Coffee Share: In which I’m trying to be more creative

I think I know how vampires feel…um, the running from the sun part not the weird blood craving thing. Daytime highs around here are always in the upper 90s and sometimes kiss 110! I’ve spent most of my Summer trying to hide from the big, bright jerk in the sky. So, if we were having coffee, we’d have it later in the day when it’s cooler. Then, I’d tell you…

I completed my Creativity Challenge (aka I’m a Camp NaNoWriMo “Winner”)

Camp-2017-Winner-Profile-PhotoI learned something about myself this year: if I’m not being creative, I’m filled with anxiety and am very cranky. After going through this for six months, I decided to do something about it.

So, I used Camp NaNoWriMo as an excuse to be creative for at least 90 minutes everyday (2790 minutes total).

And…I performed better than I thought I would: I’ve written a total of 69 pieces of flash fiction, short stories, micro poetry, and micro fiction; spent twenty hours outlining Knight and then completed a 15,800 word first draft; and brush lettered for six hours.

Today, I feel rejuvenated and ready to have more fun with my creativity. So, yeah, mission accomplished!

I saw Spider-Man: Homecoming

In my opinion, this was the best Spider-Man movie EVER. It totally bypassed the origin story and just got to the point. Thank you, Marvel!

I’m renovating my blog with an emphasis on creativity

I’ve blogged here since 2014 and it’s been great! I’ve met awesome readers/writers, gushed about reading, shared my writing life and discussed the technical side of writing.

But…it’s missing my creative side—and that’s the side of me that wanted to start this blog in the first place.

I’ve been renovating my blog in between writing sessions so that it better represents me as a fiction writer. This meant fixing my homepage, rewriting my About page, and making my WIP page more dynamic. I’m also thinking about posting some flash fiction or creative nonfiction just to spice my posting schedule up (after I, you know, get over the fear of sharing them).

 

So that’s my coffee share! What’ve you been up to?

Staying Motivated through Camp NaNo and Beyond

For this year’s Camp NaNo, I decided to challenge myself to be creative. My goal is to write a piece of flashfiction (maybe post some and submit others), work on my neglected WIP(s), and brush letter for a 1hr and 30mins every day.

Now I made up this goal on a coffee high, so I wasn’t in my right mind. A whole month? Everyday? Do I have the motivation for that?

Then I started thinking: July is just another month on the calendar. I’m going to face the same troubles as I would any other month: writer’s block, imposter syndrome, self-doubt, and etc.

So I decided to write this post as a preemptive measure whenever I’m not feeling motivated to write. Maybe my words of wisdom will also help you during your NaNo-ing adventures and beyond.

Whenever you’re not feeling motivated, remember to…

Employ good ole’ fashioned grit

Honestly, this is going to be your default all through your writing life. Just shut up, sit down, and start working.

A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper

E.B. White

Expect “good ole’ fashioned grit” to fail you

Grit, like most of the tips in this post, will only take you so far. You have to keep in mind why you decided to start writing in the first place.

Plan the day out

Before you go to bed, sit down and plan out what you want to do the following day. Don’t set yourself up for failure with unrealistic goals (ex. “Outline the whole novel in a day” isn’t realistic).

Expect your plans to fall apart

SOMETHING will always get in the way of writing time. The trick is knowing how to be flexible. Plan for interruptions by creating make-up days or lightly scheduling your week.

Get up early

It’s ten times easier to write when the majority of the household is asleep. No one will interrupt you, meaning you can finish your work early and go about your day guilt free.

Expect to miss the alarm

Morning GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

I know, sometimes the pillow is more comfortable than sitting in an office chair. Just crawl out of bed when you can and find a quiet place somewhere. There’s always a quiet place.

Know your bad habits, and prevent them

Pull yourself away from things that’ll distract. If you have to hide your devices in the sock drawer or unplug the internet modem just to stay off social media, do it!

Expect relapses

It happens. Just dust yourself off, get something done before bed (no matter how small), and plan to do better tomorrow.

Good luck wrimoes!

 

How do you keep yourself motivated to write?

Life is Beyond Conventions (D.H. Lawrence)

Let us learn from the novel. In the novel, the characters can do nothing but live. If they keep on being good, according to pattern, or bad, according to pattern, or even volatile, according to pattern, they cease to live, and the novel falls dead. A character in a novel has got to live, or it is nothing.

We, likewise, in life have got to live, or we are nothing.

D.H. Lawrence, Why the Novel Matters

Gifts for Writers: Writing Reference Books

Festive trees, snow inspired holiday decorations, and presents. Yep, it’s the Christmas season! Christmas is my favorite holiday and not because of the presents (although that’s a close second). I love it because it brings friends and families together.

Assuming you can’t figure out what to buy that special writer in your life, I’m here to tell you about five books that make great gifts for word nerds.

On Writing by Stephen King

My journalism instructor urged me to the read this book when I told him I was creative writer. A few weeks before finals, he gave me a spare copy! It’s just something that writers must read. On Writing documents King’s time with the craft and gives writers helpful advice on developing their writing skills.

Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh**t by Steven Pressfield

Okay, the title is a little rough, but there’s a deeper message to it. Pressfield stresses that writers must keep their readers in mind when they tell their stories. He takes us through his personal struggle with his own creativity sharing both motivation and advice on furthering one’s writing career. You can read my full review here.

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

I recently picked up Lamott’s book from my college’s library and, so far, its been an insightful read. She urges writers to focus on the craft first and leave the drama (publishing, marketing, reviews, criticism, money, and etc.) for later.

Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell

The first “how to” book on the list (and another book I snagged from my college’s library). In Plot and Structure, Bell introduces his plotting technique, the LOCK system, in keeping readers engaged from beginning to end. There’s also information on outlining techniques, developing ideas, fixing plot issues and more.

The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler

The Writer’s Journey is about the mythic structure or Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey (sometimes called monomyth) theory. Vogler also talks about character archetypes and gives plenty examples of the Hero’s Journey in use. This book also happens to be the only textbook I decided to keep in my college career.

Bonus! Gift Cards

In case your writer friend has already read the above books, an amazon (or some other book retailer) gift card is a safe bet. This takes the guess work out of the equation and allows your writer pal to buy books that they’re really interested in.

Books aren’t the only things you can gift a writer. You can also give them boardgames that caters to their skills. But, we’ll talk about that later.

Fall Quarter Goals

I have a nasty habit of setting a repeat goal only to not complete it. During the summer, I decided to break that habit by taking on an accountability challenge.

And it was an experience!

The objective was to make a list of goals for the summer quarter (June-August) and then complete half of them by September 1, 2016. Then, to keep myself motivated throughout the quarter, I have to publicly announce my successes and failures to you guys.

That’s what today’s post is about. So, lets see how I did.

 

Summer 2016 Goals

I set a total of ten goals, so I need to complete FIVE for the summer to be successful. They were…

1. Finish Editing Ruin

Oh I edited Ruin alright. Edited it, rewrote it, and edited it again, but am I done? No.

I still have a few continuity and structure errors that I’m working on, so I’m counting this one as a loss.

2. Outline the sequel to Ruin

Have I laid the sequel out scene-by-scene? No, but I do have a rough idea of the major events that’ll take place in the sequel. I just need to fill in the blanks.

3-4. Start Drafting/editing Retaliation

I didn’t get a chance to work on this project at all since I was waaay to busy with Ruin.

5. Read 2 (or 3) Books

A win, finally! I probably read more than I wrote (oops!), but that’s okay. I spent my entire spring semester reading critical texts and classics, so some modern fiction was a nice change of pace.

You can check out the reviews for two of the four books I read via these links: Joe Gollem and the Drowning City and Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t.

6. Write a (or 3) Short Stories

Yay, another win! I wrote a total of three shorts (1000+ words) and two flashes (100+ words). I’ve never completed a short story before, so this was an enlightening experience.

Lesson: writing a short story is just as difficult as writing a full length novel. Go figure!

7. Write a (or 3) Guest Posts

I wrote a piece on criticism that Luther M. Siler from Inifintefreetime was gracious enough to post on his blog. You can check it out here.

8. Post once a week

Nope. I fell apart at the beginning of August.  😦

9. Be more active on social media

I set out to be moderately active and I did. Woot!

10. Get Podcasting Equipment

I can start recording episodes at this very moment! I have the editing software, microphone, and a recording strategy all set. Alas, I’m going to set my podcasting ambitions aside for this quarter.

Yay, 5 out of 10! Not bad for my first time.

 

Fall Quarter Goals

The end of the year is almost here, and I don’t want my biggest 2016 goals to spill into 2017. With that said, my goals are…

1. Read 2 (or 3) books for fun

I love being an English major. I get to read tons of critical texts and write about them (yay!), but I also like modern fiction. Managing two books this semester should be enough to keep me from wanting to bang my head against a table.

That and I really wanted to beat my Goodreads challenge this year!

2. Write 12 blog posts

The idea is to post once a week (preferably on a Wednesday), but I doubt I’ll have a stellar record this quarter especially during midterms and finals. Writing a total of 12 posts should be enough to keep my blog alive while I stress over my GPA.

3. Write a blog post series

I got an idea and I can’t wait to do it! Be on the look out.

4. Completely finish editing Ruin

This is it. This quarter is when I finally finish editing Ruin—no excuses!

I can do it, I can do it, I can do it…

5. Outline Retaliation

Retaliation is a sci-fi novel that I’ve been working on since 2012 (yes, that long! One of my biggest flaws as a writer is that I’m constantly rewriting my work). I’m hoping that I can do this during October so that I can…

6. Compete in NaNoWriMo

I love NaNoWriMo! It’s like a holiday for writers.

I didn’t compete last year so I’m going to do it this time around with Retaliation.

 

I know, I know. I have a short list of goals this time around, but that’s only because I have to make room for my studies. Hopefully I can complete all six, but the goal is to finish three by December 1st.

Wish me luck. 🙂

If We Were Having Coffee On July 23, 2016

It’s Saturday?! When the heck did that happen? I thought for sure today was Thursday until Cortana kindly corrected me. Whoops! Anyway, if we were having coffee, I’d tell you that…

 

I’ve spent a good chunk of the week working on Ruin.

Okay, maybe not “a good chunk of the week” since I lost track of time. I probably spent three or four (?) days filling in plot holes.

Ruin and I have an unhealthy love-hate relationship. One moment I’m smitten, thrity minutes later I’m pulling my hair out thinking, “this is the worst thing I’ve EVER written!” That’s why I decided to let it rest for a few days which somehow turned into two weeks.

A family member got wind of this and pointed out that I was slacking (it’s kinda hard to get upset over a piece of criticism that’s true). I went back to work and made a ton of progress because of them.

I guess you can say I needed rest, but I think I needed the encouragement more.

 

As expected, I didn’t win that flash fiction contest.

I’m not going to lie to you and say that I wasn’t a tad bit disappointed. At the same time, I felt an odd sense of triumph.

Writers, like you and I, work in a very subjective field and subjectivity isn’t all that bad. It means that at least one person is going to like what we do! We just have to find them. This is why I wasn’t too disappointed.

I’m thinking of editing (once I get the critique) and submitting my piece somewhere else. OR I’ll turn it into a short story and self publish it on Amazon.

Haven’t decided yet, but I’m gitty over the possibilities!

 

I’ve won two scholarships and the ceremony is in August.

I’m excited(!) and freaked out at the same time.

I mean…do I have to dress up for this? I hate dressing up.

 

I’m looking for guest posters for the fall quarter.

The Fall semester is starting back earlier than I thought (it’s in August). College and writing have always vied for my time and it’s an intense competition. I’ll attempt to blog once a week but don’t expect a stellar track record (especially during midterms and finals).

I don’t want Inky Tavern to be inactive for too long and I want to give back to those who have given to me (thanks for following and commenting 😇). With that said, I’m offering guest posting opportunities. You can talk about anything that enriches someone’s life so long as it follows these guidelines.

You can write your post in a blogging fashion (like you see here) or as a piece of creative non-fiction. Let me know if you’re interested or have questions!

 

That’s my life right now, how’s yours?

Also, if you want to participate in the “If we were having coffee…” community you can do so by simply writing one and tagging it #weekendcoffeeshare on twitter. Go to Part-Time Monster’s blog for more information.

Book Review: “Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t: Why That Is and What You Can Do About It” by Steven Pressfield

Advertiser. Scriptwriter. Author.

Do you know what these three careers have in common? According to Steven Pressfield, storytelling.

If you’ve read last week’s post or follow me on Goodreads, you’ll know that I’ve recently picked up Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t: Why that is and What You Can Do About It. I’m a big fan of Pressfield’s no-nonsense writing style and intended to buy his book the moment I heard about it. That was until Marie Forleo gifted a free version to her mailing list subscribers (woot!).

This book is so informative and inspiring that it should be on every writer’s TBR list. Lets talk about why that is.

Quick-ish Summary

Similar to On Writing by Stephen King, Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t walks us through Pressfield’s career as a creative. Each career has taught him something about storytelling and he’s sharing those techniques/life lessons with us in short, vignette-like, chapters. He also discusses how writers can use these techniques in all forms of writing (novel, script, self-help, non-fiction, etc.).

My Thoughts

30556551

When I first read the title, I thought “Gee, thanks for the vote of confidence.” Then I read the subheading and thought, “Okay. Now this makes sense.” It’s such a sneaky, yet brilliant way to get your attention!

The first three chapters set the stage for the entire book. But, well, as shameful as this is, I…uh…I skipped them. They weren’t bad! I just really really really wanted to get to the meat of the book.

Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t reads like a narrative with Pressfield being the main character. So you’re getting some sweet writing advice and learning about Pressfield’s struggles with the craft. These snippets enriched the book. I not only nodded my head in agreement to much his struggles, but I was also inspired by them.

Grit and determination can help anyone succeed.

Whenever he introduces a new storytelling technique, the narrative pauses so he can explain it. He explains some techniques/lessons better than others, but I think this is because the “less explained” ones are pretty self-explanatory. He also repeats the complicated techniques throughout the prose so you can’t forget them (at least, I can’t).

Overall, this book is packed with value. The underlining lesson is that us writers must take our readers into account. If we fail to do that, we’ll have one heck of a time getting them pass the first sentence.

My Favorite Part(s)

After the first couple chapters, the book is sectioned into an additional eight parts. I liked “Book 3: Hollywood” and “Book 4: Fiction: The Second Time” the most.

“Book 3: Hollywood” is where Pressfield learns about story formula. He delves into my favorite topic, the Hero’s Journey, which is an ancient story structure that (believe or not) every story follows.

(Warning: This book isn’t technically a novel, but it reads like one. So if you don’t want me to spoil the effect for you, skip to the next heading.)

In “Book 4: Fiction: The Second Time” Pressfield uses his life experiences plus writing techniques he learned form his previous careers and applies them to writing his first novel.

This is an intense time in Pressfield’s life because novel writing has impacted his life in a negative way in the past: his manuscripts were never “good enough,” his marriage faltered, and he was jobless.

Despite all this, he still had a burning desire to be a creative and he fought for it even when resistance held him back. This struggle makes his triumph in book “Book 4” especially moving.

Key Take-aways

When Pressfield says “nobody wants you read your sh*t,” he means:

When you understand that nobody wants to read your shit, you develop empathy. You acquire the skill that is indispensable to all artists and entrepreneurs—the ability to switch back and forth in your imagination from your own point of view as writer/painter/seller to the point of view of your reader/gallery-goer/customer. You learn to ask yourself with ev­ery sentence and every phrase: Is this interesting? Is it fun or challenging or inventive? Am I giving the reader enough? Is she bored? Is she following where I want to lead her?

The struggles of writing a novel:

As artists, you and I are struggling each day to dominate our material, to shape it into a cohesive whole with a beginning, middle, and an end. But at the same time, the raw entity defies us. It’s a living thing, with its own power and its own destiny. It ‘wants’ to be something. Our job is to discover what that something is—and to help it become that.

On structuring a story:

The ending dictates the beginning. I’m a huge fan of this back-to-front method. It works for anything—novels, plays, new business pitches, music albums, choreography. First figure out where you want to finish. Then work backward to set up everything you need to get you there.

Should you read it?

This book could  be helpful for those who are struggling with their writing careers or are in need of some inspiration. It’s also a good read for those who love to learn new things (*wave*).

If you’re going to read this book, please do so with pen and paper. Don’t just read it, try to apply the techniques to your W.I.P. You wont be disappointed!

Links

Goodreads

Amazon

Author Website


Image result for goodreads logo

Since we’re talking about books, how about we be reading buddies on Goodreads?! I’m starting to post updates about the books that I’m reading (snippets of the reading material and my reactions to them) because, gosh, books are awesome.

If this sounds like something you’d be interested in (or you just need a friend), send me a request and we’ll be book nerds together! 🙂

If we were having coffee on July 8, 2016

Two weeks ago I wrote my first Coffee Share post and loved it! So I decided to do another. I don’t have much to say but If we were having coffee, I’d tell you…

 

I submitted my short story!

Maybe I should call it “flash fiction” since it’s 500 words?

Anyway, I finished my editing and then submitted it to the contest’s judges four days ago. Whoopie!

Writing a piece of flash fiction is challenging but fun. You have to make sure every word progresses the story because there’s little room for fluff. The story needs a point and you need to get to it in a quick, but satisfying, way.

I admire the writer who can do this in 100 words.

 

I expect to be rejected.

This isn’t depression or resignation, it’s fact. We writers have to face rejection from publishers, agents, readers, and so on. This isn’t an excuse to quit however. Even the most seasoned writer faces rejection on a daily basis.

“I discovered that rejections are not altogether a bad thing. They teach a writer to rely on his own judgment and to say in his heart of hearts, ‘To hell with you.’“ – Saul Bellow

I love this quote the most:

“I love my rejection slips. They show me I try.” – Sylvia Plath

You can find more quotes here.

Anyway, I have too many projects and am way too stubborn to give up so I’m not worried.

 

I’m reading Steven Pressfield’s Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t and you should be too!

The book is not as discouraging as the title sounds, I promise.

I received the book from Marie Forleo who asked Mr. Pressfield if her email list subscribers could get a free copy. I’m 63% through and that’s only because I had to pause a few times to get back to my writing.  The chapters are small (I think this is Pressfield’s writing style), but gems exist in each one. I plan on writing a review so keep an eye out.

 

That’s what’s going on in my neck of the woods. As always, I’m eager to hear (um…read) your comments below.

You can also participate in these “If we were having coffee…” posts by simply writing one and tagging it #weekendcoffeeshare on twitter. Go to Part Time Mosnter‘s blog for more information.