Tag Archives: inspiration

Emily Starts a Second Draft

I’m normally a great hater of editing. It’s my least favorite part of the writing process. And though I’m sure many writers will comment in agreement, I have actually met people who have said that editing is their favorite part. So, just in case, I’m clarifying that I detest it.

I’ve finished writing five novels. But in the past every time I’ve finished one I’ve pushed it to the side in favor of starting another writing project. But I’ve begun to realize how ridiculously harmful this is to my writing process, and I’ve started to understand how much I need to start trying harder if I want to ever achieve actual publication.

So what prompted this seemingly random decision? Well, there were a few different factors.

One: I took a fiction writing class and actually learned something about writing. And now I want to employ what I know and use it to make my past works better. It also forced me to actually try editing. And though I didn’t like it, I recognized the benefit on the final polished product.

Two: Three out of those five books I’ve finished were partially written in high school and are outdated in terms of my beliefs and my feelings about life, beyond just having some serious writing flaws. They contain a naiver and more confused version of myself that I no longer really like. They’re also pretty badly organized over all.

Three: Several people (I really should just say my mother here because it’s closer to the truth) have been bothering me about when I will get a book published or if I’ve even tried. And I don’t feel comfortable sending any works out without having done some serious reworking. So if I ever want to get people off my back on that, I’ll need to actually make an effort.

Four: Sad to say the person I’d cowritten four of those books with has long since moved past these novels into works that are more “mature”. And I’d have to agree with her that many of these are somewhat naive, but I think they’ve always held a lot more significance to me than to her. And…on top of that… we had a kind of messy falling out last winter which we never did anything to resolve…But even if we somehow managed to work around that, I have no reason to believe she’d ever want these stories to actually go anywhere, so I feel only minimal guilt in trying to rework these. It just saddens me to see the works that I spent so much time on having to go into a trashcan because of everything. And that’s why I’m going to rewrite this book.

I think I’m only going to have the energy to do one novel, because many of the others are more heavily influenced and would be harder to rework, and also because with the plot changes I’m making the other books likely wouldn’t be able to continue. But I want to work to make this one its own, to be a part of my healing process. And to be honest this was a huge part of my decision to finally bring back these old books of mine. To start processing everything that happened. A means of wiping a messy slate clean.  Of recognizing my works, my experiences, my old writing and remaking it. Its a way I can recognize my past rather than running from it. And it’s about reclaiming what is mine. And reclaiming has become a huge part of the book actually.

The story The Tale of the Rose (you can see the plot on my What’s in my Cup page) revolves around the duchess Katherine who becomes a pirate and struggles between living the life she loves, and living the life that is right for her people. It’s written at the end of her life looking back on all she has accomplished and her many adventures. Her stories, and those of her best friend, the famous adventurer and magician Night Hawk, have become the source of many ballads and legends and children’s bedtime stories. Her story is in fact quite the fairy tale-like in its plot with wicked stepmothers and mysterious pining princes and dark curses. But many of those accounts are actually wrong…

The new draft of the book revolves around retelling these dramatized and beautified stories. It involves reclaiming one’s own story and explaining life in its full messiness. It’s about moving past the childish innocence of bedtime stories into the real world of pain and heartbreak and suffering. And though I’m uncertain exactly how I’m going to employ this whole thing, I know I’d love to put these pieces together into my novel. At the moment I’m thinking I’ll include snippets of ballads and stories of Red Kate and Night Hawk in between the actual chapters. But I’m still working to make sure that will be effective to the book as a whole.

This is where I am now in my life. I’m moving into adulthood. I’m beginning to realize life is harder than I might have thought when I was young. My life isn’t following that little set formula of happily ever after I’d always expected. And it’s becoming time for me to reclaim my story for what it is. For its realness. For its messiness. For the fact that I am my own amazing self, with or without someone else to share that life with. My first version said something along the lines of “romance fulfills you and makes you the best you can be” my new version says “you are who you are, and no romance will ever fully complete you and until you understand your real self you can never expect someone else to.” And I think that’s incredibly important.

So what all am I going to be doing:

  1. Going through and reworking plot. Figuring out a basic sense of where the story is really going. Trying to reinstate a sense of what the book is about in general.
  2. Reworking some key characters so they fit my story better. Night Hawk in particular has been given a huge makeover, and I’m excited to see her come to a full fresh start.
  3. Outlining outlining outlining. I’m going to make a full working outline including all the things I’ve written and what I’m going to get rid of, rewrite, replace, or edit.
  4. Making a list of all sections/characters/plot points/countries/whatever else was contributed by my ex-cowriter and ensuring that these elements are removed so that the story can fully be my own.
  5. Starting to go through and doing those steps I’d listed earlier of deleting, rewriting, replacing, or editing sections.
  6. Whatever the heck else needs to be done. From here on out it’s a bit of a mystery. But I suppose if I ever do finish it will be sending manuscripts off next.

Well, I have three work in progress pieces right now that a few friends are reading. And they’d probably kill me if I stopped writing midway through. So this project might be slow in the works. But it’s still exciting for me that I can finally say I’ve started a second draft. There’s officially a “draft two” document saved on my computer. And I couldn’t be more thrilled.

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Write What You Know

One of my favorite books of all time is Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. Maybe someday I’ll actually write a post just on it, but for now I was skimming through old favorite parts and I ran across something I think is so crucially important to writing.

So a little backstory for those who don’t know. Fangirl is about a young English major named Cath who goes off to her first year of college and spends most of her time sort of hiding in the magical world of Simon Snow, a magical series of books that she is utterly obsessed with. She’s entered into a fiction writing class for upperclassmen, and she has trouble when she tries turning in fanfiction for some of her assignments.

Fangirl

She and her professor have a conversation at one point that goes something like this:

Professor Piper nodded. “You said something last time that I’ve been thinking about–you said that you didn’t want to build your own world.”

Cath looked up. “Yes. Exactly. I don’t have brave new worlds inside of me begging to get out. I don’t want to start from nothing like that.”

“But Cath–most writers don’t. Most of us aren’t Gemma T. Leslie.” She waved her hand around the office. “We write about the worlds we already know. I’ve written four books, and they all take place within a hundred and twenty miles of my hometown. Most of them are about what happened in real life.”

“So everything in your books is true?”

The professor tilted her head and hummed. “Mmmm…yes. And no. Everything starts with a little truth, then I spin my webs around it–sometimes I spin completely away from it. But the point is, I don’t start with nothing.” (307 Rowell).

Rowell, Rainbow. Fangirl. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 2013. Print.

I read this novel going into my senior year, finally taking the fiction writing course my college offered. The amount that I related to Cath was enormous, just in being a shy and confused English major and having trouble interacting with others etc etc etc. But I really related to her when it came down to my final fiction writing project.

My whole life I’ve tried weaving fantasy worlds. Occasionally I’ve branched out and written something more real, but for the most part I’ve always been taken with Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings and knights and dragons and fairies and other things not of this world. But for my final project I just kept drawing a blank. Coming up with a fantasy world was one thing, being able to contain it into a short story was another. And so I knew I needed to do as Professor Piper had suggested. I needed to start from something. I needed to pull in real world knowledge.

Last year I really strove to be better at standing up for myself. I’m usually quite terrible at it in general Especially when it comes to saying no. Even in the last week I didn’t say no to a friend when she asked me to do something I didn’t want to, and I bought something I didn’t need from a little girl who came to my door. I’m still working on it. I’m still getting better. But this last semester I did try better at speaking out in some difficult circumstances, especially in ending a friendship seven years in the making. Because I realized after a while that I had to stop being nice, that I needed to start standing up for myself and saying no. And in a moment of inspiration, I decided I should write about that.

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I did. It was beautiful and fulfilling. Almost more so than making magic worlds or watching my characters live happily ever after. I was able to share an experience I’d had with the world. I was able to capture how hard it is to say no, but how crucial it is at the same time.

I’m still considering trying to send the story out, otherwise I’d put it up here for you to read.

The point I’m trying to make is sometimes you have to dig into yourself to find something worth writing about. Maybe it’s not as exciting on the surface as creating something completely new or magical, or writing about something in another country or another world, or going back in time. But it’s meaningful because it includes your passion and emotions. I think it gives people something more concrete to sympathize with. I felt particularly pleased when my professor commented in class “Oh I think most of us have had something like this happen before.”

So, has anyone else had a moment of real life you’ve decided to use as a catalyst? Do you feel like most of the time you write what you’ve experienced or create from nothing? How do you find yourself being inspired?

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Midnight Writes

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I have this weird little thing happen to me as a writer that I simply can’t explain. I suppose most writer’s go through dry-spells and writer’s block, when creativity is at a minimum. I have my own, sometimes lasting months, and I’m never too sure when they’ll end.

However, the fact, is when inspiration strikes, it hits hard. And often at really inconvenient times.

I never seem to be inspired to write when I’m sitting around with nothing to do. No, it’s during midterms, or when final projects are stacking up, or when my computer is in the shop because it is failing to work properly as always.

And most importantly, I almost always get my inspiration strikes at night.

Sure, my blog posts get put up midday, but often, I’m writing them in the evening and put them up later to get better readership.

When I say night, yes I do sometimes mean normal times like eight or nine. But other times I am referring to my owl-like tendencies where I can’t start getting a good bit of writing done until midnight or later.

Don’t believe me?

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Unbreakable

In spite of my writer’s block I have come up with some new story ideas. This one will be a journal kept by a leader of a rebellion named Phoenix up against an evil queen.This is only a brief snippet of what that might be like.

Phoenix has suffered much in the past and struggles with a young man in her troop who tries to get past her defenses by finding out the truth about her. But she is unwilling to back down, hiding fear and hurt behind harshness and anger. Below is her reflection on what she’s doing to protect herself. Enjoy.

 

 

I’ve been hurt so many times that I have an impossible time trusting anyone. As a child my mother abandoned me. She told me she was just going out for the day. And she never came back. That was the first day I learned that I couldn’t fully give my heart without consequence. Ever since I’ve been guarding it. And each time I get hurt I push it a little further back into my defenses.

After the many other betrayals I’ve suffered I’ve pretty much buried my soul, pushed it behind wall after wall, hidden it so well I can hardly find it again myself.

And every time I meet someone new like that boy who dared demand why I’m not open, I have to put up another defense. So many ask why I cannot just share freely. They don’t understand the pain I’ve been through.

You want honesty? Well here’s honesty. I’d rather die a thousand deaths than expose myself to those kinds of hurt again. I’ve suffered broken bones, infected wounds, and dreadful disease. But I would face all combined rather than the pain of a betrayal.

I once had a close friend. Someone I grew up with who I foolishly came to eventually love. She used to claim she cared about me. That was a long time ago. I used to be her dog, waiting patiently for my treat. And of course she’d dangle her attention before me, watch me plead and whine, before withdrawing it and laughing at my obvious disappointment. Time and time again I’d subject myself to that. I’m not quite sure why, but I was young and foolish…willing to do whatever it took to win people’s approval and love.

Other friends told me I was a doormat…that she was using me…that I should stand up for myself. I never listened. I justified, claimed it was alright. Every time she’d come back to her senses and start paying attention to me again I’d go into a kind of bliss at having her friendship once more…and I’d forget all about the abuse. Years later I looked back over the accounts I kept of those days…and I saw each and every part of the pattern. I’d be elated to have her there, then sad and angry at her ignoring me, I’d claim I’d never see her again, then of course find joy in her attentions again and willingly subject myself to her abuse.

But no longer. My heart is in an impenetrable fortress, locked away from all the world. I shall no longer tolerate any start of an intrusion. I have placed guards all around. The slightest sign of an invasion shall be terminated immediately. No one can breach these towers, these walls. I shall pour hot oil on invaders. I shall destroy all who seek to enter.

And yet…a world without love and friendship is an awful and lonely one.

And so I am forced to compromise on some issues. I shall seek to try to maintain some sense of openness, but my friends must understand that not all will be up for their consideration. I will not be some lab specimen for them to poke and prod at. I am still in control. And if need be I can still lower iron gates to keep them from what I know may harm me.

Tread with caution. My emotions are no longer something others can toy with. I am a new woman. I am unbeatable. And nothing will stand in my way.

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When a Writer Falls in Love

A few weeks ago a friend said something very interest to me. She quoted: “If a writer falls in love with you, you can never die. ” — Mik Everett. And this quote started to get my mind going. So I wrote this reflection of what happens when a writer falls in love. It’s a bit sappy, but anyone who knows me should already be aware I’m a hopeless romantic. Also, the writer is always referred to as a she or her simply because I’m writing from my own perspective, not because I have any beliefs that male writers don’t have the same feelings or anything of that nature. So below is my writing, feel free to comment on your own thoughts on this quote, but here is my reflection:

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When a writer falls in love with you, you become immortalized forever. She is unable to do anything but write and think and dream. She tries her best to confine her heart in a prison of ink, and in doing so keeps you captured upon a page. You live forever in her works. And dwell forever in her heart. And as her heart and her works connect, you’ll find references to yourself all along the way.

She will write unendingly of your eyes. Blue like the free open sky, or brown like the rich earth, or green like the growth and life of plants, or grey like the stormy seas. And words forever will worship those eyes that first captivated her soul and laid her bare for all the world to see.

She will write of your voice, the way it lilts in certain places, the way you accent each word. She’ll write of how hearing it causes tears (though they never come till after you’re gone). Those soft tender words you speak will make her type away for hours on end, staring at a computer as though hoping that typing down each and every phrase might bring your voice to life upon the page. And though she may not show it, she waits and watches each time your mouth opens, hungry for more to feed her thoughts and fill her writing.

She will write of your laugh and smile and the way her heart twists painfully each time your happiness is evident. For though she doesn’t want you sad, your happiness confounds and undoes her, pulls her open in ways no other element could do. And sometimes those feelings hurt almost as much as any physical pain would, that tightness in her chest expanding into butterflies in her stomach, her butterflies fluttering into her heart to quicken the beat until she feels overwhelmed in the sensations. And she is unable to do anything but feel, torn between embracing it, or pushing it away, unable to distinguish how much the pleasure and the pain intermingle in one.

But more than anything she’ll try to write what she knows words can never fully express. She’ll wish she could write symphonies, paint masterpieces, find other ways to immortalize and protect the vulnerable emotions that extend through all aspects of her mind. She’ll write of feelings, of longing, of deep pining and wanting, and of things which the English language has boundaries in fully expressing. Her writing will be unable to fully satisfy what she so longs to give and to receive. For though a book is a dear friend for a while, it can never love her back the way a real person could. She’ll try her best to give her heart upon the page, but in reality it is a mere substitute for the longing she has to set free the truth and fully treasure the bond that she could share with you if only you would love her in return.

For when a writer falls in love with you, her words live on in paper, but the love lives on in her acknowledgement of her feelings for you in a way so many others can’t express. A writer prints a bit of soul and heart within her writing. And spreads before the world a portrait of the one who best opens her creativity. For you, her dear muse, have allowed her to marry her two loves into one, merge writing and desire into one beautiful molded masterpiece that remains in her thoughts even when the book is long forgotten and crumbles into dust. Even then she’ll still remember. Still treasure. And the words once printed on paper, remain printed somewhere deep within her, longing only to take up a home within your heart as well.

rose and letter

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Quotes to Inspire

Quotes to Inspire

I accidentally published something prematurely a few minutes ago because I was not paying attention. Apologies for withdrawing that! But here is a quote from Harry Potter to inspire you guys in the meantime, especially in regards to blogging!

“It is the quality of one’s convictions that determines success, not the number of followers” Remus Lupin from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

Please feel free to comment some of your favorite book quotes. I always love to hear other favorites. And I apologize for the post I had to retract! I will try to write and publish that one sometime later this week.

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October 20, 2013 · 12:24 AM

The Things That Change Us

Rowling

When I was a child I refused to follow things that were popular. Absolutely refused. I was a bit of a stubborn girl as my mother would surely tell you if you asked her. And that contributed greatly to my choices of what I read and watched and participated in. I tended to be free thinking, wanting to enjoy my own interests without interruption from my peers. There is something both amusing and admirable when I picture my younger self stamping her foot over people encouraging her to pursue something utterly mainstream. So my reading choices tended to largely be books of my own choosing. But being an avid reader I had already begun my lifelong problem of having recommendations. And like all readers the popular books are always recommended first and foremost.

So began my lifelong dance with popular literature. And in particular, Harry Potter.

Second grade was where I largely blossomed into a reader. I became capable of reading to myself, and that development was troubling to behold. I snuck books under desks to read during class and slipped a flashlight into bed with me to keep going on my latest pursuit. And in second grade Harry Potter had just begun to become a phenomenon particularly prevalent in my age group just as I was beginning to figure out the wonderful world of books.

I was absolutely against Harry Potter to a degree where I wouldn’t even talk about the subject. To be honest, I had little idea of what Harry Potter was only that my peers greatly admired it, and therefore I wanted nothing to do with it. Of course everything changed when I went off to France for a semester with my family the next year.

Isolation tends to make me gravitate all the more towards books. And in France I was homeschooled and since I didn’t speak the language had no chance to interact with other children. So, home was my solitude and books kept me busy. But books in English were not so readily available in our small town. And in the library there were few choices. With most of the books already finished I turned to Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (they had the British version) to occupy my time. There was much irony in my caving as I had thrown a fit over a Harry Potter journal I’d been given before going to France. But Harry followed me across the world, and it seemed I was incapable of fully escaping even in a foreign country.

My mother read book one aloud to my brother and I. Within the first few pages my resistance melted away, and I was helpless to do anything else but enjoy. We devoured the first and second books together and even enjoyed watching the newly released first movie on the plane ride back to America.

While I could sit and ramble about how amazing the books and movies are, I would prefer to speak more personally about them. Because that little lonely boy in the cupboard under the stairs sparked something deep in me that I had never known before. And that was a desire to write.

I began with copying J.K. Rowling’s ideas, making a school for fairies rather than wizards and creating an orphan character as my protagonist. I remember little about that initial series, but I remember it being the first of my inspiration and that it paved the way for later books to come. Something in Rowling’s works made me come alive and gave me a desire to emulate Harry Potter in changing children’s lives through story. I think if nothing else those books gave me hope of something better, of a world filled with love and light, and in the dark years ahead of me those messages continued to remain both a prevalent part of my worldview and my own writing.

You would think Harry would have cured me of my desire to be unique in my entertainment choices, but to this day I still do meet some resistance when faced with something popular. I’ve certainly become better, but it is a fault I have to work to correct.

Today I’m a total nerd when it comes to Harry Potter. I know what house I’m in (Hufflepuff), know what character has the same Myers Briggs personality (Neville), know what wand I would have (12 1/2 in. cedar dragon heartstring), and even own a copy of Luna Lovegood’s wand from the movie along with two of the books (one in French which I can now read and one in English).

Yes, I’m a nerd, and I love it, and anytime I think about Harry Potter I know that it’s never just a fandom to me, and it’s something more than that. No matter how critical people want to be of the books or movies, I hold onto a few very special things in knowing that Harry Potter changed my life in an impossible way. As I have completed my fourth novel this year I can only look back with fondness at the little third grader who wanted to make her own Hogwarts. Because with her change in mindset she gained a whole new world. And I suppose I keep that forever in sight today, that in opening myself up to something new and different, I can gain something new.

What books or moments have changed you? Do you have any good stories of childhood reading? Has Harry Potter had an influence on you?

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