Writing While in a Creative Slump

I’ve been in a creative slump.

For the most part, I try to write as often as I can. It’s what I love to do. Sometimes I write for hours, every day, for a week straight. Sometimes I write for twenty minutes on only one day of the week. It all depends on how much time I’m able to carve out for myself. It’s all about carving out time, making it work, doing what I can.

With doing anything creative, there needs to be a balance of creativity coming in and going out. Refilling the creative well is important: soaking up from all sources (books, films, art, television, life), taking in inspiration and creative energy in order to focus it and use it to produce, to let it flow out. Whenever I’m in a creative slump, and nothing else is working, I know I need to fill the creative well.

But the last few weeks, I’ve been incredibly busy with work—the small business I co-run launched a new product, so we’ve been busy promoting and making the product and sampling at stores a lot. I haven’t had much time to work on anything else, especially writing. I’ve had to make choices with my time and writing hasn’t been winning the time slot. A few times, I carved out a bit of time to write, but sat down and couldn’t get it going—and I knew it was because my creative well was dry, that I was in a creative slump. But I barely had enough time to read or watch anything, let alone write.

A few times, I could’ve carved out more time to fill the well or maybe even try to write, but I chose to do something like getting other work done or spending time with family or watching a few YouTube videos before going to sleep instead. One such YouTube video was by my favorite author, Victoria Schwab. In her video, she talks about when a writer is at their computer, they’re really just transcribing and that writers write all the time, whenever they think about their work—plotting, creating, building. That’s all writing, too. And that had me thinking about my writing time.

So what do I do when I’m unable to carve out writing time and unable to refill the creative well? There’s one thing I know I can do:

Not write. Or, I should say, not transcribe. Seriously. I just don’t do it. I don’t sit at the computer, I don’t pick up a pen. Because sometimes it’s not feasible to do so. I’m not a full-time writer, it’s not my job, so I don’t need to do it. So I don’t.

And that’s okay.

It doesn’t mean I’m not making progress. Because no matter how busy I am, how hectic life is, my brain is always with me. I always have a few stolen minutes to think while doing mundane tasks—showering, driving in the car, lying in bed at night, walking the dog. I always have time to think about the story, the characters, the world—and maybe jot down a note or two. And that keeps it going. Even when I don’t have time to sit at the computer and type out the actual words, just keeping the wheels turning is all I need to do—it’s still being productive, it’s still writing.

Favorite Book to Film/TV Adaptation

The Walking Dead

One of my favorite shows on television is The Walking Dead—I’m a big sci-fi, dystopia fan, and zombies are an always fun, often disgusting time. The show is based off of a series of comics by Robert Kirkman, a series I didn’t start getting into until way after the show. I’ve been reading the comics in the 6-issue bind-ups and I’m only on volume seven, but they’re great. It’s cool to see the differences they’ve made with the show—characters added or taken out, storylines differing—and they’re really quick reads. I’ve been buying them when on sale and picking a weekend to enjoy a few issues. As an adaptation, it’s really incredible. I think the show takes a lot of risks and is incredibly well-made—the effects work alone is worth watching.

The Hobbit

I’m a huge fantasy fan, and though I haven’t yet read The Lord of the Rings trilogy by JRR Tolkien (I’ve seen all the films), I read The Hobbit a few years ago and loved it. Because I never saw the first trilogy in theaters, only later when on DVD, I’m glad I was able to see The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug in theaters (I missed the third movie while it was in theaters, but have it on DVD) because these films were so incredible to watch on a big screen. The adaptation of the book was really well done, though I’m not certain an entire trilogy was necessary—the structure of the book seemed more like a two-parter. At any rate, it’s one of my favorite adaptations.

The Hunger Games

I’ve only seen the first two films in the quartet (for no other reason than neglecting to see them in theaters at the time, always forgetting, and just never remembering to pick them up on DVD), but I’ve read all three books, and The Hunger Games is one of the best adaptations I’ve ever seen and certainly the best YA adaptation. It’s so perfectly adapted, getting everything just right, being as faithful as possible to the source material, having a really awesome style, and having some killer performances, especially from Jennifer Lawrence. Though, as a film, I enjoyed the second one more, but as an adaptation, the winner is the first in the series.

A Single Man

After hearing about the film starring Colin Firth, I read A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood one summer day and liked it—but then I saw the film and loved it so much more than the book. The film is very stylistic and Colin Firth’s performance is incredible and heartbreaking and I could watch it again and again. Honestly, it’s the rare occasion where the adaptation is several times better than the original book.

The Magicians

The Magicians is one of the coolest, fun shows on television right now. It’s funny and magical and disturbingly creepy at times—it’s like all the best parts of Harry Potter and The Chronicles of Narnia but for adults. It’s based on a trilogy of books by Lev Grossman, and though I haven’t read them yet, I have the first and plan on reading it this year. This is the only adaptation on my list that I haven’t read yet, but because I love the show so much, I’m assuming I’ll love the books even more.

Atonement

As one of my favorite films of all time, Atonement definitely needs to be mentioned even though I’ve never read the book—though I plan on it! The film is beautiful; every scene, every shot is stunning. And the performances are incredible—Keira Knightly does some of her best work, as does James McAvoy, and Romola Garai gives one of my favorite supporting performances—and of course Saoirse Ronan is so young and so brilliant in the film it astounds me. Everything from the style, the era, the score—which I still regularly listen to—is just perfect to me. And I’m sure the book will be just as incredible.

Top Ten Favorites Books

Though I haven’t read as many books as I’d like to have by this time in my life, I’ve read a lot compared to most people I know. Compared to most readers, I’ve read close to nothing. But the point is, since I posted my Top Five Favorite Films, I thought I’d do the same for my favorite books…except it’s actually my Top Ten because I couldn’t decide on only five and some of them are series…so it’s more like a lot. Anyway, here they are in no particular order:

A Darker Shade of Magic by VE Schwab
The Shades of Magic trilogy is my favorite book series of all time, by my favorite author, Victoria VE Schwab. It’s an adult fantasy series about four connected Londons in parallel worlds with varying degrees of magic. A one-of-a-kind magician who can travel between them from one London and a pickpocket from another meet, travel through worlds together, and general chaos ensues. Schwab’s writing is incredible, the best I’ve ever read and these books are dark, fun, and exciting.

Vicious by VE Schwab
Another book by my favorite author, Vicious is about two college students who deduce that superhuman abilities can derive from near-death experiences and do it to themselves in order to gain such powers. Jumping back and forth in time, the book explores the dynamics of superheroism and villainry from an interesting perspective.

The Archived by Victoria Schwab
Yet another Victoria Schwab book—I swear there’s more than just hers on this list. The Archived is the first in a series of two YA books about a girl who is a Keeper for the Archive, an otherworldly library where the dead are shelved like books, and must keep those dangerous dead, called Histories, from entering back into our world. It’s like a light fantasy and murder mystery book all in one. The sequel, The Unbound, is also a favorite—and I’m still holding out for a third book, no matter how long it takes.

Saga by Brian K Vaughan
This series is actually not technically books, but comics. I’ve never been a huge fan of comic books, only recently getting into them—thanks, in part, to this series. I’ve been reading the six-issue bound volumes as they come out, reading mostly in the summer—which is my favorite time to read graphic novels and comics. Saga is about two soldiers from opposite sides of a galactic war falling in love, having a child, and going on the run from the war and those that want them, and their half-breed child, killed. It’s like a full-on adult Star Wars space odyssey with some of the most incredible artwork, which creates a vivid landscape for an awesome, kick-ass story about a blended alien family.

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson
I fell in love with The Name of the Star and its two sequels (I believe, as of writing this, a fourth is on the way) a few years ago. It’s the story of a teen girl from the South of the US going to London to start her new life at a boarding school at the same time as the city relives the horrifying events of the Jack the Ripper murders as someone begins to mimic them. The book somehow balances being funny and creepy perfectly—the main character is relatable, Maureen Johnson’s writing is both dark and hilarious, and the book’s plot is often-times creepy and fully intriguing, with twists and surprises I didn’t expect.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
This book surprised me—I hadn’t expected to love it as much as I did and I hadn’t expected to finish it so quickly. I read it in only two days; I couldn’t put it down. The story goes back and forth through time, before and after the night a famous actor dies on stage from a heart attack at the same time the world begins to fall from a deadly virus. All the characters have some connection to the actor, the main character having been in the same play as a young child actress, later growing up to travel through the desolate land of the northern midwest with a theater troupe called the Traveling Symphony, who plays for the small communities having survived the pandemic. It’s a beautifully written, poignant novel about the little things we’d lose just as much as the large things during such an event.

We Were Liars by E Lockhart
First: This book has a terrible title. I mean, a fine title that just doesn’t fit the book. That’s the my only complaint about it. This book is my favorite summer read I’ve ever read—and that’s what it is. A summer read. Read it in the summer only, trust me it makes for a better experience. Also, don’t read into the book at all, don’t look it up, don’t spoil yourself. Don’t even read this paragraph, just skip it. This is all I’ll say: The book’s about a family who have summer homes on a private island and it’s suspenseful and beautifully written. That’s it. If you love YA and suspense and beautiful writing, READ IT.

The Forest of Hands & Teeth by Carrie Ryan
This is a book that I read a long time ago, in high school, and have sort of forgotten all about it—time for a reread, I guess. However, I do know that I loved it and everything about it. It’s a very unique spin on the zombie genre, with a similar vibe to M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village crossed with The Walking Dead. It’s been on my favorites list since then, so even though I remember so little, I still have it on my top ten because I do remember that it was great and I loved it.

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
I’m a huge fan of Leigh Bardugo and her work. The Grisha Trilogy she wrote is one of my favorites YA series and Six of Crows is part of the same world. I thought that the Grisha Trilogy was so fantastic and then I read Six of Crows and was blown away. It’s even better than the trilogy and is so unique. It’s set in the same “Grishaverse” so several people within the world have special powers, but in this book, the focus is more on a different set of skills: thievery and conning. A gang of young criminals work together on an impossible heist and it’s a blast. It’s one of the most fun books I’ve ever read. It’s just a straight up cool Ocean’s Eleven-esque fantasy book.

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
And finally, though this list is not in a particular order, The Raven Cycle is my favorite YA series of all time. It’s just the greatest series ever. I love the characters, the world Maggie Stiefvater has created, and the entire series itself. The Raven Boys and its sequels tells the story of a group of private school teenage boys and a girl named Blue, obsessively searching for the legendary Raven King, who is likely buried nearby, in hopes to be granted a wish—all with the help of the psychic family of women Blue’s grown up with and set in a town situated on a “ley line” of magical energy. It’s a book series I wish had come out while I was in high school, because I would’ve been all over it obsessed—I mean, I still was while in college, but still.

2017 Favorites: April

Alien: Covenant

Alien is one of my favorite horror/space movies of all time. There’s a special place for it in my heart. Though I’m not such a fan of its sequels, I am a huge fan of the recent connected series that began with 2012’s Prometheus and the sequel to it, the upcoming Alien: Covenant. I don’t know where I’ve been, but the trailer for Alien: Covenant has been released for quite a while, but I just found it online. It looks amazing. I can’t wait to find the connections to Prometheus—I know Michael Fassbender and Noomi Rapace may be reprising their roles, and that there will be a second sequel, set between the first two films with them in it—and a prologue was just released online with them in it. The film looks great and I can’t wait to see it.

Peak

Peak is an app I saw advertised on Instagram. I usually never click on the ads, but it looks interesting, and I’m all for these kinds of games. The app sets up a brain game schedule for you (I chose to do it every day) where you play four games (or if you go Pro, six, which I think is a little too expensive for what it is, but whatever) that help sharpen your mind a little each day. So far, I’ve been gradually making progress with some of the games, and I’m having a lot of fun. It’s basically just really fun puzzles and number and words games that you play, then it tells you how your improving with different skills, like memory, problem solving, and focus, and compares you with others in your age group to see how your doing. It’s mostly just fun.

So Says I – the Shins

I’d heard this song on an episode of Gilmore Girls a long time ago, and with every rewatch of that episode, I like the song more. The band plays it live in a bar in the show and with my recent rewatch of the episode, I just had to find it and buy it. I’m glad I did, because it’s been on repeat the last few weeks—a new favorite that I’d had all along and didn’t know it.

Beowulf

The epic poem taught in high school is boring—but only boring because it’s in your high school english class, which makes everything, no matter what the topic, boring. But reading it for pleasure is a whole other experience. We only read passages during school, and though I did enjoy it at the time, it’s something completely different reading it all together. Seamus Heaney did a brilliant job translating it to modern english for us to enjoy today.

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 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.

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.

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.