Writing and Stuff

I’ve been writing a lot lately, which is really great except that pretty much all my creative juices are going into my story and I have nothing left over for this blog. That makes me feel guilty, because this blog is a commitment to myself as much as it is entertainment for my readers, so I’m sorry for being a little more absent lately. It’s for a good cause.

I recently read Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis and it was really freaking good. So many of the chapters resonated with me, but the part that stuck with me the most was about how easily we tend to flake on ourselves. I really hate the idea of being seen as flaky — I used to have a problem saying no, then feeling really bad when I had to cancel last minute. Now, I’ve learned to only agree to things I’m confident I can see through, and to be honest with myself and my friends if I can’t manage something, whether physically or mentally. Still, when it comes to making commitments to myself, I flake all the time. It’s as if I don’t matter to myself as much as literally anyone else — and that’s something else I’m becoming more aware of. I need to value myself and my time.

Another thing she said — which I’ve written out and taped to the ceiling over my bed — is that no one else has power over your dreams. Only you can decide to give up. And, in case her readers still need to hear it from someone else, Rachel says “You do not have permission to give up on your dreams!”

Writing is hard and exhausting and exhilarating. This time, when I sat down, I looked at why I keep giving up sporadically. I am 100% an editor-writer. I struggle with getting a first full draft written because I constantly reread what I’ve already written and tweak and change and start again. This time, I refused to do that.

This time, I start writing around where I left off the day before. If I don’t remember for sure where that is, I’ll jot a brief summary of what I think that last scene was before jumping in. If I can’t think of a name or term, I write (X) and keep moving. If I can’t think of anything amazing, I will write what literally needs to happen.

He says something else that makes me laugh, and I feel a little better.

When I *finally* get to turn my editor brain on (draft 2, and not before), I will have so much fun re-imagining the scene over and over until I know exactly what he says that makes the character laugh, and I’ll be able to show her feeling better about their situation. For now, I’m writing a first draft full of placeholders.

It’s the only way I know how to get to the end of a fully formed book. In the past, I’ve left bullet points or synopses before moving on, but to me, that doesn’t count as finished. This way, the story may be full of shoddy writing, but it will be a fully formed story nonetheless.

So that’s what I’m up to. I’ll try to get a few more posts in here and there, but for the most part, I’m committing to the characters I’ve been following around for almost five years now. I owe it to them — to me — to get a full version of their story on paper.

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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.

Rambling Review: Angelfall

angelfall

Full disclosure right up front: I bought Angelfall by Susan Ee in paperback and it’s been a little while since I’ve read it. However, it’s showing up free on Kindle for Prime members, so I feel justified reviewing it, because even if I might be a little hazy on all the details, I loved this book.

First off, I like the name. Titles are great in that way, aren’t they? This story is about a teenage girl — Penryn — who is trying to keep her family together in post-apocalyptic California. And I mean post-biblical-Apocalypse. Angels have taken over the earth as a battleground with demons, and humans are caught in the middle. Penryn teams up with the [dreamy] angel Raffe to try to save her little sister from the angel’s stronghold. Adventures ensue.

In a literary fantasy world filled with vampires and werewolves and witches, it was refreshing to find a story with similar themes, but with angels instead of the other more typical mythical creatures. The descriptions of the angels and explanations of the world Susan Ee created are well-done and believable. And that Raffe — gotta love a vulnerable, sexy angel with a vendetta and a great backstory. Both he and Penryn grow as characters throughout the book and the series. The other characters, like Penryn’s mom especially, are well-written, too.

The writing is a little choppy, at least in the beginning. Never enough to frustrate me, but I do remember thinking there were parts that weren’t very well-written. That being said, the story is phenomenal and well worth forgiving any awkward phrasing.

If you are not a Prime member, Angelfall is $4.00 on Kindle, $6.69 for paperback (and like $18 for the series). It’s well worth the price for either, in my opinion.

Let me know what you think in the comments if you decide to check it out!

Rambling Reviews

A friend of mine had the great idea that I should include book reviews on my blog. Great as in, I love to read, I love to tell people about great books I’ve read, and I love the excuse to read more. I’m not so sure about the actual “review” part; writing carefully thought-out and constructive feedback has been a struggle for me as far back as my creative writing workshops in college. Either I fall into a story or I don’t. There are plenty of things that can pull me out of a story (not connecting to the characters enough, not interested in the plot enough, poor writing/bad mechanics), but a good story is so seamless all I’m left with at the end is impressions and adoration and all the beautiful, painful feelings art is meant to elicit.

She also asked if I’d read any of the Kindle books that are offered free, and if I thought they were any good. So here’s my plan: I’ve picked a few out that seem interesting, and I’ll write about what I think.

A few things to know about me (because what strikes me as fantastic — or not so much — is not necessarily guaranteed to knock your socks off — or ruin your day –just because it did for me):

I really like young adult fiction. YA is my favorite, because they deal with the struggles of finding your place in the world and growing up and making tough choices to find out who you really are. They’re more relatable (relateable? Why is spell check insisting this isn’t a word?) to me, even as a twenty-something.

Other genres I prefer are historical fiction (because I like learning history while I read) and mysteries/thrillers. I’m not as big on horror or sci fi/fantasy (except it seems a ton of YA fiction these days is somehow fantastical, and I haven’t hated it). I do not like non-fiction. Sorry about it. I prefer my lessons learned through fictional characters.

As a writer myself, I notice the mechanics of writing at the beginning. For some people, the writing itself isn’t as noticeable or important. For me, it can be distracting. If it’s a great story, I won’t notice anything but the characters and plot and setting after the first few pages. If halfway through the book I’m still mentally editing, it’s hard to stick with. I will say, I believe almost every book that’s started deserves the chance to be finished. I’ve only ever given up completely on two books, and only because the writing was so distracting.

OK, so if you’re looking for some reading suggestions and think my recommendations may be worth reading, stay tuned for my thoughts. I doubt I’ll be following any set “review template,” but I’ll try to include in each post why I chose the book, what my overall impression was before and after, and anything that really stuck out to me. I hope you enjoy!