Upcoming Event: WOMEN UNBOUND

Here’s a quick and fun announcement, especially for my Toledo-area friends and readers: I’ll be in town next month to speak at an event at the library!

The event is the first in a reading series called “Women Unbound,” which celebrates female writers in the Toledo area. The first event is about Superheroines, and I was invited to speak as editor of Girls in Capes. My topic will be the first two “superheroines” I encountered as a girl: Keladry of Mindelan (Tamora Pierce’s PROTECTOR OF THE SMALL quartet) and Wonder Woman in WONDER WOMAN: THE HIKETEIA.

Following my talk,

Women Unbound will take place from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 7 at the Sanger Branch Library on W. Central Avenue. If you’re interested in learning more, leave a comment – or just wait! I’ll post more as it becomes available. I hope to see you there!

Advertisements

[Guest Post] A Keyboard is Mightier…

Back in the old days, you were a tough guy if you knew how to hold a sword. This illusion of sword being the best tool for world conquest only started to shatter when tough guys started to notice that their ladies were fawning over the pale, fragile and sickly type of people who were more likely to pick up a quill and scribble down some sweet little nothings. The proverb of pen and sword was most likely invented by those fawning ladies when they were trying to comfort the poets who had gotten beaten down by jealous boyfriends.

Not many tough guys know how to wield a sword nowadays – and, sadly, many of them don’t know how to wield a pen either. Keyboard comes to our rescue, but even when it has made writing a whole lot easier, it hasn’t made it more popular. I wonder why that is? Haven’t people yet realized that writing is the optimal tool for life, made of win?

Maybe not. I mean, that’s why I’m here, writing for you about writing. Maybe some of these things come off as a surprise, but I hope that you take them to your heart and start wondering if you could pick up that keyboard for something else than good old game of Frets On Fire.

Out of all the forms of art, writing is the one that can has the greatest effect. I’m not going to mention how writing as an art form is the best way to reach out to people, their minds and their hearts – that should be an obvious fact. Instead I’m going to talk about how writing doesn’t only have an effect on the world around you. It can have a great effect on you.

From a biologist’s point of view, writing when you are stressed is most useful. Writing consecutively for 20 minutes exchanges all hormones in your brains, including the ones that stress you out and make you feel like a puddle of vomit on the floor. Later you can read the piece of text you wrote – no matter how long or how short – as an expressionistic form of art.

From a psychologist’s point of view, writing is a way to organize your thoughts. You ever have one of those moments when all your thoughts are racing back and forth and you can’t make out what exactly is going on in your mind? Writing thoughts down, one by one, especially if you include the emotions related to each one, gives you a peace of mind. Even if you don’t know how to write a whole essay about your feelings, it’s scientifically proven that simply making lists about your thoughts has proven useful.

From a social scientist’s point of view, writing is a way of expressing yourself to the politicians. Even when it might sound utopistic, politicians work for you and your life. If they don’t know what you want, they’re going to do what they want. If you’re unhappy for that and you never spoke out, you can only blame yourself.

And, finally, from an author’s point of view: writing is a way to solve your inner conflicts. Try writing yourself in a story. Let the main character solve the problems you have. You might be surprised – maybe the similar methods could work in your own life. And since they originate from your own imagination, maybe that’s exactly what you want to do.

All you need to have is some faith in your own imagination and the fact that there is a difference you can make in yourself. Just write it out.

Serafima is a 21-year-old theater instructor, musician and performing artist. She is currently graduating from a double degree, and her thoughts of life, politics, music, art and internet can be read on her blog in Finnish and English.

Welcome, 2012! Goals for a new year

The new year isn’t even a month old, and I feel as though I’ve already achieved plenty!  There are so many things to look forward to this year, and many more goals I hope to achieve. Some of them are personal or secret, but a lot of them apply to this blog – or my writing – so I’d like to share them with you!  (I read once that telling others about your goals makes you more likely to achieve them… but I’ll get to that again later.)

First of all, I want to complete a working manuscript of a novel this year.  Not a NaNoWriMo project – though NaNoWriMo is so much fun! – but the level of manuscript I’d work on publication with.  To me, they’re very different things!

I’d also like to do more volunteer work.  Currently, I volunteer as a public relations writer for my high school.  I’d like to expand my volunteering to make a bigger impact on the world – maybe by volunteering with the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library or by helping gather donations for Reach Out and Read Toledo.  Literacy is something I feel really strongly about, so I hope I can make a difference in literacy and education.

Since I plan to graduate this spring with a bachelor’s degree, I have a couple post-graduation goals I hope to achieve: either get hired at a full-time job, get accepted to graduate school for Publishing, or both.  I have several passions, so it can be very difficult for me to choose, but those two goals will remain the same no matter what!

I would like to attend a professional writing conference this year, as well.  I think this is one of the only goals I’ve already secured: I have plans to attend the AWP Annual Conference in Chicago this March!  I’ll be going with members of the UT Writer’s Guild, so this will be an adventure to remember – you may get to read a guest post or two about the trip written by my traveling companions.

And, last of those goals I’m posting today, I want to learn something big and new this year.  I’m leaning towards Japanese – I speak a little Japanese, thanks to two years of college language classes – because one of my friends and I have decided we’ll be multilingual.  (She’s got a head start – she’s already fluent in three languages.)  If I choose Japanese to be my Big New Thing, I will focus on speaking rather than writing, since my speaking skills are awful compared to my written Japanese.  However, I’m also leaning towards either Spanish (which I pronounce fairly well) or Tagalog, which my father speaks.

POLL: Should I pick Japanese, Spanish, or Tagalog as my Big New Thing of 2012?

These are the goals I want to achieve, and I’m hoping you can remind me!  Now it’s your turn: what are your goals for 2012?  Do you have a Big New Thing you want to learn?  Is there any way I can help you learn it?  Leave your thoughts in the comments!

30 November: NaNo Wrap-Up

It’s the end of another season of NaNo, and it’s time for another monthly wrap-up – special edition!

So how did you do this year, Feliza?

Well… for the first time ever, I won!  I ended up with just a little over 50,000 words basically at the last minute, though I do have about five hours left in November now that I’m done…  My procrastinating ways have not left me.

What did you learn?

I actually learned a lot about England, actually.  Much of Victorious takes place in an alternate-universe version of London, so I had to learn a lot of things about London and about England in general.

Here are a few of the things I learned:

  • Parliament is housed in Westminster Palace, which is divided into two primary parts: The Chamber of Lords and the Chamber of Commons (possibly just Lords Chamber and Commons Chamber, but that was a little vague.)
  • (Also, the Big Ben clock tower is connected to Westminster.)
  • There are at least four streets in London called “Wentworth Road.”
  • There is a Portland in England, and the title for the nobility that resides there is the “Earl of Portland.”  How cool.

In terms of writing, I learned it’s much nicer to chip away chunks of 200 or 400 words at a time when I’m stuck.  Writer’s block is something I usually don’t have to deal with (as I said in this guest post) but I did this month, since NaNo competed with multiple papers and my job.

Most of all, I learned that being stubborn (which some people call “being determined”) is possibly one of my better traits.  Without that stubbornness and determination, I never could have done this.

What changed while you wrote?

Everything.

Just kidding.  But a lot of things did change.  When I started writing Victorious, I had a few primary characters: the protagonist, Augustine Allen, the several-greats grandson of the first black lawyer in America; Victoria, a college journalist in the alternate universe Augustine gets sucked into; Victor, Victoria’s twin brother and a mechanics/science prodigy; and the Duke and Duchess of Wales, Andrew and Mina.

My first day of writing Victorious, though, I added a new major character: Beth Nguyen, Augustine’s best friend in his own world.  She spent the rest of the novel doing a bunch of random things – usually when I was bored, needed to word-pad, or even when I was hungry.

I also spent more time talking about and developing Prince Andrew, Duke of Wales, and Mina, Duchess of Wales, than I originally expected.  While I can’t really tell you too much without giving away the plot, I can tell you that Andrew became a much more interesting prince and Mina went from forward-thinking royalty to working journalist and college instructor.

What would you recommend I do if I want to write a novel?

If you want to write a novel, the first thing you need to do is try to do it.  There are so many ways to do this, even if you think you don’t have time.  Take fifteen minutes normally reserved for Twitter or Facebook and pour it into writing even 100 words of a story.

I’d encourage everyone who wants to write a novel to try NaNoWriMo, but I personally believe aspiring NaNos should try Script Frenzy first.  It’s still hard, but it’s not as hard as NaNo – plus, it’s coming up in April, and you won’t be able to NaNo the regular way until Camp NaNoWriMo in July and August.

Also, my boyfriend and I discussed this a lot during the challenge: you must, must, must read.  If you’re not reading, you can’t write – because you never learn style, good dialogue, or what to look for in a story.

The Hard Facts

Total Words Written: 50,186

Completed?: Not by a long shot.  There’s plenty of adventure left for Augustine and Victoria.  At least the remaining chapters are outlined.

Won?:  YES!

[Guest Post] Writing Utter Crap

We writers tend to tie ourselves up in knots. We know that the first draft doesn’t need to be perfect, but we still manage to act like it does. We have a hard time giving ourselves permission to write utter crap. We forget how freeing it is to not be perfect. An icon I found on LiveJournal years ago sums this up succinctly: Writing was so much easier when I sucked at it.

I don’t know about you, but when I was young and unaware of all the rules about writing and what makes good writing, it came easy. There was no stifling self-criticism. There was no paralyzing need for perfection. There was nothing but me and the words. I could immerse myself in story for hours at a time, without a single thought about grammar, plot, characterization, or any of the other trappings of good writing. I’ve looked back at some of the stories I had written back in my school years, and the poems — oh, the dreadful poems! It is all utterly unpublishable crap.

But I enjoyed every minute of writing it. I never entertained a single critical thought about any of it. And the words flowed with abandon.

That is what we need. Permission to write with the abandon of youth. Permission to suck. Permission to write utter crap.

Break the Rules

If you’re feeling stuck with your NaNoWriMo novel, or with anything else you’re writing, don’t just give yourself permission to write crap — demand it.

Sit down and write the most imperfect prose you can imagine. Break every rule in the Turkey City Lexicon. Fill your word count with adverbs and Tom Swifties. Don’t bother plotting or organizing your thoughts. While you’re busy telling (and not showing) your story, something amazing can happen. You may find the story suddenly coming to life in wonderful and unexpected ways.

Keep Moving Forward

The trick to winning NaNoWriMo all comes down to this: Keep writing forward. Don’t stop for anything. Here are a few tricks to help you keep the momentum moving forward if you feel stuck:

1) Summarize. Summarzing my get you through a rough spot, or a boring spot, or a creative block. After a few hundred words of summary, you may be surprised to find yourself struck with inspiration again. Keep the pen moving across the paper. Keep your fingers moving across the keyboard. Don’t wait for inspiration — make yourself an environment conducive for inspiration instead.

2) Complain. If you can’t even come up with a summary, write anyway. Even if the first words you write are “I don’t know what to write.” Be careful not to focus on that thought too much though. Think your way around the problem on paper or on-screen. The act of writing itself while you’re thinking about the problem may shake some inspiration loose for you.

3) Skip around. If you feel stuck on what comes next, skip it. If you know what the final battle needs to look like, but you don’t know how to get there, write the final battle anyway. Take Jonathan Lethem‘s advice and skip the transitions. Don’t even bother with writing a linear story. Write what inspires and excites you. The act of writing those scenes may even jostle out some ideas for how to get there. I wrote an entire short story consisting only of the good parts. No transitions. No summary. Nothing but the scenes that inspired me. It inspired an editor enough that she paid me for it and published it.

4) Shoot it all. Wakefield Mahon said it perfectly on Twitter: Shoot it all, edit later. Ignore Jonathan Lethem’s advice and write every opening door and every cup of tea if that’s what it takes to keep the creative momentum moving.

5) Make notes. If you decide that something needs to be changed do not go back and edit. I learned this trick from Holly Lisle. Any time you feel the urge to go back and edit, make a note instead, then keep moving forward as if you had already made the changes. I make notes in my writing by using brackets [like this]. Don’t waste time looking for the perfect word or going back to change anything you’ve already written. Note it, then move forward. You can go back and edit when you’re done.

Once you get the steam going — don’t stop. Don’t look back. Don’t become the literary equivalent of Lot’s Wife. If you look back, you risk turning your creative momentum into a self-critical pillar of salt. Keep your creative momentum moving forward.

Kimberly lives in a rural village near Madison, Wisconsin with her husband, two daughters, and a cat. She is a freelance copyeditor and proofreader and enjoys making money by reading books. Every now and then she even reads one just for fun. Her NaNoWriMo novel is The Hunter’s Daughters, a story about mothers, daughters, magic, rebellion, lovers, lost dreams, and … zombies.

Fun Lines from NaNoWriMo

When you’re trying to reach 50,000 words, it stands to reason that you’d have some very, very strange phrases that will later be edited out or replaced with “real” writing when you go about doing a “real” draft of your NaNo novel.

Here are some of the strange lines and phrases from “Victorious” I wrote this November.

  • “With the caution of a terrified bunny rabbit…”
  • ” ‘I didn’t say “Bridget,” I said “Bridges,”‘ Victoria said impatiently.  ‘You know.  A bridge just sort of sits there stupidly while everything useful either passes over it or under it.’ “
  • “ ‘So you’re saying all people in your United States get one vote?’ she asked eagerly.  ‘It’s not one vote for the working class, two votes for the merchant class, three for the academic class, and four for the noble class?’ “
  • ” Without moving from her nestled, protected spot, Mina suggested Duke Ammon do something that really wasn’t fit for discussion in mixed company.”
  • “As the session broke up, he could at least console himself with the thought of resting in peace, finally, without any sort of royal humdiggery.”
  • “Everyone with at least half a brain knew the Duchess of Leicester was, to put it politely, a total control freak; to put it less politely, she was a territorial dictator when it came to social functions and her own household.”
  • “An explosion of artery-clogging goodness burst into his mouth.”

What are your best and funniest lines from this year’s NaNo draft?  The more ridiculous, the better!  (Especially jokes that look weird out of context.  I love those.)

[Guest Post] Writing as an Endurance Sport

“You’re doing WHAT?”

That’s the typical response when you tell someone you’re participating in an event to write 50,000 words in 30 days. The second response is “What do you get if you win?” For most people the idea of writing a novel in a month is, at best, a foolish waste of time. After all, don’t you know how few people actually manage to get published? The world of writing is a mysterious world indeed, and one that seems crazy to outsiders.

So what do we get out of it? Well, for some it is an endurance sport. Some people choose to test their boundaries by running marathons, or climbing mountains. And to these people the same questions could be asked. “You’re running 25k? Why? What do you get if you win?” The knowledge that you’ve won. It doesn’t seem like much, but humans thrive on competition. The act of winning is enough to spur us on towards greater heights.

But there’s more to it. You see, we’re not just in competition – we’re in community. There’s something about the experience of shared hardship that brings people together. Nobody runs a marathon by themselves, you run it with other people. Those other people give you competition (I’m ahead of two thirds of the other runners!) and they give you community (we’re in this together!) Both are necessary to reach your goals.

But why do we do this? Surely writing a novel in a year is the same outcome as writing a novel in a month? Why push ourselves? Because we have to. You see, there’s a vicious and evil monster that plagues writers worldwide. It’s called the inner editor. It’s that voice that says “That sentence sucks.” It’s a useful tool, in some settings, but in novel writing it is crippling. Such a high word count in such a low amount of time allows you to force the inner editor into a closet and lock it away. it means you don’t have time to spend three hours agonizing whether that comma sound be a comma, a semi-colon or a new sentence. You just don’t have the time.

So you write, and you write, and you write. And of course that first draft is rubbish. It’s ok. That is the most important thing that NaNoWriMo teaches. That it’s OK to write rubbish. You have a whole community of people, writing rubbish alongside you. And so you press on, desperate to get to that word count. And you finish the story. And yes, it’s crap. But that’s OK. it’s easy to edit something into shape once it’s written. But editing it before you even have it on paper is novelist suicide.

And so at the end of the month, if you have the dedication and the ambition, you have a novel. A crappy, un-edited novel. A crappy, un-edited novel you can then take your time the rest of the year and shape into the story you actually wanted to tell. You can polish it, and make it actually make sense.

But not in November. November is for the writing. At about 10,000 words, your inner editor comes screaming out of whatever hole you’ve buried it in and begins picking your novel apart. This is normal, and it’s funny to watch the NaNowriMo forums at this time. Everyone goes from “this is the best novel ever!’ to “I suck as a writer and am going to go be a fry cook now, that’s all I’m good for!”

But the people who have done NaNo for a few years come in and assure everyone that this too shall pass. And we all keep writing. Because it’s what we do. We’re writers. Even if you’ve only ever written school assignments, or fan fiction. You’re a writer. And writers keep on writing.

So if you’re thinking of doing NaNoWriMo, be prepared. It’s hard. You will curse the decision to join. But you will find companionship, support, and sympathy. A whole bunch of people crazy enough to take on the challenge with you.

Ki Vick is a freelance ghostwriter and novel writer. She is halfway through her first NaNoWriMo novel and is hoping to polish it up in time for publication early next year. She has been a writer for 6 years and lives with her husband in a tiny apartment in Dayton, Ohio.