Post #601

I originally had another idea for today’s post, but then I realized something. This is post #601.

601 blog posts. It’s taken seven and a half years to reach that number, but here we are. And how different everything is than when I started.

Back in 2010, I didn’t quite know what to write, and I posted for several months before anyone even stumbled across my blog. I suppose I could have changed that, but I was too introverted to start randomly following people and too private to advertise to people I knew that I had a blog. Not that the second one has changed much. Only three people who know me personally have ever been here.

I’m still working on the same novel, though there are plenty of new projects in the works as well. But even seeing how much that first novel has changed over the past seven years is amazing. It’s grown up alongside me. Maybe one day, it’ll finally reach maturity, though I’m not counting my chickens yet. After all, I used to think it would be publishable by the time I was sixteen.

But one thing hasn’t changed. I still love to write. This outlet has turned into a good excuse to keep consistent with my writing habit, even in seasons when it’s not the easiest thing to do. And it’s allowed me to see how much I’ve changed as a person and a writer over the past seven and a half years. It’s like a writing time capsule, and one that I get to enjoy with you.

How long have you been blogging? Has your blog changed over the years or have you stayed consistent throughout?

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My Non-Traditional NaNoWriMo

After having a great time with it last year, I’ve forgone NaNoWriMo this year. And seven days into November, I’m glad that I did. Life is centered around preparation right now — painting the baby’s room, picking out the right car seat, readying myself emotionally and physically, making sure my classes will survive without me during leave — and 1,667 words a day would have ended up falling by the wayside.

But that doesn’t mean my novel (the very first one) isn’t getting any attention. In fact, I think it’s had its most productive month in a long time.

The word count is low, but the ideas are flowing. I want to try new things and apply ideas that I’ve learned since the last time I touched it.

It’s not a traditional NaNoWriMo, but this month is still about that novel and making something happen.

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo this year? What writing projects are you currently working on?


The Great Mystery Book: The Voynich Manuscript

I have a thing for gathering random facts and information. I think it’s partly nature and partly nurture. My mom has always been a collector of facts, to the point that she could easily win Jeopardy if she ever applied to be a contestant.

As I grew up, I realized just how handy knowing so many random things can be for writing, which has only fed my need to create a personal menagerie of random facts. My husband always laughs when our evening conversations start with me saying, “So I was watching this documentary on poisonous potatoes in the Andes today…” (And if you’re interested, it’s “Food: Delicious Science” on Netflix.)

Needless to say, when I happened across a TED-Ed about a book written in a seemingly real language no one knows and filled with unusual paintings, I had to watch it. We live in a time when so many mysteries can be answered with history and science, but this is one that has remained an enigma. It’s enough to get the imagination going, whether it’s to figure out the truth behind the book or find inspiration to write a story in which there’s a similarly mysterious book.

Have you ever heard of the Voynich Manuscript? Do you have any similar mysteries in your stories?


#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?


The Strange Case of the Unexpected Tiny House

I’d say that it started as a regular day at school, but it hadn’t. It had been a week since the hurricane, and the aftermath seemed to be the only thing on everyone’s minds. Everyone felt off, but at least we all felt off together.

After class, I turned everything in to the front desk. There, the ladies were giggling. There was a strange new addition to the usual cars parked behind the building. Unable to resist, I headed back there with one of them.

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There, we found a tiny house on wheels. It definitely wasn’t what I had been expecting. No one really knew where it had come from or why it was there. Perhaps it had been parked there so that the buildings would block most of the wind? Perhaps it blew in from somewhere else, like the catfish people found on their porches?

The tiny house on wheels vanished a few days later. No one knows where it went. I like to think it’s off on a new adventure… that doesn’t involve hurricanes.


That Fantasy Element My Novel Is Missing

Years ago, when I thought my first novel was about done (hahahaha!), I gave it to the boy who would eventually become my brother-in-law. He is an avid reader of fantasy, so he seemed like a natural beta reader choice. What I didn’t realize is that he would eventually change some of my thoughts on my novel — though the major piece didn’t click until a couple weeks ago.

I’ll never forget how confused I was when he returned my manuscript, said it was good, and suggested that I read some of Brandon Sanderson’s work. Or at least hear a little about his philosophy on fantasy. I though to myself that I had learned from Tolkien, the lord of the genre. Why would I look to anyone else?

That Christmas, he introduced me to Brandon Sanderson. After a few reluctant pages, I started to get into it and I started to understand what he was saying. But what I didn’t realize at the time — what I haven’t realized for a few years — is that I was missing one of the things that he was sweetly and subtly trying to tell me: I needed some work on the magic in my world.

If you had asked me before, I would have told you there isn’t really any magic in the novel. There’s a supernatural element, but it’s not really magic. What I hadn’t realized, though, is that that supernatural element had slowly transformed from something that didn’t really affect the plot to a major piece, especially in the climax.

In the process of growing, it had taken on a magical role in the story. Certainly not to the degree of the different things that happen in Brandon Sanderson’s works, but it was very different from where I started.

It didn’t hit me until I was reading something — I can’t remember what now — that discussed Sanderson’s Three Laws of Magic. (Read about those here.) For the first time, I realized that there is a type of magic flowing through my novel’s world, and I had basically used it like a deus ex machina in the climax. Finally, I get what my brother-in-law was trying to tell me all those years ago.

What does that mean for my novel? Well, instead of writing, there’s been a lot of thinking going on. It might mean some adjustments to my world’s history and structure, but I think the end product will be much better than what I have now. Maybe this is the final adjustment that my novel has been waiting for before it really is actually done.

Have you ever found yourself in the same place with writing advice? What’s the best advice you’ve gotten for writing in your genre?


Saying Goodbye to a Piece of My Childhood

Plenty of things come and go, and sometimes you don’t realize that something is still there until it’s on the brink of extinction. That was the case with AOL Instant Messenger.

When I was a kid, I already preferred written communication over talking on the phone. That meant that I spent most of my time talking to friends via instant messaging and e-mail. Dial up was still the norm at the beginning, so conversations had to be scheduled and could only last for so long. And Lord forbid your parents were expecting an important call when your friends were expecting you. But AOL Instant Messenger (better known to us as AIM) was our original favorite instant messenger.

For the first few years, it’s how I had most of my conversations with my husband. We would chat for hours if the phone line was free. It was an amusingly stark contrast to when we were in person and hardly talked at all.¬†There are so many memories tied with AIM of him and of conversations with plenty of other friends too.

After a while, we left AIM by the wayside. MSN Messenger ended up taking the top spot, especially when other forms of Internet access became more prevalent and since it included games like checkers and Othello. Most of our other friends dropped off the instant messaging bandwagon completely, but my husband and I still spent quite a bit of time on it, even once we had taken to actually talking in person and sometimes even on the phone.

It’s many years later now, and I didn’t even realize that AOL Instant Messenger was still around. It’s not that I had forgotten about it. I had just moved on and figured that AOL had gone into extinction already. I didn’t realize that they were both still around until my husband found out that AIM is finally going away this December.

It’s strange to think about. It used to be an important part of my daily life. And even though I haven’t touched it in I don’t know how many years, it’s sad to hear that it’s about to go away forever. It’s truly the end of an era.

And in case you’re wondering, yes, my husband and I still frequently use instant messaging. His phone doesn’t get good reception at work, so guess what replaces texting while he’s there.

Did you used to use AOL Instant Messenger? How did you like to talk to your friends when you were growing up?