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!

Pitch Wars – Second Attempt!

I will be having another go at Pitch Wars this year… yikes!

If you aren’t sure what that is and you are interested… go see one Miss Brenda Drake for more details! She’s the woman in charge of it all. 🙂

Basically, I will pitch my book to various mentors in the hopes of one of them choosing me. If so, they will help me get my manuscript in top condition, and then in a few months I will pitch it to the agents who are partaking in hopes of actually getting an agent. Woo hoo!

Last time I had good feedback, but it seemed that I miscategorized my novel. Magical realism and urban fantasy can have many similar characteristics and I couldn’t decide! Wikipedia’s description of magical realism is: “a genre where magic elements are a natural part in an otherwise mundane, realistic environment.” Urban fantasy is described as: “a sub-genre of fantasy defined by place; the fantastic narrative has an urban setting.” My novel is set in the modern day world, in a standard, realistic American city, and has some mythological elements in the form of special powers that the main character has. Do you see my confusion?!

I ended up choosing magical realism, and two mentors told me that they had to pass because they weren’t interested in urban fantasy, and that’s what my novel seemed like to them. #fail

HaHa! Nah, not a fail… just a learning experience!

I’ve obviously worked on my query further, so hopefully it will be even better! And hopefully my urban fantasy choice will be largely agreed upon. 🙂

Adjusting My Mentality

I may have talked about this topic before, but it’s currently on my mind so here I go. 

For the large majority of my life I was always anticipating the next step. My mind was constantly already on the next big thing. Impatiently waiting for a new chapter to start. That whole “13 going on 30” thing was especially true for me. I couldn’t WAIT to be an adult. I couldn’t wait to get to high school, then college, then get married, then have babies! 

I’m quickly approaching 28 and most of the things I thought would have already happened haven’t yet. As the years went by I realized that the preconceived timeline I had in my mind wasn’t really important after all. Not to me, anyway. I don’t have any children yet… and while I did get married I also got divorced! And I don’t care! That’s not to say that I think divorce is frivolous and something to be taken lightly; I certainly don’t. But I’m definitely not beating myself up over the fact that my life took a different turn. 

Something that I did start beating myself up about, however, was that I’d been working on a book for 2 years and hadn’t finished it. It’s like my mind was always so preoccupied with the future that I wasn’t taking the necessary steps in the PRESENT to get to the future… if that makes any sense. It does no good to anticipate being an author if you aren’t finishing an actual book. Duh. 🙂 I needed to adjust my thought process to focus on what was going on currently in my life rather than anticipating what I wanted to happen in the upcoming months and years. I mean, this seems fairly self-explanatory, I’m sure. But it really did take some effort to switch this up in my mind. I needed a jump start. 

Living pretty much entirely in the present is not only helpful for my work (I’ve been more productive in the last year than in the last THREE years), but it’s helpful for my personal life and my general state of mind. I didn’t want to look back and feel like I missed out on life because I was too focused on what was coming up in life. 

So here I am. Doing my best to live in the moment–in the present. I finished my novel and am working on the sequel. I started my freelance editing side gig. I started volunteering as a mentor to a foster child. I’m working up plans for a potential after school writing program (we’ll see what happens!), and I’m just doing what I can to enjoy life right now. 

Agent Kindness

The outline for the sequel to my book is in the works… !

I don’t typically find outlines very useful. But I need to organize the storyline in my mind before I start working on it very seriously.

Part of me feels kind of silly working on the sequel when I haven’t even gotten an agent for the first one, but I want to be proactive. Rejection letters won’t stop me, dang it! HaHa.

I received a really nice rejection letter the other day, actually. As strange as that may sound. The agent listed a bunch of successful authors who were found in the slush pile after receiving multiple rejections, and urged me to continue. 🙂 I thought it was a nice little touch–a thoughtful touch that they didn’t need to bother with, yet they did.

Kindness is so easily forgotten by so many people. I appreciate people’s small acts of kindness quite a bit. 🙂

Magical Optimism Unicorn

I am a positive person, as you know if you’ve been reading my posts for any significant amount of time. That being said, I have my moments. Sometimes people who know me seem to get the impression that I never experience negative emotions/thoughts.

Rejection is difficult no matter what. And I think we all have this pre-determined timeline for success and as the days pass by it’s not uncommon to have moments of panic. “Am I ever going to reach my goals?!” “What if I die without ever having acheived this?!” Or is it just me? I’m just being honest. My perpetual optimism is not some magical unicorn/mermaid. I am not some freak of nature who never feels defeat or worry over the possibility of not succeeding.

It is a conscious, constant choice. I see rejection, accept it, and push it into my “motivation” file in my mind and my heart. I choose to deal with it in a positive way rather than let that moment of negativity/defeat overtake me. What good would it do? None. It would not benefit me in any way, and I am all about making choices that will better my life and my mood. This is why getting older doesn’t bother me much… or thinking about dying. What good is it going to do me to fret about these things? I’m still going to age. Some day, I’m still going to die. It’s life! I have better things to use my energy toward.

The same goes for receiving criticism or rejection. Fretting about it will do nothing. Seeing it as an opportunity for improvement, or simply as someone having different taste, is the only way to go! Rejection, like death and the loss of youth, is a fact of life and there is no getting around it. 🙂

It Happened.

I received my first rejection letter (well, e-mail..).

Whew! It was far less painful than I imagined. Still a bit painful, but nothing a quick smile didn’t fix. 🙂

There are sure to be many more to come, but I will do my best to continue to brush it aside. As with anything else in life, we writers should aim to compete with ourselves and care most about what we think of our work. Clearly this is easier said than done… but it’s worth working toward.

I’m in the same position with my fitness goals; trying to rewire my brain to stop comparing myself with others and worry about what progress I’m making compared to where I started. It becomes so easy to look at someone and compare ourselves to them and end up feeling shitty about ourselves. No fun!

Anytime I see some super fit girl and my mind thinking, “Damn! Why can’t I look like that?!” I switch the thought to, “No, good for her. I’m on my way!” So I suppose the same kind of thought process could work when receiving all of the sure-to-come rejections.

Positivity, people!