Seasonal Reading

I am currently reading Dreamers by Angela Hunt. Why? Well, because it’s Fall, of course.
photo 2 Let me explain. I have a book I read for every season. Actually, I have multiple. Every Spring, for example, I read the Mark of the Lion series by Francine Rivers. (Well, at least the first two books.) Come Summer, I read The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and Legend by Marie Lu. When Summer ends and the leaves begin to turn, I start thinking about this series by Angela Hunt called Legacies of the Ancient River. In the fall I read Dreamers and Brothers, and come Christmas, it’s time to read the third book, Journey.

Granted, I might not read ALL of these books EVERY year, but when the seasons change, I can’t help but feel nostalgic for the stories of that season. I think it has something to do with that season being the first time I read those books.

I read The Hungers Games in May, and now whenever the weather gets warm, I have flashbacks to District 12 and the Games. Journey has absolutely nothing to do with Christmas. In fact, the story takes place in a hot desert. But the first time I read it was during Christmas break in high school. I curled up on the couch by the fire, with Christmas music playing in the background and a cinnamon candle lit nearby. And now whenever I hear Christmas music, I think of a prince who lives in the desert, preparing to lead his people back to their homeland.

Books to me are like music. There’s a genre for every season. (Country for Summer, mellow for Fall, and of course, Christmas for the first half of Winter.) I guess it helps me transition with the seasons.

What about you? Do you have any special books/music you reserve for each season?

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The Hunt Excerpt

I just had my second flash fiction story published this past weekend!! WOOHOO!!! So if you like dinosaurs, adventure, or just life in general, you might want to check out my story, The Hunt, in Havok Magazine issue 1.3.

If you’re interested, you can purchase Havok 1.3 issue here: http://www.magcloud.com/browse/issue/786683

Or subscribe to Havok Magazine here: splicketypubgroup.com/subscribe

Just to tickle your fancy, here’s an excerpt from the story!

The Hunt

Friday Night Ramblings

It’s 10:30 on a Friday night. I’m awake. I know. This isn’t a big deal for all you high school/college age people out there who will probably hang out on the town until 4 am. But as a mama who has to wake when her baby wakes, this is late. I promise. I’m a rebel. There is no order here.

It’s like the night before christmas when you were a child. You usually have to go to bed at like eight o’clock, but on Christmas Eve your parents let you stay up late to watch the dying flames of the fire and eat cookies after you’ve brushed your teeth. That’s me. Right now. Except I’m not eating cookies, I’m eating ravioli. My 7 month old son is asleep. And I am Wide. A. Wake.

I guess that’s the curse of writing. It wakes me up, keeps me typing until the wee hours of the morning, my imagination on fire, my fingers blazing across the keyboard, my blood threading through my veins at the speed of the Amazon River. (I researched rivers, and that came up as one of the fastest in the world. Now you know one more fact than the average american. You’re welcome.)

I haven’t been able to experience that kind of high since I had my son, though. It’s okay. All worth the giggles, the smiles, and even the dirty diapers. 🙂 But, here I am, writing with no respect for tomorrow. Not only that, but writing about, well, nothing. Rambling, more like it.

write-nightSo what does staying up “late” on a Friday night have to do with writing? Usually people write on a school/work night, and only because they have that research paper they need to finish. But most creative writers–– the ones who write as a hobby, who find adventure in the thrill of Story–– would probably enjoy sitting inside on Friday night with a cup of tea or decaf coffee (or regular coffee if they have no reason to get up tomorrow), and just… write.

Because that’s what we do. We get lost in our stories. We would rather spend Friday night reading/writing a good book than hanging at the bar with some fair-weather friends. You have heard the quote by George R. R. Martin, “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.” 

So from my desk, I lift my cup of tea to you my friends, my comrades, my fellow readers and writers.

Cheers.

Are You an Outliner or a Seat-Of-The-Pants Writer?

I learned something about myself this year. I am a seat-of-the-pants type of writer. My first trilogy was written scene by scene, without any knowledge of what was going to happen in the next chapter. Sure, I had the general idea of how to finish the book, but other than the beginning and the end, I was clueless of how the story would turn out.

image002However, after attending some writer’s conferences and reading books on writing, I got the idea that writing an outline makes the revision stages of a book easier, because you don’t have to re-puzzle all the scenes together. (Something I know all too well about by writing my books in seat-of-the-pants mode.) It’s true! If you don’t outline, chances are, you’re going to move your scenes around, and in moving them, you’re going to have to rewrite many of them.

So I tried outlining. I started writing a new book, sure to outline the entire thing first. I got about 20,000 words in before I got bored. I already knew what was going to happen, and even though my readers wouldn’t know, I still didn’t see the point in finishing the book. It was the same feeling a reader might get if they picked up a book, skimmed through all the chapters, and then decided to read it. The book wouldn’t be quite as exciting because they would already know what was going to happen in the next chapter.

However, I thought it was the story that bored me, not that fact that I had outlined it, so I began a new book with the same approach- I outlined the entire thing. I didn’t even get 10,000 words into this one before I got bored again. I began thinking that maybe I was a one-trick-pony, that writer who writes ONE story and never writes again. I was discouraged and wondered if I should even bother writing again.

But I wasn’t about to give up. I picked my third story idea, (I have about a dozen ideas buzzing around in my head,) and I decided NOT to outline. I wrote it scene by scene, just the way I had written my original book. The outcome? I am currently 30,000 words into the story and I can’t wait to sit at the keyboard and write more!

You see, outlining and seat-of-the-pants writing  have their pros and cons. I can’t speak for everyone but here’s what I think.

If you outline, you’ll know every part of the story (no surprises!), BUT you’ll have a lot less work to do when you revise your book, because you will have already thought through the scene orders and the benefits of putting certain scenes in certain places. If you want to get that book done quickly, outlining is probably the best option.

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Seat-of-the-pants writing, on the other hand, is like reading one of those books with the options at the end of the chapter “If you want Andrew to fall into the ocean, go to this page. If you want Andrew to hike through the dark forest, turn to this page.” But even then, you have more options than two. You have dozens of  scenes to choose from! How exciting! You are literally writing the book you’ve always wanted to read, and you’re calling all the shots AS you read. Seat-of-the-pants writing is FUN. But it’s harder work in the long run. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve revised and revised and revised my first trilogy. I’ve even gone so far as to turn Book One into two books (adding 80,000 more words), and then going back and turning it back into one book (which resulted in cutting out 100,000 words). It is A LOT of work, and it takes a lot of dedication. But if you’re passionate about your work, if you want to present the best story for your readers, you know the effort is worth it.

imagesBut all minds think differently. This is just my opinion and my experience. To all aspiring novelists who are just starting out, try both approaches before you decide on only one. You may like the seat-of-the-pants approach, but you might find outlining a lot easier for you, or vise-versa.

Of one thing I am certain: make sure you are having fun!!

Write What You Know (with a creative twist)

Woman-at-typewriterPeople often say to use your experiences to write a book. Or, as the old adage goes, “Write what you know.” Unfortunately, a lot of writers take that the wrong way. They think it means to write a biography about their life. Or if they’ve dealt  with depression, they think it means to write a book on depression. In my case, it’s always been, “Since you grew up in Ecuador, write about your life overseas.”

I’m not saying that’s wrong. If a writer feels really inspired to write about their life or an experience, I applaud them in their endeavors. If they’re writing about struggles they’ve had and how they got past them, they’ll probably help a lot of people. I personally struggle with writing nonfiction, especially about my life, because I’m afraid it’ll turn into some sop story.

However, I think us fiction writers can apply the “write what you know” saying very effectively, and I have some perfect examples. Since I grew up overseas, I struggled with culture shock when I came to the USA. Because of that experience, I understood how my character might react when she arrived on a new planet, a new culture. I understood the challenges she would face, the internal struggles she would deal with.

On another note, since I traveled to China and visited the frozen city of Harbin in the dead of winter, I had a few ideas of what to put in the frozen continent on my planet, such as ice sculptures and fairs built on the frozen river. I knew how to describe them, how my character might have felt when she saw them. (The ice sculptures are magnificent, by the way.) My post about Teeranies describes how I used an innocent pecari (warthog) as a vile, carnivorous creature in my story.

Of course, you don’t have to use outside experiences all the time, either. Have you ever been in love? Jealous? Angry? Heartbroken? Scared? If you’re familiar with those emotions, create a character that deals with them.

Write-what-you-Like-Austin-KleonSo when people tell me to write what I know, my response is, “I already have”. My book is full of experiences, I just used my imagination to write those experiences more creatively. If you want to write fiction stories, do it. Don’t ever feel obligated to write a nonfiction account about your life just because that’s what everyone is telling you to do. (Unless you want to.)

 

For any writers out there, what is an exciting experience you’ve had that you would like to share with the world?

If you’re a fiction writer, how could you incorporate that experience into your story?

Those questions can help when you’re writing descriptions, or if you’re thinking of a new exciting scene to add to your story.

Why Do You Write?

” Why do you write?”why1

This question has been on my mind the past few months, and as I spend time studying the craft and searching for agents/publishers, I can’t help but try and answer the underlying question, why do I even bother?

My motives have changed since I was in high school trying to find my place in this world. I used to want to be a published author so I could find my name in bookstores among those names that I admire. I didn’t really care about writing the next bestseller (although that would be awesome), but I just wanted to be a little bit famous, if even among a small niche. I just wanted my name to be published.

And as I got older, I thought, wouldn’t that be the perfect job? To get paid to do what you love? Of course it would. Unfortunately, very few authors actually get paid enough to make a living off their books. And honestly, writing solely to get paid makes it more of a chore than a passion.

When I actually began writing my stories and studying the market, I learned that those aren’t good reasons to write at all. There is so much more to writing a good story than fame and money. It’s an adventure, an escape to an alternate world where you get to call the shots… most of the time. (Sometimes the characters are just too stubborn to let you win.) But even though you’re the one calling the shots, and perhaps you already know the ending, it’s still an exciting ride discovering how you’re going to get from point A to point B. There are unique characters you’ll meet along the way, and deep lessons you’ll learn.

So I guess I could say I’ve learned that writing is a reward in itself. Who needs a big name? Who needs book signings? Who needs that large check?

But there was still something missing, because just the thought of never having anyone else read these stories discouraged me.

I remember reading/listening to interviews from other authors. Authors that I loved and respected. When asked what the most rewarding part of writing was to them, pretty much all of them had the same answer. “The most rewarding part of writing is hearing from my readers, and knowing they connected with my story.” I used to roll my eyes and mumble, “sunday school answer.” I mean, who would say the most rewarding part was the money or fame? Of course they would say it was the readers.

But now that I’ve completed my own trilogy and had my own group of readers enjoy my stories and give me feedback, I have to say I agree with those authors. Just having readers connect with my characters is a huge reward in itself.

So back to the question: Why do I write ? Because I want to connect with other people through my stories. I want to know that somehow, in some way, I’m making a difference in the world, though it may be a small difference, and that is enough for me.

Brandi Carlile has a song called The Story. There’s a line in the song that struck a chord with me, because it verifies exactly how I feel.

“These stories don’t mean anything when you’ve got no one to tell them to.” 

How true. If I had no one else to share my stories with, why bother writing them? I could more easily visualize the story in my head and not trouble myself with details and the art and craft of writing.

But we as people long to connect with others. We like to tell stories. We like to hear stories. We like to read stories. We like to swap stories. 

That’s why I write.

Oh, what to write?

photoNovember is over, and so is NaNoWriMo– the big project focused on writing a novel in a month. However, by the end of October (shortly after my last blog), I found out I was pregnant. Yay! My husband and I had been trying to have a baby for, oh, a month or so, and now it’s going to happen! But then… morning sickness hit me like a tornado and I was hurling my guts out for a full month. Needless to say, I didn’t get ANY writing done! Just the thought of writing made me race to the toilet and heave.

But I started feeling better three weeks ago, and with my slightly increased energy came the desire to write. But one question plagued me. What should I write? I finished my dystopian trilogy. I somehow lost the passion for the story I was going to write in November. (That happens when you associate a story with puking.)

So the past three weeks have been spent brainstorming. I’ve started three different stories, unable to find the one that will bring me life again. None of them did. I grew tired and moved on to another story idea. Then I got a bit depressed, because, well, the last two years have been spent writing every day, and now I can’t seem to get more than a paragraph down.

One of the ideas was a Civil War story, and I realized just how hard it is to write historical fiction. It’s nearly impossible! Every little detail has to be looked up– the clothes they wore back then, the food they ate, not to mention that since this was taking place during the Civil War, all the battle details had to be accurate. My respect for historical fiction writers has skyrocketed, while my desire to write historical fiction has declined significantly. The other two stories were complete flops.writing-2

So I prayed about it. Maybe God didn’t want me to write anymore. Maybe he wanted me to focus on being a future mom. Maybe He did want me to write, but hasn’t shown me what yet. Maybe He wanted me to keep starting stories until I found one that gave me passion again. I asked Him to show me what to write, because without writing my daily life is pretty bleak.

He told me to listen. So I listened. And I heard music. (Yes, the radio was on… but so was the perfect song.) Life seemed to pour through my veins once again… through music. The song made new ideas spin in my mind until a story had formed.

And I knew exactly what to write.

So far this story has lasted longer than the others. It’s another fantasy novel, but I’m finding that fantasy/futuristic stories are my favorite to write. Hopefully it won’t be a complete flop like the others. And if it is, well, too bad. I’m going to finish it anyway.