Guess Who’s A Quarter Finalist!!!

So about a month ago I entered this contest thingy on MyFamilyTravels.com for a scholarship in which I basically wrote a short piece on my long weekend in Cambridge this past May. The focus of the contest was on writing about a place where you feel at home, a place that you love and connect with, which Cambridge certainly fit into. So Saturday night it struck me that they might have made some progress in judging the entries (and there were literally THOUSANDS of entries), so I took a peek into my Spam folder just in case it happened to get shuffled away without my knowing, and sure enough, there was an email. I am officially a Quarter Finalist (top 14%) in the contest!

What does that mean, you ask?

I’ve actually got no bloody clue.

think I’m still in the running to win the actual scholarship, as they apparently haven’t picked the winners just yet, but I’m not sure.

Anyway, I thought, as a sort-of blog post, I might offer up a link to my entry. Cambridge was absolutely lovely and I’m glad I actually got the chance to write about it AND potentially be given cash for doing so. (Always a bonus.)

Happy Tuesday!

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The Power of Your Imagination

Disclaimer: I was inspired to write this partly by this video by one of my new favorite YouTubers, the fabulous Meghan Rosette. I should warn you now that I’ve decided not to restrain myself in this post; therefore, prepare for colorful swearing and uniquely-flavored punctuation.

It strikes me that as writers, we are nearly always incredibly self-conscious. It’s practically guaranteed that if you write, you have a veritable library of insecurities and doubts about yourself, your craft, your ideas, your characters, your future, etc… Why do we have these insecurities? Why do we constantly nitpick at what we may or may not be doing wrong in our writing? We worry about our POVs, our literary style, our marketability, possible traits our story may share with a famous work like Harry Potter or Twilight that would doom us to “copycat status” as authors. There’s so much pressure to be unique and sophisticated and artistic and we read articles and books on how to write when really, really truly, we already know the formula. You sit at your desk, on your bed, on your couch, in a coffee shop, wherever you like, open up your notebook or laptop, and set pen to paper or fingers to keys.

It’s not hard. And yet the simplicity of making art is such a brilliant trap. It is so easy to believe that there’s something yet to learn, another trick of the trade, another inside look at a published author’s methods. We make writing into so much more and so much less than it is. Because what is writing? What is the real, honest-to-God definition of writing? To me, writing is peace. To you, writing may be adventure. To a young boy writing a haiku in his freshman English class, writing may be work. To an old woman with a notebook always at hand, writing may be comfort.

There is always, I suppose, something to improve on when writing, but that is the catch. That’s the reason so many writers don’t make it. We are fundamentally afraid of risk. We are afraid of using that word or keeping that paragraph or making that joke and it’s so stupid. Writing is a business, yes. But first, always first, it is an outlet. You enjoy it, you exercise it, you do with it whatever you please, because if you aren’t writing what you WANT to write, you aren’t writing at all. Writing is the act of giving over to imagination and playing God with your own world, your own characters and stories and places, and there’s no point in doing it for others. Fuck the business. Business makes art dispensable. We stick prices onto what is priceless and call it an industry and that’s okay, that’s alright. But to think of all the people, all the creative energy that has snuffed itself out by second-guessing, by hesitating to upset the unwritten etiquette of writing…it makes me angry and, more than anything, sad. What great stories have we missed because of writers’ constitutional perfectionism?

My novel, if one judged merely by the bones, would be considered YA. But because I don’t want to sacrifice incredible characters and unique plotlines for the sake of an audience that doesn’t even exist yet, I am letting myself do exactly what I want. There’s sex, and taboos, and gruesome violence, and complex villains that you love as much as the protagonists, and it’s pure. It’s what I envisioned, what I saw in my head all along.

I can’t understand why people would even want to restrain themselves and reign in all the power of creation they possess. As a writer, you possess extraordinary gifts. Use them for yourself. Give yourself over to the power of your imagination and let yourself tell the story you want to write. When and if others read your words, you won’t have to wonder if you could have done better. You won’t have to worry and regret over choices you made along the way. The business can make art commercial, but what’s the point in that if you haven’t even let yourself make that art the best it can be?

At the Moment…

I started school today. God, it was a bloody mess. My schedule is mixed up, I got terrible teachers, my counselor was NOT very pleasant, and everything was rather confusing. Not the best way to start out senior year if you ask me. But there are bright bits. I get to sing in the advanced choir, which I really missed. I have an awesome AP Literature class with cool people and a wonderful teacher. It works out so I see most of my friends at least once a day. And there was frozen yogurt and a summer social for our county’s Democratic Party, which I quite enjoyed. And I have a meeting tomorrow with my counselor from last year, which I’m really looking forward to.

But mostly I’m getting excited about applying to colleges. The actual admissions process itself is sure to be grueling I know, but I can’t wait to actually be there, deciding my future and figuring out where I’m going to be for the next four years of my life. It’s fun to think about, especially since I get to make lots and lots of lists, and I love lists. I’ve already written a mostly-completed packing list for college that’s 7 pages long.

Anyway, that’s what’s going on at the moment. Life is messy and unorganized and I’m loving it.

Slammed

Yes, I have been slammed via homework. Midterms are NEXT WEEK OMFG WHAT DO I DO and I’ve been forced to give up the remnants of my social life in favor of studying. Which, not okay, teachers.

Anyway, I’m basically writing this to let you know that a) I’m alive, b) I actually am writing, just not what I’m supposed to be, and c) I do have plans for a lovely little post about writing-related people-watching which I’ve wanted to talk about for a while, so look forward to that.

I’m still fairly active on Twitter when I get the chance, and I’ve found time to revisit one of my fave British shows, “The Vicar of Dibley” (if you haven’t already, go watch it like NOW). Hopefully I’ll be writing that post sometime this week, but I can’t make a promise, since it’s shaping up to be pretty hellish for the next few days. Wish me luck and happy writing!

 

I’m Not Dead, I Promise…

I’ve just been a little bit busy the past few weeks. I hope you’ve all been reading and writing wonderful things; I know I have. I’m currently lost in City of Bones, the first book in The Mortal Instruments series, which I’ll most likely review once I’m done with it (yes, I know I’m terribly late to the TMI party, shhh). I’m also working on doing a bit of plot-tweaking and solving a few somewhat big issues on my own project, so wish me good luck!

In more blog-related news, I’m considering writing a post about POVs. I’m having a mid-novel crisis about them at the moment, and I hope writing a post about will serve to help me sort it out and/or clear things up for you in some way. Let me know if this is something you’d be interested in (input is love after all).

Anyhow, I just thought I’d write a quick note to reaffirm my status as “alive and not dead/missing”. I hope you all are having a great February, and happy belated Love Day!

 

The Hot Dog Technique

So in the past week I haven’t written a word of chapter 4. That isn’t to say I haven’t been writing; I have, just not what I’m technically supposed to be. I’ve been doing exercises, free-writes, diagrams, charts, lists, but nothing concrete to say for the actual rough draft. I think doing these exercises has helped a lot with de-blocking me for chapter 4…but wait, I should probably explain said blockage, huh?

Okay, so last week when I reached the fourth chapter I was feeling accomplished and great and overall writer-spiffy, but chapter 4 holds some important plotty events which I hadn’t quite worked out the technical aspects of at the time. So I got stuck, trying to dig out how exactly to write what happens. Enter in the Hot Dog Technique.

(Okay, so it isn’t really called that, but I like the name so what the hell.)

I read it somewhere a while back (sorry, but I honestly don’t remember a website or book to point y’all in the right direction), and at first I didn’t think much of it, but then I tried it just because, and wow. What you do is simply this: with no punctuation or fretting about sentence structure/grammar/spelling WHATSOEVER (that’s pretty much the most important aspect of the exercise), write to the middle of the page and when you get there go to the next line. It helps to fold the paper in half, hot dog style (the vast majority of people will remember this from elementary school) and only write to the crease of the fold, then to the next line, then the next. Like so:032
This technique helped a ton because its purpose is to free you from distractions like over-thinking  The only true rule there is to follow is to only write to the middle of the page, and even that isn’t required. It gets you out of those holes you dig yourself into, and it also loosens you up and forces you to stop thinking and just write. If you haven’t tried it before, I highly recommend it.

So now I’m sort of unblocked, and hopefully this chapter won’t be too rough on my nerves. I hope everyone else is having a great week!

 

To chapter 4!

This past week has been a bit unproductive writing-wise because both my best friend from Arizona and my father’s family came to town for a visit at the same time. I had a great time, but I unfortunately had very little time to write, though I did my best when I got the chance. I also finally got an iPhone (the 4S model) and I’m absolutely in love with it. <3

I’m back now, thank Buddha, and I’ve reached chapter 4 of my novel, in which my main character…okay I’m sick to death of saying “my main character” (it’s such a mouthful for me), so his name is Dastan. Anyway, Dastan’s father is captured, and I’m excited but at the same time dragging my feet again because I know the first time writing that scene is going to be hard and probably not that brilliant, but I just have to get over it, don’t I?

I’ve also seen three very inspiring movies that I highly recommend (well, Pitch Perfect wasn’t really “inspiring”, but it was pee-in-your-pants funny), Les Misérables and Perks of Being A Wallflower. Neither are necessarily writing-related, but they have given me some really great ideas that I could work into a future novel. Les Mis is a movie that I have been obsessing over since I first heard about it, being a huge fan of both the musical and the book (though the movie was not all that special), and it did not let me down; in fact, it went beyond anything I could even imagine. The cast was just brilliant, the music gave me goosebumps like every two seconds, and it is simply one of the most incredible musical films ever made in my opinion. Go see it. Now. Then you can come back and finish reading.

Perks of Being A Wallflower was at the dollar theater, and all I knew about it was that it had a cool soundtrack, Emma Watson (my ladylove), and drugs. I didn’t expect it to be what it was, and what it turned out to be was unforgettable. I just ordered the book off Amazon, and I will without a doubt be buying the movie the second it hits stores. It’s not a movie for everyone, but if you have an open mind and you want to be inspired, then this is a great one to see. I absolutely loved it.

Now, last thing (my God, this is a long post). I went to B&N Thursday and picked up another writing book/guide/instruction manual shindig called 90 Days to Your Novel by Sarah Domet. I’m on page 56 so far, and I also read the end (because I fail as a human being, yes I know), and so far it’s a great read. Domet is very frank and no-nonsense (like a good deal of college professors), and pretty much a badass sassbucket, if you take my meaning. She had me laughing from the first page, and she has a very set way of approaching the novel-writing process, which may not be for everyone, but I’m certainly enjoying the read. The book works like an actual lesson plan, with first a prologue, and then actual day-by-day assignments that help you build both an outline and a completed rough draft. I love outlining and writing exercises, so I’m looking forward to trying out her methods, perhaps over the summer when I’m less pressed for time (and energy).

Hope your New Year is going well!

 

Chapter 3!!!

Remember back when I got to Chapter 2 yesterday? Well, NOW I’M ON CHAPTER 3!!!

And chapter 3 is getting to be a real fun chapter. It’s got a lot of drama and dialogue and action, and it’s getting close to the real start-point, where the MC’s padre gets ‘napped by the bad guys and shit hits the fan. Wooooo.

My chapters are turning out to be short, like a few pages each, which I’m not sure how I feel about. I mean, there’s not necessarily anything wrong with short chapters, but I know that if I keep this up, the novel will end up being like 200 pages, which is not good at all. Do short chapters bother anyone else, or am I just the lone, picky wolf? Of course, I’m definitely not writing as well as I can, I’m just pounding out the words and making plenty of mistakes, because I want to make this rough draft as messy and fun to fix as possible, which goes against the grain to be honest. Even now, I’m fighting the urge to print out what I’ve got and take my vindictive, bitchy red pen to the whole mess until I feel like it’s bookstore-ready. I’m doing my best to not look at what I’ve written, and I’m going to try and do that until I’m done with the rough draft so I don’t give my inner critic any more ammo than she already has.

But on another topic, I’m almost done with The Weekend Novelist, and I’m looking for other books on writing to dive into before school starts destroying my brain cells again. I’m really interested in things concerning plot, the writing of the first draft, and especially time management since I’m a student and it can be really difficult to balance writing with schoolwork. If you have any recommendations, please comment and let me know!

Chapter 2!!!!

I am so beyond thrilled that in the course of a few days I have gotten to Chapter 2, and I’m actually liking where it’s going. I feel like not only has my story grown, but it actually makes a smidgen of sense.

So that’s that. Just, er, ordinary life o’ Ms. Bond. (NOT REALLY I CANNOT CONTAIN MY EXCITEMENT ABOUT THIS)

But what I really wanted to write about today is one of my big fears. I think letting it out might help with getting rid of said fear, so here it goes.

I have many fears about my writing. What writer doesn’t? If you don’t have fears, well frankly, you’re doing something wrong. I have a very specific fear, which results in a problem that has developed over time.

I have doubts. I’m very goal-oriented, and I know that my ultimate goal is to be published. Not self-publishing, because to me, I wouldn’t feel quite the same level of “I did it!” But when I write, I write with that goal in mind. And it gets in my way. I start wondering if there’s even a market for what I’m writing, if people will think it’s just a rip-off of other novels (it’s not, I promise, though obviously I have been inspired by some great stories like LOTR and the Inheritance series), if my writing is good enough, if people will get what I’m trying to say, if people will like what I’m saying, if it’s exciting enough, if the characters are good enough, if the plot is interesting enough.

What if everything is bad, and I spend hours and days and weeks and months and years writing and finishing and editing and creating this huge, complex story and no one wants it, no one cares, no one thinks it’s good?

That is one of my biggest fears, because what I’m working on is just massive. I have dozens of characters, plotlines,  backstories, cultures, spanning across 5 books of at least 500 pages each, and I’m creating languages, languages, for three different cultures, and I’m making calendars and weather patterns and maps and spreadsheets and diagrams.

And what if I get to the end, and I can’t sell it? What if I get to the end, and I’m the only one who cares?

It’s a fear that I’m constantly trying to overcome, because I don’t want it to be about what will or won’t sell, what I can or can’t publish. I want it to be about writing, and this beautiful story with adventures and passion and journeys and duty and love and friendship and fate and choosing to do what’s right instead of what’s easy.

That’s what writing should be. Nothing more, nothing less. It should be you, with a pen, with a keyboard, with a piece of chalk, telling a story.

Writerly Things

Writing is going swimmingly. I can’t begin to describe my relief. I’ve written almost four pages in three days, which is probably nothing to a seasoned writer, but for me it’s  the most I’ve written in a long while. That’s not to say it’s flowing smoothly. I still get stuck a lot, but instead of giving up and telling myself “later”, I keep pushing and, if I really need to, I skip that scene and go on to something else. It’s working wonderfully (insert squealing and bouncing here).

In other news, I’m thinking of getting a Twitter for writerly things. I have one for RL (which I don’t use), and one for online friends (which I do use), but none specifically for writing. Actually I’m not really sure what one does to make relationships and conversation in the online world of writers, but it seems that Twitter is one such way of “connecting”. I love having people to talk to who are in the same boat as I am (writers, readers, dreamers, butchers, bakers, candlestick makers) and while blogging is WONDERFUL, I sort of want more ways of sharing and interacting with people, just because it makes me happy.

Of course, if I make a Twitter I’m not really sure what I’d do with it, since I only follow a smattering of blogs, and I don’t really like following people unless I really genuinely want to know them better and talk to them or I even just like what they’re saying, because otherwise what’s the point? (God, that came out a bit snobbier than intended oops.)

So that’s my little ramble of the day. I hope you’re all enjoying these last few days of December (it’s a damn icebox even here in the Southeast). I know I for one am looking forward to the new year and all the change it will bring.

Be happy!