1/28/17

Diagnosis: Procrastination

I was pondering what I should write about today, and after starting several posts and losing my train of thought/drinking tea/scribbling random things in journal/trying to find a word to play against my dad in Lexulous/why, what an amazing world this is we live in/what do you think souls are made of?/if we didn't need to breathe do you think we could and would live underwater?/what if our eyes were on our elbows?/and how about I go get some popcorn and coffee at 2 A. M. because that's a wonderful idea.

Ehem.

...what was I talking about?


OH LOOK LEGOS LET'S GO PLAY WITH THEM FOR FIVE HOURS


*actually procrastinated for an embarrassing amount of time while "trying to find a cover picture" for this post*

Do you struggle with sudden bouts of opera singing? Do you grapple with the ever present pull of Pinterest, or the jaws of Tumblr? (I don't actually have a tumblr but I hear it's highly addictive.) Do you find your concentration and determination slipping at the sight of a good book, your will power crumbling at the faintest whiff of fresh coffee being brewed, which reminds you that you need to go and get a mug of it before it gets cold and-oh look, the piano. You really need to practice ... and oh look, a flower. Let's go outside and frolic in the green for a couple of hours and ponder the deep questions of life and existence and humanity.

Procrastination is a problem for ... dare I say everyone? Let's be safe and say most people - cause everyone is different and some strange beans out there might have the ability to stay on track always because they have lots of self control which I don't understand but THAT'S AWESOME and I'm jelly. A jelly dohnut.

And these, ladies and gentlemen, are what my thought trains look like.

Now that you've read a very procrastination-y intro, I will deliver to you my usual prime quality and top notch blog post, this one on procrastination.

*snaps into productivity mode*

There are ways you can fight procrastination, and it might not be as hard as you think. The first one I've already given to you.


#1: Choose to be productive.

This is very important. If you want to get stuff done, you have to sit down and say, "I'm going to get stuff done today." I don't know about you, but it's very easy for me to get distracted. I could spend an hour staring at the wall or sprawled out on the floor staring at the ceiling and thinking. My thoughts are so loud, I am deceived into thinking that I'm actually doing something or talking to someone, when really I'm just sitting there. Staring. And doing absolutely nothing.

But if I've told myself, "Alright, Hannah. You're going to sit here and write this blog post." Then part of my mind clings to that task. When I do get distracted looking for a cover photo and trailing off to look at possible cover pictures for my third book, that part of my brain tugs me back and says, "Remember, you're supposed to be writing a blog post. And you want to edit tonight too, and you have to go to bed at a sane hour so you really need to get this done."

It's much easier to stay on task when that little voice is in there reminding you. But that voice will only come if you put it there in the first place, by thinking through what you want to accomplish.

Otherwise, what do you have to get distracted from?


#2: Put your distractions away.

You can't get distracted by what you don't have. If it's something online, put your phone on airplane mode or turn your wi-fi off. If you have your music online, then just close the browser. To keep me on track one time, I pulled up a picture of a scary looking Gandalf captioned, YOU SHOULD BE WRITING. WHY ARE YOU NOT WRITING. so that every time I pulled up Pinterest I saw that instead of enticing pictures of pretty pathways and intriguing settings.

It worked.

But don't deny yourself of procrastination completely. Instead,


#3: Give yourself rewards.

If you sat down to write a chapter, and you write a chapter with lots of spare time, reward yourself. Don't say, "Oh well now I can write A WHOLE OTHER CHAPTER LET'S DO IT." That'll just wear you out. Instead, let yourself get on Pinterest for a bit. Set a timer so it stays a reward and doesn't turn into procrastination.


#4: Know what you're doing.

This kind of ties back to the first point I made.

Right now, I'm writing this post. But I'm also hiding from my WIP cause I'm not sure what's going to happen. Rather than keep hiding, however, I will sit down after I'm done here and get my notebook and think things through and write it out. I get so much done when I know where I'm going with the scene and what needs to happen to get there.

But there's a flipside to this one.


#5: Give up perfection.

Say you don't know how the scene is going to go. Yes, that's going to make it harder, but that doesn't mean you should just pout and go burn eight hours on Pinterest. Write anyway. It doesn't have to be perfect. It can't be perfect. It can only be really, really good, and that comes after a lot of drafts when you probably won't be having this particular issue anyway.

Just write it out.


#6: Know yourself.

Every bean is different. Thus, every bean has different weaknesses and strengths. Find your weaknesses so you can be wary of them, and work on them. And find your strengths so you can take advantage of them.

If procrastination is something you struggle with, find different ways to treat yourself. Ways that work best for you. Writing is such a deeply personal thing. Find your groove, your style. Find yourself in what you love to do, and strengthen it.



I hope this gave you some ideas for how to beat the procrastination bug. Further prescriptions to various diagnoses may come in the future, but due to the spontaneity of the writer, they cannot be promised. You might get a post on Holding onto Your Story next week, or you might get a post about wombats.

We'll see.

Do you struggle with staying on the task at hand? What are some tricks/tips you've learned that help?

<3

1/21/17

Letting Go of Your Story

Once upon a time, there was a little girl. She was eleven years old, and she loved to read. She also loved to play make-believe with her siblings. They made up all sorts of games in their backyard (creating worlds was her favorite) and always had a lot of fun running from savages, swinging across deadly, bubbling lava to get healing water and cheese burgers from the Supply Tree, and making giant stew for the folk in the kingdom of the clouds.

It was this kind of imagination that fueled this eleven year old girl's first story. 

The story was one you'd probably expect. It was about a young, brave girl who was kidnapped and taken to another world, where a magical ice princess declared this girl had magical powers and was destined to save the world. Of course, the ice princess turned out to be an evil ruler of the land, and the young heroine is rescued by the real heroes, who tell her she IS destined to save the world, but from the ice princess, and that in order to do so she must learn how to use her magical powers that are, of course, practically limitless and very, very special, and then she must embark on an epic quest to save the magical world she's been dragged off to.

There were lots of dragons and faeries and princesses and magic in this story. There was lots of running and fighting and kidnapping and escaping and action and adventure. The story was fun.

But the story was childish. It was conceived and written by this eleven year old girl, after all. 

This eleven year old girl wrote on this story for an embarrassingly long time. In fact, she didn't realize it was time to move on until four years had passed. Only in her fifteenth year did she begin to overcome her deep attachment for her childhood story and see that it was time to move on.


As you've probably guessed, this eleven year old girl was me. This was my story. I used to be embarrassed (and perhaps I still am, just a little bit) of it. It was cliche and childish, and I knew it pretty early on into writing it. 

But I didn't care. This was deeply rooted in my heart, and I couldn't let it go.

Which poses a big question.

How do you know when the time has come to let a story go? 

Let me make sure you understand. I've spent four and a half years of my life on this series. I have all nine books planned out. All the characters and their arcs, all the big plot twists that work their way through the entire stinkin' series. Pretty complex stuff.

I have extensive maps (fourteen? fifteen?), which includes extensive world building. Lots of unique places, a lot of history (like, a LOT), tons of cultures and races and species. Lots of different beings and creatures and people. I'd built a really extensive, complex magic system.

So many characters and plots and plotlines and NOTES. SO MANY NOTES. Five journals are full of notes dedicated to just this series. Five. Completed.

see themmm? the bottom one is mostly for this series, except for the last 20
pages which contain the first brainstorming I did on my WIP.
the pink one was my very first journal to complete.


You see, I only wrote this series. From the moment I started writing and on, this was the only project I worked on (excepting a book I coauthored with my cousin).

I had some ideas, but they were simply that: ideas. I didn't really work on any of them. 98% of my creativity went pouring into this project. And I had a ton of ideas.

To let all of that go?

How? How could I do that? It was so. much. work. So many ideas. Book one: 453 pages, handwritten. Book two: 416 pages, also handwritten. The beginning of book three, almost a hundred pages. And then typed up drafts of books one and two, coming out 97k and 92k. Not to mention endless rewrites after that of book one, a book I just couldn't seem to get right.

When the thought of letting go of this story finally settled in my mind almost a year ago, I balked. How could I do this? So much work ... what a waste! Seriously. How could I just throw this story away?

(yup - those are the first three books. Book three is unfinished)

Well, point one is that I didn't throw it away.

I still plan on writing all nine books. They're in my head, and I can't get them out. I might just hand write them, not go on to type them up or edit them. We'll see.

And I think if you're losing  hope in a story, that's the first step. Put it aside for a while, but don't trash it. Gail Carson Levine, author of Ella Enchanted and many other amazing books (she's such an amazing author aksjdflhkasdjflhsdkj) talked in her book, Writing Magic, about never throwing away anything you write. And that is so true.


Point two: what is your reason for writing the story? 

Are you just starting out? Maybe your WIP is your way of getting a feel for this writing thing. The best way to learn how to write is by doing it. I had to write a massive amount of words before I started to get the hang of it. All of the pages you see in the picture above are full of horrible words. So are most of the typed versions.

I had to start bad. We all do.

So why are you writing this story?

When I was trying to decide if I should give it up, let the story go and put my creativity and time into something else, my cousin came to me with wise advice (as she always does).

She said something along the lines of, "Maybe you don't need to publish this story. Maybe that's not what it's for."

At first, this idea took me completely aback. Publishing is every writer's goal, right? It hangs in the distance, a sparkling, tantalizing beacon of light that guides us on the long winding road.

I'd never really thought about not publishing.

But when I really thought about what my cousin was trying to say, I realized she was right (as usual). This series, as it is right now at least ... it doesn't want to be published. That's not why I wrote it. I wrote it because I needed to start somewhere. I needed to develop my writing style and refine my craft.

It was my "trial run" if you will.

And sure, we're constantly learning more and getting better at writing. But there does come a point when you hit this mark and your writing evens out. I can look back at some of my writing from yesterday and not flinch like I did when I was thirteen.

Ask yourself - what are you writing this book for?


Point three is that, whether you plan to keep writing it or not, whether you plan to publish or not ... we all have to let go of our stories at some point. 

It's just a given. The moment you let someone read your words, you have to let it go. Because it's not just yours anymore.

You even have to let it go before that. Before you sit down to write the first word, you have to let it go.

Remember the thing about butterflies? They're beautiful and perfect ideas when they live in your brain-garden, free from the 2D world of writing.

When you begin your book, you have to let go of that perfection.

You can't write it perfectly on your first try. There are going to be plot holes and messy descriptions and inconsistent characters. And even little things, like grammar errors and typos - they're all there in draft one. And often in draft two, three, four, and so on.

You have to let go of your story.

When you write the first word, you have to let it go. Let go of the perfection.

When you give it to a reader for the first time, be it your cousin or your mother, you have to let it go. Let go of your story so when they give you feedback/critiques, you can handle it. You can know they're not attacking you as a person. They're just trying to help you make the story better.

And if you reach a point with your book when you don't feel called to keep writing it anymore, then ... put it aside. Ponder why you started it to begin with, and why you're still working on it.

Let it go.

Have you let go of your story? Do you struggle with giving it up? 

<3

1/14/17

INSPIRE ME - a tag of my own creation

That's right. I HAVE INVENTED A TAG. MWAAAAHAHAHA.

Ehem.

This is my fiftieth post here on Stan, so I felt like I should celebrate. Fifty posts is a LOT. And It's been almost a year since Stan was born to the Blog-o-sphere, and well ... *sniffles*

GETTIN' ALL EMOTIONAL HERE. DON'T MIND ME.

Ehem. As I was saying in very clear, understandable writing, I have composed a tag for you all.



Inspiration fascinates me. It's such a fleeting thing, and very difficult to find. And since we bloggers are all lovely, creative people, I thought it might be interesting to see just what kinds of things inspire us.

So. Here's how this is going to work. (AKA. Here are the rulz)

1. Copy these totally amazing and spectacular rules onto your post
2. Smile and twirl in a circle and look at your favorite inspiring thing and take deep breaths as you prepare for my amazingness
3. Thank your gorgeous, lovely tagger (*flips hair* which would be me, in this case. Look at me, being all pushy and demanding your gratitude)
4. Tag five other bloggers (or more. or less. or none. just whatever you want.)
5. Have fun and be honest and answer alll da questions (and feel free to add some of your own!)

The rules are really just guidelines, as the pirates say. XP Feel free to spread your wings and be free little pumpkin nuggets.

And now for the questions!


#1: What is one of the most inspiring things to you?

There are so many things that inspire me. But I'll list two: sunsets are my favorite (not sunrises. they're too early in the morning.) They put me in this "oh-my-goose-the-world-is-so-big-and-complex-and-I-am-such-a-small-human-what-am-I-even-doing-with-my-life" moods, which open me up to lots of big questions.

As for bookish inspiration, I find that words inspire me a lot. Phrases that are uttered without much though will send me running to my notebook and scribbling for the next thirty minutes. I still remember when my little brother dropped something down the stairs, which are hollow, and my mom said, "Down the shoot it goes!" Cause we have these boards that keep toys from falling under the stairs, and they slide along and come out at the bottom. And just that one sentence triggered the inspiration I needed to build the ENTIRE STINKING CULTURE of the kingdom my WIP takes place in.

this is just one of the many pages that sentence spurred

There are so many more instances I could recount. My WIP was inspired by a line from Megan Whalen Turner's The Thief when the Magus says to Gen, "Do you announce that you're going off to steal something before you start?" And then he hesitates and says, "Yes. You do. Well, I don't." And I halted and just kind of screamed for a few minutes as ideas flooded to me and then I wrote a scene that started the development of the book.

I'll move on now, before I go on a rant on that one sign in town that said, "We can fix tablets!" *zips lips to keep from going on*


#2: Where do you look for inspiration?

Pinterest. Always Pinterest.

And also books. They usually do one of two things to me when I read them. One is that it draws me so completely and utterly into its grasp that I cannot function for the day that it takes me to read it, or the week following.

Two is that it makes me want to go and write. Sometimes this happens because the book is bad and I want to do better. (I know, I know. How arrogant of me.) But sometimes it's simply because the creativity of the author just oozes off the page and I want to create world building as intricate and fascinating as theirs, characters as deep and flawed, plots and unexpected and intricate.

Books are often what I turn to when I am stuck. That, or the sunset. Just sitting and watching a good sunset will set your mind up for brainstorming.




#3: When and where does inspiration tend to hit you?

The shower. While I'm cleaning. When I'm driving. (Assuming this is the kind of inspiration that I don't get from books.) I like to stalk watch people go about their days and try to figure out what their stories are.

Ideas usually come when I'm out and about. I guess it's all the people. But when I leave the house, I'm usually leaving my writing behind. So it settles and pools in the back of my brain, and when I'm doing something like driving, I have plenty of time to be mulled over and struck with genius.

I also find that talking to another writer friend helps. I go to my cousin. Just the other day, I figured out how my WIP was going to end (mostly, at least) and all I did was mention to her that I had a new idea of how a certain scene could happen. And then as I explained further, it brought the rest of the ending falling into place.


#4: What's the first thing you do when inspiration strikes?

Ahaha. Ehem. Well, if we're being honest here (I guess it was one of the rules ...) I stand with my mouth hanging open like a beached gold fish as my mind back flips and front flips and side flips and tries to figure out what just happened. Then I grab the nearest writing utensil and the nearest remotely writeable surface (paper, notebook, napkin, hand, table, receipt, etc.) and scribble furiously until I am satisfied I have all the essentials down.

If it's a book idea, I like to get on Natasha and create a new document for it in my "She's an Author" file. There are ... 42 book ideas in there right now. Not counting random characters.


#5: What's the most inspiring book/song/website/etc., you've found?

There are so many good websites out there. And books. And songs. I think I'm going to choose a book for this question, and I think that book is going to have to be the Go Teen Writers book. This covers just about every step of the editing process. It challenges you with hard questions to ask about your story's characters, plot, structure, etc. It's just brilliant. I've read it and scanned it and referred to it countless times. It really gets the brain wheels turning.


#6: What's one piece of advice you would give to people struggling for inspiration? 

Ask questions. That's the big thing. Stop and ask questions.

"What if ...?"

Just that simple question can trigger so many ideas.

Also, be open. Some ideas my seem ridiculous and stupid on first appearance, when really you just need to tweak them or look from a different angle to see how much potential they have. Don't be afraid to ask hard questions too. Things you might not want to think about. Explore. Be creative. We're writers, after all. ;)


And there you have it! My first tag ever. *happy smile* No pressure to do this if I tag you, but I'd love for you to participate! I'm going to tag 5 specific people, but if you liked it please please do it. <3








Please don't feel like you have to do this if I tagged you! And if I didn't, please join in! Put the link to your post in the comments so I'll be sure not to miss them! I'd love to read about what inspires you.

ALSO. Today I also put up my first post on Walking in the Light. (And you can take that both ways, cause it's on the blog Walking in the Light and it's about Walking in the Light) XP So, if you have time, I'd love for you to bop over and read it. It's on a topic very close to my heart. Hence, the blog.

What inspires you? 

<3

1/7/17

The Importance of Vulnerability

So, my cousin and I decided to do something. Back in the day, when we were first starting out, we would mail each other copies of our chapters after we finished them. I haven't read everything my cousin, Elle, has written. But I've read a lot of it. Most of it first draft. Completely unedited.

I wanted to read her WIP, Delitescent. She told me I could ... but I had to hand over The Thief's Conspiracy. Draft one.

Great idea, right?

excuse me while i run die in a hole

That was my first reaction. But I have learned a lot since letting her read it. She started it last Friday and finished it on Sunday and ...

It was amazing.

Don't get me wrong - my first draft is horrible. But all first drafts are horrible. We both went into it expecting that.

So I said, right off the bat, that I wanted her to read it for fun. I wanted her to find the good stuff in it. Because I have a hard time seeing that when I'm reading my own work (and loads of other people probably do, too). I wanted to know what parts of draft one were good, meaningful. What she liked. What I should keep. She sent me notes through Pinterest messaging, which I copied into a word doc. I now have a whopping 15k masterpiece of mostly incoherent fangirling. (Yes, Elle. It's that long.)

I'm going to do another post on this later - we call it "encouragement reading" and it's amazing - but today I want to go to a specific instance that's happened to me while reading her first draft.

I was about 50k into it when I came to this scene with one of her MCs.

It wasn't short. It was a good 2k words long. It featured one of her MCs. The mean, hardcore, callous one that's way too fond of her pistols. She's got a strong western accent and does more insulting than breathing.

This scene was not an action scene. It was a quiet moment. This character, so tough and cruel at times, slipped away to visit a place she hadn't been to in several years. And on the walls were pictures.

Pictures she had painted.

There were only a few, and they featured people she had met in her life. People that had impacted her.

She meets an old woman coming down the alley, and when the woman offers her some paint to add to the "beautiful work" already there, this character can't refuse. And when the woman leaves, she takes up her brush and begins to paint.

This scene stopped me in my tracks.

Why? It wasn't heart stopping action. It wasn't a funny messing around scene.

No. It was just a moment. A strong one.

This character, who'd been so mean and even cruel the whole book, has a moment of vulnerability.



It's tempting to shove these types of scenes aside. They're not "entertaining" as we usually go for in books.

But they're deep. They're meaningful. In a book full of crazy twists and turns, a book whose action doesn't stop, just a moment of stillness can be more impacting than any other part of the story.

Moments of vulnerability are important for any character, but especially with those that force themselves into a mask or role. Characters who have to act a lot. Who are under pressure by other people, or are in a situation in life where they have to be someone they're not in order to cope. It's really important for these types of characters to have a moment of vulnerability.

That mask has to fall away at some point. And when it does, it bonds readers to the character even more.

I used to think of "moments of vulnerability" as scenes where the character snaps. Where the tears finally come, where the pressure building the entire book finally spills out.

But in this scene, the character did not cry. She didn't have an emotional break down. She didn't spill all her problems to the wind. She didn't even say a word. She just painted and thought and felt. She could have had a breakdown, sure. That's certainly how some people become vulnerable, but it would be totally out of character for her.

Your character doesn't have to cry or have a break down in order to be vulnerable. In this case, simply showing emotion and softness is a vulnerability, since she's so rough and tough and callous on the outside.

These moments are when you realize a character has been acting. And they're either very different, or sometimes completely opposite, of what they've been giving everyone the impression of.

Moments like this are powerful. Moments like this remind us of our humanity. That no one is exactly how they appear to be. Everyone has a part inside that remains hidden from the rest of the world. Some people might get glimpses of it, but no one will ever truly see it. When you're reading a book, when you're in a character's head, you can see it. You experience that vulnerability with them. And you'll connect on some level, because everyone has worn a mask at some point in their life. Some more than others, but still. Everyone has.

Everyone knows what it's like to try to be something you're not.

Moments like these bond us. They make the story come to life under our fingers. They make it live and breathe, and they make us feel.

Don't underestimate that.


I hope you enjoyed this post! Thank you, Elle, for letting me use your fabulous WIP as an example, and for inspiring this whole post in the first place. <3

I also have an announcement! *clears throat* I am a Christian, as most of you know. (hopefully) And I've been thinking about starting a Christian blog for some time now. This is technically a writing blog, and I wanted to keep it that way so I wouldn't come off as preachy to any non-Christians that liked my writerly advice. I wasn't sure if I could handle two blog by myself, however, so I called upon my friend Carlyn Ross and she volunteered to co-blog with me! Today she kicked it off with a lovely post about what she's going to be studying this year, and I'll be posting next week about why our blog is named what it is, and what I plan to be blogging about in the future.

Please bop over and read Carlyn's first post!

Do you have a moment of vulnerability in your WIP? Care to share? *sly grin*

<3