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.

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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.

The Six Stages of Writing a Query Letter

At first I thought about writing an in-depth explanation of what makes a good query letter.  But I soon realized that this was a terrible idea because 1) it would be exceptionally boring, 2) all of that info is already on the web about a million times over, and 3) I am not an expert at all, so why should I tell you how to do it?

Instead, here’s the process, the steps of writing a query letter.

Step One – Panic. 

Spend at least a week procrastinating everything related to querying and agents out of sheer fear and trepidation.  Writing a query letter is [hopefully] that first baby step into the world of being published, so the thought of starting is… well, scary.

Step Two – Research.  Like Crazy. 

Google.  A lot.  Read about twenty different articles telling you “how to” and “how not to” write a query letter.  What to include and leave out.  What to say and how to say it.  Next, read some sample queries, get a feel for the flavor and tone of them.  This step usually leads to a bit more panic, but that’s normal.

Step Three – Write the Darn Thing.

Take a deep breath, and bleed onto the page.  Not literally.  But it feels a bit like death, trying to condense a 68,000-word novel (that contains a piece of your soul) into an 200-word query.  Once it’s finally done, and you’ve eaten too much chocolate and shed some tears (again, not literally), then you are ready to share it.  But not with agents yet.  Oh no.

Step Four – Get it Critiqued.

This is why I love Critique Circle — there is a forum dedicated to query- and synopsis- critquing.  So, you finally get up the courage to post your freshly-written query onto the forum, and then you nervously await responses.  Emphasis on the nervous part.  If you’re not part of CC, you [hopefully] get it critiqued by other people elsewhere.  Your friends, parents, writer buddies, that lady who works at your college writing center… you get the idea.

Step Five – Re-write it.

You asked them to tear it to pieces, and they did.  So you go back to the drawing board — er, keyboard — and totally start over.  You see it improve, and it’s better, and oh look it’s actually not horrible now.

Repeat Steps Four and Five Indefinitely.  In the meantime, continue to research query letters, and also give critiques of other people’s queries!  It’s a sure way to help you get better at writing your own.

Step Six – Send it Out.

That list of agents you’ve piled up?  Start submitting.

And then turn on Netflix, have a Lord of the Rings marathon, watch all of Classic Doctor Who, or, uh, start editing your next novel, because there’s a long wait after step six.  A long wait with a lot of tears (actual tears are possible with this stage), and usually lots and lots of rejection.  But there’s a light at the end of the tunnel!  A long, dark, smelly tunnel dripping with water, but a bright light at the end.  In the meantime, you’re writing the next novel, dreaming the next dream, furiously typing away at your keyboard, pouring your soul into another story.  Because you’re a writer, and that’s what you do.

Let me know in the comments what your experience is with query letters.  Or your thoughts on the new Star Wars movie.  Or on Classic Doctor Who.  Or whatever.

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!

There and Back Again – With a Bright New Idea

Yesterday, I returned from an 11-day missions trip to Asia.

Our primary goal was to run a kids’ camp for a week, and show them Jesus’ love.  Which we did.  But God used us in so many other ways that I wasn’t expecting.

Needless to say, I didn’t get much writing done.

But I did a whole lot of dreaming.  With scenery like this, it was impossible for my mind to not wander into my story.

KZ2

Snow-capped mountains, herds of sheep, new smells, a foreign language — of course I was planning new scenes for TSOC.  But then… wait.  What if… what if… oh dear.  It seems I have a new story to write.

The idea actually began before my trip, at writer’s club a few weeks ago.  We were assigned to plan out a short story about something that had actually happened, and then embellish it with something fictional.  The girl next to me asked if the embellishment had to be realistic.  “Like, could there be dragons in it?” she asked innocently.  “Sure,” replied the lady in charge.

Well, in that case…

I decided to write a short story about a girl named Emily taking the SAT, something I myself had done recently.  The ticking clock, the quiet scratching of pencils, the glares from the proctor person when Emily’s eyes wandered into hers, the pressure in her mind while trying to figure out a problem.  And then… the smell of smoke.  The sound of a hurricane, and the window behind her breaking, shattering the silence into a million pieces.  Emily’s dragon coming to rescue her from the terror of the SAT.  It was brilliant.  Because, as Tolkien said:

It’s simply not a story worth telling if they’re aren’t any dragons.

So there we had it: normal girl, hiding a very abnormal life.  She trains dragons and other magical creatures, but tries to attend public high school.  I loved the concept.

What does this have to do with my trip to Asia?  Well… the mountains were stunning.  I couldn’t help but imagine Emily and her dragon spiraling through them, looping the clouds, throwing snowballs at each other from the top, or just hiding in them to block out the world.

But on the plane trip home, I added another character.  There was an elderly man sitting across the isle from me.  He was so unique, I instantly started thinking, he would be so much fun to describe.  And then, he would be such a fun character.  And then THIS happened:

Mr. Norrison.  He looked to be at least a hundred years old.  Pale, sullen skin clung to his face.  He had a very hooked nose that gave him the look of a vulture, although the sparkle in his eyes gave him the look of a kind vulture.

As always, he wore a perfect back suit, that if possible, looked even older than Mr. Norrison himself.  Yet like him, it seemed to still be in perfect working order.

“Good morning, Emily,” he said in his raspy voice, laying a small briefcase on the table.  Emily had never seen him without it, but she’d also never seen him pull the same thing out of it twice.

“What do you have for me today?” she asked, leaning closer.  She desperately needed a new animal to train, but she hoped that she could afford the purchase of whatever he was selling.

Not for the first time, he seemed to read her mind.  “You and I are both a wee bit short on money at the moment, darling.  So I have a proposition to make.”  He lowered his bony fingers to the case and unbuckled it with a click.  He smiled, and then opened the top.

Inside lay two enormous eggs, each a shimmering, translucent turquoise color, dappled yet smooth as glass.

“Where — ?” she began, then stopped.  “How much?”

His eyes shone.  “Free.”

She waited for him to continue.

“Train them both for me, my dear Emma, and when they are two years old, we will sell them both and split the profit.”

She bit her lip.  Two years of training with no money put forward.  But still, the profit from a well-trained two-year-old Blue Tongue would be enormous – word on the street was that there were less than a hundred left alive.

She locked eyes with Mr. Norrrison.  “Deal.”

They shook hands.  No paperwork, no magical contract, no drops of blood put into a vial – it wasn’t needed between them.  Emily was a well-respected trainer that had never let a client down.  And as for Mr. Norrison – he might not look it, but he was a more powerful wizard than any she’d ever met.  The unspoken trust between them was utterly complete.

Emily gently took the eggs out of the case that would have been too small for them without magic.  She laid them in a basket by the fireplace, wrapped in a warm red blanket.  She’d check their shell temperature later, but for now, they were fine.

“Thank you,” she said, as Mr. Norrison clicked his case shut.

“Until next time.”  He turned and left, the door shutting softly behind him.

Emily turned and looked at the two eggs, quiet and harmless – for now.  “What have I gotten myself into this time?” she asked to no one in particular.

It feels so good to have another project to work on when TSOC is finished.  I was worried for a while that I might always be a one-story author, that TSOC would forever drain my creative juices.  Hahaha, I should never have worried.  All it took was a night at writer’s club and a trip to Asia.

“Crafting a Killer Beginning” Workshop

It was a dark and stormy night…

Wait, you mean that’s been used already?!

Humph.

Just before meeting Ally Carter last week, I attended a writing workshop called “Crafting the Killer Beginning,” put on by The Writer’s Center.  First writing workshop attended at age 16: Check.

In the 85 degree, 95 % humidity, we listened and discussed and churned around in our brains the topic of what makes a good opening line.  (And listened to a girl in the back blow her nose a lot.  Sorry, guys.  I have Allergies.)

Our first exercise was to take 5-10 minutes to write a sentence.  The opening sentence.

I already knew what mine was for my story: “Fog rolled through the trees, making it hard for Star to see.”  I knew it wasn’t out-of-this-world good.  Which is why I wanted to go to this workshop.

We then talked about what three things an opening sentence (and a story as a whole) should have.

1) Tone

2) Plot

3) Character

These things should all be balanced.  At this point, I didn’t feel too bad.  (Except for having to blow my nose again.)  My opening sentence had all three!

Tone: foggy trees, forest, hard to see, mysterious, dark, damp.

Plot: Hard to see – Star NEEDS to see something, and the fog is giving her issues.

Character: (obviously) Star

The first sentence is a bit like a handshake.  It sets up the reader’s expectations.

We talked about this for a while.  What type of expectations are set up with this opening sentence?  Hmm.

Our next exercise was to look at some sample opening sentences in some different categories.

First, we had the Nail in the Coffin, where someone died.  Then we had The Corker, which toyed with your sense of reality.  This was followed by The Outsidewhich looked at scenery,and The Inside, which was an introduction to someone’s mind.  Next came The Cheeky (which played with words), The Spoken (dialogue), and The Hello (an introduction), and a few others.

*A note on The Outside: I raged about setting here.  But this workshop – especially looking at The Outside – re-emphasized my recent epitome: setting must do something.  It can’t simply exist.  So in The Outside, it either sets the tone or drives the plot.  Which, actually, is what it should always do.

At this point, we had to sneak out the back of the tent to go see Ally.  We missed the tail end of the workshop, but it was still incredibly awesome to be stuck in a tent with twenty-five other writers, talking about writing!  

Did I ever come up with a perfect first sentence?  Nope.

Did I love the workshop? Yes!

Maybe next time it won’t be so humid and I won’t run out of kleenex.

foggy trees