This post is part of my summer series. During the summer I take a break from focusing on the blog, to spending the entirety of my writing time on my stories. In its place I post links and videos I’ve found helpful or interesting.
I am participating in Camp NaNoWriMo and will not be making regular updates this month. This post serves as a general update on Camp NaNoWriMo and some other hot topics I’ve seen online.
I am continuing my rewrite of the novella I finished last year. It’s going from a 30K word zero draft, to a more fleshed out 90K novel. It is currently at 50K and I want to complete the draft during Camp NaNoWriMo this month.
So far I’ve written about 6,200 words, I know I’m a bit behind. But, I am going to be spending a good deal of time writing this weekend.
Twitter & Pitch Wars
If you follow me on Twitter you may have noticed that I retweeted about pitching and querying. I don’t have a strong stance on the Pitch Wars entry fee that created a stir online last week (and which was later replaced with their free model). However, there were some good opportunities coming out of that which I wanted to share.
Glad to see #PitchWars scrapped the entry fee, but: aspiring authors! Want to get your work in front of me? QUERY ME. No fee, you get to submit ten whole pages of your work, you can tell me why you specifically think we’d be a good match. You don’t need a contest. #amquerying
— Molly Ker Hawn (@mollykh) April 4, 2018
ok, all this pitch contest stuff has me really frustrated. I didn’t pay a cent to get published and no one should have to. how’s this? Every day until my book is out I’ll edit an #ownvoices query letter for free. that’s about 25 edits. I’m no pro agent but I did get to where I am
— Rebecca F. Kuang (@kuangrf) April 4, 2018
#PitchWars Back to Basics and the No Fee Model
Your voices and concerns are all important to us.
Please RT and spread the word…NO FEE but a very simple model for the coming year.https://t.co/ujCEiMzuJ9
— Heather Cashman (@HeatherCashman) April 4, 2018
The Plan (Currently)
The discussion made me start thinking about my current strategy.
I will be looking for agents only once I have several published short stories, a draft I feel good about sharing beyond the sphere of my writing friends, and proposals for at least five more books. I have some experience in the business world and I want to make sure I have a portfolio to offer before I look for an agent.
The guiding principles of my strategy are the following:
- More Stories and Story Ideas = A long term source of revenue for the agent and the author.
- Published Short Stories = They take less time to create and help me build a platform.
- Building Platform = Maintaining a blog and actively using Twitter not only informs my audience, but shows an agent I’m willing to learn and actively work on self-marketing.
Ready Player One
I just had to watch this movie once I heard about it. It was fun and I had a good time catching references and Easter eggs.
I recently discovered the wealth of writing groups located on Discord servers. Though admittedly they all vary a good deal, it is nice to find another outlet for connecting with other writers in a chat format.
This Reddit thread is a good place to start looking at the server options that are out there.
Nuts and bolts is a series on the details of being a writer and honing my craft. Today’s brief post may not seem directly about writing, but is still absolutely vital to the creative process.
This has been a strange week. I have exciting things going on and at the same time there’s some really hard stuff going on as well. I thought it would be a good time to go over some of my own coping skills.
Story Ideas – Conceptualizing stories is probably my favorite part of the writing process (before the more detailed planning stages). Coming up with scenes for a future story helps me process some of what has been going on in my own life.
Music – Usually when I’m wiped out, I head over to YouTube and start listening to new stuff. I’m always on the lookout for songs to add to my writing play list.
Fitness – I’ve been using fitness apps to make sure I’m taking care of myself (and to make me stop reaching for junk food when I’m feeling down).
Chopping the To-Do List – I am mindful of the time I have and typically start reprioritizing when I start feeling overwhelmed. I begin by focusing on what absolutely has to happen instead of all the things I want to happen.
Prayer & Meditation – Last but not least, prayer. I am a spiritual person and my prayers may not get quick answers, but there is a peace in realizing that I’m not in control of everything.
“What are you doing out so late?” The old man gave me a penetrating look, wizened eyebrows knitted together in thought.
“Same as you.” I flicked my hair back and pulled my scarf closer.
Why did anyone go out at night? That time when the darkness steals vision away, giving in its place the teasing small lights. The lights and shadows twinkling like ghosts toying with mortals in the darkness.
He didn’t answer. Instead, just like the gentleman he had been for all his life, he took my arm in his own and we walked together in silence. The tranquility was a warm invitation for thought.
We watched the streetlights flicker against the golden colors of the leaves long into the night.
A lot of things are like physical exercising. Playing music requires practice, keeping a house clean requires diligence, learning a new skill requires lots of use and maintenance.
Writing is not any different.
I have always written. I loved the stories mom would read chapter books to my brother and I. We always wanted her to keep going and would beg her for more at the end of a reading. When I was 9, I even attempted my own mystery story, it was not my best work of art and I think I may have gotten rid of that old copy (but not before my mom proudly showed it to my teacher).
Since then, I would attempt stories of my own sporadically, though my imagination was running wild 24/7. In high school, I discovered several web comics that I absolutely loved and started making plans to possibly write my own. I had character notes and a general idea of the plot but I never really sat down and wrote it (though, my drawing abilities excelled during this time because I was not going to produce a web comic unless I was sure I could make its quality stand out).
It was during this time that the ideas for my trilogy of fantasy books started coming together.
Finally, in 2015 a couple friends and I started our own critique group and for the first time I was writing more rigorously and more often. I also participated in NaNoWriMo for the first time and I went from 16000 total words at the beginning to 180000 in the last two years on various drafts.
And you know what? With every single second I spend critiquing, writing, and learning from writing masters, I can see my work become better.
I have a philosophy in life that we never really arrive. Life is a journey and it’s also like a balance beam. We are constantly improving and we are constantly having to adjust for our balance. Like our core muscles, the more we consciously work at this balancing act, the less we notice the individual muscles, with every experience we’re strengthened so that the next time, we’re not as sore.
By practicing the basics, we become ready for what comes next.
Just like life, writing is an exercise, grow lax and it takes longer to get back into shape.
The reason I love flash fiction so much is for the same reason I like working on daily vignettes, they give me these seeds for a story I can choose to come back to and work with at a later date. Often, I start out with a thought and find out as I’m writing that it escalates quickly.
This latest one came to me while I was sitting in my car during a downpour. I had gotten to a meeting early and had just visited a monastery earlier in the week.
So, this came about:
Nights like this suck up the light. Even the flickering lamplight is gone quickly as if some dark monster is out there eating it all up and leaving only the darkness. The rain is pouring, its icy fingers soaking through these black robes. Everywhere the air smells of wet plants and stone.
The weather couldn’t be more fitting. A coup shouldn’t be marked by sunshine, the dramatic mood of the weather matches the occasion. The overthrowing of a king should have some flair.
I tuck the book back into my robes, the note there memorized, but the feel of paper, even wet, is oddly soothing. It’s a concrete form of an idea, something I can hold to in the calm before the chaos.
I make a brief sign, I may only be masquerading as a monk, but the prayer I just said was genuine.
The rain masks my footsteps, whether the shivering is from the cold or the nerves I can’t tell, probably both. I come to the door, a great oaken door, sturdy and designed to hold off attacks, not assassins.
I nod to the knight stationed there. He looks miserable, he too is shivering. He only briefly looks at me and gestures toward the door. Wet, miserable fool.
I open the door and step in.
If you have spent any amount of time on this blog you’ll pick up on the fact I’m a geek and I won’t deny it.
I grew up watching imported anime on Saturday mornings, playing video games, reading fantasy novels, and getting into intense discussions concerning all these with my friends. But, for a while I was not able to watch anime, either due to general busyness or lack of access.
Finally, in the last two years, I have been able to watch these shows again and I have been loving it (sometimes a little too much). And while it is an indulgence, I have used this interest to better my own stories. I use my observations of the animes to hone in on my own characters and worldbuilding. It is a practice that allows me to enjoy entertainment while also utilizing it.
Why Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood?
This leads me to Full Metal Alchemist. Earlier, I discussed Qrow from RWBY on this blog, and well, the RWBY community constantly brings up Fullmetal Alchemist (FMA) references in video comments because his voice actor plays Ed in FMA. So after about a year of hearing how great it was by people with similar tastes, I finally decided to check it out.
The only version I was able to find was FMA: Brotherhood, and while I was hesitant at first because I knew it wasn’t the original anime, after some research I discovered that it is closer to the story of the manga and jumped right into watching it.
I am currently in the middle of the series (so no spoilers in the comments please) and here are the five reasons I am loving it and three things I wish were better. I’m going to keep this somewhat vague as I hate to give away too many spoilers.
- I’m emotionally invested – Ed is actually a decent example of a teenager who is brilliant, but is also not as smart as he thinks he is. He and his brother Al are desperately trying to get their bodies back after a failed attempt to resurrect their mother. This is already a great set up to a story, with a main character driven by pain and a mission of redemption, but the best part is he’s not the only one. As the series progresses we get a glimpse of the psyche behind Colonel Mustang and his assistant Hawkeye.
- Insurmountable odds – Our main characters are up against seemingly all powerful enemies, but even in the face of this there are glimpses of hope.
- Nuanced baddies – Well, not all of them (see below). But there is at least one a couple baddies who seem to have more motivations than their face value.
- Setting – So far there aren’t as many plot holes or super powered heroes as I’ve seen in other anime like Kirito‘s character in SAO (though I am disappointed in a few times where it seems the main characters too easily get out of a tight situation). I consider this a positive. There are also several countries and cultures at play that serve to spice up the main story.
- Complexity – A few episodes in, it became clear the story would revolve around not just the Elrich brothers but also the rest of the cast. I love this sort of story telling where we get a glimpse at the larger chess game being played out instead of a focus on just a couple of characters.
- Winry – I’m annoyed Winry has not played a larger role in the story, though I’m holding out hope that her part will expand in the last half of the story. She has grit but also a soft side, and I’m very interested to see what she would do if she gets caught in a real fight.
- Pacing – There are a few sections of info dumping through flashbacks (most of what was revealed I had already pieced together from the storytelling in the present). There are also several slow sections, which are good for character building, but not the part of the story I’m interested in at that moment.
- The bad guys – There’s a few characters I’m so ready to be done watching: Envy, Gluttony, and Lust this one goes out to you three. They’re more or less the most two dimensional of all the major players: evil for evil’s sake.