Artsy Stuff and Learning Curves

Hello lovely writers!  Today’s post includes fanart, a poorly-drawn graph, and some rambling about learning to be a writer.  Hope you enjoy!

Long before I was a writer, I was an artist.  (Not necessarily a good one lol.)  I’ve been making things since I was a really little kid.  I’ve been drawing horses and dogs for as long as I can remember, and I’ve taken art classes since I was in middle school.  I’ve always enjoyed the feeling of accomplishment when I finish something I’m proud of.  I’ve always enjoyed art for the escape it provides: when I’m working on a piece of art, the rest of the world is entirely gone.

I’ll sometimes still get out the ol’ pencil box and do some fanart or whatever.  (Some examples below because why not?)

And just recently, I picked up the guitar!  My brother has had a guitar just sitting in his closet for the past few years, and I earlier this summer, I had the sudden idea to ask to borrow it.  So for the past several weeks, I’ve been teaching myself guitar!  (This is why I love the internet, guys: YouTube tutorials, online tuners, free guitar chords, and pretty much anything else you need.)  And it’s been so much fun.  I love the learning curve that exists for when I first learn something new.  It seems like every day I practice, I learn something new.  I’m constantly making big strides; I’m growing exponentially.

For example, the first day of playing guitar I could barely play a few chords.  On the third day, I could play a simple song really slowly.  By day 5, my fingerstips no longer felt like I was slicing them open.  Within just a few weeks, I’ve learned how to use a capo, I can play chords in quick succession, and I’m able to pick up new chords really quickly.  I’m starting to learn strumming patterns and put everything together to play songs at regular tempo.

I fondly remember my early days of writing, when I’d just started out.  Every chapter I completed was uncharted territory; every blog post I read taught me something new.  I was like a sponge as I discovered found craft books and online blogs.  And then about halfway through my first novel, I found the website Critique Circle.  I used to get so excited when my chapters would come up for critique, because I was always learning.  New terms, new ideas, new things to think about.  Characters, tension, showing vs telling, passive vs active voice, dialogue, setting.  So much to learn about.  Writing was so exciting.  It was new and special and a bit scary.  It was also so exciting, because it was so easy to find resources that broadened my knowledge.

Sometimes, now, I find it difficult to be in love with writing.  I’ve grown so much as a writer.  I know so much more; I have a lot more experience; I know what I’m doing.  Not that I’m an expert or anything LOL – obviously I’m always learning and honing my craft.  I’m just… not a beginner anymore.  And because I’m no longer a beginner, I’m not learning new things about writing at the same rate as I was when I first started writing.  For reference, I’ve made this nifty graph:

skill vs time.png

If you’re thinking that it looks like I made this graph if MS Paint, then you’re correct.  🙂

I’m at the point in my writing journey where the speed at which I’m learning has started to level off a bit.  So it’s easier to get discouraged, because I don’t see my skill improving at the same rate it used to be.

That’s why it was so refreshing for me to start learning guitar.  I’m still in the “beginner” phases, where I’m learning so quickly that it’s exciting and enticing.

So here’s a question for all you experienced writers: how do you keep perusing your dreams and your art when the learning gets slow?

I actually do want your answers (leave a comment below!) but I’d also like to add my own answer.  I do it by reminding myself how far I’ve come.  I don’t take for granted the things I’ve learned.  And I remind myself why I learned them.  I didn’t just learn about writing so I could keep all that knowledge in my head.  I learned about writing so I could be a better writer.  

And I’m in love with writing.  Not with being a writer, or knowing about writing, or being a published author, or anything else.  With the actual writing.  With taking an idea and making it come alive.  With editing a mess of a story into a coherent book.  With making magic happen with words and fingertips on keys.  That’s what I love.  The knowledge is just a tool to help me do that better.  So who cares about learning curves?  Let’s go write stories.

Re-Writes & Happiness

writing in class
This is my notebook for my math class.  Only there’s about twice as much novel-writing as math notes in it, because I write in class a lot.

I’m once again finding myself in the vast green land of Re-Writes.  To be honest, I think this might be my favorite part of novel-creation.  The rough draft is hard because I’m not sure where the story is supposed to be going, and then later, edits are monotonous and they just take forever.

But in between those two, there are Re-Writes.  For me, this is the sweet spot of writing.  It’s the mysterious Wood Between the Worlds, where the real story starts to take place.

Right now I’m working on a fun, snarky, YA urban-fantasy novel that I originally wrote for NaNoWriMo in 2015.  After a year and a half of very little love, it’s finally getting the attention it deserves.  Because here’s the thing: in NaNo, I didn’t really have an idea of what I wanted the plot to be.  I knew very little going into that November, and just hard-core ‘Pantsed’ my way through the month (in other words, behaved like a Pantser, or one who flies by the seat of their pants when writing as opposed to outlining first).  So then on December 1st, I was left with 50,002 words of cool characters, a great voice, a fantastic world, and very rambling plot.  So now I’m taking all those things and adding characters, tension, and a real plot.  In other words, I’m doing re-writes.

And it’s amazing.  I’ve already written the rough draft, so I’m that much closer to having a complete, ready-to-share-with-the-world story.  (Or at least share with my mom.)  The fact that the rough draft is already done gives me strength and hope.

done the impossible, that makes us mighty

But also, I’m still in the writing phase (I’m creating like 10 new chapters out of nowhere), which is the best because WRITING IS FUN.  And since I’ve written the end of the story (or a version of the end), I know where this needs to go.  I know (sortof) what needs to happen.  I have the bare-bones story, and I can then add in a plot: complete with conflict, stakes, and motivation.

So, yeah.  Remember this quote?

first draft

I love this quote.  I live by this quote.

For this novel, I’ve written the rough draft.  I’ve hauled in the sand.

And now, my friends, it’s time to start building castles.

A Story Burning Inside

In all practicality, I don’t have time to write at all in the next two weeks, because I have more school projects and papers due than I care to mention.  After that, I’m a free person and no power in the ‘verse can stop me from pounding out a new novel.

no power in the 'verse

But even in the waiting time (when I’m too busy doing school), I’m still a writer.  I still have a story burning inside of me.  You know the phrase the money will burn a hole in your pocket?  Well, I feel a bit like I have a story burning a hole in my chest.  It’s inside me and it wants to be set free.  The longer I hold onto it, the brighter and hotter it gets.  It’s a glorious, terrifying feeling.

And as I live my day-to-day life, little thing come up that make me go Arrrg, I NEED TO WRITE MY STORY!  Usually this happens when I see something else wonderful.  For example, Hamilton.

Those of you who don’t know what Hamilton is are sorely missing out.  It is a brilliant, phenomenal Broadway musical about Alexander Hamilton and the start of the United States.  The music is insane, the story is breathtaking and heartbreaking, and every time I listen to it I feel the burn of my story inside of me.

I recently watched an interview of Lin-Manuel Miranda – creator and star of Hamilton – where he mentioned that it took him six years to write this musical.  SIX YEARS.

If this person that I admire and look up to was willing to pour six years of his life into realizing his dream, then I can do no less.  Seeing a fellow writer and artist – and a brilliant one at that – achieve success and touch people’s lives makes ME want to get my work written and published.

Lin-Manuel Miranda, you inspire me.  You make me want to take my completed novel, The Sound of Color, and send it to every agent that will accept my query letter and not stop until it’s published.  You make me want to sit down at my laptop and bleed through my fingertips and not stand up until I’ve gotten my new story out of me.  You make me want to create and grow and be the most brilliant version of myself that I know how to be.

Hamilton speaks to me not just as a person, but as a writer.  Alexander Hamilton wrote and wrote and wrote and got so much done in his short life.  I think this is summed up well in the song Non Stop, with the lyrics why do you write like you’re running out of time?  Write day and night like you’re running out of time? (Start the song at 4:10 if you want to hear it)


But it’s not just Hamilton that makes me feel this need to write.  It’s seeing a writing prompt on Pinterest.  It’s talking to fellow writers.  It’s reading brilliant books.  It’s seeing my friends perform Comedy of Errors by Shakespeare.  It’s smiling at the fabulous spring weather God sent me today.  It’s the little details of life, the beautiful moments… those are what make me want to write.

If you folks don’t hear from me in the next two weeks, assume I’m swamped with schoolwork.  But know that even though I’m not writing or blogging, I’m still a writer.  I still have a story burning inside of me.

Cinder / Lunar Chronicles

I love a good genre mashup.  One of the best TV shows of all time was a mix of sci-fi and western.  (I’ll always love you, Firefly!)  Spaceships and horses and bar fights and technology, all blended into the perfect setting for the perfect TV show.

curse your sudden....gif

Now, Merissa Meyer puts a new type of mashup  on the line by taking classic fairy tales and giving them a sci-fi flare.


For example, Cinder(ella) is a cyborg mechanic.  Instead of losing a glass slipper, she loses her mechanical foot.  In fact, throughout the book there are several clever twists on the classic story elements.  Then add in a whole new world, brand new characters, a deadly plague sweeping across the land.  Oh, and also an evil Lunar queen (yes, from the moon) and you’re in for a wild ride.

The first book, Cinder, is about Cinderella as a cyborg.  The next three books feature Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, and Snow White.  I love the way the stories draw off of different pieces of the traditional fairy tales, and also how they weave together with each other.  It pulls you in more and more with each chapter.

Pros and Cons?  I love the concept of this world.  The characters are quite fun, the writing is pretty good (it gets better), although the plot was a little predictable in the first book.  But the series DEFINITELY improves with each book (which is always a good thing), and I enjoyed the rest of the series a TON.  (The fourth book is a little long, but the 2nd and 3rd are pretty much flawless).  This series isn’t perfect, but it’s doing a lot of things right.  It reminded me a lot of the way the Eragon series was done.

So if you’re a young person wanting a Firefly-Disney conglomeration, go check out the Lunar Chronicles (Cinder is the first book).  They’re delightful.  And if you’re like me, you’ll leave wanting to go re-watch Firefly.

Let it demand to be read

There’s a great line in The Fault in Our Stars – “Pain demands to be felt.”

What if our writing was like that?  What if the novels we wrote demanded to be read?  If readers were unable to sleep at night until they read the last page?

I’m in the middle of reading four books right now.  FOUR.

The first three did not demand to be read.

I was simply bored with the first.  Twenty pages in, it was still the setup for the main plot.  The plot that I KNEW was going to take place because I’d READ THE BACK OF THE BOOK!  So it was 100% un-suspenseful.  You know what I did with that book?

I returned it to the library.

(It was due.)

But wouldn’t that BREAK YOUR HEART as an author if you went through all the trouble of getting a book written, polished, PUBLISHED… and then have someone RETURN IT TO THE LIBRARY after 20 pages?

It would break my heart!

The second book, I’m reading for book club – so I (probably) won’t return it until I’ve read the entire thing.  But let me tell you: the first 5 pages are about a boy going to a swamp.  LEGIT, that is ALL THAT HAPPENS!  The dog chases a squirrel, the boy yells at the dog, and then gets hit by a passer-by for using language.  But he’s basically just CHILLING AT A SWAMP.  Oh, and there’s some cleverly disguised info-dumps about the world.

The third is okay.  I’ll finish it, definitely, but there’s nothing PULLING ME TOWARDS IT.

When I write, I don’t want it to be “okay.”  I want it to DEMAND TO BE READ.  At this point, I have a solid beginning – no boring setup or disguised info-dumps.  And no swamps.  But now I’m at a part where one major suspense point has been resolved, and the MC has no major obstacles in front of her.  No suspense.  No conflict.

It’s so bad that I don’t even want to write it, because there’s no mystery for ME.  No raging emotions, nothing EXCITING.  If I’m bored writing, that equals the reader ready to return the book to the library.


Ashley and Kathleen, two of my favorite authors on the blog CrackinTheWIP, frequently talk about blowing things up when they’re out of ideas.  Or just want some more excitement. ie, “Hm, and have you tried making something explode yet? Perhaps a person, or a place, or some sort of fruit cart?”

Maybe I should try that.

Either way, something’s gotta change.  Some suspense must be added, some character must turn evil, some fruit cart must explode… something to make the chapter I’m on DEMAND TO BE READ.

WIP, here I come.

The Captain