Happy Monday! 15 Minute Writings in an Old House

The mainenance guy hasn’t come by yet to prep the radiators for the coming winter, so the apartment grows colder and colder each day. I don’t mind the chill, honestly. I prefer to wear sweaters or flannels. It’s cozier, cheaper, and it makes it feels more like fall every day. The leaves have yet to change, but they will soon. I can’t wait.

This is my new place, by the way.

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Nestled perfectly between two busy streets, it’s surprisingly quiet. No car alarms going off or sirens every other day. It’s closer to my climbing gym than the old place, there are plenty of trees around, and it’s in a part of the city I have yet to learn.

The weathered linoleum in the kitchen feels good against my bare feet. Just like the kitchen back home. Every other room is old hardwood, perfect for pacing around.

My roommate acquired most of the furniture himself, either from his family or from yard sales and such. I’m grateful for it; my bed is currently two couch cushions with a sheet over them on my bedroom floor. It’s way more comfy than I expected.

The adjustment into a routine didn’t take long. I wake up, check email, open up some Write Practice tabs and maybe a tv show, make some breakfast, and figure out my day. Sometimes I write original stuff, other times it’s a review. Regardless, there’s always something to be done for work or an errand that needs to be run to break up the day.

Speaking of running, I ran this afternoon! It was only 2.5 miles, but it felt good to get back into the habit. I’m doing a 5K in November with my sister, so training for that’ll be loads of fun.

Another neat little habit I picked up is the 15-minute writing burst. If you’re looking to increase productivity or build up a habit, pick up The 15-Minute Writer: How to Write Your Book in Only 15 Minutes A Day by Jennifer Blanchard. Geared primariy towards non-fiction writers, her approach to writing and her advice on achieving bursts of productivity are surprisingly simple, yet highly effective.

Granted, I can’t get all of my writing done in 15-minutes. It usually ends up being at least two bursts, if not four or five, before I need to step back and take a quick break, especially with fiction. Character development and scene building take time to work out, especially when planning to write a novel in a month.

NaNoWriMo is going swimmingly, by the way. I have five charcters realized, with two more in the works. All that’s left to figure out is the plot. Time to comb through my resources and figure out what’ll happen to Jai. It’s not an adventure, thriller, or crime story. I’m taking a literary approach to this one, so the whole ‘incident -reaction – incident – reaction’ principle to storytelling will be more subtle here than some of my other writing. It’ll be a fun challenge to figure it out this week.

Happy Monday!

 

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Moving Fun and Sprained Feet: Happy October!

I’m thinking about doing weekly updates every Monday, just so I can get in the habit of blogging more regularly. Thoughts?

This past week I moved to a new place and had tons of work related issues going on. Hence, an abscence from reviews. I’ll be putting up two this week to make up for it.

The moving aspect of things was pretty fantastic, simply because I was more active than I’d been in two weeks. I sprained my foot in the middle of September, which meant that all the physical activities I love, from climbing to running, were out of the question. I could bike sometimes, but the weather didn’t always cooperate.

The good news is: my foot’s healed! Climbing awaits once again!

Despite the craziness, I still found time to write! I’m polishing a short exercise I did last week, so keeep an eye out for that in the next few days (it’s less than 300 words, I promise it’s a fast read!).

Prep for NaNoWriMo is in full swing. I’ll go into more details in a couple weeks, but I’ll be doing everything I can to keep myself accountable during November to finish this time around. All I have so far is the setting, a couple characters, and a title: Uncommon Eyes.

That’s all I’ve got for now. My life’s fairly quiet at the moment, which I’m perfectly content with.

 

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!

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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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.