Notebooks & Books On Writing

Apparently I’ve been missing out, not knowing about this book. It seems that many high school English classes use it, but mine definitely did not. The book is “Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within” by Natalie Goldberg.

I’m only a few chapters in, but I’m already loving it. There are so many prompts and ideas and I’m finding it all to be quite inspiring. I read a chapter or two and I have to stop because there’s something that I want to write down before I forget!

I’ve also decided to follow in Natalie Goldberg’s footsteps and start using just plain, single subject, spiral-bound notebooks for my writing practice. I’m a little bit obsessed with office supplies, notebooks included, so I find myself constantly buying new ones, different ones. I’ll buy a large 300 page notebook and then before I’ve even filled 5 pages, I buy a pretty composition book style notebook. And another, and then a fun journal that I liked because it opened flat. Before I know it, I have 6 or 7 empty notebooks lying around, only 25% filled in total! It’s like I’m spending more time worrying about the notebooks and which one to write in than I am actually writing. And how silly is that?!

I figure that if I take the guesswork out of it and give myself that “routine” of using regular single subject notebooks, it will enable me to be more productive.

Basically, I should know by now that I work best with a routine set in place. At the very least, organized chaos. 🙂

An Encouraging Rejection

I have discussed previously how as writers we are often our own worst critics. There is a very real insecurity where our work is concerned, yet at the same time we obviously believe that our story is worth telling or we wouldn’t have written it. We are overly confident in the fact that we think our voice is special or should be heard, but there is always that voice saying, “Nope, nobody cares! Nobody wants to hear your story! Your writing is terrible and not special at all!”

At least, that is the case for me personally. Of course it won’t be the same for everyone, but I’ve heard an alarming number of other writers express the same thing.

Since I started sending out query letters to agents, my confidence has definitely taken some hits. It has been something of an uphill battle to keep believing in my own future success. I frequently remind myself that so many amazing writers were rejected dozens of times before finally getting that, “yes.” J.K. Rowling in particular was rejected something like 75 times, and she ended up writing one of the most successful, well-received book series ever!

Overall though, the rejection letters I have received have honestly been so polite and diplomatic that they haven’t been too difficult to swallow. Last week I received probably the most uplifting one yet. The agent stated, “I found your story to be very strong, and it drew me in right away. You have talent, but unfortunately, I didn’t fall completely in love with it. […] I do want you to know that it was very hard for me to pass on this project, and I’m certain that if it hasn’t already found a home, it will soon.”

How can I be that upset about such a “rejection”? 🙂 Of course I don’t require validation from others where my writing is concerned–even without it I would continue to write, because it is what I love to do and it fulfills my soul in a very unique way–but god it still feels great to read those words!

Characters Telling The Story (& a Short Excerpt)

I mentioned previously that I’m currently reading “Bird by Bird”, and the section I recently read was regarding letting your story kind of fall into place, rather than pre-planing the entire thing. The author was driving home the point that this is the most organic way to write a story, the way that will result in the most compelling writing and interesting characters.

Happily enough, that is exactly how my book unfolded. I began with the first sentence, not having ANY idea of what it meant or where it would go. But as soon as I started writing everything just fell into place. I could see my main character–her house, her family, and the street she lived on. I listened and she told me her story, bit by bit. 🙂 I legitimately didn’t know where it was going to end up until I was a solid 3/4 of the way through it.

When that happens, it feels like magic. I’ve written plenty of other stories and started other books that I gave up on after 10 pages. In those cases I was most likely trying to force the story, versus letting it just flow from my pen or keyboard. But this completed (save for some revisions I’m still working on!) book feels so special and personal to me, because I was able to get into that zone. I was able to listen to the characters and let them push the story along. I was able to get to the point where I write something and when re-reading think to myself, “No, she wouldn’t say it like that.” Or, “He wouldn’t react that way. It’s not his personality.”

It has been awhile since I put in an excerpt from said book, so I’ll put a short one in this post. This is the scene where the MC (Thana) meets Phoebe–her perky, happy coworker who ends up knowing far more than she lets on…

That day I had to work after school. Things were going well at the library. The peace and quiet was good for me. Nobody there knew that people were dropping around me like flies. Patrons came and went, smiling politely and occasionally making small talk. Nobody bothered me with questions or looked at me with dread. That day I came in to find a tiny blonde girl waiting at the punch-in clock, positively beaming at me.

“Hi! My name is Phoebe. Kristen hired me yesterday and told me to be here today to train! You must be Thana.”

“Uh, yeah. Kristen didn’t say anything to me about this…” Not that I was surprised. Kristen often left me with added responsibilities when she didn’t feel like handling her managerial position.

“She left a note by your desk, I think. That’s what she said she would do, anyway. My my, your eyes are certainly green, aren’t they? Quite striking and most interesting.” She smiled at me like she knew a secret.

“Oh, yeah, thank you.” I mumbled, feeling off-kilter from her whole demeanor. Her teeth still beamed at me perfectly. Her citrus yellow sun dress fit her torso like a glove, showing off her petite curvature; hugging her slender waist, falling effortlessly over her shapely hips to a flowing, girlish skirt. Her white, strappy shoes looked like they had a three-inch heel, and circled around her ankle daintily where the buckle shined nearly as much as she did.

Suddenly I felt quite frumpy in my slightly baggy, comfy jeans and plain grey crew-neck tee.

The note from Kristen was just where Phoebe said it would be. Thana—train the new girl. Thanks. –Kristen. Very helpful indeed.

Writing Tip: Get An Awesome Support System

I’m so grateful to have some pretty awesome people in my life who show me immense support. A lot of people (friends, acquaintances, etc.) don’t know that I have written a book and am working on getting it all revised and getting an agent. As soon as they find out they are SO kind and uplifting!

From a very young age I was fortunate to have people in my life who supported my little-kid dream of being an author some day. Of course my parents were always supportive, and I had numerous elementary school teachers who pushed me to write and encouraged me with their compliments and feedback. I think pretty much every year I had a teacher who would really show an interest and encourage me to continue writing and working toward my goal. So many kids don’t have that, so I’m INCREDIBLY thankful to have been surrounded by such awesome people.

Recently a friend who found out, through casual conversation, that I wrote a book expressed a genuine desire to read what I currently have, and from her talking about it I’ve had other people–close friends, old college classmates–pipe up and request to read it as well. It’s just so touching to me! Even if they don’t love it, the fact that they are interested in it enough to at least think it could be good just blows me away. 🙂

I suppose it’s part of being a writer; this desire to tell the world a story, while simultaneously worrying that nobody will want to read our story. I recently saw an online article talking about how Ernest Hemingway wrote in journals and personal letters about his own insecurities and doubts regarding his writing. Ernest Hemingway!

I still haven’t reached my goal–no agent as of yet, no successfully published book–but I haven’t stopped working toward it, nor will I. Having so much support around me certainly makes the long, difficult, tiresome journey a bit easier. I would say to anyone with a dream of writing, to not be afraid to share it with others. You’ll be surprised with how much other people believe in you!

October Writing Challenge

My friend Mary is doing an October Writing Challenge and I have decided to join in! To at least attempt it; hence the “challenge” aspect. 🙂

Every day of the month there is a word prompt, and you just write whatever comes to mind. No word limits/goals.

I try to use my Brainsparker app as much as possible to give me writing prompts, but I admit that I slack off and will sometimes go two weeks without sitting down to write something new. Yikes! I think it will be nice to have someone else to more or less hold me accountable–that added pressure of someone else knowing what goal you’re working toward and not wanting to be a complete failure. 🙂

Perhaps I will post some excerpts here, if they’re up to snuff.

I’ve never done NaNoWriMo which is coming up… the one year I started to attempt it, I started stressing myself out over it. Sometimes I think I’m allergic to stress because I essentially cringe away from it and avoid it at all costs. So, that was the end of NaNoWriMo for me. Also, I was attempting to finish my book, and I found it too distracting and wasn’t spending any time working on my already established book. Maybe I could try it this year, though. I do need to get the second book going… hmm… !

Do writing challenges work for you?!

Productivity. Or…

The dichotomy of my personality is apparently endless.

I completely understand that I am the type of person who requires routine and structure in order to be productive. So I give myself routine and structure. I write to-do lists and sit down to schedule out my days each week.

Then I just do whatever I feel like anyway, or plans come up, or I need a nap. I want/need the routine, but I struggle to follow it! Not always. I do cross things off my to-do lists pretty often. But then I blink and it has been SEVEN MONTHS since I wrote a new blog post?! What is that?!

It’s a never-ending struggle.

It would help if my childhood dream of just hanging out writing in the park all day could be reality… when I was four I didn’t quite understand bills and full-time jobs, it seems. 🙂

WRITER TIP: If you are a writer searching for an agent/publisher… check out if you haven’t already! I just discovered it, and I’m obsessed!

Freelance As A Career?

I have a new website for my freelance editing services! Woo hoo!

I’m sure there are still tweaks to be made and things that I will change in the future, but for now it’s all set and ready to go. I love it.

Check it out! Let me know what you think. 🙂

Sometimes I think it would be so great to get my freelance career up & running enough to just do that full-time, but then I hesitate. Probably partially because it sounds terrifying to not have a steady, guaranteed income. I’ve struggled financially so much since turning 18 and being on my own, and that’s WITH steady, guaranteed paychecks! Obviously most of that time I was only working part time due to being in college, and that had a lot to do with the struggle. Being young and a bit oblivious to smart finances also had some effect. HaHa. You live, you learn!

All of that being said, now that I am some version of a successful adult with a salaried position which I do enjoy, thinking about tossing it all away for a freelance career sounds terrifying and probably a bit stupid. It would take me a few years to get enough money saved and enough knowledge to feel comfortable doing that.

It is something I’m keeping in mind, though. When my brother and I were young our mom stayed at home with us. There are obvious benefits to having a stay-at-home parent around, especially in the formidable elementary school years, if you ask me. I loved having Mom home with us. We had fun, and it was a stable, safe environment. As we got older she started working sometimes, but not really consistently until I was a senior in high school.

I would LOVE to be able to stay at home with my kids, particularly when they are young. However, the financial benefits of a two-income family are also worth considering. Also, my sanity. I think that if I didn’t work at all and interact with others in a more professional way, I would lose my mind. Some women are wonderful at being 100% stay-at-home moms without a paycheck and more power to them! They are amazing and the hard work they do on a daily basis is not to be undermined, by any means. Like I said, that was my own mother for most of my childhood. I just know myself well enough to know that I would need to be contributing financially to the household in order to feel satisfied; it’s just who I am, personally. But I also wouldn’t want to be away from my kids for 40+ hours a week!

SO maybe it will be a good move in a few years when motherhood happens for me. 🙂