Tag: novel

Concentration in Chaos

LifeOn Writing

Last Tuesday, my Panda Express fortune cookie told me, “You are a bundle of energy, always on the go.” While I was slightly upset because that’s not a fortune, it was kind of interesting to read because it is very true. I’m the kind of person who’s not happy doing nothing. I get antsy after being inside for three hours, and I’d rather go for a walk than relax.

Normally I’m good at balancing this, but since I’ve been taking this class at GrubStreet, I need to spend a lot more time actually writing. Spoiler alert: it hasn’t been working out for me.

This past week really should have been exactly what I needed. MIT closed two days for snow, and I spent the rest of last week working from home due to dismal travel conditions (and maybe just a little laziness). But somehow I didn’t get much writing done. Instead I filled my time with useful, but notably less-important tasks such as cleaning, laundry, shoveling snow, and teaching myself Javascript. I’d even venture a guess and say that this blog post is just another procrastination tool…

So how do I move forward and concentrate on writing, when there are so many other things I could be spending my time doing? For one, I’m going to start writing on my commute again. Hopefully those snippets will help keep the creative juices flowing, making it easier when I try to sit down at 9pm and churn out some pages. I’m also going to make more specific writing goals, rather than just putting “write 3 pages” on my to-do list. For example, right now my goal is “write at least 8 more pages of that Thanksgiving scene you started, and don’t forget that you’re supposed to be using first person.” If those things don’t work, I’ll probably have to go back to the old standards: prayer, sleep deprivation, and snack-based motivation.

Moving Forward (with a little help)

LifeMonthly UpdateOn Writing

It always happens – you start the year off well, writing and reading (or generally achieving whatever goals you set for yourself). But slowly, over time, things fall to the side. You start spending more time watching Netflix and staring at your phone than doing all of those things you said you would do.

It’s no secret that many of us could use some help staying motivated, and I am definitely one of those people. So, in early December, I decided to apply for a ten-week long novel workshop at GrubStreet. I kind of figured it would be a long shot, but by some miracle (and some help from my writing group on the sample I submitted) I was admitted, with a scholarship!

This means that, starting January 8, I’ll be attending a weekly workshop. In many ways, that’s not unusual. I spend a lot of time meeting with writers, sometimes workshopping and sometimes just chatting, but other than classes in college, I’ve never been in a formal workshop. They’re casual, and because of that, the feedback is often pretty casual as well. It’s not that it’s not helpful, but it’s definitely not always as targeted as I would like it to be.

I’m a little nervous, considering the fact that I’m sure many of the writers will be much more experienced than I am. It’s the usual apprehension I have when I get ready to share my work with a new group, only a little stronger. This class is also supposed to help you finish and polish a novel in progress, which is a bit scary in itself – as any writer will tell you, declaring something “finished” or “ready” is not an easy thing to do.

But I’m also excited, since I started my novel around this time last year, and it’s been at a bit of a standstill for the past six months or so. I’m hoping that the extra eyes and perspectives can give me the boost I need to fix some of the problems I’ve run into and finally decide that the novel is finished and ready to send out. So here’s to accepting help and moving forward in 2017.

Finishing Your Novel

AdviceOn Writing

I’m nearing the end of my current project, and I can feel myself slowing down; as the end draws nearer, my daily word count decreases, and I spend more time reading, researching, and plotting. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, considering the fact that I was unsure of exactly how the story would end until about three days ago. Now that I’m 45,000 words in, I’ve come to terms with the fact that I’m finishing this, though I’m exactly sure how.

First tip: don’t be afraid to pause and think. I don’t mean set aside your work completely, but take a break. One day without writing will not kill you. (If you think it might, consider working on something else.) Just recently I spent most of the day thinking about where my story was going. I wrote lots of dead-end scenarios, did lots of research, and read some of the endings of my favorite books. By the end of the day, I had an idea of what would work and what wouldn’t.

The second and possibly most important tip is to stop thinking you have to write everything in order. You don’t. In fact, you will probably be better off (and so will your manuscript) if you stop forcing yourself to write the hard parts and skip to something you’re excited to work on. If you’re like me, these skips can be a little hard to keep track of, so I have a running list of chapters I need to go back and finish. Right now it’s a list of about fifteen chapters, and he notes vary from “needs something” to “not written, but outlined.” When I get tired of whatever I’m working on, I know I have a list of places I can go back and work on. When I finish a chapter, I cross it off the list.

My last advice is a bit of motivation: You can do it! Try to recreate the enthusiasm you had when you first started your novel. You should be even more excited than you were then because you’ve done the hard part! You’re almost finished! (except then you have to edit, but that’s a topic for later)

1000 Words a Day and other advice

AdviceOn WritingSchool

I know that everyone has heard that “real writers” write every day. The most cited number is 1000 words a day, but it varies. You’ve probably also heard that writing 1000 words a day isn’t a necessity, and you shouldn’t force yourself to do it if that’s not how you write best.

Personally, I’ve always been a part of the latter group, but I decided to try something a little different this summer and it’s kind of changed my life. Today marks one month of writing 1000 words a day. in case you’re wondering, that’s over 30,000 words.

Now you might say that it’s easy because I’m a college student and it’s summer. It’s true that for the first week or so of this experiment, I had no responsibilities. I was at home for the week. I woke up late, went to Starbucks or the library, and wrote for a few hours. It was beautiful. But unfortunately, the rest of the month wasn’t like that. I work 9-12 Monday through Friday, and go to my internship from 1-5. It’s basically a full-time job.

Somehow, I found time to write. I tried to figure out the best way to make it work, and I made a lot of mistakes along the way. For a while, I tried to write at home. My roommate is too distracting, so I never got anything done. I wrote a lot at 11:30 on those nights, which made getting up the next morning very difficult. Then I started going to my favorite coffee shop as soon as I left my internship. That was great, but their coffee is too expensive, and I felt bad not buying anything. Plus, I have a hard time writing without caffeine.

In the end, I found that a mixture of these works best. The point is that I went out of my way to write. I ignored the fact that I was tired, or that I had nothing to write about, and I just wrote. I’ve been more productive than ever before, and that’s because I’m not afraid of writing crap. It happens sometimes. But it’s also very likely that somewhere in that 30,000 words, there’s a lot of good stuff.

So the next time you think about writing, do it. If you keep waiting for inspiration, you could be waiting a long time.

Tips on Editing

AdviceOn Writing

I’m not an expert on editing, despite what I like to think. However, I have done quite a bit of editing in the past few months, so I hope that I have something worthwhile to share with you guys.

First things first: start out small. I’m going to tell you a story that has nothing to do with writing. Once, when I went to Six Flags, my friend insisted we ride the Titan first. I hated it (actually, I still hate it). But, after that the rest of the rides were a breeze. Problem was, I didn’t enjoy the Titan (at all), and I didn’t enjoy the other roller coasters as much as I could have. Moral of the story: I did things backwards. Like I did with the Titan, I started off my first real editing experience with a novel. I would have benefited so much more from editing a few short stories first, but unfortunately I didn’t have the time. That said, I took my own advice after that extremely difficult speed-editing attempt. I wrote a flash fiction story and then edited it. Then I wrote another one, and then a longer one, and now I’m working on a five thousand word story. It’s getting easier.

Every list of editing tips will give you this next piece of advice, and mine is no different: print out your story. After I’ve typed up my story and read through it a few times, I always print it out and then go to town with a bunch of colored pens. It would be nice if I could say that I have a color coded system that I use to edit my stories, but I don’t. I just like the pretty colors. Anyway, it’s so much easier to see the mistakes you’ve made when you’re reading on paper instead of on the computer. This is not the time to worry about the environment (but seriously, if you’re that worried, you can print your story double sided or even save it in PDF form on your iPad or tablet or something).

The last little tidbit of knowledge I have for you is  take your time. I know that personally, I have a problem with speed. I like to write quickly and edit quickly and be done with it, and while that’s not necessarily a bad thing, it has its downsides. I will admit that all of my best work has been written in about three months or less, and while that’s alright, I have learned to slow down the editing process. This allows me to really understand what I’ve written, rather than just going crazy with the red pen. The second full novel I wrote was written in a little less than two months, and edited immediately afterwards. The crazy thing is that I didn’t really flesh out the true essence of the story until I edited it. Taking a break from your story for a while can help with this, and so can dragging the editing process out a little. Whatever you do, don’t rush.

To me, editing is more of a learning process than writing. Writing is easy. Editing requires you to truly know your story, where you want it to go and how it’s going to get there. If you’re stuck trying to edit your novel (or anything), just remember the feeling of accomplishment you got after you finished writing it and multiply that by three. You will feel so much better when your masterpiece is fit to be read by others, including agents and publishers (!).

Ahoy, mateys! (AKA How to Research When Writing a Novel)

AdviceOn Writing

For some reason, I decided to write about pirates.

Let me first say that I know absolutely nothing about pirates, so there hasn’t actually been much writing going on. I’ve mostly been trying to research actual pirates so that I don’t sound like an idiot. And since I’ve been doing so much research lately, I figured I should share some of my experiences and give you guys some tips.

First, the library is your best friend. The internet is that girl you’ve been frenemies with since eighth grade (For those of you who aren’t current on your middle school lingo, a frenemy is a friend that is sometimes an enemy and vice versa). If you thought you could get away with using only the internet for research, you should probably go find another blog to read. I love the library, so I’m definitely going to talk about how awesome it is.

Here’s the reason why the internet is your frenemy: you can find sites like this and this, but you can also find sites like this, which will do nothing but distract you. Do not underestimate the mesmerizing power of Wikipedia. You will be drawn in. In addition, it took me many hours of research and some very specific search terms to stumble upon those good websites, while at a library it’s as simple as searching ‘pirate’ and narrowing the results to Adult Nonfiction. I now have a bunch of good books at home just waiting for me to read them.

Something else that I’ve found increasingly important in my writing is Google Maps. Learn to use it. Not only is it fun, it’s also very helpful when you are trying to avoid making stupid mistakes and guessing (wrongly) how long it takes to get from one place to another. While there are some times when it’s okay to estimate, it is not okay for your character to drive across Texas in one hour. You can also use the street view to learn a bit about some places you’ve never been. Travel sites are also great for this, especially if your characters are going to be spending a lot of time in this place (this includes where they live, unless you live there or it’s completely made up).

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before, but I have a bit of a weakness for books about writing. I own a ridiculous number of books claiming to be “the only thing I need to get published!” While this couldbe seen as a Half Price Books obsession or an oddly specific hoarding problem, it’s pretty useful when I start writing about something that’s completely out of my comfort zone (like pirates). At the moment I’m reading Worlds of Wonder: How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy and The Writer’s Little Helper: Everything you need to know to write better and get published. I really like The Writer’s Little Helper because it presents an interesting take on writing. There are some formulas and an outlining  tool that I used for my pirate story, which now has a bit of an ending. If you enjoy reading, you should definitely check out some writing books. If you don’t enjoy reading, what are you doing trying to write? No offense to anyone….

Trivia: My unnamed pirate story was originally about space pirates. I think there are still parts where I mention a laser gun and the airlock of a ship. They will probably stay there until I get around to typing the story.

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