Haven’t really tried my hand at writing a review before but as long as I’m on such a reading kick, seems like a good avenue to explore. Especially given that the book I just finished surprised the hell out of me.
So, I read the first installment of A Court of Thorns and Roses (Sarah J. Maas) last winter and while I can say I genuinely enjoyed it, it didn’t blow me away or anything. I love the world-building Maas undertakes; love the Fae and the courts and the way magic works. I like the new spin on an old fairy tale motif- heavy beauty & the beast vibes. It was a solid balance of action and romance. But there were problems- little, subtle details that didn’t make sense to me, and which detracted from the overall story; problems that I had simply attributed to sloppy writing.
And yet, all over Instagram, book bloggers were going bananas for the second installment and I thought, what am I missing here? So I finally got around to reading A Court of Mist and Fury and… holy cow. Every little inconsistency that I had chalked up to a difference of opinion with the author turned out to be CAREFULLY SEEDED PARTS OF THE PLOT?? I couldn’t believe it. Blew my freakin’ mind. Gotta give credit to Maas for having the guts to play the long game because it really, really paid off.
I don’t want to spoil anything for those who are considering picking up the series (which I recommend!) so I’ll save my deeper reflections about the way relationships are explored between installments for a different post.
Week one of keeping a progress journal and, of course, I’m a little late with my entry. But here it is, it exists! PROGRESS.
It’s almost amazing how, the more I want to write, the more difficult it seems to be to find the time, energy, and motivation to actually do it. Yes, they appear to be directly proportional. (I’ve found it’s an often bemoaned reality in the writing community, so at least I’m not alone on this)
So it goes, I get myself all hyped up to work on my book. I’ll set aside time, make a schedule, set some goals and then, when it finally comes time to put pen to paper, I find an excuse to do something else. Anything else. It’s madness.
And yet, I find myself doing the same thing when it comes to practicing on my motorcycle. I’ll tell myself tonight, after work, I’m going on a nice long ride- really push the boundaries on my comfort zone. But then there’s laundry, and dishes, and boy golly the shower could use a scrub, and gosh, look at the time! No motorcycles tonight!
And I know why I’m doing it- I’m still a bit afraid of the bike. I still don’t have a lot of trust in my fledgling abilities- even though I know the only cure for that is, duh, MORE PRACTICE. But fear is a powerful distraction. And so, it’s easy to extrapolate, to assume fear plays a large part in my procrastination with my writing. But it’s more subtle, less sensible. My fear of practicing on the bike makes perfect sense- it’s bloody dangerous! But writing? What exactly am I afraid of? Fear of failure, of confirming my own mediocrity? Something like that.
But the solution is just as straightforward. Get your butt on the bike and ride, dammit! Metaphorically speaking, of course.
I’ve been reading a lot more lately as a compromise for when I can’t bring myself to write, and I’m finding it really helps. The more I read, the more I really, REALLY want to write, and it starts to tip the scales, my excitement beginning to outweigh the fear. My productivity is on the rise!
Now, if only I could find a similar strategy for the bike…
Ooooh boy- If this was a physical journal, the dust on it would be three inches thick. To be honest, I kind of forgot this thing existed. But I’m trying to get myself reorganized and I want to get back into blogging, if not only to strengthen my writing habits. And I haven’t stopped writing. Progress on my rough draft has been crawling along. It hasn’t come quickly, but at least it hasn’t stalled.
I think I’ll try to start penning little weekly updates, just to keep myself accountable as I try to finish my editing. Writing for a blog that no one really reads feels a little like screaming into the void, but even that has its purpose, I think. I’d like to kick my editing into overdrive and get the lion’s share finished before November. That’ll free me up to participate in NaNoWriMo again.
That’s the plan anyway. I just need to become a little more disciplined.
I realize I haven’t updated this poor blog in a while but I’ve actually been too busy writing. Which I think is a good excuse!
The rough draft for my first novel is approaching something resembling finished. (finally!)
I’m sitting around 56,000 words right now with a few entries that haven’t been integrated yet. At this stage, having written almost all the larger pieces, I’m going back through and rewriting some of the earliest fragments to better fit the evolution of the characters and general tone of the overall story. Getting it all in order makes it easier to see where there are still holes or scenes missing. Plus I need to pen all the connecting ‘bridge’ segments. But I think it’s safe to say I’ve officially entered revision mode! Woo! Time to dance the progress jig! XD
So! For the month of October I have two goals, and lofty ones at that: completely finish my rough draft and plan for NaNoWriMo.
I seriously considered skipping NaNoWriMo this year. My rough draft is so close to completion; it would make a lot of sense to buckle down and focus all my energy on getting it ready for submission to a publisher. I’m especially anxious about that step as I believe I’ve found a micro-publisher that’s the perfect fit for me. I’m excited to send them my manuscript and see if they feel the same!
But, I can’t forget that NaNoWriMo is what got me serious about this project in the first place. And while I only penned 12,000 words in last year’s competition, I would never have reached this point had I not competed at all. So, not only do I feel like I have some sort of moral obligation to compete again this year, but I can’t ignore the singular opportunity to jump start my next project. Plus, with the first novel still in draft form, working on the plot for the second adds some flexibility that I might not otherwise have. I still have the power to go back and alter the story should I need something to make sense in the overall arc.
Getting back into plot planning has been really exciting! I’ve become so invested in these characters over the last year. Getting to advance their stories and introduce new characters for them to interact with is exhilarating. I’m trying to find a balance between finishing my first draft and making sure I’m as well prepared for this year’s NaNo as I possibly can be. October is going to be a busy month and November will be even busier. NaNoWriMo is grueling. I don’t know if I’ll win this year- 50,000 words in a single month seems nearly impossible considering how hard it was to reach that over the course of the last year. But I’m going to try my damnedest! And honestly, anything beyond last year’s 12k I’ll call a success.
So here’s hoping for the best! With a little luck and a lot of effort, I’ll hopefully see you all on the other side of November with one polished manuscript and at least a partial new rough draft.
Happy writing and good luck to everyone else preparing for the NaNoWriMo challenge this year!
It’s been more than a month since Anime Central and I feel like I’m only just now in a place to properly reflect on it.
Let me start by saying that I love Acen.
Acen was one of my first experiences with large-scale conventions, anime conventions specifically, and my first real interaction with cosplay; so it will always have a special place in my heart. It’s the con that doesn’t sleep- there’s always something to see, something to do. But my relationship with this con has grown complicated over time, mostly due to an evolution in the way I interact with the convention and a vast change in what I want to get out of it.
My first Acen was back in 2012. Four years doesn’t seem like a long time, but being in my early twenties, a whole heck of a lot has changed. I’ve definitely changed. In May of 2012 I was 21, new to drinking and partying, and excited to do both in this shiny new setting. And what a great venue for it! If you like to party, Acen is a fantastic choice as far as cons go. There’s room parties galore; whole floors designated for it. There’s the infamous soap bubble rave. The whole con smacks of a carefree, cut-loose, festival vibe- especially after dark.
Even now, this is something about the con that I love- there’s a bubbly buoyancy to everything and everyone around.
But. I’m 25 now and my priorities and interests are decidedly different. My personal space has become a lot more important to me. Sharing a cramped hotel room with a bunch of other con-goers used to be no big deal; if anything it was part of the experience, part of the party. But I’m not really looking to party anymore. I need my own space. Especially now that I’ve gotten more interested in and more serious about cosplay. And that elevated interest in cosplay manifests mainly as an interest in the cosplayers themselves and the photographers.
I’m far less the wide-eyed, tipsy tourist, meandering round the convention in a giddy haze. I’m laser-targeted now. I want to put myself out there, attend scheduled events, network, make new friends. I want to meet new people- especially the talented, passionate people I admire online; artists in their own right who inspire me.
I honestly can’t imagine being day drunk anymore. If anything, given this new focus, it’d be too embarrassing. (for me, that’s not a judgment on anyone else. Acen is surely a more than acceptable place to day drink.) But that’s another huge change- drinking just isn’t my thing anymore. There’s a myriad of personal factors behind that change, but in any case, not being much of a drinker vastly changes the things I want to do and the way I choose to spend my time.
My growing interest in cosplay and cosplay culture is the shaping factor in my con experience. Cosplay is a complicated passion for me. I still consider myself more of an awed admirer than an active participant. I’m simultaneously thrilled and terrified at the prospect of digging in and building more ambitious and ‘serious’ costumes. I want to try. I have three new costume builds in mind that I’m beginning to lay the groundwork for. I’ve started researching, bookmarking supplies and tutorials online. The only thing stopping me from diving right in is a lack of superfluous funds. Cosplay can get a little pricey, and I have to stagger my purchases. Thankfully, the next con I’m planning on cosplaying for isn’t until November, so I have plenty of time to pace myself.
And after pouring all this time, energy, and money into building these costumes, I’m understandably anxious to showcase them. Which brings me to my other coinciding desire and fear: working with photographers. I am entranced with the ultra-talented pool of photographers in the midwest cosplay community, and I’m as anxious to work with them as I am to meet/learn from/shoot with all the awesome local cosplayers. But I also dread it. I am cripplingly shy. I’m not hugely self-confident, especially where my looks are concerned. I know I’m not photogenic. I’m probably the worst person, from a mental standpoint, to have an interest in a hobby that ultimately asks that I stand confidently in front of a camera. But here I am!
I had my first taste of working with photographers this Acen, and it was amazing, informative, and brought this paradox within myself front and center. I went to the open shoot, which was incredible; a nice wading pool for novice cosplayers like me to get an idea of what working with real photographers is like. I was beyond fascinated, but so afraid that I nearly walked away. (I’m glad I didn’t) I felt way out of my league, but all the photographers were patient and kind. My fellow cosplayers were supportive. I had a friend with me, thankfully, who urged me to stay- told me that I would relax once we started. (she was mostly right) And I have to thank the wonderful woman dressed as Mad Moxxi- your words of encouragement, helped me hold fast when all I wanted to do was run away. Standing around, considering my exits, I think she noticed how uncomfortable I was. I admitted I had truly no idea what I was doing. She looked gorgeous and elegant and had posed like a professional model in her last shoot. Still, she protested, “None of us really do. We just pretend and hope it turns out.” That struck a chord with me. So thank you, Moxxi, your advice will be my little mantra in times of doubt.
And I’m sure I’ll have plenty more of those fearful, ‘I can’t do this’ moments, both in building cosplays and in wearing them. But just as in writing, I think it’s only the things that sort of scare me that I really take seriously. My passion is always directly intertwined with my fear of failure- but that’s okay. It just gives more meaning to the things I enjoy. And I cannot deny that I enjoy this.
So here’s to costumes and cons to come! To meeting new people, making new friends, and trying the things that scare me! I think I am only just on the cusp of defining what this hobby really means to me.
Photographs used taken by Vontography at the Anime Central Open Shoot
Through many years and many attempts at being a dedicated writer, I’ve learned there’s a lot more to completing a novel than simply sitting down and putting pen to page. To write a book takes practice, planning, the formation of solid habits, and the strategic use of tools.
Having finally found my stride as a writer, ( I think!) I wanted to share some of the tools that have made my writing process far more productive and a heck of a lot easier.
Writing a rough draft is arguably the hardest part of the writing process. And everyone has their own style: some prefer a desktop computer in a quiet office, others a laptop at the crowded coffee shop. I like to be alone and I like to be mobile, but above all, I need my rough draft to be hand-written.
I’ve tried a thousand times to type up my rough drafts but I just can’t get used to it. I’m not a bad typist; I grew up with computers and I type all day at work. But something about sitting at a keyboard and trying to conquer the always-intimidating blank page kills my energy. I need real paper and a nice fountain pen or a crisp new mechanical pencil. I need to be able to write in the margins, to scribble and cross out and draw arrows. I write twice as fast, three times as more, and am infinitely more satisfied with the quality of my rough drafts when they’re handwritten. And, for years, this was one of my biggest roadblocks. How do I convert a messy handwritten draft into a typed piece, ready for edits, without sitting down and committing to the frustrating monotony of transcribing? I despised it and I wouldn’t do it. Anything I’d written would never make it to the computer screen, so writing anything at all seemed almost pointless. Then someone showed me Dragon Dictation.
Dragon Dictation is a free app that converts spoken word to text with surprising accuracy. Now, all I have to do is read my rough draft to my phone. Dragon is able to take fairly large chunks at a time and, once I’m done, I can highlight the block of text, copy, and save it out to my email or my google drive. It’s a simple, effective solution to a problem I’ve been battling for ages.
For managing my writing sessions, I use a combination of two apps: Forest & Ink On. Forest assists with productivity by helping me avoid distraction. It also acts as a timer for my session. I select how long I want to write and the app starts growing a fictional little tree. Backing out of the app to access the rest of my phone kills the session and my tree. It helps me cull the urge to pick up my phone and I don’t get sidetracked mid-session. Plus it doesn’t interfere with my music. (I usually listen to Spotify from my phone when I write) When the timer is up, it lets me know with a soft chime. Then I can record my progress in the Ink On app. Ink On lets me set up projects with their own individual goals and tracks my progress. It also gives me a calendar with writing totals for each day. I love it’s simple, clean interface. It’s become indispensable in tracking and managing my progress and goals.
I love this site and I can’t wait to experiment with it more in my upcoming edits! This site is more than just a simple spelling & grammar check. The Hemingway Editor actually analyzes your writing for common draft problems. It highlights long, hard-to-read sentences, complicated wording, adverbs, and use of passive voice. It’s a fantastic tool for self-edits; especially for someone like me, who can be a little blind to my own stylistic problems. While the site is free to use, you can also purchase your own personal copy (which includes offline use) for $9.99.
When your project is finally complete, the next step is usually presentation. Whether it be a full length novel, a short story, or a humble blog post, it’s always nice to have an appealing image complimenting your work. And unless you’re one of those ultra-talented types who’s good at both writing AND art, you may need a little help creating the perfect graphic. If you don’t have the contacts or the budget to get a professional, Canva works in a pinch. I especially like using it for temporary cover art, so I have something to make my works-in-progress stand out. It’s simple, easy to use, and inexpensive. A lot of the stock art is free and most of the fancier images are only a dollar each.
And that’s about it! I hope you find some of these helpful in your own projects! If you have any neat apps or sites to share, please post them in the comments. Happy writing!
Some days the writing comes easy- I can’t help but write. I scribble ideas and excerpts in the margins at work, on napkins at coffee shops, on scraps in the parking lot. Other days it’s a real battle. (Let’s be honest, most days are like that) I avoid writing till it’s too late and I’m tired; or I sit down and stare at a blank page, frustrated. In those instances, it’s important to set myself up for success by blocking out the things that might break my focus, and using any means to make writing fun and easy, er, easier.
So if this scenario sounds a bit too familiar, here are my own personal five easy steps to a better writing session. Maybe they’ll help!
1) Add Some Allure-
This is going to seem overly obvious, but when I buy things to make writing more fun, I am more likely to write! (crazy, right?!) I think I used to avoid or feel guilty about buying the fancy notebook or the nifty pen because I knew it wasn’t necessary- it certainly wasn’t going to improve my writing. But when you’re going to sink a lot of time and energy into something, you should splurge! Get that leather-bound number with the fancy clasp or the gold-leaf paper and don’t be afraid to fill it with your messy, haphazard first drafts. Get that twenty dollar pen with the luscious purple ink! I even went so far as to drop eighty dollars on a spiffy little Bluetooth keyboard that attaches to my hand-me-down iPad. Now I can edit on the couch without heaving the laptop out of my office, and guess what? I edit more! Take your writing seriously- if you have the money to buy yourself a neat toy, do it! I know I don’t need any of it, but I also know it definitely helps. Make it fun!
2) Do NOT Edit-
I know I’ve touched on this before, but I can’t stress it enough. When trying to write a first draft, it is imperative that you do not go back and self-edit. I know it’s tempting; it was an incredibly hard habit to break. I, like most writers I’ve met, am a perfectionist. I write something and immediately want to start dissembling it, searching for the perfect word, the ideal phrasing. It absolutely destroys any momentum I’d worked up and progress skids to a halt. I’ve learned that I have to suck it up and push through. Never reread, never look back, no changes or corrections, no matter how small. I have to get that rough draft down and on paper with all its imperfections before I can allow myself to dig in and start pruning and polishing. Editing has to be it’s own separate step or I’ll never finish.
3) Positive Reinforcement-
Since writing doesn’t pay the bills, my writing sessions naturally occupy the same space as my free time. That means writing is directly competing with my more frivolous, effortless hobbies. (video games, reading, youtube, pointlessly wandering the internet, etc) This means the only way to ensure writing actually takes place is to do it first. I don’t allow myself to do anything unproductive until I’ve gotten something on paper. And the times I haven’t done this are proof of its effectiveness- If I let myself play before I work, I’m far more likely to see a big fat zero on my daily word count. So I let all my other hobbies become rewards for writing. I draw a lot of my inspiration from what I’m reading and what I’m playing, so these hobbies are actually an important part of the creative process, so long as they don’t encumber that process. Write first, play later.
4) One Small Step At A Time-
After work, the commute, feed the pets, dinner, clean-up, and whatever else life throws at me, there’s often not a ton of time left in the day. Sometimes I only have ten minutes of writing in me before I feel burnt out and desperately need to enter the wind-down stage of my evening. And I’ve learned to accept that there’s nothing wrong with that. I set a monthly word goal that breaks down into small, bite-sized daily sessions; but some days I can’t even muster up enough creative energy to make those meager goals. So long as something, anything, hits the page each day, I’m happy. And I still sometimes miss days entirely. Which is less happy. But each and every day is a new start and a new chance, and I can’t carry those failures with me- they’ll only weigh me down. I have to keep moving forward, one little step at time. Which means tiny writing sessions nestled in the nooks and crannies of my daily life.
5) Stay Focused-
Even when I’ve successfully willed myself to sit down at my desk or hide away with a notebook, distraction still threatens to disrupt my work. Music is a must so I always have a pair of headphones handy. (I talk about my theory for selecting writing music here.) Then there’s the ever-present lure of the internet. When I’m on my laptop, I turn off my wifi. Since I use my phone to listen to music, it’s always near me while I write, tempting me. To solve that issue, I use the app Forest. I highly recommend it- not only does it lock me out of my apps while not disrupting my music, but it also serves as a handy little timer for my session. (Plus I get to grow a cute little forest of productivity, so bonus)
And that’s how I do it! I hope some of this stuff helps. Happy writing and good luck!
I’ve reached the halfway point in my journey to 50k and the completion of my first draft! I might be moving at the blinding pace of an out-of-shape snail but I’m proud to be moving forward all the same. I’ve written for 10 of the past 11 days and don’t intend to miss another day for the rest of the month. Making sure to write before settling in and winding down at night has been critical. It’s incredibly hard (though not impossible) to find the energy and self-discipline if I wait till just before bed. (The train to sleepy time junction don’t stop once it gets a rollin’!)
So this is probably as good a time as any to talk a little about what I’m actually working on. My working title is Shadow & Brimstone and it’s a dark fantasy about a mortal woman among monsters and magic. My main character, Sheriden Krieger, is a hunter of The Order- an assemblage of talented operatives tasked with the protection of Dystoria and the management of supernatural forces and figures therein. I’m trying to combine classic horror elements and beings such as vampires, werewolves, and witches with more fast-paced, adventure-based storytelling. I pull heavy inspiration from the Night Watch series with a touch of Harry Potter, but most of all, Diablo.
In fact, the idea began as sort of a Diablo III fanfiction. For all the non-gaming readers who might not be familiar with the Diablo franchise, it’s a dark, medieval, macabre world inhabited by monsters and humans, warriors and wielders of magic, all sandwiched between the warring factions of heaven and hell. I loved loved loved DIII when it came out and I played in excess, primarily as the demon hunter class. I got rather attached to my hunter and used her adventures as inspiration for writing exercises. I sketched out a few characters, scribbled a few scenes and…not much else. I wasn’t heavily committed to writing at the time and let life get in the way of any further development. I’d almost forgotten the idea completely until last November, when I decided to get back into writing by giving NaNoWriMo a try. I stumbled upon it by accident while looking through old notebooks. I built on what was there, planning out a rough skeleton of a plot and departing from Diablo’s world of Sanctuary to create my own unique world, while leaning heavily on the influence.
Of course NaNoWriMo wasn’t exactly the best way to ease back into writing and I failed miserably (I think I might have come up with about 12k of the required 50) but the fire to write was reignited! Now I’m bound and determined to finish this novel, no matter how long it takes. (And…it could be a while. But I’ll keep at it!)
There’s a strong common thread that runs through my most predominating fixations: the element of escapism. I think it’s probably a common theme for imaginative types, (i.e. NERDS!) especially growing up. Reality can be overly bleak, a little confusing, and outright dull, especially when compared to the more flavorful realms in books and games. Reading was my first love; I read whatever I could get my paws on. Once I cracked open I book I could focus on little else till I reached the back cover. (I’m still like that) But there’s an interactive aspect that’s missing from reading, so the creative impulse in me gravitated toward less passive, more hands-on forms of escapism.
Writing was a given; having invested so much time and energy into reading books, I was itching to try my hand at writing one.
And video games were a logical progression, too. Interactive stories with goals, choices and, eventually, interaction with fellow nerds-Er, I mean, like-minded individuals?! Sign me up!
As much as I love reading and writing, the interactivity and social aspects of gaming and the community therein were a welcome change of pace. Books fulfilled my need for escapist fantasies but they could get a bit lonely. Games offered a fictional world full of real people, all looking for much the same thing as me- a break from reality. (Albeit a much more intensive, time-consuming one. I’m looking at you, World of Warcraft.)
In recent years, this quest for interactive escapism has evolved further, manifesting itself in cosplay and conventions. Cons have completed my escapist spectrum, offering a less immersive but far more tangible, active, and incredibly social outlet for a break from the everyday. I’ve only dabbled in cosplay, but what little I’ve experienced has been absolutely incredible. Suiting up in something ridiculous, becoming one of your favorite characters for the day, and surrounding yourself with hordes of people who will recognize and applaud you for it- it’s not an experience I can properly describe. But it’s amazing. Conventions themselves are so surreal, like a breach in reality that allows the fantastic to bleed through, just for a moment. Con weekends are the Oz to my nine-to-five Kansas. If you haven’t experienced one, I highly recommend it. It’s a TON of fun.
So that’s my four-tiered strategy to escaping reality! Only problem now is finding time to accommodate it all. Especially with the rest of life always getting in the way.
When I finally sit down to write, headphones are a must; since much like a squirrel or other small woodland creature, I am easily distracted. (I can hear the television from four rooms over and will absolutely hone in on it.) Early on I was tempted to construct elaborate playlists that inspired me, songs with lyrics and tones that fit what I was writing about. And almost immediately I realized how flawed that plan was. Unless I play a single song on repeat that matches the scene I’m currently working on, there is no way my playlist is going to coincide with what I’m doing. And having an upbeat track pumping during a funeral march can be a little detrimental to the whole process when you get right down to it.
Additionally, (and this might be specific to me, personally) I find that writing to music with words can be a little distracting in and of itself. The easy fix was to switch to instrumental music, but I still had the problem of mismatched tones. The solution bled over one of my other major life interests: video games! Video game soundtracks make the perfect work-mode background music in their very design. Most game scores are purposely made not to distract but to actually advocate focus and concentration. I did a little research to find the best candidates and stumbled upon this list IGN put together last year.
I picked a few likely candidates and hopped on Spotify , splicing together the OSTs from Fez, Bastion, Transistor, and voila! The perfect focus playlist!
If you’re looking for some background noise while you work (even if you don’t come from a gaming background) I highly recommend checking some of these soundtracks out!