I wrote my first “novel”, entitled Absolute, in middle school. It’s 26,000 words and rather obviously based on the Maximum Ride series, featuring a group of kids whose parents are mad scientists engaged in illegal genetic experiments. One day they successfully manage to clone a wooly mammoth calf, on which they will be performing untold hideous experiments. Cue the kids stealing the mammoth and leading their nefarious parents on a wild cross-country chase. At a distance it doesn’t sound half bad, but the illusion ends once you get closer.
Some highlights include:
- knocking people out with car doors
- being so bad at driving you’re actually excellent
- stealing away in cargo planes
- surprisingly accurate care of a wooly mammoth calf
- secret passages inside walls
- children who are good at pick-pocketing
- a radio star called Gravy Lester
- the acronym KOES: Kids of Evil Scientists
…and more excellent plot devices by yours truly, age 13. However, I didn’t write this post to bash my middle-school writing. Absolute was a stepping stone to where I am now. And in the grand scheme of things, The Book of the Dead is a stepping stone to where I’ll be in ten more years. It’s important to not be too harsh on where you were as well, as where you are now. Everything is valuable. Everything is improvement. And to be honest, I’m still invested in that cheesy story about genius kids stealing a mammoth. Maybe I’ll take it somewhere someday.
This is my last of three posts reflecting on what I learned at YALLFest a few weeks ago. I’m sure I could go on for the foreseeable future, but I’m going to stop at three. I’m not focusing on one or two authors here, but overall takeaways from the weekend.
- YALLFest was a really radical place to be. I somehow managed to forget that last year, YALLFest proved to be a verbally acknowledged space for mourning and hope post-election. This year, every panel was on top of social issues, every author that spoke talked about changing the world through literature, and Libba Bray kicked off the end party by singing “Born this Way” with a rainbow flag cape. That pervasive sense of hope and, yes, activism and revolution through YA, was tangible and amazing. It made me think, yes, this is where I need to be, what I need to strive for.
- Strong characters make strong stories, and weak characters break stories.
- From Soman Chainani: You have to be in love with your story. IN LOVE. That will hold it together when things get messy. Write with love and the honesty of your on experience of being.
- From Patrick Ness: Write the books you should have had. Write the books that you needed.
- From Cassandra Clare: extreme pain in a book can clear the way for great happiness.
- I can’t wait for YALLFest 2018.
Feeling run down at the library and coffeeshop, need a new place to write? Here are some wacky places that just might make you more productive when you have to grind:
- in a tree with a journal (NOT a laptop) (mind the squirrels)
- in an airport (if you can get past security)
- the roof of a building
- voice record while running
- while watching a movie at the movie theater (only with a laptop if you want popcorn in your hair)
- in math class
- like ambient noise? try a football game
- go to sleep and lucid dream
If you’ve got more, share them in the comments! Let’s beat writer’s block together by hiding in places it won’t think to look for us.
We all experience the high that comes from beginning something…and the drop when you have to finish it. If I had a penny for all the starts in my drafts folder, I’d probably have, like, a dollar. But the show must go on through the murky middle of a novel, and here are a few ways I keep myself excited about the long slog.
- Playlists: I can’t listen to music while I write, but I make playlists for the story/characters/relationships to listen to before I start writing in order to refresh my inspiration/motivation.
- Looking Back: Often when I feel like I’m walking through a swamp, I’ll pull out my planning notebook, which contains all of my research and plotting and doodling for the current WIP, and flip through it, reminding myself how I got to my current point, and why exactly I should carry on.
- Exercise: Go for a run. Go to the gym. Don’t listen to music, don’t listen to anything. I just let my brain float for a while. It deserves it.
- A New Cup of Tea: If I’m stalling and my mug is cold and sad, I break for the ten ritual minutes it takes to prepare a cup of tea. Back at the computer, warm mug in hand, I’m rejuvinated.
- Just Push Through: It must be done. The bottom line is always that if I don’t finish it, it won’t be finished. Chant it like a mantra. Write it on your ceiling above your bed. You must finish in order to truly begin.
✴This has been a queued post, as I am currently in the Amazon with no Wifi. Returning next week!✴