If you are a writer, you will have heard these 3 phrases at least once in your life:
“If you aren’t writing, you should be reading.”
“You can’t be a great writer without reading.”
“ If you don’t have time to read, then you don’t have time write.”
These phrases probably ring a bell. And I hope they do! Because I am challenging everyone who sees this post to a reading challenge. As readers, and writers too, we tend to stick with what we like when it comes to genres. Let’s face it, we find a genre we love and once we do it’s hard to pry yourself away. We become secluded in this little bubble, missing out on so many other great things. So not only am I challenging myself to read four books a month but I am also challenging myself to read four different genres. It’s my hope to become familiar with new genres and to better myself as a writer. I’ll post the titles of the books I’ve read each month and would love to hear back from those who are doing the same. If you want to take the challenge, post your very own list of books you plan to read within a month and hashtag #FourBooksFourWeeks. Below you’ll find my list from April. I’m a slow reader with a full time job and a book a week is totally doable… and still gives leaves me with time to write. The way I see it, reading is the “weight lifting” for writers. It only makes us stronger. I hope you take the challenge!
ON WRITING by Stephen King
SHOTGUN LOVESONGS by Nickolas Butler
RED QUEEN by Victoria Aveyard
A DISCOVERY OF WITHES by Deborah Harkness
Music that makes you want to bust a move. Okay, maybe this is obvious to everyone else except me but when I first began writing, I went to great lengths to prepare the most well pressed arrangement of songs to accompany my pencil strokes. Ranging from Kings of Leon to the song I just shazamed in the movie theatre last week. Before I knew it, my writing was null and I found myself screaming “heyyyyyyyy, your sex is on fire,” over my headphones instead of actually writing. So you know what else was on fire? This project that is going nowhere because I am distracted by the mesmerizing voices of Caleb Followill.
My fix: I think playlists have the potential to be great. It is just a matter of what you stack them with. Find music that tunes out your surroundings enough but not too much that makes you want to sing along. Maybe pick an artist you like but don’t necessarily love or songs without any lyircs at all. My preference is Radiohead. Mainly because I like their sound but can never understand a word they say, so the desire to sing along or get lost in the words isn’t there.
Caffeine overload. Another rookie mistake on my part. This can be a challenge, especially because I do most of my writing in cafes or places that specialize in well, caffeine induced beverages. Sometimes I am not in the mood to write. Plain and simple. I used to think the fix is to load up on coffee. And then a few cups in, my vision is bouncing from wall, computer screen, back to the wall. There is a fine line between grabbing a coffee while you write and binging. You’ll know you’ve crossed the line when it begins to blur, and your eyes can’t even focus on it.
My fix: Say it with me now. Decaf. Call me crazy but I think a cup of coffee (or tea) alongside a writer can be used for pure comfort. For me, it completely is. Maybe you need that steaming cup o’ joe to set your ambiance, or maybe it’s all in your head. Either way, too much caffeine is a bad thing.
Taking breaks in the same spot you write. Deadly. This makes it hard to tell the difference between “work mode” and “play mode.” In this day in age, it’s easy to “step away” from writing without actually even taking a step at all. Say you are sitting at your computer and decide it’s time for a break. To free yourself it really only requires you to minimize your document and open up Safari. Or grab your phone and escape in another way.
My fix: Separate your work space from your break space, even if it means going into another room or stepping outside to browse the internet from your computer. Breaks are needed. What isn’t needed is taking them in the same exact spot that you write. Employers have break rooms for a reason. And writing is work.
This is the way I see it:
See this brownie? The one I just baked in the kitchen and pulled from the oven? Describe this brownie. To me, it is delicious, fresh, warm, homemade, fatty, brown, gooey, moist. But no. This brownie can only be one of those things.
So if I had to pick just one word to describe it. I’ll say this brownie is warm. Yes, definitely warm. But it’s also delicious, oh yes, very delicious. Okay, so maybe it is warm with a heavy influence of deliciousness. Yes that works. But crap. It’s also very bad for me. MY POINT (because I do have one) is this: How can my novel just be one thing? Much like trying to categorize your novel, although much less tasty, I find this process tiring. Should your genre be determined BEFORE writing your novel? Or is this typically something that is determined once your novel is complete? Determining a genre beforehand might help keep you on a certain track, but I really don’t think you know what your novel is until its complete. Is there an answer to this?
Currently I am writing a young adult fiction novel that I would classify as a romance novel. But I am not happy with that. The genre, to me, is more than just romance, not to mention does not exactly fit into the category like a glove. It is a thriller with touches of science fiction. So when writing a query letter, the description “my romance, thriller, YA fiction novel” doesn’t really work. Of course I am exaggerating but as a first time writer, I want to know, is having a problem classifying your book a GOOD thing, BAD thing, or completely irrelevant? Is there some secret trick to help categorize a novel that doesn’t perfectly fit?
I have been going back and forth, flip flopping between genres. Also, I’m really craving brownies.
Here is a quote from my first completed novel, MARKS IN STONE. The experience of completing my first novel has been beyond inspiring and I cannot wait to dive deeper into the process of what’s next! On top of this, I am feeling even more inspired to begin building new projects.
”Some things in nature cannot be stopped; trees are meant to grow, snow is meant to fall, butterflies are meant to fly. And I’ll be damned if I thought any of those things could be stopped by me.”
Everything begins with an idea.
When I think about that, I become overwhelmed. No matter what we are looking to create: a business, a design, a novel, everything begins with a simple idea. For me, that is the most exciting part of writing a novel or short story. I love the time before taking pen to paper and having this idea that lives and breathes within my mind, where it’s only a little seed needing so much to grow into what I hope it to be. Maybe it’s nothing, maybe it’s ineffective. But maybe it’s not.
Recently I finished working on my first novel. I began this project several months ago, yet today I am literally still finding crumbled up pieces of scribbled on paper in my coat pockets. A lot of the time I would get an idea and quickly jot it down, then stuff it into a pocket to later expand upon. It is crazy to look back and see these tiny notes now turned into something much bigger… a story. Which was, at one point, just an idea I thought of. The characters that live in this newly constructed world were once just ideas, names, and ink on paper thrown into a pocket. Don’t worry, I’ve since gotten a notebook. RIP finding notes in my pocket.
Here’s a little Monday inspiration for you. Nothing can happen without an idea, so if you have one, water that seed and then let it grow into whatever it is meant to be.
Dear Diary/The Internet/Anyone that accidentally stumbled onto my page,
So 2014 is coming to an end and here I am going through my final read through of my manuscript telling myself I swear this will be the LAST time! One thing I have found is the time never feels right. It seems like there is always something to change, re-write, add, take out, etc. Is this a normal feeling for a first time writer or a huge red flag that my manuscript is simply not ready? I will admit, as anxious as I am to take next step, I’m also a little nervous to put myself on display. I feel like my manuscript is strong (doesn’t everyone?) but the closer I get to submitting the more reasons I find to wait.
Along with shining up my manuscript, I’ve always been trying to perfect my query letter. Recently, I discovered the Query Shark. Now not only am I now questioning my manuscript, I am now pouring over my query letter as well! At this rate, I feel like my precious little caterpillar of a manuscript will never have a chance to find it’s wings… Maybe I’m stressing out for no reason or maybe these are all signs that my work is not ready for the next step. I guess we’ll find out…
Back to the Query Shark for a quick second. That site is awesome, like I mentioned above, I’ve spent the last few days working on my letter. What I find helpful is to check out the archives on the query shark’s site and before reading her corrections, make an opinion of your own and see how that matches up with hers. I think this will help recognizing what agents are looking for, what makes a letter catch you, and what absolutely should be left out.
With the new year around the corner I know it is a long road to get published but as Barney puts it…
First time mother overly possessive of her precious baby… I mean first completed novel…
I would love to hear from you. How did you feel well you finally completed a novel? Have you ever hear/tried Query Shark before? What steps did you take before sending it out to agents?