31 December 2014

The Obligatory New Year's Goals Post

I wasn't even going to do this, but I've seen a lot of other people doing it, so, here we go! Goals for the new year.

1. Bust out the third draft of Uneven Lines and try to get it published 
So I know getting this book published is going to be an uphill battle, that I'm probably going to get a million rejections before something good happens. But I can't even get the battle started if  I don't FINISH THE EFFING BOOK. In February it'll be four years working on this thing and I just really want to get somewhere with it. So yeah. Most important goal right there.

2. Get some smaller pieces published. And write some more. And get those published.
I've been sitting on dozens of poems for years and haven't done anything with them. At least one good short story, too (and several bad ones). I'd really like to get them published somewhere, and start writing more. I really just want to be writing something every day and having more pieces than I know what to do with.

3. Read more books and watch more movies. 
Every single year I make a goal to read 100 books and watch 100 movies. I never even come close, especially with the books. I only read twelve this year! Twelve! I got a lot closer with the movies--84, check out the list here. I would like to actually accomplish these goals for once, and really, I should be reading a lot more.

4. Figure out what the hell I'm doing with my life
If I can accomplish #1 and #2 this will be a lot easier, but in the meantime, I really need to find a job that works for me, and hopefully move out of my apartment in the near future. My fiance and I have been living in the same studio apartment for over three years and I think it's starting to drive me a little nuts. I want ROOMS. Like, more than one.

I probably have a million other small goals but those are the big ones. I really don't feel like I accomplished anything last year, so I'd like to make some big changes in 2015. We'll see.

29 December 2014

What I Got for Christmas...

I was thinking of doing your typical January/New Year's Goals post, but since I'm running around like a nut doing 10 loads of laundry this morning, I thought I'd keep this post short and sweet. I'll possibly write about my goals on Wednesday. Possibly. 

I hope everyone had a great holiday and got all of the presents they wanted! I never know what to ask for when Christmas rolls around. I already have way too much stuff and no room to put it, so I end up being too practical about presents. I asked my fiance to put air in my car's tires and replace my missing hubcap, just because I didn't want to do it. I guess I'm weird, but that's the sort of thing I usually want. That or cash. 

The downside was that I knew every single gift I was getting this year, because it was all stuff I asked for. I guess the upside was that I couldn't possibly be disappointed. So I did get a lot of practical stuff--a new pillow, gray winter gloves to match my scarf, a yoga mat. But I got some fun stuff, too. The new Anne Rice book, the next Game of Thrones book I needed, Criminal Minds Season 9 on DVD, and CANDY!!!

And these adorable Funko Pop dolls of Kristoff and Sven from Frozen. Because I'm an adult, I swear. 

Everyone needs at least one toy for Christmas, right? Including Gizmo. By the way, I didn't ask the cat to pose with all of my presents. He just refused to move. 

What did you guys get for Christmas? Any good toys? 

19 December 2014

Deja Vu Blogfest: When Do You Hold Back?

Today is the Deja Vu Blogfest! Hosted by DL Hammons and Nicole Zoltack. The idea is to re-post your favorite blog post from earlier in the year, or one you thought didn't get enough attention. This was a tricky one for me. I decided to go way back to the beginning of the year and pick a post I liked that also wasn't too popular. I decided on this one because not only do I find it amusing, but it also addresses a topic that I still struggle with. My opening paragraph offended somebody who read it (so obviously they didn't make it to the second chapter), but I'm starting to wonder if that's a bad thing...

Anyhoo, here it is (from January 13): When Do You Hold Back? 

I read somewhere once that a character should not masturbate in the first three chapters of a book. Too bad that's exactly how I start Chapter Two!

There's a time and place for everything, but how exactly do you figure that out when writing a novel? I've been struggling a bit with my opening line to the second chapter, since I love it but it also kind of worries me: "I didn't like jerking off, but sometimes it was necessary." I like it, it fits the voice, but is it too much to open a chapter with? Are my readers going to laugh or be disgusted?

Well, I suppose anyone who's disgusted by that line should know that it only gets worse and probably shouldn't have picked up my book in the first place. But for those who really are interested in this particular story, is a line like this going to scare them off? When is it ok to be completely inappropriate?

I guess it depends on the story you're writing. And it's not just about vulgarity, either. You have to make sure every moment, every sentence, even, fits in with the overall tone and voice of your book. There are times when you can be subtle, and there can be times that make your reader gasp. You really need both to have a good balance. But I think the question that's really been on my mind lately is, should you ever hold something back in your book because you think it's too over the top?

I think I've already answered that question. It all depends on the story you're writing. And on the scene you're writing, actually. The reader is going to be able to tell if a moment, or even a single word, doesn't fit with the rest of the scene. It will take them out of the book for a moment, make them realize it isn't real. And you don't want that. So it's not even about holding back, it's about being genuine. Yes, I start the second chapter of my book with my narrator talking about masturbation. But he's a fifteen-year-old boy with a new crush. What else would he be doing? It's real, so I think it works, the weak-nerved reader be damned!

So mix it up a little. If the reader needs to be punched in the face, then you should punch them in the face. If your characters swear, and it fits your genre, then let them be who they are and talk how they want to talk. Of course, you don't want to overdo it. Every word has to be carefully planned out. It has to be necessary. You don't want swearing just for the sake of swearing. You want your characters to have real voices. Know what works for them and for the story. Never hold back just because you think you should. Hold back only when the story needs it.

17 December 2014

Five Secrets

I was tagged by Samantha Bryant to share five secrets about myself. The first question that came to mind was, do I even have five secrets? And then, if I do, would I be willing to share them on my blog? I figured any secrets I could share would either be really boring or really depressing, or just not secrets at all. So these five little bits of information are sort of secrets? I guess?

My hair is turning white
Not gray, but white. They've been sprouting up here and there since I was 18, but now it's starting to get worse. I've always said I would never dye my hair until it started to go gray, so now I'm actually considering it, but I really don't want to. I usually just pluck them out of my head or ignore them. I have pulled out a few white hairs that had color at the root, so I'm wondering if that's a good sign, and maybe it's stress related or something like that and the color can come back. Fingers crossed!

I had imaginary friends until I was 12
It started with one when I was 8 and then grew into an entire group. We had all sorts of adventures, occasionally teaming up with my real friends who also had imaginary friends. Sometimes there were imaginary villains. I think it goes along with being a writer and wanting to create characters and stories. When I started 6th grade it started to feel silly so they drifted away. Wait a second, I'm a writer. I still have imaginary friends. Except Jordan would make me trip down a flight of stairs if I called him imaginary. Just don't tell him about my Twitter bio...

I used to act
This isn't so much a secret, but may be surprising considering how much of an introvert I am. When I was in 4th and 5th grade, I joined the Drama Club. We would put on shorter versions of famous musicals. Instead of all of the songs, there was usually one group number and one solo for the lead--for instance, when we did Annie, we did "Hard Knock Life" and "Tomorrow." I always went for the supporting roles so luckily I didn't have to sing. I was Grace in Annie and Nancy in Oliver! It was a lot of fun but I think the idea of trying out in middle school just seemed too intimidating for me, so I never did it again.

I have no friends
I think in today's world, it's hard to say who your actual friends are. I have all of my blogger buddies, of course. I have Facebook friends, but those are mostly former coworkers. I have one childhood friend that I hang out with every few months or so. But that's about it. I'll go out with my fiance and his friends, but I really don't have any friends of my own. I had to cut ties with pretty much all of my friends after high school, which honestly is something I should have done long before then. Since then, I've had a very hard time making serious friends. I think it's equally due to my extreme social awkwardness and the fact that it's hard for me to trust people after being hurt by friends so many times. It's just very hard for me to click with people.

This is what the inside of my head looks like
In my Liebster Award post, I mentioned that I have a cerebral shunt in my head that was put in when I was 3 months old to drain fluid from my brain. Well, here's a diagram of what that looks like, courtesy of Wikipedia:

Well, those are my five "secrets." This is the part where I'm supposed to tag people to pass this on to, but I figured that would take me several months to do. So if you'd like to be the next person to share five secrets, let me know in the comments and I will tag you!

15 December 2014

Blogging Block

I was supposed to know what to blog about today. I was supposed to do something cool for my muse's birthday. But I couldn't figure anything out and he had nothing to say besides, "It's my birthday--why are you making me work??" I could make an actual cake but I'd be the only person eating it, and that's no good. Especially since I lost three pounds last week (woo!).

So then I thought I could tell you all how I was planning on cracking down and just writing like crazy this week. Well, I know that's not going to happen already. I really was planning on it, but the universe has slapped me in the face once again. I thought I had figured out what was making my cat sick and fixed the problem, since the last time he got better on his own without medicine, but today his symptoms started up again for the millionth time. So I'm kind of stressed out and frustrated and don't really feel like doing anything besides sitting here on my computer.

The good news is that I'm making a little bit of money doing some crowdsource work. Not a lot, but it's something. I made $100 last week so I figured if I can keep up the same pace it would be like a part time job, which would be great for me so I can still have time to focus on writing. I do need to branch out a little more and try to get some writing work and get some small things published, even if I don't get paid for it.

Well, I won't bore you with my nonsense since I have no idea what to actually blog about. I'd say "happy birthday" to Jordan but he probably wouldn't care. Which is weird since he usually likes attention...maybe just not from me...

12 December 2014

Grabbing a red pen in the dark...

Let this be a lesson to you, people--always plan your blog posts ahead! Because I'm now writing this knowing that I've been blitzed (yaaaaaaaaay!). I'll still act surprised!! I was going to write a book review today that I've been putting off for forever but I thought I would write something more personal, especially since there have been a few more developments regarding my last post.

Basically meaning, I WROTE SOMETHING ELSE!

I've gotten into the strange habit of getting randomly hit by inspiration when I'm trying to fall asleep. I always try to brainstorm during this time (mostly because it's quiet...) but I don't usually come up with anything that requires me to get up and write it down. But for the past three nights in a row, that's exactly what has happened, and considering how little I've written in the past few months, I'm not going to complain.

The first thing that happened was that I figured something out that completely changes things up in one of the subplots. I think it's great--it makes something happen a lot earlier in the book than my original drafts. I felt like there was a certain aspect that was way too dramatic, and I figured out a way to make it more subtle. The only problem is I have no idea how to end this subplot now, but it could be fun figuring it out. It actually just fizzled out toward the end of the book, so now maybe I can end it with a bang.

Also (best segue ever!)--I think I may have figured out part of the sex scene at the end of the book, too. Still no actual words forming in my brain, but it's progress. I've been wanting to make my MC a bit more evil like he was in the original short story I wrote, so I think I've figured out a way. (I know that sounds really weird out of context. Just trust me.)

I said something about a red pen, didn't I?? Two nights ago, I was once again hit with inspiration to the point where I wanted to write down the words that were in my head. I usually just grab my phone and type in my ideas, since I don't have to get up and turn on a light or anything. But this time my phone was halfway across the room charging. Luckily I knew exactly where I had left a notebook, and my pen holder is right on my nightstand. I fumbled around in the dark trying to find them, knocking a few things over in the process. I just grabbed the first pen my fingers touched, then ran into the bathroom to get some light.

Of course, I had grabbed a red pen. Not exactly my first choice for scribbling down new ideas, but it would have to do. I wrote down a one sentence idea that I didn't want to lose. And then I wrote my MC a mini-speech that starts with, "Look, don't feel sorry for me," and then proceeds to be the saddest speech ever. It stemmed from me watching too many Christmas movies and then realizing that he never would have believed in Santa.

But anyway, I have rambled on for far too long. I'll let you scurry away now. Happy Friday!

10 December 2014

I Wrote Something!

I'm attempting to get more organized with my blog posts, but of course I've tried that about a million times before, so I'm not holding my breath. But my plan right now is: writing tips/observations/discussions/whatever on Monday, a more personal (but probably still writing related) post on Wednesday, and then fun things on Friday (book reviews, blog hops, more pictures of cupackes, etc.). This isn't set in stone and obviously any monthly or date specific blog hops (IWSG, for example) will still happen.

But anyway, as the title says, I WROTE SOMETHING. It's not nearly as exciting as it sounds, but progress is progress, right? I still have not even looked at Uneven Lines since the nightmare that was Pitch Wars, but I still think about it all the time. It's just whenever I think about actually working on it that I start cringing.

Last night I was just thinking about the book, which wasn't anything new, really. But as I was picturing the scene, words started popping into my head. Actual words! Words I hadn't thought of before. This hasn't happened in months! Since I was actually trying to fall asleep while I was brainstorming, I grabbed my phone and typed in the few lines of dialogue that I had imagined. It wasn't perfect, but it was something.

I'm hoping that this is a good sign. Maybe at some point today I'll be able to write even more words, and then more words tomorrow! I may be getting ahead of myself, but for the first time in a while I'm actually starting to feel excited about my writing again. Hopefully it sticks.

08 December 2014

Do Blog Posts Need Pictures?

Just about every blog post you're ever going to come across is a piece of writing. That's the main purpose of a blog post, no matter what you're writing about. You're writing something. But that doesn't mean the writing is the only part of the post. A lot of bloggers will include pictures in their posts to go with the writing, whether it's a book cover, movie poster, or just a picture of their cat (I've certainly done a few of those). But are pictures necessary when you're creating a post? And more importantly, do they draw a bigger audience?

There is a lot to think about when considering to put pictures in a blog post. Is it a post that needs one? Will you be able to find a picture that goes along with your topic? Do you even have permission to use it? (I'd suggest reading this article by author Roni Loren--very informative and kind of scary). If you're writing something more personal, you can add your own pictures that go along with your story. How easy it is to include a picture depends on what kind of post you're writing. But do you feel like you have to include a picture in every post just to get more attention?

Usually in any blog feed, when a post shows up, you'll also see the first picture that is in the blog post. What I'm wondering is if this makes anyone more likely to click on the link and read the whole post. Is the point of putting pictures with our blog posts to make them more interesting, or just to catch people's attention?

I thought I would analyze my own posts just to see if the ones with pictures got more page views. For me, it didn't seem to make any difference. Out of the last ten blog posts (excluding any blog hops or awards that have their own picture), only two of my posts had at least one picture. And these posts actually had fewer page views than most of my posts without pictures. I'm sure a lot of factors go into this, what days of the week I posted on (Mondays always tend to get more views than Fridays, for example), what the post was about (posts with a "writing tips" label got more views than others). The list could go on and on. So with my blog at least, I'm not sure adding pictures makes a difference. But I write about writing (mostly), so I guess it makes sense that the writing is what attracts people.

I think it really goes by a blog by blog and post by post basis. If you're writing about someone's published book, it makes sense to include a picture of it. If you're just rambling about your writing troubles, there may not be a picture to go with it, and really, one isn't necessary for a post like that. For me, at least, when I'm going through a blog feed, I'm not really attracted by the pictures. I'm more interested in who wrote it (if it's someone whose blog I visit regularly, I'm more likely to click) and what the topic is. Throwing a picture up along with it doesn't seem to make a difference.

What do you guys think? Are you more likely to click on a post if it has a picture? Do you think your posts get more page views when they have one?

03 December 2014

Starting from Scratch (Somewhat)

It's that time again! The first Wednesday of every month is the posting day for the Insecure Writer's Support Group. Click the link to sign up! And be sure to check out the IWSG Guide to Publishing Beyond, which is available now. It has a lot of great advice on writing, publishing, and marketing, and it's FREE! I contributed a piece on choosing between first and third person. Thanks to Alex J. Cavanaugh and everyone else who helped to put the anthology together.

I've got plenty to be insecure about this month. I'm not looking forward to Christmas at all. I need to really start figuring out what my next step is going to be in life because I've been slacking off way too much. And I'm still trying to figure out how to throw my muse a birthday party.

But I don't want to overwhelm you guys so I guess I'll talk about the book. Sounds ominous, right? I'm still avoiding it. I think about it all the time, but I can't bring myself to work on it or even read it. I know I have to do a massive overhaul of the last third of the book, but it's hard to figure out how to change things.

I'm trying to take on a different mindset. I basically want to start with a blank slate, at least from a certain point. I want to pretend I've never written that last third so that I can come up with some ideas that are new, and not just keep rewriting the same moments that didn't work in the first place. 

It's scary, but also kind of fun, because coming up with new ideas is always more interesting than editing to me. I still have a few scenes I plan on reusing, and ultimately the book will still end the same way, but I'm hoping for a lot of things to change along the way. When I finally adopted this mindset and started thinking about what would happen next, I immediately came up with a new scene that will help flesh out a subplot. I had this block for so long, where I knew things weren't working but had no idea how to fix them. Wiping the slate clean has helped me get through that.

Do I have everything figured out yet? Definitely not. But it's one step in the right direction. 

01 December 2014

Jordan Takes Over: What I Want for My Birthday

**The first Monday of every month, I let my muse take over the blog. I apologize in advance.**

You didn't really think I'd miss December, did you? It's the best time of the year! And no, not because of Christmas (ugh). It's my birthday month, obviously! You read the title, right? So you're not surprised or anything. Yup, in two weeks I will be turning 19. Technically. Do muses actually age? I guess that's something that's just way too much work to figure out. Honestly, I can't think of a more anticlimactic age than 19. Ho hum. What do you get when you turn 19? Nothing! No new privileges, and you're still in that weird transition stage where you're an adult but still a teenager. So it's weird. Still can't drink (legally...).

Anyway, I'm just going to make it easy for you and tell you what I want! You were so worried, weren't you? (Yes, I'm being sarcastic. But I'm still going to tell you my list.)

  • Anything music related is cool. I like pretty much everything. So, you know, concert tickets, gift cards. Some really expensive headphones! Or whatever. 
  • Equipment for my band is always needed, but you'd have to talk to Eric about that. I just sing and look pretty. I'M KIDDING. I'm not that shallow. I actually write like 90% of our songs. So there. 
  • Actually, I could totally use a new laptop. I can learn technical stuff, ok?! I'm sure someone out there has money to waste on me. 
  • Practical things are always appreciated. Notebooks, pens, pencils, MetroCards, condoms. You know, stuff I use every day *wink* 
  • Or just cold hard cash. That's what my mom always gets me since she doesn't know what I like. 

Right, so that's pretty much it. Wait, was I supposed to ask for things a muse would want? Like having my book finished? Yeah, well that's not going to happen in two weeks so I'm not gonna bother. Or something with the blog? Well, I do already get to take over once a month so that's nothing special, really.

I'm open to suggestions. Like, how the hell do you throw a birthday party on a blog? You guys can't email me cake. Or if I do decide to take over, what should I talk about? Or I could just do nothing.

Thoughts?! No, really! I want to know! I guess I'll see you in two weeks. If I feel like it...