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Freaking out about Publishing

I had a total freak out moment yesterday! I all of a sudden got very terrified – not just about publishing my book, which is scary enough on its own – but about being a writer at all. I’ve heard about writers feeling like frauds, and for the first time, I really felt that!

My mom talked me down from the emotional ledge, thankfully. She reminded me of the big picture: of the fact that I am a good writer and am always trying to be better, and that it’s ok to not be an overnight success. “They say it takes three books,” she reminded me, “before you really get noticed.”

I sighed in relief – this is only my second novel, and already, I know it will do better than my first. This is a process! I’m taking actionable steps, and I know success is down the road – I just need to be patient about getting there.

“Wish I could turn back time

To the good old days

When the mama sang

Us to sleep, but now we’re stressed out!”

Have you been there? How did you get past the overwhelming terror?

If you want to find out what I’m freaking out about, you can read the first chapter of my newest novel, and let me know what you think. If you enjoy it, sign up to receive the whole thing for free! I won’t send you junk mail – only my book and a weekly newsletter.

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NaNoWriMo – My Failed Week – And Why I Don’t See it as a Failure

NANOWRIMO Fail

Hey everyone, it’s been almost a week since you’ve heard from me, and I wanted to be honest about why that is, and why I haven’t been keeping up with my NaNoWriMo Challenge.

As you may know, I chose not to pursue writing a novel this year – although I’ve done it the past two years. I just finished a novel, and wanted to pour my energies into editing and preparing it for publishing. So I chose to do a poetry challenge instead – see if I could learn proper metre  the same way I might learn a new language. To pursue this goal, I started reading The Ode Less Traveled by Stephen Fry, and I completed about 6 challenges – less than one total week of NaNoWriMo.

Then I fell off the grid. For a complete week, I did no poetry, and posted nothing related to NaNoWriMo.

Do I feel guilty? Yes. Should I? No.

NANOWRIMO Win

Here’s the thing. In those 6 days that I actually participated in the challenge, I learned more about poetry than I did in 4 years of classical high school, and another 4 years pursuing a Liberal Arts degree.

In no way is that a loss!

Why I Failed

Life just got in the way, you know? It does for all of us, and each of our problems are unique. Personally, I’m plagued by Myalgic Encephalitis, and am constantly confined to bed with migraines, near paralysis, and brain fog. That makes writing near impossible at times, and last week was particularly bad.

But other problems are just as legitimate. Sometimes a kid gets sick, a pet dies, our spouse struggles and needs all our attention. Sometimes a friend needs us more than our writing.

We could beat ourselves up over this and say these are just excuses – we could say we should be able to write despite all that. And lots of times, that’s true! It’s important to pursue our writing whenever possible, and make time in our day for it. But when we have done all we could, and life still had thrown a wrench in our perfect plans, then regretting what we could not control, and beating ourselves up for it, helps nothing.

Changing Our Outlook

We need to embrace our weaknesses and distractions, and appreciate the work we did anyway! Despite my erratic illness, I learned iambic pentameter! AND, my love and appreciation of poetry had vastly increased! I was inspired to listen to all of Twelfth Night the other day just because I was so newly excited about poetry. That’s a win, if you ask me!

Any work you got done on NaNoWriMo this year is a plus. It has reintroduced you to writing, or reminded you how much you could write in a day. It has connected you with other writers, or re-ignited your passion. Any of those results makes this month of November a win!

We should never let the chance of failing keep us from benefiting from the journey. So please join me this week in celebrating the failures that lead to success!

What did you accomplish this month so far? In what way has it helped you? I want to hear your wins — no matter how different they might be than what you expected! Share your failures and wins on instagram and twitter with the handle #Nanofailtowin, and let’s support each other in life and in this final stretch of writing!

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The Terror and Thrill of Reviewing My Novel

Now that I have enough of Trinian, An Epic Fantasy put together to send into the world for review, I’m getting germinal feedback. I love it! But it’s also terrifying.

My sisters, who are geniuses with artwork, have already taken a stab at illustrating a couple characters, and my best friend Sophia has started marking up my first chapter. She says she’s being harsh, and I’m so grateful to her for that! I want the feedback as truthful as possible, so I can turn out a final product that will please my readers! And, of course, help me to achieve the highest level of writing ability that I can!

I’m thrilled and nervous all at once, and the emotions flow together inside me to create general excitement! Whether the manuscript is terrible or wonderful, it’s going out into the world, and that something!

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The Fear of Taking the Next Step

I’ve been particularly struck lately by the power of creativity. The impact you could have on a person’s life by simply being brave and open to self-expression.

I used to doubt that word: self-expression.

It seemed fabricated, as if people were trying to force something out of themselves that wasn’t there to begin with. Or else were closing in on themselves, self-focusing and thereby shutting out the world. And while that might be true sometimes, I think most of the time, self-expression never happens at all.

Fear is a very real thing, and keeps us bottled up inside. In fact, if it were not for personal handicaps that have kept me from pursuing other avenues in life, I’m not sure I ever would’ve allowed my own creativity to see the light of day. I had nothing to lose by pursuing my writing: I couldn’t hold a job, I couldn’t volunteer or give of my time to other causes, other things that I saw as more important at the time. But over the years, by devoting myself to creativity and self-expression, I have found that I have not shut out the world by being self-centered: it’s the exact opposite.

I am so much more open to experiences, emotions, and connections to other people than I have ever been before. And the more recognized I’ve become through my art, the more it terrifies me. For the first time, I’m scared to take the next step, because it might be noticed.

And if it’s noticed, I can’t go back.

But I don’t want to go back!

I want to keep going. I want to write for the rest of my life, and make an impact on the world. It’s just that I thought I had to do something more than my writing in order to do that. But I just need to do what comes naturally to me. I need to allow what is easily inside of me to come to the surface. And to be seen by the rest of the world.

So look out world. Here I come.

Don’t let your fear stop you, or you might close up. You might shut out the world. You might never truly experience it. We only have one life. And it’s never going to be perfect. So why self-sabotage?

It’s. Just. Not. Worth it.

Be creative. Express yourself. And do it for others. By doing it for yourself, it cannot stay with yourself. It must – and will -influence the world.

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The Art of an Artist – To Ever Improve!

As I’ve been editing the final draft of my latest novel, Trinian – An Epic Fantasy, the editing process affects the way that I watch and read other stories.

What I mean is, as I edit and pay attention to character development, all I notice when I watch a movie is the character development.

And when I edit plot and pacing, that’s all I notice in the book I’m reading.

My head is so jam-packed with characterization, mounting conflict, increasing stakes, and relatable villains that I feel like I’m going to explode!

I will be so happy when this novel is finally finished, which should be the end of December!

I couldn’t have gotten this far without all the resources I’ve benefited from along the way, so here is a brief list of some of the most helpful writing resources that helped turn me into the writer I am today. I highly recommend all of them!

  1. Shawn Coyne at The Story Grid, especially his podcast with Tim Grahl
  2. Joseph Campbell’s analysis of The Hero’s Journeya
    • Although I’ve never read his book, just studying the concept has helped me immeasurably! I love charting various heroes’ journeys!
  3. Writing the Breakout Novel, recommended by Weronika from Lightening Bug (below)
  4. The Lively Art of Writing
  5. Lightening and Lightening Bug’s Blog
  6. The Institute for Excellence in Writing

I’m so grateful for everyone who’s helped me through this process, which has benefited me so much and burned away so many bad habits and thought processes in my writing!

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How to Increase Drama by Lengthening Sentences

A paragraph with sentences that vary in length is far more powerful than sentences of all the same length.

For example,

Short: I watched him leave. The pain of his loss squeezed my heart. It burned my skin. I wanted him back. But my pride rooted me to the floor. I was too weak. I lost him.

Long: With longing, I watched him leave the room, and the pain of his loss squeezed my heart. It burned my skin because I wanted him back, but my pride rooted me to the floor. I was too weak to take the steps necessary to get him back, so he left and I lost him forever.

Compare those to this:

Combo: I watched him leave. The pain of his loss squeezed my heart. It burned my skin because I wanted him back, but my pride rooted me to the floor. I was too weak to chase after him, and lost him forever.

This paragraph begins with two short sentences, and then swells with a longer one that carries up through the emotion and out the other end, where the last sentence drives home the resolution.

When every sentence is the same length, it’s difficult to convey emotion in writing. Short, staccato sentences carry desperation and excitement, while long sentences convey melancholy or peace. But when put together, a wider range of emotions can easily be conveyed. Your writing will improve by leaps and bounds!

3 Tips to Vary Sentence Length

1. Combining Sentences

  • Combine 2 thoughts into one sentence and create a flow.

2. Clauses

  • Put a less important thought inside a longer one to extend the dramatic effect.

3. The Short Sentence

  • An occasional short sentence drives home a point, or increases the drama.

1. Combining Sentences

Two thoughts side by side can sometimes be combined into one sentence, which makes for easier reading and variety of structure.

For example, combine these two sentences,

1. She floated by like a cloud.

2. I was terrified by her beauty.

1&2: She floated past me like a cloud and I was terrified by her beauty.

Or these,

1. I decided monsters didn’t scare me. 

2. I was going to be brave.

1&2: I decided monsters didn’t scare me, and I was going to be brave.

How to Lengthen Sentences

By combining the sentences, the cause and effect is much more clear, and so is the sequence of events. It plays out easily, with a flowing rhythm.

2. Clauses

Sentences can also be made longer by the addition of a clause. Whether at the beginning, middle, or end of the sentence, a clause adds information that stretches the thought, and makes it more dramatic.

For example, combine these two sentences,

1. The trees grew thickly behind the house

2. I ran among them as I tried to get away from everything inside me.

1&2: Where the trees grew thickly behind the house, I ran to escape the thick, tangled thoughts inside my head. 

Or these,

1. I was thirteen and emotional.

2. That was when I decided to run away from home.

1&2:  I decided, because I was thirteen and emotional, to run away from home.

In both sentences, the first thought is not as important as the second, but it serves to paint a picture of the setting. It works better as a clause inside the second sentence, instead of on it’s own.

3. The Short Sentence

I am not opposed to short sentences by any means! They are a valuable tool and should be used when a short, dramatic statement will heighten the tension or drive home a point.

For example,

1. He loved me. I knew it now. Looking deep into his eyes, savoring the truth I already knew, but wanting to hear him say it, he whispered tenderly into my ear, “I love you.”

2. I felt like the room was closing in like the trash compactor on Star Wars. Something was coming, breathing down my neck, making the little hairs prickle and rise. Just behind me, a hoarse sigh. I whirled.

See how each short sentence is accompanied by a lot of detail, and longer sentences? This raises the stakes, and we know the short sentence is important. Everything leads up to it, or adds to it afterward.

Conclusion

Writing long and medium sentences is a good idea because it adds a rhythm and flow to your writing style. It heightens emotion and action, and draws the reader naturally into the story. But don’t forget the short sentence! It’s the best part, so use it sparingly.

8 Questions to Ask of the Best Authors

You know, I get a little too caught up sometimes in dissecting books and trying to figure them out from the inside out, piece by piece. But it’s also important to look at them as a whole. Because even if all the pieces are perfect, that doesn’t mean the whole has turned out great.

It’s important, when studying stories, to look at the greats: the old greats, those whose works have stood the test of the ages and still appeals to readers. Because even if all the pieces of their story weren’t perfect, the whole has lasted hundreds or thousands of years.

9780198797357You can go really old, if you want, to the days of Homer and Gilgamesh.

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Or more recent, like Beowulf or Chaucer.

I’m just kidding. (Except not really, cause those books are great) John Steinbeck, Virginia downloadWoolf, and James Barrie are totally fine!

When you read the story, ask yourself these questions:

1. Did the story satisfy me?

2. Was it predictable?

3. Did the beginning catch hold of me, or did it take time for me to get into it?

4. Was the middle boring? If so, why did I stick with it?

5. Was this a perfect story? (The answer is always no! No story is perfect) So then ask yourself, what could it have done better?

6. What was the basic premise?

7. What were the fundamental events?

8. Was the conclusion a natural one that was set up well?

These questions will help you to forget about sentence structure, the use of specific words, or even proper comma use. Forget about those things for a little while, and ask yourself – why is this a great story?

Now draft your own story based on the answers to your questions.

Here are my answers to all 8 questions, using Pride and Prejudice (the ever hackneyed, ever re-gurgitated example! Oh literature gods, praise be for Pride and Prejudice!) as an example.

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You could write your own story based on  these answers, without ever giving away to your audience that you copied Pride and Prejudice. So I challenge you to take the time today or this week to think of a story you love – a classic that has weathered the test of time – write out the basic events, and invent a story off of it for yourself!

Share your dissection of your favorite classic in the comments – I’d love to see it! 😀