Wednesday, June 22, 2016

What Writers Do For Their Stories: Sharing

It's Wednesday today, but by the time you read this it will be Saturday and my vacation will be over. I'm not sure how I feel about that. Tomorrow will be spent on the road as will most of the day Friday as well, so here I sit writing this for y'all to enjoy. Anyway, Sharing is this weeks topic for the What Writers Do blog series.

You would think that this one is a no-brainer but it's not. It took me a long time to share my story(ies) with people and as I said last week a lot of that was due to self-doubt but that wasn't my only obstacle. When I first started writing, I didn't share my stories with anyone at all. I wrote in notebooks and on any piece of paper I was given but I kept them to myself thinking they would never be finished. People would ask what I was doing, I'd snap the notebook closed or stuff the page in a pocket and say, "nothing," in a barely audible voice.

Fast forward about two years later and I entered my first short story in a creative arts contest put together by a few local churches. I won first place but it took me sharing it with two other people before I even thought about entering it at all. They both gave me the confidence to do it and I'm so glad I did because that was my push in the right direction.

Another Three years later, I was talking to a few more friends about my stories, Some of which offered to help me by reading and editing my stories. That was  another push towards what I really want, which is to be a full-time author. I enjoy writing and do it every day, but if I never share my stories with anyone, I won't know if they're any good.

Sharing is a big part of what writers do for their stories and it catapulted me out of the shell in which I was so desperately stuck. I still have a long way to go in sharing and on my writing journey. I don't really even have beta-readers yet. I'm still  editing the rough drafts but soon I'll be ready to show my work to Betas and start the ball rolling.

One last thought, when you share your story, always share with at least two people. One should be a friend that will give you an honest opinion and the other needs to be a teacher or a critic someone who will scrutinize your story for any flaws and plot holes instead of patting you on the back and saying "good job." Also, don't give them the full manuscript. Give them one chapter at a time, that way they don't have a 200+ pages manuscript they have to look over and if they don't like it or it's not their style, you can find someone else to critique and encourage you.

Well, that's all for today. I'm going to get back to enjoying my last full day of Vacation. I hope you enjoyed this week's What Writers Do For Their Stories. Now, go be awesome.

-Jennifer Williams

Saturday, June 18, 2016

What Writers Do For Their Stories: Self-Doubt

It's Saturday and, even though I'm on vacation, I'm making a blog. Today I'm focusing on self-doubt. Most writers, at one time or another, have doubted either their writing capabilities or their ideas or their entire manuscripts. It's a flaw we all have. It's called being human. Everyone doubts themselves. If someone tells you they haven't, they are lying to you. Don't believe them.

I haven't had a case of self-doubt recently... that just means it's right around the corner. Self-doubt is a huge issue for me, especially when I go through old notebooks and find pieces of stories that were never finished. The Ideas are extremely good for a writer but when I read them the mistakes jump out at me.

I see grammatical errors, misspelled words, and sentences that were never completed because I was suddenly distracted. This can be discouraging if I focus on it. Instead, I've chosen to focus on the fact that, finally, after almost nine years of writing I have six completed rough first drafts in the same series and I've adapted some of my previous ideas into other stories or other universes.

Also, I'm confident enough to show them to someone. I'm finally to a place that I can talk about my books and bounce new ideas off my friends. This is a major accomplishment for me but it didn't happen overnight. It took a few key people in my life to start asking about my stories for me to really open up and talk about them. Some of those people were my husband, a good friend from college (who is like my honorary brother), a new friend from twitter (who has since become like a sister to me), my best friend, my cousin (who also writes), my mom, a former teacher, and my mother in law.

They each had an influential role in helping me along the journey from self-doubt to openly and confidently talking about my stories, but I'll talk more about that next week. My key to being confident in my writing ability is to talk about it. This was hard because I'm a quiet person and I'd rather listen to others than talk. If you ask about my books now, it's difficult to shut me up. Four years ago that wouldn't have been the case:. If you asked me about it back then, I would have said "it's hard to describe..." and it would have been left at that.

So here are a few things to do and not to do when self-doubt strikes.

1.) Do not edit, delete, or read any of your own work. Put down the eraser, don't dare touch the backspace or delete button. Editing is not allowed when you're in the self-doubt state of mind because you usually regret it later on.

2.) Listen to some upbeat and happy music. Music is a big part of my life. I listen to music all the time, so this is a no brainer. When writing I will usually put on a playlist that I've made for each story, but if it's depressing, I'll change the music to my upbeat playlist and it drastically effects my mood.

3.) If you can't fathom writing one more word, then do something else for an hour or two. Watch some funny videos. Talk to a friend who encourages you. Play a video game: I enjoy playing Star Wars the Old Republic when I'm down on myself. Something about killing things with a lightsaber is very relaxing. Go for a walk: You'd be surprised how much getting some sunshine can help improve your mood.

4.) Think in perspective. Everything takes time. Only a fool submits their first draft to an agent, publisher, or printer. It takes some time to polish anything and you can even polish a turd (as proven by Myth Busters).

5) Write. I know that this may be difficult, but if it is, refer to number three. If not, write something new. I tend to begin a new book or new scene if something is getting me down. Stepping into another character can sometimes bring things into perspective. Sometimes I jump on Twitter where I have accounts for multiple characters and role play between them. It helps keep things fast-paced and if I mess up on twitter no one is overly critical.

If you've read some of my other blogs, you realize that some of the same tips I used for self-editing and conquering writers block but they are universal. Self-doubt can be defeated just like Writers block. Don't become so discouraged that you give up writing all together. Keep your head up and keep on writing. With that I'll leave you and return to my vacation, so go be awesome.

-Jennifer Williams

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Character Introduction: Calypso Drakonas

Information: Since you all seemed to love Kalista's little Character Introduction bit, I decided to continue character introductions as a short story. This week is a character I have recently rediscovered. She was in a few scenes of Anna Natalia's book and I had the chance to write more about her for my Character Compendium. It really intrigued me, needless to say, she will have her own book. Without further to do, Calypso Drakonas.

A bright spotlight lit up a long red curtain, moments before theme music started and the curtain is pulled aside to reveal a talk show stage with a city skyline visible through the window behind them. Sitting behind the desk is a tall brunette in a flowing purple top and silver framed glasses hiding her big blue eyes. She straightens the papers on the desk in front of her as the camera zooms in on her.

"Good evening everyone, and welcome to Character Introductions. I'm your host, Jenn Williams. Today we have an exotic beauty from an ancient civilization lost to the Human history. Known as the Eternal queen and only surviving female of her species, please welcome Calypso Drakonas of the Comorians," she dramatically introduced. She stood up as an energetic music played over the speakers. The camera pans over to the hallway on the opposite side of the stage.

One of the stage hands pulled back the curtain blocking the hall and out stepped the gorgeously tanned, toned, brunette, in a bright white A-line dress that fell to her knees. She waved to the crowd while she walked over to Jenn and hugged her. The host gestured for her to take a seat  in one of the boxy, black leather chairs on the stage and returned to her seat. 

"Calypso, you look amazing. How are you?" She asked starting with pleasantries. Calypso smiled politely but stiffened at the sound of her name. She tossed her long wavy, dark brown hair over her shoulders and quickly composed herself.

"I'm doing well, thank you. Being in front of so many people makes me a little nervous but hey, I'm here. I'm sorry about the awkward tension. I'm not used to hearing my birth name or rank," she apologized with a bright smile. Jenn nodded and looked down at her sheet again feeling a bit awkward in front of everyone herself.

"I don't want to offend you or cause you to be nervous... Well, any more than you already are. What are you used to being called?" Jenn hurriedly offered. She shifted turning to face Calypso who had to think for a minute.

"That's quite alright. I haven't gone by Calypso in a few millennia. I've changed my name quite a bit over that period of time because being anything none human was frowned upon and even deadly for a few thousand years between 100 BC and 1960 AD. I found it difficult to change my name and start a new life as if nothing had happened, so I ended up stuck in the same rut," she rambled forgetting the question that was posed to her. She looked up into Jenn's denim blue eyes and continued, "In this era, I'm known as Caitlynn and my few friends call me Cat or Kate, for short. I think that name is really going to stick."

The joke wasn't lost on Jenn but she was too busy writing that down to comment. When she finished writing that she looked up into Cat's ice blue eyes that sparkled in the light she nodded. "Where are you currently living? I think last time we talked you didn't have a permanent place. You were traveling from dig site to dig site around the Mesopotamian area on an archaeology sabbatical." Cat nodded at this with a smile on her face and crossed her legs at the knee. She leaned on the arm of the chair facing Jenn.

"I was, wasn't I? That was like three or four years ago. Gosh, we need to get together more often. That was my first sabbatical and I was unearthing Sumerian artifacts for a museum," she started to daydream about some of her digs before clearing her throat. "I actually have a little condo in Los Angeles now. I'm not a big fan of the big cities but I'm currently teaching at UCLA and I didn't want to live in a hotel for the duration of the school year."

"Really? Putting your History degree to good work or lecturing about archeology?"

"Kinda both actually. I'm doing a course on Ancient Civilizations and next semester, I'm teaching the proper way to handle artifacts and dig sites," she explained while Jenn nodded.

"Last time we spoke, you said you didn't want to teach at all. What changed your mind?" It was a valid question but Cat had to think about it. She couldn't think of just one thing so she tried to summarize.

"Well, a few things changed my mind. Against my better judgment..." she paused because Jenn leaned forward.

"All the best stories tend to start that way." she interjected and Calypso nodded as they both laughed.

"I know, right? That and 'let me get the camera'. Anyway, I usually do solo digs and record or take pictures of the process for validity but I gave a lecture a the University of California and one of the students there was instantly drawn to the fact that I do everything myself," she began her story and Jenn nodded for her to continue. "When it came time for him to intern, he contacted my good friend and one of the Dean's at UCLA, Stewart Mitchell, who then contacted me thinking I'd be honored."

"Not a close friend then," Jenn added and Cat nodded. She straightened in her chair and cleared her throat.

"I talked with him the first time he called and told him that it wasn't going to happen. There was absolutely no way I'd take someone with me on these digs. Well, five phone calls and a huge pay raise later, I took the bait," she summed up while shaking her head. "I had a meeting with him first and ended up taking him on my next dig. He stuck around the whole summer even though there were some misunderstandings and a lot that went on. We became friends by the end and he came back to Los Angeles to complete his master's degree. I went back to working solo and we kept in contact."

"I'm beginning to see a point here," Jenn implied and Cat nodded. She was trying to sum up but it wasn't really working.

"As I said, there were a few reasons, so don't get ahead of me here." Jenn nodded her agreement and put one hand over her mouth trying to keep quiet. "After the school year ended, I flew back to Los Angeles to take some much needed time off and reconnect with some estranged family members that I learned were living here in Los Angeles. They had previously thought I was dead and then encouraged me to stick around and take the teaching job that Dean Mitchell had offered."

"So your family convinced you to settle down, huh? I thought that was just my problem," Jenn quipped and Cat chuckled with a shake of her head that made  the waves of her hair bounce.

"I'm pretty sure everyone has at least one nosey relative that thinks they know what's best. Though, in my case, they had prior information from a trustworthy source about my friend," she added knowing that would catch Jenn's attention. Jenn leaned forward on the desk again and eyed her.

"Did I miss something earlier? Should I be congratulating you?" Jenn implied carefully watching Cat's body language for any sign that would give something away. Blush crept up into Cat's cheeks and she set her left hand on the desk in front of her showing off a simple silver band with two stones set into an infinity symbol. "Congratulations! Oh my goodness, that is gorgeous!"

A buzzer went off in the background and they both turned to the Camera knowing that was the warning for the last minute. "Looks like we're out of time for tonight's program. I'll have to get you back on the show to talk about him sometime. Are you..." the curtain closed as loud music drowned out what Jenn was saying prematurely ending the conversation. 

Saturday, June 11, 2016

What Writers Do for Their Stories: Stress about Words

It's actually Saturday today. I have a million things on my list of things to do today and this is one of them. The Seventh installment of the "What Writers Do..." is hitting home for me. I've been doing a bit of editing this week and I found myself stressing about words. Not the number of words, but whether this word or that word was the right one.

As writers, we want to make the book as descriptive, entrancing, and mind consuming for the reader as possible. We don't want to just tell a story, we want to transport them into the world of the story. The proper wording is one of the ways we do that.

Whether it's witty banter between characters, a main character with whom a reader can relate, or the perfect word that describes what's happening. We want to accurately portray the characters and the scene in a way that puts them into the characters shoes or gives them a front row seat to the action. We overthink a scene to the point until each individual kick, punch, and dodge of the action scene is perfect or each line of dialogue between main characters flows correctly. We want to word things in such a way that everyone that reads the story can see it play out before their very eyes.

I have a tip for those of you who stress about words as much as I do. Don't ever show someone your first draft. Your first draft is for your eyes only. You need to polish it before anyone can read it. Terry Pratchett had it right when he said,"The First Draft is you telling yourself the story." When you tell it to yourself, you may see everything clear as day, but sometimes details get lost. Descriptions of characters, scenes, and a line of dialogue may be lost or switched around. This is why you need to edit (refer to the Self-Editing blog from last week to find my tips for editing).

Anyway, I digress. Words are important and having the right words can make or break a story. I find myself laughing when I read a line of witty dialogue and furrowing my eyebrows when a sentence doesn't make sense. When I'm reading someone else's books sometimes I come across mistakes and I contemplate how the author and writer could have missed it, but then I think about it in perspective.

The book is over 400 pages long. It has over 150,000 words. Missing a word or two that was dropped somewhere along the way is bound to happen, even in the best books. Don't be like me and stress about every little word, punctuation mark, or line of dialogue. Focus on what you're trying to convey and less on the wording. It will help you cope when you have someone edit your book, but that's a subject for another blog.

With that, I'll leave you and cross this off my list of things to get done today. I hope this was enjoyable. If it was, let me know in the comments. If you have an idea you want to discuss or a question, you can send me an email at writerinwaiting92@aol.com and I'll answer as well as I can. Now, go be awesome.

-Jennifer Williams



Saturday, June 4, 2016

What Writers Do for Their Stories: Self-Editing

Saturday is here again! (I know I've done a post on editing before, but this will be different. Just hang on.) The sun is out, the optimism is up, and the creative juices are flowing... unless you're like me and are editing your work and feeling down about it. Right now, I'm reading and editing books I started about seven years ago. I have edited them before but I'm going through them with a fine-tooth comb and editing software this time, which means a massive amount of issues are coming to my attention in bold red underline.

This process can make anyone insane. Not me. I'm taking it in stride and trying to think about it in perspective. Seven years ago, I hadn't even graduated yet, I barely had an idea for my main character, and the books were my pet project. Seven years later, I've discovered my writing style, expounded on my main character(s), and I have eleven rough drafts to sort through along with three or four unfinished drafts. In that time, I've grown more confident, learned more about grammar than I ever cared to in school, and I'm confident enough to talk and share parts of my books with others.

Editing now seems like less of a chore and more of a 'refining' process. Even gold has to be purified, cut, shaped, and polished to gleam before it looks like more than a hunk of rock. This has pushed me to edit more and not look at everything I've done in a negative light. I'm confident that when I finish editing I can at least show it to an agent or even a publisher but right now I have to persevere.

Nose to the grindstone. Eyes on the ball. Dive in, but remember to keep your legs straight when you hit the water. All these fun things and more run through my mind while I edit. To end I'm going to give you a few tips and tricks that I've learned this week.

  1. Put music on when you edit. I know it seems like it would be a distraction but it's not. It helps to limit the other noises around you that pull your attention away from editing. 
  2. Don't compare. If you've picked up a book and started reading between writing and editing, don't compare an award-winning author's work to yours. Look up any great author's story and you'll find that it took them years and a professional editor to get their finished product.
  3. Don't put yourself down! You are now older and wiser than you were when you wrote what you are editing. 
  4. Remind yourself that every good thing takes time. A seed doesn't become a tree overnight, a baby doesn't take care of itself the day after it's born, an eagle doesn't learn to fly right after it hatches, and writers don't become authors without hours of editing.
That's it for this week, I hope that was helpful and, if you didn't gain anything, Oh well. Each of us will do things differently. Well, now that you've had time to procrastinate, get back to work and go be awesome.

-Jennifer Williams.


Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Character Introduction: Justin Tragedy

**Disclaimer** by now you should all realize how this works, but for those of you who are new. Character Introductions are done in a question and answer style with a short biography and a few quotes at the bottom.

Name: Justin Alexander Tragedy
Alias: Jared Trident
Pronunciation: Just-in
Nicknames: Sting
Race: Spirit (half human half angel)
Job: Agent, father,
Build: toned
Hair Color: Brown
Eye Color: Brown
Skin Tone: Tan
Scars and Tattoos: I have one
Parents: Alexander Tragedy and Helena Joy Tragedy
Siblings: Merida and Cassidy
Significant Other: Anna Natalia Healer
Children: Allistasia Grace, Aiden Merlin, Kalista Iduna, Braedon Carson, and Nicolette Elise
Best Friend: Nathaniel Healer,  Calhan Cloud, Alistair Star, and Makuta Spiriter.
Worst Enemy: Myself
Favorite Pastime: Watching my children grow up to be better than I could ever be.
Pet Peeve: Hypocrites and two-faced people
Powers: I had a few abilities, but through reckless living they were dulled or taken from me.

Justin is forever the slave to society, The Council, and the Preternatural and Mythical Creatures Agency. He is always doing what is best for the job and for the whole of Society even if it means sacrificing life, limb, and family to accomplish that it. He has many regrets in his life and yet he didn't let them drag him down until he lost his sister Merida and Anna. He uses Alcohol and other illicit drugs to drown the pain and sorrow that he hides deep down in his heart due to his loss and bad decisions. He is a mean and violent drunk, which led to more problems. He tries to always be honest and just but usually believes everyone's lies. This leaves him deeper in the pit of regret.

Quotes:
“I think you were right to disagree with Larock and buck his leadership. He isn't prepared to be lead. He is a scholar and a healer, not a leader. Your father never prepared him for leadership. It was Nathaniel’s job and he would have excelled at it."

"He's tying it off. Anna, please don't leave me... I'm sorry for everything I've done to you. I know that it will take time and patience to trust me again, but can you find it in your heart to forgive me."

Hello little one, I know you can't hear me yet, but I'm your dad and I'm excited to meet you. Your mom is the most beautiful creature on the planet and I can't believe she married me."

“Stella, you know I cherished all three of my girls and I want all of them to know that I’m alive before the Council meeting takes place. If Kalista doesn’t find out before then you and I both know, they will use it against her"

"I wanted to save Annie, I truly did and I tried, but they wouldn’t let me go back for her. I regret it every single day of my life. Seeing you girls alleviated the sting of it and even if you don’t believe me, seeing you again was worth it,"