What I Learned as a Writer in 2015 #writerslife #amwriting

In pursuing my ambition to publish great YA novels, here are some things I learned over the past year:

  1. Beyond the thrill of being able to express my passion for writing and books, there are great benefits to blogging, the best of which is getting to know creative, supportive fellow writers and book lovers, many of whom I now consider friends. I see you, Tracy L. Jackson, Beth @ betwixt-these-pages, Kelly Deeny, Elena Johansen, FamilyRules, Wallace CassAnnika Perry,  Pat Sherard, The Glitter Afficianado, Stephanie @ Eclectic ScribblingsMelanie Noell Bernard, Nate Philbrick,  Sabrina Marsi BooksJennifer F. Santucci, Mackenzie BatesStephanie @ yourdaughtersbookshelf Karen @ MyTrain of Thoughts,  Amanda d Bat,  Carolyn @ A Hundred Thousand StoriesErica @ Books the Thing,   the bookwormgirls123.
  2. I am better at editing a first draft on the computer than on a hard copy, even though a lot of advice-givers recommend against it.
  3. A style sheet is helpful, especially for tracking important plot dates.
  4. Literary agents are regular folks and book lovers just like us.
  5. To write first drafts without censoring myself.
  6. To create headers for each scene in Word so I can easily find them later using the navigation screen.
  7. To  keep a “book blurb” Word file for when I feel especially excited about my novel and get ideas on how to pitch it in future query letters.
  8. Short stories are not my preferred medium; what I truly love is writing novels (and I’m sort of learning it’s okay to be better at some things than others.)
  9. Flash fiction is fun…and challenging.
  10. Collecting images for novel inspiration boards on Pinterest is a blast and really does stimulate ideas.
  11. It’s still great to be able to hold a book in my hands, but reading novels on electronic devices won’t kill me.
  12. I want to get more into #bookstagram and #booklr.
  13. Saving the previous draft of a story before making editing changes avoids a lot of lost good writing.
  14. All writers, even the most successful ones, find writing novels to be really hard work.
  15. When I stay away from my novel for too long, I forget I’m actually good at writing it.
  16. Even when I’m afraid to work on my novel, I do have the discipline and faith to always return to it.
  17. Daily writing goals and rewards make me a much more productive writer.
  18. My writing really does improve with practice.
  19. Beta critiquing other people’s novels makes me a better writer.
  20. Google Docs is a really handy tool that allows me to work on manuscripts on my phone, home computer, out-of-town relatives’ computers, and hotel lobby computers. . . but I still always keep multiple back-up copies of my work.
  21. A change purse is a great place to keep a flash drive.
  22. I really am dedicated to publishing YA novels and maybe, just maybe, I am worthy of success.

What Were Your Favorite Writerly Gifts This Year? #writinglife #amwriting

Writerly Christmas Haul 2015 copy

Writerly Christmas Haul 2015 – Eve Messenger

Ho, ho, ho! ‘Tis the season for displaying, flipping through, hooking up, playing with, and just all-round jump around with glee about our favorite “writerly” and “readerly” Christmas, Hannukah, and Kwanzaa gifts. Here were my favorites this year:

  • Stephen King’s On Writingthe only craft book I wanted to own. I was so happy to find it under the tree.
  • New speakers handcrafted from curly maple wood by my talented husband. Now I can listen to music in style.
  • Bananagrams, a fun, fast-paced anagram/crossword game that I adore. Now I just have to find people brave enough to play me. . .
  • A Barnes & Noble gift card (yessssss).

And. . . wait for it . . .

  • A Kindle Paperwhite with graphics so similar to real paper that when I first opened it I kept trying to peel the label off. Except it wasn’t a label–it was the graphic that appears on the screen when it’s shut off, haha.  I doubt I’ll ever fully give up the familiar, tactile joy of reading real books, but it’s great to have a close electronic equivalent plus all the conveniences of being able to read in any kind of light, access more books at lower prices, and contend with fewer stacks of read books.

Oh, and I can’t believe I almost forgot. I got a new printer! It’s exactly the kind of black-ink-only workhorse I wanted for printing manuscripts. We haven’t had a working printer in our home for so long, and then I went and broke my classroom computer by printing out too many novel manuscripts (sorry, boss).

Here he is: Brother HL-L2380DW.  Isn’t he handsome?

Writer Do Nots

This advice is so spot on that more writers deserve to see it.

Samurai Novelist

Take this advice to heart:

  1. Never write a novel to prove something.
    If you are going to be a novelist, then just do your job. Publishing a novel is not a way to prove something. The objective of a work of fiction is to transport the reader to another world created in print. It is not meant to impress people who have no intention of being transported and probably only will be looking for faults in your work anyway.
  2. If you write for your own therapy, it’s not for publishing.
    Every writer has a book that is not meant to be published. We might call them private journals, notes, fiction for my own consumption, whatever. If you write something for yourself, keep it to yourself. There is nothing shameful about writing something that cannot be published. And things that are written for your mental well being rarely accomplishes the objective…

View original post 640 more words

Magical Writing Day #amwriting #nanowrimo

During NaNoWriMo 2015, there’ve been moments after writing a scene when I pump my fist and go, “Damn, girl, that was goooood.” (Yes, I say things like that to myself sometimes.) But for the most part I’ve felt a sort of resistance to working on this novel. I don’t know why, and I’ve decided to stop trying to figure it out because it doesn’t matter.

All the writing I do takes me where I need to be. Even if I’m working on a story that doesn’t feel like it’s going to the exciting places I thought it would, I am still writing. I’m improving my ability to craft words, to tap into my imagination, to make realizations about myself as a writer—weaknesses, strengths–and it’s all okay. I recently learned, for example, that a one-week slump won’t end me. I keep writing because I love it and because there is nothing else I’d rather do.

During the month of November 2015, I will write at least 50,000 words on this novel, making me a “winner” according to NaNoWriMo. Novels are like people; they surprise you. This book I thought was going to be a fabulous new friend is turning out to be a bit aloof. If this novel in progress decides to take off and become a project I’m passionate about working on and eventually completing, great. If not, fine.

In the meantime…

Today was a magical writing day.

“Idea bank” is a Google docs file in which I jot down random story ideas. Snippets–like lines from a character’s unusual point of view, a scene, a title, a concept–might sit dumbly in my idea bank for years or, as happened today, suddenly thrum to life and demand to be brainstormed and written about until they become big, fat novels.

It’s hard to say exactly what morphs an idea into a story. I think it has something to do with the combination of ideas. The idea that popped into my head this morning started pretty much with just a word, how the word “snap” can mean when a person snaps from sanity into insanity, and also how a hypnotist snaps his fingers as a signal to induce suggestions planted in a hypnotee’s (?) subconscious. Combine that with a title I jotted down a while back, plus a recent interest in writing an alternate reality story, and the witch’s brew was complete.

Now I’m super excited to work on this new story and see where it leads. It’s the kind of novel I’d love to read.

Be Outlandish. Write Books with Wings #amwriting #nanowrimo

fox2bsmelling2bflower

Photo credit: front-porch anarchist 2012

 

As a writer, here are some things I try to remind myself.

Reach out for, and welcome, scary, crazy ideas because those can be the most brilliant. (Ask Vincent, Sylvia, F. Scott, and the gajillion artists who’ve come before us.)

Don’t be afraid to be outlandish. Think outside the box. Believe there is no box. When writing, allow yourself the freedom to freewheel unfettered through a galaxy of creativity. God, I love that part.

Revise with confidence. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t immediately get things right. Big, scary, daunting, multi-faceted, novel revision is a marathon, not a sprint–a marathon during which you get to stop and smell flowers, daydream, listen to music, and read other books (how cool is that?), with the ultimate goal of crossing the finish line with a novel you can be proud of.

Polish your novel until it has wings to fly: to overworked literary agents who perk up because you’ve written exactly what they’re looking for; to readers who are moved by your words, excitedly turn each page, and feel a sense of loss when they reach the last word.

Then write more novels to make those readers happy again.

–Eve Messenger

My Name is Eve, and I am a Recovering ‘Pantser’

pantsing

I’m one of those writers you might call a ‘pantser,’ you know, the kind who writes a novel with reckless abandon — sans plot outline — until I reach the semblance of an ending.

It’s fun! It’s exciting! It’s FRESH.  And I’m afraid if I don’t write like that I’ll overcensor myself , or worse, get bored because I already know what’s going to happen.

But.

Revising a pants-style, mutant pit first draft of a novel takes a really, really, really, really long time.  I’m not saying I’ll never pants a novel again, but I’ve done it twice now, and the first novel was such a complicated mess I had to stick it in a drawer until I became “a good enough writer to tackle such a complicated plot.”

This second full-length novel, a YA fantasy, I’ve been revising for dozens and dozens and dozens of hours…reordering scenes, consolidating bits I had epiphanies about later in the writing, just, you know … Clean-up on aisle seven…and twelve…and one…and fourteen.  Clean up the whole damn store.

But hey, writing and revising a novel should take as long as it needs to, right?  And who’s to say I would ever have been able to come up with the cool, out-there things that happen in this story (don’t mean to brag, just sayin’) if I had NOT let my imagination flow 100% unhindered, not even by a plot outline?

But.

I’m not as young as I used to be (I’ll admit) and have a lot of stories I want to write. So many.

Yet here I am, dozens and dozens and dozens of hours into revising and fleshing out this first draft into a flow, a scene order, that tells a cohesive story.  Yes, there is light at the end of the tunnel — I’m three-quarters of the way through — but I’m not even talking about all the fun edit-y things like crisping up dialogue, bringing out sensory details, polishing prose.  I’m talking about just getting the first draft into an order that makes sense.

Outlining would have been so much easier.  More importantly, it would have been FASTER.

Then this morning a lovely thing happened.  A brand new character, with a brand new story, in a brand new genre (still YA), danced herself right onto my computer screen.  And she brought a LOT of her story’s plot with her.  God bless her.  When I’m done with this YA fantasy, I might just be able to write a novel using a proper outline.

HALLELULAH.

Now if I just knew the best way to outline a novel.  Any suggestions?

–Eve Messenger