Some Betwixt the Books content for this week ABOUT writing, and how it is hard. Michaela and I are trying to support each other to keep writing, and we just recently bought some books to help aid us in that struggle. We also talk about our different creative processes, our struggles with editing and how to best tackle these issues together! We’re also in our pjs. We had a day off. Fight us.
I did it, guys! I did more work on my novel. Please bear with the camera lighting/technicalities for this one. My camera died this morning and I had to use Michaela’s, which was all sorts of interesting. However, if you bear with the weird sound in this video, there is a super cute surprise at the end. Like. Seriously. Super cute. Also, like, you know. I do novel stuff and talk about how I’m going to fix some of the weird tics in my first draft writing.
Thesis Thursdays is a weekly(ish) feature where I rant, love and talk about young adult books I’m reading because I’m conning my college into thinking this is all for academia! Find out more here!
For my last Thesis Thusday post (which was in October, hahahahaha), I titled it “Why I Signed Up for NaNoWriMo Even Though I Intend to Lose.” Then, just after midnight, in the first minutes of November 29th, I achieved this:
I DID IT I DID IT I DID IT HOLY MOLY HOT TAMALE I DID IT.
(For those of you who are confused, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, the challenge to write 50,000 words in the month of November.)
So how, might you ask, did this happen? Last you knew, I’d run out of plot and had no idea what I was doing. Allow me to tell you the secret:
Seriously. You hear people say all the time that you should write every day. This sounds absurd. I know it usually does to me. I’m a finicky writer, and when left to my own devices I either write nothing or thousands of words in a day. There is no in between.
To illustrate my next point, allow me to share my words a day graph with you:
I think you can tell when I was in school, trying my hardest to keep up. When my Thanksgiving break started, I was only halfway there. I knew I either had to make the commitment to writing like crazy every day of vacation or let the effort die. As you can see from the last ten days of the graph, I chose writing every day.
This was the moment when I hit my groove. During school, when I had not let myself write every day, this project had been a slog. It felt jerky and unnatural. Once I started writing every day, however, I had so many eureka moments. My plot moved together better, and–most importantly–I discovered just what my conclusion is.
I don’t know where my novel would be right now if I hadn’t committed myself to NaNoWriMo. Even though I went into it expecting very little, I was able to find the kind of rhythm that I needed to get my novel into the green zone, where I know where I’m going. The conclusion is in sight.
I’m not saying that you have to write like it’s NaNoWriMo every day. I’m not saying that you’re a loser if you didn’t win. I am saying, however, that the spirit of NaNoWriMo is something that I’d forgotten, and something that I want to keep with me into December, until the book is done. Writing every day–even just a little–sometimes is just what you need to do, even if you don’t know what to write. Writing through that confusion can lead you to the best thing that you never expected.
Last semester, a friend of mine finally convinced me to get a Tumblr. (This is me. Seriously.)
What does that have to do with me writing? Well, it started off with me following a bunch of writing blogs on Tumblr. I’ve always been a really visual person, so the writing prompts with visuals and quotes really started to get me going. Also, stuff like this:
Hey all! I am finally back from Pennsylvania, and I CANNOT WAIT to tell you all about my last couple of days. For those of you who missed my post about the writing workshop I was just attending, it’s HERE. If you bear with this post, you will find live tweeted writing advice, a video of Tamora Pierce reading for Battle Magic AND a giveaway of a signed book!
In recap, for the past almost two weeks I spent days being lectured to by three amazing authors and one fantastic editor: Kij Johnson, Tamora Pierce, Catherynne Valente and John Joseph Adams. I also spent time writing and hanging out with 19 other fantastic writers in training, all between the ages of 14 and 20. It is like all the awesome in the world, packed into one.
Our first lecturer was Tamora Pierce, who is like the Alpha Writer-in-Residence. She is there every year, though the three other spots rotate. This year, she chose to live with us in the dorm and hang out the WHOLE TIME. I nearly died of happiness. Tammy was one author with whom I managed to get in some live tweeting, so here are all those tweets for those who missed it:
Tammy was fantastic, both in her lectures and in hanging out in general. At a Barnes and Noble reading, she also read from her yet-to-be-released book Battle Magic. Because I’m the best, I got a video of this for you guys. ^.^ Check out my youtube channel for more!
Kij Johnson was the second author guest we had. She was also the last person I got a large amount of live tweeting in on. Let’s just get that out of the way…
Like the other author guests, Kij was absolutely amazing. Her lecture about the levels a story should have with themes, motifs and symbols really got me thinking about my own writing. In some ways it was really hard to hear, but in others I think it was good to know that I have things I need to work on. We also got to hear Kij read her short stories Ponies and 27 Monkeys. She also signed my copy of her novel, Fudoki!
Cat Valente also lectured with serious levels of awesome. Her first lecture took place after some craziness: she had just flown in from Budapest! Talk about some serious jet lag, but she soldiered through it. During her second lecture, I was actually prevented from live tweeting because I was taking SPEED NOTES. She had this animated power point like thing that took us through all the levels of structure in a story and, well… I ran out of ways to bullet my notes trying to keep up with her diagram. She also read from her novel Deathless and signed my copy of The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making!
John Joseph Adams was our last guest. This was a really awesome contrast, because JJA isn’t a writer, but an editor! He’s been called “The King of Anthologies” and also edits the online scifi/fantasy magazine “Lightspeed.” After a lot of lectures about the actual craft of writing, hearing about the world of writing and publishing–especially since the goal of Alpha is to submit something at the end!–was a great new topic and just as helpful. He also read a story, one not of his writing, from his latest anthology.
After all this time at the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg campus, our merry band of writers moved on to a Doubletree hotel in Pittsburgh for a literary scifi/fantasy convention called Confluence. Though I did not actually attend many panels in lieu of spending time with all my new friends, the entire workshop did get its own hour Q&A with the Confluence guest of honor, Seanan McGuire (some of you may know her as author Mira Grant). Though I didn’t get any pictures or live tweet this, it was absolutely fantastic. Seanan is a GREAT person who is really funny and amazing to talk to. She also signed my copy of her novel Discount Armageddon!
My time at Alpha was amazing. Words cannot adequately describe it, and its entire purpose was to teach me to be a better writer. The friends I made there are awesome, and the things I learned I’ll keep forever. If YOU are a young writer in between the ages of 14-19, I BEG you to apply there next year. The deadline is March 1st.
Out of all this, I did manage to snag you guys something! A SIGNED copy of The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Cathrynne Valente! Don’t miss out! Click HERE to enter! Giveaway is US only.
Well, if you guys know anything about me, it’s that I’m always, always coming up with new ideas and writing too many books at once. (Right now, it’s four. I think. Are we counting thought processes?) Anyways, after a fifty billionth breakdown over “WHY I HAVE NO PLOT?” and “WHY THESE CHARACTERS NO WORK?” and “WHY IS THIS THE SUCK?” I finally called it quits. Not on writing, mind you. THINKING.
Yes, I’ve talked about this before, especially during NaNoWriMo. But this is a level even I’ve never reached before. As it turns out, this is the first book I’ve ever written where there is a certain time when I can write it: when I’m flat-out, drooling, giggly tired. Sound whacked out? Possibly. But I bet you’re jealous of all the fun I’m having.
If I were to read this WIP while
sane awake, I would know–as I know now in the back of my head–that this book is rather plotless. In fact, the entire beginning of the book doesn’t make any a lot of sense. Best part? At the moment, I don’t care. I introduce two new characters in situations where I can’t name drop without making it sound force, and in all seriousness they go through the chapter being called “Scaly-face” and “Gandalf Guy.” My MC is actually crazy enough to make that work for me, which is awesome. I’m not even 3 chapters or 10,000 words in yet, and she’s already referenced Disney, Pocahontas, the Wizard of Oz and the Lord of the Rings. She says things that I doubt are going to be funny to anyone but me. But I DON’T CARE.
Maybe this book will never be anything. That isn’t the point here. The point is that I’m fed up with taking writing so freaking seriously. This started as fun, didn’t it? So I want to keep it that way. Sometimes you just need to break away from your real, serious WIP and write something that makes you laugh at yourself. I think of it like a writing exercise–and also somewhere to store all those jokes that I think are hilarious but no one else seems to. The greatest thing is? My short attention span is actually remaining excited about this project. So at least if I’m not writing anything that will ever get me anywhere, I’m WRITING. And that’s the important thing.
And who knows? Maybe this’ll turn into something that is better than any WIP I’ve ever tried to think about!
Did you know that could HAPPEN? It’s a true fact, believe it or not. I just discovered this, roundabouts yesterday. Here I thought I was being so awesome–I was starting off the New Year the right way: writing. This short story just kept coming and coming until I’d sacrificed multiple hours and 11 pages of notebook paper to its altar. Then I went to read it. My face looked a lot like…this.
Only less yellow. Anyways…
Whether you’re really conscious of it or not, everyone has a writing style all their own. It’s something you do naturally, without thinking about it, because that’s just the way you write. You probably don’t even realize what the nuances of it are because you just do it. But let me tell you: when you depart from it, you know it.
I didn’t understand this story right after I wrote it and I still don’t understand it a day after I wrote it. It is so not me I don’t know what to do with it. It’s lack of coherency is probably another problem I have to fix… But the thing is, I know what it ISN’T: it isn’t what I normally write. And I’m not talking genre or characters or anything like that. I write fantasy all the time, my MCs tend to be girls–it was actually a story idea I started months ago but never finished. The rewrite yesterday turned into another beast entirely.
The thing about writing is that it’s a fluid craft. It changes when you change, and you change day-to-day. Your writing one day won’t be the same the next day, and it doesn’t always get better consistently either. You probably already know that the best writing comes when you’re in that “mood” that is really hard to find but always amazing to be in, as our friends from Calvin and Hobbs by Bill Watterson understand. And sometimes that creativity is just strange. Like this story I’ve got here. I’m going to need a decryption machine in Gibberish to understand just what’s going on. But you know what the funny thing is? I like it. I like it a lot. No, not the story. What the story represents.
Sometimes you start feeling like the way you write is tired and tried, but the problem is that you think you’re stuck with it. You think that this is the way that you write and, while you can learn to write better, it’ll always have that same flare to it. You started doing them because you thought it was cool, but now it’s like you’re stuck on them. I certainly thought I was. I had seven different stories started in my notebook, and I didn’t think I could write one of them well, so I just wasn’t writing. That is probably the worst thing you can do.
You know what, maybe it will take you all seven stories to get one paragraph of amazing writing. Maybe it’ll take you all seven stories to get a sentence. That’s okay. Just let out the words that want to come out and stop thinking about it. Yes, what comes out might make absolutely no sense, but that’s okay too. That’s nonsense you wrote. And maybe it’s less nonsense than you think.