Last Thursday, the book world of Twitter became a flurry of pitches due to #PitMad, an opportunity for writers to pitch their stories to agents through shortened Twitter pitches. Since I have a couple opportunities on the horizon to receive further critique on my manuscript, I decided to hold back from this month's #PitMad and wait for a later opportunity.
In order to distract myself from the temptation of pitching, I instead participated in a writing exercise called #PhotoStoryChallenge. Every week, Radina Valova posts one of her photos on Twitter with a set of rules, and challenges writers to incorporate the photo and rules into a scene. It's a great flash fiction exercise, and it's fun to see the many ways different writers twist the inspiration into a variety of stories. Since I've recently trapped myself in a cycle of editing and worldbuilding, I enjoyed giving myself a chance to write without a care, and it helped jog my creativity. It also strengthened my bond with the participating members of my writing group on Twitter.
Here's a recap of the March 8th challenge:
The rules of the challenge were to write a scene based on this image, and it had to include dialogue between at least two people who want something from each other, and the writer must use the words "is that all."
Apparently when given this set of inspiration, my first instinct is to write about a farm girl and a demon queen. Below is my unedited #PhotoStoryChallenge flash fiction from Thursday.
She didn’t look like a demon queen, leaning against my closet door while the setting sun highlighted her profile. Not the way she did an hour prior, when the fire in her eyes burned against the darkest shadows surrounding her, and for a split moment my fear and awe mixed into a knot of doubt.
“I thought you might kill me earlier,” I said. “Rather than that monster.” The memory of its putrid breath twisted my stomach, and I touched the spot on my neck where its teeth punctured my skin before it fell prey to the demon queen.
Annora pulled her gaze away from the window to look at me. “That would somewhat defeat the purpose of protecting you, would it not?”
The twist in my stomach became something else entirely as I smiled at her. “It might be counterproductive.”
Her dark eyes still simmered with a hint of that flame. “I wouldn’t hurt you.”
I shrugged in an attempt at nonchalance. “I suppose our pact wouldn’t allow you to harm me.”
Annora shook her chin. “It’s not about the pact.”
I arched a brow, but she didn’t elaborate.
“Well,” I said as I pushed to my feet and stretched my arms up, “we should get going. We only have four hours to locate your buried crown and defeat a demonic prince before he destroys you, me, and everyone else in my small but still arguably significant Kansas town.”
The edge of Annora’s mouth twitched up. “Is that all?”
I offered my hand to pull her to her feet, and she paused in front of me. Her warm fingers locked around mine and her extra two inches of height forced me to tilt back in order to meet her eyes. Her rare smile returned to tight-lipped hesitation.
“Annora,” I said. I meant it as a statement, but my concern turned it into a question.
She squeezed my hand. “When this is over,” she said, “you have to let me go.”
A dull ache spread through my chest, but I refused to let it show on my face. Returning to my lonely farm life now seemed more unbelievable than losing my heart to a demon queen.
“I will,” I said, dropping her hand. “I know the rules.”
The look in her eyes echoed the sentiment in my head: neither of us felt confident in my ability to fulfill that promise.
That's all, folks. Follow Radina Valova for more weekly challenges, which I hope to participate in from now on. I also need to tuck this story idea of a farm girl and a demon queen away in my box of ideas-that-cannot-distract-me-from-my-current-work-in-progress. Also, check out Radina's Twitter Memory to read the scenes written by other writers!
I’ve read a few tweets in the past couple days regarding the discussion of f/f (female/female) representation in novels, particularly in the YA category. Writers seem deterred by claims that f/f romance does not have the substantial audience required for it to succeed in the way m/f or m/m romantic plots do, and so agents and editors are less inclined to represent stories featuring f/f romance.
I was actually somewhat surprised to see this discussion pop up, since every agent I personally follow seems desperate for LGBT content. Nonetheless, I think the continued lack of representation in YA literature is a major problem, and writers should fight back against claims that there is not an audience and their stories will not be published. This applies to multiple forms of LGBT representation, but I will focus on f/f since this was the focus of the discussion and it relates the most to my own writing.
It is dismal how difficult it is to find a story based around a non-heterosexual MC that falls for a girl. It’s even harder to find one in speculative fiction, with a storyline that does not center around the MC coming to terms with sexuality. It’s even harder to find one that does not end in heartbreak, death, or overall depression. This mixture gives the impression that if you are a female who falls in love with another female, your life will be riddled with the stress of overcoming your sexuality, and it will likely end in disaster.
This should change. Young Adult literature needs stories of females going on adventures, slaying dragons, fighting demons, and delving into space, while also occasionally developing feelings for other female characters. Even if plots do not revolve around a romance, characters should not be assumed straight until proven otherwise. LGBT readers want to see characters similar to them exploring imaginative worlds—not everyone wants to read about the tragic love between two young women, which inevitably ends in disaster. I myself would rather read about confident and happy females falling in love and working together to make a relationship last. And maybe conquering a kingdom in the meantime.
Changing these long-held beliefs and stigmas will be difficult. The publishing industry does not change overnight, but it can change. There was a time when YA was not a major category, and now it has exploded. People have the power to change the industry if readers, writers, agents, and editors all work to create that change. People might say otherwise, but there are agents and editors who want stories representing f/f romance. Plenty of writers are writing f/f romance, and they should continue to do so. Lastly, readers should support the stories that currently exist. Show the world that an audience exists, and wants more.
Writing and publishing is not an easy career, and writing and publishing LGBT content is harder still. But I think it is very, very worth it.
If you are interested in reading speculative fiction with f/f romance, my recommendations are unfortunately scarce. Malinda Lo has published multiple novels in a variety of genres featuring female MCs falling for female characters. I have read both Ash and Huntress, but you can read about her other novels on her website. Recently, I discovered a newly published YA fantasy called Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller, which follows a gender-fluid MC who seems to fall for a female character. I haven’t had the chance to read it, but it was a promising sight to see, and it will definitely be next on my TBR list.
If you have any thoughts about the inclusion of f/f representation in YA literature, or recommendations for stories already featuring this representation, feel free to comment below.
Warning: This post contains minor spoilers.
I’ve spent the past couple weeks worldbuilding for a new story, and sometimes it’s helpful to find examples of authors who have successfully built and presented imaginative worlds in their books. Creating a world can be hard enough, but weaving information into your story without the use of info dumps forms another challenge in itself. Marie Lu does a fantastic job with both tasks in her latest book, Warcross.
Warcross takes place in the not-too-distant future of earth, specifically in New York City and Tokyo. In this future, virtual reality and a game known as Warcross form a primary component of daily life and culture for many people. Warcross itself becomes a spectator sport, and the virtual reality devices connected to it allow people to experience life around them in a different way—decorated buildings, eccentric fashion, virtual pets, and the like. Real life and virtual life exist together, one on top of the other.
We experience this world through Emika Chen, a bounty hunter whose hacking ability earns her a place in the Warcross Championship, during which Hideo Tanaka, the creator of Warcross, wants her to uncover a security problem. Lu reveals aspects of her futuristic earth in a casual and easily digestible manner. The various interactions with virtual reality technology and its effects on daily life pop up regularly, but not all at once. Most people have Warcross glasses, people use Warcross as a source of income in both legal and illegal ways, the glasses allow users to store memories, and virtual reality can alter the appearances of people and buildings. This consistent introduction of information forms an overall image of Emika’s society, which is a believable future version of our own.
Beyond the depiction of virtual reality’s impact on regular life, Lu’s creation of the virtual world itself reveals her skill with worldbuilding. As a player in the Warcross Championship, Emika enters multiple games, each in a different setting with varying aspects of gameplay: a glacier landscape with enormous beasts trapped inside towers of ice, a sunken city, and a fighting ring for mecha robots. Lu combines these unique settings with the creative power-ups used in gameplay to produce well-paced and intriguing scenes.
Within the legal and popular worlds of Warcross exists the Dark World, location of the Pirate’s Den and Emerald Emporium, where people go to place illegal bets on games, purchase rare power-ups, partake in identity theft, and even hire assassins. Just as with the real world and the world of Warcross, Lu introduces the atmospheric Dark World and the danger surrounding it throughout Emika’s visits. The Dark World becomes a different view of how people utilize Warcross’s virtual reality technology. It makes sense that it exists in this world, and it plays an important role in Emika’s story.
Warcross by Marie Lu serves as a great example of the use of worldbuilding in storytelling. Lu creates an interesting future for earth, and executes it in both a digestible and believable way. This world contains a mix of good and bad, and forms a solid stage for a cast of gray characters. If you have yet to read Warcross, I highly recommend it, for its developed main character, its multiple plot twists, and its well-constructed world.
What are your thoughts? If you haven’t read Warcross, head to your local library or bookstore, or find it online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or another seller. Also check out Marie Lu’s other work on her website.
If you are in the process of worldbuilding, here is a list of fantasy worldbuilding questions by Patricia C. Wrede to help you out.
Although this post directly speaks to writers, I believe it applies to many other people as well.
I’ve spent more and more time among other writers in the past year, whether online or in-person, and it’s becoming more and more evident how prevalent self-deprecation is in the community. I see or hear writers spout overly humble if not purely critical judgments of their stories and writing skills on a daily basis, and I think it’s important to fight against this growing habit.
Writing is a critical hobby and profession. Criticism is not only unavoidable, but necessary for the growth of one’s story and writing skills. Writers must be able to acknowledge flaws and work towards bettering them, again and again and again.
Nonetheless, the current prevalence of self-deprecation among writers is unnecessary if not subtly damaging. As I said, writing is already a profession that involves regular criticism and rejection. It can be very emotionally taxing and discouraging.
Don’t contribute to that pool of self-doubt. Fight back.
Just as writing is critical, it’s also very difficult. It requires hours upon hours of brainstorming, writing, re-writing, editing, reading, and researching. Even if your short story or manuscript isn’t to its full potential yet, or you aren’t represented by an agent, or you have yet to make a book deal, you should be proud of the work you have put in. Not everyone can or is willing to do what you do, so take a moment to acknowledge the importance of that effort—and then pat yourself on the back.
Furthermore, writers have their own unique skills. Maybe one writer excels in dialogue while another masters character development. Instead of focusing solely on what you cannot yet do, take a moment to consider what you can. What makes you unique as a writer? What makes your stories unique? What do you enjoy about writing? What do you have to be confident about?
We live in a society that often villainizes confidence, but try not to fall into that trap. Confidence is key. It will keep you going through the difficult days of rejection, and it will be necessary when it comes to finding an agent or publicizing your books. If you aren’t confident in your own writing, why should someone else be?
Don’t fall into a trap of self-deprecation. Just as it is necessary to acknowledge and edit faults in writing, it is also important to recognize the good and feel confident in it. Find your reasons to be confident, and then share that confidence.
As I’ve recently started brainstorming and worldbuilding for a new story, I’ve thought a lot about antagonists. Where, when, and how does my antagonist come into the story? What does my antagonist want? How does that conflict with my protagonist? How do I make my antagonist multi-faceted and interesting, but also antagonistic?
Personally, my antagonist and corresponding conflict often take me the longest to think up. My protagonist, potential love interest, and plot hook come easily, but I spend long hours staring off into space while brainstorming an antagonist. Unsurprisingly, staring at a blank notebook or a ceiling never seems to help, so I’m going to share what eventually does—and then how to get to know your antagonist once he/she/they have a place in your imagination.
The antagonist and protagonist are closely tied together, so if you are already in the process of getting to know your protagonist, start there. Who is your protagonist? What does your protagonist want? What drives that character within your story? What scares him/her/them?
Now, what kind of antagonist would stand in the way of those goals or fuel those fears? What might your antagonist want that conflicts with the wants of your protagonist? These wants cannot coexist, hence the conflict.
If your protagonist wants to win a competition, does your antagonist want to beat them? Or end the competition entirely? If your protagonist wishes to procure a magical artifact in order to heal a friend or lover, why might your antagonist stand in the way of that goal? By asking these questions, you can evolve your antagonist alongside your protagonist.
If looking directly at your protagonist does not reveal your antagonist, consider the world in which your story takes place. What sort of society exists in this setting? What is the history? What is the conflict? How might social and historical conflicts breed an antagonist? Does your antagonist want a new social order? Or a return to an older one?
Once you have an idea of who your antagonist is, you should spend time thinking about what he/she/they want and why. Don’t let your antagonist be a one-sided trope. The best antagonists are those that the readers can learn to understand or even sympathize with, although they stand against the protagonist.
My best advice for getting to know your antagonist is to write a scene or chapter from your antagonist’s perspective. This exercise does not ever have to go into your actual manuscript, but it forces you to think through your antagonist. What is your antagonist’s perspective on a certain event or situation? What are his/her/their inner thoughts? How do past life events affect your antagonist's perspective, thoughts, and goals?
Hopefully, if you struggle with antagonists just as I do, this advice pushes you a little closer to discovering the right antagonist for your story. If you have your own methods for fleshing out an antagonist, make sure to share, because I would love to hear them.
Marissa Meyer is one of my favorite YA authors, so naturally I drove to Barnes & Noble to purchase her latest book, Renegades, the day it released. My expectations for Meyer’s books are always high, but she most definitely met them. Although Renegades took me a little time to fully get into, by the end, I couldn’t put it down. Beyond its interesting premise and dynamic scenes, the character complexity featured in Renegades struck me as primary proof of Marissa Meyer’s skill with storytelling.
Renegades is a play on the typical superhero story. The book takes place in Gatlon City, where a council of prodigies—people with special abilities—run the government. These prodigies are known as the Renegades, and the people of Gatlon see them as heroes that saved the city from the clutches of the Anarchists, and other villainous prodigies. Renegades features two POV characters: Nova, a member of the Anarchists, and Adrian, a member of the Renegades. When Nova infiltrates the Renegades for insight on how to destroy them, she and Adrian must work together despite their aliases being fierce enemies.
From its base concept, the characters of Renegades appear divided in a clearly black and white way: the Renegades are the “good guys” and the Anarchists are the “bad guys”. In reality, the primary characters and their corresponding groups are complex and marked by areas of gray, which makes for a very interesting story without a clear group to root for or against.
Using dual POV helps establish this gray area from the start of the story, because Meyer gives us both an Anarchist and a Renegade to follow and care for. However, this gray area does not only exist due to the reader's ability to see both sides of the situation; it is fueled by the complexity of neither side being all wrong or all right. Both the Renegades and the Anarchists have vices and virtues, and that makes them delightfully complex.
Nova’s tragic backstory quickly establishes reason for her dislike of the Renegades. Although most of the world views the Renegades as great heroes, Nova blames them for not saving her family from the hitman that murdered them. Due to this, a dichotomy between the popular view of the Renegades and Nova’s view arises from the beginning of the story. Through Nova’s opinions on the Renegades in particular, but also from Adrian’s analysis of his own people, the picture of the Renegades as do-no-wrong heroes becomes a lot grayer.
A primary weakness created by the Renegades’ control of government is its impact on the motivations of non-prodigies, which Nova brings up on more than one occasion.
“If people wanted to stand up for themselves or protect their loved ones or do what they believe in their hearts is the right thing to do, then they would do it. If they wanted to be heroic, they would find ways to be heroic, even without supernatural powers. It’s easy to say you want to be a hero, but the truth is most people are lazy and complacent. They have the Renegades to do all the rescuing and saving, so why should they bother?”--Marissa Meyer, Renegades
Nova’s opinion highlights a major flaw in the perfect picture of the Renegades. Their complete control of Gatlon City leaves people without special abilities feeling less inclined to be helpful or heroic, because they have prodigies to do that for them. In fact, from Nova’s perspective, non-prodigies consistently suffer from the conflict between prodigies.
“As it is, it’s always going to be this way. Prodigies will always be at odds with one another, always fighting for power and dominance, and normal people will always suffer for it.”--Marissa Meyer, Renegades
These points create complexity for the Renegades as a whole and for its individual members. Clearly, they do good deeds and most have good intentions of protecting the people around them, but their actions also have lasting impacts on those people, and not always in the best way.
Arguably more interestingly, Meyer weaves complexity into the Anarchists as well. It often seems easier for a story to find a weakness or flaw in the “good” side than a strength in the “bad” side, but Meyer does exactly this. Nova’s perspective allows for a more varied view of her fellow Anarchists, whom most Renegades view solely as villains.
“As long as anarchy is synonymous with chaos and despair, the Anarchists will always be synonymous with villains.”--Marissa Meyer, Renegades
The concept of anarchy as a whole is questioned through Nova's perspective. Must anarchy always be connected to ideas of chaos? If it's not, what does that say about the Anarchists themselves?
“I think a lot of horrible things happened during the Age of Anarchy, a lot of things that shouldn’t have happened. But I also think that if Ace Anarchy hadn’t done what he did . . . then this wouldn’t be possible. Prodigies would still be in hiding. People would still hate us.” --Marissa Meyer, Renegades
Nova recognizes the complexity of the Anarchists and their leader, Ace Anarchy, when she discusses the subject with Adrian. She admits that mistakes were made during the Age of Anarchy, but she sees the other side that most Renegades refuse to acknowledge. Before the Age of Anarchy, prodigies lived in hiding, fearful of the harm normal people might inflict upon them. Ace Anarchy, although he is later associated with mayhem and villainy, opened the way for prodigies to not only be visible, but respected.
Marissa Meyer took a concept that could easily be black and white, and she riddled it with gray. The complexity of her characters and the groups they represent make Renegades a very interesting read, as well as a role model for other writers. Static, one-sided characters do not fill the pages in the same way dynamic, multi-faceted characters do. If you are a writer, make sure your protagonists and antagonists have good and bad, strengths and weakness, vices and virtues.
If you have yet to read Renegades, head over to your local bookstore or library, or find it online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or other booksellers. Also, check out Marissa Meyer's website for more information on Renegades as well as her other books, including Heartless and The Lunar Chronicles series.
What are your thoughts? Do you have recommendations of books with similarly dynamic characters?
Have you ever finished a great book with a difficult ending and found yourself both praising and condemning the author’s skill with storytelling? Maybe that author killed off a character, or turned a character into an antagonist, or otherwise went completely off track from the happy ending you might have expected. If you’re anything like me, you might have felt distressed—but simultaneously impressed.
I’ve certainly read books that only made me feel the former, but there are great authors out there with the gall to not only upset you, but make you see the beauty in that upset. Plot twists such as these often disrupt the status quo and separate the story from others like it. When done correctly, it makes for very interesting storytelling.
But I still feel bitter a lot of the time. I find myself trapped between a desire for unique storytelling and a desire for happy escapism. On one hand, I like to see an author take risks and do something new. On the other, I’m still a sucker for a happy ending—and a hopeless romantic whose quickest path to distress is a permanently foiled love match.
Often times, once I move past the original distress, I see how a less-than-happy plot twist shifts the narrative in an interesting way. In many cases, it pushes the protagonist on a new path, or breaks open room for fresh characterization. Sometimes I don’t appreciate the choice, especially if it feels out of place with the mood of the overall story—but other times, I acknowledge the skill involved in an author altering the status quo and forcing me, the reader, to feel something unexpected.
As I gain experience as a writer, these decisions in storytelling make more sense and become more intriguing. It works as a cycle. When I consider the impact of killing off a character or damaging a romance in my own stories, I gain new insight and a greater appreciation for reading. When I read books featuring these distressing plot twists, it forces me to reconsider my own writing and the risks I am willing to take with my characters.
What are your thoughts? Has a book ever left you with these conflicting feelings? If so, which books?
I recently found the time to read Margaret Rogerson’s An Enchantment of Ravens, which has been on my reading wish list since before its release. It doesn’t take much convincing for me to read a book about fey, and if you add in gorgeous cover art by the amazing Charlie Bowater, I’m sold. More than any other aspect of the story, I found Rogerson's theme of the value of mortality over immortality as both unique and thought-provoking.
An Enchantment of Ravens follows Isobel, a talented portrait artist who exchanges her Craft for the enchantments of the fair folk. These immortal faeries crave Craft—painting, sewing, cooking, etc.—because if they attempt any form of it, they crumble to dust. When Isobel accidentally paints mortal sorrow into the eyes of Rook, the autumn prince, he whisks her away into the faerie courts to stand trial. While in the courts, Isobel and Rook face the threats of the Wild Hunt, the Alder King, and their own blossoming love, which breaks a major law among the faeries and forces Isobel into a choice between her love of painting and her love for Rook.
The first few pages of Rogerson’s novel struck me with its lovely language and quirky society. Rogerson quickly establishes Isobel’s cautious and resolute personality, and Isobel’s journey to reevaluate these traits is an interesting one. An Enchantment of Ravens has an incredibly unique concept, and Rogerson does a good job of developing the relationships and feelings surrounding Craft. I personally thought the overall pacing fell flat, and lack of development for the antagonist left me less invested in the stakes. However, Rogerson’s themes of mortality vs. immortality struck me and seemed worthy of further discussion.
It’s not unusual for a book about faeries to lead to a protagonist finding a place among the immortal fey, who often live in some form of beautiful splendor, whether it be in palaces half-formed with nature or cities more similar to human reality.
Rogerson flips these tropes completely. Throughout An Enchantment of Ravens, Isobel’s view of the immortality of faeries remains negative, and only grows worse as she sees the ways it corrupts and deteriorates them. Without their glamours, Rook and the other faeries are gaunt and sharp-teethed, and nothing close to the beautiful images they obsessively project to humans and to each other. A particularly visual moment in the story is when Isobel joins the spring court for a feast, only to find that all of their human Craft has rotted behind faerie glamours.
“I wiped off my fingers, but it wasn’t the mold or maggots making my stomach revolt . . . No, it was the knowledge that all around me sat empty people in rotting clothes, nibbling on flyblown trifles while they spoke of nothing of consequence with fixed smiles on their false faces.”--Margaret Rogerson, An Enchantment of Ravens
Rogerson skillfully paints a picture of these empty fair folk, who expend so much energy to present fake images of themselves. Not only can they not create human Craft, but it rots and crumbles around them during their immortality. These images do not glorify immortality, but instead present it as a stagnant, undesirable existence.
Isobel’s humanity and mortality is beautiful in comparison.
“You are like a living rose among wax flowers. We may last forever, but you bloom brighter and smell sweeter, and draw blood with your thorns.”--Margaret Rogerson, An Enchantment of Ravens
Unlike other stories, Isobel’s mortality does not make her weak. Instead, it surrounds her with a sense of life, while the fair folk might as well be walking corpses. Aster’s view of Isobel presents a clear image of Isobel’s beauty and vitality contrasted with the corruption of the fair folk. Although they live forever, it is a less satisfying existence.
“We prefer to pretend otherwise, but truly, we have never been the immortal ones. We may live long enough to see the world change, but we’re never the ones who changed it. When we finally reach the end, we are unloved and alone, and leave nothing behind, not even our names chiseled on a stone slab. And yet—mortals, through their works, their Craft, are remembered forever."--Margaret Rogerson, An Enchantment of Ravens
These themes of mortality vs. immortality eventually connect directly to Craft and the ability of humans to leave aspects of themselves behind to be remembered by. Unlike the fair folk, humans can alter their world forever, even if they live only a fraction of the time fair folk do.
This quote struck me the most, and I believe it remains valid in our real lives, even without the fair folk to compare ourselves to. As much as immortality pops up time and time again in fiction, it is important to remember and value the ways in which mortality can be beautiful, and also the ways in which humans do have a form of immortality—through our creations, our Craft.
“But that was the problem with the old me, I was coming to realize. She’d accepted that behaving correctly meant not being happy, because that was the way the world worked. She hadn’t asked enough—of life, of herself."--Margaret Rogerson, An Enchantment of Ravens
Isobel’s experiences in the faerie courts force her to reevaluate the way she moves through life. These themes of mortality and immortality remind her of the brevity of her life, and she realizes she must go after what she wants in life rather than remain safely in an enchanted house, waiting for life to pass her by. This realization is an important reminder for any of us. Our time is limited, and so we must make the most of the time we do have.
Overall, Rogerson’s beautiful depiction of mortality and condemnation of immortality struck me the most while reading An Enchantment of Ravens. Although the corruption of the fair folk is sad and disconcerting, humanity’s mortality seems meaningful and full of life in comparison. The story did not fully enchant me with its primary plot or antagonist, but it is worth the read for a unique take on the value of mortality.
What are your thoughts? If you have yet to read An Enchantment of Ravens, make sure to check out your local library or bookstore, or find it online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or other sellers. Also take a look at Margaret Rogerson’s website for further information.
Happy New Year! As I posted a couple weeks back, I took a holiday break from my blog in order to spend time with family and finish a draft of my senior thesis. I managed to finish that draft yesterday, so I am happy to have that pressure off my shoulders for the moment. If you happen to have particular interest in the ways old Japanese literature reflects the historical realities of a woman's status and lifestyle in Heian and Kamakura Japan, let me know. Otherwise, let's talk about the coming year.
I’m sure the internet is packed with reflections on 2017 and resolutions for 2018. It’s hard to resist thinking back to where you were a year ago, and wondering where you might be a year from now. After all, so much can change in those twelve months.
I hadn’t fully realized how much happened to me in 2017 until I really took the time to think it through. A lot has happened personally, both good and bad, but I want to focus this post on the steps I have made towards my writing goals in the past year, and the plans I have to continue on in this next year.
Participating in the online writing world is a blessing and a curse sometimes. I love being involved in a community of writers, readers, agents, and editors. They are wonderful and funny people. However, it also means a near constant flood of news about writers receiving representation and publishing opportunities. When you spend so much time and energy working towards the same goals, it can be difficult to feel congratulatory.
I didn’t receive an offer of representation from a literary agent this past year, but that’s okay. I have plenty of other achievements to be proud of from 2017, now that I take a moment to look back. I wrote two new manuscripts, pitched agents for the first time, started writing short stories again, won fifty pages of feedback as a runner up in Shanna Hughes's contest, and started this blog. I would not have foreseen the majority of that a year ago. Six months ago, I didn’t even think I could be a blogger, but here I am.
I am proud of these achievements, and I will not let the temptation of a future goal detract from them. Instead, I will continue working towards that goal in 2018. I hope to revise and polish my most recent manuscript in preparation for future queries. I look forward to being involved in the Florida Writers Association. I hope to make reading a priority in my life once again, and I look forward to getting my hands on many wonderful books in the coming months. Maybe I will even apply to agent internships after graduation--who knows?
There is so much possibility in a new year, and I don’t wish to hold myself to specific goals. Overall, my goal for 2018 is to keep working towards my dreams, and not let those dreams hold me back from congratulating others. The writing world requires immense patience and effort, and I am so proud of anyone who had accomplishments in 2017, and so hopeful for people going into 2018. Whether your goals are writing-related or not, keep working towards them.
As with any creative endeavor, it’s normal for a writer to hit a wall in the writing process when inspiration and creativity seem far out of reach. Whether it’s a blog post or a novel, inspiration fuels the process, and sometimes your dastardly muse plays hard to get.
When you hit a creative block, sometimes it’s best to put the work away and focus on another aspect of your life instead. Read a book, tackle a work or school assignment, or spend time with a loved one. When the creative juices run low, it is okay to put your creative endeavor to the side while you regroup.
However, other times require you to fight back. Rather than put the work aside and take a step back, chase after that muse and seek out your inspiration.
While participating in NaNoWriMo, I wanted to write every day in order to keep up with a consistent word count. After a few days of regular inspiration, I quickly hit a point when the ideas stopped flowing. I stared at the screen, I stared at my outline, I stared out a window—surprisingly, none of it helped. In those moments, the temptation to shut my laptop and try again the next day grew strong.
If I gave into that temptation, I would have doubled the word count I needed the following day, and it would inevitably lead to a slippery slope scenario as the word count piled up and up and the inspiration slipped further and further away. Instead, I fought to reclaim it.
When I hit a writing block, sometimes the best cure is not to step away and return later—it’s to sit myself down and work through the block. Every time I hit one of those blocks during NaNoWriMo, I tried to do exactly that. I racked my brain for possible scenarios for my characters, and if I couldn’t find inspiration for a current scene, I moved onto a later one and then doubled back. It usually involved a lot more staring at my screen and a lot less writing than other days, but it always did the trick of breaking through that block to make the next day easier.
If you are a writer or another form of creator—or even a college student faced with final papers—I advise you to think about this next time you hit a creative block. Decide whether your creative juices have run low, or if it’s really fear and stress holding you back. The former requires time to recuperate, but you can fight against the latter. Push yourself to keep going, and you will be surprised how much you can accomplish. Sometimes you can’t wait for inspiration to come to you—you must seek it out.
And if you are a blogger with no inspiration for a blog post, write a post about finding inspiration. It might just do the trick.
What are your thoughts? Do you have different methods for reclaiming inspiration?
I write YA fantasy and paranormal fiction. This blog is dedicated to thoughts and advice on writing and publishing, as well as various interests related to the world of Young Adult.