It’s Not Just Caring: Why Sharing Your Work Is Necessary

It’s cause for a small celebration, because I just received tons of great feedback on the second draft of my book! I may have dragged my feet over the past eight months working on other projects, but I finally did it. I edited my first book!

editor

As friends and family write back to me about their thoughts on my story, I’m grateful that people express interest in my work, since I know very few people have actually read what I put out there (from my reviews and blog posts to my stories), so it always warms my heart to learn that people want to see what I’ve been working on. It’s also made me realize how necessary it is to share your work with others, for a few reasons.

1. You know your story too well.

You’ve been living with this story in your head in your head for a while now. Maybe it’s only been a week, maybe it’s been two years that you’ve been developing every facet of your world. The point is, you know how the story’s supposed to go, so a few of those important details that make it tick may have slipped through the cracks somehow.

When other people read your story, they’ll ask questions about character development, where this important plot point came from, etc. You can answer their questions right away, but they help you realize that – oops – you forgot to include something! Thus, making your story stronger.

2. Everyone interprets things differently

Sometimes you come up with what you think is the perfect line that helps out with worldbuilding or gives a character the perfect closure they deserve, but then it falls flat on its face. Other times you’ll write a little line that’ll resonate  with readers more than the main conversation that makes you rethink the whole purpose of the story.

People have different experiences that shaped them, and even the smallest things can elicit a response from them. You never know what people will connect with, which is always exciting and, at times, satisfying.

3. Friends and family are curious about what you’re working on.

I try to stay busy during the day. When I’m not working on my job, I’m critiquing other writer’s work  in my writing group, working on my own stories, or editing something for myself. I’ll go out and do stuff from time to time, but typically I’ll sacrifice socializing for writing.

I also tend not to share much. That’s why when I asked people out there if they wanted to read my book, I was surprised by how many responses I got. I ended up sending my book out to a dozen people, and so far about half of them have written back to me with better feedback than I could have imagined.

I know I’m referencing mostly books and short stories here, but this applies to music, poetry, blog posts, and any creative medium. You’ll never grow if you don’t put yourself out there. Sure, it’s scary, but trust me on this. If you share, you’ll be a better writer for it.

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No Review This Week

Life gets in the way sometimes. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve done some writing and gotten some terrific feedback on Elements, but writing around a day job with highly varied workflow makes for an interesting challenge.

In the interest of planning my NaNoWriMo book, I’ve decided to skip the review for this week and focus more on developing one of my characters. I may even share it here at some point, who knows?

I’ll be back to regular reviews next week with another of Neil Gaiman’s works. Enjoy your weekend, y’all!

A Month Unable to Write, and Finding Ways to Get Back Into It

Four weeks.

It’s been nearly four weeks, and very few words have flowed through my fingertips. I’ve had writers block before, but nothing quite like this.

writers-block

 

How can something like this happen?

It all started with the Orlando nightclub shooting. Something about that tragedy resonated with me in a way that none of the other mass shootings, and it didn’t stop there.

Three more highly publicized gun-related incidents dominated every facet of society, the election grew more and more spiteful and intense on both sides, and a smattering of other incidents weighed heavier and heavier on me, to the point where the blank page looked more and more like a black hole.

I would sit down to write Felix, and even though the picture was in my head, it didn’t translate onto the page. I would write a brand new scene for Elements, and Fenn and Irana would fight all of my decisions. Normally I can negotiate with them, but my heart just wasn’t in it. I even finished a short story that I’m planning on submitting to contests or magazines, but it still doesn’t feel right.

It’s not like I didn’t do any writing whatsoever.I had to write plenty for my ‘real job’, which is tedious and  I’ve still been putting up reviews (which you should definitely read), but that’s not the same as creating something.

I also did some editing for Elements, mostly grammar and plot-related things. The brand new sections, however, fought me at every turn.

It’s not a good feeling, let me tell you.

I knew I needed to be writing to completel my manuscript, but I couldn’t do it. If I did a bit more research, maybe I could find a contest or a magazine to submit my story to? Nope. Surely I could mess around with formatting some of my stories into a short story collection? Wrong.

I felt guilty for not being available for my writing group. I let myself down since I started on my career path, yet I’m not working actively at it.

You know, the usual stuff.

writers-block-peanuts

So what do you do when you’re completely and utterly stuck in everything writing related?

I had to find something to take my mind completely off of everything that was going on, and that meant getting out of my house.

I go for walks when I’m feeling antsy. I joined a climbing gym, because everyone I know who climbs seems really put together, and they’re in great shape.

I’m getting back into running after dealing with a bad calf, because I know how fantastic running is for me.

I even tried yoga. Yeah, yoga. It’s actually damn relaxing, even though I feel like the Tin Man whenever I change positions compared to literally everyone else.

The reviews are actually really helpful, too. Since I’m reading or seeing new movies or playing new games, I get a bit of a distraction from everything.

Suffice it to say, I’m getting back into it. I’ve got a new review coming out tomorrow. Elements will be ready for beta readers at the end of the month, and then I can start formatting Felix to get it out there to you guys. Keep an eye out for those announcements.

 writers20block

I Won’t Ignore It

I used to ignore my feeling with little to no problem. I don’t need to go into the reasons behind that right now, but after a while brushing them aside became second nature to me.

However, that attitude has started to change.

Since I started this site over a year ago, there have been some ups and downs. I’ve had more jobs than I can count on one hand for multiple reasons. I moved to a new city simply because I hadn’t lived in that part of the country before. I took time for two fantastic roadtrips to incredible parts of the United States.

It’s been a busy year for my friends and family, as well. One of my best friends got married nine months ago, and several friends and classmates got engaged. Quite a few friends earned their Masters Degrees and are starting either their PhD, law school, or a job in the career they’ve been pursuing for the past six years. All their hard work is finally paying off, and I couldn’t be happier for them.

Meanwhile, I took several steps backwards. Instead of using my Biology Degree in a Masters Program, doing research, or anything that relates to Biolgy in the conventional sense, I decided that writing is what spoke to me the most. I’m talking about world waiting to be explored. I’m talking about fiction that everyone can relate to. I’m talking about taking people for a ride that excites them or even makes them think.

Like most things in life, starting a new career is hard. Boy, that’s an understatement.

One one hand, I chose this for myself. I shouldn’t complain about how difficult it can be sometimes.

On the other hand, I can’t ignore my feelings all the time.

I can’t ignore how frustrating it feels to see the sonogram of a couple’s second child while I’m sitting over here still learning the nuances of being a functional adult.

I can’t ignore the envy I feel as my friends toss their caps into the air after two gureling years or don their white coat for the first time.

I can’t ignore that little voice that drives me up a wall as it whispers “You haven’t written a word today. How can you call yourself a writer?”

Here’s the thing about those negative feelings that I never fully understood until recently: if you ignore them, they fester. Like mold in a house, they start to spread from their little corner, this little black spot growing larger and larger until the damage is done and everything is rotten.

I’m sure this simile’s been used before, but it’s certainly accurate. The effects those thoughts have can’t be removed easily, just like mold. They shape your words and actions, possibly for the rest of your life.

Sometimes I’ll complain about being frustrated, envious, or disappointed. I’ll be acknowledging that something’s not great, and that complaining may be what causes me to realize that something’s not great.

I know I chose this path for myself, and I know it’s difficult beyond belief.  I do my best to keep a positive attitude, but if something’s bothering me, then by all means I won’t ignore it.

 

 

Homecoming: An Exercise on Perspective (and a Challenge)

Scenario: A soldier returns home to surprise his daughter at school.

Exercise: Write about this scene from three different points of view.

Challenge (if you dare): Post the results in the comments section or on your own platform, be it social media or a website.

I

I saw him stride into the commons, wearing his uniform as if it was something to be proud of. That’s what they drill into their heads, isn’t it: be proud to kill for your country, die for your country. That’s what they want you to believe. But each soldier is just a pawn on the battlefield. All that noble crap is a ruse to keep them fighting. Man, I should stop thinking like that. People could hurt me for it.

His green fatigues were crisp; they had just been cleaned for his return home. I wonder how much foreign blood and dirt had stained his sleeves only days ago. What I didn’t get was why he was here. High school recruiters had come by weeks ago. Heh, the dean nearly suspended me for spitting in a marine’s face. I’d spit in this guy’s face, too, but he wasn’t worth the effort to stand up and abandon my lunch.

Suddenly, a scream erupted from the far side of the commons, and the place turned absolutely silent. A girl in my history class leapt out of her seat and dashed towards the man. He spread his arms wide and they embraced. Every single person in the room felt compelled to applaud this act; quite a few people stood up. I, of course, abstained. A couple people around me shot the dirtiest look I had ever seen in my direction. I didn’t expect them to understand how I felt right now, how jealous I was of this moment. At least this girl’s father returned home from war.

 

II

             The soldier walked in, and I hoped for a second that it was him, coming to surprise me just like I’ve dreamed for six months. I only caught a glance of him before noise erupted from the east side of the commons. A group of kids were raising their voices, standing up. They managed to distract me from the soldier. I didn’t want the distraction. I wanted to think about him, to be held in his arms again.

I risked a glance back towards the soldier, in full uniform. They all look the same from afar. I hoped it was him. The kids were raising their voices, inadvertently demanding my attention, though they couldn’t hope to fully claim it in that moment.

When the girl screamed, I turned away from the food fight about to break out and saw a girl from one of my Freshman English classes last year sprinting towards a soldier in the commons. The tears in both their eyes brought tears to my eyes. I brushed my left hand across my face to catch the tears, and the ring brushed across my cheek.

My husband’s been in Afghanistan. He’s a captain of a special infantry unit. Every day after I watch the six o’clock news, I can’t help but call him, hoping he’ll pick up, that nothing’s happened to him. The constant worry, the tension in my stomach, it makes me sick. I want him home. I want him to whisper into my ear like he did the night before he left.

The two embraced, and the room erupted in applause. I swore I could hear one of them faintly whispering “I missed you.” I didn’t try to hold tears back that time. There was no chance.

 

III

He came into the front office an hour before the school day officially started, just like he’d planned. I had no idea it was happening. The teacher who planned it all filled me in on the details later. He’d been home for a week already, but he really wanted to surprise his daughter. He’d been deployed for twenty-four months, and now that he was home he was retiring from active service. It reminds me of my homecoming years ago.

I was in Iraq during the first Gulf War. Just a lowly Private shipped out after basic training. I wasn’t there for long; they sent me all over the world (I won’t recount all the details) but I was gone for fifteen months. I had a girl back home, too, and letters sometimes took weeks to reach their destination. I was never in one place long enough to use one reliable phone number. The more we wrote, the closer we grew together. I knew about three months into my deployment what I wanted to do. The moment I stepped onto U.S. soil and saw Kathleen, I got down on one knee and asked her. We’ve been together ever since.

I wish I could have been there for the reunion itself. As principal of the school, I had other matters to attend to. I was in meetings all morning, but around lunch I heard the applause. In the minutes between my lunch and a budget meeting, I stepped into the commons to a standing ovation for the soldier and his daughter, reunited at last. It was moments like these that I was proud to have served my country.

Intimate Moment (a writing exercise)

Sometimes I get stuck when I write. If I don’t do something about it, I won’t write anything new for a few weeks. Usually, I can dig up a prompt stashed away in the recesses of my computer and write about that for an hour. Sometimes people-watching is the best thing. Just sit in a coffee shop, a train station, a library, even a busy intersection, find someone, and make stuff up about them. This is one such story/stream-of-consciousness/sketch I did recently. Enjoy!

They’re both gorgeous humans. He has a strong jaw and probably has a toned body under his clothes, maybe a runner? His glasses work perfectly on his face, probably helping him immensely. Her blond hair is pulled back in a ponytail. You can’t see it from this angle, but the left side is buzzed like Natalie Dormer in The Hunger Games. She’s probably a runner, too. Tall, long legs, clearly strong. She’s wearing boots with a couple inches of heel, making her legs even longer

She’s getting emotional. She wipes her eyes, legs crossed as she sets her yellow legal pad down. The guy’s been talking to her (from across the room it looks more like at her), gesturing with open hands and an honest expression on his face. Maybe it’s support, but my guess it’s been feedback. She had been writing since they sat down two hours ago, holed up in the corner, and it’s getting to her now. He’s leaning forward, elbows on his knees, hands resting on her legs or caressing her when he isn’t gesturing. She slouches a little bit when she talks, using her words less than her facial expressions to convey her message.

He points to the legal pad, and she picks it up again. They’re back to critiques at this point. She’s looking around the coffee shop again, perhaps focusing on the paintings hanging on the walls. He hasn’t shut up for a while now. She doesn’t make eye contact with him, briefly now, but never sustained for more than a minute. Maybe it’s a memoir, maybe a love letter.

Oh. My. God. He looked away. It was only for a second, but he turned his head to the corner of the room. Pausing to think, if I had to guess. He dives right back into it, though. When they first sat down, I immediately thought they were a couple. They’re certainly familiar enough with each other. The longer they’re here, the less sure I am. He’s certainly affectionate, but she doesn’t return any of it. Maybe it’s the heavy material she’s got on the legal pad that’s distracting her.

I can hear him now. Not any words, per se, just his tone and timbre. Supportive, but not overly masculine. He hasn’t finished his ice coffee.

There’s an asian couple whose voices carry much better than the runners in the corner. If I listen carefully enough, I could probably hear what they’re saying. The runners are honestly so much more interesting, though. Everyone latches on to drama, no matter what. I’m not a dramatic person, but I’ve been known to gossip when it concerns my friends and how it affects me.

The guy’s sitting up straighter. The girl’s still slightly slouched, but she smiled. The pep talk (or whatever he’s doing) is clearly working. She’s engaging with him more now, actively participating and laughing a bit now and again. Hopefully her project goes well.

I really should be editing Elements instead of musing on other people’s personal moments.

New Story Coming Soon!

Elements is in the editing process, which is slow but worth it. There’s all these little kinks and questions you don’t anticipate when you revisit a story you’ve worked on for a long time. It’s all in the effort to make a more satisfying story, though! I plan to have a second draft prepared for beta readers by the end of this month, so if you’re interested in this, let me know.

On a slightly different note, I’ve been working on a new story for the past month or so to help me explore the full world I’ve created in my first book. Felix takes place about eight years before Elements and will lead up to the events of that book. A brief premise:

Felix has always been fascinated by the world around him and unafraid to try new things. Ever since he read about the rise and fall of the Elementals, however, he hasn’t been able to think about anything else. 

I’m excited about this story and can’t wait to share it with y’all. Keep an eye out for the debut within the next couple weeks!