Top 5 Favorite Films

Since I was a kid, watching movies has been a large part of my life. I’ve wanted to act and direct and write ever since first understanding that it was someone’s job to make films. I watch films of any genre, independently made or major wide-releases, animated or live-action, comedy or drama—I don’t have a “type” of movie I like watching, I love everything. And because of that, my Top Five Favorite Films are just as varied:

Another Earth

A few years ago, I heard of the film Another Earth and later watched the trailer, falling in love before even watching the entire thing. It’s the film I give as an answer to the question “What’s your favorite movie?” Another Earth is a thought-provoking independent science fiction film co-written by Mike Cahill and Brit Marling (who also both directed and starred, respectively) about a woman in her twenties who is released from prison after a drunk driving accident when she was seventeen, which happened on the same night a discovery of a twin Earth was revealed. I instantly became a fan of Brit Marling (she’s seriously awesome) and, as an aspiring filmmaker, Another Earth inspired me more than anything I’d seen before.

Frances Ha

This film is actually a recent find—like, this past month. I’d heard of Frances Ha many times, especially when Greta Gerwig had been nominated for a Golden Globe for it, and always planned to eventually see it. I’m glad I waited. Had I seen this film at any other time, I don’t think it would have spoken to me as it did, I don’t think I would’ve related to Frances as I did at this point in my life. I’m not a dancer and I’m not currently in an apartment hopping phase, but the feel of the film, the arc of France’s character, her maturing, her living her dream, her life during a time of change, is exactly what I feel right now. And because of that, watching at the right time, it will be a favorite for life.

Atonement

Atonement has been my favorite film since high school. Before I saw Another Earth, this is what I’d say is my favorite when asked. It’s beautiful and heartbreaking and brilliantly acted—it’s where my love of the young actress Saoirse Ronan first began. I also saw a lot of myself in her character, Briony, as we’re both writers and the worlds of reality and fantasy often blurred—though I have never sent anyone away to prison, I had certainly lied frequently and made up stories as a kid in a similar way. The musical score is still one of my favorite aspects of the film, one of my favorite scores of all time, and I still often listen to some of the tracks, especially when writing.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a dark, thriller, mystery film with an incredible performance by Rooney Mara. I love the aesthetic of the film, the direction by David Fincher, the score (my actual favorite score) by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, everything. The whole film is just cool, it’s dark and intense—there’s a certain scene, however, that I’ve only watched once, the first time I saw the film, and can’t watch again as it’s just too difficult to sit through. I could watch The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo again and again, despite knowing all the twists, and not get bored.

The Incredibles

To be honest, if you don’t have an animated film as one of your top favorite movies, I don’t trust you as a person. Because not only is The Incredibles my favorite animated film, it’s one of my favorite films of all time. Ever since I was young, I wanted to have special powers—which often pops up in my own writing—and so I love most superhero and fantasy and magical fiction. The style of the film has a 60s vibe and the background story to the characters, how superheroes have to go into hiding, and the whole family with each unique power—it’s all just so good. The Incredibles is funny, brilliantly written, so unique, and I can’t wait to see the announced sequel.

My Writing Process

I have been writing consistently, with a goal toward being a published novelist, for almost ten years. I am in no way an expert, but I’ve written for long enough and have written enough books/stories to have developed a process of how I write, from the initial idea to typing up ‘The End.’ All writers have a process, and all of them are different, unique to the person. A process is developed over time, with many projects, and what works for one writer may not work for someone else. And not every project follows your usual process accordingly, I’ve written most stories starting with a concept (“I want to right a book about witches!”) but I’ve also written stories based on a single character idea, not knowing anything else, not knowing where to put them or what to do with them, and built the story from there. I’ve read and listened to many other writing processes and I thought I’d share my own here for fun.

The Well

Surprise! My writing process (and probably all writing processes) actually start before there’s even an idea. Before the muse inspires, before I can let out a creative breath, I first have to breathe it in. Just like you can’t breathe air out if there’s nothing in your lungs, you can’t create if there’s nothing in your creative well. That’s where inspiration comes from. That’s the muse. If I’m creatively blocked, it’s because my Well has gone dry. I need to experience – I need to read, I need to watch, I need to see, I need to hear, smell, touch, feel. So before anything, I’m constantly taking it all in – with every book, every film, painting, photograph – filling the well from which I can pluck out my favorite bits of everything I’ve ever experienced, scramble it around, spin it my way, and create something entirely new.

The Spark

Here’s where things get interesting. This is where the actual writing process of a story begins for me. Out of nowhere, whether I’m working on something else or searching for an idea, I’ll get a spark of inspiration from that well I’ve been filling. An eerie photograph, a scene in a film, a concept of a book, or a want to delve right in to a genre and do it my way. I’ve been inspired from a dress I’d seen in a magazine, a tree in the woods, an overheard conversation. I don’t plan these “sparks” of inspiration. I get them all the time.

“Oh, that scene between those two characters on Orphan Black would make an interesting dynamic for a pair of demon hunters.”

“That older woman walking by has such a cool coat, she looks like a retired spy…or is she retired…”

“Man, that new Star Wars trailer was good. I want to write an entire YA book series set in space.” (<— This was recent.)

These sparks of inspiration happen to me everyday, all the time. Some are fleeting thoughts, some make me excited enough to jot them down only to forget them or dislike them when read later, and some – very few – become something more.

The Worm

Now the next two stages sometimes don’t happen. Sometimes it goes straight from the Spark to the Flood. But a lot of the time, a single spark will stick with me for a long time. It worms its way in the center of my brain and stays there, poking its head through my thoughts every once in a while. “Hey remember this idea? That’s still a cool idea you should do it.” Often times, I’m working on another project so I let it stay there—mostly because all it does is remind me of that first spark, but nothing comes of it yet as it’s still just a tiny little thought of something that could be a fully formed idea. I keep thinking about that photograph I saw or that scene in a show but there’s no meat to it. No story, no actual idea…until, suddenly, there is.

The Flood

It usually hits like an explosion. One minute all is well with my brain and then I happen to think back on that worm that’s been swimming around my head for a while—BAM! The idea takes shape. I get a flood of characters, story, several scenes, bits of dialogue, the world starts growing. It’s the main bones of a story in my head that forms, the actual idea, much more than the spark. It all comes to me in waves—sometimes it’s an entire day, sometimes an entire week of writing things down, connecting the dots. I usually write a paragraph or two, a list of characters, of scenes, a bit of the world. Whatever comes to my head, I get it down on paper or type it up. And then, the flood is gone. I’ve written all I can for now. Sometimes, this is the end of the road. Usually this is as far as a story gets. I get the idea down and never get back to it—I might go back and revisit and find it’s something good or something terrible. But sometimes…

The Simmer

…I become obsessed. I can’t let it go. This is the stage where I think about everything that didn’t just “come to me” before. All the connective tissue starts forming over the bones of that first idea—it could last a month, a year, several years while working on other things. I’ll think back on the story, maybe think of a few more ideas on plot, character, world—I’ll write it down with the rest and continue to think. It can simmer for a long time—or not at all. Sometimes after the Flood, I have everything I need and I want to start right away, so I essentially skip this step—though the next one takes much longer without it.

The Outline

Next comes the outline. If I haven’t let the story simmer, this stage could take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. Usually, if I have, it takes about a week—maybe two. Now I write the outline in one of two ways. The first way: I write an outline, a list of short sentences (sometimes only a few words or, if I’ll know what I’m talking about, one word, like “Tunnel” or “Murder”) and string together the story that way—these end up usually as either scenes or chapters. These are easy to rearrange if I need and I can look at the story from a bird’s eye view in a very simple format (I use Scrivener sometimes for this, but more on that later). The second way: I write less of an outline and more of a summary. I write two to three paragraphs of everything that happens from beginning to end. This is what I do normally when I’ve skipped the “simmer” step, though not always.

After, I write the fully-formed outline. If I’d started the first way, I take that list and bulk it up to a paragraph per chapter with notes for what I want to add or specifically show. If I’d started the second way, I take that summary and break it down into the same thing, one paragraph per chapter with notes. It ends up looking like this:

Chapter 10
Here is what happens to the character in this chapter. Then the character makes a decision, which makes a secondary character feel something. The two characters discuss what had happened but it is clear that it will come up again later. Then, a twist! (Add in the subtle hint about an object that is possibly important.)

Chapter 11
More stuff happens and then…

Now, I’m not a “pantser,” as evidenced by the fact that I outline to begin with, but I’m even more of a Type A mega-planner. Depending on the story, I use charts and spreadsheets and a whole lot of outlining techniques. I have spreadsheets about the days of the week, weather in the scene, time of year, month, all things that I would write in the story so that I don’t accidentally make it a hot, perfect-for-swimming day when it’s supposed to be January—unless it’s in set in Australia. One of my favorite things to do, especially to make sure the pace of the plot if working well, I set up a chart using this technique written about by a favorite author of mine, Carrie Ryan:

Slide1

Depending on the story, I might add another column to create a five-act structure with a midpoint adjusted to be in the actual middle, which is sometimes needed, but mostly I use this as is. It has helped my plotting so much.

The Draft

After the outline is complete, the stars have aligned, I start the drafting process. Sometimes I start on Page 1 and sometimes I start in the middle of Chapter 21. Wherever the winds take me, I start—usually this is because one scene (often one of the first that I envisioned) is really vivid in my head and I’m excited about it. It’s also hard starting at the very beginning. Sometimes I feel like I’m going to die and never want to write another thing ever again because Chapter One followed by an empty void is terrifying. The first draft is the most inconsistent part of writing for me, time wise. I’ve written a first draft in two and a half months, three years, and even 30 days (NaNoWriMo). It’s never the same. The drafting stage is usually when I change a lot, too. And often times, the first draft is incredibly short—I’ve had a 90,000+ word final book started as a 59,000 word completed first draft. I just worry about getting all I need to get down on the page and worry about the rest later. With rewrites, I bulk up scenes, add more entirely new scenes, sometimes entirely new chapters (sometimes I cut a lot out, but there’s mostly adding). The first draft is my second favorite part (first favorite is outlining, when anything could happen) because it’s the easy part, the fun part. I’m just writing whatever I want without thinking about if it’s good or not—because it isn’t, it’s a first draft. I’ll fix it later, right now it’s time to enjoy the story and the characters and the world.

The Break

After the first draft, I take a break. I put the project away and never look at it and think about something else—usually this is a time for refilling my depleted well of creativity. I always make sure that there’s a break between the first draft and the rewriting process. Fresh eyes are best. This break between can last a long time—sometimes I wrote an entirely different first draft of a new story between finishing a draft and returning to it.

The Rewrite

And when I do return to it, I read it and weep. “Oh yeah,” I think. “First drafts suck. That’s right.” After crying about how terrible it is, I immediately get to work on the fixing. Starting with the major plot problems and subplots that don’t work in hindsight and eliminating characters, pulling all their threads out of the story, or adding characters and working them into it. Then I get into the small stuff, the chapter by chapter rewriting, then the scene by scene, paragraph by paragraph, sentence by sentence, word by word. I often open a second window or split the window (I love Scrivener a lot, y’all) and actually rewrite the entire thing while following along. Sometimes I just cut the bad, rewrite to make it better or delete it completely, and add some new. The rewriting is the hard stuff. It’s the work. It’s the reason I cry a lot. And then…

The Rewrite

I bet you’ve heard the phrase, “Writing is rewriting.” That’s why there’s two of this stage—there’s actually a lot of this stage. It takes a long time. It’s hard. It’s work. I cry a lot.

The End

After all the revising is done, I write “The End” on the bottom of the last page and sleep for a while. Then, I start all over again.

Bonus: The Where/When/How

Where: I write in several places. If it’s nice out, sometimes I’ll sit outside on my deck. Sometimes I sit at my desk. Sometimes in a car, the couch, a coffee shop, my bed, the bathroom (I’m not kidding), my other desk at work, the dining room table. Mostly, I sit on the couch with a laptop table and the dining room table—for some reason, I end up in those two places the most. The dining room table especially if I’m outlining—remember, I’m a mega-planner, so I have charts and maps all on paper all over the surface of the table.

When: In a perfect world, I’d write every day starting at 12pm and ending at 5pm, non-stop and perfectly with a Coke and some snacks on hand. But it’s not a perfect world, Coke is full of sugar, I have other jobs and responsibilities. But usually, I try to write in the afternoon (that’s when I write the best, I’ve found, and most excited to write) and sometimes I’m just drinking water or tea (thanks, diet plan). Because of all my other work I do, I have to carve out time when I can—which is usually in the afternoons on weekends like I love and at 8pm for only an hour on weekdays, which isn’t ideal, but I make it work.

How: I use a lot of the old staples, like a million notebooks and pencils and pens, but the one thing I absolutely need to write: Scrivener. It’s changed my life. It’s the best writing app for a computer ever. I don’t know how anyone can just use Word. Inside the file set up for your project, you have more text files with folders that can easily be rearranged. Sometimes I have a folder for each chapter with many text files inside for each scene, sometimes I just have a text file for each chapter. And the folders can go inside other folders so I can have several parts, chapters, scenes, separated however I want and all of it is still in one document one the “draft” view. It has a “composition mode” that helps eliminate distractions. It has a virtual cork board to help with outlining and brainstorming. It has everything. It is everything.

And that’s my writing process! Never exactly the same, never deviating too far from what I’ve explained. Again, it works for me, it may not work for everyone—and I love hearing about different processes, so I’ve read many that are similar to mine and some that are different. Like a “pantser”…I just don’t understand how they can do it so well without planning ahead. That’s some of the fun about talking to other writers—we all have our own way of doing it!

2017 Goals: Checking In

Three months have passed since the beginning of the new year, so a quarter of the year is over (how did that happen so quickly?) and I’ll be checking in on my goals I set for myself this year. Overall, I think I’m doing fairly well, though I could better with some. I have changed my goals a little (which I’ve posted about) and will go off of those.

Design & Illustration

I’ve been doing more illustration work lately, with a goal of sketching for a half hour daily (though it’s become almost every other day, when I can) and full illustrations once a week. I’m a bit behind on the full illustrations, I should have 14 done out of 52 but I’ve only done 9. However, I’m doing better and expanding my skills, which was the point, so I’m doing well here. I’ve also been working on more design projects, like a few prints, a calendar, and working on doing some screen printing, which is exciting. I haven’t done any freelance work or hand-lettering practice, but am working toward it still. Each month, I’ll be focusing on one goal more than the others, and plan to do this with hand-lettering. Overall, I think I’m heading in a good direction in this department.

Writing

Now, my writing goals changed significantly (as I wrote about here) and have changed my goals to writing one new draft, start revising it, finish the first draft of the book I did NaNoWriMo 2016 with, complete NaNoWriMo 2017, and continue working on the other books I’d been working on before, here and there. Still a lot, but I’ve already began the first draft of the new book. After realizing I need to schedule my goals a little, focusing more on one than the others in a month, I’ve planned for writing to be the focus in May—April is reading.

Reading

As I just said, my goal focus for the month of April is going to be reading. I’ve read one single book so far. Well, that’s not entirely true. I finished one book. Because I finished reading some of my 2016 reads in January (I read most of the Luminaries by Eleanor Catton in 2016, so counted it toward last year’s count, but it still took most of January to finish—it’s long, y’all) I haven’t had as much time as you’d think. So really, I started in February. And in the two months since, I’ve finished one book, but have started three—I’m still in the middle of all three, all long. It’s my own fault to starting out the year reading this way. But hopefully, I’ll be back on track by the end of April as it’s my goal to set aside a few of the other goals to spend more time reading (like sketching a few times a week instead of every day, pushing some time working on design projects, etc.).

Film: Import

I’m doing pretty well in watching films this year! I’ve watched ten films so far this year (though, sadly none in the theater yet) and have found a new favorite (Frances Ha). I’m halfway to 20 new films not in the theater, but still have seen none of the 5 I’ve set to see in a theater—though I have plans to see Alien: Covenant when it comes out, so I’m not too worried. And there are several other movies coming out later in the year that I’m more excited to see anyway.

Film: Export

I haven’t done any film projects as of yet, but again with the monthly focuses, I plan to do them during summer. However, I did accomplish something big! I wrote a short film. I didn’t think that I’d get it done so soon in the year, but I have, and I love it. It still needs a lot of work, especially because it’s my first finished screenplay, but I’m incredibly happy that I actually did it.

Exercise

I haven’t done a lot of exercising lately, but with my Fitbit, it’s been easier to keep track of eating and getting more steps, which has brought my activity up a little. But now that the snow has melted and it’s getting warmer, I’ve been walking in the morning more and more, and have been more focused the last two weeks to keeping it up.

Instagram

I have posted every day since the beginning of the year, almost 100 days in and still enjoying doing it. Though, I will say, sometimes I post for the sake of needing to post for the day, and not really stretching my photography skills with some of them—which was sort of the point. But I’m still doing it and hopefully will be able to focus more on taking quality photos and not just posting anything.

I think I’m doing well! There’s more that I need to do and focus on, but I think with focusing on something every month, I’ll be able to accomplish more. But so far, 2017 is going fine.

2017 Favorites: March

I usually write up a list of my favorites throughout the month, but I’d forgotten to do that in March. So when I went to write this post, I thought I’d have nothing to write up about—then I remembered all of these and had way more than I thought I did! It’s been a long, weird month that blurred into February in my memory a lot, so I was surprised that all of these things were in one month.

Green Light – Lorde

Lorde had new music out and it’s amazing. She’s one of my favorites and “Green Light” is a jam, a little different from her earlier work, but just as incredible. I, like many, have been listening to it all month on repeat.

Arrival

This is one of the best science fiction films I’ve ever watched and certainly the best alien movie I’ve ever seen—the only other favorite of mine that tops it, is Alien. I did not expect Arrival to be what it was. After hearing it was nominated for an Oscar for Best Picture, I was stunned—“Arrival? That alien movie with Amy Adams that I saw a commercial for that one time and never thought more about? Huh.” And then I watched it and I understood. Amy Adams is incredible—honestly should’ve been nominated for Best Actress, which I’m sure she was close to getting—and the screenplay is just perfect. The visuals, the sound, everything. The only problem I had was the score—though I loved it—often made it confusing to know what was meant to be music and what the characters were hearing. Otherwise, Arrival is an incredible film, as moving as it is mind-blowing.

Feud: Bette and Joan

My mother and I have a weird bond with film and television—we watch Bates Motel every week together (more on that later) and, speaking of Alien, it’s one of our shared favorite movies. Another favorite is Mommie Dearest, the story of Joan Crawford’s abuse toward her daughter…which we watch every Mother’s Day. We love old movies, old Hollywood stars, and especially the drama that happened at the time surrounding them. When we learned about Feud: Bette and Joan, we were all in. Following the infamous feud between actresses Bette Davis and Joan Crawford during and after the filming of What Ever Happened To Baby Jane? played by Susan Sarandon and Jessica Lange, the show is a lot of fun to watch. Though not without its faults, we watch it every week and can’t get enough.

Bates Motel

Did I mention my mom and I have weird taste of things to watch together? Like, Bates Motel is not the best show for a mother and son to watch together, yet here we are, five seasons in, having watched every episode. Season five of Bates Motel is the best yet. The performances by Freddie Highmore and Vera Farmiga are at a genius level, the writing is perfect, and the entire show has been an incredible ride. In the show, we’ve reached the point of overlapping with the story of Hitchcock’s Psycho which the show is a spin-off/quasi-prequel of, sharing characters and elements, though constantly diverging from the source material to keep it fresh: The show has a 60s style, though it’s a modern setting, and more recently, *SPOILER* the famous shower scene murder isn’t done to Marion Crane, played brilliantly by Rihanna, but her lover Sam Loomis, played by Austin Nichols. Speaking of, the shower scene was an incredible homage to the original, not a perfect shot-for-shot but an inspired, fresh take on it, with many shots being similar but not overly copied. Though the season isn’t over quite yet (most of it aired in March, which is why I’m mentioning it this month) it’s been the best season of the show yet.

A Conjuring of Light

The final book in the trilogy by my favorite author V.E. Schwab, A Conjuring of Light is so so so good. I’m not finished with it, but since I read most of the book in March, I’m adding it here. It’s such a great series and so far, this book is the perfect end to the trilogy.

Giving Bullet Journaling A Try

After a long while of reading about and watching videos on YouTube about them, I decided to give bullet journaling a chance. Most of all, because I love the idea, and it’s sort of something I’ve been doing already: list making, to do lists, scheduling, tracking. But I hadn’t done it all in one place before, all in one journal, which makes way more sense than having everything spread out in different notebooks, schedules, calendars, apps, and files on my computer.

However, I’m still sort of doing it that way. And I’m not really doing the bullet journal thing exactly how it’s “supposed” to be done. First, I still am using—and will likely continue to use?—my favorite to do list app, Wunderlist. Even if it doesn’t make much sense to use both a bullet journal and a to do list app, I’m still working out how they will work together—or maybe they won’t and I’ll choose one over the other. Second, I already bought a nice planner for the year in January and am unwilling to let it go unused, so until December, I’ll be using it as my “monthly log” and carry it along with my bullet journal (I bought them together (not planning to use the notebook as a bullet journal at the time) and they’re both gold, so they look nice together anyway).

Everything else, I’ll be doing fairly close to what a bullet journal is supposed to be. Like the yearly plan, goals, trackers, and the index (which is brilliant, part of why I love this concept and wanted to do it) but won’t be worried about a key (though I have it in the journal, just not really using it so far). I have been doing a weekly/daily to do list and planning on a spread each week and have enjoyed it. The weekly page has been useful for reminders about what I have to do that week, or notes to remember for work, but the daily hasn’t been working quite right just yet since I already do this with Wunderlist. Now, there are things that I do every single day, or every week, and I don’t want to write this out every week or day when I can program Wunderlist to do it for me. But sometimes, things come up during the day and I don’t want to make a new to do on Wunderlist. Possibly this is where I could converge them? Daily, weekly things could go on Wunderlist and random events written on the daily list? Possibly. I know that I’ll be working with this for a while, figuring out what works best. I know for one thing, I dislike the “migration” thing. I’ll stick to crossing things off and moving them, I don’t need a special symbol. For now, I haven’t really filled in my yearly log yet, but that will change as soon as I can start switching over from my other ways of scheduling.

My pages aren’t particularly beautiful. I have messy handwriting and I’m not worried about the kind of bullet journal you see on Pinterest. I’m more practical with it—I still get a little nicer with the yearly log, use different colors to specify things once in a while, but for the most part, it’s pretty minimal and practical—though I do occasionally doodle in it. I also hate the book I chose. The pages are far too thin and the lines make it difficult. I’d prefer the dotted pages with a thicker paper, however I didn’t want to buy another notebook (I mean, I have a notebook obsession, so I would have) but I’m trying to save my money where I can, and a special expensive notebook wasn’t worth it, especially when we’re almost to April already. If I continue on with bullet journaling into 2018, I’ll buy the good one.

Some highlights: I have a file (using the writing program Scrivener) which allows me to have separate texts and folders within the file (seriously, I love Scrivener so much, not just for novel writing) and I use it for all blog post writing (I’m using it now) and my reading list and planning for things in the future. With a bullet journal, I’ve been able to plan blog posts more easily (and even tick off when they’re written, when the featured image is created, when they’re posted) and I much prefer it this way. I also like tracking my fitness and weight, what I’ve been reading, and what films I’ve watched (all parts of my 2017 goals) and its been a lot easier to view everything more quickly and keep track of them.

Overall, though only having been using it for less that a month, I enjoy the (amended) bullet journal system and will continue to use it to figure out what’s working and what’s not.

Art + Design: Favorites

Since the last time I posted about my recent art and design favorites, I’ve stumbled upon more – as I often do thanks to Pinterest and Tumblr. There’s a mix of new album art of songs that I’ve bought, some art and design finds from scrolling through Pinterest, and some newly discovered books with incredible covers. Here they are:

Album + Single Art

Illustration + Miscellaneous Design

Book Cover Design

Note: the cover of A Conjuring of Light, the final book in one of my favorite trilogies by my favorite author VE Schwab, is A+ and matches perfectly with the others, which I love— they’re my favorite covers of all time.

Let’s Call It Book E – Writing Update

Over the last two months of the new year, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about my writing. I set out this year with a goal in mind and it has already changed. Partly because of weeks and weeks of thought and partly because of a post by Morgan York that solidified my feelings on what I should be writing and what I should focus on to become a published author.

I’ve been writing several projects since I first started taking writing seriously. The first book I ever wrote and finished the first draft of (but definitely not the first book I ever started) is the first in a series of eight books (let’s call it Book A and Series 1). The second book I wrote, was a standalone (Book B). The following, the first book in a series of five (Book C and Series 2). And then, another standalone (though not quite finished) (Book D). My plan has been to work on both Book A and Book C and whichever I deemed the strongest, I would query with. (Book B is terrible, and I think I’ll be shelving it forever, and Book D is the book I won NaNoWriMo and want to finish writing this year, just on the side when I feel stuck on the others, a thing I do often. It’s actually how Book B and Book C were written in the first place, as side projects I worked on when I was stuck on Book A.)

For a while now, I’ve been thinking that trying to query the first book in a series is a bad idea. Almost every author and agent and editor that spreads their knowledge on the internet says it’s better to start with a standalone, but I’ve been stubborn, too attached to the story and characters, too attached to the idea that Book A, and Series 1, would be my first books published. And it didn’t really sink in until I read Morgan’s post, even though I’ve known it for years.

For many reasons, I’ve decided to move on. First, there’s the fact that Book A is going to need a lot more work. As it was the first book I wrote (started in high school and finished in college) it’s not the best. But I have a soft spot for it, it’s my passion project. I’ve rewritten it several times over the years, trying to get it just right, and last fall I realized the major problems with it—which means another rewrite, a realization that came partway through a different rewrite. It’s a mess. I still love the series, I still love the world, but I know it’s just not right. Second, as Morgan states in her post, it’s super hard getting a series published and it’s a lot of work once it is. (Though, I never wrote the sequels of said books, having previous advice to just focus on the first one and try to get that one published first. But it’s hard selling books as a series, especially as a first time author.)

After reading Morgan’s post (and eerily similar writing histories, especially because we’re almost the same age) I realized that maybe the universe wasn’t allowing my books to work quite right because I should be focusing on something else. So I decided to move on from Book A and Book C, shelve both series and work on something new—not just revamping Book B or finish Book D—but something completely new.

Uh…but work on what? I spent the last week or so of January and most of February searching through my ideas folder and disliking everything. I felt like I was in limbo—it’s the first time I’ve never been actively working on a book. So I stopped looking for ideas I’d already had and started trying to think of a new one.

And you know what happened? I ended up thinking about Book A and the entire Series 1 and the world I’d created. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Then, something blipped on my creative radar. It was too far away to see what it was yet, but that first spark of an idea is often shy at first. And then it slams into you and you have to spend a solid day writing and thinking and getting everything down that you can. That’s how it happens sometimes. And that’s how it happened for me with the new book.

Let’s call it Book E.

Book E isn’t new, exactly. That’s why it took a while for me to figure it out. Partway through figuring out the idea, I realized that it was connected to Book A and Series 1. It’s in the same book-universe. It even shares a character. But the best part about it, it’s entirely different from Book A, though threads of that world are woven in. And the best part? It’s completely contained. It’s one book, a standalone. A story that starts and finishes all between two covers. Book E could be published and Book A and Series 1 could never be, and it wouldn’t matter (except I’d be sad, because I still love Series 1) but the point is, it’s a better book to query with.

I did it! I practically ran up and down the road screaming with excitement. But I was too busy with that second phase of an idea: Writing everything down before I forget it. Characters, names, places, plot—everything on paper. The last part of February and all of this month has been full of plotting and outlining, piecing together a coherent story from all the ideas that I’d written earlier. And I’m in love with the story and have started drafting. I’m nearly 4k words in and wrote just 1.6k today, the day I posted this.

So now, with Book E in the works, I have new writing goals for the year:

  • Finish drafting Book E and begin revising/editing.
  • Possibly query? Probably begin in 2018.
  • Finish first draft of Book D (NaNoWriMo 2016 Book).
  • Complete NaNoWriMo 2017
  • And maybe, possibly, probably, work more on Book A and Series 1, even just on the side. [insert Brokeback Mountain ‘I wish I knew how to quit you’ gif here]

In all honesty, I think this is for the best. Book E is making me incredibly happy and I think it’s the smartest thing to do going forward on my path to becoming published.

(PS I’m not being secretive with all the Book A, Book B business, most of them don’t have titles yet and it was just easier this way. Book A is tentatively called The Infinite Light and Book C is called Thoughtless.)

2017 Favorites: February

This past month of February, I’ve enjoyed several new things that I want to share. I have a perfect variety of favorites this month: a YouTube channel, a book, a song, and a film. Here are my February favorites:

Aubrey Aiese’s YouTube Channel

I’ve been subscribed for a while to Aubrey’s channel, HurricaneAubrey, and have enjoyed her videos a lot. She took a long hiatus on her channel, but eight months ago she’s uploaded several videos and vlogs that I found so wonderful to watch (I marathoned her latest on a playlist I made of videos I’d missed over the last few month because of being busy). She’s an artist (she does all the lettering for Lumberjanes!) and lives with her boyfriend, also an incredible artist, in Portland. Like in the video here, she vlogs about her life and the places she goes and the work she’s doing. It’s fun and light and even inspirational to see the life of another artist, how they work and live. I love watching these types of videos from other artists and designers and illustrators, it’s fun to see how other people in your general field of work live and work.

The Bad Beginning

A long time ago, in like the fifth grade, I read the first book in Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. I never finished the series for some reason, even though I enjoyed the book, but I loved the film with Jim Carrey. Now that there’s a Netflix series of the books, I decided to reread the first book and read the rest of the series in time with watching the show. I haven’t started the show yet, as I just finished the first book, but now that I have, I’ll be watching the first two episodes (as the show goes two episodes per book) and will read the rest of the books probably along with watching the show. So this year, I plan on reading the first four books to watch the first season. The book itself, after not having read it in almost fifteen years, is incredible. I mean, it’s terrible, but a really great read. I can’t wait to continue with the rest of the series and finally learn what happens.

Sick of Losing Soulmates – dodie

I recently discovered this song by dodie, a singer song-writer and YouTuber. Sick of Losing Soulmates is one of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard. The lyrics are lovely and emotional, dodie’s voice is soft and wonderful, and the video is A+ incredible.

A Single Man

One of the best films I’ve watched, A Single Man is a beautiful adaptation by Tom Ford (I read the book last summer) and has one of the best performances by Colin Firth I’ve ever seen. The cinematography and the sets are gorgeous, the entire aesthetic of the film is beautiful, highly stylized and vibrant. It makes the day-long story of a man (after having lost the love of his life, Jim, in a car accident) going about his day with the plan of killing himself at the end of it less bleak, though not any less sincere. It’s an incredible, tragic, beautiful film.

Illustration Progress

Since late last year, I’ve been working on my illustration skills by trying to sketch everyday for about a half hour, as well as working on different projects more often, when I can. So far during the first month and a half of the year, I haven’t really been able to sketch every single day—but I’ve been sketching as often as possible—probably a few days of the week. Because I hadn’t done any art for a while during design school, it took a while to relearn how to do the basics. I can definitely see the difference and improvements since starting again, even if they are slight.

Right now, I’m just drawing, sketching, whatever I feel like to sort of feel a groove, find a style. I’m looking at a lot of other illustrators and work for inspiration, feeling things out. Here’s a few examples of sketches and illustrations I’ve been done over the last few months—some are just quick doodles, some took a little more time. Some more cartoonish, some more life-like and shaded (and obviously, some are better than others, especially from the start of all this to now). And apparently, I tend to draw girls almost exclusively.

I’m really excited to be doing art again, learning and growing. My goal has always been to get better at illustration in order to be able to incorporate it into my design work and be able to do more. And just being better at illustration in general, having another outlet and getting back to what I fell in love with as a kid.

New Work/Living Space

The start of 2017, I began the transition of taking all of my work spaces—office and art supplies and writing space—all into one new space in my bedroom. They were all scattered across the house before and now everything is in one place so that it’s easier to work from. The process had been long and I only finished today—as in the day this is posted, February 12th.

Mostly I needed three things: my giant drafting table for working on hand-created designs, illustrating, any project that I need that angle for; a regular desk for my computer and general working and writing at; and then another flat work space that would be completely empty—I do a lot of cutting paper and needing an extra work space to set things while doing other work is important. And the desk I have now isn’t very large, so that had to be a separate space. I still need a few things, furniture-wise, like more shelf space and a larger drawer unit (I have my eye on some IKEA pieces.) Not to mention just general things like a second monitor (I do have a second monitor for my other job, which I love, but I need another good one in this space) and a high quality printer.

Other than work, I still needed to fit my bed, dresser, and the billion books I have. So setting up a reading corner was essential, with my reading chair, side table, and bookcase with most of my books, I have a great spot to read and relax—though the chair could be more comfortable, I’m not complaining to much (especially because the chair was free).

Overall, I love my new space. I feel relaxed here and productive. There’s a lot of things I’ve collected over the years all around that make it feel like my own unique space to create. Everything has a place (almost, there’s a few kinks to work out) and everything is all in one space, so I don’t have to go downstairs or leave the room to get something I need while working. It’s a perfect space for me and I’m overjoyed with the way it turned out, even if it was a long journey getting here.