I am Still a Student

Sorry to say, I am still a student, and in between my responsibilities, I will need to let this blog sit here for a while without any love. However, when I do return to blogging in a week or two, expect some major updates on the novel that I'm publishing! For now, my main job and priority is being a college student, so that's what I'm going to throw my focus on.
Thanks for the support, and I will be back very soon!

Truth Thursday: It's Hard to Focus

When I say it's hard to focus, I mean it in two different ways. For one, it's hard to concentrate when actually writing material. For another, it's hard to focus on just one project. There's always so much to work on and so much to do.

At the beginning of the year, I was working on editing Second Chance, which must have worked, because now it's getting published. I have also been working on its companion novel, Impact. But I got distracted and continued some work on a project I started in 2012 temporarily titled Redemption, not to mention editing a novel I finished in 2012 titled Chains, rewriting a novel I finished writing in middle school titled Solid Ground, and writing the sequel to a novel I finished in 2011 titled Transparent.

As one might imagine, by trying to focus on all of these things, I've gotten none of them done. Impact should be a bigger priority because it's the companion novel to something that's getting published very soon. But I'm being pulled in so many directions because I don't want to lose my ability to create new material, and I don't want to lose my ability to edit well. I want to exercise all parts of my brain, but it's very difficult to juggle. I don't exactly like carrying around 2 binders and 3 notebooks everywhere I go. For one, it's heavy to do so, and for another, it's difficult to actually get something completed due to this problem.

So what did I do? I didn't write for a little bit because even though I love writing, it really can become a stressful activity sometimes. I dipped my toes back in the water this week editing Chains during some down time and writing a little more of Solid Ground. Taking breaks from editing usually isn't a big problem, but taking a break from writing or rewriting something is, especially when a huge chunk of material has already been written. When the motivation to write comes, first I reread everything I've already written to make sure I don't write any inconsistencies or double-up on similar events. But by the time I do that, sometimes I've run out of steam to actually write the piece. This is incredibly frustrating and is holding me back from finishing manuscripts. So what is a girl to do?

To be honest, I haven't figured that out yet. But I thought I would mention this is a problem because I know many other authors have to deal with it as well. So, how truthful is this post? Do you deal with similar situations when you write, or have you heard of writer friends who have the same issues?

Wacky Wednesday: Character Outline 1

Sometimes I use character outlines when I've already created a character so I will remember information about him or her a year or two after I've abandoned a project, and don't have to read through the entire thing before I realize I made a mistake. For example, once I wrote a lifeguard character who said he couldn't swim. Fortunately, it was a quick fix, but character charts can help avoid mistakes like this.

Every character chart is different, and some people like to use different ones. This is just one of many options to use, and I encourage you give it a shot! Click here to go to the original post, and happy writing!

Toolbox Tuesday: Query vs. Synopsis

Having had to write several queries and synopses over the course of the last year, I've discovered that there are differences and similarities between queries and synopses. Some information will overlap between the two, but they are two distinct, dreaded but necessary pieces that need to be constructed. How are they similar yet different, you might ask?

-Needs to be hooking, similar to a book blurb
-Do not give away the ending. It's one of the advantages you have if you write a really good query. It makes the agent and/or publisher even more interested in reading your work and possibly representing it.
-Need to mention word count, genre, etc.
-Include information about yourself. If you write under a pen name, be sure to state that. Some places might want a phone number and/or email at the bottom of your query. I would recommend putting this information so the agent and/or publisher can easily contact you.

-This is a summary. It can come across a little dry if need be, as long as it encompasses the story.
-You have to give away the ending. Sorry to disappoint, but this is what a synopsis is for. It will be difficult, but you'll have to give away that surprise you spend thirty thousand words trying to hide.
-Spend all the space you have packing in as much relevant information as possible. The query will take care of the word count, genre, etc. information.
-Once again, this is a summary, and all you are putting in the summary is information about your book, nothing about you.

Music Monday: Dragging Out My Old Music

I used to write songs fairly often, and even recorded them on occasion. Sometimes people really like a song with deep lyrics, or just some lyrical instrumental music. I started a series of lyrical instrumental music a while back and thought I would share a piece I wrote called Conflicted.

Does the title spark some interest to you? Maybe the piece itself? Yes, it's on the short side, but that doesn't mean something can't come out of it.

Let me know your thoughts below!

Truth Thursday: My Return to Poetry

There were times in my life where life was darker and duller, and it was easier to write poetry. Poetry as a means of expressing the depths of my soul and the truth beneath the surface used to be a primary means of expressing myself. But life got better, I made friends, and I stopped writing so much because social life does take time. Not that I'm complaining. I really enjoy being around my friends, and they teach me a lot about how to write about people without even knowing that they are. But it does make it hard to write about the dark things I so enjoy exploring and trying to understand, despite not having fallen too far into darkness myself.

Recent events have prompted me to begin a new project, which I have entitled Fragments. (Click here to read it). And honestly, I have found myself in a dilemma. When things get difficult and life is hard, my writing is better, and that naturally makes the writer in me very happy. But at the same time, I'm trying to understand what it means to use my writing to bring more happiness to the world, because let's face it, there's enough sad poetry in the world as it is.

So since it's Truth Thursday, I will be honest. It's been a hard last few days for me, and poetry has helped alleviate a lot of the pain, as well as many other factors. Maybe I need to stop pressuring myself to write and allow myself to use this difficult moments to produce something that will connect with people. Maybe I need to be less negative. I'm not sure what it is that would be wisest right now, but simply realizing a problem exists in the first place seems like a good step to me.

It may be a while before I resolve this discrepancy between what it means to be happy and what it means to be successful as a writer, but I trust it will be interesting as I grow as a writer and a person. Expect updates about this some time in the near future, I hope.

Wacky Wednesday: OneWord Prompts

As a writer, I know I often run out of things to write about despite the folder of at least a hundred plot bunnies that I have. There are also days when I really want to write something, but I don't have a lot of time to do it. Usually, I have at least one spare moment, and that's when OneWord is a really great resource.

Upon entering the site, you can choose to write about the prompt that will appear if you click the "go" button. You have sixty seconds to write about whatever is inspired by that word. If you choose to create an account, you can store all your prompts on it, and after writing your prompt, you even have the opportunity to read what others have written. It's really a great resource for when there isn't a lot of time but you're still itching to write anyway.

Here is a sample from what I wrote in sixty seconds based on the word "walls":

Walls. We build them to protect ourselves. To hide behind them. To make sure no one sees who we really are. We are afraid that if the walls fall, then everything will shatter.
Why are we so afraid to show who we are? To let the walls fall down? To be authentic. To be real. To stop hiding behind facades, but to really be the people we really are? Why do we find it easier to be fake? To lie to ourselves, instead of telling the truth and showing the truth?

Obviously, it's not perfect, and what someone writes in sixty seconds usually isn't. But it can be the start to something. It can be a character's journal entry, or poetry, or a short story. In short, prompts are a really wonderful resource to challenge yourself and think outside the box, so I highly recommend this resource as a way to jog your brain.

Visit OneWord by clicking on this link!

Toolbox Tuesday: Wedding Rehearsal Facts

I was fortunate enough to be asked to play at a wedding this weekend, which was a ton of fun. It's been a while since I've gotten to play the violin and piano (which was unexpected), and I even got to play the viola because otherwise it would have been three violinists and a cellist, which is a huge imbalance of sound. Not everyone gets the chance to be part of a wedding rehearsal, but since I got the opportunity to be, I thought I would talk a bit about what happened at the wedding rehearsal I was at in order to help you guys should you choose to write wedding scenes.

Wedding rehearsals typically happen the night before a wedding. In this case, it was a Friday night before a Saturday morning wedding. There were two run-throughs: one with the pastor talking and telling us all the steps we would complete, and the second was meant as more of a dress rehearsal. People dress casually for this rehearsal, and should there be another rehearsal Saturday morning, the bride will not participate, as it is custom to not see the bride before she walks down the aisle on the wedding day unless you're helping her get ready.

At the wedding rehearsal I was at, the groomsmen came in first, then the mothers, who (at the rehearsal) will pretend to light respective candles before sitting in the front row. The groom also makes his entrance, followed by the bridesmaids and then the bride with whoever is giving her away.

From the perspective of a wedding musician, I was blocked from seeing most of what was happening during the ceremony itself (to my frustration, I didn't get to see them seal their marriage with a kiss), and it was really difficult to see anyone in the audience because I was in the middle of the quartet. Positioning is important for the musician who is playing, as it will determine how much they can see. I would advise not trying to write a wedding musician without talking to a musician first. Should you choose to do this, ask about instrumentation, what chair placement means, and about things that can go wrong, because many things can.

Finally, the focus of the rehearsal was on timing. It was important to know when to come in and when to leave. At the end of the ceremony, the bride and groom leave first, followed by the best man and the maid of honor. Then each of the bridesmaids and groomsmen will pair up and leave, followed by dismissal of the audience.

This was a very cursory glance at what happened at the wedding rehearsal I attended. In the future, I may write more based on having more experience with this.

Have you had any experiences with weddings that you would like to share, either actual ceremonies or rehearsals? Please feel free to share!

Music Monday: Promptly Prompting Prompts

Sorry for the puns and alliteration, but I was hoping it would grab your attention. Now that I have it, how about attempting to write about some of these prompts?

1. Stay away from me, I need you too badly. (Stay Away - Secondhand Serenade)
2. I tried to be perfect, tried to be honest, tried to be everything you ever wanted... tried to be everything but you. (Everything You Ever Wanted - Hawk Nelson)
3. Now we've lost it all, and we can't go back, I'm sorry, I can't be perfect. (Perfect - Simple Plan)

Enjoy, and remember, if you write something based on one of these prompts, please let me know!

Fun Friday: Grammar Help

*I do not own the images. Original post is here.

One of my biggest pet peeves is when people don't know the difference between spellings and usages of certain words. With most people, I can tolerate a mistake or two, but in published material and among my writer friends, I expect better.

Since I'm too lazy to continuously come up with ways to explain these things to people, I am going to borrow from a comic published by The Oatmeal.

These are just four of the graphics they made to illustrate the point, but it makes itself pretty clear. If you don't know the answer to something, just look it up! There is more to the internet than games and Facebook.

What has your experience with grammar been? Share the fun and joy below!

Truth Thursday: Going Along the Publishing Road

The road to publication has been an interesting one for me. When writer friends heard that I was preparing to query my novels fall of 2013, I was told that I should prepare myself for a pile of rejection letters. Just as they told me, as I sent out query letters, the rejection letters rolled in. But my experience with rejection letters was very interesting, and from what I've heard, it was unusual.

There are rumors that say that rejection letters are brutal and impersonal. In my experience, agents do read through queries and sample chapters. There is no reason for them to be personal in their rejection letters with the hundreds of queries they receive a week, sometimes even in a day. Yet I received rejection letters such as the following:

"Thanks for sending along the pages of your manuscript, 'Facades'Truth be told, though, I'm afraid these pages just didn't draw me in as much as I had hoped. I'm pressed for time these days and, what with my reservations about the project, I suspect I wouldn't be the best fit. Thanks so much for contacting me and for giving me this opportunity. It's much appreciated, and I'm sorry to be passing. I wish you the very best of luck in your search for representation."

Wacky Wednesday: A Helpful Article - Synopses

Oh, the dreaded synopsis! But so very often, they need to be written. When I got requests from #Pitmad for queries and synopses, I usually had my queries prepared, but had been hoping against hope that my synopsis would not be necessary. (Actually, having a synopsis wasn't necessary to finding my publishing company - but that doesn't lesson the importance of knowing how to write on and having one prepared!) While panicking and running around in circles, a writer friend sent a link to this article my way, and I was able to calm down and actually get somewhere.

To not bore you by repeating what is in the article, I will simply link you to it! It is very clear, concise, and to the point, just like a synopsis should be, so check it out!

Toolbox Tuesday: An Overview of the Editing Process

If you've been writing for a reasonable amount of time, you probably know that most first drafts, with the very rare exception, are not ready to be tossed into the public eye immediately upon completion. The road to a complete manuscript is a long, arduous process. So how does a manuscript go from first draft to spit-shiny and ready for publication?

The following is a very broad, minimal skeleton I follow when I edit. I edit in at least two phases with each novel.

Music Monday: The Return of the Prompts

Now that you've seen an example of how to go about using these Monday prompts, how about I give you a few more?

1) It gets harder everyday, and I love you more than I did before. (Stay - Miley Cyrus)
2) My heart is so jet lagged. (Jet Lag - Simple Plan)
3) Today, you walked out of my life. Today, your words felt like a knife. (Like a Knife - Secondhand Serenade)

Write away right away! It takes five minutes! Give me your stories of what happens with these prompts!

Fun Friday: Comic by Grant Snider

I do not own this comic! However, I happen to think it's hilarious, so enjoy. (I think my favorite one is the ghost writing one.)

Truth Thursday: The Horrors and Joys of Reading Your Old Stuff

Sometimes, I dig out pieces of my old writing. Usually, I instantly regret it, for obvious reasons. But there are things to be learned from burning out my own eyeballs with my own writing, which I will share.

  • I could dwell on how awful my writing used to be, how shallow my characters were and how flat everything sounded. Or I can compare it to how I write now, smile, laugh, and move on. Without writing like I did before, I would never be able to write like I do now. I finished writing 40 first drafts of novels, and it's my 40th novel that's getting published. So lesson is, try, try, and try again, and after using a fistful of pens, you'll probably get somewhere.
  • People's opinions are valuable. I grew most when I had feedback from people so I knew what I was doing wrong and what I needed to fix. Now I remember what people said, especially if multiple people said the same thing about the same piece, and make those mistakes much less often. It shows because my writing now flows so much better.

Wacky Wednesday: Edit Minion

Edit Minion is a resource for cleaning up writing in terms of looking for repeated words, phrases, and even things that may come off as cliche. For example, I asked Edit Minion to help clean up the first chapter of my novel, Facades, and received this screenshot.

(Yes, "toilet" made it onto the list.)

As needed, the user can ask Edit Minion to look for certain things such as possible homonym issues, passive voice, adverbs, weak words, etc. An example of what that looks like in my own writing is below.

Personally, I find the color coding really helpful, and I'm definitely going to be using Edit Minion for final cleaning up before publication! I definitely recommend it. It's a wonderful resource. Nothing is saved on the website, so it's safe for use without copyright infringement worries!

And, as proof that I have improved as a writer, I dug out some writing from when I was 13 and stuck it into Edit Minion. Excuse me while I cringe.

I would say that Edit Minion accurately reflects how much I've put into a project and refined it, so why not use it to your own advantage? It'll really clean up your work, and you'll feel happier once you play around with it as well.

Happy writing, everyone!

Toolbox Tuesday: Writer's Block

*Adapted from when I guest posted on my friend's blog a few years ago.

-Title trouble: Where you want to name your project, but you just don’t know how!

Tip #1:
Try not to use a character’s name in the title. Part of the fun in opening up a book is figuring out the main character’s name! What’s the fun in that if you give it straight up? (This is not to say that it's wrong to use the main character's name in a title once in a while, but it's best to not have it in the title every time. If the character's name is going to go into the title, at least make sure the name doesn't stand alone, so it will stand out from other characters with the same name.) For example, I have a project titled Dear Eric. It tells the reader Eric is a character (actually not the main character), but not much else. That may spark some people's interest, or it may not. (I feel like the project could have a better title, but seeing as I haven't come up with one, it'll stay as it is for now.)

Tip #2:
If you don’t have a title in mind and you think you absolutely have to have one, guess what? You don’t. Keep writing. A title might restrict your writing to narrow-mindedly follow certain ideas. Write as much as you can before naming a project, or just give it a temporary one. Sometimes, you may like it enough to make it your actual one.

-General writer’s block trouble: Where you need to finish the story, but you don’t know how to.

Tip #1:
Read everything you’ve written so far. Thoroughly read it and refresh yourself of what has already been established. Move forward from there.

Tip #2:
If that doesn’t work, maybe one of your characters is causing a problem because you don’t know enough about him/her yet. Fill out a character chart for him/her. There are lots of them out there! Force yourself to fill out every single blank. Don’t hesitate. If you don’t know the answer, make one up. If you really have to, change it later. But if you can, fill the chart out and stick to it.

Tip #3:
This is actually the best one. Get in the shower. Forget everything else. Just take a nice, hot, long shower. Showers are the best places to come up with ideas. Usually, this is a great way to figure out how to continue with rising action, climax, and falling action business. If anything, it gives you a break and allows you time to think and release some stress, so it won’t harm you in any way to try this.

Tip #4:
Sometimes what you really need to cure writer’s block is a break from that particular project. Maybe not from writing itself, but sometimes it’s best to leave a story alone for a while. It could be a day, a week, a month, or even six months. It all depends on the story itself. Trust yourself to finish it eventually. Leave it somewhere where you’ll still see it once in a while, but don’t touch it. You might be surprised what you go through during that time and subconscious ideas that may come to you.

Tip #5:
Save this for last resort. If you really have absolutely no clue whatsoever as to what to do, find someone you trust and ask him/her to read everything you have so far and give you their opinion on what you should do next. Then find several other people and do the same. Maybe they’ll suggest something you like, maybe they won’t. But if they don’t suggest something you like, this might be a good time to figure out where you really want to go and to go with it.

In all honesty, no one can tell you how to write your story. Everyone has their own ways to overcome writer’s block. These are just little things you can do instead of throwing everything in the trash can like every writer wants to sometimes. Save everything, even the junk. You may get to use it someday!