Characters Are Everywhere

Every human is a jigsaw of details.  Nervous habits, catch-phrases, dressing choices.  Speech patterns, favorite books, topics they talk about again and again and again.

My favorite characters are the ones that feel like real people because they have things that make them them.

Ronald Weasly hates spiders.  Agustus Waters smokes unlit cigarettes.  Hermionie Granger never goes anywhere without a book or five.  Celena Sardothian has music in her soul.

Real humans are like this, too.  My roommate sings non-stop.  A friend of mine wears Pajama pants 24/7.  One of my professors sports a different-colored bowtie every day of the week.  I have another friend who only ever talks about cars or computers.  It’s these details that all come together to make people who they are, and it’s OUR JOB as WRITERS to make our characters feel like real people.

One of the ways we can do this is by giving our characters details.

As I’ve been learning this more, I’ve been studying people more.  My friends have noticed – if I’m staring at someone for too long, they’ll be like, “Oh, Beth’s just doing the writer thing again.”  But it’s part of where I get my characters – from studying people.

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That guy who always walks into class late?  Detail.  The guy who wears a rainbow hat with a spinny thing on top?  Detail.  The girl who sits alone in a coffee shop on Valentine’s Day, typing up a blog post?  Detail.  (That’s me by the way!)

My challenge is remembering this when I write.  Too often, I write characters that feel flat because they all dress, talk, and react the same way.  No more.  Let’s go write characters that jump off the page, character with voices and habits and tastes of their own.

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Book Review – Fangirl

fangirl It’s been a while since I’ve done a book review, but here you go:

Summary: Cather is a freshman in college.  She’s spent her whole life tailing around her beautiful-and-charming twin, Wren, and she’s liked that just fine.  But now, even though Cather and Wren are going to the same college, Wren wants to take her own path, leaving Cather to alone to navigate the frightening waters of being a freshman.

So Cather falls back on what’s always been there for her: fanfiction.  She’s practically famous to online fans of Simon Snow (ie Harry Potter), and she’s never happier than when she’s writing about the characters that have been her friends for years.  But soon she’ll be forced to learn that there’s more to college than sitting in your dorm by yourself.  With themes of family, friendship, and the joys (and pains) of writing, Fangirl is a pure delight.

There are some books that hit you right in the chest, because an author has put into words the exact things that you yourself were feeling and you thought inexpressible.  Rainbow Rowell did that brilliantly in Fangirl.  I think this book hit me particularly hard because I could relate so much to Cather – I read it after just finishing my first semester in college, I love to write, and I’m a die-hard Harry Potter fan.  I’m not exactly like Cather, but we are so alike in so many ways, and I loved that about this novel.

I also loved that this novel felt like a snapshot of real life.  It wasn’t just about fanfiction, or writing, or being a freshman.  It was about friendship and family and stepping out of your comfort zone and a million other beautiful things.

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I read it in a day, and I can’t wait to re-read it.

Content advisory: there is a bit of language, and there is some romancy stuff.  (Nothing explicit, no graphic scenes, etc.)  It is definitely meant for college or high school people.

If you’ve read it, let me know your thoughts!  Or let me know if you’ve read anything else by Rainbow Rowell.  I absolutely adored Fangirl’s plot, it’s characters, and it’s glorious writing.  It was funny and sad and happy and interesting and fantastic.

Five out of five stars for making me feel all the things.

Always Learning

Hello my dear lovely writers,

I’ve just got a couple thoughts for you today.  It’s some things that I’m learning as a writer, and hopefully some things that I can share with you.  Sometimes I think of myself as a Great Master Writer, someone who has learned All The Things.

But when I hush that pride and open my mind to learning again, I am always rewarded.

So, here are some things that I’ve been learning recently:

1) Write for FUN.

I started writing because I enjoyed it.  I started writing because it felt like reading, it felt like an escape.  It was a place to let my imagination run wild, to play in my own world.

Somewhere along the way, sometimes, I forgot why I write.  I think it’s so important – especially as an unpublished author – to write for myself first.  If I’m not having fun writing, it’s not worth it.  (Not to say that every day of writing is fun – some writing days are hard and awful.  But the overall process of writing should be fun.)

Write about things you like.  I’m writing about a bookstore right now and it’s literally my favorite thing ever.  My characters are bookish characters, and they’re so cool to get to know.

2) Write Everywhere.

Sooooo, I’ve started writing in class.  Shhh, don’t tell my mom.  I have two classes this semester that are “I-don’t-need-to-pay-attention” classes.  You know the ones where you’ve already read the textbook, and the professor talks SO SLOWLY, and you’re counting the minutes as they drag by?  Turns out those classes are a perfect place to write.

My Chemistry notebook is now full of story snippets.  I’ll start a scene during class and I’ll come back to my laptop and dorm and type it up and expand it.  It’s so much easier to start a scene ahead of time and have something ready to type when you sit down at the laptop.

3) Prioritize.

I only have a certain number of hours in a day.  If I spend them all on Facebook and Netflix, I’m not going to have any time left to write.  Sometimes I just have to be stubborn with myself and make myself take the first step of sitting down to type.  Then the words start flowing from my fingertips like magic, and I’m so glad I forced myself to do it.

Leave a comment and let me know what you’ve been learning lately.  It always warms my heart to be reminded that I’m not the only writer in the universe.

Sometimes

Today’s post is gonna be a bit stream-of-consciousness.  I hope you’ll come along for the ride.

Sometimes, as a writer, you reach a moment when you go, “This story that I’ve spent three years on?  Maybe I don’t want to publish it.  Not because it’s bad, but because I can do  so much better.”  And that realization might feel like a knife in your heart.  It might cripple you for a while.  And that’s okay.

Sometimes, you need to rest and grieve and read read read so many books.  The reading is the fuel for the writing.  Never forget that.

Sometimes, then, you have another story in your brain that wants to be written, AND YOU FEEL THAT BUZZ IN YOUR CHEST OF IT SAYING, “WRITE ME,” so you sit down to write, and you start typing, and-

-and it turns out to be horrible.  It’s not the story you want to tell.  So you say, “Nope to that,” and move on.  And next time you get that dinging in your brain of “hey, go write!” you sit down, and you type, and YOU STILL WRITE THE WRONG STORY.

Sometimes, you have to write the wrong story before you can write the right one.  Sometimes you have to go through 4 or 5 different “wrong” versions before you finally find the right way into your story.  And it’s so discouraging to try and try to write the story that’s looming before you, but it just. keeps. going. the. wrong. way.

But then, when the moons are aligned and the writing gods are kind, you try once more and suddenly, click.  You’ve found your way into your story.

Sometimes, being a writer is really, really hard.  It’s like walking around in iron boots all day, because why can’t my story just GO THE WAY I WANT IT TO?

But those days aren’t endless.  And sometimes, sometimes, writing is the most rewarding thing in the universe.  When you find your way into your story, it is the best feeling.

“Sometimes, writing is running downhill, your fingers jerking behind you on the keyboard the way your legs do when they can’t quite keep up with gravity.”  -Rainbow Rowell, Fangirl

I am a writer for the days when the words come on their own.  When it feels like I am discovering a story instead of creating it.  When my fingers fly on the keyboard, trying to keep up with my brain.  When I write 1,500 words without breaking a sweat, and feel like a weight just dropped off my shoulders.  I write for the feeling of being lost in a world that belongs to me, for the glorious rhythm of letters and words and sentences being punched out by my fingers.

So I’ll push through the rough days, because they give way to the good ones.

Truth and Lies

I’ve been struggling with writing lately.  Am I really cut out for this?  Should I just give up and do something else with my life?  Is this all just a waste of my time?

There’s a lot of voices in my head. (That’s why I’m a writer, right?)  Today’s post is to put them into writing, and then set them straight.  Time to sort out the truth from the lies.

Lie: My writing is no good.

Truth: Some of my writing is bad, but most of my writing is decent and has potential.  And some of my writing is actually really, really good.

Lie: My work isn’t good enough to get published.

Truth: Even if my current WIP doesn’t have publishing potential, that doesn’t mean that I can’t get published.  Hard work and perseverance pay off.

Lie: If my First Finished Novel isn’t good enough to publish, then it’s been a waste of time.

Truth: If that WIP never gets published, it still has taught me so much about writing (and publishing).  It was still an amazing project and I am so grateful for its impact on my life.

Lie: Writing isn’t fun anymore.

Truth: Writing really is fun.  Not-writing-but-thinking-about-writing is awful.  Also, sometimes working for too long on one project makes it dull and boring, but writing itself is something I really enjoy.

Lie: If I don’t have good plot ideas, I can’t write.

Truth: Most of my plot ideas come to me as I write.  The act of writing generates ideas, and the more I write, the more I’ll be able to.

Lie: Sitting down to write is a waste of time.

Truth: Sometimes, I don’t get anything done when I sit down to write.  But most of the time, if I start writing, the Muses will meet me at my laptop.  Sometimes they don’t, but the more I pursue them, the more likely they are to show up.

Lie: I have to wait for inspiration to be able to write.

Truth: Writing produces inspiration.  Writing is hard, but it’s worth it.  Put in the hard work, and it pays off.

Don’t listen to the lies your brain wants to tell you.  When it lies to you, just say “that’s enough of that.”  Get on with your writing and make 2017 a good writing year.

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End Goals

Sorry I’ve been gone for a while.  You can assume that when I’m not blogging as much, it also means I’m not writing as much.

College Life has kinda got me like:

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I can hear your response:

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Okay, yes.  I’m being dramatic.  I only have 2 finals this week, and neither one will be that painful.  Hopefully.  I’m really enjoying college, and I’m also really ready for break.

So. Writing.  I’m still writing The Sequel, just not as fast as I’d like to be. (This is the sequel to my finished-and-edited novel, The Sound of Color.)  I’ve been reading a ton, and not super motivated to write.  I’m feeling very un-motivated.  I think this is why:

I don’t feel like I’m moving forward.  There’s a voice inside my head going what’s the point in writing the rest of this series if it’s never gonna get published?  And I think this has to do with the Querying Phenomenon.  Let me explain.

In all other parts of the writing process, it’s fairly easy to see your progress.  For example, in writing the rough draft, you can see your word-count go up.  You can measure that your plot is moving forward.  You have an End To The Story, and each paragraph you write gets you closer.

Same with re-writing.  Each scene you cut or add is a tangible step towards the finished story.  Okay, editing can seem endless.  But you know that the novel will only take roughly four or five “passes” before it’s “done,” or at least “good enough.”  (Four to five is my own personal number.  You may have your own, and that’s cool.)  With each editing pass, you can feel the story getting stronger, better.  You’re streamlining, adjusting, and you can see the Final Product take shape before your eyes.  There is a clear end to editing.

But querying?  Not so much.  There’s this far-off day when maybe an agent emails back, asking for more chapters of the story.  There’s this impossibility that perhaps they’ll like that chunk enough to ask for the whole story.  And then, perhaps, per-maybe-haps, they will sign you on.

And even after that, there’s more work.  More edits.  And finally, finally, you get published.

Getting an agent… it just seems so improbable.  Agents get tens of thousands of queries each year, and they might take on two or three new clients in that year.  So the “getting an agent” thing is just hard.  And it’s not like “oh yes, once you send out the magic number of 43 query letters, you are certain to get an agent.”  Nope.  Your first query letter could land you an agent.  Or your 402nd.  Or you could sent out 1,000 and never hear back from an agent, except for “no thank you.”

If I just knew how many query letters my personal novel required, I would have finished by now.  Like if I knew it was going to take exactly 78 query letters, I would have sent out those 78.  But as it is, there is an unknown number between zero and infinity.  It’s hard to make a single query letter, or even ten, seem like a substantial stepping stone compared to an unknown infinity.

That’s not to mention that each and every query letter requires about half an hour of research.  It’s a lot.  And it’s not really fun research.  It feels like half an hour down the drain when they reply a week later saying, “This sounds delightful, but most fantasy novels should be over 100,000 words.  Your isn’t.  So thanks but no thanks.”  (I got an email back basically saying that.)

And just when I was feeling ready for another round of queries, the holidays hit.  Most literary agencies close shop in December and January, so I can’t start querying again until then.  So, here’s my goal.

By February 1, 2017

  • Finish the re-read/edit of TSOC that I’m doing now
  • Re-evaluate (for the 100 millionth time) my query letter
  • Write my synopsis (because some agents are evil and want an amazing query letter AND a flawless first ten pages AND a 1-2 page synopsis.  Yay.)
  • Be ready to send out fan-tab-u-lous query + first 10 pages + synopsis when necessary

Also, if time:

  • Finish the rough draft of The Sequel.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

If you’re doing finals this week, best of luck.  Study like Hermione Granger is watching you.  Be kind to yourself, and be kind to others.  Remember that stories are important.  Your story is important.  Someone out there needs to read it, so please keep writing it.

I’ll be over here studying, reading, and writing.  Oh, and also drinking coffee like this:

this, my friend, is a pint

I’ll see you when I’m on Winter Break.  And as they say in my hometown, don’t forget to be awesome.

Happy December!

How did it get to be December 2nd already?

Ah, look at that.  The Hamilton Mixtape is out today!

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In other news, another NaNoWriMo is here and gone.  Nope, I didn’t win this year.  Didn’t even come close.  But I’m A-OK with that.  I started a story that needed to be written, and I’m so excited to see where it’s taking me.  I’m back in The Writing Mode, which is the best place to be.  I’m editing and writing and excited to start querying again after the holidays.  (Most literary agencies close up shop in December and January because it’s such a crazy time of year.)

Also, here’s another fun writerly-resource that I stumbled across: it’s called Scapple.  It’s a plotting program made by the same people who made Scrivener.  Basically, it’s a plotting tool where you can outline events or characters and connect them and move them around and add notes about them.  And like Scriviner, it has a 30 day free trial.  (30 days of use, not 30 consecutive days.)  AND I LOVE IT.  I’m too much of an anti-plotter (pantser at heart, you guys) to stick to traditional outlines.  But I’m writing a series now and I really kinda need to know what’s happening when.  So Scapple has been wonderful and freeing. (I’m not getting paid to promote it or anything.  I just think it’s super cool.)  Here’s an example of what it can look like:

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Here’s the actual plotting I’ve done on it:

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I really like it.  And I really like where this story is going.  It’s like I’m getting deeper and deeper into this world, discovering the heart of this series’ story.  The different story plots are weaving together and I’m madly in love.  Gotta go do some writing.  I have one week of classes left, and then I’ll have free days and late nights for hot cocoa and good books and writing.

Happy December everyone.  Turn on some Christmas music and write some words.  You never know the power your story has to change someone’s life.