Just Keep Writing

dory edited

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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!

Creating the Write Environment

Here are the parameters of my ideal writing environment. Any deviation results in severe under-productivity. In desperate circumstances I can of course make do, but below is the Platonic ideal of my writing situation.

The preferred setting: a Barnes and Noble cafe, near a wall

The second-best setting: any cafe (still near a wall)

The I’ll-take-what-I-can-get setting: library or kitchen (must be well-lit)

Writing implements: laptop, with notebook and pen on hand for emergencies that must be drawn out or diagrammed 

Music: NONE, or low-volume cafe ambiance music

Tools: a cup of tea, black, with sugar, best if in a mug, manageable if in a to-go cup

Clothes: comfortable, no jewelry to get distracted fiddling with

Writing program: Microsoft Word, background tinted a light mint green, 0, 10 pt line spacing set to at least at 1.15 pt, Times New Roman, 12 pt font

Other people: at least a seat in between us, preferably quite a bit of room, and not talking loudly near me, or I end up eavesdropping instead of writing

Things that throw off my groove: people’s music playing too loudly, people talking too loudly, being forced to sit at a table in the middle of the cafe, running out of tea, getting distracted texting (but that last one’s all me)

Until writing this list I didn’t quite realize how picky I am…

✴This has been a queued post, as I am currently in the Amazon with no Wifi.

Myth-staken

Greek mythology is dead.

Right?

Of course not.

But Greek mythology has been wrung out like an old wash cloth since 900 BCE, and while there is still plenty (plenty) of room for interpretation, there’s a whole world of myth out there just as rich.

In the early stages of The Book of the Dead I knew that, though I was dealing with a pantheon of pantheons, it would not do to lean too heavily on Greek mythology. I use Greek figures as an introduction to the turbulent scene of the Underworld–like the main character, the reader is also brought to Hades (the place, not the god) by Hermes–and from there the narrative diverges into Egyptian, Sumerian, Hopi, and a basketful of other mythscapes. But the character of Hermes serves as a grounding point, a bridge into different mythos. And I’ve never heard of someone who doesn’t like Hermes, whatever piece of literature he’s in. He’s a likeable bridge.

Okay, here’s Hermes. He’s been rehashed one million times, and here’s the next iteration. Now let’s go a little deeper…have you heard of Ereshkigal? 

Hermes_e_Sarpedon edit

✴This has been a queued post, as I am currently in the Amazon with no Wifi.

What’s in a Name?

Naming can be hard. Sometimes you have a first name but no last one. Sometimes it’s historical and you have no idea what would be appropriate. Sometimes you know everything about a character except. their. damn. name. It’s an icky feeling to stick a placeholder name onto them knowing that it’s just not right. Here are some awesome naming resources I’ve collected over the years, from historical lists to generators to baby name sites. Enjoy!

Victorian Era Names: 1840s to 1890s, from old censuses

Medieval English Names: some really cool names

Most Popular Baby Names by the Decade: since the 1880s

Least Popular American Baby Names Historically: if you want to mix things up a little

Behind the Name: etymology and history from a variety of surnames from around the world

“American Indian” Names That Don’t Have The Meaning They’re Supposed To: for avoiding faux pas

The Nerd’s Eye View: a blog that posts a lot of cool names alphabetically, real and fantasy

Last Name Generator: Insert first name, receive suitable last name

Fantasy Name Generator: an almost overwhelming amount of generators, from robot names to holy book names

Nymbler: find names that are similar to other names; good for if you have a name that’s almost the right one, but not quite

Nameberry: has names by place, unsure how accurate they may be to said locations

Recalibrating

I’m over halfway through the current round of revision of The Book of the Dead, which has been going swimmingly. Until yesterday. I was in the middle of one of my favorite scenes, about to re-introduce a character, when…bam, all of the sudden I can see an arc for him that I have never contemplated.

It literally stopped me in my tracks. I had to write down the bare bones of the idea, close my laptop, and stop working to let it incubate.

On one hand, it’s fairly late in the game to be making a big change. This was supposed to be a semi-final draft (if such a thing even exists). On the other, the new trajectory that came to me in a flash solves about three problems that I’d been worrying over: one about representation, one about reception, and one about pacing.

So today, when I was supposed to be polishing up a chapter, I am about to re-structure three. We’ll see how it turns out.

Dodging Doubt

It’s that time again, when I depart from my mountaintop university, drive six hours, and end up back home in an existential crisis. It comes from lack of structure.

How will I attempt to abate this? Writing, of course!

I plan to knock out a final-ish draft of The Book of the Dead in the next month and a half before I leave for Ecuador so I can hit the ground querying when I get back. My goal is at least half a chapter a day, using the process I detailed in this post. I’m fighting a lot of doubt right now over just about every aspect of the story, so hopefully total immersion in it will belay that.

I found a quote on tumblr that I will be referencing when I feel  this way: “when u dont like ur art take a deep breath and remember u created it from nothing, like a god” —hypeswap

I think this can apply just as well to writing. Nothing like a power trip to chase away hesitation. I’d love to hear others’ ways of coping with doubt.

 

Published!!!

Way back in January I made some New Years Writing Resolutions, and no.3 was “Submit a short story to my school’s literary magazine.” Well, folks, I submitted one, and I was accepted! The release party was last night, and you can now find my short story “Cake” right here, in the 2016-17 version of The Peel, a very cool literary magazine.

I was asked to read the story at the release party, which I did, and I didn’t throw up, mess up, or start laughing uncontrollably into the microphone. The crowd was the kind that snaps when they like a line. It was an incredible experience, and the implications haven’t quite sunk in. I’m a person who’s been published. A published person. P U B L I S H E D.

The story is about a cake (surprised?) and only a page and a half long. It was actually a writing prompt I did last year and buffed up to submit on the last night of the deadline, which goes to show–well, I’m not sure what, but it goes to show something.

And after that brief celebration, it’s back to the despair of exam week. Good luck to any fellow students out there!

cake edit

Image 1: An attempt at a context-based visual pun