New Draft Complete!

Exciting news: I finished a new draft!

A brand new story, so shiny and sparkly, is finally drafted after an agonizing year of trying to get through it. I never fell out of love with the idea, but slugging through the middle was really hard this time around. I knew where I had started and where I was going, but I spent a long time figuring out how to get my characters there. There were definitely some surprises and twists along the way, and I fell in love with relationships I hadn’t originally planned. Actually, two of my characters were supposed to hate each other… and they ended up in love! I gave myself warm fuzzies, and I can’t wait to give them to you, too!

Then I hit the last third of the book. Once I knew what was going to happen again, the words flowed like I had turned on a faucet. And last night I hit that last key. Finally. This feeling. Ugh, amazing. If you’ve ever completed a large project or a passion project, you know this feeling.

What’s next? Well, letting this one air dry for a bit (about a month, just long enough to work on a new story for NaNoWriMo!) so that I can come back to it with new eyes. As I was writing, a lot of different things changed, like the age of my main protagonist and her feelings about another character, so I know there is going to be a lot of rewriting and cleanup. After the sitting-period, I will print off the draft, read through it for overall notes, and then open up a brand new file to redraft… something I’m actually really looking forward to. I can’t wait to shine up this story, to tie up the loose ends and plot holes, to implement the new ideas that I had mid-drafting.

What’s this new story about? Without creating an actual summary, here’s the idea:

Ember is a half-human, half-Nis (fox spirit) hybrid who never quite felt like she fit in. Then, she finds herself forced to graduate (or, you know, expelled) from Nis school and moves in with her brother. However, she is left with this warning: she must learn how to be a real Nis, or she will be rejected from their society altogether.

Then she meets Sora, a Swan-shifter. Sora is part of a discreet organization known as the Knights Errant, an organization claiming they want equality and justice for all types of supernaturals, not just the Nis. This quest for equality strikes a chord in Ember’s bruised heart, and she begins spending more time with Sora. However, not long after this, her pearl, the seed and anchor of her magic and the most important part of Nis life, is stolen. If she can’t recover it, she may just be banished from Nis society permanently and without the chance to make amends.

In an effort to recover her pearl, she begins going to Knights Errant meetings with Sora. Before she realizes what has happened, she’s in over her head and forced to resolve a centuries-old cover-up by the Nis Elders… one that could ultimately destroy the world. With the help of her brother and her new friends, she joins the fight to stop an ancient evil and find her place as a true Nis.

So there you have it! I’m so excited about this story, and I can’t wait to polish it up and get it out into the world.

In the meantime, anyone else doing NaNoWriMo this year? I’m going to try to complete it with a new high fantasy based on a D&D campaign I wrote a couple months ago.

Tell me your stories and plans in the comments!

Juggling Multiple Projects

Growing up, I was the kind of girl who was obsessive about stories. I devoured them like they were the juiciest cheeseburgers, and I always craved more. Naturally, that evolved into writing my own stories. But that’s a post for another day!

Instead, today I want to talk about something that has plagued me since my early writing days, all the way back in elementary and middle school. That’s right, I’ve been writing since elementary school.

As a kid, I was filled with ideas. They were in my dreams, they were in the television programs I watched, they were in the other books I read, they were in my life experiences. They collected like raindrops in my brain. They brewed and stewed and percolated.

However, the abundance of ideas that I almost always tended to have at once proved difficult at times. I would start writing something, then get distracted by one of these new shinies. Instead of focusing my mental energy on planning and plotting the work in progress, it shifted to thinking about this new idea. And you know what happened? The work in progress died. I turned all my attention and writing time to the new idea. Oh sure, occasionally I would halfway finish a story. But I never returned to it, never polished or relished or cherished it. I was too focused on the next big idea.

But things changed a few years ago, once I was in the thick of grad school. I started writing fast and finishing things (yes, in grad school. Writing became my escape from the stress and from difficult situations I couldn’t otherwise escape.). I made a decision, either consciously or unconsciously (I really couldn’t tell you if you asked now) to be serious about my writing. To finish ideas. To make them sparkle. And I wrote and completed three manuscript drafts in a year. Yeah, they may never go anywhere. I may be done with them now. Or for now. But I finished things.

However, I still had that same problem of how to juggle multiple ideas at once. I would still get new, captivating concepts while I was drafting. In fact, it’s happening to me right now. But I think I finally figured out a solution. Once again, it comes down to dedication and discipline.

So here’s my new way to juggle projects (and it’s working for me): I am not allowed to touch the new idea until I have added at least 1000 words to the old one. And in setting that one, unbreakable rule for myself, the days that I get to write and really focus on writing, I end up with over 2000 words in a sitting, half of the old manuscript and half of the new manuscript.

So what about you? Do you have this same problem? How do you manage multiple ideas and projects at once? Comment below with your stories and advice!

The Best (and Worst) Books I Read This Summer

Summer is a magical time, ever since we were kids. Then, it was a break from the tedium of school and homework. Now, if you’re out of school, it’s a chance to get outside and enjoy some sunshine and have an adventure. If you’re a bookworm like me, then most of your summer adventures are probably in the pages of books. I didn’t get as much reading done in June, July, and August as I would have liked, but I did read a few very good or disappointing books in that time.

*drumroll*

My favorite book of the summer: Eliza and her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

All you Fangirl fans, this is the one. This is the one we’ve been waiting for. We get to follow another awesome creator/artist in her journey to break out of a world she can control and grow into a world she loves. We see the joy and the heartbreak of storytelling. We see the passion and the dangers of creating and sharing a piece of work. And we get a cute little romantic plot right in the middle. Seriously, if you liked Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell (my own personal favorite book, now tied with this one), you’ll love this book, too. If you want to see the review I wrote, you can find it here.

My second favorite book of summer: Born of Earth by A. L. Knorr

This one came as a surprise to me. It was a free download I stumbled across through a different indie author’s website. I had been eyeing A. L. Knorr’s Born of Water for a while, but without knowing much about the books, I wasn’t sure I wanted to spend the money. This offer was the perfect opportunity to give them a try. And oh, was I pleasantly surprised! The book was exciting and filled with magic. It was a fantasy concept I hadn’t seen most other places. Other than a kind of awkward romantic subplot, it was everything I was looking for in a book. It was so good that I went back and purchased Born of Water as soon as I had finished reading! Just be aware that Earth is book 3 in the series, so there are a couple references to the other characters you might not understand. But! It totally works as a standalone. I can’t wait to see where these girls are going!

Next, my least favorite book of summer: A Brush with the Moon by Raquel Lyon

First off, the good. It has a stunning new cover! Seriously, gorgeous. The other great thing about this one, and the reason I was so looking forward to it, was the concept. Instead of the usual paranormal or urban fantasy tropes, this one had a twist: the main character became a fox shifter, and one chosen by a goddess at that. But despite the promising concept, it fell flat for me. I didn’t find it exciting and the writing style and I didn’t get along. Ultimately, I did not even finish reading this one. I’ll just keep writing my own story about fox shifters…

Honorable mentions:

Other summer reads of 2017:

Just a note: just because I didn’t list a book as a favorite or honorable mention does not mean I didn’t enjoy it, and just because I didn’t enjoy something doesn’t mean it is a terrible book to everyone! Read what you want to read and have fun with it! Don’t let my opinion sway you from loving something or hating something.

Your turn: what books did you read this summer? Which ones were your favorites (or least favorites)? Tell me in the comments!

Now, I have a lot more books to catch up on this fall. So if you’ll excuse me…

Reading Like a Writer

Time to read Stephen King.pngWriters are quite often first and foremost avid readers. Many of us grew up carrying a book (and a spare or two) everywhere we went, regardless of whether we would actually have to time to read it. This immersion in the fictional worlds we craved perhaps led us to create our own fictional worlds, to fill voids that no book in existence could fill. And so we became writers to create those books.

But even as writers, we are still readers. And we should be. How can we possibly write well if we do not continue to immerse ourselves in the worlds of books? But while our love for reading has not changed, perhaps our style should. Now the question becomes how to read as a writer.

In general, reading like a writer means examining other authors’ writing so that you can apply their knowledge of the craft to your own writing, thereby improving it. The focus isn’t on the story itself or the content or message. It is on the actual construction of the story from a wide (story structure) to a narrow (sentence structure and word choice) level. You read to learn how to write. How do we actually go about doing this? Here are five simple ways to read like a writer.

  1. Read outside your genre. Writers often start by mimicking the styles, settings, and characters of our favorite authors. But the true key to becoming a writer is to grow past this stage, to find our own characters, our own voice. One of the best ways to do this is to keep on reading everything. And I mean everything. Don’t just stick with stories within your preferred genre of writing. For example, I write mainly fantasy, and while I read an obscene amount of fantasy, I also read nonfiction, historical fiction, science fiction, contemporary, children’s books, and anything else that can hold my interest. I learn so many new things and glean so many ideas from these books that I never would have encountered had I not read outside my genre.
  2. Read inside your genre. It is important to also keep up to date on the new releases in your preferred genre. Even if you don’t read all of the new books that are released, have some idea of what is out there, what publishers are buying, and what readers are consuming. This will help you to compare your book to similar books when it’s time to query (many agents prefer that you use comparison titles released within the last couple of years) and understand how your book might fit into the current market. How do you keep up to date on this? Follow people. Follow everyone. But on social media… don’t actually stalk people. Look for publishers, agents, authors, and book reviewers on any social media outlet, including (but not limited to) Twitter, Tumblr, WordPress, Instagram, and Facebook. Make yourself an attractive author when it’s time to market your story by knowing as much as you can about industry trends.
  3. Re-read. The idea behind this is to choose a story that you want to use as a model for your own work, to re-read it and actively observe the pattern of the plot and development of the story. Since you’ve read the story before, you know ultimately where it is going and can sit back and pay attention to the details in between. Another personal example is when I was preparing to begin my current WIP, Foxfire. I wanted to write urban fantasy, but I wasn’t sure how to structure it. I re-read some of my favorite stories within the genre, writers who are well-known and well-received (Patricia Briggs and Anne Bishop), and worked from there.
  4. Take notes. Now, I don’t care if this is directly in your book or on a notepad you keep with you while reading. But the point is to specifically notate the story with your own questions, comments, and observations as you read. This makes you an active reader (like active listening). Even if you don’t write it down, pay attention to your own thoughts and experiences as you read.
  5. Take it all in. Examine the details of what you’re reading, how each scene was composed and how it fits into the overall story. Notice the development of the characters and how the story changes them. Follow the plot arc and how each important point is achieved. Map it out, if that helps.

Now, there are plenty more resources out there for learning how to read like a writer. Writer’s Digest offers a variety of resources on writing and publishing, including on this topic. However, the biggest piece of work I would recommend today is Mike Bunn’s “How to Read Like a Writer.” He gives some interesting background and explanation in more detail than the tips I share above.

Now go forth and read books!

Personal Legends and the Writer’s Journey

I recently (finally) got around to reading Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist. And let me tell you. Wow. I really truly believe that this is the book to read for anyone with a dream. And don’t worry, this post will be spoiler-free!

Coelho spends  a lot of time in this story discussing the idea of the Personal Legend. This is a person’s one true purpose in life, that one task or livelihood or ultimate goal that drives a person. In the story, the universe will work together to help a person achieve their personal legend… but only if they are actively working toward it and don’t push it off until you miss your opportunity. We also meet and hear about various people who had a Personal Legend and put it off until they simply fell into a pattern of complacency, forgetting their one true dream.

How true is this for us? When we are young, we dream big and imagine meeting our goals and dreams, never questioning that we will reach them. As we get older, reality hits us, and we often let our dreams falter under the pressure of demands like work, family, school, and everything else that can so easily take up all our time, energy, and money. We become those complacent people who give up or forget what our dreams are, what our true purpose is. We so often let ourselves be defeated by life.

I think anyone who had a childhood dream (which is everyone) should take a few hours and read this book. It’s short, but its ideas are eternal. Take a few minutes and remember what your dreams are. Rediscover your Personal Legend. Figure out how you can make real strides toward it, whether it’s taking a class, dedicating ten minutes a day to pursuing it, doing some internet searches, or making some big changes in your life.

Keep yourself moving forward, whether you are succeeding or failing (because really, those terms just describe how you look at it… even failures can be successes and steps in the right direction. Watch Disney’s Meet the Robinsons for some good inspiration there). Just keep taking steps in that direction. The speed doesn’t matter as long as you are moving.

Whatever you do, fight complacency. Fight the drudgery of reality. Follow your Personal Legend.

So, it’s your turn. What are your Personal Legends? What has kept you from pursuing them? How can you change that? Tell me in the comments below!

Words Save Our Lives, Sometimes

-Neil Gaiman (title quote)

“Books have a funny way of finding you when you need them the most.”
-Jon Acuff (3 reasons to give someone a book this Christmas)

It never ceases to amaze me how, sometimes, you can find exactly the book you need at exactly the right time. Personally, I believe that has something to do with God speaking to me. But I have yet to meet a reader who hasn’t experienced this deep and astonishing connection to a pile of ink and paper.

One of my most recent encounters with this kind of situation was with Rainbow Rowell’s book Fangirl. I had heard so many things about that book, mostly good, and for a couple of months I wanted nothing more than to read it.

Well, I finally got it in August of 2014. And I read it. And I read it again within two weeks. And then I loaned it to a friend and obsessed over reading it again as soon as I got it back.

There was just something about Cath, about the story itself, that connected with me. Cath is like me in many ways. A writer. Somewhat lacking in self-confidence. Going through a time of great personal change and questioning. Learning how to be on her own. The story went through some major ups and downs, so much like my own life.

And in the end, Cath found her voice. She found what made her happy. She took a step out into the world as a new version of herself.

And I loved it so much that I am still obsessed with the book a year and a half later.

You see, Fangirl was exactly the story I needed at the time I read it. It pulled me in, heart and soul, it gave me anxiety, it made me cry, but, most importantly, it gave me hope about my own life, that things would be okay. It left me with that warm fuzzy feeling of well-being. So much so that merely holding the book was encouraging to me.

Now, isn’t that what every writer wants? To affect their readers in such dramatic ways that they can look and say, “Yes, that book saved my life. I read it right when I needed it most.”

I think that if we, as writers, focus on the things that matter to us, if we honestly use our experiences and voices to craft our stories, if we don’t run away and hide the demons lurking inside every human, then we can truly create those kinds of stories. Yes, it can be gut-wrenching and embarrassing to bare those parts of our souls. But without that, all we have is a flat piece of writing that someone will read and forget, if they even finish it. If they even pick it up in the first place.

So what about you? What books have truly impacted you in such a way? How do you use your own experiences in your writing to make an impact on the reader?

Publishing in Installments? What?

So, I recently came across a really interesting book by an author I hadn’t read before. And I loved the book. It was original. It was beautiful. It was unique. It played to parts of me that don’t get nearly enough attention (my music). I loved it.

Except for one thing.

It seems that this author is dividing his books into parts (like, not just multiple books in a series, but stopping partway through as a “Part One”) with no indication of when the next part will be released.

This bothers me.

This bothers me because now I started a story I love and I don’t know when, or if, I will be able to finish it.

It bothers me because, instead of writing the story he wants to because he loves it, he is writing a whole slew of stories in installments and waiting for readers to tell him what they like and don’t like… presumably so he knows which stories to kill and which to continue.

It bothers me because now I may never know where the story is going because I don’t know when he’ll get around to continuing this one again, in the middle of his at least 5 other “Part One”s.

It bothers me because it feels unfair. Because it feels like the author is not being true to himself and his stories. Because it feels like I’m being cheated by someone more concerned with pleasing a crowd of unknowns than pleasing his own inner storyteller.

Why is this a problem? Because if you can’t love your story simply because it is the story you have to tell, and not because other people love it, than how can you expect to be seen as a confident writer? How can you expect people to fall in love with stories when you are so unsure about them yourself that you won’t finish them before getting input?

I mean, beta readers are one thing. But literally these books are being sold on Amazon as Part One of a story (I got them because I bought them on a day they were free… I don’t think I’d pay for an incomplete story, even if it was only 99 cents).

Am I completely crazy for thinking this? Have you ever encountered such a publishing method before, outside of serials?