Monday, July 30, 2012

Psychology Fan Girl

For the first time, I've become a huge fan of a historical figure: psychologist Carl Rogers. Not only is he an outstanding psychologist (most famous for developing client-centered therapy techniques) he’s a great writer as well. Most of his ideas surround the importance of good open communication and understanding. Anyone who wants to brush up on psychology without getting lost in terminology should check out his work. Here are some of my favorite quotes of his:




It seems to me that I am still — inside — the shy boy who found communication very difficult in interpersonal situations: who wrote love letters which were more eloquent than his direct expressions of love; who expressed himself freely in high school themes, but felt himself too “odd” to say the same things in class. That boy is still very much a part of me. Writing is my way of communicating with a world to which, in a very real sense, I feel I do not quite belong. I wish very much to be understood, but I don’t expect to be. Writing is the message I seal in the bottle and cast into the sea. My astonishment is that people on an enormous number of beaches — psychological and geographical — have found the bottles and discovered that the messages speak to them. So I continue to write.
-Carl Rogers

Thursday, June 7, 2012

A Weekend of Anime & Anime Lovers

 My sister is a huge anime fan (like learn japanese and add "chan" to the ends of her friends' names kind of anime fan). So we went to an anime convention for her birthday. It was really fun. I enjoyed walking around and taking pictures of everyone in costume (even though I only recognized about a tenth of the characters). It's like Disney World, only cheaper and with people more exited to be in costume.

My sister made all the costumes. They went as Death the Kid, Liz, and Patty from Soul Eater:

Like I said, I don't watch much anime, so I went as Kaylee from Firefly (it's old, I know, but I only just got around to watching it about a month ago)
My sister's friend and I were super exited to find Sherlock posters! (I also bought a Firefly and a Merlin one). My wall is so pretty now :)
  

It was fun! I'll probably go back next year. I just found out there is a comic convention in my home town the weekend I'm going home, so I'm making plans for that. It's in just two weeks! I'll have to start on a costume- I'm thinking something from X-men.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Waking back up

So I'm back. And I have stories to tell.

During exams, I planned on taking a week away from writing. I stopped working on my stories, stopped posting here, stopped doing any work that wasn't specifically for school. Then I finished my classes, went to my friends' graduation (which, funny enough, turned out to be my own graduation even though I'm not technically finished with classes for one more semester), watched the Avengers, was introduced to Firefly (way too late), went home to visit family, moved back to start taking summer classes, started taking summer classes, and suddenly, I realized almost three weeks had gone by and I hadn't written a word! Ok, well maybe a few texts and e-mails, but that doesn't count.

I started writing again on Monday, and while it may have been a little rough at first, it's almost as if I never stopped. Today I came back here for the first time in a while and the first post I saw was this great post by Martha at Martha's Musings on The Right Not To Write. If anyone has ever or ever starts feeling guilty about taking a break from writing, I encourage you to take a look at it. Because, let's face it, we all need a break every once in a while. Anyone who spends there whole life staring at a word document or with a pen in their hand will run out of things to say far faster than those who are out there living.

And then we get to come back and write about it :)

Monday, April 23, 2012

Sorry it's been so silent here.



It may look like I’ve been lazy these past few weeks, but I can assure you that’s not the case. I’ve been working on this:
(my 50 page thesis)
And this:
(Our Anthology)
And I've been having a bit of fun decorating my roommates graduation cap (with her help). It’s nearing the end of the semester, so that means papers and finals and speeches and presentations these next few weeks, so forgive me if I’m not the most exciting blogger this month. These last weeks of April are coming too fast! 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Positive Criticism

Anyone who's ever had someone else read their work knows that there are three types of critics: those who maul it to death, tearing apart every word; those who fawn over it, praising every metaphor like it belongs on a pedestal; and those who actually have something worthwhile to offer. 

This Friday, I'm supposed to present on a topic of my choice that can be incorporated into peer editing. I choose to do constructive criticism, which I kept accidentally calling "positive criticism." The more I thought about it, the more I realized my slip of the tongue wasn't necessarily an accident. We have this whole negative connotation with criticism, picturing it as an attack on us, or someone telling us we're no good. But it can be so much more than that. Thoughtful constructive criticism can be extremely helpful, like visiting a personal trainer: it will tell you what you're doing right, and what you can do to be even better.

Just as no one wants a trainer who tells them they're too fat or too slow, no one wants to hear that their writing is too flowery or too sparse. While we can't control how others critique (except by choosing who we show our work too), here are a few ways I've found to help make us better critics, and hopefully give criticism a better name:

  • Avoid “You” Statements: Instead of: “You have a lot of comma splices.” Try something like: “There are a few comma splices in this paragraph.”
  • Avoid “Can’t/Need Statements” Instead of: “You can’t have that as a title.” or “You need to change the title.”
  • The Sandwich Technique: “The bread consists of very specific positive feedback (a compliment), and the ‘meat in the middle’ is the constructive criticism.”Example: The hook is captivating, but this next sentence seems week in comparison. Your thesis is strong, so with that small adjustment you’ll have a strong introduction.
  • Incorporate If-Would Statements: “If you could elaborate on what you mean there, you would have a strong introduction"
Any other suggestions? Anyone have any critique love or horror stories you wish to share?
 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Poisonous Thoughts


Don’t you just hate it when people say mean things about you? It’s much worse when you’re the one saying them—or thinking them. And yet we all do it. It’s quite common for us to slip into “negative” patterns of thoughts, which are like poison to our emotions. Here are a few of the most common disruptive patters of thinking. Any sound familiar?
  • Filtering: magnifying the negative details and ignoring the positive aspects of a situation. EX: Instead of celebrating that you got the job you wanted, and that you’ll have a raise, you focus only on the idea that you’ll have to drive six miles farther in traffic, which means you’ll have to get up half an hour earlier, and that means you probably won’t sleep well at night….
  • Overgeneralization: Because it happened once, it will happen again (especially in bad situations). EX: “I went out on a date that ended badly, so that must mean they’ll all go bad. I might as well stop trying.”
  • Castastrophizing: What if the worst? (this is my favorite, probably because I hear my friends use it all the time). EX: What if the car breaks down on the way to work? What if my phone dies? What if someone stops to help, but they turn out to be a serial killer and they kidnap me and no one realizes I’m missing…
  • Polarized Thinking: (Here’s one I’m guilty of) Everything is either good or bad. You’re either perfect or a failure. EX: "If I don’t make an A on this assignment, I must be stupid."
What to see more? Check out 15 Common Cognitive DistortionsIf you find yourself guilty of any of these, the best thing you can do is notice when you’re doing it. Identify it as false, illogical, or silly, and talk yourself back to a more rational way of thinking. Good luck quieting those voices!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Sticking to It

(Image from blissfulbelle.org)
Have you ever told your self you were going to make a change in your life? Be it sitting down and writing every day, exercising more, or going on a diet, we all know incorporating a change is hard. But have you ever made it to that goal, made it to that point where you didn't even have to think about the change anymore, you were just doing it and then... all of a sudden, you're back to where you started: not writing, not exercising, and pigging out on chocolate cake.

Psychologists would say that's thanks to the sixth stage of change: relapse. Change, no matter how big or small, is thought to go through a cycle: pre-contemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, maintenance, and then relapse, which takes you all the way back to the beginning. You can think of the first five as the steps of a ladder, and the sixth being a thunderstorm.

While it's hard (if not impossible) to prevent relapsing, there are steps we can take to try to keep it from happening. For one, being aware of it can help us prepare. On those days where you feel like taking "just one little break" have a plan in place to make it up, or trade it out for something else instead. It's also great to have a new start date. For example, if you know you're going on vacation and won't get that writing or exercise time in, plan to start back two days after returning (that way, if you feel burnt out on the return day, you wont feel bad about taking one more day off, and if you feel up to getting right back into the swing of things, you'll feel great that you're ahead).

Also, know that if you ever do slip up, it doesn't mean you can't get back to where you where. If you made it a first time, you know you can make it a second!

So get back to those new years resolutions that started slipping last month. Try sticking to the goals you set for yourself, or try setting goals in the future.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Reviving old stories


Have you ever gone back to something you started wring years ago? Maybe it was something you thought would never go anywhere, or maybe it was something with a lot of potential but other events got in the way.
I’ve been looking back over my earlier writing lately, and though I’m not impressed with the quality of the individual sentences, some of the content is decent, if not solid. I’ve started to notice that some of my more recent pieces are actually extensions of older works, as if I’m retelling the same story in a different (better developed) way.
If you’ve been writing for a long time, I’d encourage you to look back over your incomplete projects. Even if they aren’t masterpieces, there’s always something salvageable. You might be surprised.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Once Upon A Time, Merlin, and The Joy of Fantasy


I’ve been busy this week, catching up on Once Upon a Time and Merlin (I just started season 3 last night—I saw the first episode less than two weeks ago and it’s occupied my free time ever since). In addition to the usual psychology lectures and class essays, my thoughts have been overtaken with all things fantasy. So I guess you could say I had no choice but to post about it.
There's just something about epic fantasy stories that become addicting- even when you already know the ending! I mean, we all know the classic fairy tales Once Upon a Time is based on, but we get sucked in anyway. And the legend of King Arthur has been told so many times in so many ways, but it hasn't lost it's strength. Is that the secret of fantasy, it's timeless?
For some reason, fantasy has become a bit of a derogatory term in the literary world. People have come to associate it with children’s literature, assuming adults are too grown up for it. Well, because fantasy is escapism, hope, and adventure... no one is too grown up for it! Other people have come to believe they are cheesy, predicable, and take little talent to write. Anyone who says a fantasy book can’t be literary hasn’t read Tolkien (or anything fantastical beyond children’s bedtime stories). Tolkien himself summed it up very well with his quote: “However wild its events, however fantastic or terrible the adventures, it can give to child or man that hears it, when the 'turn' comes, a catch of the breath, a beat and lifting of the heart, near to (or indeed accompanied by) tears, as keen as that given by any form of literary art, and having a peculiar quality." As with any genre, you have fantastic fantasy authors, and a few who must have bribed their editors to publish them.
What are some of your favorite fantasy books? What is it about fantasy that makes it so appealing?

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Read an E-book Week

From now until Sunday March 10th, numerous e-book venders and readers will be celebrating. The goal is to help promote e-books and their value. As part of this event, Smashwords is holding a special with anywhere from 25%-100% off e-books. That's right, some books are entirely FREE!  So if you have some time or are looking for something new to read, check it out and maybe support us indie authors while you're at it :)

Check out e-book week specials here at Smashwords (In case you're interested, here's a direct link to my book: The Chronicles of Vallanie Sharp)

Visit the E-Book Week website for more ways to celebrate, including challenges, contests, and more.

Anyone else celebrating? Anyone download any good books you'd like to suggest? Happy e-Reading :)

Friday, March 2, 2012

Happy Friday

Just thought I'd share some funny memes (I didn't make any of these; they've just been floating around the internet):




Have a great weekend :)

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Anyone Listening?


How often do we actually sit down and listen to people? I mean really listen—not thinking about what we’re going to say next, not noting how something reminded us of what we saw on TV last night or something silly our neighbor did. We all know that communication is key to, well, just about everything, so how is it that we can sometimes be so bad at it?
Some of the best stories might be right in front of our very eyes—er—ears, but we’re too preoccupied with whatever is going on internally to realize it. Worse still, we may be missing out on opportunities to better know people, even people as close as our family.
Humanistic Psychologist Carl Rogers believed that active listening was the most important trait a therapist could have, and that having a good listener in your life is essential to your happiness. We all want to feel like we matter: we all have something to say, and we all want someone to listen. (I mean, why else are we on here blogging?)
So sometime over the next few days I challenge you to sit down and really listen to someone, as if their words revealed the greatest secret of all time. It could be a friend, a family member, or even just some chatty person in line at Starbucks. You’ll probably brighten their day, and you might get a story (or blog post idea) out of it as well.

Friday, February 24, 2012

When heroes take time off, they... Blog?


I’ve been into BBC’s Sherlock lately—a modern adaptation of Sherlock Holmes, in which Watson follows Holmes on many adventures and records them on his blog. Literally. They’ve created a blog for John Watson. And Sherlock Holmes. And a few minor characters from the TV series.
Anyone who’s a fan of the show should definitely check them out—they’re complete with all the cases, what happened between episodes, and even have (quite hilarious) comments from other various characters.
I told some of my friends about it and they sat down and read the whole thing. It’s genius. Which brings me to my question: Is this common? Are blogs for fictional characters on the rise, or are they something you think would be quickly shot down? Would you read one? Would you ever blog for your own characters? I’m curious. I’ve really never heard of this before.
Tying to determine if fictional blogging was a new sensation or if I was just behind, I googled it. What I found mostly supported the later, though the majority of fictional blogs, it would seem, are fans by fans engaging in a sort of roleplay. However, it's also becoming more common for TV-shows to create them in order to promote themselves.
It seems like it could potentially be a neat marketing technique for authors (though I’m not sure people would ever read it unless they were already fans of the book or movie. Maybe it would get them prepped for a sequel?). I see how they could catch on, or quickly become annoying. What do you think?
Here are a few fun ones I've found:
Barney's Official Blog (from How I met your Mother)
An unofficial (I think) Spiderman blog
And, for anyone interested, here's an article on how to Write a Fictional Blog

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Cutting it short


I’ve realized it is my senior year of college, and though I’ve written many personal essays, acedemic papers, and even novel excerpts, I’ve written very few short stories. Two, I think. So I’m challenging myself to write a short story.
I didn’t think it’d be too hard. I turned on some music, sat down, filled up a page or two with ideas… then realized I’d just come up with more ideas for novels.
Then I thought I’d call my sister and ask her for help (we always bounce ideas off each other) but, when I reached her voicemail, I remembered that she doesn’t like to talk on the phone. So I thought about writing a story about a sister who’s sister won’t talk to her… or better yet, she can’t talk to her sister, because her sister is dead, or her sister has amnesia, or got sucked away into a magical land. Wouldn’t it suck to be the sibling who never got to go to Narnia?
I think it’s safe to say I’m still working on an idea. So I’m going to keep this post short and to the point:
Do you have a form that you tend to write in (Be it novels, short stories, flash fiction) or a specific theme you tend to write about (most of my stories have an element of childhood)? Have you ever tried to write outside of your comfort zone? If so, how did it go? I’m curious to know how “normal” of a struggle this is.  

Monday, February 20, 2012

Psychological Sherlock


As a Psychology major, I can never get away from Freud. While everyone knows him for his emphasis on sex, some of his more feasible theories are often overlooked. Perhaps the most important one is the role of the unconscious. In his mind (and the minds of some practicing psychologists today) there are no accidents. Everything we do is driven by some buried want or need. In that respect, ever choice we make, no matter how seemingly insignificant—the color of our shirt, the way we part our hair—is directed by our unconscious.

Freud thought that by spending hours listening and contemplating people’s monologues, he could reveal some of these unconscious motivations to his clients. In class, we tried noticing the little details about people and speculating on their possible motivations. Why was the girl in front of me wearing a sweatshirt and ponytail, while the girl behind me was in a dress and heals? Why had some people brought umbrellas ‘just in case’ and others hadn’t? What does this say about them?

Of course, without being able to get into someone’s head, we can never really know if any of this is true, but it’s great practice for creative thinking and could give you some good material for fiction stories. So, the next time you’re at the grocery store and the woman in front of you is rude, or the guy at the checkout counter is taking forever to scan your items, try to get inside their heads. Think about what brought them there, at that moment, in those clothes, to do those things. It can be fun and (hopefully) more productive than yelling.

Have you ever stopped to think about what drives you? Is there one big thing you’re looking for (attention? wealth? love? fame?) or something you’re working too hard to avoid (commitment? failure?)? How much about ourselves do you think can be attributed to unconscious desires?

Monday, February 13, 2012

What Our Friends Have To Say About US


I’ve noticed my room mate and I have a lot in common: same life goals, similar schedules, similar values, and similar interests. We’ve even been mistaken for sisters:
My roommate (Megan) and Me
I guess it doesn't help that we sometimes share clothes. When visiting my friend over the weekend, I noticed she had a lot in common with her roommate as well. It got me thinking. There's a famous proverb that goes something like, “You can judge a man by the company he keeps.”As most of my friends are academically motivated, interested in literature or politics, and into fantasy and science fiction, I guess I'd be judged as a Geek. Fair enough.
How true do you find this in your own lives? Do you feel like you’re drawn to people similar to you, or do you feel like you’re influenced by those who you’re surrounded by? Maybe this is slightly different for writers, who are often intrigued by those who are different and end up with a variety of all sorts of acquaintances.
Whether or not you find people are often attracted to those who are similar, friends are just as essential in stories as they are in real life. You can tell a lot about a character through his or her friends, even if they have a small role to play. What about the main character makes other people want to spend time with him? What does he find attractive/admirable/interesting in others? What does he find repelling? What does this say about himself? Whether a side-kick, a foil, or a potential source of conflict, friends can be great sources of information. When developing them, it’s great to think not only about their own role, but how their role (both prior to and during the time you’re writing about) effects you more major characters. 
Who are some of the best crafted friends of main characters? Would the hero be the same without them?

Thursday, February 9, 2012

When starvation becomes a mental disorder


You know how some people seem to have everything together? I’m not one of them.
I’m typing this on my phone while waiting in line at subway, hoping to soon take the first bite of food I’ll have had in over six hours. Here’s a brief overview of my day: Test, Test, Lab Work, Super Important Paper due.
Then I had a three hour long class in which we workshoped each other’s papers and the teacher told us just how far off we were. Collectively, it was a lot: like 1,995 words off of a 2,000-word paper off. So, during our ten minute break around five o’clock, when my stomach felt like it was starting to eat itself, I followed my classmates outside for their cigarette break and interrupted their rant, asking desperately if anyone knew where a snack machine was. Someone suggested one building. Someone else suggested another. I went to both, but they were, sadly, snack-machine-less.
Nearing the library, I walked as fast as I could to the entrance, and straight to the coffee shop. There was a line, and I was in a hurry, so I filled my mug up with hot water thinking I could at least have tea. Then I realized I had used my last tea bag.
I arrived back to class, late, with a mug of hot water, missing an earring. To my severe disdain, the boy next to me was eating a Chick-fill-a sandwich. Come to think of it, it would have been a good idea to start looking for food at the cafeteria.
I starved through another hour of editing papers and receiving brutal feedback, until the teacher announced everyone could leave, as long as they had met with her one on one. Guess who was the only person left to meet with her? Me.
My friend took pity on me and, through a break in her laughter, pulled out a bag of hot chocolate (why would someone carry hot chocolate around in their purse? I don’t know, I asked, and she didn’t know either) and I could finally put the hot water to use (for the record, Raspberry hot chocolate is tasty).
But it still didn’t curb my hunger. Nope, that didn’t happen until much more recently, after I spent a long ten minutes in isolation with my professor who marked up my paper and read off her comments ("Good, terrible, good, terrible, excellent, terrible...), after I stumbled back through the cold to the food court, and after the nice woman at subway (who just so happens to have been a former friend whom I cut ties with after learning she was sabotaging my roommate’s drinks) gave me my sandwich. Know that if I die from food poisoning, it was worth it. 

Sunday, February 5, 2012

What "I'm sick of Writing" Really Means


Another fun post for today (though I take full credit for this one). I thought it would be a good way to start/end the week. 
When Writers say "I'm sick of Writing", they really mean:

  1. I have writers block. I hate writers block. 
  2. I've been bent over a computer screen so long, it hurts to sit up straight
  3. Stop asking me about my story. I don't want to talk about it!  
  4. I just started revising my tenth draft. 
  5. I need to hear I'm a great writer. Tell me I'm a great writer!  
  6. My hand is so cramped, it hurts to sign my name. 
  7. I've gained ten pounds from converting my workout time to writing time (and snacking on chocolate and cookies time) 
  8. I spent weeks working on a new story idea, only to hear of a bestseller with the same plot.
  9. I need to spend sometime away from imaginary people. 
  10. I want your paycheck. 


Well, I'm off to work on my non-fiction thesis and study for psychology. Feel free to add more. Hope everyone has a great week! 

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

How to Write "Good"


Some of you may have seen this before, but I came across it for the first time at our university writing center and I had to share. Just some fun writing "advice." :)

The following was written by Frank L. Visco and originally published in the June 1986 issue of Writers' digest. (I found it on Plain Language) Enjoy:

“How to Write Good”
                   
  •                   Avoid Alliteration. Always.
  •                   Prepositions are not words to end sentences with.
  •                   Avoid cliches like the plague. (They’re old hat.)
  •                   Employ the vernacular.
  •                   Eschew ampersands & abbreviations, etc.
  •                   Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are unnecessary.
  •                   It is wrong to ever split an infinitive.
  •                   Contractions aren’t necessary.
  •                   Foreign words and phrases are not apropos.
  •                   One should never generalize.
  •                   Eliminate quotations. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “I hate quotations. Tell me what you know.” 
  •                   Comparisons are as bad as cliches.
  •                   Don’t be redundant; don’t use more words than necessary; it’s highly superfluous.
  •                   Profanity sucks.
  •                   Be more or less specific.
  •                   Understatement is always best.
  •                   Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.
  •                   One word sentences? Eliminate.
  •                   Analogies in writing are like feathers on a snake.
  •                   The passive voice is to be avoided.
  •                   Go around the barn at high noon to avoid colloquialisms.
  •                   Even if a mixed metaphor sings, it should be derailed.
  •          Who needs rhetorical questions?

Monday, January 30, 2012

Recognizing your own Writing Strengths


It’s easy to tell when something is written poorly. When revising our own work, a preposition out of place, a misspelled word, or a string of repetitive sentences can stand out to us like a glowing red stop sign, making it easy to slip into that “What was I thinking—my writing is HORRIBLE!” mindset. The stronger writing is often overlooked, left unacknowledged.

Sometimes it's easy to feel like this guy.
Writing, like film editing, is at it’s best when it doesn’t call attention to itself. The best movies are the ones that move from scene to scene without ever pulling you out of the action, without ever making you stop to question if that character was wearing that same hat a moment ago, or what happened to the cat that was lying in the sink a minute ago, or even what the significance of the cat lying in the sink was. Writing should do the same for readers.

But as writers, we should be able to identify this fluidity in our own works. Are our transitions smooth? Are we giving the reader enough to look at through imagery? Are we giving them enough to process through action, thoughts, or dialogue?

Good writing should be clear, communicative, and easy to read. But you probably already know that's harder to do than it sounds! If you’ve read over a few pages of your manuscript and found nothing but a few typos and an overuse of passive voice, you’ve done a surprisingly good job.

Because it's easy for even the best writers to have days of doubt, here’s a few signs of good writing that are often taken for granted:
  • A strong consistent voice/narration
  • Sentence variety
  • A sense of unity, a common theme or focus that the story doesn’t stray from
  • Subtle imagery
  • Literary devices that don’t call attention to themselves 
  • Emotionally charged scenes without the assistance of emotional adverbs (sadly, excitedly, etc)
  • Realistic dialogue
  • Realistic character development
  • Humor 
Any other advice on how to recognize the strengths of your own writing?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Where's Our Writing Knowledge Coming From?


In psychology this week, we’ve been talking a lot about how we learn: intuition, personal experience, reason, and the scientific method. In psychology, science is, of course, the most important (who would take medication that ‘felt right’ or try some pill a friend whipped up in their kitchen and recommended saying ‘it cured my cancer’), but in writing, it’s the opposite.

(Picture from: murphyboys.org)
Writing is where your personal experiences should shine through. It’s highly based on reason, or imagination, starting with the thought of “what would happen if…?” and following a logical train of thought from there. Adding characters, changing events, and throwing in a bit of foreshadowing in places that “feel right” all sound like good uses of intuition to me. In my opinion, science is more about the average, and writing is more about the exception.
 





But, because stories don’t go through the scientific process and don’t become part of any formula, does that make them any less true? Is it possible that stories can “be true” to some people and not to others? I’d be interested to hear what you think on the matter.

And, just as a side note, I have over 50 followers now! Yay! I feel like Sheldon on the Big Bang Theory where he was more excited that he had 100 followers on twitter than that his girlfriend got an article on the cover of an important magazine. Thank you guys so much for being a part of this blog!  

Monday, January 23, 2012

Favorite Character's Blogfest

Today I'm excited to be participating in Laura Josephsen's awesome Favorite Character's Blogfest. Basically, between Jan 23rd and the 25th we're supposed to choose a favorite character we've written about and put them in the spotlight. So here goes:




It was a tough choice for me between Val- the obedient-gone-spunky heroine of The Chronicles of Vallanie Sharp, or Kim, a lonely introverted girl with mild psychic powers in a storyline I came up with this previous summer. Since I’ve been working like crazy preparing the second book in Val's series for its release this summer, I’ve decided to take a break from the dystopian world and go with Kim (though I’m giving a disclaimer that her story is in very early stages of development).

Kim's a girl on the cusp of having an easy transition into adulthood, until everything starts spiraling down at once. I like that she has so many insecurities, but can still remain strong and shove them aside when it really counts. She’s one of four main characters in this new novel, and I would classify her as the heart of the group.

I had mixed feelings writing her at first, because it allowed me to back and explore my own high school experiences and insecurities within a fictional slightly fantastical context. Her introversion and temporary social exile allows me to spend more time processing the whole "teenage environment", including school, home, work, and recreation and the overwhelming emotional effects each area can unintentionally have on an individual. The majority of the story so far, Kim is still trying to figure out who she is, what she wants to do with her life, and what's most important to her. It's been fun coming up with her basic beliefs, then finding ways to test her values, and seeing how she grows from those tests.

Here is how I’m introducing her in the current draft:
            By the start of her senior year at Camberly Academy, Kimberly Irene Maxwell had learned everything there was to know about high school. She knew how to make friends, how to gain popularity, how to make the best grades with the minimal amount of work, what to do to catch a guy’s interest, what to do to keep them away, and she was certain she could handle anything the world could throw at her. She couldn’t have been more wrong.
            Finishing the label for her last binder, Kim leaned back to admire her work. The moment her hand touched the carpet, she felt something collide with her elbow, and looked up too see that it was her mother’s boot.
            “Kim!” Mrs. Maxwell cried, pulling a hand to her heart as she regained her balance, water sloshing from the edge of her plastic pitcher. “You scared me half to death!”
            “Sorry.”  A few drops dripped dangerously close to Kim’s masterpieces, and she pushed her papers away with her bare feet, before scrambling to pick up the various markers scattered across the hardwood floor.
            With a shake of her head, her mother let out a sigh. “I wish you wouldn’t sit in the floor. We do have tables, you know.”
            Kim secured the markers inside an argyle pencil case and held up the first of her binders for her mother to inspect. A carefully arranged mosaic of pastel stars and hearts covered the front of the blue plastic, framing her name, which had been meticulously printed on stock paper in bold lavender ink. “What do you think?”
            “I think,” her mother replied, glancing up from where she was watering the plants by the dinning room window, “if you spent as much time on your homework as you did decorating their folders, you’d be first in your class.”

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Revision


I've been revising a lot this week, mostly for school. It's time to gather the pieces for our senior thesis: the three or four BEST pieces we've written over the past four years... while, not surprisingly, have all come from the past year, for me. Anyway, as I am now a writing tutor (and, more importantly, a writer) I've given the revision process a lot more thought, paying close attention to the steps I take to do it. Here's a few tips I have:






1) Start with the big picture. Every story needs a thesis: Yep, not just English papers, even creative works of fiction, though the thesis is usually not stated explicitly. You should, however, be able to clarify what a story is arguing or demonstrating with a short defendable sentence.

2) Every story needs organization: That's right, beginning, middle, and end. While the story doesn't necessarily have to progress chronologically, it should be progressing in someway. This could be in terms of theme, clarity of an idea, character development, etc.

3) If a scene isn't adding anything, delete it.

4)If a sentence isn't adding anything, delete it.

5) If a word isn't adding anything, delete it.

6) Try to get some distance from your work, and go in without judging yourself too harshly. The point of editing is to catch those silly mistakes without anyone ever knowing you even made them. I like to pretend I'm editing someone else's work when I edit, writing comments as I would to a stranger (ex: who is this character? why is she sitting in your kitchen? Even if I know she's my roommate and we always eat breakfast together) and then take a break before going back through and actually making necessary changes based on the comments.

7) When you're starting to feel good about the overall structure of the piece, it's time to narrow down. Focus on things like grammar, sentence structure, and word choice.

8) Get someone else to look over your work and make suggestions. (Take their suggestions into consideration, but by all means, if you don't 100% agree with them, don't make them. At the end of the day, your name is going to end up on it, and yours alone)

9) Edit it on your computer. Print it out and edit it on paper. Then on the computer again.

10) Stop editing. It's never going to be perfect, but when it feels like it's getting close or, more likely, when it feels like it will NEVER get close. Stop. Sit back, do something else. Don't touch it for a few days, and when you come back to it, you'll probably be amazed at how much better it is than you thought.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Getting Back On Track


So it seems a lot of people (like me) took a break from writing for the holidays, and then while getting back into work/school/home life, and then… had a hard time picking back up where you left off.
That’s what time off does to you—while it may be well deserved, relaxing, and even necessary—you feel it when you get back into it. It’s like training for a marathon and taking a week—or a month, or a month and a week—off: It hurts.

So how do work through it? How do you get all those ideas to just come floating back to you? How do you revive the story?

Motivate yourself. It’s as simple as that. Of course, you have to find time to write, but if you’re really motivated, that will come. Here’s a few ways I’ve found helpful to amp up the motivation and pull myself back on course. Feel free to add any you want:

  • Listen to Music- And I mean really listen to it. Not while doing work. Not while driving. Sit and listen with your eyes closed, or with a pen and paper, and listen to the music and visualize a story to go along with it. If you’re trying to get back into a specific story, it may be a good idea to keep a scene or character from it in mind.
  • Read- Sometimes the best motivation is reading a great book and thinking “Man, I wish I could do that.” or even a not-so-great book that leaves you thinking, “I could do so much better.”
  • Make an outline/or plot chart- This one is self-explanatory, but the logic behind it is to get you thinking about a story again. If you’ve already written one before the break, don’t look at it and re-write it from memory. Then compare the two. Resolving any differences could make for a good spring-board back into the story.
  • Ask yourself- Why you started writing the story in the first place. What motivated you to write this particular story? What is it about? Why is it important? Keep coming up with questions, and have fun with your answers. This is your time to enjoy being a writer, so try to shrug off any pressure and just… write.

Hope this helps :)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

I've made it to 2012...

Even though it may have seemed like I dropped off the face of the earth. I've been busy "writing"... or, well, technically, moving back to school, signing up for classes, buying books, work orientation, etc... but I did have to sign my name on some of those forms, so that counts as writing, right?

I'll post more when life's less hectic, but here's a brief update for now.

Listening to:

Reading: 

Day Dreaming About: