Friday, July 7, 2017

Where Have I Been? Life Update

Hello All!

Wow, it's been forever and a day, hasn't it? 2017 has been an interesting year, to say the least, and these past few months have been no exception. One of my biggest life goals of the year was to take chances when it comes to my happiness...not settling for mediocrity because it's what I should do or what I am expected to do. I am fortunate that I have a spouse who is the definition of supportive, so when a job in my field popped up in the PNW, I took it. 


And on an adventure I went. No cat. No hubs to depend on. Just me...and teaching anthropology.
Obligatory plane wing picture


I made friends, pushed the boundaries of what I thought I was capable of doing, and I became intimate with the uncomfortable feeling of making mistakes. But, I learned so much about myself and about how much I love seeing people opening their minds to embrace new concepts of culture and the world.

View of the water from the city
And so, my writer-fam...with the seemingly-endless pile of grading threatening to drown me, and the content lectures and assessments I had to complete, words took a backseat to the job. I don't see this as a bad thing, but a new chapter in my life...a chapter I'm still figuring out.

Got to see the cherry blossoms bloom at University of Washington!


And my dreams of becoming a career author? Still intact, by all means. Adjunct teaching is no stable thing, and while I may have a job for a semester or two, it does not guarantee I will always be so lucky. Therefore, writing is something I want to do to bring in income as well as to fulfill the gnawing need for a creative outlet. But for now, life is taking some unexpected turns, and I am all too happy to follow.

And did I mention the coffee? 






My apologies for being a ghost these past months on this blog and on social media, but I'm afraid it will be this way for the foreseeable future. I am still here, however, and I am still a writer, and that's all that matters right now.

Thanks for sticking with me during this time. It means the world to me.


And as always, may your words be great and your pages many.

Monday, February 20, 2017

5+ Tools for Writer Productivity




Hello All!

Phew! It's been forever and a day, but I'm back with a blog post on some of the techy tools I use to improve my productivity when writing. While there is no shortcut to getting your words down for the day, these things help me to stay on track with my writerly life. 


Scrivener

This is a popular app/program that many writers use to brainstorm, draft, and revise their WIPs. With the plethora of tools at your fingertips, it can be a bit daunting to get started, but it was worth it in terms of how I organized my work. I primarily used it for revisions on this first, original project of mine, but any novel afterward will be started/imported into Scrivener.

Why I like it:
  • Many tools for a powerful writing experience
  • The ability to set WC goals in-program
  • The ease to organize the "flow" of your WIP by simply dragging and dropping 
  • The ability to use a split screen to have your writing alongside something else like previous drafts or visual inspiration

Habitica


As many of you may have guessed, I am a big gamer. Habitica combines the joy of gaming with completing tasks and establishing good lifelong routines. I primarily use this app on my phone and use it to track my habits.

Everything from "get up at a decent hour" to "work out 3 times a week" is in this app. What's neat about this is that it treats your daily life like a game. The more good habits and things you check off your dailies, the more your avatar "levels up". 

If you are interested in a more in-depth blog or video on how I specifically set up Habitica, let me know, and I'll get right to work. 


Forest

This phone app does cost money, but I love the effect it has been having on my productivity. The object of the app is to get you to not be distracted by your phone. Set the timer for a certain length of time, and if you succeed in not exiting out of the app, a tree or bush will "grow" in the "forest" of the app. If you do get out of the app before the timer runs out, the productivity tree dies. 

I like to use this app to track how long I've stayed focused on my writing as well as use it in conjunction with Scrivener for writing sprints. You can even join friends who have the app and see their Forests as well. 

Fitbit


While not directly related to the actual act of writing, anything that can help me form a daily routine and stick to it is something I will love. And as a writer, I find myself sitting long spans of time in a sedentary position (which is not beneficial to my health). 

I need to get up and movewhether that is by doing yoga (which I have been loving) or going for walks while playing Pokemon Go, or even a movement-based video game like Just Dance or Wii Fit.

I use my Fitbit to keep track of my sleeping habits, my water and food intake, and my steps/exercise. This, by far, is my weakest area in terms of consistency for me, but I am trying to get a little better at living a healthier, more active lifestyle.

Of course, there are many other watches/apps that does what Fitbit does, but it's the one many people are familiar with.


Google Docs

If Scrivener is out of the question, GDocs is a great way to go. It allows you to organize your writing by using folders to keep everything separated, and you can take your writing anywhere as long as long as you have an Internet connection that will sync anything new into Google Drive. Added to this is the fact that you can work on files offline and then update them later is one reason I use GDocs.

But my main reason for using it is the collaborative tools it comes with. By sharing my chapters/drafts/outlines with Alpha Readers, Beta Readers, and Critique Partners, I am able to see their comments as soon as they are posted as a running document. This saves me so much time and energy in that I don't have to keep track of a ton of e-mails to get things done.


MyWriteClub

If I need a change of pace or it's NaNoWriMo time, I use MyWriteClub.com. It's a free site that does word sprints. You are given a text box on the site, 25 minutes to write as much as you can, and a counter on the side that awards stars at certain word increments. I enjoy the global sprints because it allows you to work alongside others, but you are also given the option to do word sprints on your own.



Honorable Mentions:

Hope you are all doing well, my writer-fam, and as always...may your words be great and your pages many.

PS. If you'd like a video tutorial on anything mentioned here, please let me know!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Unpopular Opinion 2: I Don't Write Every Day



Hello Everyone!

Here's the thing: I don't write every day. Plus, I don't think everyone needs to write every day, either.

::gasp::
::shock::
::horror::

Whaaa...? 



Let me explain.

These past weeks, I have been particularly struggling with my WIP. Like most of you, my writerly friends, I have to deal with bouts of self-doubt, questioning my skills and talents, and wondering if I my WIP will ever be published. I thought that, with the plethora of advice online, I'd be able to hone my craft, build my platform, and draft new books every year.

Update: I am slower than molasses, and my craft seems like an agonizing uphill battle some days. 

I can't write every day. It's not that I "wait for inspiration to hit", or that I'm lazy (at least, that's what I keep telling myself). If I work towards a Word Count (WC) goal, mindlessly drumming away on my laptop or word processor, I burn out.

It took me nearly a year to realize that this was the case. All of 2016, the year I thought I'd get so much done, had me going through bursts of daily writing as many words as I could only to fizzle and not write anything of substance for months at a time. Sure, I was editing and revising, but it became more of a chore I dreaded than a job I wanted to pursue as a career. And forget about drafting anything new...the guilt I felt (and still sometimes feel) of not completing a project perfectly had my words stifled before they ever had a chance to make it onto a page.

At first, I thought I was just a super weird person. All of the blog posts and videos I had come across suggested listening to music for a few minutes or spending time in nature to have the creative juices roaring back. (And indeed, these self-care tips are important). But after all these things, the words still would not come. Surely, I must be self-caring wrong, no?

Then I reflected on some things:

1) I need to stop comparing myself to other writers and their journeys. 

AND

2) Everyone doesn't do the same job in the same way as everyone else in any other workplace environment. I need to allow myself time to find my own schedule that works for me. 

BUT

3) I also need to finish a project so that I can publish it as my ultimate first step in being a career author. I can't wade in the shallow end of the career pool because I am afraid of swimming. I have to get myself out of the mindset of, "Oh well ::shrugs::...I can't really fail if I never really tried."


And unlike Han, I can't just "whatever" things, save the day, get stuff done, and look cool while doing it. 

So, my goal became this: if I can't write every day (at least not yet), what sort of routine do I need to develop so that I don't burn out and avoid writing altogether?

Right now, it's to write during the working week, and take weekends off. I don't worry about WC, but I do try to write down a goal for the day that needs to be completed. I know I need routine and structure, and structuring my writing days as anyone else would a working day, seems to be paying off. Thank you, Twitter writing-fam, for helping me with this. Y'all rock.

If my daily goals are not directly related to my long-term goal of publishing this WIP, I am trying to re-evaluate them. And doing this — not writing every day has helped me to recharge and focus on other parts of my life that I can improve (what can I say...must be the INFJ in me).

In any case, I am still very, very much in the learning phase of all of this, but suffice it to say:

If you are like me and get burned out by things in the world only to be burned out by writing, then perhaps it's time to re-think about all the writing "advice" that doesn't serve you or help you to grow.

If you find that the outside world, interactions, and all the messy emotions that stem from it, are wearing you down, writing every day may wear you down even more. You may still think of your stories as problems that are in need of solutions in terms of plot, character development, story arcs etc. Facing the world's problems every day only to sit down and deal with more problems may be why you (and myself included) are prone to running out of creative juices. 

Of course, this advice, like all advice isn't for everyone. If writing a certain WC per day keeps you productive, then do it. Whatever positive thing you can do to keep your writing dreams alive is something I'm all for. 


What does your writing routine look like? Answer below or find me on Twitter. 

May your words be great and your pages many!





Tuesday, January 17, 2017

2017 Goals



Hiya, everyone! How's your 2017 so far? I've been trying to keep on trudging along with my goals for the year, but I tend to teeter out on them by the end of February. This year, I would like to share some of my goals with you to hold myself accountable.


Reading 


I want to read like a writer as well as for the pure enjoyment of it. I want to turn off my critical lens and read outside my genre to expand my knowledge on craft. 

I started doing this at the end of 2016, and I hope to continue doing this in 2017.

Goal: 20 books 

Edit/Query 

I have been poking at this MS since after NaNo 2015, and I think it's time I complete something I've started. I can't write and edit and beta my own work, so 2017 is all about understanding the fact that I can not do it all.

Goal: Finish revisions on last third of novel (Q1); send MS to editor/revise some more (Q1/Q2); Send 100 queries (Q3/Q4)


Tackling Perfectionism/Self-Care

I've written both on the push and pull of perfectionism as well as things that creatives can do for self-care. But it's one thing to know something in theory, and a completely other matter to implement the theory in one's life.

2017 will be all about understanding my limitations as a writer as well as trying to steer away from aiming for perfection at the expense of a finished product (in my case, a novel).

I can never take the next step forward if I am afraid to let others see my work.

Goal: Send off MS knowing it is not 100% perfect, but it is the best I can do at this time.

Completion


All in all, I want 2017 to be the year I complete the projects I've started. I tend to be afraid of success and failure in equal measure, and this has inhibited me from making substantial progress with my goals. 

2017 is the year I am unafraid of failure.
2017 is the year I am unafraid of success.
2017 is the year I complete my projects.
2017 is the year of self-kindness.

What are some of your goals for 2017?

Sunday, January 1, 2017

2016 Reflections



Wow, 2017 is already...can you believe it? I wanted to take this time to review my 2016 in terms of writing and writerly-related things. What have I accomplished last year?

Writer's Workshop

At the beginning of this year, I went to my first ever Writer's Workshop. The entire day was spent in the company of other writers, and I did my best to come out of my introvert shell to interact with strangers. I was so surprised by how friendly and enthusiastic everyone was to be there, and we learned things about the writing industry, marketing, and different paths to publications. 

This workshop ultimately sparked my drive to pursue writing as a career, and to take it seriously as I would any other job. No time to wait for inspiration...I had a book to write!

Twitter Events


This was also something new I've done this year. On the plus side, I am slowly but surely allowing others to read my work (which, up until last year, I never really showed anyone my work). I would pitch Twitter-sized bits in the hopes of an editor or agent expressing interest in helping me with my MS. And with Pitch Wars and other events of a similar nature, I hoped to find a mentor of sorts to help me to see the problems I could not see since I am too close to my own writing.

The feedback I've gained was invaluable, and the community shared in most of these events was nothing short of awesome. Other writers like myself, could all converge on social media for the sake of one goal, and I thought that was a pretty cool thing. I improved my query and synopsis, and I learned tons about craft and commonplace problems through participating in these events. I also learned that my MS was nowhere near query-ready, and that editing was much more than fixing things on the line level.

If you're interested in participating in these things, do your research to make sure it is a right fit for you. Twitter events are not everyone's cup of tea, and that's okay.

And while this is not the only path to publication, it can open doors to you from what I've seen of success stories, if you do decide to give it a go. I've gained some confidence in seeing others enjoying my work/ideas, and that's invaluable to someone like me who struggles with self-doubt and confidence.

Reading Craft and Genre

At the beginning of 2016, I knew writing was hard. But by the end of 2016, I had a whole new understanding for how difficult genre writing was as opposed to academic writing. 

NaNoWriMo 2015 taught me I can write 50,000 words in a month. 2016 provided me with adequate growing pains in terms of my own shortcomings and lack of knowledge in publishing an original work. When I got that splash of icy water as a wake-up call, I knew I had more to learn about the craft of writing genre books. 

I purchased books on craft, read other author's blogs, watched YouTube videos, and listened to what the writer and book communities talked about on social media. I've become an eternal student of writing craft.

Part of learning to be a better writer came from re-learning how to read like a writer for me. 2016 was the first year in a long time where I've actually read for leisure, and it has enriched my writing so much. I not only read to enjoy, but I use the skills I've learned in university to look at works critically, analyze sentences that work and don't work, and evaluate genre books much like I would an academic paper. 

Learning the balance of reading for pleasure and reading to absorb craft likes/dislikes etc. is an ongoing thing that will certainly carry over to 2017. 

Maintaining a Blog

I have come to love my little corner of the internet, and I am over the moon to see people reading and enjoying what I put out there. With 2017 here, I hope to grow this blog even more, connect with other writers even more, and truly find my voice in the sea of so many other awesome people.

Finishing A First Draft of Original Work

I've learned so much from finishing a first draft of original work. I've nailed down some sort of revision process (which has since been updated), found out the easiest way for me to draft distraction-free, and took a step back to reevaluate my strengths and weakness as a writer. All of these things are wonderfully vital to learn when making the transition from writer to published author, but I am still having growing pains in terms of setting a daily schedule for myself.

And that's what 2017 will all be about: finishing what I've started...no matter what the outcome may be. I need to take my writing and push it out there in the hopes that someone out there will say, "Yes, this is exactly what I've been looking for!"

What writerly things have you learned in 2016? Find me on Twitter, and sign up for updates --->

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Game Like a Writer


Hello All!

As a writer, I find inspiration wherever I look. Stories that tug at my heart, sting my eyes with tears, and fill me with joy can be found within hobbies, outings, and everyday mundane things.

I know I am not the only gamer who writes (or is it the other way around?), so this post focuses on how I question/analyze games to help with my own writing. I mainly play RPGs like Skyrim and Final Fantasy, but I believe these questions could be applied to all sorts of game genres. All games tell some sort of story, no matter how elaborate or shallow it may be, otherwise we wouldn't play. As a fantasy writer, I find many parallels in the storytelling structure of games, and these are some of the questions you can ask to connect your gaming to your writing:

*General Tip: Keep multiple save files of cutscenes/dialogue chunks/anything you want to use for further study. When writing, you can take a look back at these save points as a kind of resource. Some gaming clips can also be found on YouTube as well.


The Pulls of Creative Products


Cover Aesthetic: Describe the cover-> what colors are used, what symbols/characters utilized? How are the different game genres' covers different? (1st Person Shooter vs RPG vs. Fighting etc.)

Back Cover Blurb: Did you read the back cover of the game? What captured your interest? What makes the back cover different from other game descriptions within a similar vein?

Great Reviews: Did you look at game reviews before you bought it? Did they influence your decision at all? What were some of the critiques/high points made about the game?

Word of Mouth: Did someone else recommend a game to you?

How this applies to writing: This section will most likely benefit self-pubbers/those who want to send their work out into the wider public, but all writers benefit from understanding the audience they write for. Those who publish their own work, in particular, need to put on the business hats of marketing and publishing as well as being a writer, so understanding how people consume books and media is useful. (Of course, no matter what path to publication you take, you will have to do some marketing...a writer's work is never done >.<)



A Study in Setting/Worldbuilding

Some games go in-depth in their worldbuilding, therefore here are some questions to help analyze the fictional sandboxes you find yourself in:

How would you describe the setting? How do the characters/in-game lore sources describe the setting/world/magic system etc.?

What about the game's setting do you like/dislike? Is it inspired by any point in actual history?

If you could change something about the setting, what would you change?

How does the setting enhance the overall feel of the game and/or plot?

Is the world expansive? Does it include multiple cultures/races/types of people?

What about their clothes, attire, and other material culture: how is it done within the game?

How this applies to writing: Look at the worlds created by games critically→ do they do a good job at portraying a living, breathing, fluid society with histories, conflicts and nuances specific to that world/time, or is everything done in a slipshod way? Is the world presented in a way that is harmful to actual-world counterparts? 

Learn the red flags and weaknesses of a finished work, and then apply what you've learned to your own writing, both present and future.

When in doubt about representation, do your research, learn and absorb before you attempt anything.

The Game is Afoot



Plots are only as interesting as the characters who enact them, and characters are given purpose, motivation and lasting power through compelling and interesting plots. Games from many genres contain some sort of plot in one way or another. Taking from the types of games I play, plot and character development go hand in hand in producing a memorable experience for me, the gamer. Here are some questions to get you started:

Is the plot strong? Does it have a beginning/middle/end? What about climax and a satisfactory/unsatisfactory ending?

Does it have clear stakes? If not, how could you change this?

Do you care about the characters? Why or why not?

Does the plot make you excited to play the game, or does it just get in the way?



A Word on Dialogue

Dialogue serves many purposes. It can tell us more about who is speaking, about plot, or about information seen from a particular mindset. Dialogue can be tricky, however, so I also use games to gauge conversation within plots. It's nice to do this with games because many of them are fully voiced now so I study the visuals of body language, the sounds from spoken conversation, and how it all translates into actual text. Below I've listed some questions on dialogue you can ask yourself when gaming:

How is the dialogue addressed in-game? Is the dialogue clunky? Unnatural? What is the use of dialogue within the scope of the game?

Are there any regional accents? Are these done well, or are they stereotyping a people or place? (Hint: do your research if you are unsure of stereotypes)

Do you like the dialogue of the MCs? NPCs (Non-Playable Characters)? How does it add to the game or character arcs?

If you could improve on the dialogue, what would you have done differently?


Niches and the Like





I play some games that, at first glance, don't seem all that interesting. For example, if someone were to ask me why I like Harvest Moon and I gushed about how it's a farming simulation type game, I would get a lot of questioning looks from non-gamers. How can that possibly be fun? (^Couldn't find a nice Harvest Moon gif, so I used another one from a different game...can you tell I'm enjoying inserting game references in this post?)

In many ways, writing in a niche or specialized area can feel similar. Some readers will simply not understand the appeal of your work, or they may question the marketability of it until success is proven. But at the end of the day, you are the creator of your worlds, and there's bound to be others that are in need of exactly what you are writing. Here's some questions to do with niche games...looking on online forums are helpful for this:

Why is this game considered a niche game?

What makes this game popular even though "critics" gave it poor ratings/didn't seem like it would sell at first?

Why do you like the game so much? How can you apply these findings to your own writing?



Do you game? Does it help with your writing?

 ★ 



Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Why People Pen (Name)



Hello All!

Today I want to talk about pen names and why some people choose a nom de plume when publishing their work. When I started this writing journey, I was conflicted over whether or not to use one. My own real name is actually more "author-y sounding" than my pen name, but I've ultimately decided to go with Evie Redding for my genre writing needs. 


I am certainly no expert on this matter as I am still learning things about the publishing industry, so please consult a publishing professional on things like taxes and the like when using a pen name.


That being said, here's a list on some of the reasons why one may want to consider using a pen name.


Separating Spheres

Keeping the spheres of one's life separate is often a reason why one may create a pen name. Many times, authors will have day jobs...tis' a fact of a writerly life. Therefore, some may want to keep their writing life and their working life separate, and creating a pen name will help with this. 

Perhaps you don't want your boss to know you are moonlighting as a Mystery writer on the side, or you don't want the water cooler chat at your office to center around questions like "Can you put me in your book?", "Can I get 50 copies for free when you publish your novel?", and "Why do you write if you have a real job?"

Privacy
In a similar vein, many people choose to use a pen name for privacy reasons. Some think writing is a fruitless endeavor, and if an author happens to be surrounded by people who share this view, it can be easier to not discuss this topic. Therefore, a pen name can be useful in maintaining a sense of privacy about one's work. After all, many of us are introverts, so privacy can be important to us.

For others, the issue of privacy is paramount as they wish to conceal their true identity for those who wish to cause them harm. Being in a toxic relationship takes bravery and strength to move on from, and creating a pen name may help to ensure that they are able to follow their dreams without the fear of being discovered. This is not to say that this is a full-proof method by any means, but it is a reason some decide to use a second name when publishing.

Multiple Genres/Already Published

An author may also choose an alias because they are already published or write in multiple genres. For example, if a romance writer is also an academic, he or she may choose a secondary name for their genre work and use their real name for scholarly/nonfiction work. This way, if I wanted to write children's books along with adult SFF novels, for example, I don't have to worry about children or their parents accidentally picking up content not intended for that audience.  

Likewise, if an author is already published, there is a brand that goes along with that name and book. For instance, if someone self-pubbed a novel, but wished to distance themselves from that due to poor sales, they may take up a pen name when trying to get traditionally published. 

Of course, agents and publishers typically want to see sales records under any pseudonym in order to gauge past success/investing potential, but a pen name may help to make a clean slate in your career.

A Layer of Armor

Writing a novel is scary business. But, I believe what comes after writing is even scarier: marketing. Yes, you have a product, and yes, you'd like that product to sell. BUT...this product is the result of blood, sweat, tears, and existential crises — you are marketing your very soul! 

Or so it can seem when trying to put yourself out there as an author.

Therefore to alleviate some of the anxiety associating with constantly tooting your own horn, some (myself very much included) use pen names as a way of building a sort of armor or layer of thick skin. 

Not sure if this is a writer thing or an INFJ/INFP thing, but having a pen name makes it easier to engage with others in the creative world. It helps me not to take things so personally.

Got bad reviews? Rejections? Trolls trying to bring you down? The pen name takes the brunt of the negativity in a metaphorical sense. It's great to separate yourself as an individual and an author that must treat the endeavor as a business. 

Many people have no problem having their real name as their marketing brand, but for some, perhaps a pen name will help to relieve some of the fear of diving into the publishing world.

Fun/Practicality

And finally, having a pen name could be fun! It's a chance to reinvent yourself in a way. Plus, if you're a geek like me, choosing a pen name is reminiscent of naming a character in a video game. Maybe it alludes to something personal to you, your likes or interests, or pays homage to an important person in your life.

This is one of the reasons I enjoyed picking my pen name. While there are, in fact, several reasons I chose the name Evie Redding, the most recognizable reason is this little guy: 



Some also pick pen names because their real name may be difficult to pronounce or sounds too much like another famous person's name. There are many reasons someone may choose to use a pen name, but hopefully, this will give you some background as to why having a pen name may be right for you.


Do you use a pen name? Why or why not? Answer below or find me on Twitter!


As always, may your words be great and your pages many~