Paper Trails: My Writing Process, Currently

Family home(s)

Sources: 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7

 

I love talking about writing. But since I’ve recently started working on my first novel, I feel like it’d be weird for me to give writing advice, because I’m still figuring it out as I go! So I thought I’d give you a snapshot of my process as it is right now, and I can give new updates the further along I get. I’m thinking it might turn into a fun series, and I’m excited to be able to look back at the process. And I’m always excited to hear about other people’s creative processes, so I’d love to hear about yours — whether you’re an artist, a musician, a baker, a crafter — whatever medium you use, I’m all ears!

 

What I’m working on:

 

A fantasy/ alternative history novel set in 17th centruy France. Expect lots of elves fighting over the throne with some humans who get caught up in the craziness. (You can read a little bit more about it here and here.)

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Game of Thrones + Writing the Book You Want to Read

Plot Inspiration

 Sources: Row 1: a / b / c — Row 2: a / b / c — Row 3: a / b / c

 

If you’re a writer, you’ve probably been told to write the book you want to read about a million times. I always assumed it meant that you should write the kind of book you like to read. If there was a gap between what I wanted to read and what existed, I never really considered writing the book myself.

 

That all changed when I realized I had an imaginary version of Game of Thrones. I haven’t read GOT, even though it has some of my “shut up and take my money” plot points: fantasy, political intrigue, and royal families squabbling over the line of succession. Yes please! But the gore and sexualized violence have always made me hesitant to pick it up. The thing is, I know enough about the plot from Tumblr and friends who have read it to know that I really like Sansa, and Margaery Tyrell, and that Joffrey is a total tool bench, and so sometimes I start to wonder, “Should I read it?” But then I hear about something gruesome that keeps me away.

 

I was catching up with a friend earlier this month (and commiserating about our novel-writing woes), and since neither of us has been able to get into GOT, I joked that I was writing the Game of Thrones that I would want to read. My story has elf royal families fighting over who’s going to be the royal family in 17th century France — so basically, the political intrigue between the different houses in GOT, but without the blood and gore and creepy plot points.

 

If you remember my post about imposter syndrome from back in March, the idea of writing the book you want to read really helps with those writing doubts. I love the idea that writing is a form of collage.

 

What do you think of Game of Thrones? Are there any stories that you want to like but just can’t get into? Maybe they can give some inspiration in what you’re writing/ making right now!

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My 6 Tips for Naming Characters

Photo via Death to Stock
Photo via Death to Stock

 

Do you ever have trouble coming up with a name for a character or place? Even though I’ve kept a list of potential character names for years, it’s honestly one of the trickiest parts of novel-prep for me. Names can either bring your story to life, or stick out and interrupt the flow of the story for the reader. It’s especially important in fantasy or science fiction — since you’re creating an entire world from the ground-up, one out-of-place name can throw everything off. That’s a lot of pressure! While I’m no expert, these are the tricks I’ve found helpful so far.

 

Trick #1: Don’t feel obligated to copy the heavy hitters. J.R.R. Tolkien created his own languages, so I think a lot of fantasy writers feel like creating a language is now a requirement. However, I don’t have the linguistics know-how to pull that off, and honestly, making up a language does not sound fun to me. So I’m skipping that “requirement.”

 

This applies to other genres too. Maybe you’re tired of safe names like Emily or Jane. (No offense to any Emilys or Janes out there! I love both those names, but there are a lot of you.) Or maybe you feel like everyone is trying too hard to make their characters special by giving them weird names. Don’t be afraid to ignore the “rules” and choose names that fit your story.

 

Trick #2: Don’t be afraid to borrow a name from another story — as long as it’s not easily recognizable. If your protagonist is named Hermione, Katniss, or Frodo, your reader is going to know something’s up. But secondary characters are a great option for some creative “theft.” Shakespeare’s plays and the Harry Potter series have tons of secondary characters, so they’re  a great place to look for names that will work for your story.

 

I think it also helps if you borrow from several sources, so readers don’t notice ten Shakespeare names popping up throughout your story. (This obviously doesn’t apply if you’re doing a retelling of Hamlet or Macbeth or something like that.)

 

Trick #3: Borrow a name or word and change it up a little. This is probably my favorite trick. Whether you’re afraid that a name sounds too familiar as-is, or you want to make it a little more interesting, changing one or two letters can make all the difference. This is also great for using words as names. A few months ago I bought a bottle of rosé called Miraval. I really liked the name, so I changed a vowel and voila! I had a name for one of my protagonists. True story.

 

Note: Like Trick #2, I think you should avoid names that are easily recognizable. A name like Eragon (cough cough) is so similar to Aragorn that readers might assume you borrowed it.

 

Trick #4: Sound is more important than meaning. In the past, I chose names based on the meaning, but they never sounded good together. While I love character names with symbolic meanings (J.K. Rowling is especially good at this), I think sound is ultimately more important.

 

Trick #5: Avoid really complicated names. If you’re a fantasy writer you’ve probably heard this advice before, but it’s worth repeating. If there are too many silent letters or extra syllables in a name, your readers will have to do a lot of heavy lifting every time they read it. And if your protagonist’s name is 18 letters long, odds are your reader will be pretty cranky after stumbling over it 10,000 times.

 

If you’re absolutely in love with a complicated name, try using a nickname. The full name will actually have more impact if you only pull it out for important moments (AKA birthdays, ceremonies, or when they’re in trouble).

 

Trick #6: If you can’t decide on a name for a character or place, it’s better to use a temporary name than to get stuck searching for a perfect one. (I’m preaching to the choir here, because I’m totally guilty of this.) After all, C.S. Lewis changed the Pevensie siblings’ names after the first draft, so I think it’s ok to use a placeholder name until you find one that’s just right.


Do you have any tricks for picking character names? Do you think it’s beyond weird that I named a character after a wine bottle? I’d love to hear what you think!

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Input/ Output

Have you ever heard of having creative input and output days? I’ve been thinking about them a lot lately– especially since I’ve been trying to remember where I first read about them. It’s really bugging me that I can’t think of it, but I am still really excited by the idea! The past two weeks have definitely been more focused on input more than output, and while I love inspiration days, I think I’ve gotten a little stuck. I totally agree with Abbigail in her post about why she writes — when I haven’t been writing or “outputting” enough I feel mentally sluggish and frustrated, so I’m hoping that next week will be more focused on output.

 

Input Day

 

1. Emily Henderson’s Materials Girl #5: I’ve been reading Style by Emily Henderson religiously so I can soak up all the interior design advice I can, since decorating isn’t exactly my strong suit. I’m basically going to do my best to copy her entire house in my new apartment. But not in a weird way, obviously. I thought the mix of colors and pattern in her latest Materials Girl post seems like a grown-up, livable version of my wedding colors, which I kind of love.

2. Lettering Set by Noel Shiveley and Alex McDonell, via Kelly Purkey’s Five on Friday: I think I need this quote written above my desk or tattooed on my forehead. It’s something I need to hear every time I start over analyzing my writing, work, life choices, outfit…

3. SMP Living’s Behind the Scenes with Britt Bass Turner: I loved everything about this post– I love Britt Bass Turner’s art and reading her thoughts on her art and career was really encouraging and inspiring. If I lived in Atlanta I would definitely sign up for the next Studio Session!

4. The EveryGirl’s Rebecca Atwood Career Profile: Another really inspiring career profile, but this time with textile designer Rebecca Atwood. I have a whole new appreciation whenever I walk into a store and see how much work went into the textiles for upholstery, towels, clothing, etc. I’m definitely inspired to play with pattern and colors, both in clothing and decorating.

5. The Effortless Chic’s California Dreaming: It’s so funny to me how much pink there is in this photoset, because I don’t wear much pink. But I LOVE that pink backdrop! I also really like her sweater and the reasons she loves LA. It definitely makes me think of all my favorite places in my hometown, and inspires me to do more exploring in Houston.

6. 100 Layer Cakelet’s Lucy Roux’s Favorite Things First Birthday: Is it weird that I’m a little jealous of this birthday party? It’s so darn cute, and I love that the theme was based on her favorite things. I also LOVE the calligraphy and the illustrations used to decorate the cookies. So. Cute.

7. Design Love Fest’s Dress Your Tech: I’m pretty sure that the Dress Your Tech series is the coolest idea. I think it’s so great that Bri posts desktop backgrounds by different illustrators and graphic designers every week. I love this desktop background by Elizabeth Doyle, and it’s making my desk top extra pretty.

8. The Tomkat Studio’s Calligraphy Eat Cake Balloons: So the pink balloons + calligraphy are so cute that I couldn’t resist including them. I’m not sure if it’s a reference to Julia Child’s famous quote about cake, but I like to think it is.

9. The Vanilla Bean Blog’s Buttermilk Cake with Blood Orange Frosting: There are so many great things about this post! The cake recipe looks delicious, and since it’s blood orange season and they’re Teddy’s favorite, I think I’ll definitely have to make this soon. Also, Sarah announced that she’s writing a cookbook, which is so exciting! And I loved that she mentioned the Nancy Drew/ Narnia/ Sweet Valley mashup stories she wrote in middle school, because that sounds a lot like the stories I’d write when I was 11 or 12, and I would have definitely loved her stories back then.

10. Have you ever seen The IT Crowd? It’s a hilarious British TV show (that’s on Netflix, in case you’re curious). Moss is my favorite character, and this is one of my favorite quotes. Sometimes you have to rely on your weirdness and sweet sense of style.

 

Most of these aren’t writing-related, but I’m just going with it. Here’s to having a good balance of input and output days!

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Room to Grow

Poinsettias
Speaking of room to grow, this is the poinsettia that has somehow outlived Christmas and is still hanging out on my desk.

 

I read a lot of blogs. Interior design blogs, food blogs, art blogs, writing blogs, DIY blogs, lifestyle blogs. You name it, I probably read it. And while I’ve been trying to cull the herd and only follow blogs with writing I love, I have noticed a trend- they all tell you how to blog. Some more explicitly than others, and they always mean well. “This has worked for me, so if you do it, you can be successful too.” I love that so many bloggers and entrepreneurs are open to sharing their processes. I love reading about people’s behind the scenes and how they make work. Those are always my favorite posts to read.

But it makes it so easy for me to feel guilty about this space. According to really inspiring, successful, nice people, I’m doing this blog thing all wrong. I missed a post last week- and I only post once a week, when I should be posting 3-5 times a week, with a killer blog design and great photos. I should have a design style so that my work is instantly recognizable. I should strategize what I post based on what other people want to read. I should, I should, I should…
I’m exhausted just thinking about all of that. I find myself wondering how I can be successful if it’s so obvious that I’m doing all the wrong things?
This week, I’ve been working on my story notebook, filling out character descriptions. According to a lot of articles I’ve read, I’m doing those all wrong too. No exhaustive biography. No mention of a favorite color or an embarrassing childhood moment. Just some important, basic bio information and personality traits that shape their thought process. Most are only half a page. I started to stress about not doing it “right.” And then I thought, I still have half a page. If I figure out I need to know something out I can always add it.* There’s room to grow.
And I realized how well that applies to this space too. I want to keep growing and keep improving, but there’s still (a lot!) of room to grow. And I’m ok with that. Nothing against bloggers who decide to monetize their blogs or use affiliate links or receive products for review – those are all great opportunities. But (at least right now) this blog is just for me, so I’m looking forward to working and growing without having to worry about supporting myself with my blog.
So here’s to leaving ourselves room to grow! I don’t know about you, but I’ll probably have to remind myself of that pretty often over the next year. But I’m excited to see how I grow, both in blogging and in my “real life.”
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My Writing Life

Yellow Deli
This is a photo from the Yellow Deli, a really popular study spot in Chattanooga. I can’t tell you how many papers I wrote there.

 

I’ve been talking about writing a lot here. I didn’t exactly plan to, but whenever I would think about a blog post, I always wanted to write about the creative process, about tips and tricks I’ve picked up, about favorite authors or artists opening up their studios and giving away their secrets. I can be an oversharer of things I like (hopefully not of TMI), and I love when others share what makes them tick.

 

But I started thinking, you guys don’t necessarily know about my writing life outside of this blog (unless you happen to know me outside of the internet). You won’t find my name on the New York Times Bestseller List or my picture in the back of a book at your favorite bookstore. I haven’t won any awards or prizes or even been published (unless presenting at a conference counts? Still not sure about that one.). So if you’re wondering why I’m talking about writing all the time or if I know what I’m talking about, I get it. So I decided to share a little bit about my writing… history? Experience? Now that’s a scary word.

 

I grew up reading all the time. I was terrible at sports but good at words, so I read all the books I could get my hands on. And while I loved reading, I didn’t really think about being a writer myself until I was in 6th grade, when Miss Shoup noticed that I liked writing, and encouraged me to keep up with it. She deserves a medal for that, because I found some of my elementary and middle school writing and journals this summer and it was HORRIFYING. But she still somehow found good things to say about it. I think that’s the mark of a great teacher- encouraging you while still pushing you to be better- and I’m really lucky to have had lots of great teachers.

 

In high school I wrote mostly research papers and a terrible poem here and there, but I was excited for college because then I would finally get to write fiction! And then I went to Covenant, which has a great, academically-focused English program. Oops. So I still wrote mostly research papers (usually at the Yellow Deli or another coffee shop if I could), and even got to give presentations at two academic conferences (which still blows my mind), and took creative writing classes whenever I could. Even when I was supposed to be working on other writing projects, I was always daydreaming about characters and plotlines, but I always decided that my ideas were stupid before I got very far. (To be fair to past-me, I’ve read through some of my old character descriptions and plotlines and they are, in fact, pretty stupid. A lot of my main characters mysteriously resemble my middle/ high school crushes, so I’m ok with the fact that those stories never saw the light of day.)

 

So now that I’m out of college and working a real job, my writing life looks pretty different. I have a self-imposed deadline for blog posts, so that makes sure that I don’t completely slack off on the writing front. I’m working on a fantasy novel inspired by one of my creative writing classes from my senior year. I’m thinking it’d be for middle grades, but I’m not 100% sure about that yet. I’m still working out the kinks, figuring out what my bad habits are (procrastinating, falling down the swirling vortex that is “research,” etc.). Sometimes the mindlessness of watching TV is really appealing after a long day at work, but I really want my writing to be that fulfilling hobby to come home to everyday. I read this blog post about Erin Boyle’s writing process for her book the other day, and I think I’m going to try out a similar process. Have a little writing “nook” (ideally a cute little office space, but this is real life, so probably the dining room table or the couch). Drink hot chocolate. Write. That sounds so nice, and I’m kind of excited for it.

 

So, what do you guys think? Was this interesting? Self-indulgent? (Yes, probably, but oh well.)  I’m toying with the idea of mixing in some more fiction-process-things, along with other booky, foodie, blogger things. We’ll see. And if you’ve made it this far, thank you. I really appreciate you for reading my words.


I’m going to L.A. tomorrow for a whirlwind weekend, which is crazy and exciting because I’ve never been! I have one gift guide queued for you over the weekend, and then I’ll be back next week!

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Resources: My 10 Favorite Food Blogs

Food Blogger collage

If you’re anything like me (aka the type of person who starts looking for gift and party food ideas weeks in advance), you’ve been paying close attention to all the Thanksgiving and Christmas recipes popping up all over the internet lately. Food blogs are my not-so-secret trick up my sleeve when I want to try something new in the kitchen or try out a new technique. But they aren’t just for helping you cook better (although they definitely do). If you’re a writer trying to do some world building, or an artist trying to set up a still life or create atmosphere for an illustration,  or a photographer looking for new styling ideas – food blogs can help you out with that, even if you don’t cook. So you can get inspiration for that dessert you’re bringing to the holiday party and your creative projects at the same time. (So you’re basically cheating, but in the best way.)

Now, in the interest of full disclosure,  I’m currently following 18 food blogs through my Feedly account (and those are only the blogs that are exclusively food-related, but that’s beside the point), and my friends tease me for following “too many” food blogs. But even if you don’t have a list of favorite food blogs, they can still be good resources. And here’s why:

Besides the obvious variety of photography and styling techniques that can help out the artists out there, it can also help out any writers with any researching questions they have. You can learn about a culture’s traditions, religious beliefs, cultural norms, economy, holidays, important historical events, etc. — all through food. This is really helpful if you’re trying to learn about a specific historical era or a culture you’re not familiar with. And even if you’re writing sci-fi or fantasy, there are plenty “unusual” (to you) recipes (plus modern cooking techniques) that can give you ideas even if your setting is in a galaxy far, far away.

So, here are my 10 favorite food blogs for inspiration:

Valerie's French Chocolate Cake... via Deb Perelman
Valerie’s French Chocolate Cake… via Deb Perelman
  1. Smitten Kitchen: Deb Perelman’s blog is the first place I go when I’m looking for a specific recipe. She’s been blogging for 8 years, so there’s a broad spectrum of  recipes, covering everything from Italian pizza, the best Gingerbread cookies, traditional Hannukah desserts, and Moroccan stew. Her recipes are somehow detailed without being finicky, so you get maximum deliciousness with as few unnecessary steps and dirty dishes as possible. Plus she’s funny  and the writing is great. I’d honestly be surprised if you hadn’t heard of her, but she definitely deserves this spot.

    Mimi Thorisson's Kitchen in France
    Mimi Thorisson’s Kitchen in France
  2. Manger: I adore Mimi Thorisson’s blog. Her writing about life in the rural Médoc region of France is wonderful, and her husband Oddur’s photography is just gorgeous. I love that she writes about a part of France that isn’t Paris or Provence (I’m sure both are wonderful, but it’s nice to get a different perspective of France). The story I’m working on is set in Alsace, and Manger has been a huge source of inspiration and information about French traditions and cooking. I can’t recommend it enough. Her book A Kitchen in France just came out, and I’m definitely adding it to my Christmas list!

    Cara's Coconut Cake for Emily Dickinson
    Cara’s Coconut Cake for Emily Dickinson
  3. Yummy Books: Cara Nicoletti cooks up recipe pairings for a wide variety of books- she cooked her way through The Goldfinch, cured her own ham for Emma, and even baked some walnut brownies for Stacey’s Emergency from the Babysitter’s Club series. She’s well-read and knowledgeable about food, especially meat, since she grew up in a family of butchers and works at The Meat Hook. She takes a really creative approach to her food and book pairings (see her Brooklyn Restaurant & Book Pairings for a great example), and I love her writing. Her book Voracious is coming out next year, and I’m so excited!

    Ivan Day's Victorian Tablescape
    Ivan Day’s Victorian Tablescape
  4. Food History Jottings: Ivan Day is a British food historian. He has written books, taught classes, and worked on movies and TV shows. He is a stickler for historical accuracy, so if you’re trying to learn more about European food, he’s a great place to start. He’s particularly helpful if you’re hoping for a reliable historical source for a research paper (like my bachelor’s thesis on food in Jane Austen’s novels) or historical fiction.

    Emma's Sticky Toffee Pudding
    Emma’s Sticky Toffee Pudding
  5. Poires au Chocolat: Emma Gardner also pays careful attention to historical accuracy, but she’s less of a stickler than Ivan Day. Her recipes are very British, but not in a stodgy way. They’re great for learning more about British traditions (which can be helpful when reading British lit. or Harry Potter). She also has really interesting photography and videos to show you her processes, and she has a really helpful Foundations series to help you learn some basic techniques. (Also, her recipe for That Chocolate Cake is to die for. You should make that first.) Poires has been one of my favorite food blogs for a long time, so I was sad to read her retirement announcement. But she’s studying to be a doctor, so she understandably doesn’t have lots of free time. I’m really glad that she plans on turning her site into a digital cookbook of sorts, so we don’t have to worry about losing any of her wonderful recipes.

    Nicole's Flourless Chocolate Cake
    Nicole’s Flourless Chocolate Cake
  6. Eat this Poem: Nicole Gulotta’s literary food blog focuses on poetry and food, and the way they remind us of each other. She also has a Literary City Guides series where locals give you tips for the best restaurants, cafes, book stores, libraries, and other attractions for various cities. She recently wrote one for Houston, and it made my day. I love her thoughtful writing, and it’s always a refreshing read.

    Molly Yeh's Funfetti Biscotti
    Molly Yeh’s Funfetti Biscotti
  7. My Name is Yeh: Molly Yeh is wacky, adorable, and something of a mad scientist. Her recipes are heavily influenced by her Jewish and Chinese heritage, but she isn’t afraid to put her own twist on things– Halva Popsicles, Shawarma Nachos,  and Funfetti Biscotti. She’s done the research so that we can all know which sprinkles will be the most festive in our baked goods, and that imitation vanilla is the secret to the birthday cake of our elementary school dreams. Her plan to have her own cake house is making me all kinds of jealous.

    Mandy's Taiwan Beer-House Woked Clams
    Mandy’s Taiwan Beer-House Woked Clams
  8. Lady and Pups: Mandy writes “An Angry Food Blog- Homecooking with Extreme Prejudice,” and if that tagline doesn’t make you want to read her blog, I don’t know what will. After she moved to Beijing she started cooking up American classics she missed, as well as traditional Asian recipes (not just Chinese recipes- she has Thai, Japanese, Korean, you name it). But all come with her own “angry” twist, and they are so fun. The writing and photography are killer, and if you’re curious about Asian food, she’s a good place to go.

    Stephanie's Dissertation Vice
    Stephanie’s “Dissertation Vice” Dessert
  9. Desserts for Breakfast: Stephanie Shih’s photography is AMAZING. Her recipes are inventive, and she also talks about her work as a linguist, which is a really interesting combination with the food blogging. Her Dessertation (or dessert party for all her professors and friends after she successfully defended her dissertation) was such an interesting idea, and now I want to throw a fancy dessert party. Who knew linguistics and desserts could go together so well?

    Shanna's Kale and Eggs
    Shanna’s Kale and Eggs
  10. Food Loves Writing: and last but not least, Shanna and Tim Mallon’s blog is one of my favorites, but it’s on this list for a slightly different reason than the others. Shanna and Tim focus on whole foods, and while I’ve loved all their recipes I’ve tried (their cookbook was also released recently Oops, The Einkorn Cookbook is being released on December 1. My mistake!), the thing I love most is reading Shanna’s thoughts about creativity and writing and life. I read her post Kale and Eggs (Or Why You Should Start a Food Blog) whenever I’m feeling discouraged, and it is so, so good. Shanna is open, honest, and encouraging, and in a lot of ways, she’s exactly what I want to be as a writer.

This was such a fun post to write! I hope you’ve found some new food blogs to check out, whether it’s for photography ideas, world building, or recipe ideas. Honestly, I’m a little sad that some of my other favorite food blogs didn’t make it to this list- it seems unfair to ignore them because I “just” read them for the recipes. Someday I might have to remedy that situation, but today is not that day. I hope you have a relaxing weekend before the hubbub of the holidays begins.

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Fall/ Winter Reading List + My Writing Uniform

It’s been  rainy and dreary here in Houston the past few days, and all I want to do is curl up on the couch and read, binge-watch Gilmore Girls, and write. I finally got a Houston Public Library card yesterday, so I was able to load up on some of the books on my fall reading list, even if it’s almost too late to have a fall reading list. Here’s what I’m excited to read lately:

 Fall Reading List

{Amy Poehler: Yes, Please; Emily St. John Mandel: Station Eleven; Jeffrey Overstreet: Auralia’s Colors; M.L. Longworth: Death in the VinesMichael Chabon: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and ClayNeil Gaiman: Stardust}

 

I’m kind of excited that I don’t have any plans for this weekend besides reading, binge-watching Gilmore Girls, Skyping a friend, and writing. I plan on wearing this pretty much all weekend:

 

My Writing Uniform

 

{Rowley Glasses + Sweater: Wit & Delight, by Melissa Oholendt, Epic sweatshirt: J. Crew, High Waisted leggings: H&M}

 

Some variation of a comfy sweater + leggings is my writing/ weekend uniform of choice. It’s comfy and cozy and perfect for when I know I’m not going to go out and see anyone, so I can wear my ugly-comfy sweater if I want to. Also, high waisted leggings because I hate when my leggings don’t stay put. But, if you want to feel a little fancier, you can wear a fancy robe like this one, or this one (despite its ridiculous name). I got one from some of my friends at my lingerie shower, and it’s one of my favorite things. I think it can give a washed up 40’s screen siren / Miss Havisham vibe, which would be fun if you want to pretend to be Zelda Fitzgerald for the day.

 

What are you reading/ writing this week? I’m excited to do some more work on my plot and characters and maybe write some more story blurbs. I started writing some this past week, but I felt overwhelmed by how much I still don’t know, so I decided to keep up with the writing while I work out some of the details. Anyone who’s doing NaNoWriMo, how’s it going? I found this article about  ways to get inspired even if you’re not joining in, and I thought it was pretty great.

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Why I’m Not Doing NaNoWriMo

Wolfman's Books by Kyle J. Glenn
Wolfman’s Books by Kyle J. Glenn

 

I know, I’m a writer not doing National Novel Writing Month? It’s practically an unofficial writer requirement at this point, but I have mixed feelings about it. I think it’s great if it excites you and gives you the chutzpah to get cracking on your novel. But from all the guides to “surviving NaNoWriMo” and vague sense of panic currently flooding my Tumblr dashboard, I don’t think I’m the only one who finds NaNoWriMo more stressful than inspiring. Personally I don’t want my writing process to feel like a Terminator apocalypse that I have to survive. I think November is a pretty crummy time to enter a voluntary literary house arrest — who wants to be a sleep-deprived zombie for Thanksgiving and Christmas? I miss the writing projects from undergrad, but I’m still so happy that I don’t have deadlines that I’m not willing to give myself a crazy one now.

 

Narcissism and Self-Loathing
Ted McCagg’s “Writers Explained” is pretty much perfect.

 

The more I thought about the crazy deadline and how (woefully) unprepared I would be to start a novel on November 1, the less and less I wanted to start the project at all. (Plus Teddy was completely horrified when I mentioned it to him, and since he’s my resident sounding board and first reader I figured I should pay attention.) I decided that the timing wasn’t great for me, so why not use the NaNoWriMo start date as an inspiration for my own personal goal? The other day my friend Erin reblogged this simple plan that only requires you to write 350 words a day for 260 days out of the year, so I decided to set my own (manageable) goals for next month: I’m hoping to write 5 scenes over that month, and if I’m really prolific, maybe 10. That seems so piddly compared to 50,000 words, but honestly I’m totally fine with that! I really want to set up a writing routine that works for me all year.

 

I definitely don’t want to crush anyone’s NaNoWriMo hopes and dreams – if you’re excited for it, go for it! But if you’re anything like me and you’re worried about stressing yourself out so much that writing becomes a chore, or beating yourself up if you don’t make it to 50,000 words, set your own goals. Get what you want out of NaNoWriMo, and you’ll succeed whether you make it to 2,000 or 50,000 words.

 

Whether you’re doing NaNoWriMo or not, here are some links for various writing resources that might be helpful:

  • How to write quickly… good resource for anyone doing NaNoWriMo, or anyone who has to beat a deadline.
  • The Elephant Technique… this blew my mind, and might be one of the best (and simplest) writing tips I’ve read. Unless you’re writing a story about elephants, in which case you might want to make it the “Platypus Technique.” Also a guide to NaNo/ novel Prep.
  • If thinking about writing dialogue stresses you out (I can’t be the only one, right?), this list of resources should help calm you down.
  • Honestly Fix Your Writing Habits  and Clever Girl Helps are both chock-full of helpful information. Austin Kleon’s Tumblr is pretty awesome too.
  • Ten Things I’d Like to Say to Young Writers. Again, Chuck Wendig is not exactly safe for work – or your grandma – but he’s not screwing around when it comes to writing advice. This is also a really good kick in the pants for when your enthusiasm starts to (inevitably) fade.
  • This quote is so good that I accidentally reblogged it twice within a month on my writing Tumblr. I also have an “Authors Talking Shop” tag with quotes from various artists, authors, etc. about the creative process.
  • Can I go to this Writer’s Retreat?

 

Go nuts, you crazy kids! Are you planning on doing NaNoWriMo this year? Do you think I’m a wimp for not doing it? If you’re not, do you have any other writing goals you’re working towards? I’d love to hear!

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