5/27/17

Preparing for a Workshop // Part 3 // explaining your story

And now it is time for everyone's favorite topic. Every writer's dream moment.

Explaining your story to the clueless. 

You meet someone who has never heard of you, or your story. But, since you're at a writing workshop they KNOW you're a writer. There's no hiding it. There's no avoiding the question. You have to be able to explain your story. I used to get out of explaining my story by saying, "Oh, I write fantasy novels in other worlds with adventure and magic and stuff." And that would satisfy. But not anymore.

Now, fellow writers, you must learn to coherently explain your plot.



There are several ways to do this. My advice would be to write a pitch for your story, which I wrote a post about here. A pitch is a one sentence hook, and my favorite version is the conversation pitch because you can give it to fellow writers in a casual setting and make a conversation.

I do have a few other tips to help you with sharing your story idea with someone!

STEP #1: be confident.

You know your story better than anyone. This person knows nothing (most likely). So be confident when you're telling the person about your book. Speak boldly and don't back down, don't play things off as if they're no biggie. Don't brag about your book, but don't discredit it either.

Be confident! You've spent so much time with your story. So OWN IT.

STEP #2: have something prepared, aside from just your pitch.

Be ready to give a brief description of your main character, your story world, and some of your themes. If you end up striking a full-on conversation with someone who is interested in your premise, you'll want to be able to give them more than just a one line summary. They'll likely want to know a little more plot stuff, and then some other aspects of it.

SO. Think over how you can briefly sum up your story world, your main character and the journey they go through (emotional and physical) in the course of the story, and why you started writing the book/some things you want to say with it.

It's important to mull over these because YOU WANT TO HAVE THOUGHT IT THROUGH. You don't want to get caught of guard because then you'll start blabbing. And you'll say a bunch of stuff that probably didn't need to be said, and you'll lose the listener's attention.

Also, you want the conversation to be double sided. You want to hear about the other person's story too. And if you spend the whole time trying to explain your Very Complicated Main Character, you likely won't get to hear much about their story.

Briefness is especially important when talking to professionals. You want it short and sweet ... and memorable. Those few words you get need to be big words that hook and grab. They need to matter.

At this point, I can hear your thoughts. 

"But HANNAH," you whine. "What is this thing you speak of? Briefness, you call it? What is this magic?"

I know, I know. I tend to write long. My MG novel (which those books are ideally in the 50k-70k range) was 94k words. *sighs* There's a LOT that goes on in that story. And don't even get me started on my YA novel, The Thief's Conspiracy. The first draft was only 85k words, but the second draft was a whopping 126k.

"Summing up" is synonymous with "brutal axe murder". With a cherry on top. (Yes, that's a pun. Yes, it is a good pun. Appreciate me.)

Point being: I GET IT. Summing stuff up is really hard. But a key thing to remember is: you don't have to tell them everything.

You just want to touch on the key points. The things that will pique their interest.

Let's start with summing up your main character.

"But I have five main characters," you might protest. "I can't sum them all up!"

I'm not sure what my opinion on this matter is, but I've heard it say by wise writers that you can only have one main character. I didn't believe it when I was planning The Dream Walkers, but I kind of do now, especially when I found out who my main character was in that book, and why. I saw how she effected the story and characters and carried the plot differently than the others.

I'd say give three to five interesting things about your character. For example, my main character's name is Chloe and she is the oldest of four siblings. She's a Dream Giver, which means she can give people dreams at night and send them to Dream World, where they play on the landscape she crafted. She can also open doors in Dream World that no one else can. But she's a very lonely child, and has to learn in the story that sometimes we might feel alone even when we're surrounded by people, but that doesn't mean we are alone.

See? That's like ... how many words is that? 86. That's an 86 word summary of my main character.

It's so much easier than you might think! Say what is interesting and important, and leave the rest for when the person reads the story.

The same goes for your setting. Be brief, and tell people about the cool and hooking parts.

I'll end with one more "official" step. (because it's centered and in bold and says step before it so it's obviously Very Important.)

STEP #3: listen.

Remember that the person you're speaking to (at least when you're at a workshop) is a writer too. Be sure to keep the conversation balanced. What's their story about? Who is their main character? Why are they writing this book?

When someone is genuinely interested in our book, it's really hard to stop talking. I know I could go on for AGES. It's my passion, after all. How could I not? But don't forget to offer the joy of being heard to someone else.

You both deserve to be listened to.

I won't be back till July, so I wish you all a happy summer! I'll be back with a wrap-up post and I will spam you with my fangirling and pictures let you guys know how my writing workshop goes!

Do you struggle explaining your book to people? Any tips that I missed?

<3

5/20/17

Preparing for a Workshop // Part 2 // critiquing

This is part two of my Preparing for a Workshop mini series. If you missed the first post, you can read that here.

And now for today's post! CRITIQUING.

**WARNING: I might rant. Just a bit. Not 100% sure, but you should be warned, all the same.



There are several important things to remember when giving and receiving a critique. Let's start with giving someone a critique.

#1: ENACT THE SANDWICH RULE.

I think Jill talked about this once upon a time at Go Teen Writers (not 100% sure about that though). But basically the idea is when critiquing someone's work, if you find a problem, try to sandwich it by taking notes of things you like. If there's a sentence you don't understand and think needs clarification, or a weak description, mention how much you like the line of dialogue before it, and how creative the world building is after. That kind of thing.

It also reminds us to encourage. Because encouragement is very important in critiquing. We writers are dramatic, after all. Often times, we think our books are the ABSOLUTE WORST in the whole world. Getting a critique back that points out all flaws would only help that mindset along. Getting back a critique that was all fluff and fangirl would likely cause the person to not trust what you're saying and disregard the whole critique (unless it's a late draft and close to publication).

POINT BEING: you need a balance of the two. Then the writer will be encouraged to work on the problems, but take comfort in knowing that there were good things about their work and that it's not actually all horrible.

#2: BE HONEST AND HAVE GRACE.

I was at a church service a few weeks ago, and the preacher was talking about how we need to have two things in our conversation: honesty and grace.

You do NOT want to lie. If the book is really not good, don't rave about how amazing it is just to encourage them and make them feel better about it. That's not the truth, so they don't need to hear it. However, do not go on and on about how bad it is and all these issues they need to fix. They don't need to hear that, either.

What they need is the truth. But they need it with grace. If one of their characters is flat, find something good to say about them (sort of like the sandwich rule here) and gently advise on how to make them better.

A THOUGHT: don't ever say, "This is horrible. Do this instead, and then it'll be good." You are not the writer. You are giving advice. Let your comment sound more like, "This is okay, but I don't think it has quite what you were aiming for. Maybe if you added this or took out this bit, it would have more impact and be stronger."

Always, ALWAYS, no matter how bad the book is, be gentle, gracious, and kind. The point of all beta reading and critiquing is to help the author, both with their story and with their motivation.

#3: DO NOT FORGET WHAT YOU'RE AIMING FOR.

If you're doing this as more of an encouragement / pleasure read, do not search the work for problems. If you're doing this to help the writer get through some writing that's giving them trouble, don't just talk about the character issues you spotted, or how their pacing was poor. If they gave you an early draft and asked for big-picture advice, don't go line by line to correct grammar and point out weak descriptions.

If you notice something big that the writer didn't specifically ask for, it's okay to point that out if you think it needs it. But don't point out every little grammar mistake if they sent you a first/second draft.

Keep in mind what they asked for, and read it for the purpose of commenting on that. It will save your time, and give them the advice and encouragement they need.

Now that I've ranted about critiquing for others, here's some advice on how to receive a critique.


#1: COMMUNICATE WITH YOUR BETA ABOUT WHAT YOU'RE LOOKING FOR.

Right off the bat, let your beta know where you are with your story and what you need / want from them right now.

In order for them to give you a good, beneficial critique, they need to know what to look for. Otherwise they're just going to comment on whatever they see. It might help you, yes, but there will likely be some questions you had that they didn't answer, and some things they pointed out that you didn't want or need.

In just about every area of life, communication is very important.


#2: DON'T TAKE EVERYTHING AS LAW.

If your beta marks a line and says, "This is flat and doesn't work. Change it." don't go, "oh dear. I need to change this." At least, not immediately. If they didn't explain why they thought it was flat, try to find the reason for it. Take a step back from your work and consider. If you find the reason for their comment and agree with it, change it. If you don't agree, don't change it. It's not disrespectful to them. You're staying true to yourself and your story.

Also, don't take everything personally. If someone makes a blunt comment, take a step back and breathe before getting too upset about it. They're most likely just trying to help you. They don't mean to make you feel like your book is horrible, or your characters are all 2D. Try to sympathize with them. And most importantly ...


#3: BE OPEN. 

It's easy to send off something (especially something you feel good about) and expect the reader to be all praise and adoration over it. 

But 1) as hard as it is to accept, you're work is likely not perfect yet. Otherwise, you wouldn't need betas.

And 2) they are LOOKING for problems. That's they're job. So, even if it's not actually something you think of as a problem, they're going to find issues with your work.

So when you open their document, remember that they are giving their opinion. Be open to their suggestions, but if you feel the need, remember you can discard their entire critique. (not saying that you should, because everyone can teach you something, but remember that you are in charge and you have the final say in everything about your story right now.) You don't have to do anything. 

But you can. You can learn from what your beta has said. 

Take advantage of the comments they give you. Even if you don't agree, study their reasoning. You might find yourself changing something based on an issue they noticed, even if you don't fix it in the way they suggested.

Just be open and listen. That's soooo important. Take your time, and remember to be thankful. Critiquing someone's work takes time!

And lastly, 


#4: WAIT UNTIL YOU'RE READY.

There are deadlines that have to be met, yes. But for unpublished writers (generally speaking) you're not in a big hurry. There's not a big rush to get things to betas. 

So take your time. Make your work the best you can on your own so that you don't have other people pointing out problems you were already aware of and planning on fixing. 

Know yourself, too. I can't send first drafts to people for them to critique. About four years ago, I sent the first draft of a chapter to my cousin and she critiqued it for me. It was ... not pretty. There were so many issues with the work, and I hadn't even read over it on my own. After I got the critique, I couldn't write for about a week (which was a long time for me). I finally had to tell her I couldn't take first draft critiques anymore. I, personally, cannot handle it. And I know that now. And I stick to that. 

Know yourself. Push yourself, but don't strain yourself. Wait until you're ready, until you can't do much else on your own. Don't wait until it's the most beautiful work of art you've ever created (because that doesn't happen without help) but wait until you know you need the opinions and thoughts of other writers and readers you trust.


I'm 97.5% sure I severely ranted in this post. I'm also 81.06% sure I'm not sorry about it. I hope you learned something from this post! 

Have you ever critiqued or beta read someone's work? Have you ever had your work beta read or critiqued? What was your experience? 

5/13/17

Preparing for a Workshop // Part 1 // creating something that shines

Today is the kick off of a mini series I'm doing this month before I go to my second workshop. I'm going to talk about the prep to do before for the next three Saturdays, and then I will disappear until July 6, when I'll give my second quarter wrap up.

So that's what will be happening here at Stan for the next month! Now, on with the post!



Up until the workshop last year, I had not crafted anything that truly shone. I had not prepared any piece of my writing to share with someone else.

I hadn't built confidence in anything.

And, as you can probably guess, I hadn't shared my work with anyone (except for my cousin). So when I realized I was going to have to edit something and show that something to a professional editor ... to sit across from her while she read it and then talk with her about it?

AHHHHHHHHHHH.

I only had to prepare the three opening pages of manuscript, and a four page excerpt for critique groups.

Not much, I know. But I wasn't prepared. So far, I'd only written for fun. I was serious about it, but I hadn't buckled down to craft words that really shone. Words that I could look at and be proud of.

Being proud of my writing was, to be frank, a foreign concept to me.

But it is possible. I did it, and you can too. Here are a few steps I took to get my three pages ready for a professional editor.

Step #1: I MADE IT THE BEST I COULD ON MY OWN. 

The first thing you need to do is sit down and look at your pages. Print them out if that helps you. Take a bright red pen to it. Grab a writing craft book (the GTW book is my go-to, and worth every penny to buy a copy).

Shred it to the best of your abilities. If you're new at micro editing, this will be a bit challenging to you. There's a fine line to walk between good writing and too much polishing. You don't want to lose your voice, but you also don't want to be filled with telling and poor descriptions.

Step #2: I GAVE IT TO SOMEONE ELSE.

I had several people look over it. My cousin was the main person, of course.

And we did not send it to each other just once.

We sent each other those first three pages at least four times. That might seem a bit overkill to you, but it was necessary. I could not have done it on my own, and after one round of edits, more problems would pop up.

Frustrating, I know. Especially for such a small amount of words.

I gave it to another writing friend too, and I actually won a draw on the Writers Helping Writers blog and got a free one page critique, which was incredible.

A small note on critique partners: when you send your writing to someone, you want it to be perfect. But you have to remember, you can't make it the best it can be all by yourself. You need some fresh eyes. You have to bite your lip and toughen up and send out that imperfect document. It's so hard because you KNOW it can be better. You just aren't sure how to get it there yet.

People can help you. Go to your writer friends. They are valuable and will help you make your pages as good as they can be.

But they can only do so much. You are the one that has to take their advice and apply it. Don't let their critiques get you down. They want to help you. And if something they say doesn't sit with you, don't apply it. Examine what they thought was an issue and try to think about it from a new perspective. But if you're happy with something the way it is, KEEP IT. That's another sign of art. Art isn't going to be cookie cutter perfect. It's not supposed to be.

If you're having trouble finding a critique partner, go check out the Go Teen Writers facebook group. There are probably other places, but that has been a huge source of community for me.

Also, when asking someone to critique your work, I would recommend an exchange. Especially if you are both going to a conference or workshop. You can message said person and say, "Hey, I've been trying to get these pages for the workshop ready. Would you like to have a critique exchange?" If they say yes, you'll not only get someone to provide feedback on your work, but you also have a chance to critique someone else's work. Looking at someone else's manuscript for micro issues might be just the thing to get you into the mindset of editing your own. Plus, you'll be helping out a friend.

Step #3: I LET IT GO.

Just like you need to let it go to send it to people for critiques, the day will come when you need to pack up your things for that workshop or conference. And at that point, you have to let it go. You can keep chipping away at those words for a lonnnng time. There will always be a different way to phrase something, a different route to take the story down.

Just take a deep breath and let it go. Let yourself be happy with what you've created, and get ready to show it to people.

That's it for this week. If you're not going to a workshop or conference this summer, I still highly recommend creating something you can show people. Three pages is a good amount. A lot of people want to read your writing. It's nice to have a few pages you can be proud of and say, "Here. Read this."

I'm going to devote a post next week to critiquing. In the meantime, happy writing!

Have you ever been to a workshop or conference? Have you ever gotten a piece of your writing ready for others to read?

<3

5/6/17

Dare to Dream

So it's 1:11 A. M. and I'm just now starting this post.

It's bound to be a bit rambley. Prepare yourselves.

I watched La La Land for the first time tonight. I know, I know, I'm late to the party. But I wasn't sure what to talk about today, and this gave me a lot of inspiration.

Hence, the post.

This movie gave me many mixed feelings. But I want to focus on the big thing it taught me.

It portrayed a very realistic view of following your dream.

It showed how stepping out into the void, taking a leap in order to do what you love ... it isn't easy. It's not romantic. It's not all going to fall together magically. The world is not going to halt in awe of your talents. People are not going to flock to you and swoon over your art.

But that doesn't mean you need to give up. That doesn't mean you shouldn't try.

Because that's not what it's about. Following your dreams is about finding your true purpose in life. It's about not settling for something that will keep you safe and secure. It's about taking a risk.



Dare to dream.

Take a deep breath and do it. Choose to follow your heart. Choose to do what you love. It doesn't mean abandoning college or "stable" jobs. What you love could very well fall under those categories.

But don't push yourself into categories just so you can have a "chance" or "be successful".

What does successful mean, anyway? In my eyes, being successful is finding your purpose in life. It's finding the path God wants you to walk, and going forth boldly.

I'll end with a verse I found the other day.

So we will boldly say:
"The LORD is my Helper;
I will not fear.
What can man do to me?"
Hebrews 13:6

If it's God's plan for you, no power on earth can stop it.

Follow your dreams, and make them real. It will be hard, and it's not going to be all romantic like in the movies. Life isn't butterflies and daisies.

But there are butterflies and daisies. So find them when you can.

If that made any sense. I probably just incoherently rambled.

This has been episode 34 of Late Night Chats with Hannah. Stay tuned!

Also, you should go check out the post Katie did on this a while back on her blog. It's really beautiful. <3

Have you seen La La Land? What did you think of it? What's your dream?

<3

4/29/17

Hey You: it's okay

This month was rough. Not gonna lie. Right now, I'm sitting at 20k words. I started the month with a goal of 40k.

HAaaaahaHAAA.

Yeah, that didn't happen. But it's okay! I'm happy with the progress I've made. The goal is 25k but ... we'll see.

As you might have guessed, I learned a lot this month. Granted, I learn a lot every month, but this month especially, I learned a lot about writing, about myself, and about the world. And I've learned that a lot of things we stress about really don't need to be stressed over.

In a word, I've learned that it's okay.



It's okay to not meet a goal.

Goals are there to encourage you. When you don't meet a goal, beating yourself up about it totally defeats the purpose. You likely got a lot accomplished anyway, or at least something. And chances are nothing would have gotten done if you hadn't set a bar for yourself. Hadn't raised a standard to reach for.

It's okay to not feel so great.

You can't really control how you feel. You can choose to think about certain things, and you can choose to change your mindset, which often impacts how you feel. But you can't control every little feeling you have.

And it's okay not to feel great. It's okay to be down. It's okay to be sad. It's okay to be discouraged and disheartened.

The important thing is to remember that you will make it through. We are warriors, and we will fight our way through this life. We will be champions together.

It's okay to not have it all down. 

With my writing, I'm not really sure on some details. I don't know exactly how the Climax of Act Two and Three are going to happen. I'm not sure where my Dark Night of the Soul is going to take place. I'm not sure what my Midpoint even is.

And that's okay.

Writing is about exploring and discovering. So write. Write, even if you're not sure what you're doing. Write, even though the words are rough and you're kind of lost. It's okay to be a little confused.

It's okay to give up.

I don't mean you should abandon everything right now. I mean it's okay to give up a goal. It's okay to give up a deadline if you need more time, or have to move on to another project.

"Give up" tends to carry bad connotations with it. In reality, it's much the same as "letting go" which is very important and very necessary to just about every part of life. You can't live clinging to everything around you. You have to detach yourself a bit sometimes. You have to put up a line and say, "I can't take on anymore." Don't stretch yourself too thin. Give yourself some grace.

If you haven't met your nano goal, take a deep breath.

It's okay. You'll get there eventually.

If you don't know what's going to happen next in your story, take a deep breath.

It's okay. You can brainstorm your way through it.

If you don't think you can take on another project, take a deep breath.

It's okay. You can say no to people. You need to say no to people. It's hard, but it's better to give a few people your all instead of giving a dozen people just an exhausted smidge.

Take a deep breath and give youself some grace.

It's okay. 

Did you survive this month of Camp Nano? Nano-er or not, how did writing go for you this month? Do you need to give yourself some grace?

<3

4/22/17

Hey You: art is messy

Hey you. Yeah, you.

If I had to venture a guess, I’d say you’re in the middle of a project right now. It might be a novel, a short story, or a poem. It might be for teens or adults or children. You might be in the heat of the first draft, or in the craze of edits.

Regardless of which of these you’re in at the moment though, I can almost guarantee one thing.

Your book is just a little bit messy.

If you’re in the sea of first drafting, you probably feel like you’re trying to make a sand castle in the bottom of the ocean. The water is quickly destroying any progress you make, tearing away your carefully constructed details and reducing your work of art to a big hunk of blob.

If you’re in the desert of edits, you probably feel like you’re stranded in the Sahara and struggling to make that sand castle—only now you have no water and the sand is too dry to form much of anything at all.

And maybe you’re not in an ocean or a desert. Maybe you’re sitting at your desk with a sheet of nice clean paper. But when you look around for a pen, all you can find is a box of crayons, most of them broken and none of them pointy. A nice, detailed picture or elegant poem is nearly impossible. 




Writing is hard stuff. It’s messy. Whatever stage you’re in, you can probably relate. It’s frustrating when that scene just won’t come together like you wanted, or when you just can’t get your antagonist’s motive down.

And you know what?

It’s okay.

Not just because it’s nano, the notorious month of mayhem and mess, but because it’s writing. Writing is tough stuff. You can’t get it perfect the first, second, or third time. In fact, you can’t ever get it perfect. Not really.

And you know what?

It’s okay.

You know why it’s okay?

Because this is art. And with art, there is not perfect way.

There is no perfect way because there is no set standard. Art is about being expressive and unique. It’s about touching people in ways nothing else can.

People are all very different. Why would there be some set standard of How To Impact a Human? We are all impacted and touched by different things. Thus, all art is beautiful and different.

You—yes you—have power. You have words. You have things to write, a story to tell.

So enjoy the mess. Messiness is its own kind of beautiful.


And there’s always another draft.


How are you faring in nano so far, or whatever writing projects you're currently handling? Are you embracing your mess? 

<3

4/15/17

When You Hit a Wall

Two weeks ago, camp nano began. While everyone around me was getting pumped for it, I was blocked from day one. I couldn't write. I had some big changes to make, but nothing wanted to come out.

I hit a huge wall. And it was not fun.



I think post-inciting incident is my sweet spot for disaster. The day nano started, I sat down at the keyboard and stared at the letters, at the waiting word document full of words that needed editing.

And I couldn't write a thing.

Three days in, I had a little over 1k.

That's not normal for me. I usually write quickly.

I was forced to admit the sad truth that I'd naively hoped wouldn't prove to be with my precious new baby, The Dream Walkers. It had been so nice to me so far.

But no. I'd hit a wall.

What to do? I've set a goal of 40k words to edit (now at 35k, possibly going down to 30k). I want to finish this draft before June. And, above all, I do NOT want to have another "TC" disaster. I will not spend a year on this draft. I can't. Not again.

I needed to break this wall. I needed to get a huge hammer and smash into it with all the power of a steam train. But how?

The first step was figuring out why I'd hit the wall. You can't really break something until you understand how it's built.

There are two main elements to what created my wall.


PROBLEM 1: FEAR

This book had been so good so far. But as nano started, so did all the major changes I had planned. And so the fear came. Fear of change. Fear I might mess everything up. Fear I wouldn't do it right.

On top of all that, I'm sending this draft to betas. Therefore, draft two must be perfect.

Right?

WRONG.

What do you think betas are there for? I know it can't be perfect yet, but that's the thing that was not allowing me to write at all. I needed to throw the words out. To force them onto the page.

And you can't do that and keep the quality high. You have to get in the dirt and heave.


PROBLEM 2:  AN UNCLEAR DESTINATION 

Yes, I had some big changes to make. But I also had some brainstorming to do. There was world building I hadn't done (I know, shocking) and some character motives and secrets I needed to nail down. I got my notebook and began the brainstorming, and when I got home that evening, the words began to come better than they had all month.

I knew what changes I needed to make, but I wasn't really sure how to make them. I didn't really know where I was going, and I was left wandering about and gazing at the clouds.


So from these two points, I think we can guess how to fight the block.


SOLUTION 1: KNOW WHERE YOU'RE GOING

Get your journal. Open the doc. Grab the restaurant napkin and pen. Whatever spurs your creative juices. Grab it and get to work. Be creative. Write down everything that comes to your mind. You'll find something. I know you will. I believe in you.


SOLUTION 2: BE BOLD, DARING, AND BRAVE.

*glances at betas* Yes. Yes I did just do that.

A good book can only become great after a lot of work. It's not going to happen in just a few days and two drafts. It takes more than that. It takes trying new things and ideas and failing a little. It means scrapping things that don't work and trying things to see what does.

And that requires a little bit of boldness. A dash of daring. And a whole lot of bravery. You have to remember that there is no "failing". There are just things that won't work and things that will. You can always try again. The important thing is to decide on something, and go for it with all you've got.

Please, please, don't be afraid to write new things. To make changes. Some part of you wanted to make those changes in the first place. Likelihood is, it's going to make your book better.


SOLUTION 3: PUSH THROUGH IT

And if all else fails, you just have to do it. You might have to lower your target goal or make some changes to what you'd wanted to get done, and that's okay. Give yourself some grace. Writing is hard, and editing is even harder. It's okay if you're not as fast as you'd like to be.

Just take a deep breath and let it go. In this moment, you are right where you need to be.


I hoped this might have encouraged some of you struggling to get the words down!

AND HERE'S A SNIPPET FOR YOU. It's small, don't worry ;P But I just have to let you in on my little reference I made up there. This becomes a theme throughout the book. It was totally pantsed in first draft, but I've kept it and it's become and integral part to pretty much all the characters. *snuggles my children*

*happy sigh* my little children

And now off you go! Go break the block!


How has nano been so far for you? Have you fared better than I have, or are you struggling with a block too? 

<3

3/31/17

First Quarter of 2017 /// wrap-up

Yup. You read that right. Me, doing a wrap-up post? WOW. What has happened? *pantomimes bombs exploding*

I decided that I liked the idea of monthly wrap-ups, but didn't really want to do them every month. And there are twelve months in a year, and twelve is just an all around cooperative number so FIRST THREE MONTHS, YAY! That works great! And I can call it a quarter and EVERYONE IS HAPPY.

Ehem. Anyway. Here goes my first ever wrap-up post! *WARNING: this is going to be a little different than your average wrap-up. Be prepared for much poetry (most of it not the best).


this is what the weather has looked like this year


L I F E

The days drag by
full of heat and fury
frustration and agony
stress and fear
so much fear
but there is no fear in love
for perfect love casts out fear
and so I pray
day after day
Lord, take this fear from me.

The days slip by
the stress has faded
but now there are questions
so
many
questions
rushing to replace
the anxiety
and I have no answers 
and so I wait 
and hope.

The days crawl by
and I want them to hurry
for this school year to be done
for the summer to arrive
with all the green and life
and light and happiness
of a time without so much of the future
digging its claws into my back.

The future.
That is what I fear.
The future.
That vast unknown
full of unmade decisions
uncertain words
and tentative roads.

But I do not walk alone
and so
I will not fear. 


Translation: there's been a lot of stress in life and I've been writhing in the agony of it. Really struggling to trust God and His omnipotent hand.

I took the ACT for the first time back in February. That was the main source of stress. I'm actually taking it again in about a week from now. *faint laugh* *falls over dead*

W R I T I N G

The words do not wish to come
but I sit down
and I force them out
I force them onto the page
tugging hair
gritting teeth
until at long last
it is done
and the year I spent slaving away
rewards me with those beautiful words:
the end.

The order is placed
and so I wait
what feels like an 
e t e r n i t y
but they finally come
and I hold them close
and I sigh and smile
at long last
I hold these pieces of my soul
that I've spent so long
and put so much
into.

Edits begin again
but this time
they are smoother
and the words flow
and the smile stays.
there is no
ripping of hair
but rather
laughter
and joy and 
grace
grace for those hard days
and grace for the good ones
and I smile because
it gets better.
There is hope.

Translation: I have been somewhat productive so far this year, even with life being crazy. I finished the second draft of The Thief's Conspiracy back in February and started edits on The Dream Walkers this month. It has been soooo so wonderful and rewarding and I am very optimistic about this year!

*whispers* I also order printed copies of my books! And I read the Prologue and first chapter of DW to my family and they liked it. (Went much better than the last reading aloud attempt haaaa)

R E A D I N G

The girl longs for the world
of paper and ink
that captivated so many 
of her childhood days.

But time is short
and she must make choices
and so the books sit by
untouched.

Translation: I've read ... 9 books this year. *winces and hides* I know, I know. It could be a looot better. But IT COULD ALSO BE WORSE. And I have been writing a lot so THERE'S THAT. I'm getting back into reading right now and trying to get faster at it so I can do it more. 

Favorite book: The Screwtape Letters. This was my first time reading a book like this and I really, really enjoyed it. It took me several months to read, but it was soooo good. It was a lot to process, and it really got me thinking about everything differently, especially temptations and sin. 

Least favorite book: Sadly, I wasn't a huuuuge fan of most of the books I read? But my least favorite would have to be ... *whispers* The Raven Boys. I'd heard so much hype over this book, and all my writing friends (like, all of them) gave it four to five stars. Even though it wasn't really in my genre and the back cover blurb didn't appeal to me, I thought I should at least give it a try.

And it was okay. It was intriguing. I actually read the first one hundred pages in the middle of November after I hit 50k. But I had a lot of issues with it, and I just ... didn't like it. Especially the end. I felt really dumb, but I was so confused by the last paragraph that I had to look up the blurb for the next book to see if it explained what was going on, which it did and I WAS SO MAD CAUSE WHY. 

Okay I'm done ranting. *braces self for the angry Stiefvater fans* (I did like her writing style though!)

M U S I C

I close my eyes and let
the sound wash over me.

My lips crack
but I cannot sing 
for the lump in my throat
and the tears slipping down my cheeks.

Oh, how music
can touch the soul. 

Music has been a life saver this year. During the stressful month leading up to the ACT, I had Called Me Higher on repeat. It is such a good message. That we grow most when we spread our wings and let ourselves be vulnerable. God will watch over us and help us through the pain, and He will draw us closer to Him if we only let Him.

And this month, I've really fallen in love with Wonder. My cousin showed this one to me, and I've had it on repeat all this month. I'm taking Human Anatomy this semester and the two go so well together. It's so easy to get used to the world around us, but this song reminds me to open my eyes and really see the incredible beauty and brilliance in creation. 

O N   S T A N

This blog has much word. 
Most of them do not make sense. 
But I still attempt.


(And so I move from free verse to very bad Haiku which are actually very fun to write.)

The most viewed posts on Stan have been ...





F U N   F A C T


Random facts are fun. 
They make me perk up and look. 
This world is so weird. 


I love random facts. I could throw so many at you right now.

I think my favorite one these last three months, though, has been about the first noted instance of biological warfare at the siege of Caffa (now Feodosija, Ukraine) in 1346. Some historians speculate that this event is what cause the spread of The Black Death into Europe, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of millions of people.

What happened?

Well, the Mongols besieged the city of Caffa. The Mongols decided to hurl the bodies of soldiers that had fallen to the Black Death over and into the city. In getting rid of the bodies, the defenders would likely have contracted the illness themselves. Caffa, being on the coast, had trade ships going in and out.

Lots of germs + citizens fleeing from dead bodies being hurled into their city = wild spread of deadly plague.

That, and the oldest goose ever reported to live was a gander named George that lived to a mighty 49 years and 8 months (according to the guiness book of world records).

And there are your fun facts for the day, brought to you by Hannah who surfed the very trustworthy and reliable internet for a stupid amount of time. #procrastinationboss


Thus ends my first Quarter wrap-up! Did you guys like this? Please let me know. If so, I'll make it a thing! :D

You will not be getting a post tomorrow (cause that would be too much Hannah for everyone) but I wish you all the best of luck for day one of Camp Nano! WRITE ALL THE WORDS! *showers you in confetti and coffee beans*

How has 2017 been for you so far? Any milestones reached, in life, writing, reading, or anything really? Any fun facts to share?

<3

3/25/17

Holding onto Your Story

Sorry for the delay in comment replies last week! I was on a trip that lasted till Wendesday and things were a lot busier than I anticipated so I wasn't able to get online and hang with you guys. Thank you for the love though! I really appreciate it *beams and hugs all of you and hands out coffees and hot chocolates*

Anyways.

A few weeks ago I talked about letting go of your story. About how, once its purpose is accomplished, we can become better writers by letting it go instead of keeping at it, editing and editing and writing and rewriting when really, the time has come to give it up and move on.

This week I thought I'd talk about the other side of the coin.



You've been working on a novel for a year. Maybe two. Or three. Let's say three.

So you've been working on a novel for three years. And you just don't know if it's worth it. Despite all your hard work, the plot is a wreck. Your characters are being stubborn and not doing what you want. The world building is cliche, the pacing all whacked up and you've just been so close to this story for so stinkin' long that you can't see it anymore and SOMEONE SEND HELP.

It's at this point when the infamous "writers block" sets in. Then one of two things will happen.

One, you'll put the book aside for a bit and read or brainstorm your way out of it.

Two, you'll put the book aside and you won't pick it up again.

Now, I've never fully abandoned a project I had taken on. I don't consider my first series "abandoned". Yes, I've let it go (and the whole Letting Go of your Story post was about that series) but in a way, I'm still holding onto it.

And I certainly have felt all the above feelings towards my WIP. *groans and slams forehead against keyboard* The plot has given me so. much. grief. I wrote the first draft in 2015 for nano, and even after that I still didn't know how the book was going to end. HOW DO YOU WRITE A BOOK AND STILL NOT KNOW HOW IT ENDS.

Well, I am a pro at that. Just ask me about it and I'll teach you all the ways.

There comes a point for everyone when you just want to give up. Some have it harder than others.

Is this story really worth it, after all? Is it worth all this time and pain and sweat and tears and creativity?

Is it worth holding onto?

The Thief's Conspiracy turned a year old in October. I took on the project in May-ish of 2015, though, and planned stuff out for five months before actually writing it. A good chunk of one of my journals holds the first bits of brainstorming I did for this, and then I've already completely filled one journal with notes on it.

Point is: I've spent a lot of time and a lot of work on this. But my progress is so slow. I've got The Dream Walkers sitting here, all sparkly and pretty in it's first draft glory, and I'm more happy and proud of that, a work that took me 30 days, than a draft I spent a whole year on.

HOW DOES THAT WORK? Goodness.

It's really tempting just to toss TC out the window and forget about it. Middle Grade likes me better apparently. I'm a failure with YA. Right?

Let's stop here and make a list. Because we need to sort some things out.


Point One /// you have to let go of it

Hear me out! This might sound like a contradiction, but it's not.

In order to truly stick to your story, to hold on to it and not give up on it, you have to let it go. You have to realize that its flaws and imperfections do not define you. Because if you let those mistakes determine what kind of a writer or person you are, it will crumble your confidence. You can't do that to yourself.

You have to let it go. Say, yes this is my story. But it is not me. I'm working through the problems because I believe it can be a great novel someday.

That's the first big step. If you don't let go of it, you're going to hate on yourself during edits. You're going to berate yourself, wondering why you can't be a better writer. Wondering what's wrong with you to have made this story such a mess, and how could you possibly have made such a mistake in thinking you could write this story?

You have to let that go. Every book comes with its problems. And likelihood is, the harder stories, the ones that take the most work, are going to be the greatest works you'll ever produce.


Point Two /// is it worth it?

You have to decide if the story is worth it. I'd love to tell you yes, your story is worth it. But sadly, that might not be the case. Some stories are good stepping stones. They teach us valuables things about writing, and about ourselves.

And they aren't meant to be more. They are just for you, and they don't need to go out into the world.

But only you can make that call.

Only you can look on the pages of your manuscript and decide if it's worth it. Only you can know. Only you can decide.


Point Three /// what do you feel?

Why are you considering letting go of your story? Of putting it down and never touching it again?

Is it because you think it will never be good enough? That it will never stand a chance? That the plot is just a wreck and can't be fixed, and the characters are all flat and it's just not worth it?

If you're feeling these kinds of thoughts, I BEG YOU. Hold onto it. Those thoughts are not good, and they're definitely not from God. If you're striving to write what He wants you to write, you won't put down a book because of feelings like that. Those are not from Him. Think about it. If God wants you to put a project down, how would He tell you to do so? He would not tell you you don't have what it takes. He would show you that your energy could be spent on a story that maybe carries a message you and the world need more than the last one.

Think about it and pray. And if you decide to stick with it, you'll have to take one more point:


Point Four /// you have to love it

Love is not a feeling. Love is a choice.

Let's use siblings as an example here.

We don't always like our siblings. That's just the truth of it. It's impossible to be filled with love and affection for your screaming little brother every second of every day. You have to make a choice. You have to choose to put aside your own grumpiness and dislike and care for and nurture the little toddler.

Just like you're not always going to like your siblings, you're not always going to like your book. It's tricky though, because sometimes you will like your book. And when you like your book and want to work with it, it's so easy to hold on and love and nurture and work on it.

And it's so easy to think something wrong has happened when you start dislike your story. If you base your devotion and dedications on how you feel, then it only makes sense for that devotion to fade as soon as the desire does.

If you've decided that it's worth it, you have to choose. Choose to hold onto your story. Choose to stick with it and love it.


Are you wrestling with whether to keep your story or not? How do you decide to stay with a project? 

<3

3/18/17

One Thing Writers have in Common with Their Books

WARNING: this might turn into one of those, "Hannah-blabs-about-her-past" posts, but hopefully it will lean towards the, "Hannah-draws-from-her-past-to-help-other-people." Imma aim for the latter, but I MAKE NO PROMISES.

This will also be mildly short since I am leaving on a trip and won't get back till Wednesday. I STILL LOVE YOU THOUGH.

Ehem. Anyway.

I am currently editing the first draft of last year's nano book, The Dream Walkers. I picked it up after I finished draft two of The Thief's Conspiracy last month. I had not touched DW since writing the 94k first draft in the 30 days of nano, so you can imagine I was a little nervous when I finally sat down and opened up the document.

After all, my only other nano novel was ... not good? XP I mean, it took me a whole stinkin' year to finish the second draft. Despite feeling good about DW, I was bracing myself for a mess.

But ... I didn't really get one.

I opened the document and started to read, and I was so surprised. I'm not saying it was perfect by any means. It still has its issues.

But it's not a completely hopeless wreck like Draft 1 of TC was. I scrapped pretty much all of that book's first draft. And it still needs so much work.

But DW ...

My point is: editing The Dream Walkers is already a completely different experience from editing The Thief's Conspiracy. I'm actually sending DW to a couple of betas, which I could not do for TC.

Which leads to the point of this post. Why I titled it what I did.

We all know the phrase, "Every writer is different."

But it's the same for books. "Every book is different."

I can see you staring at me like, "Um ... yeah?"

Perhaps I should rephrase.

Every process of writing a book is going to be different.



Each book is going to come with a new set of challenges and a new set of perks. Each story you create will present new problems you have not faced before, and new pluses that you didn't know you were capable of.

Each book you write is going to teach you something new about the writing process, and how you function best. How you create stories best.

Each book you write is going to change you, both as a writer and as a person. It will change how you see the world, and it will change how you see those around you.

Books are such magical things, both to read and to write. And edits can be soooo tough. I've been there. Draft 2 of TC was the most horrible, rebellious child I have ever dealt with. Even though I had a feeling DW was going to be nicer to me, I didn't believe it until I started. (I still don't trust it, actually. I'm waiting for the bomb to go off.) It's turning out to be my little precious baby that's just a doll of loveliness and manageability.

Polar opposite of TC.

But I still love them both.

Where am I going with this?

Writers are different. They have different and unique processes. Some techniques work for them. Some do not.

And the same goes for their stories.

Books are different. They often require different and unique processes. Some techniques that worked on other books won't work for them.

So don't get discouraged if the Snowflake Method you used to plot your last novel isn't working. Maybe this book needs something different! I sure planned this book differently. I realized the other day that I did one of my own big personal "no-no's" in the planning of the story, but that's actually what made the characters so strong.

Keep writing, and don't be afraid to try something new!

Have you ever had a method fail you when it previously worked wonders for you? Have you messed around with different ways to write/plan stories? What have you found? 

<3

3/11/17

How to Write a Pitch (for editors and for friends)

Summer is the season of writing conferences and workshops. It's around this time that writers attending one such thing begin to prepare, editing the manuscript they plan to take and pulling together fun things like synopses and blurbs.

One of the things you want to have is a pitch.



I used to hate pitches. But now, crazy as it sounds ... I actually really like them? Like, a lot? I KNOW. WHAT'S WRONG WITH ME, RIGHT? Summarizing your whole book in a sentence? That's supposed to be every writer's worst NIGHTMARE.

But. That statement ('summarizing your whole book in a sentence') ... well, it's rather misleading.

A pitch is a sentence long hook for your story. Not a summary. It's not like a synopsis, where you need to spill all the secrets and tell the story from beginning to end.

It's the main concept of the story. It's the root core. It's the huge plot thread that carries the book from beginning to end.

If you've written a book blurb, you've already got a good start. But if you haven't, no worries! You can read my guest post on Katie's blog (it was about a year ago that I did this, but remains one of my favorite posts I've written. I really like blurbs!) or you can just start from scratch.

See, with a blurb, you have a little more room to flesh out what your story is about. You can go into detail about the characters and backstory and the inciting incident, along with the rest of the plot.

Your pitch? It's so much easier than you might think.

It's basically your inciting incident, with a hint at the story goal.

So,

Inciting Incident + Story Goal = pitch

See? I did the maths. So easy.

But really. It's that simple!

Let's break this down, shall we?

Step 1: The Inciting Incident.

Some terminology first: the inciting incident is the big Thing that happens (usually in the first three chapters) that kicks the story off. It's what makes things interesting. It's what drags readers into the story and sends them on a journey.

I'm going to use The Dream Walkers for an example, since that's the book I'm taking to the Minneapolis Young Writers Workshop this summer and I need to get a pitch written! Plus, I just started edits so, why not? XP

The Inciting Incident in DW (The Dream Walkers) is: After a dare goes wrong in the land of dreams, Jake does not wake up when the morning comes.

This starts the story because it gives my cast a crossroads. Wait for the doctors to discover what's wrong with him ... or go to Dream World and try to find him.

What starts your story? Find the point and boil it down to a sentence. Then you have the first part of your pitch.


Step 2: The Story Goal

And this flows right after the Inciting Incident. It's kind of the "obvious answer" to the inciting incident. Especially obvious in my case.

The story goal in DW is: Jake's siblings must travel to Dream World to find him and bring him back to reality.

Now it's going to be hard to simmer the book down like this. But you need to focus on how the book starts off. Most of my pitch is resolved within, like, fifty pages. It's the latter part (bring him back to reality) that takes up the bulk of the story.


Step 3: Put them together

You're probably glowering at me and mumbling, "but Hannah. Now I have two sentences. How am I supposed to simmer it down to one??"

Don't worry. If you put my two sentences together as they are:

After a dare goes wrong in the land of dreams, Jake does not wake up when the morning comes. Jake's siblings must travel to Dream World to find him and bring him back to reality.

Kind of ... halting, isn't it? There's some stuff I can cut. I could probably get away with cutting the whole "Jake doesn't wake up part" and just hint at it in the later half of the pitch. Like this:

After a dare goes wrong in the land of dreams, Jake's siblings must travel to Dream World to find him and bring him back to reality.

And I miiiight even be able to cut the first "land of dreams". Let's see what that looks like.

After a dare goes wrong, Jake's siblings must travel deep into Dream World to find him and get back to reality.

In the case of this pitch, I was able to cut about half the inciting incident off. Now this is just a rough pitch which I'll want to run by some people, but it's a start.

It's a fairly straightforward process. I mean, only three steps, right!? I know it's tricky, but you can do it! I BELIEVE IN YOU.

Now for some practical advice ...

Write several of them. 

A pitch is only a sentence long. Once you get the basic elements down, write three or four. See which style you like, find the right wording, etc. It doesn't take long and will help you polish it up. I'm going to write several versions of my above example, since I'm not in love with it yet. Maybe I'll find some wording I like!


The Conversation Pitch

I'm not sure if the "conversation pitch" is a thing? I kind of made it up, but someone else has probably thought of it too. But since I've never heard it elsewhere, I've been calling it a conversation pitch. If you know what it's called, shout out in the comments!

Anyway.

Here's the thing.

A professional pitch has closure.

Which is really good for, you know, professionals. That's what you want.

But in the case of talking to friends about your story, well ...

I gave a friend my pitch one time, just as I had written it (because that was what I'd read to do somewhere). And it was so awkward. It was awkward trying to say it and it was awkward after saying it. Everything about it was just ... UGH.

I immediately wished I hadn't spoken it like I was reading it off a paper. It's not that it was a bad pitch, and I knew that a pitch was a really good way to explain what your book is about to friends. But the professional pitch just felt so awkward. What to do?

When I went to the workshop that summer, I was more prepared. I had an official pitch written for the editor who was going to critique my work. And though I didn't actually write a more casual one, I had the pitch swirling in my mind so that when someone asked me what my book was about, I was able to edit it a bit.

My official pitch was short and clear, but I let myself be a little more relaxed for in-conversation one. For your amusement, here's what our conversation went like.

Person: so what's your book about?

Me: it's about a slave girl whose little sister gets sold.

Person: oooooh.

Me: and then she's got to find a way to free her before the buyer comes back and takes her away.

Person: oh, that sounds interesting.

Me: thanks! There are tigers and princes and investigators and assassinations and circus stuff and ... yeah, it's been fun to write.

You get the idea.

What am I saying?

I'm not saying to lose your professionalism.

I'm saying make it into a conversation. Let the other person speak a bit too, exchange some thoughts, and talk about it! If you have a pitch, you've got a great way to talk about your story to people. You'll be much more confident, and you can make a conversation about your book. (How fun is that?) You just have to present it the right way.

Annnnd that was a long post. XP I hope this gave you some ideas. NOW EVERYONE GO AND WRITE A PITCH!

Have you written a pitch before? If not, write one now! Feel free to share your pitches below, if you're brave. It doesn't have to be perfectly polished! Mine sure wasn't. SO SHARE THEM WITH MEEEE. I want to know what you're writing about!

<3

3/4/17

Encouragement Reading /// how it works and why it should be a thing

So I mentioned on here a while ago that my cousin and I had the brilliant idea of exchanging the first drafts of our WIPs. I gave her 85k first draft written for nano of 2015 titled, The Thief's Conspiracy, and she handed over the first draft of Delitescent, a massive beast of around 170k words written about three years ago.

The concept of handing over unedited work wasn't exactly a new idea for us. Back in the old writing days, we would actually mail our books to each other. Our letters would contain comments on them with ideas and thoughts.

Come to think of it, I haven't actually shared much of my writing with her that isn't first draft.

It may sound absolutely horrifying to you. Send off your first draft? NO WAY.

BUT. It was actually a really wonderful, beneficial experience. And you know what?

It was encouraging. Ridiculously encouraging.





HOW IT WORKS

We did it in a "book exchange" style. So I sent off my work, and she sent off hers. We both sent our first drafts too, which is a big difference from normal book exchanges.

It's very important to remember that this is not beta reading. This is encouragement reading. You are sending your book (and/or vice versa) to the reader, and the reader's job is to encourage you. I'm not saying they need to say the book is perfect. They are reading the book for the sole purpose of finding the good in it, and pointing it out to you.

It's so easy to drown in all the problems your book has. All the plot holes and flat characters and inconsistencies that you need to fix. Encouragement readers poke a hole through the dreariness of edits and say, "THIS SCENE IS AMAZING!! KEEP IT." Just a simple comment like that is sooo encouraging when you're wailing in despair about how horrible your story is turning out.

Before you send your story over, make sure you and the reader understand what the goal of this is. Especially if you're handing over a first draft. The reader needs to know what to expect, and what to look for. They are not critiquing. They are uplifting, and that is all.

We used Pinterest to share notes, and that was wonderful because I got blow by blow reader reactions of the story. If you do it this way, I would recommend copying and pasting the notes onto a document so you can refer back to them when slogging through edits.


WHY IT WORKS

You might be thinking, "What's the point?"

Having someone read your book for fun might not seem very helpful when you're trying to edit. But, at least for me, it was priceless. Plus, you have a fan now who is not going to let you give up your story.

And you don't have to hand over your first draft. Maybe you have a friend who isn't a writer, but they want to read your second draft for fun. Maybe that second draft is even going to beta readers.

That encouragement reader is going to be priceless. They're going to help find the gems of your story, and find the bright side of it.

But if you do send a first draft, here are some things to ...


KEEP IN MIND

This is a first draft. Remember that. Most of the writing is not going to be very good. There are going to be plot holes and inconsistencies.

But the author is probably already aware of a lot of them. They don't need someone to read the book and tell them what to fix. They can do that much on their own. The later drafts are where they'll need some help.

Your job is to find the good stuff. The stuff that the writer might not see. A certain scene that you loved, a certain character who just sparked life, etc.

Tell them what they're doing right.

Because it's so easy to find the wrong in stuff, we often miss the right. It's encouraging to have someone point it out, and it's important because you want that good stuff to make it through the next draft.

In conclusion, I would highly recommend doing this. Just having one person read to encourage is so beneficial in a lot of ways. It gives invaluable perspective on the story, and makes edits a little brighter.


So what do you think? Is this something you'd be interested in trying out? Have you done it before? 

<3

2/25/17

What I've Learned from Six Years of Writing

Look at me. *spreads arms* I'm such a seasoned person now! I've been blogging for a year and writing novels for six! That must mean I know alllll the things!

*cricks chirp*

...right?

Unfortunately, that's not how it works. But you do learn a lot from six years of writing, and today I'm going to share six of them.


(I did this last year, with What I've Learned from Five Years of Writing and thought I'd keep up the tradition.)

*WARNING: you will get some sentimental photos in this post. Brace yourself XP

And this first point will go to the "unfortunately" in my "that's not how it works".


1. Growth is a beautiful thing.

Think about how boring it would be if when people started writing, they were all complete bosses at it.

Just think about it. It's one of those things that you kind of roll your eyes at and say, "I know, I know, it wouldn't be so great." But really think about it.

Everyone has to start somewhere. And when you start a brand new thing, it only makes sense to start at rock bottom. And then you work and grow into a beautiful seasoned writer.

And you keep working, and keep growing.

And I think that's one of the most beautiful parts of writing.

We've moved past binders, but here's a photo of my cousin and me when we were eleven, holding our books.

*happy sigh* we were so little.


2. It's okay if you don't write like a machine. 

Meaning, it's okay if you don't rip out 5k words every day and get your 90k word drafts finished in a month, and get that thing whipped into pristine shape in three months and off to beta readers right after, and have it all polished and ready for publication before the year is up.

That's ... unrealistic. Maybe not for some people *pokes those select few and checks pulses for proof of humanity* but for the general public, writing just doesn't happen that quickly. It takes time.

And that's okay.

Maybe someday when you're published and writing is how you make your living, you'll be able to write that fast. You'll be able to write and publish a book every year.

But you will be able to write that fast because it will be your job. You won't have school or other work. You will have loads more time to dedicate to writing.

But right now, if you're not writing for a living ... you've got either school or work. And that takes time. I've been writing for six years now, and I've written ... five complete first drafts. (one of them co-written)

And ... I haven't gotten any one of those into reading shape.

Which leads to number three.


3. Pinpoint the (sometimes) subconscious, unrealistic expectations you have for yourself, and your writing, and DESTROY THEM. 

It's unfair to try to make yourself accomplish as much as a published, writing-for-a-living author. Both to you, and to them. This is what they do for a living. Of course they're going to write more than you!

It took a lot of work and discipline in order for them to get where they are today. Why should you be an exception to that?

Sometimes we have these expectations lurking in the back of our minds. And it makes us insecure in our writing because we're "failing" in all these areas that we feel we should be excelling in. And if you feel bad/insecure about your writing, sit back and try to figure out why you feel that way. Are you wasting time you could be using writing by playing on your phone? Okay, maybe you could work on that one. Are you berating yourself for not having the book you started a year ago off to beta readers? Give yourself a break. Think about why you feel that way. If you're doing your best with the time you have, THAT IS ALL YOU CAN DO. Don't beat yourself up if you're not meeting expectations that you cannot reach.

Figure out what you can do with the time you have, and make the most of it. You'll have a lot more peace in your writing.


4. Themes are actually ... okay? 

You might be squinting right now thinking, "...yeah? Is this supposed to surprise me?"

I don't know how I got this mindset. Back in the early days, I guess I read too many blog posts warning authors not to "preach" when they try to get their theme across. And that just drummed into my mind, "DON'T THINK OF ANY THEMES. DON'T ADD THEM IN. YOU DON'T WANT TO SCARE ANYONE AWAY." And it bothered me for an embarrassingly long time.

But now that I've been reading blogs and craft books for a while, I realize that was a really silly mindset for me to have taken on. Themes are not a bad thing. They are what make your story special. They are what give your book true meaning.

They are what impact readers.

And yes, you don't want to preach. I still try to avoid putting names to my themes, but there are some that I'm aware of and look for ways to incorperate. Like loneliness and sibling-friendships and self worth.

Themes are beautiful. So embrace them, and don't be ashamed of them!

(sentimental photo of me flipping through my first book,
back in the old days)

5. You don't have to let everyone who asks read your work.

STORY TIME!

Okay, so when I was ... thirteen? I think I was thirteen ... Anyway, when I was thirteen, my mom asked me to read my book aloud during our read aloud time.

*cue gasps of horror*

I know, I know. Every writer's worst night mare, right? At least it was for me.

I freaked. out.

I printed out my prologue and first chapter and smoothed it out and took deep breaths, but when I sat in there to read, with everyone waiting and listening ...

I could not utter a single word.

I just burst into tears.

That created a looooot of problems for me in the future which I will not go into right now, but the point I want to make is it is okay to say no to people. Even people who are close to you. People whose opinions you value.

You know when your story is ready to be read. Don't push yourself past that. Just explain to the person in question that it's just a first draft and not ready to be read/going through lots of edits at the moment and you're not comfortable handing it out to anyone yet/etc. There will come a time to share, and you will have to grit your teeth and push yourself to hand those chapters over.

But let yourself have time to give something you're proud of. Something that you've worked hard on. In that way, if they're critiquing it, you'll get feedback you need, too. It won't be stuff you're already aware of but have yet to fix.

I might be smiling here, but should anyone
try to read my work I would shriek and hiss.

Which leads to point six.


6. You will have to share your writing eventually. 

This past year, when I won a contest and got to send the first three chapters of my manuscript to HarperCollins for a critique, I spent a whole month doing almost nothing but editing, desperately trying to whip my chapters into shape to meet that creeping deadline (there's a reason 'deadline' begins with 'dead'). And once I sent those chapters to the editor, my family attacked in full force.

"This means we get to read it now, right?"

"If you can send it to a professional editor up in New York, you can give it to us."

I pretty much had no choice but to hand it over. But at that point, it wasn't that hard to let it go. I had that whole month to mentally prepare myself (I figured my family would finally make me hand over my work) and I had worked really hard on editing these chapters.

In short, I had something I was proud of.

I'm not saying those chapters were perfect. And the feedback from the editor gave me a lot to think about, and a lot of stuff to work on.

But those chapters were some of the best writing of which I was capable at that time. If I look back at them now, I can probably make changes and make it better. But it's been several months. Of course I can make it better.

I've grown since then.

My advice would be to write something you can polish and be proud of. It'll be hard to let go of it, and scary. But it has to happen eventually.

Plus, your family will stop bugging you (save to ask for more).


I hope this post encouraged/enlightened you! I've learned loads more than this, of course, but that's what Stan is for, is it not?


What have you learned from writing? 

<3