost in Anthiope for a little while.

For more on the book:

http://www.swantower.com/novels/memoirs/dragons/index.html

And of course, I do not own the image.

And, if you happen to see this review posted on Amazon – I put it there. Will be posting it elsewhere as I can.

THE SEQUEL – aka *happy dance*

Okay, so I’ve been pretty slow with getting the first draft of THE SEQUEL done. I mean, I went about eight months without writing a single word (and thinking of it only occasionally). But as some people know, summer is my time to write. I don’t know why, but I am always much more productive in the summer.

As such, I only have two and a half more chapters of THE SEQUEL to go (I’m calling it The Scourge of the Daiyen, the Daiyen being the part of the world they are in for this story). I’m really excited! And to top the cake, I finally have a progression of plot points lined up for BOOK THREE. No, I don’t have an outline yet (which really helped me for THE SEQUEL!) but I will get to that when I am done with this draft (hopefully this week??? I don’t want to get my hopes up – I know how I am with time frames!) At least that is the goal I’m setting. By next Sunday evening, July 5th, I will be done with THE SEQUEL’s first draft. I won’t give myself a maybe!

Anyway, I hope all of your projects are going well. I hope that the summer is being as kind to you as it is to me (despite the heat), and I hope that you are having fun being creative!

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