October Hiatus? NaNoWriMo?

hiatus:

[hahy-ey-tuh s] 

nounplural hiatuses, hiatus.

1.  a break or interruption in the continuity of a work, series, action, etc.

(Thank you, dictionary.com for that fabulous definition.)
If you’re a person (like me) who follows any TV series, you know full well the definition of this word Hiatus.  For people who watch certain shows, it means a long wait between seasons that can be quite annoying. *Cough* Sherlock *cough*

Anyways, here’s a little blog post to say… this blog is going to have an October Hiatus.  I want to take some time off to focus on my actual book-writing projects (and on my homework) as well as on some other creative endeavors.

I hope to see you all on November 1st, where I’ll probably have a post up about how great the first day of NaNoWriMo is going and how excited I am for the month ahead.

Until then, keep your hearts in your story and your fingers on the keys.  Good luck.

P.S. NaNoWriMo starts in a month!  Are you lovely folks signing up?  If you’re looking for a buddy, my NaNo username is SharpieBeth, and I’d love you to friend me.  I’m always looking for more friends to sign up for that crazy adventure with me.

gandalf share in adveture

 

P.P.S If you’re super sad that I’m not filling your October with lots of posts about NaNoPrep, feel free to check out all my previous blog posts in the NaNoWriMo category right here.  You might find some inspiration.

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A College Campus

Hello my lovely writers!  Sorry it’s been a while.  The fall semester just started up here in the US, and I’ve been a little busy.  This is the third week of classes me, which my friends and I affectionately call “death week” – it’s the week when all the first papers are due, every class suddenly has ten homework assignments, a quiz, and fifty pages of reading, and oh by the way you have an exam next week so START STUDYING!

I’m actually pretty on top of my homework-game.  Not so much the writing-game, but, you know, priorities.

she needs to sort out her priorities

Anyways, if it’s been a while since you’ve been on a college campus, let me tell you: it’s an amazing place for writerly inspiration. 

I’ve said before that I view characters as a jigsaw puzzle of details.  Well, if you need some details, look no further than your college campus (if you live on one).  The extraordinary and strange surround us every day in the form of sleep-deprived young adults and strangely-purposed buildings.

Here are some examples from the few weeks I’ve been back on campus:

  • The guy in the coffee shop at 10pm, bare feet proudly displayed
  • The lady in the library whose office has about two hundred books, a spinning wheel, and a beautiful vintage bicycle
  • The guy in a sports jersey watching a football game alone in an empty lounge, standing and pacing as he watches.  His team scores a goal, and he jumps into the air, complete with the fist punch and cry of victory.
  • The girl with twenty body piercings who is the most gentle, quiet, Hufflepuff-like person I’ve met
  • The guy who skateboards around sitting down on his skateboard
  • The professor who curses a lot, has tattoos up his arms, and is passionate about medieval literature
  • The guy who, no matter the weather, is always wearing a trenchcoat
  • Those two girls that you always see together, no matter what.  Do they never get tired of each other?
  • The guy who can’t help but put his feet on the table in class
  • The girl who snorts when she laughs, even when in class

It’s not just people, it’s places, too:

  • The coffee shop with green and black walls, abstract paintings, and metal chairs that feel like they’re from the 80’s.  Also purple couches, mirrors along one wall, and low, pulsing music that makes you want to dance a little.
  • The oldest building on campus, with narrow, catercorner halls and no elevator and little half-staircases every fifty feet.  It smells like a mixture of old carpet and old books, and it’s very easy to get lost in.  Unmarked doors that seem to lead to Nowhere or Narnia.
  • The little courtyard and fountain, with wooden benches and flowers around it.  If you walk there early in the morning, it feels like you’ve just missed the fairies.
  • The quiet section of the library, back where the endless rows of books stand – a place where whispers earn glares, and it feels like if you make too much noise you’ll wake the furniture.
  • The whole campus on a Sunday morning: quiet and empty; a city with sunshine and birds but no people.

College campuses are fun places to be most of the time.  I’d love to hear your experiences at university if you have any unusual ones to share.  Don’t forget: inspiration walks around you every day, not matter where you go.  (It’s just a little more obvious – and more strange – on a college campus.)

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.

Caring for the Writer Inside, Part 1

This is part 1 of a short Writerly Care series I’m starting.  It’s not exactly writing advice, more like advice on being a writer and taking care of the artist within.

Today’s topic: consume good art.

Here’s one of my favorite quotes.

time spent reading.jpg

I’m sure some of you have heard this before, or are at least familiar with the idea that good writers read a ton.  And I agree – I definitely feel like reading fuels me to write. Reading good books (and sometimes bad ones) makes me want to write good books.

BUT.  I also find inspiration in so many other things.

This is the best way I can describe it: seeing good art makes me want to create art.

I love following YouTubers who create things for a living.  I love following artists on Instagram who post their drawings and share their light.  I love songs that blend lyrics and rhythm and notes to make something beautiful and new.

So, this is your friendly reminder that you as a writer need to consume good art.  I have some suggestions if you’re feeling a deficit in your art diet:

1. Poetry

There’s something delightful about poetry.  It’s loud and soft, small and potent.  The words pack so much power in so little space.  I recently discovered Mary Oliver, and I really like her poetry.  I’m sure you’re familiar with some other new poets that are getting a lot of hype.  Go read the poetry, soak in the words, bask in the strength of them.

lin being excited.gif

2. Music

Browse through Spotify, click around on YouTube, listen to a new genre.  I’ve found that I have a constant need for new music, and it’s part of how I stay inspired.  Expand your horizons.  Try musicals, or soundtrack music, or indie, or country, or rap, or vidoegame music.  Let good music drive you to write good stories.

3. Old Favorites

I re-watched Fellowship of the Ring with a friend last night, and I feel like a new human. The Lord of the Rings trilogy is my favorite movies of all time.  Watching one of these again reminded me just how much stories matter, and how much they mean to people. These movies motivate me to keep telling my stories.

so there I was

Maybe you don’t have time for a 4-hour movie with a friend.  That’s okay; listen to a 4-minute old favorite song that makes you fall in love with being an artist.  Read a chapter from a favorite book to remind yourself why you’re a story-teller.

Consume good art.  Let it fill your soul so that it spills out onto the page when you write.  Take inspiration from the creators and writers and artists all around you.  Find things that you love and enjoy them, and then go create things to share with the world.

And if you need some suggestions to get you started, here’s some things I’ve been enjoying lately:

Music: Dear Evan Hansen (a new musical), A Playlist of My Favorite Soft/Chill Music, Some of My Favorite Instrumental Music

YouTubers (also musicians): Tessa Violet, Dodie ClarkPeter Hollens, Rusty Clanton

Instagramers: Mari Andrew (adorable artist), Inspired to Write (bestest human ever)

Let me know in comments if you experience this too – where seeing some great piece of art makes you want to create as well.  Also, let me know if you’ve found some great music/ movies/ art recently, or what you’re enjoying that inspires you.  Do you have artists you look up to?  Do you have a favorite movie that moves you to tears?  Share your thoughts.

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.

thats-enough-of-that

Unstuck! (Some thoughts on Writer’s Block)

A short story, by me:

Today, after many, many days of not-writing, I made myself sit down and work on my WIP.  But like the last few times I’d done this, I had absolutely nothing to say.

Nothing to add.  No idea where to take this story.

ARRRG.

I tried to write.  Typed a few sentences, erased them, sighed deeply, figuratively banged my head against the wall, and then gave up.  It was like trying to start a car that’s out of gas.

So I gave up and pulled out my sketchbook.

Then I was struck with the impulse to try something new.  What if I drew this scene instead?  So, pretending that I was writing a graphic novel instead of a novel-novel, I sketched out the people, the place, the facial expressions.  My drawings were horrible, incomplete.  But you know what?

It worked.

My brain suddenly went what if —- ?

A new idea emerged.  A tiny alteration to a scene I’d been in stuck on for a week.  That led to something else; a new idea about how my characters relate to each other.  Soon I had a whole ‘nother scene spinning in my head, waiting to escape onto paper.

Very tentatively, I pulled out my laptop again and opened my WIP.  I lay my fingers softly on the keyboard.  I hit a few keys, holding my breath.

I typed one sentence, then another, picking up speed, and then the computer screen faded before my eyes and I found myself in a brand-new bookstore, staring into the faces of my characters, hearing them talk to each other and laugh and –

And 700 words later I’d written two scenes that I was really proud of.

that was dramatic.gif

Anywho.

Writer’s Block comes in many shapes and sizes.

Sometimes it’s lack of motivation because you just don’t feel like writing.

Sometimes you want to write but just can’t because you’re stuck; your story literally will not go right no matter how hard you try.

Sometimes it’s a mix, one leads to the other which leads back to the first, a vicious cycle.

So here are four things to remember when you’re facing writer’s block:

  1. It’s okay to take a break.  Writer’s block happens to (pretty much) all writers, and it’s a natural part of the process.  Sometimes you need to take a break for half an hour and walk the dog; sometimes you need to take a break for two months and read a bunch of books and chill.  Here’s a great blog post that talks about this.
  2. Don’t give up; don’t let your “break” become a goodbye.  Sometimes you’ll sit down at your WIP and get nothing.  But the act of sitting down to try to write is good enough.  If you keep coming back, your subconscious will keep thinking about this story.  Be persistent, because determination and discipline are huge parts of beating writer’s block.
  3. I’ve found the best way to break free of writer’s block is to change things up.  Sometimes it’s writing in a different place, or at a different time, or on paper instead of on the computer.  Sometimes it’s writing something else for a while.  Sometimes it’s drawing a scene out instead of writing it.  Sometimes it’s just doing something new in your normal life that hits you with a moment of inspiration and suddenly you’re back to writing again.
  4. It will pass.  I was a bit concerned when I didn’t write much of anything for week after week after week.  But if your facing writer’s block, give yourself room to breathe.  Then once you’ve taken a breath, come back and try to write again.  It won’t last forever; it will get better.  I promise.

cross my hearts.gif

 

The Night Circus

“The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.”

The Night Circus

This is a book that chills and excites and enchants.  It is one I will read over and over so that I can go back to the magical, tent-covered land of the Circus, because what Erin Morgenstern has created is more than a masterpiece.  It’s magic.

This book review isn’t going to be a standard format, because this book isn’t standard.  It’s extraordinary in every sense of the word.

The writing is breathtaking, the characters are creative, the story is beautiful, the suspense is delicious.

Reading it was a sheer joy.  There were times I had to stop and make myself a cup of tea before continuing because I just couldn’t take all the glory of it.

So go.

Read it.

Now.

But be warned of two things:

First, I got “stuck” about a fifth of the way through reading it.  Don’t give up if you get “stuck.”  It was a tiny bit confusing with all the different plot lines, but DON’T GIVE UP because they all come together.  I promise.  And when they do, it’s magnificent.

Second, don’t read the second paragraph of the synopsis on the back of the book (or anywhere else you see the synopsis – Amazon, Goodreads, etc).  DON’T READ IT.  It contains a moderate spoiler that I believe detracts from the overall enjoyment of the book – especially the climax.

This book is sheer delight.  I’m going to stop talking now so you can go and buy yourself a copy.  It is tingling to the mind as magic might be to the fingers.

Five out of five stars any day for superb story telling.