Category Archives: Writing About Writing

The Noveling Cycle

I’ve been working on novel since middle school. Even though I’ve crossed into 30, it still isn’t done yet. Every time I think it is, it reveals  just a little more about itself. It’s a cycle that happens every 8 or 9 years. And it’s been 9 years since the last major changes. Every time, the cycle is the same.

Phase 1: Hmm… Why am I telling the story like that?

It’s a dangerous question. Sometimes, I have a good answer. But if the answer is just, “I’ve been telling it that way for a while… but I’m not quite sure why,” there’s a danger that it’s about to be turned on its head.

Phase 2: I don’t like that anymore.

The frustration that builds at this phase is a great motivator. I want this novel to be the best that it can be, and what I have just isn’t good enough. Yet.

Phase 3: Hey, what if…?

It starts like a light rain, but eventually turns into a sudden and torrential downpour. The story starts telling itself to me all over again, showing me what to change and what to keep and why things should be the way that they are.

Phase 4: Time to write it all down!

A blank document quickly turns into the newest version of the novel. It all starts to fall together. Sometimes it takes a little while. Other times, it practically appears overnight. (And not just because I sometimes do this during NaNoWriMo.)

Phase 5: Revise like crazy.

And then, after a few years, I find myself back at Phase 1.

Right now, I’m knee deep in Phase 3. My characters are changing and becoming more complex. And I like it. I’m glad I never published what I had before because this is how the story was meant to be told.

Or maybe I’ll find myself in the cycle again after Phase 5. I guess we’ll just see.

Do you find yourself in a similar situation? Does your writing go through predictable cycles? Is it always different?

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The Wrong Way to Blog?

I feel deeply conflicted as I write this.  This post represents a month of debate that ended in the decision to give it a try, even though it doesn’t seem quite right. So what has left me feeling so unsettled? Writing a blog post on my phone.

I know it sounds strange. Perhaps even a bit OCD. But it reminds me of moving into reading ebooks as well as bound ones. The experience feels different, and I’m not sure how I feel about it.

There’s a certain delight that comes with writing by hand. The sensation of words passing from hand to ink to paper. The art of loops and lines that are uniquely mine.

There’s a delight to the keyboard too. The click of each letter as it appears on the screen, far faster than my hand could write them with a pen.

On a phone, there’s no flourish or satisfying click. It’s silent. And while I relish silence, I’m not sure if it’s lovely or eerie.

Like many things in life right now, practically rules. It’s the practical option. With a baby cuddled in one arm, it’s impossible to work at a keyboard. So here I sit, phone in hand, wondering if creativity can flow through one thumb.

So what’s the verdict after writing this post on a phone? Like an ebook, it isn’t the same. However, it’s not just how the words end up on the screen. It’s the delight of capturing those words whenever they want to come, and the phone allows that to happen.

How do you prefer to write? Do you write posts on your phone or would you be as hesitant to do it as I was?


What Dreams Are Made of: A Short Story Revisited

The house is quiet. The baby is asleep, the cat is lounging in a window, and my husband isn’t home yet. My imagination is itching to tell a story.

I scroll through my Pinterest board, looking for a prompt to start everything off, and I find one that reminds me of something from about three years ago.

Back when my husband and I first started watching Dr. Who, I had a series of particularly unusual dreams. They were weird enough to inspire a flurry of story ideas, and upon remembering it, they make my fingers fidgety. So I decide to do something about it. I am finally going to write something based on them.

I remember that I had posted about them, so I search through the blog for that post. But to my surprise, today’s idea isn’t new. I have already begun writing about the strange dreams.

Even more surprising, though, I realize that I never finished the story. All right, so that’s not the most surprising thing since there are several stories on this blog that began to take shape but were abandoned. (Not forever, necessarily.) However, this story already had so much to it. I was sure that I had to have finished it. But I haven’t.

So, it’s time to revisit the story and actually finish it this time. Three years late is better than never, right?

What Dreams Are Made of (Part 1) is available here. Next week, expect Part 2!


A Change of Perspective: Moving from First to Third Person

For well over half of my life now, I’ve been working on the same novel on and off. Each time I think it’s finished, I set it aside for a while, but when I come back to it, I find that there are still things missing. It still has room to grow and change and improve.

Recently, I’ve decided to hop back in again. This time, though, I’m playing with something new: a change in perspective.

Aside from the earliest draft (which looks virtually nothing like the current story), it’s always been in first person. I favored that perspective in my mid to late teens, so most things that I wrote then followed suit.

Lately, though, I’ve begun to wonder what would happen if I move to something new. What if I return this story to its original roots and try third person?

So far, it’s been an interesting experiment. I haven’t written much yet, but it’s a little mind-bending. I’m planning on keeping with a limited POV — focused on my former narrator — but seeing the story in words besides her own has been different. I’m not quite sure how I feel about it yet.

Perhaps, though, this is the fresh technique that will help the story reach the next level. And maybe this time it’ll actually be finished (though I wouldn’t count on that).

Have you ever started writing a story in one perspective before trying another one? Have you seen any benefits to it? Which perspective to you prefer when reading and/or writing?


2018 Goals

A belated merry Christmas and happy New Year, everyone!

Around this time every year, I reflect on the past year’s goals and set some new ones. Sometimes, I find that I’ve done a great job. The past two years, not so much.

2017 Goals

Finish a draft of the steampunk/fantasy/sci-fi novel
I started with a valiant attempt, but the novel still isn’t ready. Unlike most things I’ve written, it’s really comprised of 2-3 stories that come together to make one narrative. The main one — the one I started with — just can’t seem to find its footing. It needs more time to brew. And that’s okay.

Continue to blog at least weekly, but aim for three times a week
I haven’t done awful with this one, though I did change midyear to two posts a week. It seems like a more reasonable schedule with a baby on the way.

Read more books 
I’ve actually done well with this one, considering my previous track record. (It stinks to like books but not feel like you have time to read.) I think, in all, I’ve read 13.75 books. (I’m nearly to the end of Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson, which is 652 pages.) Last year, I started reading works by Inklings besides Tolkien and Lewis. So far, I’ve finished two: Robert Harvard and Dorothy Sayers. There are still plenty more to go. I’m hoping to read even more this year… though we’ll see how that goes.

So what about this year? That’s a good question. Since I’m close to a major life change, it’s hard to say what this year will look like, but there still are things I’d like to accomplish.

  • Continue to blog at least weekly, but aim for twice a week
    (Obviously, I might have to take a short, unscheduled hiatus when the baby comes.)
  • Continue to work on my writing projects at least once a week
    Regardless of what it is, I want to take some time to keep my writing skill sharp and enjoy my favorite hobby
  • Learn to find balance
    It’ll be interesting to see what my reflections are on this next year. Between teaching part time, writing, and being a new mother, life is going to be interesting. But I’m excited. We’ve been waiting for this for a long time, and I’m ready.

What are your goals for this year? How did you do on last year’s goals? Do you make goals at the beginning of the year or prefer to measure your progress another way?


Slow-Mo November

When I decided to focus this NaNoWriMo on my first novel, I determined to let the story take its course. No specific guidelines or word counts. Just an intentional focus on the story because life demands it.

What I didn’t expect was to reach the halfway point with only 444 words.

I’ve found, though, that this story isn’t in first draft mode, even though I’m trying new things. Words don’t gush onto the screen at a furious pace. Instead, each is meticulously chosen with the obsession that comes with later drafts. It’s like it wants to be as close to perfection as it can be the first time around, and it won’t let me move any faster. It really feels like writing in slow motion.

But that’s okay. The lacking word count doesn’t reflect the amount of thinking that’s gone into the story. It’s more like a butterfly carefully working its way out of the cocoon. Hopefully what emerges is far better than what I would have if I hurried through.

How are you writing projects going? Do you sometimes find that your writing seems to move in slow motion?


#WhyIWrite

Today, NaNoWriMo’s writing prompt was a simple one: why I write. Even though I’m not planning on participating in NaNoWriMo this year, it seemed like the perfect topic for today’s post. 

Why do I write?

I write because I have to. Words flow through me, bidden or unbidden. Simple morning walks, people watching, the silence of waiting for students to finish a test — all transform into narration whispered in my mind.

I write to understand what I’m facing. When I’m afraid, struggling, unsure, my characters face those fears along with me, and we work through them together. Sometimes I invite the characters in so we can confide in one another. But many times, they come on their own, knowing when I need them the most. Together, we fight through and find the answers.

I write because I have something to say. My mouth doesn’t always know the right words, but they flow out of the pen effortlessly. It’s as natural as breathing. I don’t always know if they’re words that others need to see too, but they’re the words that I need to express.

I write because I love it. It makes me feel alive. It’s what I was born to do.

Why do you write?