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I’m passionate about literature for young people. I love books that portray diverse experiences and cultures. I’ll be sharing my novel writing process, news from the publishing industry, books and authors, and other posts.
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1. Novel Wisdom (24)

This post is part of a series on the blog where I share some of the nuggets of wisdom and inspiration — related to writing and/or life — that I find steeped in the pages of novels that I’ve read.

It’s very easy to get burdened down with worries and regret and things that could been done a different way. One of the things I’ve been learning is just to take each day as it comes with a fresh start.

I read this book based on a Twitter post from the author Nova Ren Suma, who taught a fabulous online writing workshop that I loved and learned much. It was a haunting literary novel set in the 80’s about a girl who has no choice but to endure her circumstances.

From Joon, the narrator of the novel Miles from Nowhere by Nami Mun

milesfromnowhere
“And at the start of every new day, I still believed I could choose my own beginning, one that was scrubbed clean of everything past.”

0 Comments on Novel Wisdom (24) as of 9/17/2014 11:38:00 AM
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2. Before and After

I know now that we never get over great losses; we absorb them, and they carve us into different, often kinder, creatures – Gail Caldwell.

My life has dramatically changed since my last blog post.

My father suddenly passed away on August 13th. A total shock to everyone who loved him.

Now I see my life separated into two watersheds: Before and After.

I ask myself what happens now that I’m in the After? Things will never be the same. There will now always be something different. Something always missing. It can never be like it was in the Before.

I found the above quote on Pinterest and it spoke to me — because I would like to think there is hope into carving myself into a different, kinder creature with this great loss.

Books and writing have always saved me. With the difficult times ahead of me, I now know that books and writing will save me again.

My blogging may be sporadic but I plan to share inspiring gems from my reading and then when I’m ready I’ll start back on the novel revision. My father wouldn’t want me to give up and I know the writing will be waiting for me when I return.

6 Comments on Before and After, last added: 9/11/2014
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3. The Depression Stigma

She woke up torpid each morning, slowed by sadness, frightened by the endless stretch of day that lay ahead. Everything had thickened. She was swallowed, lost in a viscous haze, shrouded in a soup of nothingness. Between her and what she should feel, there was a gap. She cared about nothing. She wanted to care, but she no longer knew how; it had slipped from her memory, the ability to care. Sometimes she woke up flailing and helpless, and she saw, in front of her and behind her and all around her, an utter hopelessness

From Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

When I read this passage in the above novel, I thought that this was probably the most accurate description of what depression can feel like. Depression can be a relentless and elusive entity.

There has been a lot of talk lately about depression due to recent death of Robin Williams. As writers with our creative spirit, we tend to live inside our heads. It can be very easy to go into a downward spiral. Between writer’s block, rejection letters, dealing with envy and comparing yourself to other writers, it’s easy to fall into depression’s grip.

The thing about our society is that everyone feels that they should be happy all the time and then feel guilty when they don’t. Social media doesn’t help much either because we tend to only share our sunny days instead of our stormy ones.

Then there’s the stigma that people with depression are weak and need to get a grip. This is probably the most common reason that people hide their feelings. Sometimes the happiest people can be the saddest people. Emotions are sticky and private. They can be overwhelming. It’s messy work and makes people uncomfortable. It’s hard to share when the possible reply could be a brush off instead of empathy. It’s hard to be vulnerable with your emotions. It’s much better to fake it and pretend that everything is okay.

The most important thing is that you shouldn’t ignore the feelings. It could be more than a case of having a bad day or melancholy. Events like heartbreak, death of a loved one, or other personal losses can have an effect over a prolonged period of time.

So don’t ignore these feelings. They are real. Don’t feel guilty that you should feel happy. You are not weak. And most important, don’t feel like there is no hope. The trick of depression is that it tells you that you don’t matter and nobody cares. But that is a total lie: You do matter and there are people who care. Ask for help. It is waiting for you.

1 Comments on The Depression Stigma, last added: 8/14/2014
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4. Your Writer Journey

During my July hiatus, several things have started to click together for the benefit of my writing.

I finished the 18-month stint of a major software project, which frees up more time for me to work on the novel and I’ve decided to put the house up for sale! I have about a 2-3 hour daily commute and it’s been a drain to say the least. So now that the real estate market is in my favor, I will have an opportunity to move closer to the city. So excited!

One thing I’ve been thinking a lot about lately is the writer journey. How as writers we go through the valleys and peaks and then maybe stumble and have to work hard to find our way again. This summer I’ve had several conversations with writer friends about envy, disappointment, and disillusionment.

I always try to steer myself back to one of the things I want to do LESS of in 2014: Compare myself to other people.

I’ve been on my writing journey for a while but started seriously 5 years ago when I started this blog. Within this timeframe, this has been the journey of some other writers:

  • Has published several books and just signed another multi-book deal.
  • Has struggled with getting better at writing but lacks time and money.
  • Has become a mainstay on the New York Bestsellers list.
  • Has made the painful decision to stop writing.
  • Has worked hard and now on the verge of a major breakthrough.

I’m sure if you were to create a list, you would have the same varied experiences of writers that started within the same time frame of your journey as well. You could compare yourself to the list and be left feeling smug, indifferent, jealous or depressed.

The thing is all of those writers had different paths. Paths based on different wants, needs, priorities, opportunities, privileges, and luck.

Those paths are not your path. It’s not your writer journey.

Never forget: You are the only one in the Universe that can write the words for the story that needs to be told.

No one else.

No matter how long it’s been or how long it takes.

Never give up on your journey to be the best writer you can be.

6 Comments on Your Writer Journey, last added: 8/6/2014
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5. Novel Wisdom (23)

This post is part of a series on the blog where I share some of the nuggets of wisdom and inspiration — related to writing and/or life — that I find steeped in the pages of novels that I’ve read.

I seem to have an obsession with horror. Particularly zombies. Why I want to read something that gives me nightmares is beyond me. This started early as a kid — like 11 or 12. Maybe it’s being able to live through an apocalypse and see what how it fares out. At least my zombie survival skills are on point. I think I would be able to make it.

I’m actually reading a zombie book now, The Girl with All the Gifts but one of my most favorite zombie books is by Courtney Summers and I found out recently that there will be a sequel next year. So the first book may be on my summer re-read list. I originally read this book while on vacation in Italy. Lucky for me Rome was so beautiful and consuming that I didn’t have any nightmares.

How can a zombie novel give a nugget of wisdom? Basically you’re in survival mode so you have to stay in the present. You have to be aware of everything in the moment. Stay out of the past. That is something that we can transfer into our own lives.

From Cary to Sloane, the narrator of the novel This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers

Summers
“Maybe but you need to bury it,” Cary tells me. “All of that’s over. You have to be here now.”

4 Comments on Novel Wisdom (23), last added: 6/28/2014
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6. Writing for Yourself

Hope everyone’s writing is going well.

For me, I’m struggling with the logic of the ending and some other plot points of my current novel project. I’m happy with some results and not so happy with some other things.

If you follow me on Twitter, you already know that I’m struggling with Chapter 12. That stupid, stupid chapter. No, it doesn’t seem I’m bitter at all, does it? Ha.

Looking at my list of “Doing Less in 2014” one item was trying to be perfect at everything. At the end of the day, this book won’t be perfect and it’s a stress maker trying to make it so. I’m learning that sometimes you just have to do your best and move on.

Also looking at my list of “Doing More in 2014” one item is writing from the heart. Yesterday on my commute, I listened to the latest podcast of This Creative Life featuring Stephanie Kuehn. This podcast is hosted by Sara Zarr, who is the author of one of my favorite YA novels, Story of a Girl.

Stephanie talked about her road to publication and how she wrote previous novels, worked with a previous agent, and basically got a little disheartened about the whole process. She also kept hearing at writing conferences about what sold well when it came to male protagonists.

It wasn’t until she cancelled out everything she heard and began to write for herself. Not only the result was the award winning Charm & Strange, but for also a lesson of just writing from your heart and not so much writing for publication.

Another item of my “Doing Less in 2014” – thinking publication is the answer. Publication is a goal to strive for but not a desperation that overwhelms you and makes you write for an audience that others tell you will make your novel a bestseller. You must write the story you want to write. The story of your heart. The story you are meant to tell.

It won’t be easy but it will be worth it.

5 Comments on Writing for Yourself, last added: 6/19/2014
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7. June? Seriously?!

We are six months into 2014. It’s June. Isn’t that crazy?

2014 Goals: Revision, Revision

Summer is my favorite time of year. For one thing the software geek job tends not to be “as crazy” as it is during other times of the year and I can get more writing done. My goal is to finish my revisions. Morning writing sessions are helping a lot as well as not giving myself such pressure to be perfect. Basically I’m trying to “fail better” and “write from the heart.” Instead of trying to write what can sell, I would rather write what I would want to read. Much better.

Doing More in 2014: Vacations

I recently went to my favorite place — the beach — and mostly ate shaved ice and read books. Works for me. It was sultry and hot — just the way I like it!

beach
One of my dream vacations is to go to Bali. This Travel Noire post Bali: Island in the Sun just made me want to book a ticket. I’m going to try and make that happen soon. Maybe in 2016? *crosses fingers*

Recently Read Books

I finally got a chance to read the sweeping, thick novel The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert and also the provocative and stunning An Untamed State by Roxane Gay. Both are excellent reads.

june2014booksread

Inspirational Gems

Here are some gems that I’ve found in cyberspace that you might find interesting.

YouTube Video: Inspire Her Mind – Promoting More Girls to go into STEM

Shonda Rhimes’ Real Talk for Dartmouth Grads: Dreams Are for Losers

5 Comments on June? Seriously?!, last added: 6/13/2014
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8. Feedly Inspirations

Since my beloved Google Reader died and went to tech heaven, I’ve been using Feedly, which keeps me sane by helping me organize all of the various articles, blogs, and Tumblrs that I want to read.

This week I’ve found some inspirational posts that I thought I would share with you.

Stacia Brown, Levels to This: One Week at WaPo:

“There is nothing wrong with the slow rise, the circuitous, meandering exploration of many paths. We are not all meant to be meteors. Some of us are satellites: we hover, capture, study. We wait. There is no shame in it.”

Joshunda Saunders, Poem: For Writers

“No one is coming to proclaim your talent rough or refined.

You are your only true nemesis,

a house divided against its productivity.”

Have you read anything recently that has been inspiring to you? I would love to hear about it.

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9. Trilogy Re-Reads

There’s something about reading a trilogy — of course the waiting for the next book can be torture — but once all the books are out, it’s a reader’s dream to relish through the whole story uninterrupted. Especially when bound all together in one big omnibus.

There are some specific trilogies that I love and have read several times. I think this summer I’m going to revisit them yet once again. I can always find something new in each read.

Here are my summer trilogy re-reads:

His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman

HisDarkMaterials_Small

The Golden Compass
The Subtle Knife
The Amber Spyglass

The Midnighters Trilogy by Scott Westerfeld

Midnighters_Small

The Secret Hour
Touching Darkness
Blue Noon

The Abhorsen Chronicles by Garth Nix

AbhorsenChronicles_Small

Sabriel
Lirarel
Abhorsen

Ah, I see a theme here. :)

Do you have a favorite trilogy that you love to re-read?

2 Comments on Trilogy Re-Reads, last added: 4/30/2014
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10. Novel Wisdom (22)

This post is part of a series on the blog where I share some of the nuggets of wisdom and inspiration — related to writing and/or life — that I find steeped in the pages of novels that I’ve read.

Last week, I finished this YA novel that touched a nerve with me. Bullying is taken on a whole other level with social media and technology, but the root of bullying hasn’t changed. Growing up working-class, I had several girls in my neighborhood who hated me for the basic reason that I loved books and got good grades. They tormented me all through middle school. It was an awful time. I became a different person as a defense mechanism and it took some years to find my way back to the girl I actually wanted to be. I was one of the luckier ones who had the support of a family who loved me and convinced me that I could have a better life. Now when I look back at those girls, I know it really wasn’t me that they hated.

From Lila, the aunt of Piddy, the narrator of the novel Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina

MegMedina

You know where this Yaqui girl is going to be in a few years if she doesn’t change? She’ll still be there — same as always in her old neighborhood — a nobody with nothing. And guess what? That’s her worst fear. And who knows? Maybe that’s what she’ll deserve for being a punk and making people feel bad just because she could.

But you? You’re different. You’re going to be better than that, and that’s what kills her, Piddy. That’s what makes her burn with hate. She can already see you’re winning. You’re going to get an education and use your brain.

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11. Off the Grid Benefits

It’s been awhile since my last post. Hope everything is OK with everyone!

I’ve slowly managed my way back to civilization and “real world” life. Last month, I spent a week in the Caribbean and I must say it was the best thing I could have done for myself.

I was off the grid too. No access to my phone. No access to social media. It forced me to enjoy right what was in front of me.

I also didn’t do any writing. Usually when I take off and travel, it usually involves some type of writing – working or revising a current WIP but this time I literally did nothing but relax, read, and enjoyed the ocean, the sun, and the sand.

Being of the off the grid has benefits. Here were some of mine:

  • You can bring focus back to yourself. Self-care is something we don’t do enough of and having limited access to the outside world allowed me to access and remember all the simple things I love that bring me joy.
  • You can get back in touch with nature’s beauty. Just the simple things like the frosted wave caps of the ocean, the melody of a tropical bird, or even the sun baked warmth of the sand was a natural endorphin that gave me calm and peace.
  • You can practice the art of doing nothing. Everyone has a “to-do” list. It’s always “Go, Go, Go!” Sitting and doing nothing usually makes me feel guilty. But in reality it was a small gift that I gave to myself.

I know that not everyone can take off for a week and chill in the Caribbean but there are some small things everyone can do to take time off the grid. Maybe take a day and not use any smartphones or social media. Take pleasure in staying in your pajamas and sleeping in for as long as you want. Reserve a day to have a binge-watch party or read that book you’ve been trying to complete in snippets. Go to the park and have a picnic with no timeline of how long you stay.

Or make it a daily practice. Get up an hour early when the house is quiet or stay up a little later at night when everyone is asleep. Or for the busy person whose schedule is overflowing, how about just 10 minutes in nature? Put your bare feet in grass, close your eyes to the sun, and take a deep breath?

Have any of you been off the grid? Do any of you incorporate it in your life as a practice? I would love to hear about it!

3 Comments on Off the Grid Benefits, last added: 4/10/2014
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12. Vacation TBR List

My vacation starts tomorrow!

I’ll be spending some time off the grid in the Caribbean for awhile. I’m taking LOTS of books with me to-be-read (TBR). Not sure if I’ll be able to read all of them between relaxing and being fabulous. Ha.

I don’t know about you but there are SO. MANY. BOOKS. I want to read. For this trip, I have a sort of science fiction theme going but I also have some fun fiction, craft, and memoir in the mix as well.

Here’s what I plan on taking with me on my trip:

VacationTBRList_Small

In the After by Demitria Lunetta
Cress by Marissa Meyer
Lilith’s Brood by Octavia Butler
The Martian by Andy Weir
Redefining Realness by Janet Mock
Conversations with Octavia Butler edited by Conseula Francis
The Awesome Girl’s Guide to Dating Extraordinary Men by Ernessa T. Carter
The Authentic Swing by Steven Pressfield

Read any good books lately? Let me know about them so when I get back I can add them to my already growing, leaning tower of TBR books!

2 Comments on Vacation TBR List, last added: 3/14/2014
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13. When Goals Fall Apart

This is the time of year when goals die.

Remember all those goals you set for yourself? What you planned on that bright and shiny January day when all things were hopeful and everything could be accomplished?

It’s now March and usually two scenarios are unfolding:

Scenario 1: You’re striving toward your goals and making great progress. You may even finish all your goals ahead of schedule. You’re officially kicking 2014′s ass.

Scenario 2: You’ve fallen off the wagon with your newly formed habits and now are having second thoughts about your goals. You’re getting behind schedule. 2014 is easily kicking your ass.

So let’s not talk about Scenario 1.

You’ve fallen off the wagon. You haven’t been consistent. You want to ditch all your goals and chill. All symptoms that your resolve and discipline are wearing off.

If you’re feeling this way, you’re right on schedule. This is usually the time of year when it happens. There are many reasons. I’ll share a few of mine:

  1. These goals require hard work and sacrifice — what the hell was I thinking?
  2. Overwhelmed with competing goals — I should take a nap and let my subconscious choose.
  3. These goals gotta be perfect — I want everything to be flawless and it kinda isn’t. Dammit.
  4. Fear of failure — if I stop trying to reach my goals I’m technically a quitter and not a loser.
  5. Coldest. Winter. Ever.

The good news is that it’s not too late for me and it’s not too late for you.

You can dust yourself off and get back on track. If you’ve swayed away from any new-formed habits or haven’t been working on your goals — don’t beat yourself up about it.

If your goals are falling apart, it may be time to get realistic — take a step back and reassess what you need to do.

Ask yourself this important question: Can I accomplish all my goals in 2014?

If your goals are reachable, make an effort to keep striving but realize you may fall off the wagon again. New habits are especially slippery and when you find yourself slacking off — start back up again. You may also have to dig deeper on why you’re not actually making an effort to make a goal happen. Is it fear of failure? Trying to be perfect? More than likely it’s psychological. Be honest with yourself and take it on a day by day basis.

If your goals are too over the top, scale back and break down into smaller milestones. Can you *really* write 1500 words a day? Is 500 words a better fit for you? Maybe take the word count totally out of the equation. How about writing for an hour or 30 minutes a day? You’ll be more motivated by the success of finishing manageable tasks instead of being overwhelmed and giving up.

How do you keep your goals from falling apart? Are you still on track for your 2014 goals?

7 Comments on When Goals Fall Apart, last added: 3/5/2014
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14. Drafting a Scene

Ugh. I absolutely hate writing draft. There’s nothing worse than facing a blank sheet of paper or a blank screen. For this current revision, I have 16 new scenes to write and I’m halfway done. My goal is to finish them all before the end of this month. If I’m lucky, I’ll get to my word count goal of 20K new words.

Recently on Twitter I came across a great craft article, How to get a scene from Brain to Paper by the author Kat Zhang on how she creates her scenes from scratch. It was very interesting and helpful and got me to think about how my own approach works.

Here are the steps — not necessarily done in this order — but mainly the different stages of what happens when I’m drafting a scene.

  • Word Vomit. This is usually when my Pomodoro Method helps a lot. I’m an outliner so I already have an idea of what the scene is about so I just write sort of a “stream of consciousness” on the page for a certain amount of time. No checking for misspelled words. No seeing if it makes sense. It’s all about getting words down on the page.
  • Dialogue. If I’m lucky, some of the word vomit makes sense and I start adding the dialogue of my characters if this is not a solo scene. If it’s a solo scene, I usually skip this step.
  • Action. I put in what the characters are doing when they’re speaking or when they are moving about in the scene. Good verbs usually are being identified at this point but usually what happens is that I just highlight the loser verbs to come back later and fix.
  • Character Motivation and Observation. I sprinkle in the motivations of the characters or what they observe about other characters or the setting of the scene. Things I usually ask my characters: What do you want in this scene? How do you feel about what is happening? What is your strategy and how are you going about it? They usually don’t answer me but sometimes when they do, I write it down.
  • Description. Ugh, not very good at description. This is where I struggle the most. I usually try and place the scene and maybe put in sentences to give the reader an idea of place. I may also put in character descriptions of clothes or hair – but only if it makes sense for the scene. Usually what happens is that description reads like a weather report or real estate copy and I have to come back later and fix.
  • Notes. I write notes about what else I want for the scene. I may revisit the next day but if I’m writing a lot of draft scenes, I usually stop at this surface level and come back later because other scenes may ultimately influence what happens and I tend to revise scenes in a group.

What about you? How do you write your draft? Do you edit as you go along? Do you “add-on” stuff in separate passes? Or do you wait until you revise?

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15. Novel Wisdom (21)

This post is part of a series on the blog where I share some of the nuggets of wisdom and inspiration — related to writing and/or life — that I find steeped in the pages of novels that I’ve read.

As a writer, I’m always compelled by words — how they are constructed, how they emit emotion, and how they can reveal universal truths. Words
are the energy for which we create our novels.

I love when reading a novel how this is conveyed in a literal sense as in one of my favorite quotes about words in Novel Widsom (12).

I just finished a gem of a book that I found during my last library bookshelf browse. It’s a book that I’ve had on my TBR list for a while. I’m so glad that I was finally able to read it. Ari’s ache of loneliness and his journey to understand his place in the universe is palpable on the pages. And I also loved what he had to say about words.

From Ari, the narrator of the novel Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz.

AristotleDante
“Words could be like food – they felt like something in your mouth. They tasted like something.”

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16. Lessons from a Writing Routine

The one major thing I’ve learned in the last 18 months?

If you don’t prioritize it or wait until you “feel like it” — a novel can flounder and gather dust. And once you do start back writing, it will take you FOREVER to get back into your novel’s world.

This is what happened to me.

I was the type of writer who binged. I would write a lot of stuff in a flurry and then not write for a few days or weeks. Or months.

My goal was to revise my novel to get it ready for submission and in the last 18 months that has not worked for me. Instead, it’s only brought doubt, resentment and a little shame.

With my software geek responsibilities of running a huge project, working 14-hour days, my daily 2-hour commute, and just basic life happening — it simply wasn’t working.

I fought this realization for 18 months.

I knew that something had to change. What’s that saying? Doing the same thing over and over again and thinking you’re going to get a different result? Yep, they call that insanity. I finally came to the conclusion that my current strategy wasn’t working.

Last Fall, I decided that I had to create a morning routine. And I hated this because I’m a “night” person. This current novel and its subsequent drafts were written either on weekend binges or between the hours of 10pm and 2am.

So I created a morning writing routine: Every weekday I got up at 5:30 am and focused on my novel until 7:30 am.

I hated it.

But then I started going to bed at a decent hour. I also started to make progress. I was getting back into my novel’s world. I also felt better about doing something “just for me” for a change.

By the time my “real” day started, I didn’t resent what I had to do because I had already did the one thing I loved the most: Worked on my novel.

That was my major lesson: You must get a routine if you want to finish your novel. Here are some other things I learned:

  • Respect your Time: Find a block of time that you can work on your novel without interruption. Spoiler Alert: It’s going to be first thing in the morning.
  • Get Focused: During your writing time, find a tool that can help you focus. A lot of my writer friends use Freedom. I personally like using the Pomodoro Technique.
  • Be Realistic: Set goals for your session and be realistic on what you can accomplish. I write in scenes. So if the only thing I do is write or revise a scene, then I’m happy. Remember little steps bring big rewards over time.
  • Jump Back In: One day you will not get up or something will happen and you won’t be able to have your morning routine. Let it go. Start again the next day.
  • Reward Yourself: Keep a record of your routine. For me, if I do my morning routine for a full week with success, I give myself a little gift. Either a beauty product, flowers, or a nice dessert.

Writers, do you have a routine? What have you learned to keep it going? I would love to hear about it. :)

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17. Doing Less (And More) in 2014

We’re officially two weeks in to 2014…every one still doing OK?

I must admit taking half of December off did a lot for my mental health. 2013 was a mixture of highs and lows — mostly lows on the writing side since I didn’t achieve the goal I wanted to most — novel submission. But it’s pointless to dwell on this and instead move forward and continue on the journey.

I’ve overhauled my website during my break — unfortunately learning more about HTML5 and CSS3 than I ever wanted — but it’s times like these where being a software geek has its merits. So the Musings of a Novelista theme is gone and replaced with a clean and simple design.

I know this time of year lots of people think about the goals that they want to achieve but for me it’s not so much goals I want to accomplish but a better way of living and thinking to help me become a better writer. So I need to drop some detrimental things and replace them with beneficial ones.

In 2014, I’m doing less of…

  • Working 14 hour days
  • Stressing out about the future
  • Comparing myself to other people
  • Trying to be perfect in everything
  • Thinking publication is the answer
  • Saying “Yes” to things that bring no value

In 2014, I’m doing more of…

  • Saying “No” as a complete sentence
  • Living in the moment
  • Relaxing and taking time out for myself
  • Connecting with writer friends
  • Taking quarterly vacations
  • Writing from the heart

I know that we’re only two weeks in but I hope that 2014 gives you whatever you’re seeking. Stumbles and obstacles will happen but just brush yourself off and start back again.

If you a have a 2014 less/more list, I would love to hear about it. :)

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18. Guest Post: Finding Inspiration Through Quotes

Today Nutshell is sharing this fabulous guest post as part of her Story Sprouts Blog Tour. Enjoy!

The road to publication is paved with detours, roadblocks and bad weather. It’s enough to discourage any one. This is why it’s important for writers to keep on finding things that inspire them to keep pushing onward. These sources of inspiration can include the family members and friends who cheer us on as we trudge along; mentors who appear in our life and show us hidden paths or share helpful traveling tips; and small treasures we discover on our trek: stories that inspire us and nuggets of wisdom that change us forever.

Sometimes we find these treasures while we’re watching a movie — maybe it’s a line of dialogue that sticks in our minds and makes us think. Often we find it while we’re reading blogs or books. And it’s important that we write these down or find a way to remember the lessons they share.

One of my New Year’s resolutions is to do just that. This year, whenever I encounter a great quote I plan to write them down. I’ve already set aside a small notebook just for this purpose. And if I happen to find these gems while browsing online, I plan to copy them onto my Evernote page so I can refer to them anytime.

Most of the quotes which inspire me to push on are quotes by authors, or quotes about writing in general. It’s nice to know that I’m not the only one who feels a certain way about writing, and that the authors I admire have taken the same journey I’m taking now. Reading these quotes reminds me that I am not traveling this road alone; that no matter how difficult the journey appears, it is not an impossible one; and that the people who reach their destination are the people who never give up.

I’d like to share some of my favorite writing quotes with you. I hope they inspire you to keep on walking this writing path, despite the detours, road blocks and occasional thunderstorm.

Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart. ~William Wordsworth

Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass. ~Anton Chekhov

The pages are still blank, but there is a miraculous feeling of the words being there, written in invisible ink and clamoring to become visible. ~Vladimir Nabakov

It is necessary to write, if the days are not to slip emptily by. How else, indeed, to clap the net over the butterfly of the moment? For the moment passes, it is forgotten; the mood is gone; life itself is gone. That is where the writer scores over his fellows: he catches the changes of his mind on the hop. ~Vita Sackville-West

The story I am writing exists, written in absolutely perfect fashion, some place, in the air. All I must do is find it, and copy it. ~Jules Renard

The role of a writer is not to say what we all can say, but what we are unable to say. ~Anaïs Nin

You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you. ~Ray Bradbury

Thanks for having me on your blog, Karen!

byline with storysprouts

STORY SPROUTS: CBW-LA WRITING DAY EXERCISES & ANTHOLOGY 2013

story sprouts book cover

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: CBW-LA Publications (October 18, 2013)
  • ISBN-10: 0989878791
  • ISBN-13: 978-0989878791
  • Edited by: Alana Garrigues, Nutschell Anne Windsor
  • 19 Authors
  • 38 Combined Anthology Entries
  • 6-hour Workshop
  • 10 Writing Exercises
  • Dozens of Photo, Character and Conflict Prompts

KINDLE & PRINT COPIES AVAILABLE THROUGH AMAZON

Learn more about Story Sprouts

Join the Children’s Book Writers of Los Angeles

ANTHOLOGY BLURB

What happens when linguistic lovers and tale tellers workshop together? Inspiration. Wonder. Discovery. Growth. Magic.

Brave and talented, the writers featured in this anthology took on the challenge of dedicating one day to the raw and creative process of writing.
A rare view into the building blocks of composition, Story Sprouts is made up of nearly 40 works of poetry and prose from 19 published and aspiring children’s book authors.

This compilation includes all of the anthology writing exercises and prompts, along with tips, techniques and free online writing resources to help writers improve their craft.

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19. Plot Grids

If you were reading any of my tweets or viewing my Instagram pictures this past weekend, you know that I was hard at work integrating a new plot twist into my novel.

The ending of my current novel project has always haunted me. I’ve revised it several times and it never felt right. A couple of weeks ago I had an A-ha Moment and figured out how it could work — but it involved a huge plot twist that I would have to incorporate throughout the whole novel. Even though I knew it would cause me headaches and some rewriting, it was the right thing to do. It just felt right. A kind of writer’s intuition.

At this point, I had all of my scenes in chapters, so I revisited the spreadsheet of my novel and plugged away at incorporating elements of the new plot twist, which included moving scenes around, writing scene revision notes, and creating a list of new scenes.

But I found myself juggling papers and switching back and forth with my computer screen. It was making me batty so I decided that I would create a plot grid on the wall in my office.

I got the idea from Christina Farley. She has a fabulous blog post and YouTube video on how she creates her plot grid. There are many ways to do one. The main benefit is viewing your whole novel at a glance.

Being a plot chick, my grid is based on the 3-Act structure. I love author Alexandra Sokoloff’s Story Element Checklist, which uses screenwriting structure and tailors it to novels. But even if you just break your story down into 3 parts — beginning, middle, and end — that will work as well.

NovelPlotGrid

Here’s a quick summary of my plot grid:

  • For each of Act in my novel (I have my Act 2 broken down into two parts), I put a sticky note that represents one chapter with a sentence describing the scene(s). Sticky notes allow you to move things around easily. I used a specific color for each Act in the novel.
  • For the inciting incident, sequence climaxes, midpoint, novel climax, and resolution, I use purple sticky notes so I could easily identify these important chapters and how they are spaced out.
  • Now I can see at a glance how to better work in my plot twist and change things around if needed. It also lets me see my characters and settings to determine if the frequency works too. There are many ways to utilize a plot grid.

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    20. Verb Collection

    If you’re like me when you’re revising, you’re finding some really lame versions of constantly using weak verbs. Probably a lot of walking, looking or staring.

    I have my beloved The Synonym Finder by J.I. Rodale but I’m finding that collecting verbs from novels put the word in context. You can see how the author is using the verb for effect and then you can take that same verb and use it in your own unique way.

    I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately and I’m loving the verbs I’ve been adding to my collection. Using a strong verb makes your character come alive on the page. Less passive and more active.

    Do you have any word special word collections? What’s your process of revising for stronger verbs?

    5 Comments on Verb Collection, last added: 9/4/2013
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    21. How Many Keystrokes Do You Have Left?

    I found out about this website called Keys Left, which calculates how many keystrokes you have left before you die.

    Ha. Kind of morbid but cool to see what you could possibly do with the keystrokes you have left.

    So after putting in my data for the calculation, I found out what my keystrokes can accomplish:

    216,575,993 Keystrokes Left
    1,546,971 Tweets Left
    72 Novels Left
    433 Computer Programs Left
    21,657 Love Letters Left

    Or

    1,082,879 Emails to your boss left (this made me laugh — dude sometimes this feels like it could come true)

    And this is just based on spending 4 hours a day typing at full speed. Of course for my 72 novels — this doesn’t count for revision — but when you put it in that kind of perspective — still cool.

    Check out the Keys Left website and let me know how many keystrokes you have left and what you could possibly do with them. I would love to know! :)

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    22. The Power of Empathy

    As writers, we want readers to have empathy for our characters. We want readers to ache in their pain and revel in their victories.

    One of my favorite TED talks is by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. In The Danger of a Single Story, the novelist warns that if we only hear a single story of a group, we will only see that representation, which can lead to misunderstanding and misconceptions.

    The power of empathy is important in writing our novels but also in our life. There are still many misconceptions of race, gender, sexual orientation — to lump a group into a single story — looking but not seeing that each person is an individual with her own powerful story.

    This is why it is important to have diverse stories that allow readers to see a character’s interior landscape and understand that she is more than the color of her skin, her gender, or who she loves. Stories that allow readers to see that we are more alike than we are different.

    It is easy to disconnect from someone who is different — especially when you have heard a single story — it is easy to look but not see that person.

    This is the power of empathy — when you can understand and feel the pain, disappointment, fear, love, happiness and joy of another person — she is no longer different from you. She is no longer an unconnected stranger.

    My hope is that we can break past the misconception that there is only one story to tell and we seek out the many stories that need to be heard.

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    23. Horsehead Nebula

    As some of you already know, I kinda have a geek love for space and astronomy, so sometimes I veer off-topic on the blog.

    The Horsehead Nebula has always intrigued me. This particular image has enhanced coloring and extra bling to bring out its beauty.

    horsehead

    The nebula gets its namesake because the swirling clouds resemble a horse’s head. Also known as Barnard 33, this nebula is part of the constellation Orion and is approximately 1500 light years from Earth.

    Shakira the Shih Tzu Update: For those of you who are wondering about the family dog and her recent surgery — she had her final post-op checkup yesterday and has been cleared. Yay! When Shakira was first admitted for emergency surgery, she was wearing a feather on right ear — a fashion statement for sure. Ha. To celebrate her successful journey back to health, the vets presented her with a present — a feather to put on her fur! It was very sweet of them. We are so grateful to everyone at the University of GA Veterinary School for saving Shakira’s life. :)

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    24. Novel Wisdom (19)

    This post is part of a series on the blog where I share some of the nuggets of wisdom and inspiration — related to writing and/or life — that I find steeped in the pages of novels that I’ve read.

    This post actually comes from a memoir. As many of you already know, I love inspiration and I tend to bend toward the brighter side of things. But sometimes real life happens and you can find yourself in a cloud of disappointment. This is why I love this quote as a reminder and I wanted to share it with all of you.


    Me&Mom&Me
    From her memoir Me & Mom & Me by Maya Angelou, when she realizes the gift of writing down her blessings:

    “After that exercise, the ship of my life might or might not be sailing on calm seas. The challenging days of my existence might or might not be bright or promising. From that encounter on, whether my days are stormy or sunny and if my nights are glorious or lonely, I maintain an attitude of gratitude. If pessimism insists on occupying my thoughts, I remember there is always tomorrow.”

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    25. 2013 Fall TBR List

    The software release is done. Yay! I’m slowly regaining back some of my sanity. Double-yay! My character is waking me up from sleep and talking to me again — which sounds crazy but you writers know that this is EXCELLENT news! Ha.

    Fall is my favorite season. There’s so much to love. Especially all of the books. Here some recent and upcoming releases that I have on my To-Be-Read (TBR) List:

    Fall2013

    The Lord of Opium by Nancy Farmer
    The Shade of the Moon by Susan Beth Pfeffer
    The Waking Dark by Robin Wasserman
    Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
    The Dream Thieves by Maggie Steifvater (9/17)
    Season of the Witch by Mariah Fredericks (10/8)

    How about you? Things going well with everyone? What books are you looking forward to reading this Fall?

    6 Comments on 2013 Fall TBR List, last added: 9/11/2013
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