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Anything and everything I know about in the writing universe!

Life, the Universe, and I Learned Something This Weekend

Hello, World! After a year of silence, I have returned!

And the return is triumphant indeed.

This past weekend, I attended Life, the Universe, and Everything conference, and just like last year, I absolutely adored it! I got to meet so many wonderful people and some of my favorite authors as well– *cough* Brandon Sanderson *cough* Orson Scott Card *cough*.

Whew. Excuse me.

Anyway, I didn’t think I was going to learn anything different about the writing world that I hadn’t learned last year.

I’m pleased to report I was wrong. I didn’t learn nearly as many things, but I came away with one important point I have missed for the last 9 months:

If you want something to happen, you have to make it happen.

I’ve had a lot of less-than-savory experiences that initiated my silence. To make a boring story interesting, my graduate doldrums consumed me. The swirl of questions, indecision, and, on occasion, depression buried me and I found myself paralyzed by fear and discouragement. And I didn’t know how to get out.

That being said, as I sat through the panels at LTUE, I noticed a common denominator with a percentage of them: a number of them were self published.

Now, how does that have anything to do with swirls of confusion and intensifying sadness? I’ll tell you. When these authors didn’t find success and were stuck in their own Bermuda Triangles, they picked themselves up and rowed. They threw all their efforts into making their boat move. They made publication happen.

Over the past 9 months, I’ve been waiting for a fickle wind to pull my boat full speed ahead. I made sporadic, half-hearted efforts to get into the writing field and to get my book written. Thankfully, I picked myself up for NaNowriMo and outputted a zombie novel entitled Gifted (more details later!) and entered a poem into the National Amateur Poetry Contest in December. Both of those had their own rewards, but this concept of getting out and getting things done didn’t hit me until I saw it over and over again at the conference, particularly in Orson Scott Card’s keynote address at LTUE.

In the address, Card talked about how his parents got things done. His whole childhood, if his parents had a good idea, they always brought it to life. He doesn’t remember how they did it, but it happened often, and they were successful. Card then went on to do similar things while in college. In his theater classes, if he felt something wasn’t written very well, he’d rewrite and direct the scenes that didn’t work and in doing so, managed to fill the house every night. He. Made. Things. Happen.

So now what? I guess from a writing standpoint, I wasted a couple months of potential productivity. But that doesn’t have to keep happening. When I get down to it, I wasn’t completely sedentary. As I mentioned, I did manage to spill out a novel this past November, and I entered a poetry contest on a whim. I have raw materials I can work with. I have a start. And now, it’s time to write.

ACE

 
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Posted by on February 21, 2014 in Writing Events

 

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In Which I Attend my First Literature Conference

In all my writing classes, we have talked about the importance of going to literature conferences. I’ve always wanted to go to one, but I have never been able to make the time due my whole life getting in the way. But this year, I manhandled my schedule into cooperation and I made the time to go.

It was one of the best decisions I ever made.

The first day, I was scared stiff. Aside from all of the stress of taking the train to Provo and making the connection with the wonderful family I was staying with, I had anxiety and  was nervous. I didn’t know what to expect, I didn’t know what it would be like, I didn’t know who I would meet, and I certainly didn’t know how I should act.

I took a bunch of different classes, treating it as though I was buzzing between courses at my university. I didn’t talk to anyone, I sat as far away from people as I possibly could and just watched. It took me a bit to figure out that there was much more to the presentations than information absorption. People actually talked and responded to the panelists and presenters and each other. That was new.

It wasn’t until my third class of the day that someone made contact with me.

For the third time, I was sitting with as much space as possible between me and my neighbor as possible. A girl clutching a tablet entered the room a minute or so after I sat down, looked around for a second and made a beeline for the chair next to mine. She plopped herself down beside me, swept her hair out of her eyes and looked at me.

“Hi. I’m __________. What do you write?”

My first thoughts: Oh my goodness! Someone actually wants to know what I write! And they care!

Usually, when people find out I’m a writer they politely ask what I write and when I begin to answer they get a glazed look in their eyes and stop listening. Then comes the “Well, let me know when you get published so I can read your book” line and the conversation is over.

Hate that dialog. I hate it with every cell in my body.

Anyway, this girl and I got talking about the projects we were working on and about the other classes we had been too that day. We talked for a good three minutes, exchanged information and bam! I was exposed to the real way to network. Everything made sense.

Lesson One: Networking does not consist solely of following people on the internet. You need human connection. You can’t just subscribe to people you think will benefit you on Twitter. Or on Facebook. Or blogs, although that is effective method. More effective than I thought, but I’ll get to that in a minute.

On the second day, I had a talk with a few of the amazing authors in attendance. One told me that coming to these literature conferences and meeting people and publishers and other writers is the best way to build your network. The more literature conferences you come to, the more people you can befriend and meet. You can get to know editors and agents and give pitch sessions. These conferences help you find writers in your own area and start up critique groups.

I ran into one of my colleagues in the lobby between sessions and he introduced me to a guy who was pretty well known in the writer’s blogging world. As we got talking, he checked out my name tag and asked me if I had a blog and what was it called. I recited it back to him and come to find out, he knew my blog! I couldn’t believe it! Up until this point, I didn’t really feel like blogging mattered a whole ton. As you may have noticed, I have a hard time posting consistently. In one sentence, I realized Lesson Two: Blogging Matters.

Seriously though. The internet is a busy, busy place. People flit across pages like moths in the night, and when that amazing porch light page is turned on, people flock to it. I’m not saying my blog is a big hitter out there in the cyber world, but I never thought in a million years would I meet someone who was reading my blog. It makes the difference.

As I mentioned before, I had the opportunity to shake hands with many talented authors. It was nerve wracking to think that I would be in the same general area as published and successful versions of my ultimate goal. And yet, once I was there, started to figure out which authors wrote what, and saw them in an environment with their friends (Yes! Authors are friends with one another!), I realized something. Lesson Three: Authors are Real People Too.

I was very surprised at how normal all these author’s lives were. One lady has a bazillion kids and is a very successful writer for teenage girls. Another knits in her spare time. And another was a lawyer before he became an author and is writing to escape the profession. All of them had diverse backgrounds and a home life. I was also surprised to find they were all very friendly, very supportive of beginning writers, and willing to give advice to anyone who asked. For example, I accidentally knocked into one author on the way to another panel and as we got talking, he asked me for my blog information because he was interested in following me! If anything made this conference perfect, it was the fact that these authors were interested in my success.

Going to Life, The Universe and Everything taught me a ton. I learned things about the writing community that I would not have learned while at school or surfing the internet. For all of you who are students out there, this conference is FREE. Take advantage of it. It is a wonderful experience that I won’t trade for the world. Even if you aren’t a student and need to pay to attend, keep in mind that the payoff exceeds the cost. Go. Get out in the world. And when you do, come find me! I can’t wait to meet you in person.

ACE

 
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Posted by on February 16, 2013 in Writing Events

 

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Week One: Starting is Hard

Whew! First week of NaNoWriMo is over!

So, how did it go? Did you manage to keep up with the word count? By the end of today, you should be reaching the 5,000 word mark. If you aren’t there yet, don’t give up! You can still catch up over the weekend! As you move onto NaNo Week 2, keep in mind the words of Stephen King:

 Keep your chin up NaNos! If you can just push past that inital fear/reluctance/trepidation or whatever it is that prevents you from putting your fingers to the keyboard or pen to the page, you can go great places! I know you can do it! Never stop trying! Write on!!

ACE

 
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Posted by on November 3, 2012 in Writing Events

 

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Happy NaNo’s Eve!

One more day until NaNoWriMo, folks! Other than purchasing your newest version of Scrivener, what else are you doing to prepare for the marathon that will ensue? Are you gutting your work space to make room for new writing supplies? Have you put together the playlist for the long hours you will end up sitting at your desk? Do you have a month’s supply of your favorite beverage? How about them Cadbury’s eggs left over from Easter this year?

I personally don’t have any Cadbury’s eggs left over from Easter (I have no self control in that area), but I, too am working through my own initiation sequences.

For starters, I’m stocking up on paper. This is going to sound like writing suicide, but I’m going to draft in notebooks this year. I’ve always found it easier for me to generate crappy writing when I’m holding the good ol’ trusty pen. It’s almost like that one friend who doesn’t judge you for your mistakes.

I’m also psyching myself into it. In The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, she mentions a tool for motivation called affirmations. Affirmations are positive statements about oneself like “I am an amazing writer”, or “I can write a novel in a month”. Find that affirmation that works for you. I’ve been telling myself, “It will only take an hour to write 2,000 words a night” and “You can do this” for the past three weeks now, and I’m starting to believe it.

I’m currently writing up a synopsis of where I want to visit over the course of the month. For me, writing an outline gives me a good idea what sites I would like to visit and what scenes I feel would be appropriate. Usually, I write by the seat of my pants, but I tend to get stuck when I don’t know what I’m going to do next. I can type/write a little faster this way. Note benne: Outlines are not set in stone. They are meant to be slashed apart and loosely followed. As Captain Barbossa says: “[They are] more of what you would call “guidelines” than actual rules.”

To go along with the outline, I’ve also begun sculpting my characters. I realize this sounds a little weird, but for one, it is very therapeutic to massage clay, and by creating my characters I am being productive. Plus, it helps assist in visualization. Plus, plus, if you use the polymer baking clay–KABAM. Homemade action figures to act out scenes with. I’ve found that this exercise gets me all excited to write about the characters and brings them to life, in a sense.

For the past month, I’ve been putting together a playlist of songs that I consider to be the soundtrack to the story. It’s actually been quite fun. I ended up reopening my Pandora account and started a station including the genre of music I needed. I gave the generator a couple artists that I knew fit the tone and as the station gave me new songs to listen to I liked, disliked and added new artists to the station as I discovered them. The result? A working soundtrack. I’m at the point where I’ve begun purchasing songs on iTunes and adding the clear winners to a Youtube playlist for when WiFi is available in my writing environment.

The last thing I’m doing is creating a game plan for writing. My goal is to write 2,000 words per day, and having two jobs and full time school takes up a lot of my time. I mapped out my schedule in Google Calendars so I can visualize exactly how many hours out of 24 I can dedicate to drafting.

Well, that about sums it up for me. It’s time for me to hit that outline again and see if I can get it finished!

Live long and write happy!

ACE

 
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Posted by on October 30, 2012 in Writing Events

 

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NaNoWriMo: Pre-Season Prep

Calling all NaNo’s! It’s the middle of October, and it’s time to start gearing up for NaNoWriMo next month! To celebrate, Literature and Latte is putting out a special trial version of their amazing Scrivener software!

For all those who have not tried Scrivener, I just gotta say, it is the best writing program I have ever used. It’s perfect for all kinds of writing–screenwriting, large reports, noveling 😀 :D, you name it! It has tons of organizational goodies like note cards, cork boards, keyword database searches, multi-level folder and binder organization and color coding.

I absolutely love my Scrivener. I don’t know where I would be without it. It helps me keep my photos, my notes, and my research organized in one place. No more notebooks stuffed in cereal boxes and files filled with random paper scraps for me.

One of the features I particularly like about Scrivener is the full screen writing mode. It allows you to open up a distraction-free window where you can sit and type continuously. I love it when I’m trying to compose in the mornings because that’s when I tend to get the most distracted. You can choose how light or dark you want the background to be, set target word counts, create keywords and your cursor doesn’t leave the center of the page as you type. 

This program is awesome for writers of all abilities. The NaNoWriMo 2012 Scrivener trial lasts for all of November up until December 7th to give you time to complete the revisions you would like to. If you love the program enough to buy it following NaNoWriMo, all participants can receive a 20% off discount. But if you win this year, you get 50% off! How is that for incentive?

It’s time to get writing!

ACE

 
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Posted by on October 13, 2012 in Writing Events

 

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Camp NaNoWriMo: Week 2

The second week of NaNoWriMo is upon us! Now that the first week push is totally over (and motivation is waning, might I add), it’s time to bring it back home and address all the things that currently might be standing in our way.

I, for one, have started out pretty droopy. Even though I am trying to use NaNo as fuel to get me to the end of Disconnect, I am finding myself still getting stuck in the mud of discouragement, writer’s block and misty character motivation. My plot that I thought had all figured out decided to take a small twist, giving me whiplash and leaving me feeling disoriented for a few days, I did manage to hurtle the initial writer’s block I was experiencing before Camp started only to faceplant into the one only a few feet behind it, leaving me with should-I-keep-this-character musings that I would much rather not deal with.

But enough kvetching about my week one woes. It’s time to talk about the solving of them.

Discouragement is a horrible thing to encounter. If you are anything like me, outputting an enormous amount of words in one day is like trying to lift a 1,666 lb angry cat with one hand and no glove. In other words, it hurts and you’ve bitten off more than you can chew. 

The solution is simple: Do what you can do. Don’t hurt yourself trying to kick the angry cat’s butt, go kick the butt of the weight machine first, and maybe go shopping for body armor. Work up to that 1,666 words per day. Sure it gets you behind, but after sitting on the couch your whole life, you aren’t going to one day be able to stand up and say “Hey! I’m going to run a marathon today!” You need to begin training. If the word count you can pull of in your best day is only a few hundred words, then great! Try to add another hundred to that the next day, and the next day, and the day after that, even if you have to carve an extra three hours out of your day to do it. In my opinion, NaNoWriMo isn’t just about finishing off a novel, but also pushing yourself to do your best and reach a goal.

The next thing to address is the bane of every writer’s existence: Writer’s Block. Having been wrestling with my own sever case of WHY-ISN’T-THIS-WORKING, I discovered that you can’t take the inspiration train to happy land through a wall of death. It’s one of those things you need to get up, face and start knocking your forehead against until you see the light peeping through tiny cracks and make them big enough to shove through. Writer’s block is work, and you have to keep clocking in and force yourself through slogs of nasty, cheesy dialogue, bumpy prose and embarrassing cliches.

The directors at NaNo recommend throwing in something unexpected like ninjas (my personal favorite) or stampeding elephants and seeing how your characters react from there. Even though you’ll probably have to delete the scene in later drafts, at least you learn things about your characters like how they react to absurdity, or what their fighting skills are like, maybe even who would throw who under the bus in times of life and death. Who knows? You could uncover a plot gem! A new twist! A sub plot! The possibilities are endless.

Something that seems to be working the best for me in times of writing block is switching mediums and the occasional environment. For example, I since summer started I started going to sit outside on the deck with my laptop perched on the bistro table, watching the hummingbirds divebomb each other while the sun rises. For me, the change from my desk to outside in the cool morning helped a lot. When I’m super blocked, I resort to the good ol’ writing journal and handwrite it out. This allows me to get over the mentality that everything has to be perfect and that I’m allowed to make mistakes. A lot of times I’ll write out the same scene several different times in my journal to help me figure out what I want to accomplish.

But probably the most important thing you can do to help yourself with a block is continue writing. Those walls slow you down and bring all the fun to a stop. Don’t let that happen, and a lot of the time, everything will work itself out. You’ll be back on track and getting things done before you know it.

The last thing I’d like to quickly address is  busting your way through character motivation. This first week, a scene occurred to me that didn’t really seem congruent with the rest of what I had written. I really liked it, and my IR said it was one of her favorite scenes I’d done yet. My only issue I had a character take a full 360 turn for about 2 pages then reverting back to the original personality I had given them. I couldn’t figure out if this was a part of the character I didn’t know about yet, or if I was just tailoring things to go my protagonist’s way for the sake of building his character. There are really only two bits of advice I can think of to give in situations like these.

The first mirrors what I said about writer’s block. Try journalizing about it. Write different scenes with them. Try some choppy pieces of dialogue with them. Introduce them to ninjas. Do something away from your manuscript to try and figure out who they are and why they act certain ways.

The next involves interviewing your character. I’ve only done this a couple times, and not with this particular storyline, but it works, and I enjoy it a lot. Having a back and forth or even an arguement with the character as an author lets you know a ton about motivations, especially if the characters are open enough with you to come out and say it. I’ll admit, it’s a little eerie when that happens, but totally worth it.

Well fellow NaNoers and non-Nanoers alike, this post has run long enough, and I hope it helped at least someone out there struggling with their own week one woes; I know it’s certainly helped me!

Time to get back to that manuscript! Stay strong and write on!

ACE

 
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Posted by on June 14, 2012 in Writing Events

 

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Camp NaNoWriMo: A Kick in the Pants

Camp NaNoWriMo is upon us! And I am stoked! For all you Wrimo’s out there who have not heard of Camp NaNo, I’d suggest you get out there and check it out! Basically, what we got going here is another chance at NaNo in a month maybe a little less hectic than our traditional November. The Office of Letters and Light have camps set up and ready to fly for June and August. I personally have been struggling with a vicious case of writer’s block and am fighting all forms of writing (my apologies to all you readers out there). As such, I have signed up, and am excited to begin that writing sprint that will (hopefully) yank me out of this ridiculous writing funk that seems to be plaguing my existence. I plan on working on Disconnect, because theoretically, if I just write that 1,666 word quota every day, the wall will disintegrate. And don’t worry, it’s not going to be cheating because as of tomorrow morning, I’m starting the count from numero uno, just like everyone else.

And thus I extend an official invitation to join me this month in breaking out the camp chairs, and hot chocolate mugs, pop tents, or whatever else you need to produce the flurry of panicked, seat-of-the-pants writing that will carry you to the end of your own manuscripts!

Pip Pip and Happy Camping!

ACE

 

 

 
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Posted by on May 31, 2012 in Writing Events

 

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March Madness (for Writers)

Happy March everyone! It’s finally the most wonderful month of the year. MARCH MADNESS is in the air and I’m here to suggest that it is an event not just for basketball fans, but for writer’s too!

With the coming of the new month, my writing Professor, Dr. Griffiths, posted a status update stating “March Madness: the month in which a crazy amount of writing happens.” I’m here to second that motion, and invite you to join in the fun! Make a goal this month–a word count goal, a chapter goal, a plot goal, a time goal, focusing goal, whatever!–and stick with it for the month of March. Get up at 4 am, take a cold shower and go to! Stay up until the wee hours of the morning with an enormous box of chocolates to fuel you through the night! Do what you need to do to hit your goal.

Now, March Madness is an event designed to test your writing prowess, and  in order to keep the challenge fun you can’t forget to reward yourself. Meet that goal and take yourself out to lunch, go buy yourself Cafe Rio, or something you’ve always wanted. Just something, anything that you know you will enjoy. Because face it. You deserve something great for meeting that goal of yours.

Alright, enough reading about writing! Get out there and begin your own March Madness!

 
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Posted by on March 2, 2012 in Writing Events

 

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