Tag Archives: personal journey

Time to Get Offline

I’ve always hated social media, a fact I talk about often, both on and offline. Talking to strangers on twitter is fun, but it’s kind of impersonal to me, and if I can’t have that personal touch, I’d rather not be touching at all.

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And like the 90’s girl I am, this whole post might sound very “Clueless”. Bare with me.

 

I’m so bad that I even sit around and day dream about living a life like Thomas Harris. What would it be like to be an author who doesn’t bother doing anything with social media, and just lives with his brain monsters (and family of course)? As an unpublished writer it’s very appealing, but I’m not Tom Harris, and none of my characters are nearly as up to par with Hannibal Lector. Instead, I have to focus on building a writer’s platform.

But like all necessary evils in a person’s life, or persevered evils, sometimes it’s good to take a step back from them. I learned this lesson the hard way. I moved to a small Texas town where internet takes forever to get set up.

It’s amazing what a couple weeks without internet did to me. I’m not going to say I’ve had any life changing, soul altering moments, but it’s definitely been great. No pressure to get tweets out every day, or to post up something on instagram, or heaven forbid find something interesting enough to add to facebook. I knew I had an app still making posts on my behalf, but I wasn’t having to try and impress anyone by coming up with new, clever posts.

Instead of building a platform, I took a step back and picked up some books. Not just the quick easy reads I normally read when I needed a mental break from writing, no I dove into everything. I finished Clive Barker’s “The Scarlet Gospels”, Mercedes Lackey’s “Firebird, and even a graphic novel I secretly love. From there, I moved to “Plot Verses Character”, by Jerff Gerke, and tackled a few other non fiction pieces from my husband’s library. It was like finding my writing voice that I had years ago. The more I read, the more I began to feel like myself.

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It wasn’t just books, however. I drew pictures, practiced my digital art, took my dogs for walks, and explored the new city I just moved into. I came to realize that life without internet was great. As much as I know I still need to build a platform, I know that it’s more important not to get so lost in your online life that your offline one suffers.

So here’s my goal for 2018. Get on the internet when I need to, but only jump on social media once a day. If I miss some hashtag games, or lose a few followers, so be it. Being more worried about my follower count than my word count is counter productive for me at this moment in my writing life. While sure, other writers are building a strong social media game, they’re at that point in their walk that they can do that. I still have a long way to go, and can’t compare my journey to their’s.

While I’m at it, I’ll be changing my blog schedule, focusing more on quality vs. quantity of posts. I’m also going to try and build a more conversational tone, since I know I can sound a little dry sometimes. I’ll also try to interact with other bloggers more, to build better relationships with you lovely people who are consistently liking and reading my posts.

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If you’ve ever been in my shoes, and have some tips for finding a better balance, please let me know. I’m definitely open for a critique!

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Writer on the Road – Day 4

We’re back in civilization tonight and had Whataburger for dinner for the first time in almost 6 months. For those of you who know what that is, you know how fantastic I found my meal after being away from it for so long.

We left Utah today and made it into New Mexico. With only two days of driving left, I spent a lot of time today thinking about writing and what I want for my life. 

When I first started writing, I had no intention of ever being published. I liked to write because it helped me escape from reality but it wasn’t what I wanted to be when I grew up. I shared with my friends, and while they enjoyed it, I never thought I’d one day try to sell my work. 

I kept up the work, even when I didn’t think I’d make it a career, until about three years ago I realized it’s what I want to do with my life. That being said, I’ve never been published. I’m not writing to pay the bills yet, I’m writing still out of passion, so I don’t have to worry yet about the career side of the writing world. 

As I realized this, I had to ask myself, do I really want a career as a writer? Do I want the work as well as the play? Why not just be a hobbiest, why do I want to be recognized as an author?

Being a hobbiest and being a professional are two totally different animals. There’s nothing wrong with either of these, but it’s important to be honest with yourself. 
Everyone has to answer that question to themselves. For me, I decided on day four of my drive that I wanted to be a writer, not because of the romance, but because I like the work. I like the hours bent over a manuscript. I love the feeling of starting a new idea. And as much as I complain, I even enjoy the editing. 

Work isn’t some four letter word to me as so many creative types make it out to be. It’s something I find myself embracing. Writing is as much of a career choice as it is a way to share my love of stories with others, and that’s why I’m perusing a job as a writer.

It was a nice realization and it’s fueling my fire as I keep on writing this November. I love the work that gets put into books, and I can’t wait to jump into the career side.

I don’t know why you write, but please let me be clear. Everyone’s reason is a valid one. If you want a career as a professional writer, you go after it with all the fire you’ve got. Everyone has their drive, tell me yours below and let’s share the love of the job! 

2017 NaNoWriMo Influence Map

My NaNoWriMo novel this year is a paranormal comedy, and with it only a week away, I gathered up my inspiration to make myself an Influence Map.

As promised, here’s what’s keeping me motivated on this project!

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1. This one is a bit obscure if you don’t know The Twilight Zone, but in season 3 episode 16, I saw Death personified for the first time in pop culture. I was 10 when I first saw this episode, and it’s stuck with me all these years. While Death won’t be a huge character in my novel, I definitely love the idea of Death appearing to people in different forms, and hope to translate this as well as The Twilight Zone did.

2. I found this picture on pinterest and for whatever reason, it just cracked me up. From this picture, I started collecting others that reminded me of haunted cafes, or ghost related things. I took it and ran, and haven’t stopped since.

3. Now, I won’t be too influenced by Gravity Falls, but I do like the general feel of the show. A town with supernatural happenings that just kind of shrugs and goes with it is definitely the vibes I want to give off.

4. I’ve only seen a handful of episodes of Ghost Whisperer, but an old writing friend of mine pointed out some of my plot points reminded her of that show, so I went back and rewatched a few clips, and yeah, there are definitely a couple similarities. Not many, but enough to admit when there are common themes.

5. Buffy is one of my favorite shows of all time. I love the girl killing monsters trope, and while my main character isn’t as outgoing as Buffy, she’ll definitely be in a “Hell Mouth” situation. She’ll also be a reluctant hero type, so that’s a bit of inspiration for me as well.

6. & 7. Practical Magic and Dime Store Magic are inspiring as far as the witchcraft goes, but also because of how they portray female friendship/sisterhood. Much like Death, witches won’t have a huge part in my novel, but they’ll have enough of an impact on the plot to take some inspo for them.

8. Gilmore Girls has a bigger square because I’ll definitely be pulling some of the class division in small town life, as well as a woman trying to make her own away from her family. As I’ve been saying, this is really a paranormal book about friendships, especially positive female ones, and I really hope to be able to portray that.

9. I’ve been listening to the podcast, New World Witchery for close to 3 years now. While it’s mostly about North American magic, they have side stories revolving around folklore that I’ve always found inspiring. Their collections of ghost stories, American witchcraft, and general folklore will heavily be influencing my world building.

10. There’s a house in the small town of Steilacoom, WA that sits on a hill facing the bay. With two stories and a shade of dark mint green, when I first drove by it, I had my husband pull over so I could get a closer look. Now an office building, it’s the perfect size and layout of where I imagine MC lives and works, with a cafe in the bottom, and bedrooms on top. It’s my main setting inspiration, and I can’t wait to explain why this house turned cafe is now the pit stop for lost souls in my universe.

11. Good Omens was the first Terry Pratchett, and 3rd Neil Gaiman book I’ve ever read. I loved the snappy dialogue and hilarious idea that an angel and demon are trying to stop the apocalypse from happening. The writing style of both authors has heavily influenced my comedic work, and to say I didn’t get my character dynamics from them would be a lie.

12. As stated above Steilacoom, WA is a town a drive through or visit semi frequently. The first town in Washington, I love how cute and quiet it is, but since I’m a small town girl, I know that there’s probably some problems there that are just under the surface. Maybe there aren’t literal ghosts people are trying to hide, but I bet everyone has a few skeletons they try to keep buried. While I called my city “Stella Cove, WA”, there will definitely be some similarities between the two cities.

 

Hope you enjoyed seeing where my ideas are heading! If you’d like to make one of these influence maps, check out the link here for the download. Also, if you’re doing NaNoWriMo comment below with how you’re getting ready. What’s your story about? Have a link to share? Throw it my way!

Also, I’m looking for writing buddies, so shoot me a line on the NaNoWriMo site to team up.

Top 10 Things Unpublished Writers Hear

The road to being a published author is a bumpy one. Holding down a day job, raising kids, constant criticism, and your own internal struggle can be daunting. You know one day you’ll get there, but in the mean time, here are things you’ll probably wind up hearing.

  1. “Why don’t you just self publish?” or alternately “Why don’t you just find an agent?”

Not every publishing style is perfect for every writer. What works for someone else might not work for you.

2. “Can you write me something for free? It’ll be good publicity.”

I’ve heard this a few times from people who want something like fan fiction or smut stories between them and a character/celebrity. It’s not really great publicity, when I’m not a romance writer.

3. “You’re a writer? But what do you REALLY do to earn money?”

I’ve heard this one more than once. I have a day job, but one day I’d like to be able to say that IS what I do to earn money.

4. “You’re a writer? So is my uncle! His agent just sold his 5th book to a publishing house!”

I’m always happy to hear someone being successful, but yeah, sometimes I do get a little envious.

5. “You’re just not trying hard enough!”

For many writers, this can be true, but when you just start submitting, you’re at the beginning of your journey. Keep submitting. You’re doing great.

6. “You could be the next Stephen King!”

Do you know how lofty that goal is? Hell, I just want to get a book out there, I can focus on becoming ridiculously popular and established later.

7. “When does your book come out?”

Good question. As soon as I get that agent and manage to sell my manuscript I’ll let you know.

8. “What does your spouse/family think?”

I’m not sure why this one comes up. It always makes me scratch my head and wonder why it matters? Even if I didn’t have support I’d still be trying to be a writer. Should their opinion really matter that much?

9. “Why not write a book about something that’s popular right now?”

Because trends are constantly changing and you shouldn’t cater to what’s popular. By the time you’re finished with your book, it’ll be out of style.

 

10. “You just finished your first book, what are you going to work on next?”

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First, I’m going to take a second to breathe, send out query letters, build a writer’s platform and sign up for some conferences….then maybe write something about human cloning, but you know, that’s a little ways away. The point is, there’s a lot that comes next.

Getting Over the Fear of Judgement From Loved Ones

I love my family. I’m sure some of them will read this one day, so let me repeat myself. I love my family. That being said, growing up where most if not every person in said family is either Catholic, Church of Christ, or Baptist, I’ve always been afraid of them judging my writing.

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My fears weren’t entirely uncalled for. As a child/young teen, I drew a lot, and there were more than a few eyebrows thrown up by what I enjoyed sketching. Fairies, dragons and magic were off limits, practicing the nude human form was scolded, and if I drew in a style that wasn’t approved of, anime for example, I was told to not practice it. While family members saw it as them protecting me, it created a harbor of insecurity for what I was creating.

Needless to say, I never shared my writing with the adults of my family when I started writing. There were a few cousins I trusted with my work, and a best friend I consider a sister, but those were the only people I opened up to. When I told my cousins and “sister” I was going to start submitting to agents, they weren’t surprised at all. For the rest of the family, however, it came as a shock that I was writing in the first place.

When I told them, I’ll admit, I was worried. I write about people with wings that are mistaken as angels, magicians with power over life and death, and ghosts who fall in love with girls and refuse to pass on. I have plans for a novel that revolves around a demon who hunts spirits that escape Hell and another set in a dystopian future that revolves around human cloning.

You can see why I was worried they might judge my subject matter.

How did I get over my fear of judgement and just get to writing?

In part, I found a support group. My husband, “sister”, cousins, and a strict, yet fun, tough love writing group in Texas all gave me a shoulder to lean on but they weren’t the only things that helped.

When I sat back and began to think about what I wanted in life, I realized that writing is what makes me truly happy. I love entertaining people, I love the look on people’s faces when they enjoy my work, and I love creating worlds to let characters run wild in. I love all of it. If my family can’t understand that, and judge me, that’s fine. It’s worth it.

When you’re creating anything, from a sketch, to a play, to a novel, you have to ask yourself, is it worth it? Is it something you can’t live without, or are you going to let fear of people who should love you regardless of your interests and what you’re writing stop you from reaching your goals?

What are your insecurities, and how did you overcome them? What advice would you give to artists struggling with judgement from loved ones?

One last note, if you haven’t heard Neil Gaiman’s “Make Good Art” speech and you’re struggling with fears of rejection, have a listen. I can’t stress how important it was for me to hear this on my road to overcoming fear of insecurities.

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Authors Who Changed my Life – Neal Shusterman

The original copy of my favorite book of his, purchased when I was 13.

In 2004, I was a big eyed, quiet, never quite fitting in 13 year old. I hid in the library during lunch, wrote stories inspired by whatever book I was reading and had a close friendship with the librarian. Books were an escape from a hectic homelife and Neal Shusterman’s work was my favorite place to run to.

When the school announced they had invited Shusterman for a talk on writing, the librarian knew how much I loved his books, and snuck me in to the advanced class’s private talk with him. Now, I doubt he remembers me. In fact, I’m positive he doesn’t. I was one girl, in one small town Texas middle school, out of hundreds he’s gone to. He met me for maybe five minutes, but those five minutes changed my life more than he’ll ever know.

Sitting in the back of the room, I hung on every word he said. Here was my favorite author, an idol in the eyes a eighth grader, the person who created all the books I loved. A real writer. 

When he finished his talk, I lingered behind a long line to get his autograph. Unlike the other kids who rushed to greet him, however, I didn’t have one of his books in hand. I had five pages of a story I wrote.

I didn’t know why I brought those pages then, and still don’t know why it was so important now, but when I walked up to him, I held them out and said. “Full Tilt’s my favorite book. I want to be a writer, but I’m not very good.”

He could’ve just laughed, or told me to head out because I was one of the last kids of the day. Instead, he smiled and said something to me I’ll never forget. “I bet it’s great! Be proud of your work. If you keep it up, you’ll be a writer one day. You just need to practice and never give up.”

I was shocked. He was the first adult to ever tell me that. No one, not my mother or father, not teachers, no one encouraged me to write.

It was just five minutes of his life, and four sentences he probably told a lot of kids, but that was all it took for him to encourage a shy kid who didn’t have faith in her work. 

I’m 27 now, and last month I started sending my first novel to agents. I have to say, wherever Neal Shusterman is, I thank him. He said the words I didn’t know I needed, but that I still cherish to this day.

If you’re an artist of any medium, don’t underestimate how your words can help a child. You never know how much they might need that little push of encouragement.

Which author changed your writing life? Who do you have to thank for helping you get where you are today?


Learn more about Neal Shusterman here.