Why I Blog

I’ve been a blogger for over two years now.  I have nearly 100 followers (love you guys!) and I’ve written 119 posts.  So I thought that now would be a good time to share the why behind this blog.

Here’s four things I love about this blog:

1. Getting to talk about writing

I don’t actually talk about writing with my friends that much.  It feels a bit personal, complicated, messy.  It’s just… not something I talk about with people that much.  And I don’t currently have any writer friends in “real life.”  So it’s fun to get to share things that I learn about writing with people who want to hear them.  It’s fun to get to shout to the world that I discovered how the heck to write setting, or what close POV really means. (Non-writers just don’t get it, do they?)

2. Instantly Rewarding

When I write a novel, I spend months or years writing and editing before anyone else reads it.  It’s a really long process, and while the writing itself is enough of a reward, it takes forever and a day before my writing is ready to be shared.

But with blogging, it’s so fun to see people enjoying my thoughts and words soon after they’re written.  I love posting something right before going to bed, and then waking up in the morning to an inbox full of emails saying “so-and-so liked your post.”  It’s wonderful to know that people are enjoying things I have to say.  It makes me feel like my voice matters.

3. Inspires me to keep writing

I’m not quite sure how this works, but keeping a writing blog motivates me to keep writing novels.  When I write blog posts, it’s a reminder to myself that I am a writer.  I have stories to tell.  I have a voice.  I have stories burning inside me.  Sometimes I’ll even write lil pep talks to myself in my blog posts, and that’s such a powerful thing to do.

4. Community

I can’t tell you how cool it is to find like-minded people who understand.  You folks know the joys and struggles of writing.  You know the pain of writer’s block and the joy of finishing a draft.  I love being connected to people who understand.  And when you beautiful folks comment on my blog posts and share your thoughts?  You give me hope and happiness.

So.  Thank you, readers.  Thank you, followers.  Thank you to the people who like and comment and share.  You help keep me motivated and positive.  You help me be a better writer.

That’s why I blog.  For you.

That Evil and Illustrious First Chapter

It’s no secret that I want to begin querying soon.  But there’s just one more thing (well, five more things, but mainly one) that I need to work on.

That evil, infamous, obscure being; that illustrious yet arcane thing called Chapter One. The thing that hangs elusively dangled above the Unpublished Author’s head like freedom above a teenager.

Bad analogy.

My apologies.

better sorry.gif

But the fact remains that a lot of us find Chapter 1 hard to write.  Or rather, hard to get right.  Chapter 1 of The Sound of Color has had probably 12 or so revisions and two complete re-writes.  And I’m still not 100% sure this is the version I’ll end up using.

I think it’s because there’s so much resting on Chapter 1.  It’s the handshake, the first interaction.  It’s where you either catch the reader in your net or you let him swim away.  (I’m full of strange analogies today.)  Almost like a delicate recipe where there needs to be just the right ratio of action to backstory, dialogue to narrative, characters to scenery, etc etc.  And if you add just a tiny bit too much of one thing, it will catch on fire in the oven and burn your whole house – er, story – to the ground.

I’m not here to tell you how to write chapter one.

(Although here are some good links if you’re too lazy to Google this info:)

http://annerallen.com/2013/06/10-things-your-opening-chapter-should.html

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O1y_E6sTYfA

http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2012/05/29/25-things-to-know-about-writing-the-first-chapter/

Right, I’m not here to tell you how to write chapter 1.  I’m here for comradery.  I’m here to let you know that I too struggle with perfecting chapter one.  And that’s okay.

That’s why I love blogs about writing.  I love to see other people struggling with the same things I am.  One blogger I follow, John Berkowitz (fabulous author and quality blogger) said this recently about first chapters:

Writing the first chapter of a novel is hard. But it is hard over a long period of time; you will work on your first chapter longer than you will work on any other part of your novel. And you will be working on it until the moment it goes to press.

I couldn’t have said it better myself.  And then he goes on to talk about how hard Chapter 1 of Book 2 is, and let me tell you, folks – I’m glad I’m only on Book 1.

What Writing Doesn’t Have to be

For a lot of writers, November is all about unorthodox writing.  So, without further ado, here’s what writing doesn’t have to be:

Done Alone.

A lot of writers think that writing is solitary.  But actually, the best writing happens within a community.  And there ARE communities out there! I give you evidence:

  • Critique Circle
  • NaNoWriMo (and Camp NaNo), and sprints, and write-ins, and all the other glorious things that make writing a group effort.
  • Writers Clubs (there’s one at my local library.  There might be one at yours too!)
  • Friends who are currently doubling as Beta Readers

Perfect on the First Try.

Or even good.  Or make sense.  In fact, the moment that we realize that our first drafts are allowed to stink, we are given an incredible freedom to follow our imagination where it leaves.  This is part of the brilliance of NaNoWriMo, and it is something I’m still trying to learn.

Conventional.

  • I have a dream about a hashtag for NaNoWriMo called #NovelingInNovelPlaces – the general premise is that we post pictures of all the ridiculous places we take our laptops throughout the month.  So far, my list consists of The Car, a Pizza Place, A Tent, and Sitting Around the Campfire.  It’s all about getting in our word-count and starting conversations about writing.  The point is this: novel-writing doesn’t have to be done in a basement or at Starbucks.  But those places work well too.
  • Sometimes I reward myself with twizzlers.  Sometimes I write in my room.  Sometimes I listen to crazy music.  It’s okay to do whatever it takes to get the story down.
  • How about this guy who published a story that takes place in another person’s world?

Boring.

A lot of time when I explain to my friends that I enjoy writing, they look at me like I’m crazy.  “I hate writing essays,” they say.  And then they receive an hour-long speech about how creative writing is different.

Because honestly, I can lose myself when I write the same way I can when I read.  So that the words fall away before my eyes and my forget I’m sitting in my room, and suddenly the fantasy world is real.

Writing is exciting.  There are scenes in TSOC that make me cry when I read them.  There’s a scene where a character gets an arrow pulled out his shoulder, and I flinch Every. Single. Time. I read it.  There are scenes that leave me on the edge of my seat, scenes that leave me breathless as I write, scenes that whirl me away to another land.

That’s why I write.

The Epicness that is NaNoWriMo

If you look up the word “Epic,” in Beth’s Dictionary (a little different than Webster’s), there will be this picture next to it:

The LOGO

Because NaNoWriMo is the pinnacle of all things epic.  At least in the writing world.  At least in Beth’s world.

It’s been two days so far.

Notable Moments of Day 1:

  • “Attending” the Live Write-In online and seeing the comments just flood the video and the writing just HAPPENING.
  • Sitting at my bea-u-ti-ful desk and eating twizzlers.
  • THE VOICE.  OH. MY. GOSH. I love this story’s voice.
  • Hitting 2,000 words.
  • I should have plotted the plot a little more…

Notable Moments of Day 2:

  • Writing in those 20 minutes before I had to leave for school and thinking that I might switch to present tense
  • Attending a Write-In at my community college (where I take classes) and WRITING with REAL LIVE people
  • Word sprint at said Write-In.  15 minutes.  650 words.  Wowzer.  (I got second place; the lady in charge pulled of 700+)
  • Chatting about characters and Plot Ninjas and killing characters and favorite sentences and wordcounts and all things NaNoWriMo
  • Hitting, you know, 3000 words
  • Hitting 4000 words!!!!!
  • Getting a button that says “I Novel,” a sticker that says “Contents Extremely Imaginative.”  I love them both dearly.

button nanowrimo-extremely-imaginative-sticker

  • Finally being home and doing some more editing on TSOC.  Because I’m still putting those nifty line edits back into my MS text document.  Yeah I didn’t quite finish before November.  Oooopsy.
  • I now have a blister on the side of my right ring finger.  ‘Cause apparently I type on the side of that finger.  Greaaaat.

If y’all are doing NaNo, what’s your wordcount?  Mine is currently 4,542.  And that number feels amazing.

And if you’re not doing NaNo, who cares!  Write like your chair is on fire this week anyways.  Okay, maybe that wasn’t the best simile I’ve ever written…  But NaNo is all about quantity over quality, so who cares.

Getting to Know You

Hey everyone!

I want this website to be a place of community.  A place of support.  A place where you can give your two-cents worth on things related to writing and life.

But some of you loyal followers NEVER comment on my blog!

So.  Today we’re doing something a little different.

Today, I want to get to know YOU.

Therefore…

If you enjoy my blog, leave me a comment on THIS page with four pieces of info:

1. Your name.  (Not your full name!  Doesn’t even have to be your real name.  If you want to be Voldemort today, that’s fine.)

2. One fun thing about yourself.  (You know, that random fact that make you YOU.)

3. One of your favorite fictional characters.

4. One thing you’d like me to blog about / one question for me, either personal or writing-related.

I’ll leave an example for you in the comments.  🙂

Thanks guys!

Am I an Anomaly?

I am a teenage writer.  Pretty normal.

With a completed a novel.  A little less normal.

Who has poured time and energy into improving her craft.  Pretty unusual.

Whose writing might be publishable sometime soon.  Anomaly?

I’m just curious – how many other teenager writers out there are serious about writing?  I feel like the answer is not that many.  For example, if I Google “teenager writing tips,” I get a bunch of articles full of stuff I already know.  It feels as if everyone assumes that teenage writer = beginner writer.  Maybe that’s true to some extent, but I don’t feel like a beginner anymore.  Definitely not an expert, but not a beginner.

It seems as though there just aren’t many teens who are committed to writing.

In fact, on Critique Circle, there’s an entire forum committed to “teenage writers.”  But it’s almost never used.  Maybe most teenage writers simply never bother to get outside feedback on their writing.

I feel like I have this conversation every few weeks:

Me: I enjoy writing.

Friend: Oh.  That’s cool.  I’ve written a couple stories, but I’ve never let anyone read them.

Me: Nice!  Ever thought about writing a novel?

Friend: Haha, no.  You?

Me: Oh.  Well… yeah. I wrote a book.

Friend: …

Me: …

Friend: …you wrote

Friend: …you wrote a book?

Me: Yeah.

Friend: What?  That’s… wow.  Can I read it?

They’re always so surprised.  Taken aback, even.  It was a bit frightening at first, but now I’m more used to it.  I have a better idea of what questions they are going to ask, and how to answer them.

But seriously – how many other teenagers have written a novel?  I’ve heard of the few-and-far-between stories, like Christopher Paolini, who wrote Eragon when he was fifteen or something.

But I haven’t really bumped into a lot of other serious teen writers.  Most of my critique exchanges on CC have been with adults.  Most of the writing blogs I follow are by adults.  Most of the followers on my blog are adults.  (Nothing against adults!  I love you all!)

Most of the people that get their books published are adults.

So am I an anomaly?  And if so, am I okay with that?  Am I okay with one day telling my friends that I’ve gotten a book published?

Maybe I’m wrong.  Maybe you’ve met some teen writers who know what they’re doing and have a semi-coherent plan for getting published.

But honestly, I haven’t.

That’s alright.  I’ll be an adult in a few years anyway.  And until then, I’ll just be what I am: a writer.  If I’m an anomaly at the same time, then so be it.

Five Things That Made Me a Better Writer

The other day, I was thinking about my writing journey.  What got me from beginner to where I am now.  So, without further ado, here’s Five Things That Made Me a Better Writer.

1) Writing.  The first step to being a good writer is to just be a writer.  The simple act of writing, playing around with stories and characters – it’s taught me a lot.  I’ve learned by doing.  However, my progress would have been a ton slower if not for outside help.  Which brings me to my next point.

2) Getting Critiqued.  One of the best writing-related decisions I’ve ever made was to join Critique Circle, an amazing online writing group.  I learned so much by people telling me – in a constructive way – the things that I needed to fix.  But also, the things that I was doing well.  The boost of encouragement that I got every time someone said “hang in there” helped me to keep writing.

Now, if you think that’s the only benefit of something like CC, you are sadly mistaken.  Take a look at my next point:

3) Giving Critiques.  On CC, you have to give at least 3 critiques in order to submit a story for review.  Which means I spent lots of time critiquing.  Lots of time spent staring at words, figuring out what made me stumble over words.  Observing what makes a sentence work and what kills it.  The act of getting my hands dirty in other people’s work really helped me to see the issues in my own.  It taught me to be a better proof-reader of my own work, and it taught me to write better and avoid certain mistakes altogether.

Each time I give a critique on CC, I also look to see what other people have said about the piece of work.  I love seeing the things that other people caught that I missed, hearing other people’s opinions about how to fix something, and smiling at the typos I caught that no one else did.  🙂

4) Reading Books on the Craft of Writing.  One in particular really helped me early on: Self-Editing for Fiction Writers.  It has everything you need to turn your WIP into an amazing work of art.  I’m sure there are tons of other writing books out there that are just as good.  The main point is: get some professional help from a book on the craft of writing. (I’ve also heard tons of good things about Steven King’s On Writing.)

5) The Online Presence.  Probably top of this list is a blog called Crackin The WIP – it’s a blog by seven different writers, and it’s glorious.  There have been so many posts that have changed the way I thought about something (dialogue, characters, plot, etc) – and often times, just reading a post on that blog gives me the push of motivation to dive into my own writing once again.

But there are other blogs, too, that have helped me.  And forums on CC are a great place for information.  And sometimes, just Googling a question leads to a great article that helps my writing.

And that concludes my list!

What are some things that got you where you are today?  Have you used all of these resources?  Are there any important ones that I left out?  Drop me a comment and let me know.  Happy writing!