A Weekend, A Sketch

Long weekends don’t mean too much to me, generally; I always have Mondays off. Brother came up from Massachusetts on Friday evening, though, and stayed with me and Brackett through yesterday. We checked out the newly renovated Dogfish Bar and Grill for lunch yesterday (I can recommend the 128 Free Street Sandwich) and then Brother and Brackett picked up some vinyl and a few Super Nintendo games at the Electrcic Buddhas nostalgia shop around the corner. They proceeded to beat Goof Troop in under two hours—a game that had seemed impossibly difficult when I was a child. Brother headed up to our parents house yesterday evening, and I’m following in a few hours. Sadly, I have to return my mother’s car. It was easier for her to leave the vehicle with me last weekend than for us to figure out the logistics of her and my father dropping me and another friend off in Portland on their way home from the retreat in separate cars in time for a scheduled event back home. It’s been really nice having wheels for a few days.

I can’t share the painting I was telling you about last weekend yet. I’m really happy with how that’s turning out, but it’s not quite done. My week was subsumed by another worthy project (yes I did make art during the week this week, though it was for a different purpose [an exciting one!] than my usual stuff) so I haven’t made too much more headway on that painting or my other digital art. I did make a sketch yesterday that I finished today, though, so I’m sharing that instead. I’m working on an illustration for the picnic scene in Chapter 4 (Wanderlust Chapter 4: City of Shadows) and right now I’m planning where everyone’s sitting and what they’re doing. I’m hoping to round up some friends to shoot reference photos this week (friends in Portland: I need about two more models for a picnic scene—let me know if you want to help!), so it will be good to know what poses I’m looking for ahead of time. I’m thinking Vanya will be in the background of the scene taking a swig of his drink. I realized I’d never drawn that before, so I did the following sketch as a study, using some stock photos as reference.

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Wanderlust: One Goal Reached

I did it. I tied up all the loose ends I am currently aware of, connected all the connecty-bits, and did the best I could do (or at least the best I could do right now) with those sentences that just weren’t hanging together. I hesitate to say I “finished,” because I know I am so far from finished—but about an hour ago, I attached the manuscript of my novel to an email, and I clicked send. It went out to a few close friends, all colleagues from Northern Michigan. The inner circle, if you will. I might let a few other people read it at this stage; certainly my mom.

It’s a weird feeling, knowing that this thing I’ve obsessed over for so long is about to reach an audience of more than me. It’s a relief, and it’s scary, and I feel very accomplished in a drained, completely exhausted kind of way. I think I will go to bed early tonight. I hope to actually begin on the name-doodles for the contest winners tomorrow; I confess this week I was still in marathon mode and pushing to get all the way done with the writing, which left the prizes at low priority. This week, I’ll give them more of my focus. Also, sorry for only posting once last week and for dropping some ongoing conversations in the comments section. It’s been busy around here, and when I haven’t been focusing on life (including some significant food and lifestyle changes) I’ve been fairly single-minded about the writing, and crossing things off my list. And since the connections I’ve made through this blog have provided me with so much support and encouragement for my writing over the past months, I just wanted to drop a line here and say, I did it. I reached the next marker on the road. I completed one goal. I accomplished something big, and I’m a little closer to a finished book. The next step, for me, is to get serious about making the rest of the Wanderlust illustrations.

-G

Writing Marathon Day 8! Race to 8th Final Day! With Winners!

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Day 8! My birthday! The race is over!

(Just by the way: you all saw the photo of my birthday flowers in yesterday’s post, right? They’re really lovely.)

The Writing Day

And… I made it to the end of the manuscript. Wheeee!

Now, making it to the end doesn’t exactly mean I’m done. There’s still that bit I skipped in Chapter 11, all that tidying up in Chapter 1, that one thing to resolve in Chapter 5, and that one formatting decision to make. Still, though, I made it to the end. It’s pretty exciting. I’m going to give myself one more week to fix all of the above, and then I AM LETTING SOMEONE ELSE READ THIS SUCKER.

I have made huge amounts of progress this week. Seriously, huge. In 8 days I’ve finished chapters 9, 10, 11, and 12 (except for that one bit of 11.) I want to thank you guys so much for reading this blog and for encouraging me in this project. It means a lot. I feel very blessed this birthday.

On to the blog topics!

And the winner is…

Lady Higg! Congratulations!

If you’ve been following this blog, you already know that Lady Higg is my best friend. Tragically, she lives in Michigan, and I haven’t seen her in FOREVER (or, you know, since July). You should totally check out her beer-themed blog: Ales to Stouts. She’s been having a rough few days, so head over there and show her some love!

Lady Higg’s Entry: Since leaving college, have you found it harder to write, or less hard? Do you find that not being in a classroom everyday, surrounded by people who are creatively challenged (at least academically) a challenge as a recent graduate/author?

In some ways, college feels like a very long time ago! In general, it has been easier to write since graduation. This is because I haven’t had all those other academic pursuits sapping all my strength and focus; writing has been it. That’s sort of the tragic thing about college—you have inspiration coming at you on all sides from so many people and experiences, but then there’s so much to do to keep up with school requirements that it’s nearly impossible to make headway on personal projects. Unless you sneakily make your personal projects into school projects, which admittedly I did all the time. I do miss Writers’ Club, and the Writing Center, and I miss talking with other people who are having all the same creative and literary challenges as me, but the blogosphere fills that gap a little. In fact, the blogosphere is pretty saturated with young women trying to write their first YA book, so that creates a sense of community. Mostly I miss hanging out with the crew; Lady Higg, Leftenant Weatherby, Constable Maelstrom, Lorax, Fights With Centaurs, and all the rest, but I’ve been keeping in touch with them through the interwebs, and I hope to see some of them again soon. I feel like the writing circle is still very much alive. Also, since leaving college, I’ve been very lucky in that I’ve been able to make writing my main focus. Thanks to the generosity of my parents, I haven’t had to worry about room and board, and I’ve been working in a very part time capacity to pay for everything else. Sometimes I feel like a freeloader, but my parents are helping me out because they believe in my book, and so I’ve decided the best thing I can is take advantage of this opportunity and make as much progress toward my dream as possible.

Thanks for your entry, Lady Higg! You’ll be receiving your name doodle prize in a week or so, and by the end of February at the latest.

SURPRISE ANNOUNCEMENT: I only have two entries left in my entry box. And, so, I’ve decided that EVERYONE WINS!

Bonus Winner #1:

Taozi. Congratulations, Taozi! Everyone, make sure you visit her blog: Taozi Tree Yoga

TAOZI’s entry: Ingredients found in a “The Wanderlust Salad”:

“Diets” often entail cutting out food. It is more beneficial mentally to bring more INTO it instead. Obviously, bringing the RIGHT stuff. What do the ingredients look like for “The Wanderlust Salad”. We have all heard of “The Waldorf” “The Cobb” and “The Caesar”. Now its time to get creative and put together a colorful, delicious, and INTERESTING “Wanderlust Salad”. Bon A-petite!

Put Music, Magic, and Irish Mythology in a large bowl. These three ingredients make the base of the salad. Next, add a healthy serving of pretty young men, using the Vanya and Taniel varieties. Throw in a handful each of goblins, wolves, swamps, and battlefields. Add some horses, if you have any, and if you’ve got an airplane sitting in the back of the pantry go ahead and toss that in too. Garnish with classic rock, friendship, and adventure. Toss well, and enjoy!

Thanks for your fun question, Taozi! You’ll be receiving your name doodle prize in a week or so, and by the end of February at the latest.

Bonus Winner #2:

Cora. Congratulations, Cora!

Cora is a friend from the magical realm called The Writing Center, where I used to work. We also got to hang out for a weekend in Maine this summer. 🙂

Cora’s Entry: Write about the legend of the Writing Centaur, how it began and those who made it flourish.

The Writing Centaur is an eternal being. He had no beginning; he has always been. It is true, however, that he didn’t always reveal his presence to those who trespassed on his realm, those mortal children who spent a mere year or two fighting against illiteracy, plagiarism, and misused semi-colons in the Writing Trenches of Northern Michigan University. I believe it was when Leftenant Weatherby ascended to the Writing Throne (have worked his way up through the ranks by becoming a member of the Red-headed Writers Cabal, questing to various writing conferences, and otherwise currying favor with the almighty Z) that the Centaur first revealed himself to the students of his domain. The Centaur knew that here was a monarch worthy of himself, and from that day onward the writing soldiers had to guard their backs, for they knew now that the Centaur was watching. It should be noted that, while the Centaur is a majestic and magical being, he is not safe, and he is a dangerous creature to live with. It was when Leftenant Weatherby was succeeded by Fights With Centaurs that the battles became truly serious; Fights With Centaurs earned her name when she forced the Centaur back Beyond The Door. For the rest of that year, while Fights With Centaurs crafted zombie-escape plans and dealt with the politics of the Writing Court, we of the Writing Trenches heard the ominous beating of the hooves against the door in the back of the room. The Centaur will always knock, and he will always punish those in his domain who fail to respect the Writing Ways.

Thanks for your question, Cora! I miss the Center, and the Centaur. I hope someone is keeping him in line these days. You will be receiving your name doodle prize in a week or so, and by the end of February at the latest.

And that’s it! I declare the Race to the 8th Marathon officially over. Now it’s off to eat some birthday shrimp (with sugar-free frozen yogurt for dessert!)

-Grace out

Writing Marathon Day 6, and Tonight’s Contest Winner

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Six days in!

The Writing Day

I’m not sure there was a writing day today. I had a really lovely day though; I exercised, played my harp, stir-fried some celery, had a great lesson, bought some oat bran, snuck in a tiny bit of writing that went really well, enjoyed choir practice. I’m hoping to dash out this blog post and get some more work in tonight. I’m past the part of chapter 11 that was really hard, and the editing process seems to have smoothed out again. It’s just that life got in the way today, and since I really like my life right now I don’t feel too bad about it. But hey, maybe I can still get some work in tonight!

Also, by the way, my number of followers has been climbing steadily this week, and I want to thank you all for that. I also seem to be following behind on responding to individual comments, but even if it takes me a day or two to get back to you please know that I read your comment and loved it.

Okay, we need a blog topic.

And the winner is…

Jess. Congratulations, Jess!

Jess is a friend, and one of my classmates from the Illustration program at Northern Michigan University. She’s a really great artist, so you should definitely check out her online portfolio: Icarus Falls Design.

Jess very kindly provided me with a question or a prompt to choose from, and even though the prompt looks like a lot of fun I am going to choose the question, because I suspect it will take less time to answer and I’d really like to make some more headway on Chapter 11 tonight.

Jess’s entry: What motivates you? When you’re thinking about writing or drawing, what is it that gets you to actually sit down and pick up the pen? What’s the first part of the project or story that comes to you?

The thing that usually gets me back to a story, and actually working on it, is the name of the main character. I don’t entirely understand this, but mentally I hang a lot of their personality, their very essence, on the sound of their name. So when I find myself walking around the house and whispering “Vanya” under my breath, well, I know it’s time to get back to creating him on the page (in image and word). Having the wrong name for a character can also be a major roadblock to working on something. Upon my return from Thailand, I had to complete a fiction writing assignment in order to receive credit for the trip. I already had one very good scene for the story that I had scrawled down in my sketchbook on the tour bus as we drove away from the ruined city of Ayutthaya, and I had the basic plot, but I was stumbling over the name of the main character and without it, I couldn’t make any progress at all. Then I took a shower to to clear my head, and the name came to me: Hadley. Just weird enough to be interesting, and with just the right sort of old-fashioned feel to it. It seemed both original and classic. Hadley. Now the story could begin.

Of course, motivation is a big, huge, complicated thing. Right now, I am motivated by tons of things. Here are approximate samplings of motivated interior monologue: “This has taken too long and I need to work harder so I can be done now.” “I want this to be done, yesterday.” “My only justification for living with my parents and not having a real job is that I’m working on this, so I’d better work on it.” “I can’t wait to see the finished book.” “I’m ready to stop messing around with the words and start illustrating them.” “I want to be rich and famous.” “I want to start marketing my book.” “I want to tell this story as well as I possibly can.” “I freakin’ love this story!” “I need to finish this and find out if anyone else will love it.” “I get to write about pretty boys and magical harps today, how cool is that?” “Ogodyes this scene… except I can make it even better, here, here, and here.” “Okay, need to work on this today because… Taniel. Vanya.” “Vanya.”

Somehow, it all comes back to the names. In the peculiar alchemy of my brain, they seem to encapsulate everything else.

Thanks so much for your question, Jess, I had fun answering it! You will receive your name-doodle prize in a week or so, and by the end of February at the latest.

And it looks like I do have some time and energy left to tackle a bit more of Chapter 11. I will let you all know how it goes tomorrow!

Writing Marathon Day 5, and Tonight’s Contest Winner

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So this is a writing marathon. A RACE to the 8th. This implies running through the remaining editorial tasks as quickly as possible, and finishing by Friday. This is a great idea and all, but sometimes the writing won’t run. Sometimes it plods. Sometimes it lurches. Sometimes it limps. Sometimes it crawls. Sometimes it lies on the ground and flails its way forward like an out-of-water fish. And if you try to make an out-of-water fish get up and sprint, it’s only going to lie there in a confused puddle, make some gurgling noises, and stop even the flailing that was moving it forward, however little at a time. So you have to accept the out-of-water fish-ness of your writing, because only by flailing along for a little while will you start crawling again (and limping, and lurching, and plodding), and, if you’re very very lucky, running.

The Writing Day

If you haven’t guessed from that intro, today was sort of an out-of-water-fish flailing day for the writing. Taking that into account, I actually did very well. I rewrote the whole intro to Chapter 11, and completely integrated that new scene with the existing scenes, and began tackling some of the new scenes. I’m about a third of the way through the chapter, and with only three days left… Well, I might not actually make it to the end of the book. I’m still so much closer than I was before.

Also, tomorrow may be an issue. I have a harp lesson tomorrow afternoon (which I am SO under-practiced for!) and then choir practice at night, and possible band practice after that. That’s a lot of chunks out of the writing day. I will absolutely do my best, but don’t be surprised if the blog gets posted later than usual.

Anyway. Let’s draw a winner.

And the winner is…

Ruthanne. Congratulations, Aunt Ruthanne!

Yes, Ruthanne is my aunt. She is also a 2012 NaNoWriMo winner, and one of this blog’s strongest facebook supporters. She and my cousin run a tie-dye business, to which the website is still under construction… but they have a facebook page! You can at least see some photos of their work on there, all of which is really good. Also, Ruthanne’s birthday is February 8th too! I have an older cousin (Ruthanne’s niece) who was born on February 8 as well. When I went to North Carolina this year we were actually all three in the same place for a photo op; it’s still my cover photo on facebook. 🙂

Ruthanne’s entry: I would love it if you would blog about blogging — why you decided to do it, how you set it up, how it motivates you or feeds you or plagues you with a commitment when you’re not in the mood to write — whatever it means to you. This would be of interest to me because I’m thinking of starting a blog — possibly on February 8th, when I turn 59.

I hope you do start a blog, I will be very excited to read it! For me, starting a blog was basically a necessity for my career. I want to be an author, and now-a-days, authors blog. Even if you’re going the completely traditional, send-your-manuscript to an agent route, the word is that you still need an author platform. Even with traditional publishing, a lot of promotion falls to the author, and the blog is  the most obvious way to do that, and to be present and able to interact with your fans. I was also influenced by Robin McKinley’s blog. McKinley is an incredible author whom I idolize, and then I discovered that she has a blog where she rants about life and dogs and bell-ringing and posts serialized blog fiction. She is seriously a world-class author, and if you haven’t heard of her for shame (no, not for shame, for joy! You still have all these Robin McKinley books ahead of you), and suddenly, through her blog, I felt like I knew her a little bit. Of course, Robin McKinley already had a gazillion fans when she started her blog, but reading her blog helped me begin to think of blogs as fun and worthwhile. And yes, it was a business necessity. I needed somewhere to send people for more information when I mentioned my book in a conversation, and I needed to begin building a fanbase in preparation for the book’s launch, and I needed a place to post my artwork. I’ve tried blogging before, but I had a book review blog (I’d link to you to it, but I’m a bit embarrassed about that one pro-twilight review), an art blog, and much later a writing blog. I didn’t keep up with any of them because the topics were too specific to sustain my interest. When I made this blog, though, with just my name at the top, I was free to write about anything. Since my projects vary greatly, I found this really freeing and a lot of fun. This will be my 62nd post on this blog, which seems pretty incredible. I think the reason I’ve been able to keep up with it so well is that, while writing has been a pretty big focus here, I’m free to write about anything else I find important.

As for setting it up, it’s really easy and free to set up a blog with wordpress.com. It’s also free on Blogspot, but WordPress generally looks a lot cleaner, and it’s really easy for other wordpress users to find and follow your blog (and easy for you to find theirs). It’s a really nice community in that way, although I confess at this point I’m not really sure how to reach out to readers beyond wordpress.com. I’ve purchased my own domain name, of course, because that feels more professional, and I also paid wordpress for the extra customization option, I think because some of the colors in this theme didn’t match the colors I wanted and that seemed really important at the time.

What I find most frustrating about the blog is that posting things publicly generates (in me, anyway) a desperate need for feedback. My plan is always to dash off a blog post in the morning and then write for the rest of the day, but sometimes I spend the rest of the day refreshing my email notifications every five minutes and searching for a sign that someone has read my post. This can be a real distraction for an easily distractible person! And sometimes, the posts that I think are my best posts get the least feedback, and don’t find a lot of readers. At times like these, I have to sigh and remind myself that I’m building a platform, and it’s going to take time.  For instance, I have over one hundred “followers,” and I am very grateful for every one, but that doesn’t translate to one hundred hits every time I post. Right now, I average about 20 hits on a day when I publish. People are starting to find me with some interesting search terms, though, which I think comes from the fact that I am always expanding my number of posts and topics. (By the way, detailed and easy-to-understand analytics for traffic on your blog is another good reason to choose WordPress.)

In conclusion, I really enjoy the blog. Keeping up with it has felt pretty natural; I usually enjoy writing the posts (the ones I don’t enjoy usually don’t get posted) and I do it because it’s part of the whole proces of becoming someone who gets taken seriously as a writer. This is also my second week-long blog event experience, and I’ll admit the writing a post every single night is getting really exhausting… but it’s also motivating me to work really hard on my book, and I’ve also picked up a good number of followers in the last few days (thank you all! I hope you stick around!) So I’m still trying new things, but overall it’s been really rewarding.

Thanks for your question, Ruthanne! You will be receiving your name doodle prize in a week or so, and definitely by the end of February. And happy early birthday!

-Grace

Writing Marathon Day 4, and Tonight’s Contest Winner

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Looks like we made it to Day 4! I had a great day today. This whole no-sugar diet is actually kicking in, and I feel great. I exercised today, I painted a ceiling, I made a delicious cabbage stir fry, I learned a new salad dressing recipe, I practiced my harp. All sounds pretty good, right? Well…

The Writing Day

This has been my worst writing day on the marathon so far. Chapter 11 is just… well, I said it yesterday: Chapter 11 is a mess. Today I scrawled out a choppy handwritten version of a new scene I’m adding to the beginning. I thought I was adding the new scene to make the transition into an existing scene less boring, but then I realized that the existing scene itself is boring, and it has to go. Eep. This is the first time (in this project, so far) I’ve really come up against the “Murder your darlings” adage (Sir Arthur Quirrel-Couch). In the scene, Vanya tunes his harp and the boys each share something about their past. Not really relevant (sigh), because there will be time for the backstory in the next books. It’s also a “this is how a harp works” lesson, which I put in there because I think are harps fascinating (and also because I know more about them now than when I started writing this thing), but it doesn’t really move the story. Still, removing it was a wrenching decision—and then I had to write this new scene. Not edit an existing one; write a whole new one. For some reason that seems really hard right now, and instead of making myself crazy over it I opted to help with dinner and spend some time with my family and prepare for my harp lesson on Wednesday. I did get some work done on the scene. Today wasn’t a total loss. At any rate, all I can do is hope for a better day tomorrow.

Let’s find out what our blog topic is tonight.

And the winner is…

Celeste. Congratulations, Celeste!

Celeste is a friend of mine from school, and an aspiring author. Make sure you check out her blog! http://www.celestedewolfe.com

Celeste’s entry: What is your favorite genre to read? Is that the same genre you like to write in? Do you think you would ever write outside of that genre? Why or why not? Lastly, what are two genres that you wouldn’t immediately put together, but might make an interesting story?

A genre question! My favorite genre to read is fantasy… or sci-fi. They pretty much do the same thing for me, and they can be difficult to distinguish between. I’m just not interested in books that are completely realistic and could happen in everyday life. I’m not sure why; some of them are really good reads. I understand some people feel the same way about fantasy literature, and I respect that. I think it’s that my inner child just gets so excited about magical harps and spaceships, and also that the best fantasy books speak so much truth about life and humanity. I love them. And yes, I write fantasy. I think I’ve only written realistic fiction for class assignments (although some of those assignments turned out pretty well). Wanderlust is urban fantasy, which, honestly, helps me take it a little more seriously right now. There will be time for writing high fantasy later in my career. I love high fantasy, but I’ve reached a point where I can only take so much of the epic swords and sorcery world-building story with all the made up names—unless it’s really, really good. Right now I’m much more interested in high fantasy that’s about a smaller scale, more individual journey than the save-the-whole-world thing.

I’m also working on a dystopian sci-fi novel that I hope to spend more time on when Wanderlust is completed. It’s my first real sci-fi project, but I’m pretty excited about it and like I said, sci-fi and fantasy pretty much do the same thing for me. I may write some realistic fiction stories in the future, but I don’t see myself ever writing any novel-length projects that aren’t sci-fi or fantasy. My idea box just doesn’t get excited unless there’s something fantastical going on. I also don’t see myself drifting into paranormal romance, which is a nearby genre. I think romance is great when it’s done well, and of course there will be occasional romance in my books, but I’ve realized lately that I don’t like to read books in which romance is the central plot issue. There needs to be something else of substance going on. I’ve also noticed that a lot of the romance in teen reads, even just the romantic subplot, has been annoying me lately. I think this is because I’m almost five years away from teenagerhood now, and it is very apparent that, out here in the real world, teen romances almost never work. I’m so jaded! Maybe that’s something I’ll grow out of again in a few years. And, that’s another thing, I don’t know who I’ll be in five or ten years. Right now I don’t see myself writing outside my genre, but anything could happen. And for the last question; two genres I wouldn’t immediately put together, but that might make an interesting story? Oh, I don’t know. I feel like genre-mashups are actually fairly popular now-a-days. How about a steampunk children’s book? You know, one of the big books with pictures. It may have already been done, but with the right illustrator I think that would be really, really cool.

Thanks for your question, Celeste! And everyone else, don’t forget take a look at The Official Site of Celeste DeWolfe. Celeste, you will be receiving your name-doodle prize in a week or so, and definitely by the end of February.

Have a good night everyone. I’ll see you tomorrow.

Writing Marathon Day 3, and Third Contest Winner

Screen Shot 2013-02-03 at 8.50.29 PMThree days in already? It’s all happening so fast!

The Writing Day

Finished that pesky Chapter 10 (Swamp Times). It wouldn’t have taken too long… except for those couple paragraphs that took HOURS, and that one transition/flashback thing that, well, I actually just glanced at it again and I’m not even sure it’s a 100% now, even after all that work. Sigh. So anyway, when I thought I’d finally finished chapter 10 (which I keep wanting to call chapter 9 because it was chapter 9 for years before I added that whole thing about the wolves), I was a little emotionally exhausted from dealing with the peskiness of those scenes, but I still had a couple hours of writing time. Now, Chapter 10 was pesky because it was already pretty tight, but it needed small amounts of polish applied in hard-to-reach places. Chapter 11 is pesky because it’s a mess. I didn’t really have it in me tonight to put on the hazmat suit and start the serious cleanup. Instead, I went through and typed in the red-pen corrections I’d already made on my printed manuscript. I fixed anything that jumped out at me, and anything I had an easy fix for. More importantly, I read through the whole thing and asked questions and made editorial notes and let it soak into my subconscious to stew for the night. I actually made a fair amount of progress on the little things, and I’m looking forward to tackling the larger issues in Chapter 11 (The Harp and the Hound) tomorrow.

Time for that blog topic! Drawing a contest entry now.

And the winner is…

Laura! Congratulations, Laura!

Laura’s entry: If you woke up as the opposite sex one morning, would it change your life plan, and how?

Well, that’s something I don’t think about every day. And, seeing as my life plan right now is to become a published author and to travel as much as possible, I don’t think it would. Actually, being a guy might make the traveling part easier. There are certain dangers associated with traveling alone as a woman, and you sort of have to weigh those risks and cautionary tales against your common sense and good judgement and the fact that you can’t really live and experience life while playing it completely safe. It’s risky just being alive, of course, but I feel like guys have a little less to worry about in the safety department. I’m pretty sure I’d be just as good a writer as a man (some of my best writer friends are male), and, bonus, I’d finally have an inside view on that whole male camaraderie thing I’m always writing about. If my masculinity as a man were equal to the level of femininity I have as a woman, well, at 5′ 10″, it would be so much easier to find girls who are shorter than me than it is to find guys who are taller than me. If I remained completely feminine girl me in this hypothetical gender-bending scenario, I guess I don’t know what I’d do (besides wonder how I got stuck in an anime. My eyes just aren’t big enough, you see.) I know it takes a lot of strength to deal with that kind of confusion and mind/body disconnect, and I’m grateful that it’s a burden I haven’t had to bear.

Thanks for your question, Laura. Hmm, I actually came up with a lot of pros for that whole being-a-guy-thing. Good thing I really like being a girl. 🙂 You will be receiving your name-doodle prize in a week or so, and definitely by the end of February.

Have a good night, all! I hope you enjoyed your superbowl and your superbowl snacks. I didn’t watch the game, but we did eat some guacamole. While making a batch of guacamole earlier this week, I reflected to my father that some people probably only get guacamole once a year, on Super Bowl Sunday. It was a depressing thought, and we shared a moment of silence. But anyway, I hope you had a good party if that is the sort of thing that you do. May your cupboard brim over with tortilla chips, and may your guacamole bowl never go empty.

-G

Writing Marathon Day 2, and Our Next Contest Winner

Calendar Day 2Second day of the marathon! Here we go:

The Writing Day

Today I got through the majority of Chapter 10: Swamp Times. I have about a third left (and I may have to delete half of that, I’m not sure yet). There was a tricky scene in the beginning that took several hours to sort through and re-write, but I admit the rest of it was already fairly polished, so the cleanup was pretty smooth-sailing—in hindsight, anyway. It still took a while. These things do. I also spent some time working out a timing issue with how the whole end of the novel goes down, and adjusted a few bits in earlier chapters accordingly.

I had a headache again this afternoon, and so I present to you:

Tips for Writing with a Persistent Headache of the Dull, Achey Variety:

1.) Make a blog event and contest out of your writing struggle. Writers need accountability. If people are expecting a progress report from you by the end of the day, you’re gonna make some progress. (Seriously, you guys are helping so much.)

2.) Write in Bed. This is a terrible idea on a good day. Usually, you’ll do your best work sitting upright at your desk. But on a bad day? When you’d really rather be sleeping? Working in bed can be just the compromise you need to trick yourself into being productive.

And I guess that’s all I have on the subject. Do any of you have any tips to share?

Don’t forget to read yesterday’s post for yesterday’s winning blog topic, in which I elaborate on the inner thoughts, feelings, and frustrations of a Boston street lamp. Also, you can still get in on this contest thing; I’ve made a temporary link under the website banner with the explanation and the rules, with the form at the bottom. There will be six more winners after tonight.

Okay. Drawing tonight’s winner.

And the winner is...

Grace, of Homeschool Hijinks! Congratulations, Grace!

Grace’s Entry: What does your planning process look like before you begin writing? Do you have huge detailed outlines or do you just jump into the fray or something in between? Do you chew on a story for hours or months before deciding to do something with it on paper?

What a good a good question! And the answer is that my planning process looks like everything, at some point or another. Usually, though, there is a single idea or an image that captures me, and I “jump into the fray” with it. A lot of these don’t go anywhere. I have tons of notes on scraps of paper (and, more recently, in computer files) of fragments and beginnings of stories. Sometimes I get an image first; Vanya, the main character of Wanderlust, came to me after a period of artists’ block (which is exactly the same thing as writers’ block, if you’re wondering). Suddenly (in the middle of math class, my junior year of high school) I drew this sad little boy, and it was one of the best things I’d ever drawn. I knew exactly who he was, too: the wandering harper. I drew him alone for a little while before I realized his best friend Taniel, and at the time they both existed in a medieval fantasy world. I tried to use them in a few comics/graphic novels that didn’t go anywhere, but it wasn’t until a whole year later that I thought, “Wait, wouldn’t it be cool if they lived in the modern world?” This was good for a few Vanya-in-fishnets illustrations for me and my friends to swoon over (we were into emo boys at the time) but it wasn’t until I decided to write a book for my senior project that I realized Vanya and Taniel were the perfect subjects. And so, Wanderlust was born! I don’t remember how I planned out the plot for that first book, but then that book sat around for five years, while the idea continued banging around in my subconscious and I got better and better at writing and arting. Five years later I’m working on the book I’m working on now. It has a plot very similar to the original, but it’s overall way more awesome.

That was a little round-about, but it demonstrates a pattern I’ve followed over and over again. I get really excited about something and just start doing it, and then later, often MUCH later, I pick it up and bring all sorts of new ideas and experience to it and turn it into something so much better than the original thing. And since I’m mostly working on Wanderlust right now, all those other things I’m not working on are undergoing subconscious development right now. A 70 page hand-written story about a dryad I wrote while homeschooling in seventh grade re-surfaced as a series of art projects in college, along with a partial rewrite that has so much more going for it than the story did before. Didn’t have enough time to actually finish it or really work on it at the time, but someday it’s going to come up again, and it’s going to be awesome. As for huge detailed outlines, for me those come later. I make an outline when I’m a third of the way into a book and realize I have no idea where it’s going. I make outlines to figure out what I’ve already written, and to help me get it straight in my head. Today, I outlined the entire plot of my novel by days of the week (it starts on a Friday and ends on the Saturday a week later). So I use outlines as a tool, when “pantsing” it (writing by the seat of my pants) starts to break down.

Thanks for the blog topic, Grace! If there’s a moral here, it’s that I am so grateful for all the writing I did in elementary school, middle school, and high school. It made me the writer and storyteller I am today. You’re already doing awesome work (hey everyone! You can read some of Grace’s stories at her blog!) so keep it up, and you might be surprised where it takes you. 🙂  Also, you will be receiving your name-doodle prize in a week or so, and definitely by the end of February.

And hey writers: How would you answer Grace’s question? Do any of you work in a totally different way than I do? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

-G

Writing Marathon Day 1, and First Contest Winner

Race to the 8th Day 1It has begun! Now, the savvy among you may be looking at that cool calendar graphic and wondering if I spent the whole day creating it, rather than writing. To you, I can proudly say that I stayed up late to finish it last night so I’d have the whole day free today. More of you might be wondering what is up with the unicorn and the sparkles. Well, did I mention we’re doing this whole thing because the 8th is my birthday? My birthday has always been about unicorns and sparkles. That’s just how it is.

The Writing Day

Well, today was not perfect. I was tired, headachey, and dealing with all sorts of cravings for all the foods I’m not eating. I was not in any way immune to the distractions of the internet, or to the temptation to check and see if I had any new contest entries every five minutes (I didn’t). Still, I did okay. I made a good start. I’m proud of myself. Today, I completed my revision of Chapter Nine: To the Wolves. Admittedly I’ve been working on this chapter since, god, since Christmas, but I’ve been working on it so long because it’s tricky. There’s this one part I finally polished off today where I’m writing about one thing and trying to reference this other thing, but it has to be done without looking like I’m referencing the other thing, and without being too obvious. This is what I meant when I said my progress reports wouldn’t make much sense to you. But hey, Chapter Nine down. Tomorrow I can move on to Chapter 10. In total, there are 12 chapters and an epilogue. Seven more days. This might be doable. There are, of course, still a few clean-up matters to attend to in the earlier chapters, and I’m just now considering ANOTHER re-write of my opening pages, but still. We’re moving along. Tackling Swamp Times (Chapter 10) tomorrow!

One More Thing

before we announce the winner, because it is too good not to share. I had a series of interesting dreams this morning. In one of them, I found my soul mate at a very dodgy, second rate carnival in Michigan. I know it was second rate because they wouldn’t stop the ferris wheel even though I was CLEARLY only holding on by one hand and about to fall to my death. I found him (my soul mate, who was someone I had never seen before in my life) just outside the paintball room/funhouse. We were both so surprised :). In my next dream, however, I was back in Maine and in the same house as a serial killer. You will be happy to know that I did the right thing, and set Beyoncé free. My own fate was still up in the air, however, so it’s good I woke up when I did!

And now, the part you’ve all been waiting for. I realized pretty quickly that I wanted EVERYONE to win, so we’re doing this by a totally random draw. I’ve got names in a container beside me at my desk. I like the noise they make when I shake them. I NEED MORE NAMES, PEOPLE! Entries are still open.

Okay. Drawing a name now.

And the winner is…

Elise! Congratulations!

Elise, by the way, is a friend of mine from school, and she is also the lady who is marrying Leftenant Weatherby (Tom Rich). I am so excited for both of them. 🙂

Elise’s entry: Rewrite one of your favorite (or most hated) scenes from the perspective of another character or onlooker.

Oh geez, Elise. This could be a five-day prompt! It’s a really intriguing proposition, and I recently saw something similar on another website as an exercise for fleshing out secondary characters. There are also some really cool ways I could respond to this that I wouldn’t actually be able to share, because of spoilers for Wanderlust book 2, if you’d believe it. But here goes:

Conveniently, I have this scene illustrated, although there is not actually a streetlamp in evidence in this picture.

Conveniently, I have this scene illustrated, although there is not actually a streetlamp in evidence in this picture.

The street lamp at the corner of Baker and Fifth* was uncomfortable. It was uncomfortable because there was a person standing underneath it. Not that the streetlamp was unaccustomed to humanity passing by on the sidewalk below; it was just, that, well, they usually passed by, and didn’t camp out holding a sign for several hours. Actually, this little bit of humanity had been there even longer. It had first showed up when the streetlamp was still lit, a good bit past the point when the late hours of the night transitioned into the early hours of the morning. It had stumbled down the street from the direction of the tavern on 7th, and had curled up in the lee of the steps of the print shop. It slept until the streetlight followed its program and shut itself off, and until other passers-by made noise and got on with their business of passing by. Then it—which the streetlamp supposed was a boy, or a young man, even though it had long blonde hair like a girl—had woken up, looked miserable, and sat in the grass for a long while. He was carrying a few heavy bundles, though he didn’t open them. Go on, thought the streetlamp. Go get breakfast. I bet you had a hard night. But you can make today better. Go on, move along. The boy just sat there. It was infuriating. Finally he stood up and picked up his bundles. Alright, thought the street lamp. Now you’re getting it. But instead of walking down the road, the boy went into the print shop. The streetlamp couldn’t hear anything that happened in there, but the boy came out carrying a sheet of paper with something written on it. And then he proceeded to stand underneath the street lamp, just stand there, holding that sign. The streetlamp wasn’t used to this kind of treatment. This wasn’t one of those neighborhoods. They didn’t even get much homeless here, and what they got usually preferred the other side of the street. So what was up with this kid, and why here, of all places? And why did he look so sad? And what did it say on that sign? The streetlamp waited over an hour to find out. The whole time, the kid barely moved. A few cars slowed down as they went past him, presumably to read the sign, but they sped along quickly. Finally, a blue ford pickup truck came down the road. The ’92 model, unless the streetlamp was mistaken. The pickup truck slowed down. The street lamp would have held held its breath, if it could breathe. Then—yes, the pickup truck stopped. The boy let his sign flutter to the ground, and put one of his bundles in the truckbed before climbing into the passenger side and closing the door. The truck drove away. The street lamp looked down, and saw that the kid’s sign had landed face-up. The streetlamp could just make it out: “Broke Rock Star Needs Ride.” Huh, thought the streetlamp. Glad he found what he was looking for. And then the street lamp got on with its daily business, entirely oblivious to the fact that it had just witnessed the beginning of a grand adventure.

That was fun, thank you Elise! You will be receiving your name-doodle prize in a week or so (and definitely by the end of February. That’s a promise.)

I will see you all tomorrow. Happy Writing.

-Grace

*Totally fictional street names because I never bothered to research actual neighborhoods of Boston.

Writing Marathon and… *Contest*

So you’ve all heard that I’m getting close to finishing my current manuscript revision. I’ve been saying it for weeks. Still, every time I think, “This is the week I finish!” it seems like I barely make any progress at all. I need a push; I need a deadline. And conveniently, it’s almost my birthday.

On February 8th, I turn 24. Beginning on February 1st and going until the 8th, I mean to put everything aside and write—because I want a completed draft of Wanderlust for my birthday this year. And I’m gonna need your help.

Race to the 8th Contest

I will blog about my daily progress, because reporting to you will help keep me motivated. Your support and encouragement will help too. I know my progress reports won’t be as meaningful to you as they are to me, however, and I want to make this worth your while. I won’t have a lot of time to blog around working on Wanderlust non-stop, so I am asking YOU to give me eight five-minute blog topics. These could be questions about me, questions about writing, questions about Wanderlust, or even silly things, like, “Please write a story about penguins.” If I choose to respond to your entry (entries will be chosen by whatever I most feel like writing about, or drawn from a hat if that fails) you get two prizes: 1.) I will link to your website on my blog, and 2.) I will create a personalized name-doodle for you. [Edit 31 January: Fine Print is here.]

There will be a delay of about a week for the doodles, because I won’t be able to do them during the writing marathon. I did this sample one with my name, which went in a sort of ocean-nymph direction. YOURS MIGHT BE COMPLETELY DIFFERENT. These won’t be hugely detailed works of art; I plan to spend in the neighborhood of twenty minutes on each one. Still, I promise to make something aesthetically pleasing just for YOU.

Want one? Enter the Contest!

Want one? Enter the Contest!

Now, there are several things that will make this writing marathon hard. I have recently started a very restrictive diet as well as a new exercise routine. As hopeful as I am that these things will make me healthier and more energized, in the beginning stages they are just as likely to make me tired and cranky. What I’m saying is, this whole thing might go up in flames. I’m hoping we can have some fun before it does. I get a chance to make some real progress on my book, and you get to ask me questions and win prizes. Are you with me? Submissions are open.