I'm always shocked, somehow, when the weekend arrives! It feels like this year has been moving so quickly. Perhaps that's just what happens when you're chronically ill and have a simple life spent mostly at home. 😋
Today, I want to talk about an epiphany I had when I was writing this blog post. In the post, I wrote about trunking #ProphecyStory and the bright possibilities I saw moving forward in my writing career. As I did so, I suddenly realized why it's taking me so long to write something good enough to get a literary agent.
A little while back, I wrote a different blog post about how my books have lacked the originality necessary to succeed on the market. At that point, though there are reasons why I'm glad my career hasn't taken off yet, I was feeling fairly discouraged. I kept thinking, How can I be such a slow learner in my writing career when I've always been a fast learner in everything else? But now I understand that it's not an issue of being a slow learner. I've likely been learning and improving at a decent enough pace.
The problem is that I wasn't writing in the way that works best for me.
I've known for a long time that, when it comes to writing advice, the cardinal rule is that you need to do what works for you. Not every piece of writing advice will be right for every writer, though most advice has its place. What I didn't realize was that this doesn't always come naturally. You have to put in effort to find the way that works for you, and it won't always be the first way you try. You have to test it. You have to apply those pieces of writing advice and see if they improve your work.
It's time for me to share all the coolest stuff I saw on the internet this last quarter!
First of all, I wanted to share this fantastic language-related video where bilingual people take on Google Translate:
In the writing world, this Tumblr post gives some great advice for white people drawing/writing characters of color. This Tumblr post looks at fictional animal design, while this one looks at the causes of war. This one offers an interesting cheat sheet for how plot, character, and setting interact.
From following bookish people on Twitter (like the ones I recommended last week), I've learned a lot about the interactions authors have with other people. I've learned what some of the etiquette rules are for those interactions. So today I thought I'd share some of those rules, looking at reader to author, author to reader, agent to author, and author to agent dos and don'ts. This will give you an idea of what to expect from yourself and others!
Reader to Author
As my longtime readers know, I've aspired towards becoming a published novelist since I was young. I started trying to write my first novel when was nine, and I sent my first query letters when I was twelve. I had a goal to get traditionally published before middle school started... then before high school, then before college, then before my graduation from college. I was (and continue to be!) a huge supporter of teen writer initiatives. But none of these things turned out for me, and here I am, twenty-five years old, nineteen novels written, 117 query letters sent, and still unpublished.
My younger self would be horrified, and a small part of me is disappointed. However, there are reasons why I'm actually glad I haven't been published yet. It's not because I was too young--I stand by my support of teen authors, All authors have to start somewhere, and some are ready for publication sooner in their writing career (and in their lives) than others are. But I, as a writer and a person, was not ready for publication before. I don't know if I'm ready now, or when I will be, but there were at least three reasons why it wouldn't have worked in the past. I'm sharing them here to help other writers who might be facing the same issues and setbacks.
Hello, readers! It's that time of year again: today I'm participating in the Ch1Con & Ch21Con 2019 Blog Tour, an annual tour in preparation for this year’s conferences, which brings original content from the Chapter One Events team to a number of fantastic, writing-related blogs.
Chapter One Events is a nonprofit organization that brings writing information and publishing opportunities to young writers, culminating in the Chapter One Young Writers Conference (Ch1Con, ages 11-20) and Chapter Twenty-One Conference (Ch21Con, ages 21-29) each year. The two conferences bring tweens, teens, and young adults together to hear from accomplished authors their own age, participate in professional workshops, and celebrate the influence young writers have on the world. With an atmosphere that combines the professional aspects of writing conferences with the awesomeness of hanging out with fellow young book nerds, Ch1Con and Ch21Con are truly can’t-miss events!
The Chapter One Events team is composed of a mix of middle school, high school, college, and twenty-something writers who work together to create a unique, inclusive experience for young attendees. One of these team members is here today to talk about a subject important to me right now: rekindling your passion for writing. Everyone, please say hello to Katie Sherwood!
As y'all might have noticed, Camp NaNoWriMo didn't work out so well for me this last month. In April, I wrote just a little over 8,000 words of my new #SnowQueenStory. For someone who used to be able to win NaNoWriMo (50,000 words) in two weeks or less, that's... really discouraging. But this is my reality, and reality can be harsh at times.
It's important that I recognize that this is my first attempt at writing a new, original novel since 2014. (I did write a novel-length fanfic that helped comfort and bolster me through the worst of things in 2016/2017. It took about a year to write.) This is my first attempt at a new, original novel after my chronic illness crisis. Expecting it to be easy, and expecting to be able to win NaNoWriMo right off the bat again, wasn't realistic of me.
I did face challenges that I couldn't have anticipated, c'est la vie for us all, right? For most of the month, my chronic illnesses were flaring due to acupuncture, which I'd decided to try out after like a million people recommended it to me--turns out it was not a good idea for me. I wasn't sure it would do anything at all, but I definitely didn't expect it to have such a strong negative effect!
When I first started writing, I didn't believe that writer's block was real. Since then, I've had many years to learn otherwise! I now believe in a writer's block model where there are four different causes. Today, I'd like to talk about those causes and what the solutions are for each of them. So let's dig into writer's block, y'all!
Problem: Lack of motivation
This is probably the most common cause of writer's block. People tend to believe that writing is something that happens when you're in the "mood," when you feel "the Muse" speaking to you. They believe you should only do it if you're enjoying it 100%. But what if that "mood" just isn't coming around?
Solution: Butt in chair, fingers on keyboard
The reality is, if you want to actually finish your project (and especially if you want to have a writing career), you need to write even when you're not feeling like it. It's okay just to write for fun, but if you want more out of your work, you need to buckle down. Writing can be hard. Periods where you lack motivation can last for a long time. Oftentimes, the motivation doesn't hit until you're in the middle of writing. As such, the refrain many authors repeat is "butt in chair, fingers on keyboard." Sit down and start writing anyway. It may take a while, but if lack of motivation truly is the cause of your writer's block, writing on a regular basis will almost certainly help--eventually.
I've been writing creative projects since I was six years old. I was already an avid and above-grade-level reader by then, so my mom and I decided that for an end-of-year class project, I'd explore various types of writing: poetry, picture books, personal narratives.
I loved it. I've always had a vibrant imagination, full of magic and romance, and this gave me a way to preserve that, to explore it, and to share it. At the end of the project, I read a picture book I'd written to my brother's preschool and then presented them a copy to keep. In that moment, with all those little faces looking up at me, I knew this was something I wanted.
Hey guys! It's time for my annual post about this year's WriteOnCon! (You can see last year's summary here.) I was eager to get into the conference, now that I'm really getting back into the game with my writing career. It feels like it came and went so quickly! And it left me with a ton of information to catch up on--turns out, when they post multiple videos every hour, there's no way to be on top of it all. 😆 But I always love how the conference renews my enthusiasm for my own writing.
The forums have generally been the main attraction for me, and this year, it was a bit odd, because it seems that I'm now one of the more knowledgeable people on the boards. In past years, I was uncertain and inexperienced and almost overwhelmed by the feedback, although I greatly appreciated it. This year, I have much more of a handle on querying, so there weren't a whole lot of changes I ended up making to my work. I did enjoy the chance to read other peoples' queries and see where they are in the process and help them along. There are some great manuscripts out there!
One thing I do wish they had kept is the Ninja Agent or Supers roving through the main boards. This year they made a separate board for those experts, and I didn't end up getting any feedback there, which I think is true of many people. It was more fun and exciting having them on the main boards and having them be more active.
I can't believe it's November already! September felt so slow, but October just sped past me.
Last week, I shared some internet tools that could be of use to just about anyone. This week, I wanted to share some tools that writers can use, tools that I, in fact, do use in my writing career. Almost all of these are free, with the exception of the writing conferences and the programs mentioned in the "Writing" section. Check 'em out!
One thing every author needs is people supporting them. Writing communities can be incredibly helpful throughout the entire process. Here are some good resources for a writer looking for their community.
Yeah, yeah, y'all know I'm a big fan. But the first rule of social media is that you shouldn't do it unless you enjoy it! As such, I recommend you give all the big social media sites a try, but then adjust or end your membership if you don't find yourself having fun. Twitter in particular I'd recommend for finding and talking with other writers, but any of them have a writing/bookish community you can be a part of!
Back when I first started this blog, I posted a handful of times about my writing idols. Since then, my list of writing idols has grown a good bit. Honestly, there are so many fantastic writers out there in the world, and there's so much I admire about and want to learn from them. I know I'll never be able to achieve what many of these writers have--sometimes you just have natural talent in some areas and natural ineptitude in others--but in recognizing them and their skill, I take the first step towards improving my own writing. So today I thought I'd post an updated list of my writing idols and what it is that I admire most about them.
1) J.K. Rowling. Forever and always, I will look up to the author of Harry Potter and the ongoing Cormoran Strike series (as Robert Galbraith). She's fantastic in so many different ways. Most of all, I admire her charitable work, her clean and relatable characterization, and her thorough worldbuilding.
2) Hans Christian Andersen. I have a lot in common with this guy, and after reading the full collection of his fairytales, I came to admire not only the beauty and magic of his stories, but also the way he brought deeper meaning, often religious in nature, into them.
3) Neal Shusterman. This author is another one whose worldbuilding I look up to. It's complex and thoughtful and makes me see the world differently. I also admire his creativity in coming up with strange and unique premises for all his books, which include the Unwind Dystology, Challenger Deep, and the ongoing Arc of a Scythe trilogy.
Hello, readers! Today I'm participating in the Ch1Con & Ch21Con 2018 Blog Tour, an annual tour in preparation for this year’s conferences, which brings original content from the Chapter One Events team to a number of fantastic, writing-related blogs. I'm going to be interviewing team member Katelyn Pettit, so stay tuned!
As you know from my stint as a founding team member prior to me becoming too sick to work, Chapter One Events is a nonprofit organization that brings writing information and publishing opportunities to young writers—culminating in the annual Chapter One Young Writers Conference (Ch1Con, ages 11-20) and the brand new Chapter Twenty-One Conference (Ch21Con, ages 21-29). The Chapter One Events team is composed of a mix of middle school, high school, college, and twenty-something writers, who work together to create a unique, inclusive experience for young attendees.
My apologies for missing last week! I had to take a sick day. :P
Now it's time for another round of speedlinking, where I share some cool stuff from across the Internet for you to enjoy!
First off, I added the two Avengers: Infinity War trailers to my Speedlinking playlist on YouTube (#23 and 24), because THIS IS A VERY IMPORTANT EVENT THAT I'M NOT SURE MY FEELINGS WILL SURVIVE. (Can you believe it now has an April 27 release worldwide?) *Language warning on that link*
Next, a few links that may be useful to you writers out there. A lot of people online have been talking about the Notebook.ai, a worldbuilding program online that has both a free and a paid version. It looks really awesome, and I'm sure a lot of you would enjoy using it. Me, I've found that I do better freeform, using Word--even my one go at the ever-popular Scrivener didn't work out. Nevertheless, this looks like something a lot of people will find very useful.
There's also a random last name generator, for those less-important characters who you just need to name, darnit. It's got a great variety of names from every culture, at least from what I've seen so far, and it's a little less awkward than going through your Twitter feed. :)
Then there's the Atlas Obscura, a website where you can look up basically any location to find its most interesting attractions. I think this could be useful for real-world worldbuilding, as one of many pieces of research you'll have to do when including a real city in your stories.
*Long post ahoy.*
First, I'd like to share some important news about this blog. During WriteOnCon 2018, one idea that came up a few times is that the social media you use should always be something that you enjoy. If you don't enjoy it, you should feel free to pull back and do it less, or not at all. After hearing that, I've decided to pull back a little more on this blog.
For the first few years, I really enjoyed blogging here. But as my illnesses got worse, I began running out of both ideas and energy. I've been trying a lot of different blogging schedules and tags to try and make up for that, but I'm not getting the interaction that I like, and I really do feel like I've already written the bulk of the blog posts that I wanted to. I don't want to stop blogging entirely, because I do really like sharing my thoughts when I have them, but I'm not interested in doing it on the same basis that I have been.
So I'm going to change my schedule again and blog once a week, on Saturdays. I may put up bonus posts on Wednesdays--like this one!--if I have something extra to talk about, but for the most part, it'll be four posts a month. That means no more "Waiting On" Wednesdays or Top Ten Tuesdays. But I will post seasonal lists of the books on my top TBR, and I'm sure some of the ideas from Top Ten Tuesday will show up in future posts. Monthly humor posts are also going to change to seasonal humor posts, with my favorite twenty-five funny posts from Tumblr and Pinterest for each three month block. Additionally this means that my weekly email newsletters will change to monthly newsletters.
I intend to be just as present on my other social media profiles as ever, and I hope that people will look through this blog and see what I've talked about in the past if they're looking for specific information--or just ask me! The Recommended Posts page is still up, and I've added an archive to the sidebar so you can browse through my old posts a little more easily.
Among the many important choices that writers face is what point of view to write from. Point of view is absolutely key when it comes to storytelling. After all, it has an enormous impact on how the audience perceives everything from worldbuilding to characterization. As such, I thought today I'd talk a little bit about the different options we have when it comes to POV and about the choices I've made in the past with my books.
First, it's important to define the terminology for points of view as discussed in most English classes. Point of view can come in one of three basic forms: first, second, or third. First person point of view uses the pronoun "I" and originates within the consciousness of a single character. Second person POV is the least commonly done, using the pronoun "you" to guide the reader into the place of a character. This usually happens only for short, hypothetical-type passages and is generally not recommended for long passages. Third person point of view uses other pronouns like "she" or "he" in reference to all the characters. Third person POV further can be limited, omniscient, or limited-omniscient: focusing on a single character, aware of the feelings and thoughts of all characters, or a mix of the two.
An additional decision that must be made in terms of perspective is tense. Though multiple tenses are necessary in any writing, most authors work with a primary tense of either present or past, where the character either is performing the actions as they speak them (present) or is telling the story as though it has already occurred (past).
These basic POV elements will be mixed and matched throughout most stories. If an author chooses to use multiple points of view (usually alternating between chapters), even more mixing and matching may occur. However, it's important to know which base POV you are working with.
Almost every aspiring writer takes a creative writing class at some point in their lives. A lot of us wonder, though, about the value of those classes. I know a lot of young writers especially question whether or not they should go on to get a Creative Writing degree. So today, I thought I'd share my own experiences with creative writing classes.
I took my first creative writing class in seventh grade. Before that, my teachers supported my writing, and I even had some dedicated time to it through the GATE program, but everyone took the same classes. In middle school, we got to choose some of what we did, and I, of course, chose to take creative writing.
That first class did not go well.
I've shared myleast favorite tropes before, but every so often, I come across a trope that I find particularly upsetting. Today, as part of my Kill the Trope series, I'm going to examine the "crazy telepathic woman" trope and explain to you how it combines misogyny and ableism so horrifically that it needs to be abandoned.
*Comics spoilers ahoy*
Once upon a time, there was a woman with telepathic powers. She could read minds, control them, maybe even undo them. Despite the enormous mental and emotional pressure that having such a power would exert, she managed to eke out a life as a hero. She used her incredible gift to protect lives, and even though it was a pretty scary power that was sometimes hard on her, she became a real force for good in the world. Then, one day, something terrible happens--a death, usually, or some kind of accident that breaks her powers loose.
She goes insane. Not just your regular old "wow I have a mental illness" insane, but "I am going to literally murder everyone" insane. She loses all sense of morality, all sense of boundaries, all sense of self, and wreaks terrible havoc across the world until someone finally stops her, usually by killing her. (Because she's a superhero, she will probably come back, but even once she's her normal self again, everyone will be wary of her and will constantly bring up that one time she went crazy, if not outright reject her.)
Hello, readers of Kira’s blog! My name is Ariel Kalati, the Associate Online Administrator for Ch1Con, and I’m writing a guest post today. If you’ve managed to follow this blog without knowing what Ch1Con is, let me give you a brief overview: it stands for Chapter One Young Writers Conference, and it’s basically the best thing that ever happened. It's by young writers, for young writers, about Panera Bread. Actually, it’s about forming a meaningful community and spreading education and resources about writing, but Panera is a vital part of that goal.
To learn more about Ch1Con, visit our website! Registration is open, so if you're writer from ages 11-23, you can register now for our annual conference in Chicago, on August 5 this year featuring headliner Kody Keplinger! You can also participate in one of our many online events, and you should consider entering our Poetry and Short Fiction contest for the chance to be published in an e-book anthology and win discounted admission to the conference--submissions are only open for a little while longer at this link!
One of the best things about Ch1Con is being able to share the experience of being a young writer with other young writers. And one of the best parts of community is, of course, shared complaining. So below I’ve listed some things that we all have to complain about, in the form of a listicle (you know, like a cheesy Buzzfeed article). Obviously some of these things are not exclusive to young writers, but we’ve definitely all been here.
Welcome back to Top Ten Tuesday, a book blog tag hosted by The Broke and the Bookish! Today's topic is the opposite of last week's: Top Ten Things That Will Make Me Not Want to Read a Book. Now, I'm not very picky, at least when it comes to YA, so most of these aren't even a definite turn-off. But they will cause me to think twice before reading. So check them out!
1) Call-outs from the social justice community. Look, I'm not here for books that promote sexism/racism/ableism, etc. So if Twitter gets up in arms about a book a few months before it comes out, I'm probably going to delete it from my list. I'll check out the analysis first, to be sure it makes sense, but most likely, I'll listen to what's being said.
2) Too much "white boy." I don't really know how to explain this, but some books are just so painfully white and male. They're not at all self-aware, they're full of ridiculous angst, they use other people as props, and they're unoriginal. I've heard enough about white dudes! Tell me stories that I haven't read in all my lit classes already. (This Twitter account portrays "white boy" storytelling pretty well.) Westerns, detective novels, and "coming of age" stories are the worst offenders, but "white boy" overabundance can happen in any genre.
Welcome back to Top Ten Tuesday, a book blog tag hosted by The Broke and the Bookish! Today's topic is Top Ten Things That Make Me Want to Read a Book. I've already shared most of these in my post about tropes that I love, but I'm going to go ahead and go over them again anyway. Here are ten things that will (almost!) always make me pick up a YA novel--and sometimes even an MG or adult book. (You'll see a lot of these in my "Waiting On" Wednesday picks.)
1) Chronic pain representation. There are so few books out there that feature chronic pain, and that was really hard on me when I first developed fibromyalgia. What was I supposed to do without a story to guide me? Which direction was I supposed to go? How could I possibly still be the hero of my own life when disability seemed to disqualify me from that? So whenever I see a book with chronic pain representation now, I'm ready to snap it up! Especially if it's a book in my preferred sci-fi/fantasy realm, because that's extra special. I will also often read books about other disabilities and chronic illnesses.
2) Mental illness representation. This is basically the same idea as the disability rep, but I'm pleased to say that there are more books on mental illness than there are on physical disability, at least. I especially go for books on OCD or bipolar disorder, because those are particularly important to me, and I'm least likely to go for one about an eating disorder, because there are quite a few of those.
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