Here’s what happened to me yesterday:
I, believing I have made much growth this year as an adult female, decided I would take a sip of my father’s Burger King coffee just to see if my attempt to acclimate myself to the taste with flavored Maxwell House instant coffees was working.
No, it is not! I still really hate coffee! My parents had a good laugh as I raced around the kitchen to pour a little cup of milk to cleanse the icky taste from my mouth.
Currently, this is my morning plan: I get up when my boyfriend does (7:30am). I make a cup of “coffee” in one of my special mugs. Then I’m supposed to sit down at the desk and write before my conscious brain catches up to what I’m doing.
Unfortunately, this is what my morning usually looks like: I roll around until 8, get up because the automatic kitty scooper is straining on some heavy, formerly moist litter lump stuck to the bottom of the cat box. Despite my disgust at my first morning task, I remember I’m in the kitchen and that’s where breakfast happens. I make an egg, fully intending on writing, and I do. Sometimes. I sit in the living room where the morning sunshine filters in, gobble down my egg sandwich (usually with too much mayo which is just right for me), and then I do some other things which aren’t always writing. Eventually, I call it a bust and say I’ll get to it at 10am before I go to work. And then 10:15 magically rolls around after a walk and a shower and I decide to get to it later.
I’ve found that when I get up in the morning and then actually write, no matter how much, I’m much more likely to get back into it as the day progresses rather than what I normally do which is procrastinate until the day is done. So that is exactly what I’m working on this month. I want my early morning writing time to become as natural and necessary as my morning walks.
Lately, I’ve been putting my everything into staying focused and actually writing. I’m determined to not let anything slow me down. Well, not too much anyway. But that’s where I’ve been while I’m staying quiet pretty much everywhere else. I’m writing, and then I just don’t have words left over.
Right now I’m in the midst of revisions. I just got back one story that’s mostly complete, but as one reader said it feels sparse, so I need to put some extra filling in there. This is a short story, but it’s been one difficult one to write due to the way the characters all connect in my head. How in a short story that takes course over one day was I to share everything I could see needed to be shared? There were no doubt going to be lots of questions.
I have two other stories I’m revising as well– my NaNo novel, which is still at about 50,000 words but I’m still just in the beginning, and another short story that I started last year and I feel needs to be told. Unfortunately, while I got the basic part of it down, it reads like I was distracted halfway through. (I was.)
Set on the back burner is my new story, mostly because I think it needs some time to percolate while I gather information and let the characters’ stories come to me. Sometimes I do have to just sit down and push them and see what I get so that I can mold it. That’s for fun though.
I’m on a writing schedule. I mentioned my three calendars. So far one calendar has helped me get to the DMV, get a hair cut, and remember to take my dad to the doctor. I also bought a planner that I can carry around with me. Mostly, I try to leave it on my desk and only carry it with me when I need to sit down and work out how I’m going to make it through revisions. My main plan, which has appeared to work so far, is to write down one scene a day that needs to be revised and then go to work on it. That way I’ll know what’s coming up, and I can gather or make notes on the scene the day before.
What I haven’t managed to do successfully is up my output, but that’s okay. I’m sort of in training right now. There are days where I manage to work on more than one story after focusing on one in particular and then moving forward.
Unfortunately, I’m also geeking out over my new PS Vita. I’ve played and completed three games already, and I’m working on a fourth which is actually a reissue of an old one I have in my closet but don’t want to take out and play on the TV. Portable games are so handy because I can play anywhere and stop any time. That’s also sort of the problem with them though.
Anyway, well, I’m still alive and writing! I have not disappeared completely into real life.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
I’m only ten days late. Still counts, right? I figured I wouldn’t do a retrospective post (it was depressing) or tell you about my resolutions (I haven’t really spelled out any though I am clearly serious about this next year as I am utilizing multiple calendars!). Instead, I’m going to do a different type of reflective post. This is something I’ve been thinking about the past month or so as I’ve finally managed to get back into the swing of balancing writing and editing despite the shiny new WiiU that’s sitting in my living room.
I’ve been thinking about what I really bring to my writing. There are multiple ways to look at this. The first thing I thought about when this question popped into me head were the reoccurring themes I’ve seen even in my play writing. As with any writer, when I notice them, I get frustrated. I mean, can’t I write anything else? Why does it always come down to this? And why does it feel so good to give in to one of those typical themes? In my case, it’s usually about a person (okay, usually a girl) who has no control of the situation she’s in. To anyone who’s read Ruin, it must sound familiar.
This then got me to thinking about my life which I’ve been doing a lot of recently. To anyone who only hears the details of my life, I sound incredibly boring. I’m not clever enough to spice up the details of my life with a witty spin. Instead I’m dead honest about where I’m from and exactly how long I’ve lived here. (My entire life. In one little town. That seems to astound my boyfriend from time to time.) Sometimes I get self-conscious about it.
Confession time- when I went to the meet-up for NaNoWriMo, we had to do one of those icebreaker games. The head guy had us write down facts about ourselves on a card and then he collected them, shuffled them, and handed them out. We had to read the facts aloud and guess who they belonged to. I blanked. I couldn’t think of anything good to share AT ALL. Nothing about myself anyway. Later on I had plenty of stuff, but even then it was mostly about my family, not me. And my card went last. Ick. I had nothing good, no one was interested. After that, I couldn’t go back, so I just didn’t.
That experience is probably what originally brought up this question I think. What exactly am I bringing to my stories? What am I offering readers? Here is my answer:
Sincerity. I keep it close to the surface, riding a thin line with every story I write between straight fiction and some alternate reality for my life. In my personal life, I’m guided by obligations that I can’t shirk. Now even more so than ever before. I think it’s because I feel this way that it’s so good to let loose in a story even when the main character is trapped in a situation they can’t escape from.
What do you bring to your writing? Or even your regular job? (Because this is also something I bring to work with me which causes trouble as much as it helps.) And have you noticed how your life ties into the reoccurring themes of your stories?
NaNoWriMo IS OVER! Did you make it all the way through the month? Even if you didn’t hit 50,000 words, if you tried consistently that’s something. Starting a new story is something. Adding new words is something. Don’t think about NaNo as something you win or lose. Just keep going until you complete your story.
With that said, here is what I’ve been working on this month. This meme has finally made it to every dark corner of the internet. It’s on my blog! I was tagged by Annie Neugebaur (check hers out!) and Ashlee Scheuerman (watch for hers). I would like to tag some other writers, but I think it has made its way to all the blogs I follow.
What is the working title of your book?
I am horrible at titles. I haven’t got one yet. The file is called “Destruction.” Out in public, I just call it “Kay’s story.”
Where did the idea come from for this book?
This idea came up when I wrote the rough draft of Paula’s story. Originally, I just wondered about what happened to Paula’s mom who was in prison for political crimes, and I wondered if someone wouldn’t want to save her just because of all the work she’s done and what she actually does mean to the leader of the Southlands. But how would that be done?
What genre does your book fall under?
I’m horrible with genres. It’s science fiction, but because the youth of at least two characters in this story, it’ll probably be borderline YA.
How long did it take to write the first draft?
Still working on it. I did the rough draft for NaNoWriMo. A passable first draft will probably take another month.
What actors would you use for a movie rendition of your book?
This was a tough one for me. I don’t
know much about actors. I did a search. It turned out to actually be kinda fun.
Kay- Sydney Park. She was funny in Spork. (Which I didn’t make it through.) But she has just the right look in this shot. I think Park manages to catch that look of wariness and yet also an innocence from someone on the verge of growing up.
Teresa- Madison Davenport. Based on that picture. I know nothing about the girl, but she has the right look and a range of interesting acting credits and she’s only 16. Teresa is 12 – 14 in the story.
Aaron – Alex Pettyfer for that pic from Beastly alone. Wow. He’s cute. And he looks close to how I picture Aaron including the hair and body.
What is a one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Kay, an ordinary human living among children of powerful experiments, will go on a mission that will prove her worth to the tribe.
Will it be self published or represented by an agency?
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I enjoy looking at how people handle situations that are out of their control. This particular character was fun to see in action, especially early on when she felt she was in her element, yet didn’t quite fit in.
I have also been inspired recently by stories of injustice. People who are in power abusing that power just to keep it.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
The book isn’t really complete yet, so it’s hard to say. I’ve had two separate stories compared to Margaret Atwood (for the substance, I’m sure, not the style). It’s science fiction, but I want to focus on the people.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
We see the Neutral side finally. This story is also told from the point of view of a girl who grew up in the Southlands. And we learn a little more in this story about the experiments and possible theories for what was going on.
1. When I get the urge to clean, it’s usually when I should be writing. It’s okay to ignore that rare urge in favor of actually writing. There are small things I can do through the day to keep up or catch up. My favorite tip? Muffin eggs.
2. Even though I have a job that gives me a lot of downtime, I shouldn’t count on that to be my writing time. I still need to set aside time for myself with no distractions, including the incredibly adorable lap warmers that are my cats.
3. Just write. This is obvious, but the reminder is always good. Don’t listen to the nagging during writing time and just get things done.
4. Having a plan for what I’m working on helps. I generally know what will be happening when I sit down to write but it really helps to put into words what I want to get out of the scene. This can be done as I sit down or it can be done the day before.
5. It’s also okay that I don’t always have a plan. Sometimes my best ideas come when I’m just writing. There are times when I just need to see what the characters do in a situation.
6. It is okay to be bad. I have scenes that are just dialog, and no description. I introduce things awkwardly and bring up elements that weren’t mentioned earlier because I forgot. Instead of worrying, I just write a note to myself asking questions or pointing out important ideas or telling myself to put some clue in. I never make notes about how bad things are.
This is my very first guest post on this blog. I don’t usually go guest posts or have guests because I’m actually rather shy, even online, but when I heard that this particular writer was releasing a new book and needed volunteers to help her spread the word, I jumped at the chance. I’ve read her previous release, a compilation of very unique stories centered around zombies and love called, Hungry For You. If your haven’t read it, I honestly recommend checking it out.
Without further ado, I present A.M. Harte.
Choosing what to write isn’t always easy.
Whether for a guest post, a short story, or a novel, indecision can sometimes paralyse you as you wonder what you should be writing.
What will sell? What are the current market trends? How can we ever know what people truly want to read?
I hesitated when I sat down to write today’s guest post. I scratched my head and tried to figure out what people might want to hear. Eventually, fed up, I clicked onto this very blog in search for inspiration… and found the answer in the website header.
Write your own story.
Many of us have heard this advice before, but it’s often difficult to remember. Nothing makes my day more than an excited email from a reader, or a positive review, or even a nice royalty check. How can I not think about what people might like to read — specifically, what might make them like me (and my work) more?
It was N.M. Martinez’s website header that knocked the sense back into me. Who cares what people might want to read, if such a thing is even possible to identify?
I could write a novel based off of current best sellers in the hopes of vast commercial success, following the advice of every single writing guide in existence. But is that what I want to write, or what would fulfil me?
Write your own story.
Don’t think about anyone else. Write whatever you feel comfortable with, whatever makes you happy. It’s what I did with Above Ground. I knew the novel was never going to be picked up by a traditional publisher, but I wrote it anyway — and as a result I’ve met some amazing readers and fellow writers.
If you don’t believe in the story you’re writing, no one else will, either. But when you write your own story, your conviction shines through your work… and that is what lures readers in more than anything else.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying to ignore what everyone says. Get honest feedback from readers and writing buddies, and by all means ensure to have an editor look over your work prior to publication. I know that Above Ground wouldn’t be half the story it is today without the help and encouragement of so many people.
But the point is that editors and writing buddies are helping you make your story the best it can possibly be, instead of turning it into some generic mass-market template.
So what if Above Ground is a cross-genre dystopian novel with werewolves, reptilian humanoids, magic and technology? So what if even I sometimes stumble over Lilith’s name? So what if I’ve created a race of beings based off of newts? It was my story to tell, and I am proud to have written it.
And between you and me, there is nothing more rewarding than writing a story you love and finding that other people love it, too.
N.M. Martinez’s philosophy, on her about page, is that everyone has their own path to take.
I couldn’t agree more.
Thank you for such an interesting and flattering guest post. I truly believe in the message. Just like Hungry for You, Above Ground also sounds like a very unique story that you won’t find on just any book shelf. I can’t wait to read it!
As with any good book release, there is a giveaway! Eleven mystery prizes, each based off one of the letters in Above Ground. Please go here to sign up.
And go here to see the tour schedule. A new post every day this month!
A.M. Harte writes twisted speculative fiction, such as the post-apocalyptic Above Ground and the zombie love anthology Hungry For You. She is excellent at missing deadlines, has long forgotten what ‘free time’ means, and is utterly addicted to chocolate. She lives in London, a city not half as foggy as some seem to think.
NaNoWriMo begins tomorrow. I’m giving myself time to that sleep and then wake up although I’m pretty nervous and excited. This month (October), I had intended to do absolutely nothing except maybe edit. It didn’t work out that way. I actually ended up writing three crappy stories, and I hit across one story I’d like to delve into more deeply.
Let me just say that finishing anything, even if very rough, feels amazing. One of the greatest fears I have is that I won’t be able to finish because I’m not a real writer. I’ll just let the story fizzle out and become frustrated when I can’t connect the beginning and the end.
I went to the first meet up last week, and it made me realize that this is exactly what NaNo is about for me. This fear usually sits in the back of my head where I ignore it because, duh, we all feel this way when we commit ourselves to a story. But NaNo puts the pressure on. It forces that fear out of hiding and puts it front and center where I have to face it.
So far suggestions have been to tell people that a novel is being written so that people in your life will help hold you accountable, but I don’t think that’ll work for me. This is a battle with myself. Luckily, I have left over confidence from my intended month of rest all because I managed to finish a couple of really questionable stories. That’s the power of just doing. I’ve see that it can be done, and now I just have to do it with a larger story over a longer period of time. That’s all.
So on this day before NaNo, and I just want to wish everyone a happy month. Even if you don’t hit your goal, or even if your story is crap, just keep going. The reward is really worth it.
The local NaNoWrimo chapter is holding a meet and greet on Monday. They’ll do local write-ins during November. I’ve never actually gone to one of these write-ins, though I was very curious. Part of it was because I couldn’t make the meet-ups, but most of it was because it meant having to meet writers in real life.
I’m so used to writers being someone on the computer screen. Your face is just a picture next to your twitter name/bio to me. What I meet are a writer’s words, and I learn a lot from those words. Despite the importance of book covers and author pictures, I really judge a writer on what they say. (I’m actually very picky, friends! I don’t just friend people because they also happen to write. /snob) The internet is our medium, we live our words and put ourselves forward with them. Some of my best friends have never even heard my voice! But they know me better than many people who actually meet me and have a chat with me.
The other thing about write-ins for me is that they’re just a distraction. How in the world would anyone get any writing done as a group and in public? I don’t think I would. Maybe their furor would help? It might be an interesting group dynamic. Anything can happen when people get together. So, though I’m nervous, I just might go.
Yes, this year, I’m doing NaNo. My intent is to knock out the next rough draft of a story that’s been on my mind for a year now. I need to learn how to write out rough drafts faster, especially if I want to spend more time editing. My current plan is to write up a basic outline, and then each day in November that I sit down to write, I’m going to write out what I intend to do that day. Sort of the same way I do already when I get stuck on something. I put down my intent with the scene so that I can see it clearer.
It’s not a good thing for a writer to brag. Or at least not good for this writer to brag because fate aims to keep me humble. But I feel as if I’ve made great strides recently and actually gotten a lot done. It’s too good a feeling not to share.
Since I’ve managed to come back, I’ve finished one short story and today I’m going to say I’ve finished another novella. I’m going to say I’ve finished, because it’s about as done a rough draft can be. Now it’s a matter of cleaning it up, tying things together, and making it all make sense. There were a lot of things in the rough draft I didn’t plan for but worked out perfectly. I may not know what’s always going on, but my subconscious seems to have a plan at least.
It’s been nearly a year since I put out my last book, one which hardly counts because it was a novella companion to Ruin, meant to offer an alternate view point of the world. I have to admit that I feel like I have failed in some way. I’d definitely planned to have more than just one book out this year.
I can’t completely blame real life. I can’t blame writer’s block either. I can’t really blame any one factor. The truth is that I’m still getting a hang of everything– not just the self-publishing, but the whole act of writing something and then working hard to make it polished. I’m not just writing straightforward stories. I’m always trying to push myself in small ways.
I’m still learning what I can get away with in book format. Sometimes, I feel like I’m a real writer, doing writerly things and experimenting with ways to tell my stories. Most of the time though, I feel like a sham. That’s what I let stop me cold. I’ve always suffered with self-esteem issues. (I know many people do.) And sometimes I let them get the best of me.
I think I stopped writing in April. I just didn’t feel I could. So I took a week off. Then two. Then a month. Then bad stuff happened that had no relation to my writing.
Here’s what I’m learning: Even when I don’t want to write, I need to write or else I let the dark part of me triumph. I haven’t quite learned how to make myself do it other than sitting down in front of the computer or on my notepad and just doing it. I have all sorts of simple ways to trick myself into writing. Ultimately, it always comes down to just taking the time to face my fears and get to work.