Saturday, October 27, 2018

Simply Jane Smith // My NaNo 2018 Project

I'm not sure why it took me so long to decide what to post this week because ... it's less than a week until NaNoWriMo!!!!! (I already regret this decision.) I've yet to tell the general public about the project I'll be working on, so here goes!

Should I be writing Martin Crossroads? Why yes. But I just hit the 75k marker! So I'm taking a break from it in November.

Then perhaps this mysterious Blossoms of Beaumont project in your sidebar, you ask? Ha, nope. That is totally a whenever-I-feel-like-it project. And I don't feel like it for NaNo.

What then?!

A new (but not entirely new) project, of course. Some of you may remember my little Simply Jane Smith story. It's over on my Writings page with a collage. I began handwriting it nearly two years ago, but then my wrist gave out. Originally the story was going to be about traveling to Paris ... except I've never been there.

But I've been to NYC now!! Oh yessss. I'm going to stuff my NYC experiences into a 30k novella about a girl who wins a trip and hopes to find inspiration in the city that never sleeps. (Kind of excited to try that!)

Here's the most recent mock cover I made, not that the white edges show up very well on here:

I hope to complete the first draft during November, but writing hasn't been so speedy of late, so there's really no telling if I'll hit my goal or not. Definitely not aiming for the 50k that the website automates though because I value my sanity. But I finished the rough draft of the outline last night and it's actually got me excited to give this a shot! I've still got the NYC bug, so that part should be fun at least.

Here's the blurb that I have up on the NaNo website:

Gwyneth Grey is a successful lifestyle blogger, complete with a picturesque apartment and Tiffany's solitaire engagement ring. But Jane Smith, the girl behind the blog, has reached the end of her creative powers. When Jane wins a trip to NYC, she grabs her camera, her favorite barista, and hops on a plane. The city that never sleeps has two weeks to refresh her spirits or she might as well kiss life as she knows it goodbye. Yet Jane soon finds that inspiration is only the beginning of her problems, and the solution might require more of her than she's willing to give.

I might be getting the hang of this contemporary thing. Does it sound like your cup of tea?
What are you doing for NaNoWriMo? No worries if you're new to the scene. Just google it and then laugh at all the insane people signing their souls away for a month. :P

Also, check out my social media for a cover reveal of a friend's flash fiction collection!!

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Alternatives to Writing Prompts

Writing prompts are popular for a reason--they contain little nuggets of inspiration to boost your brain. I always hesitate to base a story completely off a cool prompt because it makes me feel like an idea theif. Whether thats the case with you or not, I've found several alternatives to true writing prompts that help me come up with my own ideas.

Sometimes there are writing prompts that aren't really prompts. Like this one:

*from Pinterest*
These are the kind I like because they allow the writer to still discover their own idea. Not that it matters because every idea we have is based off what's around us. However, I like more "process" prompts than story ideas. It's more like an imagination prompt than a writing prompt if you really want to draw a difference.

Here are a few more such prompts or methods that I use regularly:
  • ask my siblings for a random word
  • base something off a song (shuffle play is best!)
  • pick a random word, possibly think about its multiple meanings
  • trace a myth or story for an obscure detail (basically how I wrote Andora's Folly)
  • scroll through my Pinterest pins for a thought-provoking image
  • pick a name and research the meaning
  • base something off a season or around a specific event
  • think of something common (regency era) and then something uncommonly followed amongst it (the violinists at all the balls)
  • write down the dreams you remember (how I wrote Martin Hospitality)
  • keep a running list of random ideas to review
These tend to work better for short fiction because then it can be worked back and forth until you have something brief you like. Every now and then I get something that fits well into a dry spot of a novel, too.

In general, I have no fail-proof way of prompting myself. I just have to start somewhere like above and eventually, if I chase it far enough, something will often spark.

What kind of prompts work best for you? Do you prefer writing story prompts (a damsel in distress) or imagination prompts like I gave?

Saturday, October 13, 2018

What No One Told Me About Writing

While I can never think of anything profound when people ask for writing advice, I often find little things that I wish I'd known sooner. Sometimes we learn best through our own experience. But there are some simple writing realities that no one told me about. Today I'm going to share the love and tell you in advance.

No matter where you are on your writing journey, I believe there's always something to learn. Of course, you can't learn everything in advance (although that might be nice??). Maybe my list has things you had handled, but here are some things that surprised me when I became a serious writer.

Sometimes you'll be unable to write. Um ... wut? This is a biggie! Writing is kinda in the name of what you do. Yet, I can't tell you how many times I open up a document and sit there. The cursor and I have a staring contest. Maybe I get a few words, lines, paragraphs ... tweak some things? But very rarely do I get the "sit down and write a chapter" experience. Everyone writes differently, but I think we all have these moments. They're not fun.

Prayer is a gigantic ingredient. This sounds simple, but I really wish I'd found this out sooner when writing Martin Hospitality. I'd never prayed before when writing (?). But when it came to writing a full novel with spiritual themes that I said was my ministry ... yeah, prayer comes in handy! duh And it wasn't just "helpful." It was completely essential. As in, I cannot even take credit for a lot of the book as a result, especially the themes.

Yes, God helped me a lot even before I asked Him, but it wasn't until I got stuck and desperate that I thought it might be worth asking Him for a leg up and BOOM. His presence throughout the book is what I noticed when I reread it. It's amazing to read my own words and know I cannot take credit. There is nothing I want more as a writer.

Don't rely just on yourself. That's a huge part of what I learned from finally praying about my book. Book writing requires a miracle more or less (see the point above), and a lot of hard work. Hard work is exhausting. So the more help you can get, the better. As the writer, it's still your name on the front. All help means is you have a whole host of people to thank in your acknowledgments because they saved your sanity. Books aren't meant to be written by just one person. In fact, I don't think such a book exists.

Writing is super personal. Ew. I'm a huge internalizer and not a fan of emotions or ... anything. I'm willing to tell you facts about myself, but I'm not one to share my problems. So perhaps it's better I didn't know this one in advance. Because my books, which felt like such distant, fun little stories as I wrote, ended up somehow telling parts of my own struggles and giving me a clearer picture of myself. I've never written "my story," but as an author, I inevitably share a soul with my books. That's part of how they give such glory to God. And part of why publishing is so scary.

Distractions are everywhere. Yikes. I think we all learn this one. But it's crazy how often I don't write when that's what I've sat down to do. This is different than "can't write" mentioned above because this time it's on me. Find some habits for focus that work for you and use that writing time wisely!

Writing the book is actually the easy but still very hard part. Not gonna lie. I thought writing would be easier than it was. I definitely thought self-publication would be easier than it was. I think I set out with a mindset geared more for traditional publication in that I was very writing-focused. That was my field, and I was going to do well in order to impress everyone and have a great story.

The technical side of self-publishing?? *shrug* I wanted to self-publish for the control, but I had no idea how much research "having control" was going to take. Endless decisions!!! ISBNs? Literally figured that out one month before publishing. Formatting and cover design?? Hired out, and even that was a process. Scheduling? Biggest pain in the entire world.

All in all, it's a learning process. Don't let me intimidate you; it's all worth it. As in very, very worth it. But writing, at least for publication, is one big learning curve. That's part of what makes it fun. And that's part of what makes it intense and subject to change. (Still working on that sequel, you guys.)

It all comes down to you've got this. Just don't be surprised when things are bigger and better and more vast than you could have imagined. Get your hands dirty writing and publishing a book!
Writing is crazy and personal and subjective. What did you have to learn the hard way? Where are you in your writing journey? Talk to me, peeps!

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Farris's Birthday (with snippets!)

Farris Ebworthy (who is but an infant in Martin Hospitality) had his birthday on October 2nd! Just like last year, I practically forgot. Such a horrible author, I know. It wouldn't be so bad if I didn't have the words "Farris Ebworthy, Oct 2" in literal print for all the world to see. So since a dear reader reminded me of the event, I thought we should do a little celebrating to make it up to one of my absolute favorites.

Farris is really the best. I know you all only got to see him as a six-month-old (and younger) in Martin Hospitality, but trust me. He's turning out well. ;)

SO happy birthday to Farris. Even though you're fictional, who passes up a chance to party? A.k.a. enjoy all the party-related things like food. Or in this case presents.

I don't think I've publicly shared any official words from Martin Crossroads yet, so I thought it'd be a good idea to share some Farris-y snippets with you all today.

I'll be honest--I absolutely hate finding snippets to share. I think it makes me panic that if I can't find one line or paragraph that's good on it's own ... maybe the whole thing is rubbish. But I put myself through it anyway just for you and Farris.

The first snippet is when he's coming on five years old.

            “Hi, Mama.” He walked the beam a few paces as if he were in gymnastics—something Gemma had considered to get his energy out and now set her mind against.
“What are you doing? Josiah, go get the ladder.”
“It’s OK, Mom! Watch this.”
He crouched before leaping off the beam.
For one heart-stopping moment, Gemma foresaw him breaking every bone in his body as he fell the twenty feet. A stall consumed him with nothing more than a rustle for the sound of impact.
Josiah made it inside first.
           She released a breath when she saw two arms and two legs poking out of a loose pile of hay. He is in so much trouble.


And the second snippet from when he's fifteen ... ish

Farris felt something stir inside him. Something beyond pity. He hadn’t thought about dying today. He didn’t have to worry about where his next meal was going to come from, and he knew the twins didn’t either. Together their fathers had harvested the most prosperous crop for miles this past fall. Want was the last thing on their minds.
            Hannah set her chin. “There are kids who die every day from things like hunger and thirst. That’s not even the sad part. The sad part is that most of them haven’t heard about Jesus. People here all know who He is and lots of them still walk away. But there? They don’t have a chance unless we help them. So how will you help?”
            An uneasy silence settled over the room. She curtsied and applause followed.
            “Where did she come from?” Ash whispered.
            Noah shrugged. Farris didn’t care where she’d come from. Through his speech and the rest of the day, he couldn’t get her gauntlet out of his head.


That gives you a pretty good idea of his personality! So excited to share him with you all. To close it all out, if I could pick one song for Farris, it would be this one.

What do you think is in Farris's future? I'm so excited to share him with you all!!