Exciting News!

I’ve launched my writing website! 🙂 I started it as a blog a while ago when I was *very* excited about a *very* different story, but didn’t do much with it and turned my (admittedly sporadic) attention here instead. I’m hoping to be much better at keeping up the writing site with regular postings (I’m aiming for once a week, we’ll see how it goes) and plan to shift this site away from documenting writing-related updates (since I need *something* for that other site 😉 ). That being said, my first big “share” on the site is a piece of flash fiction from the world of Blood and Water, the book I’ve been working on all year. It’s set well before the actual story takes place, but gives a glimpse into my main character (Solvi)’s childhood.

If you feel like checking it out, it’ll drop *today* at annieatkinstories.com. I plan to share a few more “side stories” to drum up some interest, so if you do check them out, please be sure to leave a comment letting me know what you think–good or bad! I’m very curious to see if the story works without knowing any of the characters yet…everyone who’s read them so far already knows the characters almost as well as I do. 🙂 I’ll also share things like more writing playlists, and I’m sure I’ll have a few more random thoughts on writing to share as well.

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I Guess it’s Time to Talk About Nanowrimo

It’s been long enough. First off, I completely get why people do it. It makes sense that taking a month to discipline yourself into carving out chunks of time to write, a time when so many people around the world are also writing, encouraging you on, all of that goodness would help a person get 50,000 words onto a page.

I’m very competitive. I do not like to lose. As soon as I start to feel like I’m losing, I hate whatever game I’m playing and just want to quit.

I’m also not a quitter. It makes for a really uncomfortable experience when part of me wants to pout and storm off and the other part is like nah we gotta at least finish this bitch.  Add to that the desire to be more forgiving and loving towards myself and you get a hot freaking mess come mid-November.

I think I got around 20,000 words written, which is no small thing. But unlike last summer, when I was churning out several thousand words a day, my heart wasn’t in it. My head was barely in it–more focused on word count and “sprints” and the desire to edit my current story rather than start working on the sequel. Plus my husband was around, which makes it so hard.

That’s the best problem to have as a writer/human being, though. I have someone in my life whose very presence makes it hard to focus on other things. Even if he’s in the other room working on schoolwork or watching TV, a part of me just wants to be beside him, and feels like any moment I’m not is ultimately squandered. That also makes it difficult to pursue my writing sometimes, which is frustrating and makes me angry with him for making me love him so damn much. There was a lot of moodiness in November that only added to the misery of failing at Nanowrimo wordcounts and falling behind in working on my current novel.

So, for me, it was a very good lesson learned: National Novel Writing Month is not a thing I’ll participate in again, at least not in the near future.

Happy Halloween

Tonight is October 31st which means all the ghouls and goblins and slutty cheerleaders will be out and about.

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I must confess, Halloween is not my holiday. Maybe I’m bitter because my birthday is so close to Halloween, it’s always overshadowed by costume parties. I’m more looking forward to the discounted candy tomorrow.

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Also, NaNoWriMo starts tomorrow, and this year, I’m competing participating. Since joining Scribophile I’ve made a bunch of new writing buddies, some of whom have encouraged me to give National Novel Writing Month a try. For those who don’t know, NaNoWriMo is a month dedicated to completing a novel! The goal is 50,000 words in one month, which is roughly 1,667 words/day. EEK.

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I’ll be using this time to dive into the sequel to my current WIP. I’m trying very hard not to get too competitive with it–there is, after all, a LOT going on in November apart from writing, but I do want to give it my best shot. I anticipate sneaking in quite a bit of writing at work (sh!) and a lot of evenings spent ignoring my husband…

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If-slash-when I survive it, I will be sure to hop on here and tell you all about it. Meanwhile, I’ll try to schedule another post or two this month today, so I don’t drop completely off the face of the blogging-planet!

Oh, and:

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Just Shut Up Already

Do you know that feeling when you first meet someone who you just get? You love spending time together and getting to know more about them, and you just freaking adore them? Before you know it, your life is kind of taken over by this person. At first, that’s wonderful — the more of them, the better. But then it starts to wear on you, and you see their quirks for the flaws they are, and you want to roll your eyes every time they open their mouth and you start to feel like you if you have to hear one more time about how they will do anything to find their brother you will stab yourself in the freaking eye with a pen…

Sigh.

So that’s where I’m at in my edits…

I know my story is good. When I first finished, I daydreamed about my characters as if they belonged to some other book by some other author. I fell asleep writing my own fan-fiction, sending minor characters off on adventures that would never fit into the novel (but could find their way into a blog post eventually).

After three-plus read-throughs (and several scene rewrites), I am kind of sick of looking at this story. I have to keep reminding myself it is good. That it has the potential to find its way onto a bookstore shelf. Because right now, it feels like trash. Some of the pages of my manuscript look like a rainbow at best — a rotting, bloody corpse at worst — the black words crossed-through in red and scribbled-over in blue and annotated in green. I’ve reached a point where I’m not even sure my edits are constructive — what if I reduce all the magic to grammatical masterpieces and formulaic sentence structure?

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So I’m taking a break. A week off from Solvi and her quest to reunite her brother with their family. A week where I will over-indulge in the Bachelor in Paradise finale, obsess over fantasy football, and lose myself in someone else’s fictional world. I have a whole list of books on Amazon waiting to be experienced — so hopefully I’ll be able to toss up another book review or two on here soon.

And when I get back to her, hopefully Solvi will be a sympathetic, relatable character once again.

Writing Soundtrack

I’ve read so many books and articles and blog posts full of writing tips. Tips to focus, tips for time management, tips for character development. So many of them recommend silence while writing. If you must listen to music, it can’t have words, or if there are lyrics, they should be in a language other than one you speak.

I’ve made playlists on Spotify for every work-in-progress, and some for specific characters. If I hear a song that evokes a certain feeling or perfectly describes something a character is going through, I save it to the playlist and use it for inspiration later. Most of the time, I listen to these playlists while I’m driving or sunbathing or cooking or packing. They enhance the story I’m working on and help me see characters and events in a new light, the same way music changes my perspective in my own life.

I prefer to write with one of my playlists going. Usually, I’ll start with whichever song most recently spoke to me to jog my memory of all the pre-writing I’ve done in my head, and the rest of the songs fade into the background as my writing picks up. Then I’ll hit a snag and search for a new song to prompt another scene.

It’s worked for me as long as I can remember. Sure, I catch myself singing along sometimes, but I don’t think the lyrics are as distracting as the pros warn about. I mean, I’m also the type of person who needs to mindlessly rap along with T.I. or Eminem while driving through a snowstorm or torrential downpour or other traffic situation that makes me uncomfortable.

I’ve tried listening to the soundtracks of epic movies and shows and games like Thor and Game of Thrones and Assassin’s Creed. I’ve tried creating my own mix of lyric-less songs pulled from soundtracks and classical composers and string quartet covers of popular hits. I’ve tried the Russian Rap playlist I found through Spotify to give me the sound of human voices without the words I understand (although my four semesters of Russian come rearing up and cause excitement when I do recognize a word or two).

What it comes down to for me is this: I have a lot going on in my mind. Maybe it’s quiet, constant anxiety that makes my brain spin in a thousand directions at once. Maybe everyone’s mind runs things in the background and foreground at once. All I know is I need the lyrics to pull the background focus. If the behind-the-scenes-processing part of my mind is stuck in familiar songs, the rest of my thinking can focus outward. Whether it’s keeping control of a vehicle on an icy road or pouring my heart into a half-formed story, the music — with lyrics I can learn by heart — is imperative to my writing process.