Juggling Projects – Writing Update

It’s been a while since I posted about the projects I’ve been working on. And, oh my, are there a lot. It’s been a strange year. A hard year. An exciting year. But mostly, it’s been a pretty good year for writing.

For the most part, I’ve been on target with all my writing goals this year. In my last post about writing, I talked about switching gears and focusing on a different, older project (working title: Thoughtless) that I feel is a much better, stronger book to eventually try to get an agent with. And I still plan on working on it. I started this year finishing the draft I started during NaNoWriMo 2017, then in February I restructured and outlined the new draft of Thoughtless, and wrote a short story in April. I continued working on the first draft of Thoughtless up until summer, when my schedule goes a bit haywire and I wouldn’t have time to do much writing — at this point, I decided to take a break from the first draft to let it settle and go back to it in the fall. I wrote a short story during the summer and started writing a screenplay (a feature-length, which is much different from anything I’ve ever written as I’ve only written short films and novels).

And that’s about where I am now. I finished the screenplay — I’m very happy with it as a first draft — and because it’s October, I’m starting to outline the novel I plan to write during NaNoWriMo 2018 next month (it’s a twisty drama about a family of thieves living in the suburbs and I’m excited about it).

HOWEVER. My plan to return to Thoughtless in the fall has been pushed to after NaNoWriMo in December because the screenplay took two months to finish (all of August and most of September). And to top it off, I was recently inspired with a new idea for a fantasy series that I’m so excited about that it’s all I want to focus my time and energy on (but that’s because it’s new and shiny and I have to KEEP MYSELF TOGETHER and not act on the urge to focus on it). It’s in the early stages and needs more time to simmer, so I’m not even close to drafting, but it’s so hard not to think about.

(For reference on how long projects usually take for me to get to the point of drafting, I thought of the thievery book I’m going to write for NaNoWriMo this year in April and am just now at the right stage to start outlining in time to draft it in November. And Thoughtless took a year before I started outlining and another month before writing. The ideas need to simmer in my head for a while, I jot things down and make notes, sometimes large sections or scenes or characters come to me and I get them down, but let it all swim upstairs before I think about outlining.)

So, how am I going to balance all these projects? By planning. Because I’m a habitual scheduler.

My plan is this:

October – outline NaNoWriMo 2018 thievery book AND research for new fantasy series
November – write NaNoWriMo 2018 thievery book
December – continue draft of Thoughtless AND slowly start outlining new fantasy series

And with the new year, continue working on Thoughtless all winter and in the spring, I can take a break before working on the second draft and have some fun with the new fantasy series. It’ll probably be ready to begin outlining the first book by then — right now, I have an idea for a series but not for a first book, just a general idea of what it could be. Series usually come to me in that way — large, macro story arc that needs to be segmented and fleshed out into smaller chunks which lead to separate plots of each individual book. So far, only once have I already had the idea for the first book as a standalone and the ideas for sequels came after — and that was Thoughtless.

Okay, so that’s my writing update. I’m so so so happy that I feel as excited for writing as I used to. If you didn’t know, I went through a long slump of just not wanting to write anything ever and it sucked. It’s good to be back in the habit of doing something I love — now to a point where I have too many ideas and projects to work on. It’s a good problem to have.

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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.)

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.

 

NaNoWriMo 2016 – Update #2

Yikes. This week sucked for more than one reason. At the start, we cleared out our entire kitchen (all cabinets empty, stacked up on tables and chairs) and cleaned. Then slowly started reorganizing and putting everything away. That’s taken a lot of time and energy on top of a normal work week. So writing stopped there. And then the election happened and my brain hasn’t quite recovered yet. Slowly, by November 10th, it started to return. A bad week, putting me way behind, but that’s okay. I’ve written 10,000 words of a new story that I probably wouldn’t have been able to do without the NaNoWriMo pressure.

We press on! We write more!

Words Written:
November 6th 0
November 7th 0
November 8th 0
November 9th 0
November 10th 1,059
November 11th 1,898
November 12th 84

Total Weekly Words: 3,041
Running Total: 10,149
Where I Should Be: 20,004

NaNoWriMo 2016 – Update #1

First (sort of) week of NaNoWriMo is complete! And I didn’t totally fail yet!

With an easy start to the week, I was able to write a lot on the first day, which brought me about half a day ahead right away. But with a busier mid-week (out of town on the 2nd, working on the 3rd) I wrote almost nothing. Then on Friday, I had some time after working on school assignment and wrote over my daily 1,667, then dominated today and almost caught myself up to the 8,335 I should be at.

As a writer, I’ve been able to write at a pretty consistent 500-1,000 word session on the regular, with my record being 6,000 in a day (maybe I can do that again on a nice long day off this month???). I knew that I could do 1,667 words in a day easily, but having the time to do so is the trick with a busy schedule. So knowing that I would have days with 0 words, I knew I’d have to make it up with higher word counts on days that I could write. Hopefully this strategy will get me to 50,000 by the 30th—so far, I’m not too far behind.

Words Written:

November 1st 2,257
November 2nd 0
November 3rd 520
November 4th 1,862
November 5th 2,479

Total Weekly Words: 7,108
Where I Should Be: 8,335

My novel is about a girl going missing and a town (told from seven perspectives) in search of her, alternating between two timelines: one before she went missing and one after she’s been missing a while and a second event shakes the town once again. So far it’s been going well, the only trick is keeping the timelines straight and making it all work in one coherent story. Outlining all October really helps with that.

Anyway, I’m having a great time with NaNoWriMo and I’m excited it’s going well so far!

NaNoWriMo 2016

I first heard of NaNoWriMo a several years ago, possibly while still in high school, and tried writing a 50,000 word novel in the month of November. I failed miserably. But I had a lot of fun. I think I might of tried a few years later, but never got back into doing it. I love the concept and I think it’s really fantastic that so many people write during a single month. There’s something about it that adds a word-and-magic-filled excitement to the air. It makes you want to write, to reach your daily goal, just knowing that thousands of others are doing the same thing.

Because I’ve been struggling with my writing projects lately, I’ve decided that, even though I don’t have any extra time next month, I’ll be doing NaNoWriMo. I’ve been working on the same few projects for the last few years, struggling with both of them, and I just want to have some fun. I want to start a fresh, new project, and just go for it.

I’ve been outlining my novel for the last week in preparation (I’m a planner when it comes to writing) and I’m really liking where it’s going. The book is about a missing teenager and an entire town looking for her. There’s multiple points of view, a dual structure with different timelines (a “before” she went missing and an “after”). I’m really getting excited to start writing it!

So I’ll be busy all of November writing my 1,667 daily words when I can and posting my weekly progress here! 50,000 words. Let’s do this.

Reading & Writing Style

Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about writing and reading and style. A writing style isn’t just the author’s way of wording sentences, it’s the words they use and what they write about, how they structure a sentence, a paragraph, a page, a chapter, the entire book. It’s what makes their work unique. And I’ve noticed how my own style had changed and adapted with every page, chapter, book I read of another author’s work. Even in small amounts, sometimes barely at all.

When you’re a creative person, you have to refill the creative well by taking in any form of media. For a writer, any type of storytelling (film, television), most especially reading, is most important. You can’t be a writer unless you’re a reader. You have to learn the words and know them in order to write, you need to see what works and what doesn’t. One of the largest parts of being a writer is being a reader, reading anything you can get your hands on. By reading, you absorb talent. No really. That’s what it is. You’re learning how to write. If you want to be able to write as good as the author’s you admire, you have to read their work. You have to read what they read. And then you have to read even more than that.

While reading certain books and stories, my writing changes, often for the better. I can feel the improvement after reading something I loved and admired in my own work. I noticed once, while reading my favorite author’s (Victoria Schwab) book A Darker Shade of Magic, my own writing was reflecting hers. Notably, I started to use the word “bones” in my writing more frequently. She uses the word often—not too much or in a negative way, just often enough to notice—and I realized I started to do the same. She uses the word not just to describe literal human or animal bones, but describing ships and emotion and in the name of a tavern.

     “No eyes watched her cross the deck. None saw her descend the steep set of steps that ran into the ship’s bones and bowels.”

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab, page 65

     “His skin, his muscle, his very bones…everything ached in a steady, horrible way, as if he were nothing but a bruise.”

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab, page 186

     “Lila was used to hunger, but the stone left her feeling starved in a bone-deep way. Hollow.”

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab, page 274

While writing, I’d never used the word bone often, if at all, except for a single scene involving a broken one. Her use of it makes the writing connect more to the character, going deeper—literally—in a way that makes it richer, more full, instead of just referring to the surface, the surroundings, in both a literal and figurative sense. Schwab also uses the word “blood” an incredible number of times in the same book.

Her sentences are always fluid, they have a poetic rhythm to them, and whenever I read something of hers, I write in a similar way. This isn’t just for her work either, it’s any time I read something. For instance, while reading one of my favorite young adult series, The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater—who writes just as beautifully and poetically through a modern teenage perspective—even my dialogue improved to a point where I found myself impressed by a line I wrote. She has a way of creating dialogue that feels real and not forced like some dialogue can feel. She slips in humor and wit seamlessly in conversations that keep even general day-to-day conversations exciting an interesting to read.

     “Well,” Persephone corrected, “that is not quite true. Maura told me Neeve approached her first. Neeve said she might be able to find him.”
“Out of the blue?” Calla asked.
“I’d prefer if you didn’t use that expression,” Blue said.
“Out of nowhere?” Calla repeated.

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater, page 323

Now, the difference in my writing while reading certain books or writers and when I’m not isn’t significant. It’s a subconscious absorption of their style and addition to my own. Most of the time it’s slight, barely noticeable—there isn’t some parts of my work that is more like one author’s style than other parts. It becomes one with my own style, blending in seamlessly in all parts of the process. And over time, growing as a writer, it will continue to change, little by little, until I have a style that is uniquely mine. The more I read, the better my writing becomes. The more I write, the better my writing becomes.

It’s all a part of the process.

Writing: Why I Do It & What I’ve Written

Hello!

Now that I’m going to be posting more about my writing, I thought I’d start with a little history of how writing became such a part of my life and where I am now. Why do I write? What have I written?

I had always been an imaginative kid. Every toy had an expansive backstory, every game with my cousins became an epic play we’d act out—at my direction; I’ve apologized for being the Bossy One—playing in the giant sand pile in our grandmother’s backyard turned into being stranded on an island with pirates, playing a game of hide-and-seek became a hunt for an escaped prisoner. We battled aliens, fought wars, created worlds. The Mountain, as we called (in reality it was a glorified hill with trees and big rocks, so mountain, obvs) was our fortress.

Soon I turned our games into stories, ideas for not books, but movies—I seriously considered becoming a screenwriter or a director for the longest time, by the way. I would make plans to have my cousins and I to play the parts, made lists of props we’d need and drew ideas for sets to build, and costumes to make. None of that happened because…well, we didn’t have a camera. That’s kind of a key component to film-making. But what did happen were the plans, the writing. I’d write for hours, scribbling in notebooks or stealing time on my mother’s computer when she wasn’t working, just to write out scenes and ideas for stories. Most of these writings were synopses of what would happen in the movies we would make, long explanations and bits of terrible dialogue.

And then something happened. Something big. My mother, who admittedly made an error, let me watch Misery when I was about eleven.

Now a normal human would watch Misery and think “I never want to be a writer. What if a lunatic fan kidnapped me?” Well, I would never want to be kidnapped by a lunatic fan, obviously, but what got me was James Caan’s character. Eleven-year-old me wanted to be him—sans hobbling. The scene with him in a wheelchair, sitting by the window and writing on that typewriter for hours and hours and days and days, the pages flowing, Chapter 32…Chapter 33…Chapter 34…That’s what hooked me. I watched that scene and thought, “That’s what I want to do. No more movies. I’m writing books.”

A few years earlier, my grandfather had given my sister and I a typewriter that he never used. We liked to type messages on it, slipping them under doors and leaving them in pockets of coats in the closet, but eventually we became bored after a few weeks. We stuffed the typewriter in the closet and forgot about it. But after watching Misery, I dug it out and began my life as a writer.

I wrote one chapter of a story. It was about four siblings going on a great adventure. Then I realized that typing on a typewriter was hard and thinking of a good story was hard, so I quit.

But that wasn’t the last of my attempt at writing. Around that same time, I really started reading books and enjoying them, never having an interest in them before then. I became obsessed with Christopher Paolini’s Eragon in the 5th grade (and obsessed with dragons in general) but I didn’t finish it until the 8th grade because I was a slow reader and I had to keep checking it out of the library over and over, and then had to leave it there over the summer, so I restarted reading it a few years later. (To be honest, I was the perfect target audience for the Harry Potter series, but I wasn’t allowed to read them. I might make a post about that one day. I’ve read them now, though (all but the last book, I stopped mid-way through to read a new release and never went back to it, but plan to soon.))

In the 6th grade, maybe a year after my stint with the typewriter, we had an assignment to draw a picture of dragons, or a dragon, and write a short story to go along with it. This re-sparked my love for writing and it hasn’t stopped since then. I went from short story to short story, I wrote with friends—starting on a notebook we’d pass to each other in class (a long story with different POVs) and then moving it online to a message board just for our stories—up until just after high school, I planned big epic books like Eragon and drew maps and dragons, but I never really did much writing that was substantial, on my own.

In my sophomore year of high school, I started dealing with my depression and anxiety. There were a lot of causes, but for the most part, I felt completely alone because of it. I had friends, but had very few classes with them. Everyday, I felt terrified to go to school even though I knew it wasn’t rational to think that way. I closed myself off a lot. Most of my family and friends didn’t even know what I was going through. Most of the time I acted as if nothing was wrong, keeping it inside. (I’m a lot, a lot, better now. Even starting with my junior year, a big change happened. It started to get better and better, and now, almost 8 years later, I’m doing good with the occasional bad day. I still deal with anxiety, but it’s a thousand times better than it was just a few years ago and especially then.)

Anyway—it started to get better. But while I was in it, and ever since, I wrote. During that year, I wrote to keep myself occupied, to keep my mind off of what I was going through, what I was feeling. It was during that year that I started my first book. It started as a combination of two short stories I was working on (I used to use the same first names for characters a lot, and the two stories merged together because of it). I became obsessed with researching online “how to write a novel” “how to outline a novel” “how to get a book published.” These led me to finding other writers and authors who had websites, and were eventually on Twitter, and listening to them and agents and editors with helpful blogs helped me learn all about writing and publishing. I realized during this time that wanted to write for real—like for a real job, not just something to do in my spare time.

I started writing that book in the tenth grade, but because I’m me, I spent almost two years just planning and outlining the book and the entire series it would be the beginning of—and wrote a single chapter. In my senior year, I really started writing the book and finished just after I graduated in December of 2011.

I’m done! I can have it published now! Oh, young me. Yep, you guessed it: I wasn’t done. I read through it and cried. It wasn’t ready. It wasn’t even close.

So I started rewriting and planning and working it out and editing and hey, 2013, how’d you get here? Yes, a year went by and I still hadn’t finished. I kept burying myself in more and more editing and rewriting, eventually realizing that it wasn’t working. It spiraled out of control. That’s when I decided to take a break. Because ideas come when they want to, over all that time, I’d get distracted for a couple of days by a new story idea. I’d take those days, write everything about the idea down on paper or onto the computer, then I would let it go and get back to writing the Book. With that break, I decided to start one of those ideas I’d written down months earlier.

I had two ideas that I really loved and was excited to start writing: the first book took place in a secluded town in 1910s New England where the Salem Witch Trials never ended. A young girl there is found to have dangerous powers and accidentally kills 12 young boys, so she’s banished to a place off the coast called the Island where she finds a secret village of witches. I wrote the first draft, really loving it, and am still proud of that draft, even with its flaws—the story works, and even after rereading some of it, I’m still into it.

After that, I quickly moved on to another first draft of a different book I’d loved the idea of—and it’s the book I’m currently working on. It’s set in the future with cops and telepathy and an underground rebellion. I plan on writing a whole post about this one, so I won’t go into too much detail here.

That first draft was finished within two months. I went back to the Book and struggled until October 2015, just this passed fall. Not only did I struggle for time to work on it after starting a business and starting the fall semester, I struggled with the book itself. The Book is so close to my heart, the world and characters and story is right there with my soul. It’s a part of me. And it crushed me to realized that it just wasn’t working. Again, I’ll write a whole post on it eventually, but it heavily wore on me for the rest of 2015. But I’ve started this year with a new energy and I’ve been able to move on. I had to shelve it, even though it hurt. I knew it wasn’t working how I wanted it. It didn’t mean I’d given up on it forever, but I felt like I kept working on something that just wasn’t going anywhere. And I needed to move on with the promise to come back to it later, even if that was years down the road.

So I looked at the two drafts I had, Witch Book and Future Book. I weighed them for a while, figuring out which was the stronger story, which I wanted to work on more, and the one that I thought was most publishable, because that’s the end goal after all. Future Book won.

And that’s where I am now, knee-deep in the first draft of a book I wrote two years ago. But to be honest, it’s working. I feel it working. The story is stronger, the characters more alive in my head while I write, and the world growing as I type. It’s going to be quite a bit of work, but I have faith that it will come together.

That’s all for now! I plan to post something about writing at least once a month along with the regular design-related content and I’ll post again soon.

EDIT: January 23rd

I recently cleaned out my childhood closet and found that original drawing of the dragon from the 6th grade that I wrote a story about (his name was Jadon and he had an elemental affiliation with water because I was also going through an Avatar: the Last Airbender phase…which I am still going through) and the old typewriter from my grandfather (that I’ll now be using and displaying on a shelf, because I like it.)

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