I can’t remember if I told you all here, but I’ve been struggling for several months to make any progress at all on Book 4: In Search of Pack. It’s been a total slog, painful to get more than a sentence or two on the page before I abandon it again to try again the next day.
However, since I’ve discovered my true writing style (Discovery Gardener, woot woot!), I’ve been making forward progress again. It’s been a little bit slow, as I’m having to deal with the slow/stilted parts, but I’m finally moving forward with the story and I’m truly curious to discover what Aletta and Lirim have gotten themselves into this time.
If things continue going this well, there might very well be a summertime release in my future. Fingers crossed!
I know that I’ve been rather quiet lately, as happens sometimes. The world has been in turmoil of course, with the pandemic and everything else going on. But I’m not going to discuss that today, as many people, some of the much more qualified than me are already talking about it. But I haven’t been quiet because of that, writing has actually been a great solace to me during these uncertain times. No, I have been quiet because I was deeply unhappy with myself and my writing.
Now, according to my Clifton strengths assessment, I am a person who needs to think things over deeply and process them before I can move forward and share them with other people. And everyone, I highly recommend doing your strengths assessment. I can’t even begin to describe the freedom that knowing my strengths gave me. It let me be free to be who I really am, that I am a uniquely beautiful, strong person, not just some weirdo (although I’m still odd and a nerd, lol. But I’m ok with that 🙂 ). So over the past month, I’ve been digging into why I’m so unhappy with my writing, why there is just no ‘spark’, no joy when I wrote, it was just a slog.
After some discussion with my mom (who is an amazing, incredible woman), she asked me a question that really got me to thinking. I write both fanfiction and original fiction. So why was my fanfiction doing so well while I was struggling so badly with my original fiction? I’ve received good feedback on both, I don’t really spend more time on one versus the other, nor do I make money on either of them (I really need to learn to market myself better so that I can give up my day job, lol). This made me really think, delve deep into all the little subconscious things that we all do on a daily basis
I’ve written all my life, it’s part of my very identity. So why had it become such a joyless slog for me? I had been working really hard to up my game, working on figuring out where my writing and characters were going, creating a road map, if you will. I’d been listening to other writers and joining groups so that I could glean wisdom from those who have gone ahead of me. So why was it getting increasingly hard to put words on paper, to tell the stories that I had started with such joy? Why was I so unhappy with my writing?
I do a lot of my writing on a site called 4thewords. It’s a site that allows me to gamify my writing by battling monsters while I write and encourages me to write at least 444 words daily to keep my streak. Having that streak motivates me to write daily (I can be a very competitive person, lol), which is definitely a good thing. It also helps me connect with a wonderful community of writers worldwide. So two days ago, while I was still mentally grappling with all of this and struggling to write, I went to browse through forums to see what topics people were discussing (Avoiding writing? I would never! I was doing, um, research. Yeah, that’s it, research), and I am so glad that I did.
One of the threads there said “Stop the pantser bashing”. Now, since I identify as a pantser (and since I’m as nosy as a cat some days), I decided to go ahead and click on it. That turned out to be one of the best decisions in my life. It discussed about Architects and Gardeners (think plotters and pantsers, but I like the terms architects and gardeners much better) and their different styles of writing. Now, I had never heard of these terms, but I immediately fell in love with them, as opposed to the much more Americanized plotters and pantsers. To me, architect and gardener implies creation, of things being built and grown, of beauty becoming visible to the rest of the world.
And as I read this thread, something shifted fundamentally in me. There is nothing wrong with being an architect, of having plans and blueprints all laid out and to know how everything goes together. Many writers thrive on this. Some people are even hybrids of the architect and gardener, a simple outline or something that they then allow the story to grow naturally from, a landscape architect, if you will. But in this thread, I learned about gardeners, and more specifically, something that I dubbed Discovery Gardeners. Some writers need to discover the story alongside their characters. They don’t necessarily know what’s going to happen next with the story or characters because their characters ‘Haven’t told them yet!’
Let me tell you, when I read this, I nearly wept. This was me, this nailed the sense of deep unease and dissatisfaction that I had been feeling, why I was not happy. I am a gardener, not an architect. As I sat there, kinda reeling honestly, I realized something. I was the source of my unhappiness. By trying to outline and plan and anticipate my story so I could be more productive, I was killing my productivity entirely. This is especially true with my original fiction. With my fanfiction, I was a lot more easygoing, I would simply sit down and write, see where the story took me. That is, until the past month when I started trying to figure out my story lines more. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that plotting and outlining are bad, they are very useful to many, many writers out there. But for me, that is the worst possible method out there. I need to discover the story alongside my characters, otherwise, my story is dead before it even begins.
I don’t know how deep into my hole of unhappiness that I would have dug myself if I hadn’t seen that thread. Probably quite deep as I searched and tried increasingly more structured writing methods to fix what was ‘broken’. But I thank God that I saw that post, because it gave me the permission that I needed to be me. Actually, it’s rather funny. I spent most of my teen years telling my mother that I am not and will never be like her. Since then, I have had to take back most of my words, because I am very like my mother, something that I’ve come to be very proud of. But one thing that I always disputed was that I am not a gardener. I do not like gardening, it’s a lot of weeding and planning and dirt from head to toe some days. Once I got over my revelation and sense of rightness, I had to laugh, because I AM a gardener. Well played, mom, well played. It just turns out that I’m a gardener of words rather than plants (I do not have a green thumb, lol).
So, when you write, be yourself. If you are an architect, plot and plan and build your beautiful story according to the structure that you have laid out. If you are a gardener, enjoy the journey alongside your characters as you live your stories. Even if you are somewhere in between and are a landscape architect, as I’m sure that many are, enjoy the process. You are unique and the stories that you tell can never be told by someone else. They are your stories and no one else’s.
So, I’m off to chase butterflies and pick wildflowers and see where my stories take me, because I’m a Discovery Gardener 🙂 I wish you all happiness with your writing and pray that you find your own writing style. We all have a story inside, tell yours in a way that makes you happy, no matter what others think, no matter if they tell you that it’s the wrong way of writing. You are infinitely unique, so your writing is going to be infinitely unique as well.
(P.S. If you are curious about 4thewords and want to try it out for yourself, you can get a free month using my code VXKKX33097. There’s a great community there and lots of events and challenges to keep you writing, no matter if you write 5 words a day or 5,000.)
I know that it’s been a while since you have all heard from me. The good news is that I’m still here. The bad news is that I’m busy and quite forgetful, so sometimes my consistency isn’t always the best. That means as a blogger, I’m rather hit and miss, my apologies.
So what have I been up to?
Well, I’ve been under stay-at-home, the less said about that the better, Imma bout ready to start climbing the walls. Thankfully I live on acreage and I can at least get out into the fresh air and sunshine. I’m ready for life to get back to normal.
I am still practicing my rad ninja skills. I recently tested for my provisional black belt. That means that I’ve learned what I need to know, now I need to hone and refine it before going for my actual black belt. My sensei’s have been doing an awesome job with videos and online classes so that we don’t lose our skills.
Farm life has always been fun. We recently had a single turkey poult hatch. He’s a little corker, that’s for ever sure. (‘Scuse the dirty farm hands, spring time equals a lot of dirty hands but it’s nice to be out in nature)
Other than that, I’ve just been writing. A lot. I’m currently working on book four of The Seeker Files: In Search of Pack. It goes, not smoothly, but it goes, lol. I’m hoping to have it finished and published by the end of this month. I’ll keep you updated one way or the other.
Other than that, I’ve been writing a lot of fanfiction. It you want to check it out for yourselves, here’s my most popular story,
If you are anything like me, the past few weeks have been crazy. Between the holidays and family birthdays (A lot of our family have birthdays in December, I’d say nearly two-thirds). Because of this, I have been drained. One of my biggest goals over the past few months have been writing every day. After all, I’m a writer and that’s what’s writer’s do. After all, I did manage to get the third book in my series published on Black Friday (Halfway there, woot woot!) So what’s going on?
Well, I am pleased to say that I have managed to write every day for the past three months at least five hundred words a day, if not a thousand. That means that I’ve written at least 45,000 words by just consistently writing 500 words a day. Often when I sit down and write, I find it flows well and I average between one and five thousand a day, the hardest part is just finding the time and energy to sit down and write.
However, while a portion of the words have been on my stories, a large portion of them have also been on my play writing. I.e., fanfiction, story snippets that I know will never go anywhere, bits of my main story that have absolutely no bearing on the overall story, just weird quirks about the story that popped into my brain. This is how I cope with stress, but ultimately it is not helpful in helping my share the rest of Aletta and Lirim’s story with you guys.
So how am I going to balance my play writing with my purposeful writing?
First, let me explain a couple of things. When I say purposeful writing, it does not mean that it is not enjoyable for me to write. I love writing, period. I love bringing my characters to life and sharing them with others. However, when I do writing that I intend to share with others, I’m a lot more conscientious of how I write. I pay a lot more attention to what words I use, my spelling and grammar, that all the plot lines make sense and that there are no gaping plot holes or ends left untied up. I want to make sure that people other than me can understand and enjoy the story.
When I say play writing, this is writing that I do for myself, that I really don’t plan on sharing with anyone. It doesn’t bother me if there are typos or grammar errors, although I usually go back after the story is done and smooth it out. There are also gaping plot holes at time because I was eager to get to the next scene and again, I’m the only one that’s going to see it and I can go back and smooth it out later if it really bugs me. It is also rarely linear, as I just around from scene to scene. It’s effortless and fun, but it is rather a mess.
So how can I balance this out, because my goal is to publish 5-6 new books this year?
I’ve decided to treat my writing like a ‘normal’ job. I will write my books Monday through Friday and make good progress on them. However, since my goal is to write everyday (and that’s not really a hardship), I’ll leave my play writing for the weekends and the occasional day when I’m stressed to my eyeballs and just need to escape. Trust me, we all have those days and it’s better just to factor them in instead of feeling guilt and despair when they inevitably happen and spiraling worse than you were before. Fingers crossed that things will go well.
So how do you balance your serious writing and your play writing? I would love to hear how you do it!
Nanowrimo is just around the corner and we are already two-thirds of the way through Preptober. Time flies, right? So let’s talk a bit about the nuts and bolts of Nanowrimo.
Have you declared a project yet? I’ve decided to be ambitious this year and go for 100,000 words instead of 50k. This means that I’ll have to write 3,334 words instead of 1,667 every day. Now, this may seem a bit daunting to some but for me it’s more of a target than a set in the stone, the world will end if I don’t finish this, goal. But even if I don’t manage to get all 100k words done, the key to accomplish anything is to sit down every day and actually do it. So here are some tips to help both you and me have a more successful Nanowrimo.
Commit yourself to writing every day
It doesn’t have to be some grand scheme of slaving over your keyboard for hours and hours every day, chained to your desk until you finally manage to grind out that first draft. It can be as little as five minutes a day writing in a notebook while waiting to pick up the kids from school or that load of laundry to finish. Instead of taking a smoke break, use that time to get a few words down. As long as you write something, a paragraph, a sentence, a word, you are winning. But if you don’t commit to carving out that bit of time every day, there will always be a hundred other things more than willing to take over that space.
Set yourself goals
So many people see 50k words and shut down before they can even get started. Even broken down, the idea of finding the time and inspiration for 1,667 words is daunting. But like so many things in life, that’s just an arbitrary number. It’s easy to be so overwhelmed that you never end up starting at all or if you do start and then miss a few days, then you feel like you’ll never catch up. And truthfully, when I’m writing I’m rarely thinking about word counts, I’m too focused on my story line and characters. So set goals that motivate you. Instead of saying I’m going to write X amount of words in X minutes (although if that’s the way you get your best writing done, go for it. Find a way that works best for you!), say that you’re going to write until you finish the next scene or next chapter. Maybe you’re stuck on a scene, so instead of not writing, set the goal of writing out one of your character’s back stories and what their motivation/goal/purpose in the story might be. It could be that you feel that your characters are stuck in place, so set a goal to sit down and write all about the world they live in, fleshing out all the little details like where’d they shop, hang out, all the little things that people do in every day life.
Think of it like this: You’re taking a road trip to a new amazing location (remember, books open new worlds to us 🙂 ), this isn’t like the trip that you take every year to the lake or Grandma’s house. This is somewhere that you’ve never been before. You might’ve spent some time preparing snacks and necessities (outlining chapters and the plot) or you might be planning to pick things up along the way (pantser). You’ve got a basic roadmap (your story idea) and your destination (your completed first draft). But if you don’t start, you’ll never reach your destination. There are many ways you can travel, making stops at certain towns (chapters or scenes), or you could be planning to stop and stretch your legs every so many miles (word count). Although you might have certain stops planned (outlines), you never know what you might find along the way. All you have to do it start.
When we know someone else is going to ask if we’ve done something or not, we are much more likely to complete the task. It’s also true that if someone asks to help them keep on track, we’ll be a lot more mindful of whether or not we’ve done as we said we would. I tend to be a solitary writer, although I like talking and sharing ideas with other writers and learning from them. But if having a buddy along the way helps you keep on track, then I highly encourage you to find someone to do Nanowrimo with you.
Something that people may not know about me is that I have a highly competitive streak. It’s not that I like to beat people, as a matter of fact I like to help people succeed along with me, but I like to always challenge myself to do better. I’ve recently found a site that speaks to that side of me. 4thewords is a writing community that gamifies your writing. It is set up in word sprint style, where you have to write so many words in so many minutes in order to defeat monsters. There are also quests that you can work towards defeating. Also, you get rewards for writing every day. If you write 444 words a day, a reasonable amount, you build up a streak and the longer the streak, the cooler rewards you get. The story line is intriguing and the community is out of this world. Also, they’re doing a special Nanowrimo event with bonus events and rewards. By getting rewarded to write, it helps me to get my word count every day and I find myself hitting my goals quicker than I ever anticipated. Like I said earlier, the main thing is to write, just write, every day, and this program helps me do this.
If you’re interested in checking this out, use my referral code for an extra free month. I highly recommend at least checking it out 🙂
My code: VXKKX33097
If you are participating in Nanowrimo, tell me what you’re writing this year and what your goal is. Can’t wait to hear from you 🙂
It’s October, which means that Nanowrimo is just around the corner. This year will be my third year participating in this challenge. .So let’s talk a little bit about Nanowrimo and the pros and cons.
Writing is pretty much a solitary sport, unless you’re collaborating with someone on a story, but that’s a subject for a different blog post. Although we bounce ideas off of people and then have them beta read our work (so thankful for betas!), the process of actually creating is done by the writer alone (and maybe the cat perched nosily on their lap.) Unless you’re really good at setting deadlines independently (which I’m not) or under contract which keeps you on track, then it’s just as easy to not write on busy days as it is to carve out a bit of time to write. By participating in Nanowrimo, you are promising yourself that you will write a certain number on words in a certain amount of time. You’ve probably also told your friends and family this, which adds another layer of incentive for you to do as you said that you would and sit down and write. (Not surf facebook or update your pinterest boards, but actually write).
The cons of this can be that some people panic when they see the end goal, overwhelmed by the amount of words they’ll need to churn out, not realizing that if done in smaller chunks daily, it will be much easier to breeze through. Or they write when inspiration strikes them and freak out that their characters will not be amenable to writing every day, digging their heels in and creating writer’s block. (I find that most characters want their story told and with a bit of coaxing, will keep telling you their stories.)
The typically goal for Nanowrimo is fifty thousand words over the course of the month of November. It works out to about seventeen hundred words a day. This has been my goal the past two years and again this year. I did not manage to do it the past two years, but that was because of lack of discipline on my part. However, I do feel like I made good progress on my books and was glad that I had participated. The pros of having a word count for Nanowrimo is that it encourages people to sit down and write every day. I have a very high competitive streak and also like to cross things off my list of things to-do, so this encourages me to hit the goal words every day. Also, you can set the goal at whatever you want for the month. I’ve seen everything ranging from a few hundred words to 250k words. It allows you to chose what your goal is and let’s you work at your own pace of whether you are a fast or a somewhat slower writer. (You are still writing, so never look down on yourself for your writing speed. As long as you put even one word on a page, you are a writer.)
The cons for word counts are this. Some people, myself included, never know where a story is going to take them. The bonafide pantsers. And the thought of being tied to a specific number of words is daunting. What if the story wraps up in less words? What if the story takes more words to tell. Here’s the good news. Your word goal is not set in stone. It’s a general target that you can adjust as you need to as you get a better idea of where your story is going and how long it will take to get there. Another con is the fact that you have to create so many words a day. What happens if you have a slow day and only manage to write a few words? Or that you have to go back and edit a large portion before you can continue the story? Or life happens and you aren’t able to sit down and write at all? Again, this goal is just guidelines. There are no penalties for not getting the “required” amount of words done and the unnecessary stress you are putting on yourself needs to be let go. Make a quick face, promise that you’ll try again tomorrow, and move on. The whole point of Nanowrimo is to encourage you to have a go at a project that you may have been putting off, not to make you so miserable that you give up on it entirely.
Many new Nanowrimo participants wonder what the cabins are about and even some veterans. The short answer, community. If you already have a writing group established, you can create a cabin together and share your work back and forth throughout the month. If you don’t have people to create a cabin with, you have three other choices you can do.
One: You can do it alone. There is nothing wrong with this option and many people do Nanowrimo this way.
Two: You can search for a cabin that’s your specific genre and get placed into it. This is what I most often do, I write fantasy and I like to have fantasy and sci-fi people to bounce my idea off of.
Three: If you are adventurous or outgoing, you can ask to be placed in a random cabin. This is a great way to meet fellow writers and get a diversity of opinion. The cabins are a great resource and community. It is a group of like minded people that you can reach out to when you hit a snag or are feeling discouraged in order to get some help and encouragement. And who knows, maybe a hurdle that you’ve overcome is something that someone else is struggling with and you can help them out.
The cons of this? Writers can be very sensitive about their work (heaven knows that I am) and are unwilling to show anyone their work until it is finished and polished. There is nothing wrong with that. Also, sometimes personalities just don’t mesh well, you may have someone in your cabin that chimes in on everything, whether or not they have anything helpful to add. Remember, there is always the option to switch cabins. You are not locked into one that just does not work for you.
So this is just the barest sneak peek at a few components of Nanowrimo. I will be writing more about this throughout the coming days. If you have anything you want to know about specifically, drop me a comment and will try to cover it.
Participating in Nanowrimo? Comment below about your project, goal word count, and what you would like to get from the month. I’d love to hear from you!!
You may have noticed that I was absent from my blog last week. Originally I had planned on keeping up my writing schedule while I was attending my company’s annual convention in Salt Lake City. Many authors unless they are blessed to be a bestseller have day jobs as well. I am privileged to be a wellness advocate for doTERRA Essential Oils.
Every September doTERRA has a 3 day convention with individual trainings both before and after the event. I ended up flying out on Monday and getting in after midnight (That’s a whole story in and of itself), and didn’t fly home until yesterday. I was so busy the whole week, so much to learn and absorb that I did not manage to write a single word the whole week, edit, or read anything.
But you know what, that’s ok. My focus needed to be elsewhere. It is very important for me to be in the present during convention week. (Oh, and BTW, there were 40k doterrans in SLC for the convention, 4k of those being from foreign countries. It’s a big convention and so many new friends to meet). We buy into the myth that we must be superhumans, that we have to do everything and be everything. And when we try to do this, all we end up doing is losing. We lose friends and family. We lose important relationships. We lose our health. We even lose our minds.
Don’t do that. Take care of yourself. When you get to the end of your life, do you want to look back and regret the fact that you were so busy that you missed out on life? Or do you want to see that while everything didn’t get done at the end of the day, you were healthy and happy and you knew that you were loved and the people that you cared about knew that you loved them?
Happy Monday Everyone! I will be sharing more about my week in posts later this week 🙂
I found an amazing blend this week that doterra just released. Ask me about it’s awesomeness!!
Where do you draw inspiration from when you write?
For me, story ideas can happen literally anywhere, when I’m doing chores, watching t.v., reading, daydreaming, any time of the day or not. Some are fleeting, just a wisp of a story that is all to soon gone. Other times, it’s a fully fleshed out story that just needs me to put pen to paper.
So how do my ideas become stories? I have a rather lackadaisical approach to it, honestly.
These are just pleasant little treats that I get throughout any given day. A snippet of a story about someone in a grocery story or another driver on the road. What the cat was thinking about while it attacked the other cat. They are as fleeting as soap bubbles and disappear as quickly as they appear.
These are stories that are clearly part of a larger story. However, what larger story it is, I have no idea. The scene or chapter is fully there, but there is no context for the rest of the story. Why are these characters there, where do they go from here, what even brought this group together and why is this scene so important? I don’t have answers to any of these question. I will usually write this portion and tuck it away. Sometimes the rest of the story emerges, sometimes it doesn’t. If I’m stuck on my WIP (or procrastinating, I hate editing) I can peek at these and see if anything gets triggered.
Sometimes I have ideas bouncing around in my head for several days before I get around to writing them. This allows me to get the flavor of the story, if you will, and decide whether or not I want to actually write it. If an idea has stayed around for a few days, I will jot down the main points, character name, what they’re doing, the top few points in the story. If the story goes away at this point, the story is just a seed and needs to grow a bit more before it becomes a story in full bloom.
After jotting down the idea, if the story doesn’t go away, then it’s ready to be written. The characters are developed and ready to talk to me. I like to think of myself as someone taking dictation as the characters narrate their stories to me. When I sit down to write, I don’t have things entirely mapped out, as a matter of fact, outline hinders my creative process. When I sit down, I know who the characters are, the general direction I want the story to go, and three or four milestone or anchor moments. What do I mean by that? These are parts that are unchangeable parts of the story. These have to happen in order for the story to happen. They cannot be changed, they cannot be moved, or writer’s block will happen and I’ll have to retrace to see where I tried to force the characters to do something so out of character that they shut the entire production down. The rest of the story flows around these points and I learn new things about my characters all the time. For example, I didn’t know that the main male character in my series had siblings until book three. FYI, neither Aletta nor I were happy about him omitting that fact.
These are the stories that are just distractions. Imagine a toddler hopped up on sugar running the household. That’s what these are, they detract from the main story and have no point. They are hard to spot, sometimes I can be writing what seems like a logical part of the story only to find that I’ve followed a plot bunny and written myself into a dead end. While not totally useless, they can give you ideas that you might not have considered before layering new depths into the story, they are very disruptive to flow and pacing.
The digital age is an amazing thing. Anything you want to learn or know is literally at your fingertips. Waiting is a thing of the past, you can get information and news in moments and most items can be delivered in just a few days. We are no longer local, we are global!
But on the other hand, there are some distinct downsides to this global world. I am free to write behind the safety of a computer screen (This was great when I was younger, because I was terribly shy), but others feel safe to tear me down. We also lose a big chunk of our communication ability. Our brains are so incredibly complex, that we receive and process so many signals that we aren’t even aware of. Body language, vocal intonation, time, mood, etc. But cutting these out, we lose quite a bit of how we receive information.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I love all the advantages that technology has afforded us. But I don’t want to sugar coat it either. We are more alone now that we are more connected than ever. We have lost our human connection in favor of being constantly plugged in. And this has led to an array of other problems. For me, it has increased my stress exponentially as I try to keep pace with this fast moving world and to wear all the hats associated with Indie Publishing.
The truth is, I don’t know how to do all of the things that are necessary to publish successfully. Of the things that I do know, I am probably doing it wrong at least half the time. But we’ve been trained that failure is weakness, to cover it up and hide it away. And I refuse to live by these rules anymore.
Yes, I fail horribly some days. Most days, I have no idea what I’m doing. But you know what, each failure has made me stronger and helped me to learn. And there are people out there who are rocking the things that I’m failing. So I think it’s time to start reinstating the human connection, to let people know that yes I am human and imperfect, but I’m pretty fun to know and who knows, I might know something that will help you on your journey.
So let me know what you think about the digital age and the human connectedness/disconnect. Share something that you’re struggling with and something that you are totally rocking. Let’s give ourselves permission to be human and real again 🙂