Progress in Unexpected Sizes

Remember that post two weeks ago where I promised I was going to write faithfully for the rest of the summer?

Pretend it doesn’t exist.

You see, I’m finding it really hard to write this story.  Maybe it’s because it’s summer and my mind is elsewhere.  Maybe it’s because I’ve been re-reading Harry Potter and I care more about Rowling’s characters than my own right now .  Maybe it’s because I still don’t know what the main story arc is going to be in this novel.

I really like the character and the world I’ve developed, but I just don’t know what happens next.

It’s very frustrating, and I have a feeling I just need to write anyways to break through this block… but I don’t feel like writing.  Humph.

But writing is a tricky sport.

Pretend you play football and you want to improve.  Of course, to get better, you have to actually practice the game.  But in order to perform your best, you also need to sleep, and eat right, and do sit ups and push ups and go running and drink lots of Gatorade.

Writing is the same way.  Of course, you need to practice it to get better.  But you also need to get sleep, and go on walks, and get feedback, and eat right, and hang out with friends, and most importantly, read.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

And I have been reading a ton (blog post soon about summer reads).  So I’m going to choose to view these past few weeks not as a failure, but rather as a refresh.  I’ve been filling up my “words tank” so that I can empty it into my own novel.

The other thing I’ve been doing is working on my querying.  I’ve re-written chapter one.  (Okay, actually re-re-re-re-re-re-re-written, but same thing.)  I’ve re-written my query letter, too!  (Actually re-re-re-re-re-re-re-re-re written or something – I’m on version 24 right now.)

Annnnnnd I’ve sent these two new-and-improved things out to another handful of agents.

This sounds like nothing.  But it’s actually hours of typing and fine-tuning and checking websites and stalking agents on twitter and nervously hitting “send” on emails that are going to real live agents.

ahhhhhh!

And you know what?  Progress is progress.  Progress is progress is progress is progress.  I will choose to feel proud of myself for the things I have accomplished instead of beating myself up about the things I haven’t.

Tomorrow’s a new day, a new chance to jump back in and work harder and be the brilliant writer that I can be.  Today I’ll go to bed thankful for the work I’ve already put in.

MM6 – 500 Words

Today was the first day in a long time that I’ve actually glued myself to a chair for a writing session.  (That was a figure of speech, but if you find real glue to be helpful to your writing process, go for it!)

For the next 6 weeks, I’m forcing myself to write at least 500 words a day, 6 days a week.  That will be 3,000 words a week, and 18,000 words total.  (Whoever said homeschoolers weren’t good at math?)

Now, that’s not record-breaking at all.  Heck, that’s EASY compared to doing NaNoWriMo.  But there are two things I’m going for with this approach.

One is quality over quantity.  Yes, I learned a lot from doing NaNoWriMo last November.  But I wrote at such a breakneck speed that the quality of the story suffered greatly.  By allowing myself to write slowly, I will give myself the space required to create this story well as the plot unfolds before me.

Second, I’m hoping that this practice will help instill better writing habits in me.  At the Christian camp I just got back from, the pastor said something over and over to us: practice doesn’t make perfect.  Practice makes permanent.

His point was that we should intentionally practice loving people so that it becomes a habit.  My point is that I want to intentionally practice writing for a long period of time so that it too becomes a habit.  (I want to practice loving well, too!)

Here’s the deal: the things you do are the things you’ll keep doing.  If you want writing to be part of your life for the rest of your life, you have to practice it.  And there’s no better day than today.

I’d love to have you join my 500word/ day challege.  500 words is enough to get you engaged with your story, to get your feet wet, to get the ball rolling.  It feels like an accomplishment when you’re done, and often times you want to keep writing even after you’ve hit that mark.

But even if that seems too hard, I’d love for you to write something – anything – today.

Practice Makes Permanent.  Start practicing.

Your Weekly Motivation – Arriving a Day Late

Hello fellow writers!

Sorry I’m a day late.  Hope your summer is going amazing.

Today’s piece of writerly wisdom: take your writing with you.

This email is a day late because I’m traveling internationally and I’ve been busy packing, flying, and buying overpriced airport food.

But in my little backpack that comes with me on the plane, there’s a notebook and gel pens.  Because even though I’m not bringing my laptop, I can’t go two weeks without writing.  So on the layovers and late nights, I’m going to be writing.

And planning.  And dreaming up this story in my head.

So look.  If I can write this blog post from my phone in an airport, you can write during your lunch break.  Or first thing in the morning.  Or you can plan story arcs in your head while you wait at a stop light.  You can work on characters as you take a shower.

Write whenever and wherever you can.  Your story will benefit, and so will you.

MM 4 – Don’t Waste Today.

You will never get a chance to repeat today.

What you do with your seconds and minutes today is set in stone for all eternity.  You can never take back the things your do, the words you say.

Your number of days is limited.  Finite.  Coming to an end.

So don’t waste a single one of them.

What do you want your legacy to be?  When you look back on your life someday, would you rather be able to brag about how your novel has impacted lives, or about how many hours you spent watching Netflix?  Would you rather have a long list of people you’ve blessed, or a long list of days wasted to Facebook?

We each only get one chance on this Earth.

Act like it.

Write like it.

Thanks to an amazing Broadway musical, I’m currently fascinated by someone named Alexander Hamilton.  An American founding father and politician back in the 1700s, Hamilton did a ton with his short life.

He published his first work in America when he was 17.  It was a 35-page, 13,000-word defense of the Continental Congress.  He followed it up a year later with 30,000-word sequel.  Yeah.  Hamilton had published an entire novel’s worth of words while he was still a teenager.

What have YOU been up to?

Hamilton wrote like there was no tomorrow.  He did SO MUCH with his short life.

I want to have that same drive.  That same passion.

My absolute favorite lines from the musical are these:

Why do you write like you're Running out of time

Both in the Hamilton musical, and in real life, Alexander Hamilton heard the constant ticking of his life’s clock.  He knew he only had one chance.  And he made the most of it.

Be like Hamilton.  Write like you’re running out of time.  Like you only have one life.  Like your story needs to be told.  Like today matters.

hamilton 1.gif

Write like your chair’s on fire, like someone’s holding a gun to your head, like you believe in your story.  Write like you’re Alexander Hamilton.

Don’t waste today.  Get off the internet and write your story.  Today counts if you make it count.

The path to becoming a writer is simple.  You simply have to choose, day after day, to say Yes, I will write today.  I might not feel like it and I might write trash, but I will write nonetheless.

 

MM3 – Don’t Be Afraid to Write Rubbish

After spending months and months editing a novel until it’s the best it can be, it’s hard to go back and start on another book.  For me, it’s about quality: the past year I’ve been working on a novel that’s pretty close to publishing-quality.  So it’s strange – painful, even – to jump back into writing and find myself wading through first draft quality.  I’ve thought to myself several times man, why am I so bad at this?  And then I patiently remind myself that this is the first draft of my new novel.

This is one of my favorite writerly quotes:

“The First Draft is Just You Telling Yourself the Story.”  -Terry Pratchett

Or I’ve also heard it put this way:

first draft.jpg

As someone who doesn’t really plan out their story ahead of time, these speak to me on a deep level.  I’m feeling this strange pressure to be perfect, to obey all the “rules” of writing, to write flawless prose on my first go.  And not to mention, to have my plot perfectly thought out – complete with every plot twist and piece of suspense.  Oh, and my characters?  They need to be exactly right ASAP.

NO.

It’s okay to write trash.

That’s what rough drafts are for.

okay to write garbage.jpg

No matter where you are in your writing process, allow yourself room for mistakes.  Take chances.  Write boldly.  Pick yourself up when you fail.  Also do learn to edit well.

MM 2 – Don’t Throw in the Towel.

It’s Monday again, and we’re back for Motivational Monday #2.  I meant to publish this last week, but I had some unexpected people show up as a surprise for me.

Anyways, let’s get to it!

Maybe today you’re felling like this:

The kids are sick.  My dog just died.  I’m tired, or sick, or I don’t have the energy to write today. Besides, a new episode of Supernatural just came out…  I can always get back into writing tomorrow.  Life is just too busy.

The plot is so riddled with holes it looks like swiss cheese.  The characters don’t make any sense.  I haven’t written for three months, because my imaginary friends won’t talk to me.  I just don’t feel like editing.

Maybe you’re even closer to That was my third rejection this week.  This query letter will never be good enough.  My story just isn’t worth the effort.  It would be so much easier to give up.

I’m kinda there right now.

I have so many stories I want to tell, but I just don’t feel like writing.  I have a novel that I want to get published, but I just don’t feel like querying.  And I feel like no matter how hard I try, I’ll never be able to get my plot just right so that the plot twist I was going for has its full effect.

I’m being honest, guys.  Some days I feel like I’m a brilliant writer, but some days I just don’t.

And you know what?  That’s okay.

What’s not okay is to let those feelings rule my life.  If I honestly, deep down, thought I was a horrible writer, I wouldn’t be spending my time this way.  If I firmly believed that my story had no potential, I wouldn’t have even bothered to write a query letter in the first place!  I do believe that God’s plans for my life involve being a writer, and I do believe that my novel can get published and that people can enjoy reading it.

So I refuse to believe the lies that my “feelings” tell me.  And right here and right now, I’m deciding to tune them out.

There’s this section in the Bible that talks about putting on armor.  No, being a Christian doesn’t mean I walk around in chain mail with a sword (although that would be cool too).  The “armor” that God tells us to put on is figurative, or spiritual, and its purpose is to help Christians be able to stand up to temptations and face the hard stuff in life.

My new favorite piece of armor is the Helmet.  Now, the Helmet goes over your head to protect your brain.  So by putting on a figurative Helmet, we protect our minds from crappy thoughts.  (Think about crappy thoughts as rocks being thrown at your head.  If you don’t have your helmet on, they’re gonna hurt.)

But the Helmet also does something else: It lets us hear God’s voice better.  I like to think of my Helmet more like Iron Man’s, because his has all sorts of cool flashy-lighty things inside, AND it has a little speakers so that Tony can hear the voices he’s supposed to.  (Like Cap yelling orders at him, or Jarvis telling him to stop being stupid.)

iron_man.gif

I swear I’m going to relate this back to writing.

Here’s my encouragement for you: even if you’re not religious, you can choose what voices you listen to.  Maybe it’s time you stopped letting your skull be exposed to the verbal rocks that get chucked at us every day.  Maybe it’s time that you put on a helmet with little speakers inside, and tune in to the channels that give you encouragement.  So when your feelings tell you that you’re worthless, you’ll actually hear that you’re amazing.  (Because guess what?  You are.)

I know first-hand that writing is hard sometimes.  It’s incredibly rewarding, also.  But sometimes we get bogged-down by it.

So tune in to this message right now: have courage.  Try again.  Pick yourself up when you fail.  Write and write and write and write.  Don’t give up.

And surround yourself with a voices that encourage you.

Here’s a final piece of advice for you:

courage doesn't always roar

Whatever you do, don’t quit.  Be Iron Man.

(JUST FOR THE RECORD, THOUGH, I’M TEAM CAP FOREVER.)

Leave me a note in the comments about how you stay positive when you’re felling worthless.  Also let me know what you thought of Captain America: Civil War.  Because it was AMAZING, wasn’t it?

Motivational Mondays #1

Hey guys!  My last day of high school comes up this Wednesday.  Pretty exciting, huh?  So I’ve gotten back to writing some, and now I’m back to blogging too!

I’m starting a new blogging thing for the summer.  Every Monday will be a pep talk in blog format.  There will be inspirational quotes, helpful hints, and probably some gifs telling you that you can do it!  So tune in every Monday from here to September for a dose of that ever-elusive thing called motivation.  I’ll still post other writerly-things on other days of the week, but you can count on weekly Motivational Mondays.

Without further ado, here’s your first one.

The theme this week: Remind yourself why.

Why do you write?  Is it because there are voices echoing in your head all day that drive you mad?  (If so, you should talk to your doctor about it.) Is it because you long for an escape to another land?  Is it because there’s nothing that beats the feeling of brain-to-keyboard flow?

Whatever it is, remind yourself today why you write.  Then use that as an inspiration to keep going.

For me, I write for two reasons:

  1. Often times it’s fun and captivating and surreal.  I love the escape, the moment when I totally forget I’m sitting in a chair and suddenly I’m someone else, a person that I created from nothing.
  2. If I don’t write, I feel like I’ve forgotten to do something important, and there’s a nagging itch in the back of my mind.

What about you?  Why did you choose to do this in the first place?  Take that and let it fuel you.  Even if you’re stuck in a plot hole a mile deep, or you’re swamped with exams, or you’ve been out of it for a while, remind yourself that you do this for a reason.  And if you don’t have a reason, then get off this website and do something else with your life.  Seriously.  If you don’t have the need to be a writer, spend your time on something else.  😉

Here’s your quote of the day:

a delicious thing to write

If you’re a writer, you have a gift.

Use it.