On The Process

I have been immersed in the writing process for the last few weeks.  Not only have I been focusing on the process to take for writing my book, but also on the process for writing effective essays in my summer class.  Talking and thinking through these different processes has been so very overwhelming, but also so very helpful.

I think I have mentioned before that I have been following the “90 Days to a Novel” plan that I got from a workshop of the same name at PPWC.  In this plan, the first 30 days are spent planning.  I have been planning, and planning, and planning for the past month.  Since the spring semester ended I have been focused solely on developing my own thoughts and ideas when it comes to the book.  I have been planning characters, developing plot, establishing setting, figuring out themes, and listing out the crucial scenes that are needed to write the book.  At first I was dismayed to be spending such a large amount of time on planning and not actually writing the book.  I’ve come to learn, though, how important this planning stage is to successfully writing a book!  Without these 30 days of planning, I’m not sure I would be able to start and then finish the novel.  I am realizing that my lack of planning – in the past I have skipped right over the planning step of the process – is what has kept me from doing the actual writing.  In the past I didn’t know where I was going with the story, and that is what stopped me from getting anywhere at all.

One of the most useful planning aspects I got from the “90 Days to a Novel” workshop is the concept of writing an entire synopsis for the book before even writing it.  That has hands down been the most beneficial thing that I have done during the planning process.  It helped me work out some of the kinks in my story, and I now know how certain characters play into the plot, who the antagonist is, and how the story ends.  I even wrote a miniature version of the closing scene in the synopsis.  It is a wonderful feeling having really worked out the kinks in at least the basic structure of the novel.  Now I just need to get to the writing of it.

The second month of the “90 Days to a Novel” plan is spent doing the actual writing.  In order to get to the correct word count needed for a full length book, this requires writing somewhere in the range of 2,500 words a day.  Although I am following this plan, I am adapting it and lengthening the process a little bit.  My goal is 1,000 words a day.  My 30 days of writing the actual words of the novel have started.  They started in July, and I am already a couple days off (my July started with a little mini vacation where writing was basically impossible) but I am ready to kick this novel in the butt.  It’s going to get started and it’s going to get finished, starting now.  After finishing up this post I am going to move on to my novel document and begin writing there.  

The process is still ongoing, but I am ready for the next step.

On Trust

“Wherever you lead me, I know you won’t leave me.  Wherever you call me, you will make away.  Wherever we’re going – I will keep holding to the promise you have made: you will make a way.”

Sometimes doubts and insecurities flood my mind.  Lately it seems like I can’t shut them off.  I’m concerned that my graduation and, of course, about my writing.  It’s all too easy to let “what ifs” flood the mind.  I try to only let the positive “what ifs” take over, but the negative ones often stage a coup d’etat and take control.  “What if I can’t find a job after graduation?  What if my writing is more dreadful than I think it is?  What if I never get published?”  I should instead be taking risks and listening to the good “what ifs,” “What if I succeed?  What if my book hits the best seller list?  What if I have so many job offers next spring that I don’t know what to do with myself?  What if I get into that MFA program fully funded?”  I’ll never know what could happen if I let the negative “what ifs” keep me from trying.

I’m finding that trust is what helps quell those negative thoughts.  It has a lot to do with trusting myself and my own capabilities, but also in trusting my God.  My faith is what reassures me that everything will work out in the end, even if it takes longer to get to that happy ending than I anticipated.  The quote above is from a song by I Am They called “Make a Way.”  It’s core message is one of trust.  Trusting that no matter what, if what you are pursuing is what is ultimately intended for your life, then God will make a way.  

I have been listening to this song a lot lately.  When those doubts and negative “what ifs” have creeped into my mind, I’ll sing this chorus over and over in my head “I know you won’t leave me…you will make a way.”  It helps me to trust in what God has promised for my future.  It helps me remember that if writing is what God wants me to do, then I will be successful at it.  It helps me trust in his plan, even though I don’t know it yet.

I’m sure not all of you believe in God, but perhaps you believe in your own capabilities, or in the faith others have in your success.  If this song isn’t something that will inspire you to keep to the path, then let something else inspire you.  It’s crucial, though, to not let the negative “what ifs” drown out the positive ones.  Don’t let your purpose waver, and don’t stop doing what you love – whatever that may be.  

On Motivation

I’ve been trying to develop a plan of some sort for writing my novel since school got out.  I was feeling so extremely motivated to get this thing truly started, and subsequently finished, after attending the Pike’s Peak Writers Conference (PPWC) but after the spring semester ended I was truly on my own, and my motivation wavered.  Since the middle of May I’ve been in a slump, I guess you could say.  I’ve been writing – here and for Odyssey – but that was all.  I have a short story that I have been working on for almost a year at this point that I vowed to finish this summer, but it’s on a somewhat tricky topic and I may not end up finishing it ever…  But I was using finishing that story as an excuse to put of writing the novel.  That was a stupid idea, as I have come to realize in the past couple of days.

During the school year I am surrounded by people who inspire me to write more.  I am in classes where writing is the main goal and I’m involved in the writing club where virtually all we do is talk about writing.  I think I have taken this for granted, but now I realize the value of having a group of people to go to with any and all writing concerns.

I didn’t realize how significant this was, or how much of a slump I was in, until a couple of days ago.  I was on Facebook  and saw one of the members of said writing club posting an update on their novel’s progress.  They are doing extraordinarily well in getting to their goal of 120,000 words, and their post maid me realize that I am not doing so well.  It reminded me to reach out to everyone in the club about getting together over the summer, and also started some conversations about writing that proved very beneficial to me.  It’s motivating to see others that you know doing well in their writing endeavors, and really makes me want to have some progress to show for myself as well.  Talking to others who reside within the writing community is so incredibly helpful.  It’s inspiring.  It’s motivating.  It gave me the kick in the butt I need to really get going on my novel.

I can say, too, that as of today I seem to be crawling out of the slump.  It may be a bit soon to know for sure, but I’m already gaining more ground in the last couple of days than I have in the last couple of months.  I’m starting to put that “90 Days to a Novel” seminar that I went to at PPWC to use, and so far it’s working.  I have a synopsis for the book almost completely finished and an even better idea of what will happen throughout the novel, which is much more than could have been said for me a couple of weeks ago.  I guess the ultimate point of this post is to say that if you’re stuck, find someone to talk to.  Call up that friend you met at a conference or an old professor who always helped you out and talk about what they are writing.  Hearing what others are doing may just help you, and hopefully one day when they call you up the progress you are making will inspire them.  It’s all about finding motivation – so go out and find it!

On Consistency

Last week was the first week that I failed to write a post.  I went from a published piece on Thursday to this new piece on Sunday, with nothing in between.  Although I certainly have not been on this little blogging venture for long, I have been consistent.  I’ve churned out a post every week since I started this thing back in April, and I must say that I feel a little dissappointed in myself for not having something ready to go last week.  I’ve skipped a week, and while that little tiny blunder is going to cause my perfectionist brain to have an aneurysm (figuratively at least), I know that it’s okay.

I even have a good reason.  More than one good reason to be precise.  For one thing, it was a holiday week.  I know, I know – that doesn’t make for an excuse, but it does make the week feel a little wonky.  Where was it that I used that word lately? Wonky.  I even looked it up – it’s British in origin, for those who are wondering.  Now every time I hear it I am going to hear each syllable in a British accent.  The other excuse I have for not posting last week is that my first summer class began.  Summer classes this year are an odd combination of being the bane of my existence and my saving grace (for more on why I’m taking summer classes, see here), but that first class has made the last week of my life a little bit crazy.  It was four days in a row for almost eight hours each day.  My hours being consumed with leadership practices, creating a presentation, and working on group projects made focusing on this blog a little bit difficult.

I’m not sure why I’ve decided to turn this post into an excuse-fest.  I think I’m trying to explain my actions to myself.  You see, my greatest fear is disappointing myself.  If I can wake up everyday and feel pleased with who I am and what I have accomplished, then I’ll be happy.  It’s when I wake up in the morning dreading what I have to do that day, or having an unfinished task nagging at me in the back of my mind that I’m miserable.  One of my New Years words (I decided to do words and ideas this year instead of resolutions) was consistency.  I didn’t know that this word would eventually apply to my blog, but it has.  Not writing a post last week felt like breaking a promise to myself.

Consistency is so important to a writer.  Without it, fishing one voice from the sea of many is virtually impossible.  As a writer, I believe that I need to be consistent in what I put out into the world.  I need to make sure that what I say sounds like I would say it; that it holds true to my values and beliefs; and that it appears on the World Wide Web when I said it would.  Granted, I’ve never promised anyone that I’d publish every week, but my brain likes to think that it counts as a separate individual.  I promised myself.

Who knows why I’ve decided to get so personal for this post.  Although I think I’ve often gotten pretty up close and personal with other posts, this one seems different.  It’s showing the world the inner workings of my brain.  Some of you will probably think that I’m a psycho control freak – and maybe I am.  I’ve always been brutally hard on myself, especially when it comes to my personal creative endeavors, and this blog is very important to me.  I don’t want to let it, or myself, down.

But I also need to lighten up.  I get that.  I’m going to publish this, and all will be well in the world.  Even when I didn’t publish last week, the world kept turning, God was still good, the grass was still green, and I still had summer classes (which is just dreadful, really).  I need to learn to be okay with whatever happens.  Consistency is important, but so is my sanity.

I think that this is enough for today.  Rambling on about blog posts and consistency won’t help anything, but publishing this will help my schedule get back on track.  I’ll no longer wake up with that nagging in the back of my head to get something posted here, and my days will no longer seem wonky (you heard an accent there this time, right?)

On Risking it All

“Risk being seen in all of your glory.” 

I watched a video recently of a keynote address that Jim Carrey gave several years ago, and in it he said the above quote.  “Risk being seen in all of your glory.”  His speech, like many commencement speeches, was encouraging graduates to continue on in their lives with the caveat that they need to be their best selves.  He was encouraging them all to not let the light of their talent go dim and to give what they have to the world, because the world needs it.  This quote, though, is what really stood out to me.

Every person out there has something that they burn for.  Something that grabs a hold of them and doesn’t let them go.  I thin for me, this is writing.  For others, it’s music, teaching, helping others, or sports.  There are so many things that so many people are passionate about.  What stood out to me in Jim Carrey’s speech was the idea of risking it all in favor of letting your passion out into the world.  That passion is, theoretically, what you are good at.  It’s what you are able to wake up in the morning and be excited about.  Risk putting it all out there into the world, because it will be worth it.  You could fail miserably and end up stuck, but risk that anyway.  Risk everything for a chance at doing what you love.

While the word “risk” definitely stood out, the second part of this quote cannot be ignored.  For me, the second part can be summed up in the last word: glory. Take that passion and make it magnificent.  Put so much effort and sweat into this thing so that you, and everyone around you, is blinded by the light at the end of it.  So that it keeps shining on.  So that it can be seen in all of its glory – so you can be seen in all of your glory.

When I say you, I mean you reading this.  But I also mean me.  I need to listen to this too.  I need to dive headfirst in the pool  ocean of writing and swim so far and so deep that I can’t get out again.  I want to drown in my craft so that when I finally see the light of day every inch of my being will be soaked in words that I must put on the page.  I want to risk being seen in all my glory, because it would be excruciating to not risk it all and wonder – to not even attempt to shine. You, reading this, you should too. Let’s risk it.

On Writing Conferences

I know it’s been a long time coming, but this is going to (finally) be my post about The Pikes Peak Writers Conference (PPWC) and about my take on conferences in general based on my experience there.  PPWC was my first conference that I have attended, and it was a pretty wonderful experience. I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the conference with the writing club at my school, which made it even better.  It truly was a magnificent experience and one that I will cherish forever.  Cheesy, right?  But it was a genuinely wonderful experience and what actually got me going with this blog and with the writing side of my life in general.  I’m not goig to break down the conference day by day and workshop by workshop.  Each day had it’s amazing aspects, but I want to focus on the entire thing as a whole because everything combined is what made the experience such a great one for me.

PPWC 2016 was the first writing conference I have attended.  You may be thinking “well why are you writing this post about writing conferences (plural) if you’ve only attended one?”  That would be because I think that my experience at PPWC is similar to the experiences that are out there to be had at other conferences across the country (across the world?  I can only hope someone is reading this in another country).  The biggest take away I got from this conference was inspiration.  It may seem a tad cheesy (again, I’m sorry), but the conference was so inspirational.  It was such a pleasure getting to hear from well known writers, and it was just as valuable hearing from writers whose first books have just come out, or from my fellow attendees hoping to land a book deal.  I learned so much and it was so incredible just being around other writers for four days straight.  It’s always nice to find someone who shares your love of writing and reading, and to be able to talk to that person about anything and everything involving those two topics as much as humanly possible.  Well, at conferences, that is literally all you get to do for [insert number of days here].  Regardless of what I actually learned from the workshops – and there was plenty I learned, I’ll get to that in more detail shortly – I was able to be around other writers, to hear their crazy story ideas, to encourage them in their craft, and to talk about my own progress towards writing my book.  It was pretty swell, if you ask me!

The thing that I expect everyone wants to hear about is the workshops.  Well, let me tell you, they were pretty swell as well (ha! A rhyme).  I took a copious amount of notes and now have a seemingly endless amount of resources on writing a novel in a short amount of time, on building more vivid settings, on creating a better first page, and on social networking successfully.  I will say, with that last one in particular, I am already seeing the progress!  Nowhere before have I been able to learn the tools of the trade from the actual masters.  Not only did I get to learn, but I got to speak with them one on one, pick their brains a little bit (though not too much I hope), and now I follow them, and some of them follow me, on Twitter.  I may be a bit of a book nerd when it comes to these things, but I’m pretty excited about that!

Going into the conference without a finished novel manuscript, I wasn’t sure what I would get out of the weekend.  I didn’t know if I would actually learn anything since I didn’t need to know how to successfully query or how to self publish (hopefully one day soon I’ll need that information).  While I do think that the conference as a whole was geared more towards those with completed manuscripts, that definitely did not mean that there wasn’t anything for me to do.  I wasn’t twiddling my thumbs in the back corner the whole time.  The first page of one of my stories was critiqued by a literary agent, an editor, and a New York Times best selling author, for Pete’s sake!  My time and money were definitely well spent. Still, though, the most valuable thing I got from this conference was the time away from the world of reality spent in the world of writing.  I’ve been having withdrawals since the end of the conference (yes, almost a month ago.  I’m really late to the after-conference blogger party, I’m sorry) because I haven’t been around people who talk novels and short stories non-stop.  It was really a rejuvenating experience, and one that I think is important for every writer out there.  It’s important to recharge your writing batteries, and that’s what this conference did for me.  With the expertise and encouragement I received from others at PPWC, I hope I can extend my writing battery life all the way until next year (or at least until one of the other numerous Pike’s Peak Writer’s events coming up).  That’s why this post in on writing conferences.  It’s plural because I think that every writer should take advantage of an opportunity to attend a conference and refill their tank (I’m brimming with cliche metaphors this evening) so that they can finish their manuscript or start on that book that they’ve been waiting to begin.  My philosophy is to take advantage of any writing related opportunity that comes my way.  Who knows if I’ll be able to attend conference again?  That’s a long way off, but at least I took advantage of the opportunity I had this year and made the most of it.  I had a fantastic time at PPWC 2016.

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Image via Word Sharpeners

On Planning

Finals week is quickly approaching, and I am so ready to be done with this semester.  This semester has been one of the hardest semesters I have had so far for many reasons.  This whole academic year, actually, has just been hard.  It’s always interesting to look back on the year, though, because more often then not, lots of wonderful things can come from a bad year.  That is most certainly the case for me this year.  Is the year really a ‘bad’ year then?

Regardless of the year’s merit, I am glad to almost have my junior year behind me and to move on to the summer.  I will be taking summer classes, which I am not particularly looking forward to (but they are necessary in order for me to graduate in a year, so there’s that) but something I am looking forward to is writing more.  A break from academic writing means more creative writing, which I am very excited about!

Because of the impending break from school and the upcoming opportunity to write more, I have been focusing a lot of my energy on planning the book.  Yes, it has been started, but I’m kind of thinking about scrapping what I have thus far and starting over.  That is the greatest temptation in a writer’s life, I feel – to scrap everything and begin again.  Actually, it pains me thinking about it, but at the same time it’s refreshing.  A new beginning for the books means, in a sense, a new beginning for me. There are many reasons I want to start over with what I have, and they mostly have to do with all of this planning I mentioned.

It all started in my American Literature class.  I know I just said that I am ready to be done with the semester, but one of the good things about being an English Literature student is the fact that my classes can inform my writing.  In this case, my class did just that.  We have been studying Sister Carrie, a novel by Theodore Dreiser from the late 19th century.  Although the book has not grabbed my interest, to say the least, it has given me some inspiration.  The book is a naturalist book, which essentially has to do with the way the characters are shaped by outside forces.  Sometimes these forces have to do with nature itself, and somethings they are more abstract.  For the main character in the book, Carrie, the forces are more abstract – the big city, money, power, and fame.  For Cassie (the main character in my book and coincidentally very similar in name to the main character in Dreiser’s), these forces are going to be abstract as well.  Some of them will be the same (money and power) some of them will be different (heritage, family, and legacy).  Having fleshed out some of these forces and the role that they will be playing in my story, I can then figure out the way that Cassie will be influenced by these forces and the way that she will, at least in some cases, overcome these forces.

I guess this was a really long way of saying that I am very excited to have finally begun coming up with some concrete details about my story.  Unfortunately, they don’t quite  fit with the voice and feel that I have going on in the book right now, so I am most likely going to start over.  It’s really only logical, since I began this book almost two years ago and have learned a lot about writing since then.  Cassie needs to grow up, just like my own writing has.  That is why I will be starting over.

And I couldn’t be happier about it.

On Writing

Sometimes I feel like a failure.  Last week would be one of those weeks.   Not only did I fail on the new blog venture, but I failed at some other things. Like going to scheduled meetings, turning in assignments on time, and this little thing called writing.  I came back from the Pikes Peak Writers Conference (post to come) feeling uber motivated and excited to start writing more – here, there, and everywhere – and then proceeded to to write nowhere.  It’s been a crazy few weeks and lots has happened, but this doesn’t mean that I should stop writing.  I must keep the motivation going so that I can really get somewhere with my first novel!

There’s so much to juggle right now with the end of the semester finally approaching (hallelujah) and the realization that I will be graduating sooner than anticipated (again, hallelujah but also complete terror) that it’s tempting to put writing on the back burner.  I need to be conscious, though, of the fact that this is not actually going to help anything.  If I want to become a writer, I need to write.  I need to put everything else aside and get some words on the page because a writer is nothing without words.

So for now, I will get the words out into the world here on this dinky little blog.  In the future, I’ll get the words out in a published book (fingers crossed).

 

Here We Go…

And so it begins.  This journey that I’m starting on will be bumpy I’m sure, crazy at times for certain, and hopefully one for the books.  I want to be a writer, and have goals of having a published novel one day.  For now, it’s a seemingly never ending process.  One that I am just now beginning, but that I am working to succeed at.  I hope that whoever you are, dear reader, you will come along with me on this journey.  The process is half the fun, after all.

Writing takes practice and practice takes time. So this is my practice.  My online journal, my collection of ramblings, and my digital records book. I’m in it for the long haul, and I hope you will be with me. There’s a saying that to be a true writer (pick me, pick me!) one must write a million words. So here’s 163 more to add to my count, and I’ll be back for more soon!

 

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