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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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Graduate Doldrums

Three weeks and a day since I graduated with my degree in Creative Writing. Three weeks and a day. I wish I could say I have something to show for it, like a publication acceptance letter or something, but nothing much else has happened since the big day. I’ve read a few books, mastered the snooze button slap and spent a lot of time wondering what I’m going to do with THE REST OF MY LIFE.

I can think of nothing worse than coming to the end of the path I have walked for several years and seeing the eternal void of the rest of my life yawn before me. Except for maybe anchovies. And spiders. But seriously. My life has been planned out up until this very moment. Graduation was the Godot I was waiting for. And now I’ve achieved it. So what’s next?!

Ideally, I’d like to get published. The only problem is getting published is a long hard process that involves a lot of trial and failure. Writing short stories and articles are not my strong point, so that provides a small problem. Disconnect is at least a year out from being completed. As it stands right now, I have no material and no motivation.

If there is anything I learned in college, this last semester in particular, it was that nothing comes without work. Any successes I had came after I put forth effort. I didn’t succeed until my fingers hit the keyboard. It didn’t matter what I produced as long as it was something that could be fixed. Anytime I vomited a draft I could later revise, it reduced stress and I got great feedback. So what else can I learn from this? Not only does work produce results, but the point of writing is to write.

I realize I’ve talked about the point of writing being writing before, but here is an example where it really comes into play. Most of my classes required a lot of writing, and because of due dates and my schedule, I was always drafting one thing or another. I have never drafted so heavily in my school career, and I discovered that the initial drafts were the hard part. I forced myself to turn off my internal editor and I just wrote. Revising was easier and more enjoyable–It was this process that brought me the biggest success.

That being said, let’s set some goals.

Goal 1: Do at least 30 minutes of freewriting every day.

In theory, this should be the time for my internal editor to take a hike. I can work on projects that don’t have near as much pressure as writing Disconnect does. Write a short story or an article that interests me. Just write. I’ll create a “geode” folder for all my freewrites so I can work on them later. Maybe I’ll get get material good enough to be polished and sent out.

Goal 2: Finish Disconnect full revision 2.0 by the end of October 2013.

This goal will be a little harder. I finished the first full draft of Disconnect during National Novel Writing Month, so I can do at least 50,000 words in a month. If I can pull off 1,666 words a day in Disconnect, then this goal should be in the bag within a month or two.

Goal 3: Work on one or both of these goals every day.

If anything, I need to get back in the habit of just writing. If I can at least achieve two out of these three goals, I’ll have this self-motivation business in the bag.

 
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Posted by on May 11, 2013 in A Day In The Life

 

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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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The Tough Guide to Fantasy Land by Diana Wynne Jones

Here is one of my favorite cliché checkers. Diana Wynne Jones put together this magnificent and quite entertaining guide for the world of Fantasy. She has gone through, defined and commented on every aspect of Fantasy that needs to need to be considered when writing the genre. For all those who are very familiar with all the aspects of this type of writing, it’s quite a hilarious read and very useful to help keep your writing fresh in a very pervasive genre.

It’s written a bit like an encyclopedia with picture coding, cross references and sections headed with quotes from Gnomic Utterances that poke fun of the various made up literary references that head chapters of many fantasy novels ( Example: “Doras II was somewhat an absent minded king. It is said that when Death came to summon him, Doras granted Death the usual formal audience and then dismissed him from  his presence. Death was too embarrassed to return until many years later. –Ka’a Orto’o, Gnomic Utterances, LIV iii (Jones 49).

One of my favorite entries from this book is the one on Princesses, because I have found many fantasy novels contain one of these two types:

PRINCESSES come in two main kinds:

1. Wimps

2. Spirited and willful. A spirited Princess will be detectable by the scattering of freckles across the bridge of her somewhat tiptilted nose (OMT). Spirited Princesses will often disguise themselves as boys and invariably marry commoners of sterling worth. With surprising frequency these commoners turn out to be long-lost heirs to Kingdoms (See PRINCES)” (Jones 150).

All of the entries follow this format and tone to help readers better identify and spice up overdone aspects of Fantasy, and lemmie tell ya, it made finding my own clichés a lot easier!

Happy reading!

ACE

 
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Posted by on October 7, 2012 in Book Reviews

 

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Character Withdrawls

I’d like to dedicate this post to my characters Adam Johnson and Mike Michaelson, two important people in my life that I have neglected for the past three months. I feel like a horrible person.

Getting back into my writing groove following my Study Abroad in France and the commencement of Fall Semester has been like pulling teeth. With an extra heavy schedule this go around, it’s been hard to find that time to write when sleep is so hard to come by. I realized that I’m going to have to fit writing into the cracks and break down the writing block that has accumulated over the past few months.

The past two weeks I’ve made some made some beat-around-the-bush attempts to get back into writing without actually doing any writing: reviewing notes, sculpting characters, that sort of thing. These things certainly have their merits–visualization and review are essential during the writing process. But I discovered I was missing the point.

The point of writing is to write.

I came to this realization as I began a new job last week. I went from having a manual labor at a dry cleaners to a receptionist job where I sit at a desk and get paid to staple things, unstaple things, organize things, answer the phone, and have free time. One night in particular, I was tired of battling through my homework and decided I was going to back through to read everything I had written in Disconnect thus far. I got bored of rereading the first chapter for the MILLIONTH time and skipped to the end of the most recent chapter I wrote.

What met my eyes was an exchange between Adam and Mike that I had completely forgotten about. It was one of the many arguments the two protagonists get into on a regular basis, and this one struck me as particularly funny due to the large amount of foam shot up one of Mike’s nostrils. All of the sudden I remembered how much I loved the dynamic of their relationship. I realized how much I missed Adam’s manipulation and Mike’s comedic retorts, and I needed to get back to writing soon.

Admittedly, I still haven’t done any serious writing since this event, but I’ve at least begun drafting conversations and situations between the two friends in my journal. Finding time in my schedule that still allows for sleep has been difficult, but I’m sure I can find room somewhere in my schedule. Mike and Adam are worth it.

ACE

 
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Posted by on October 6, 2012 in On Writing

 

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Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft by Janet Burroway

Here is a book that is absolutely essential to any writer’s library: Writing Fiction by Janet Burroway. I don’t think I have ever enjoyed reading a textbook more in my life! This amazing book is a wonderful guide on how to deal with elements of craft such as characterization (and all types of characterization therein), place, fictional time, revision and much more. Burroway goes through and takes apart the different elements required to effectively write each aspect of a story giving examples of what to do, what not to do and references to authors who are exemplary in their execution of each element mentioned.

This book drastically changed the way I write. I found myself really enjoying the activities provided for practice at the end of each chapter and I found the text to be super engaging. I would recommend this book for anyone who is looking for “How To Write Fiction” help.

Burroway, Janet. Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft. International 8th ed. Crawfordsville:                              Pearson, 2011. 410. Print.

 
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Posted by on April 25, 2012 in Book Reviews

 

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