Guest Post: “Beta Reading, Feedback, and Rewrites, OH MY!” by Kaytalin McCarry

Guest Post

Meet Kaytalin McCarry.

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Kaytalin Platt is a southern transplant to the suburbs of Philadelphia, where she lives with her husband and their dog, Mr. Bones. Platt works in design and corporate marketing, with a background in publication design. The Living God is her debut novel, published May 21, 2019 by Inkshares.

Kaytalinplatt.com | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

 

The Guest Post.

 

Beta Reading, Feedback, and Rewrites, OH MY!

    Writing a book is often an isolating and personal experience. As authors, we live with our characters for months or years or decades. We patiently and painstakingly craft our work, writing and rewriting until one day it feels finished.

But it isn’t finished, is it? Not really. There are several more stages a book goes through before being counted as “finished”. Before editing, before formatting, someone has to read our work and tell us what they think–point out all the flaws we didn’t notice, all the places that need work.

Queue the existential crisis.

The Beta Reader

Beta readers are a vital part of improving your craft and your project. A developmental/beta reader will give you insight into areas of improvement such as plot holes, pacing, offensiveness or insensitivity, and other issues that you may not have noticed when drafting.

Having a developmental reader isn’t all doom and gloom, though. While they point out problems that may need fixing, they also tell you what’s working! They encourage and uplift and validate your writing by letting you know what they loved.

No two people will interpret a book the same way, though, so I encourage you to find a small group to read your work. This gives you a healthy sample of feedback. Don’t choose readers at random, either. Make sure they enjoy the genre or topic, are honest, and are likely to follow through with reading and answering questions. Don’t be discouraged if the readers you chose disappear off the face of the earth It happens and I’ve experienced it on more than one occasion. Move on and ask someone else to take part.

Questions for Your Beta Reader…

No matter who you choose, know what you want them to look for. Think about your project, your theme, your mission, and determine a set of questions to ask that person once they’ve finished reading your work.

I learned a lot during the publishing process for The Living God. Having better questions for my beta readers would have minimized editing and rewrites. For the sequel, I compiled 25 Questions for Beta Readers to reference once it’s time for beta reading.

Use these questions or research your own. Just remember to go into the developmental reading process prepared; it will make editing so much easier.

Accepting Feedback and Criticism

    Some people take criticism with ease. ‘Like water off a duck’s back,’ my dad would say.

Just as no two individuals interpret a story the same way, no two people handle criticism and feedback the same way. While one author may take feedback as a challenge to conquer, another may spend a few days (or weeks) in a Blackhole of Despair.

I’m a Blackhole of Despair type of person, and it isn’t because I think what I wrote is perfect. I know it isn’t perfect–that it will never be perfect, not really. I get overwhelmed by feedback, by the concept of changing and fixing and fine-tuning what I’ve already spent months or years working on. Sometimes, I can’t see the forest for the trees. How long I spend in my Blackhole of Despair varies from a day to weeks but, so far, I’ve always climbed out. I try to keep working. The path, the fix, the eureka moment comes along eventually.

Take your feedback in stages.

Once you receive it, read through it and walk away. Like immediately. Take a break. Drink some tea. Don’t dwell on it, especially if it seems like an ENORMOUS amount of work. Just absorb and move on to another task while your brain mulls it over.

Emotional, visceral reactions may happen. This is your baby. Your creation. You may be a little defensive, a little sensitive, and, dare I say it, maybe a bit petulant. That’s why we walk away and take a breather. Once you do, once you step away and mull and decompress, you notice that, hey, they’re kinda right about most of it. Stressed brains can’t think objectively.

But just because a reader notices a problem, doesn’t mean they know how to fix it. If your beta reader suggests a fix, consider it, but don’t feel obligated to use it. You may discover a better one that blows both your original idea and their idea out of the water. In the words of Neil Gaiman, “Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.”

Another thing that beta readers sometimes lack is tact. I have a blog post that offers advice to your friends on how they can give feedback without crushing your soul.

Tackling Edits and Rewrites

There will be sections or chapters that need to be removed or rewritten. It happens.

    1. The first stage to editing and rewriting is acceptance. Take a deep breath. There is no escape. You’ve got a lot of work ahead of you.
    2. Take a break, step back, or work on another project if you need to. You might have to clear your head to tackle the problems in your writing.
    3. Map your scenes. This helps determine what scenes work and what don’t. I’ve always found scene mapping difficult because I’m a pantser, so I map scenes AFTER I write the story (which happens to be double the work, but that’s how my brain functions). If you aren’t a pantser, there are a variety of ways to map your scenes from Post-it notes, to programs like Scrivener or Scene Maps by OneStopForWriters. Whether you pantsed it or planned it, make a list of chapters/scenes and create short summary for each. Ask yourself a series of questions about those scenes. How does the scene progress or add to the story? Does the scene move the story forward? Establish character arcs, causes, effects? Connect to earlier events? It’s a good way to see what is necessary, what should be cut, and what changes you can make to strengthen your story.
    4. Make a plan. Take your feedback and make a list of what needs to change. Determine how to tackle your list and in what order. Order may determine the ease of editing.
    5. Tackle your plan in stages. You may need to take a break between section rewrites to approach problems with a clear head. How do I hande them? First, I tackle the rewrites or additions that will take the most brain power and emotional bandwidth, but I don’t tackle them all at once. I do them individually. Next, I edit and revise the new material, at least two passes. Finally, I do an editing pass over the whole manuscript to ensure the rewrites and additions flow with the rest of the text. For a streamlined process, incorporate #8, #9, and #10 from below into this pass.
    6. Don’t rush it. I know, you want to be over and done. You want to move on to the next project or just get your story out there. Don’t rush it. I wish I had heard this advice. I thought I needed to get done with the edits ASAP, and I wish I would have mulled it over or taken another go after the third round. Take your time; your writing will be better for it.
    7. Don’t force it. You’ve got problems that need fixing. Don’t cram a fix for the sake of moving on to the next one on your list.
    8. Kill your darlings. Kill them with fire. Actually, no. Don’t. Just do what I do and copy and paste them into a separate document where they can live forever in an alternate universe from your book.
    9. Remove filler words.

 

 

 

Other helpful articles on rewriting: The 6 Best Ways to Rewrite Your Book, 6 Rules for Rewriting, How to Edit a Book: Ultimate 21-Part Checklist.

 

Don’t Give Up

Editing and rewriting (especially when you’ve rewritten an entire book three times) will bring forth a lot of emotions. It’s going to feel hard. Impossible. You’re going to question your skills as a writer, your passion, your story. Is it even worth fixing?

Yes. YES! Yes it is.

Don’t give up. You might want to, but don’t. No one can tell your story but you. Finishing a book takes a tremendous amount of work and time and patience. It is all worth it. All the sadness, pain, tiredness, self-doubt, all of those emotions are worth it in the end. Work through your feelings. They are valid. But don’t give up because of them.

I can’t wait to read what you write.

Guest Post: “Tackling the Schedule: The Benefits and Challenges of Writing with a Partner” by Brad McLelland

Guest Post

Meet Brad McLelland.

Born and raised in Arkansas, Brad McLelland spent several years working as a crime journalist in the South before earning his MFA in creative writing from Oklahoma State University, where he met his writing partner, Louis Sylvester. A part-time drummer and singer, Brad lives in Oklahoma with his wife, stepdaughter, a mini-Aussie who gives hugs, and a chubby cat who begs for ham.

Author Website: www.bradmcbooks.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/bradmcbooks
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/bradmclelland/
Amazon Author Central: https://www.amazon.com/Brad-McLelland/e/B07G5N1H6T
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/BradMcBooks

 

The Guest Post.

Tackling the Schedule:

The Benefits and Challenges of Writing with a Partner

 

In February 2016, my writing partner Louis Sylvester and I received the phone call that changed our lives. Our agent, Brooks Sherman, informed us that Henry Holt Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group, wanted to acquire all four books in our Legends of the Lost Causes western series.

After thoroughly thanking Brooks, (and picking ourselves off the floor), Louis and I sat down to a long phone conversation about how to proceed. Since we live more than a thousand miles apart (Louis lives in Idaho, I’m in Oklahoma), we knew that writing three more books under contract with Henry Holt would present a host of challenges for our writing schedules. We had started writing Book 1 all the way back in 2010, and had enjoyed plenty of time to tinker and redraft as needed—but now we were staring at real deadlines with a real publisher.

Needless to say, we couldn’t help feeling a bit overwhelmed. Especially when our new editor informed us that the first draft of Book 2, The Fang of Bonfire Crossing, would be given a five-month window for completion. Not five years—five months! The clock would start ticking in January 2017, and the alarm for the draft would go off in May.

After picking ourselves off the floor again, Louis and I talked out the writing schedule that would become an integral part of our lives for the foreseeable future, a schedule that we still maintain.

Here’s what we do:

Because each novel in the Legends series is divided into three major sections—Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3—Louis and I schedule one part per month for drafting. So for Book 2, we wrote Part 1 in January, Part 2 in February, and Part 3 in March (we approached the first draft of Book 3 in the same way, and are repeating the formula for Book 4). That leaves two months to scribble out any remaining pieces, flesh out underdeveloped scenes, adjust any character arcs, and do a lightning-quick edit job of the entire book. Then we turn the manuscript over to our editor, who then works closely with us on subsequent drafts.

Compounding the challenges of writing under deadline and so far apart, Louis and I both hold full-time jobs outside of kidlit publishing. Louis is an English professor; I work as a technical editor for a publisher of fire service training manuals. Our daytime professions keep us hopping throughout a typical week, so it’s vital that we establish a writing routine that not only succeeds for Henry Holt, but also works for our families and our employers.

In order to keep to our one-part-per month drafting formula, Louis and I alternate the chapter writing within each section of a book. A typical Part 1, for example, consists of about ten chapters, which means that Louis and I will write five chapters each, going back and forth with a detailed outline to ensure plot consistency. If possible, we each stick to a chapter a week. Then we switch our respective chapters to perform personal edits and layering for voice, style, and tone.

For me, this means lots of nighttime and weekend writing. Since I work four days a week at my day-job, Fridays tend to be my most productive days for drafting, but I also grab as many Saturday night and Sunday evening sessions as I can. Each week I spend thirty to forty hours on writing, so drafting each book is the equivalent of a second full-time job. There’s little time for Netflix (though I do sneak in occasional episodes of She-Ra and Scooby-Doo with my stepdaughter).

I would not be able to accomplish any of this, of course, without a wonderful support system. My wife and stepdaughter understand the time that I need to co-write the novels, so they provide me the appropriate space and time to get the work done. Each month we carefully plan our family outings and events, and we take summer vacations after first drafts are turned into the publisher. We schedule activities to get excited about, and we celebrate and embrace the simple things (such as going to the movies or playing board games).

By taking a measured, meticulous approach to our writing schedule, Louis and I no longer feel like we have to pick ourselves off the floor. We’ve endured the challenges, we’ve undergone the adjustments, and now we’re finding ourselves in the Book 4 homestretch.

Our biggest hope, at the end of the day, is that our readers see the story and not the schedule. If we accomplish that, we can wrap up the day’s writing with a sense of pride and purpose.

 

Thank you Brad for sharing!

Brad’s latest book, The Fang of Bonfire Crossing: Legends of the Lost Causes, is available now!

Guest Post with Kaya Quinsey: “Writing With Time in Mind”

Guest Post, Misc.

Kaya Quinsey - Headshot 6Meet Kaya Quinsey.

Kaya Quinsey holds her undergraduate and master’s degree in psychology. Her first novel, Paris Mends Broken Hearts, was released in April 2018. Her second book, A Coastal Christmas, was released in October 2018. Her books have sold in seven countries. Kaya’s passion for culture, travel, and psychology blend for a reading style that is fun, full of surprises, and easy to read. A romantic at heart, Kaya’s writing offers a contemporary twist to traditional love stories. She hopes to inspire women through her stories to fiercely chase their dreams.

Social Media Links:
Website: http://www.kayaquinsey.com/
Author Central: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B07CBR7JJL
Twitter: https://twitter.com/kayaquinsey
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kayaquinsey/?hl=en
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/kayaquinsey

Guest Post

Writing With Time in Mind

 

 

Here is some advice I’ve found helpful on how to finish your manuscript relatively quickly (and with minimal headaches). Enjoy!

 

 

1. Write first, edit later

 

If you start to painstakingly sift through sentences as soon as they are typed up, it is going to be a long road to get to the finished product. Some writers will type away at a blacked-out screen, so they aren’t even tempted to edit throughout the process. Get the words out, finish your idea, and don’t let yourself get in the way. This leads into my next point

 

 

2. Let go of perfectionism

 

It is difficult to finish writing a book if you are critiquing it the entire time. Remember that the more you practice, the better you will get. So keep practicing.

 

 

3. Write every day

 

I have found that writing on a daily basis has been helpful to maintain a plot driven story line. It takes discipline to stay focused, to keep writing, to have patience with yourself each day. Stick with it.

 

 

4. Set a word count

 

When working on a book, I typically aim for between 1000-2000 words per day. Within a relatively short span of time, you’ll have a first draft of your book.

 

 

5. Plan your plot

 

Having a general overview of what is going to happen in your story can be helpful so that you have a sense of direction when you are meeting your daily word count (see number 4), on a daily basis (see number 3). You don’t necessarily need to have it all figured out, but an overall big-picture idea can be helpful to guide the path.

 

 

6. Set hard deadlines for yourself 

 

When I say “hard headlines”, I don’t mean set difficult deadlines (e.g., “I will write a whole novel by Wednesday!”). What I mean is set goals about when you want to have Chapter 1, 2, 3, etc. done by. Keep those promises to yourself. Remember, it doesn’t have to be perfect the first time you write it. There will be time to go over it all when you’re done! Which leads me to my final point…

 

 

7. Schedule time to revise

 

 

Congratulations! You’ve written a book. Now comes the real fun (just kidding).

 

Good luck with your writing and I wish you all the best.

 

Rae, thanks for having me on A New Look On Books.

 

 

Thank you Kaya for stopping by again!

In case you missed it, check out Kaya’s interview here!

 

 

 

Interview With Author Mischa Thrace

Author Interview

Meet Mischa Thrace.

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Hi Mischa! Thanks for joining us today. Tell us a little about yourself.

Mischa Thrace has worked as an English teacher, a horse trainer, a baker, and a librarian and has amassed enough random skills to survive most apocalypses. (Except a spider plague – there’s no surviving that.) She lives in Middle-of-Nowhere, Massachusetts with her husband, a one-eyed dog, and a cranky cat who rarely leaves the basement. She loves tea, all things geek, and not getting ax-murdered on long walks in the woods.

Social Media Links:
http://instagram.com/mischa_thrace
https://twitter.com/mischa_thrace
http://mischathrace.com/

 

The Interview.

In terms of surviving an apocalypse, besides a spider apocalypse that you mentioned in your bio, what would be the one thing you’d need with you even if it would drag you down?

My dog, no hesitation. I’d like to say she’d be an asset, but she’s 30 pounds of one-eyed-rescue-floof that hates strangers and would absolutely bark at the zombies we’d be trying to hide from. And if that didn’t get us killed, I’d starve from giving her my share of the food.

As a writer, how often do you find yourself people watching and plotting new books?

Always! The problem is when I do it out loud and when it’s for something murdery, which is more often that it probably should be!

Let loose your inner fangirl! Since you mentioned you love all things geek – what is your favorite fandom or longest fandom you have been apart of? Next share a little origin story for that.

Picking a single favorite fandom is like asking a reader to pick a single favorite book! Inconceivable! But to go with longest-running, it’s definitely Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which I started watching when it premiered in 1997. I’ve lost count lost count of how many times I’ve rewatched it, and can recite a disturbing amount of the dialogue, and have given it has the most real estate in my fandom-themed tattoo. I would even go so far as to crediting it with teaching me how to write. In high school I wrote novels’ worth of fanfic and the repeated viewings of the series have definitely helped me internalize the principles of story and character arcs, along with Whedon’s dictum to “Make it dark, make it grim, make it tough, but then, for the love of God, tell a joke.”

Self-defense and characters that are wholly human. What was the hardest scene or character to come to terms with in My Whole Truth?

Ooh, this is a bit hard to answer without getting spoiler-y, but Seelie’s mom was probably the hardest character to write because she’s the person who we’d like to assume would be most in Seelie’s corner and she’s just… not – and anyone who has worked with kids and teens knows that this kind of poor parenting is far more common than it should be. There already a few books with similar themes to My Whole Truth that feature strong and supportive parents in the face of trauma, so I wanted to remind people that not everyone is lucky enough to have that. Tragedy can strike anyone, not just those with ideal support systems.

Did your perception of the importance of sharing the uglier sides of life in YA change throughout writing and editing My Whole Truth?


No, I’ve always been a firm believer in the importance of having books that represent the whole of the human experience, not just the Disney versions, and the harder books are often the most important.  Readers of all ages deserve to see themselves reflected in the pages of their favorite novels, but it’s equally important to read about characters who are vastly different from you. The character that one person is able to completely relate to may be another reader’s first glimpse into a world they know nothing about. Books let people experience their wildest dreams, but also their worst fears, and I will never stop believing in the need for stories that span the entire spectrum.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with the readers today?

Remember that there is no one “right way” to be a victim. Responses to trauma are as varied as the people who experience it, and what’s ‘normal’ for one person may seem inconceivable to the next. Everyone has secrets and stories they don’t share with the world and you can never know what war someone is fighting while they serve you coffee, sit in your class, or bag your groceries. Be cognizant of that and wary of placing value on only certain types of responses or certain types of victims. The world can be a scary place, but a bit of compassion can go a long way to making it better.

 

Bonus Fun

Mischa Thrace shares 10 fun facts!

The Weird, Not-Third-Person, Stuff

1. I can sculpt cool things out of chocolate. A useless but tasty talent!

2. I’m a big fan of recreational violence – I studied mixed martial arts and would love to try roller derby.

3. I can quote disturbing amounts of Joss Whedon’s oeuvre.

4. I have a plethora of extra internal organs.

5. My favorite random fact is that the center of our galaxy tastes like raspberries and smells like rum.

6. I have specific mugs dedicated to certain drinks during certain activities. It’s a problem.

7. I love bats and opossums

8. I could happily live on carbs and cheese.

9. I hate having my picture taken more than anything in the world.

10. Despite being cameraphobic, I would love to ‘play’ a corpse on crime show.

 

Thank you Mischa!

 

Thrace’s book, My Whole Truth, comes out October 2, 2018!

Are you ready?

 

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Guest Post: Peyton Garver on Edgy Contemporary YA

Guest Post

peyton.jpgMeet Peyton Garver.

As a child, Peyton called places like Livorno, Italy; Orléans, France; and Augsburg, Germany home. She has since settled in Maryland, where she earned her degree in education at Towson State University, married her sweetheart of two years, and became an instant mother to three spirited young boys before adding another son to the brood. And, with their yellow lab George, it’s no stretch to say she’s outnumbered.

When not writing, Peyton is a fulltime high school teacher. Inspired by the individual spirits, heartaches, and triumphs of her students, Peyton has developed characters who resemble real world teens dealing with real issues: relationships, jealousy, bullying, and depression. Her newest novel, Sublime Karma, is a contemporary story filled with emotion, depth, wit, and suspense.

Social Media Links:
Website: www.peytongarver.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/peyton.garver.7
Twitter: @peyton_garver
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Sublime-Karma-Peyton-Garver-ebook/dp/B01MXHN8CD
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/32939941-sublime-karma

 

Guest Post

“Writing Edgy Contemporary YA Responsibly”
There are so many subgenres for YA literature: fantasy, dystopian, science fiction, adventure, horror, historical fiction, steampunk, paranormal and many more, all of which readers must rely on their imagination and world building of the author. And, there is nothing wrong with that. It’s easy to get absorbed into stories that sweep us away and allow us to escape into a world of imagination. I enjoy reading YA dystopian and science fiction. I loved the Divergent dystopian series, while Ender’s Game is my favorite science fiction.

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But, with contemporary YA, the story is relatable and the issues are real. My book, Sublime Karma, is a coming-of-age story where my characters grow and change because of their real-life experiences. The characters face the tough issues of jealousy, bullying, isolation, relationships, trust, loss, and depression. The same issues that so many teens deal with every day. Coming-of-Age contemporary stories, although fiction, are relatable and often come with life lessons.

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Sublime Karma falls into the category of edgy contemporary YA with the tough issues of self-harm, attempted suicide, and abuse. It is written for older teens, not tweens or younger teens. This was a difficult book to write. As a teacher, I’ve had experience with some of the themes I’ve included in Sublime Karma. Why was it difficult you might ask? Of course, the topics are sensitive, but more difficult than writing about sensitive topics is how to write about those topics responsibly. On that note, I would like to refer you to this enlightening article by Hannah Heath, “Six Problems with Edgy YA Fiction”: She describes negative issues with edgy YA. And, for the most part I whole heartedly agree. But, that doesn’t mean I would shy away from writing it. As I wrote, I knew I needed to be cognizant of the fact that my readers are impressionable, and while I believe the topics I’ve addressed are important and need to have light shed on them, I also knew I must do so in a responsible manner. Hannah’s first point was that difficult issues such as self-harm and suicide are romanticized. I do have scenes of self-harm and one scene of the aftermath of an attempted suicide, but in so doing, I wanted the reader to understand the character without glorifying or condemning the act stressing that the character is suffering and needs help. And, their acts also affect others.

Secondly, Hannah points out that there is a lack of nice characters. One of the early reviewers for Sublime Karma wrote this about one of my main characters:

Jake I absolutely loved in this book. He was the jock, but he really wasn’t. This kid had a heart of gold. He wasn’t one that just did things to be noticed. He had a lot going on and he made time for his sister which is pretty awesome. With Jake he was all in all the time. He took life a little too seriously at times, but he had to grow up fast. He was one of the strongest teens I have seen in a book in a long time.”

For contemporary YA it is likely that the reader can identify people they know in real life who are similar to characters in the story. Ultimately the reader should be able to experience the growth of the characters, especially the MCs. Believable characters and compelling plots are both key to all YA fiction. Speaking of compelling plots in contemporary writing, keeping it real is important. In edgy YA it gives a glimpse into some tough issues that all readers have not experienced but may be curious about…another reason to approach it responsibly. Just because it’s edgy, it doesn’t mean it has to glamorize a specific act or tempt a reader.
Hannah’s third point is the prominence of sexual situations. I agree. Thus, the heat level of Sublime Karma is sweet. I didn’t want sexual relations to be the focal point of the story. Hannah goes on to make three more points in her article. To be honest, I didn’t see this article before my book was published as the article hadn’t yet been written. The take-away here is that it is possible to write edgy YA responsibly for a young adult audience.

 

edgy ya pic 3.png

 

What an awesome guest post!

Want more? Check out Garver’s links above!

Guest Post: Write to Feed Your Soul by Tianna Grosch

Guest Post

Author Pic.jpegMeet Tianna Grosch.

Tianna Grosch has been writing her whole life and received her MFA at Arcadia University last year. She works as Assistant Editor at Times Publishing Newspapers, publishing 10 community papers a month. Tianna is working on a debut novel about women who survive trauma as well as a memoir. Her work has previously appeared or is forthcoming in Ellipsis Zine, Crack the Spine, The Arsonist Mag (Burning House Press), Who Writes Short Shorts, New Pop Lit, Blanket Sea Magazine, Echo Lit Mag and Nabu Review (both lit mags of Paragon Press), among others. In her free time she gardens on her family farm and dreams up dark fiction. Follow her on Twitter @tianng92 or check out her writing on CreativeTianna.com.

Social media links:
Website: creativetianna.com
Twitter: tiannag92
Instagram: tgghansen24

 

Guest Post

Write to Feed Your Soul
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Writing for me has always been as natural as breathing.
I started composing stories before I knew how to form a written word on the page, creating entire worlds in my head before I could fashion a single letter.
Perhaps that’s one reason much of my writing has always been composed in my head. I often wait until I have the perfect line burning my brain before setting pen to paper.
The writing process is different for everyone and continues to evolve as a person grows and learns and changes.
There is no “right” way to write.
There is no “wrong” way.
The best way is to write. In whatever way the words come to you, whatever way the sentences form, however the images appear, grab onto them and create. Write to nourish your soul and feed your inner desire for knowledge, for discovery, for transportation to another world.

Write for You.
Writing is a special form of art; instead of sculpting clay in my hands I sculpt sentences from words, creating curves with commas and expressions from exposition. Forming features from nothing – a blank page, open space, blackhole. So much opportunity waits on a blank page. Creating entire characters. Worlds blinking up at you, glimmering under the stark whiteness, the virgin snow. Daring you to discover them on the page, to paint with your words and create the artwork of your soul, writing from that deep dark inner place.
That’s where I write from, and the consequence is much of my writing is dark. I don’t shy away from this, though I used to. I used to feel apologetic when I would ask someone to read my work, knowing it was dark, knowing it may transport them to images and thoughts they didn’t want. But then I decided to not apologize for my artform. This is what speaks to me, this is what flows from that deep inner space, and this is what I am meant to write. This, I hope, will in some way touch the world and bring a bit of understanding to others. I write from a space of much pain, but I want others to hear my voice and to know their voices can be heard too. No matter the darkness that may glimmer like hot coals amidst our words.
tg2.pngDon’t hide the part of you where you write from. No matter what shines, no matter what you produce, share that with the world and celebrate your uniqueness. Celebrate the perspective only you have, that only you own. Share it with the world and don’t flinch if they can’t look your darkness full in its face. Never apologize for your creations, beautiful monsters.

One of the best things I learned in my MFA was to write for myself. I’m not writing for anyone else when I set out, just as an artist does not create for anyone but themselves. I write to feed my soul. I write to nourish myself, to grow and discover, and to celebrate my unique view on the world. I hope you will do the same.

Write as Often as You’re Able.
I used to stress myself to no end thinking I needed to be writing daily and then punishing myself internally if I didn’t write one day. Sometimes, it’s good to take that break instead of forcing it. You don’t want to write when the muse isn’t coming to you – you also don’t want to lose complete track of writing, either. But if you find yourself at a bit of an impasse with your writing at some point, don’t sweat it. That doesn’t mean you fail as a writer, that doesn’t mean you can’t write and that certainly doesn’t mean you should give up.
It took me a while to get back in the writing groove after I graduated my master’s program. I was feeling pretty burnt out, considering I had pursued the MFA running on dwindling steam as it was, I felt the need for a break afterward. Then I started to worry about it and stress about it, to the point where it was affecting my daily life.
Once I finally sat down to write again, the words still flowed just as easily, as if I had only met with them yesterday. I hadn’t lost my touch, if anything I had gained a bit of insight into my own writing abilities and it gave me a fresh outlook. I even started writing a different style after taking a bit of a break, and it worked well for me. I tried flash fiction instead of longer stories and with my background of poetry, the flash fiction flowed off my tongue like honey. I had a few acceptances from literary magazines within a few weeks of beginning to write it and submit it out. My lines were lyrical; the form spoke to me and it was like the words danced off my fingertips.
You were born a writer, or you were bred one, and you won’t lose that skill or talent by taking some time off. Writing comes in so many different forms. I was still writing for my job, a different style of writing again – I had to re-learn journalism practices, but that has also helped me with my minimalism, knowing to be sparse with my words because I can only fit so many on the page.

Write into Different Worlds.
One of my main goals as a writer has always been to surround myself with different experiences – different people, different lives, different stories, different situations. For me, this mindset led me to unexpected and wonderful places which planted a seed of passion within me for a societal issue I would have otherwise never noticed.
I took a course in my sophomore year of college that took students inside max security jail to meet face-to-face with inmates in a classroom setting. The class was called “Storytelling” so it was meant to be, in my mind.
Since the first day of entering that jail, feeling terrified and ending up having the most eye-opening and mind-expanding experiences of my life, it set the stage for the way I lived the rest of my life. I didn’t want to turn down any opportunity that came my way. It showed me how wonderful things come from the most unexpected places. And it spurred me to write my novel-in-progress, which follows the life of a woman who goes to prison. Once I realized how much a prisoner’s voice is smothered (particularly women), it made me want to help with my words and my writing. To reach out to the public in some way.
Putting that out into the universe has led me to even more amazing paths, but that’s for a different story. Let’s just say I’m now also writing a memoir – two memoirs to be exact, and that’s something I never thought I would do.

Write Without Limits.
When writing, it’s important not to limit yourself or to define yourself by one genre. You don’t want to shove yourself or your creativity into a box. It’s better to allow your creativity free reign and see what it comes up with. You’ll be pleasantly surprised. I know I always am. I allow my muse to come out in poetry, creative non-fiction, and fiction, including flash and microfiction.
No matter what I’m writing, I always leave a part of myself behind like a watermark, a fingerprint. And like I was saying my writing is dark earlier, it isn’t a bad thing. Learn to embrace what makes you and your writing unique because that is what will make your style stand out from the rest. People start to pick out my writing, they learn to expect the darkness, and when you offer them glimmers of light, it is, I believe, all the more pleasing.

 

“Only when it is dark enough, can we see the stars.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson