Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 In Review

2011 has been an amazing year.  I started and finished writing a novel.  I got great grades.  I made even more friends.  I explored DC more.  I saw Loretta Lynn in concert and helped found the Archaeology Club at AU.  I'm also a part of the founding year group of the Student Historical Society.  Most importantly, I wrote a novel.

I wrote the whole first draft and completed some basic sentence revisions.  I've just started the major cuts and revisions.  It's scary and difficult, but it's a new adventure.  I'm always excited to start new adventures, so let's do this!

Happy New Year everyone, may 2012 be even better than 2011 has been!

Stay Tuned,
Jeanni

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Near Witch Giveaway

CJ Redwine interviewed Victoria Schwab and they're giving away a copy of The Near Witch!  This book is up next on my to read list and looks amazing!  If you've never heard of it, go read the description, I promise you'll fall hard for this book too.

Giveaway is here.

Stay Tuned.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Editing Stalls

Unfortunately I have a huge amount of school work so I'm stalled in the editing process.  It'll get done, I just don't know exactly when.  Hopefully all done over winter break.  In the meantime I'll just keep dreaming about my characters and Dip's future obsession with time pieces.  (Book 2, might get a bit darker, there's some potential for PTSD after the big battle in Book 1).

Stay Tuned.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Revisions

Revisions suck.  They hurt.  You have to kill your darlings, but killing them hurts.  I'm on page 101 right now.  My poor little manuscript is getting beaten up from getting carried around with me everywhere, even to classes.  It's so covered in red ink, pages folded up, small rips in the top, poor thing.

Revision gold:
Oberon (the city) is laid out like DC, it's not gridded at all.
The Oberon Museum is based on two of my favorite museums in DC, the Museum of Natural History and the Museum of American History.
There are so many little references to my life.
What do you do when you need to waste a day?  Have your characters go to the opera of course!  And it must be Salome, that's a requirement.

Stay Tuned.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

120 pages, 60 sheets, $6 WORTH IT

I printed my first draft today.  (After my first revisions on chapter 1 also known as the chapter in which I got to know my characters).  It was 120 pages, that's 60 sheets and at 10 cents a sheet at the library (ultimate college writer moment) that cost me $6.  But it was worth it because that meant I could hold it in my hands, do my revisions and editing with a red pen (I love red pens).  At first I was skeptical because of the cost.  But when those 60 sheets of paper came out of the printer and I got to hold them, I felt my happiness expand tenfold.  I was happy and excited enough before, but when I held those papers in my hands, felt the heft, saw the type on a real document, I almost cried.  This must be what it's like for a new mother and a newborn child.  I saw the beloved words, the six months I have put into this work, all there.  Real.  My baby book.

And on the last page, this:


Stay Tuned.

Friday, November 4, 2011

The End.

Ladies and gents, I just did something monumentous.  I finished the first draft.  I know it'll need a lot of editing and rewriting and snipping and adding of scenes.  But.  It's done.  I typed The End tonight at twenty to nine.

Today's total words: 8510
Nano only word total: 17,836
Word total: 78,247
Page in word: 122
Chapter: ALL THE CHAPTERS

I can't believe the first draft is really finished.  This is a weird feeling.  I'm excited, I'm happy, I'm elated.  But I'm also oddly empty.  I've been writing this book since May.  It's my baby.  And now it's done, the first draft is done.  It's strange, this feeling.  I've been holed up in my head with these characters for 6 months.

I'm taking some time off now to relax my brain.  Soon, probably next week, I'll start editing.  I'm also considering finishing nano by taking last year's nano book and picking up where I left off last year.  Either way.

Stay Tuned.

Chapters

Chapter 1 took forever.
Chapter 6 ate my soul.
Chapter 8 was full of battle (also known as Chapter FIGHT CRY KISS).

Chapter 8 is done.  I'm starting Chapter 9 at 7 pm when we have a write-in in my university library with my other WriMo friends.  Here's to getting chapter 9 (aka YAY WE'RE ALL ALIVE EXCEPT SOME PEOPLE OH B T DUBS YOU'RE STILL IN HIGH SCHOOL) done tonight.

I'm so close guys.

Stay Tuned.

NaNoWriMo Night Update

I hit the groove.  I finished chapter 6, wrote all of chapter 7 (granted it's teeny tiny), wrote 2/3 of chapter 8, and wrote my big battle scene.  Granted it's all probably crap, but that's what editing and rewrites are for!


Today's total words: (since midnight) 4,731
Nano only word total: 14,057
Word Total: 74,468
Page in Word: 115
Chapter: EIGHT!



Stay Tuned.

NaNoWriMo Day 3 Update

Today's total words: 4,233
Nano only word total: 9,326
Word Total: 69,752
Page in Word: 108
Chapter: Still 6

I was hellbent on breaking 70,000 words total before midnight.  Now I'll just have to do it before I go to sleep, but it'll be a part of day four's update.  I'm so close to the end of chapter 6 I can taste it!  They've already met the Dark King!

EDIT:
I FINISHED CHAPTER SIX!  AND I STILL HAVE SOME OF MY SOUL LEFT IN TACT!  YAY!
Stay Tuned.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

NaNoWriMo Motivation

Just in case you need a little inspiration to keep on novelling today:




And so do I.  I can't wait to pick up each and every one of the books of my NaNoWriMo writing buddies.

Stay Tuned.

NaNoWriMo Day 2 Final Update

I might just do this at the end of each day.

Today's total words: 2149
Nano only word total: 5,093
Word total: 65,504
Page in Word: 102

Stay Tuned.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

NaNoWriMo Day 2 Update

I just counted my words for the last two days.  Now, I have 3,475 words from the last two days.  I'm on page 100 in Word.  Total word count on The Book Without A Name About Faeries And Boyfriends: 63,886!

Stay Tuned.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

And so it begins

October 31, 2011.  11:30 PM

Picture it.

A girl, alone, in a polka dot dress, with brownies, sitting in the library’s cafe.  Another girl approaches, and then a boy, and then several more people.  Slowly the group builds to over half a dozen and they migrate to the periodicals room to sit in a big circle on the floor, eat brownies, talk about their hopes for the coming month, and then, as the clock turns to midnight, they write.  They type frantically and they write until their wrists are sore but they all have over 1600 words.  Some over 2000.  This small group is beginning, or in some cases continuing, to write novels.  They are future authors, current writers.  How do you become a writer?  You write. 

This was the scene this past few hours in the cafe in the library basement on my campus.  I baked us brownies.  We sat together first at a table, making awkward small talk and eying other people who would join our group, then on the floor in a circle, which widened later to accommodate more.  We had snacks, we talked about our plots, we began friendships that I hope will last past this stressful, tearing your hair out, month.  We ate brownies.  We wrote. 

Writing is a deeply personal, and often lonely, process.  Writers spend a lot of time in our heads.  We live in our own little worlds, so having other people who are doing the same thing, and not just through the internet far away but right there, tangibly next to you, is an amazing experience.  It’s validation, it’s cheerleading, it’s peer pressure.  And being there, watching someone’s brain crank out ideas while yours does the same, is an emotionally intimate experience.  Writing is lonely and deeply personal but by sitting on that floor and writing with others, I shared that writing experience.  That experience and that connection is beautiful.

Writer Girl Problems

In the spirit of the recently popular White Girl Problems, a few writer girl problems:

-Writing during class and losing track of time until you realize class has been out for five minutes.
-Telling people my Halloween costume is Serendipity Jones, only to have to explain that she's the fictional main character in my unfinished manuscript.
-Baking brownies for a NaNoWriMo kickoff and having to resist them.
-Losing all sense of sleep because you're up all night with your manuscript.
-Losing all sense of real human to human relationships because of writing and NaNoWriMo.
-Hand and arm pain post writing.

#WriterGirlProblems

What are your writer girl (or writer guy) problems?

Stay Tuned.

Monday, October 31, 2011

NaNoWriMo

Are any of you guys doing NaNoWriMo?  In case you don’t know what it is NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month.  Although to be honest 50,000 words isn’t a very long book.  I have over 58k for The Book Without A Name About Faeries And Boyfriends and it’s barely halfway done. 

I know it seems like a lot, writing 50,000 words in one month.  But it’s not.  It’s 1,667 words a day.  That’s next to nothing.  Think about the papers you write in two hours for class that afternoon, I guarantee most of them are longer than this, some are much longer.  You don’t edit while you’re writing this, you just write.  You write, and write, and write.  And at the end, when you’re done you have a novel or most of a novel. 

 

I’m getting set up for Nano right now, stocking up on chips and cookies, buying stock in the companies that make the chips and cookies I need to survive the month of November.  Planning a kickoff event with my fellow AU Nanoers.  Working on my outline, trying to get past the super boring part of my book so I can get to the super awesome part that I’ll be writing this coming month.  Positive outcomes only, friends. 

 

Interestingly, some of my most writer-y friends don’t do Nano.  Very interesting, because it doesn’t really create nearly as much work as you’d think.  Fifty thousand words in thirty days?  Piece of cake. 

One of the great things about Nano is that once you’ve done it, once you’ve written 50,000 words in 30 days, you know you can write a novel.  Smaller writing projects seem trivial.  You may come out of it with a completed first draft, with half a first draft, or even just with a well-developed idea.  You have stretched and grown your brain and writing muscles so much during this one little month.  Writing is never easy, it takes a lot of hard work, but it gets easier with practice, we all know that.  What better practice than writing 50,000 words in thirty days? 

 

Of course, I’m cheating.  You’re supposed to start fresh, which is what I did last year, but this year I’ve been getting pretty serious with The Book About Faeries And Boyfriends.  I’m bringing my half-finished book to NaNo and the two of us are gonna have passionate, sweaty, late night fumblings.  Because late nights are really the only time I can write very much, except maybe early mornings, and of course passionate and sweaty are the best ways to write books.  And by that point in the night I’ll barely be able to see straight, so fumbling is about the best way to describe my typing skills after midnight. 

 

Any American U students doing NaNo should come to the Mudbox tonight at 11:30 for a kickoff where there will be brownies (from scratch, I’ baking) and possibly other baked goods from other NaNo fellows.  Anywhere else, check your regional forum at nanowrimo.org for anything that might be near you. 

 

Good luck everyone!  Visors down!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Chapter 6 Has Eaten My Soul

Well friends, I am officially soul-less.  This chapter is eating it.  On the bright side that does mean I'm getting some writing done.  On the less than bright side, not enough.  I have homework and studying and a social life.  And once in a while I even sleep more than 5 hours.  Like today.  I have a finance midterm today so I slept in late and am relaxing my brain since I studied last night.  My brain's really been churning over The Book Without A Name About Faeries And Boyfriends.  It's constantly on my mind which means I'm constantly bringing my WIP notebook and folder with me everywhere.  And a lot of pens.  And pencils.  And highlighters.  I even started writing a praise song like the people of the Faerie Realm would write for my girl Dip.  It's not exactly all sorts of good, but it is definitely all sorts of fun.

So friends, are any of you stuck in a chapter?  Do you ever get stuck?  How do you get yourselves unstuck?

Stay Tuned.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Ephemera

I haven't gotten much novel writing done lately because settling back into school is eating up a lot of my time.  I have been writing, just for class.  I'm enrolled in a creative writing class and I've been writing so much for it.  It's great to have an outlet for all the other ideas in my head that don't have anything to do with The Book Without A Name About Faeries And Boyfriends.  I've submitted 3 exercises and a 100-word story on an index card.  The last exercise hasn't been graded yet, but I got an A and an A- on the exercises and a check plus on the index card story, so there's that.  I've also been collecting dozens of names.  For future characters, future children, just for fun.  I love names.

Some of my favorites:
Delilah
Theodore
Delaine
Roxby
Britta
Minette
Persephone
Calliope
Verity
Odette
Brooke
Petra
Melisande
Belsante
Darby
Elodie
Jubilee (even though I usually hate word names, it just sounds so pretty and happy and, well, jubilous!)
Emmeline (like Emmeline Pankhurst)
Rory (especially for a boy, Rory Williams is a great role model)
Kylie

Do you collect names?  Do you have ideas for characters you'd like to write?  I was thinking maybe I'd post some of my shorts that I write for class.  Would you read them?

Stay Tuned.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Support


                Rachel Hawkins wrote a post (here) about what marrying well means for writers.  She didn’t mean marry rich, that’s an entirely different ballpark.  She meant marry well.  Marry deliberately someone who supports you.  And it got me thinking about what support means to different people.  For some people it means someone who will financially support you while you live your dream. For some people it means someone who will read every single sentence you write.  For others it means someone who will hug you through the rejections and rejoice with you when the requests come in.
                For me, the most supportive people in the world are my mom and my long-time beau Jon.   It’s been two and a half years since I fell in love with him, and he knows everything about me.  He’s read most of the things I’ve written in that time period and he’s always the first person I tell about a new project.  He believes in me, he believes that this book will get published.  He believes that I will write more and more and keep on writing because guess what he understands about me?  No matter what else happens in life to change me, I am a writer, and I always will be.  Jon has faith in me like I never experienced until I handed him a story I’d written and he liked it. 
                When I asked him what it’s like to be with me as a writer his first response was ‘interesting’.  When probed he answered: “You get to watch the creative process unfold.  It’s really hard to explain.  It’s watching an artist at work.”  So there you go.  Nothing about the crazies.
                My mom on the other hand is a different sort of support.  There’s lots more yelling.  The past five years it’s been just my mom and me, now not so much, but those years gave me a strong bond with my mom.  We relied on each other a lot in a way a two-parent family or one with more than one child can’t understand.  We stretched our mother-daughter relationship to its limits, until we both thought it would break, and it never did.  My mom was the first person I let read my current WIP.  She’s my biggest cheerleader.  My mom does financially support me while I’m at school, so there’s that kind of support.  I also talk to my mom all the time, even when we’re a thousand miles apart.  Because my mom may not be my best friend, but she supports me no matter what I want to do.  She believes in me. 
                The kind of faith and belief in me that these two have is unbelievable.  It’s humbling, that’s for sure.  It’s intense and strong and it props me up when I think I can’t keep writing.  Find that person or these people who support you no matter what, and when you do, never let them go.



Stay Tuned.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Naming Your Characters


                I put a lot of thought into naming my characters.  I want their names to mean something, to be important.  They’re not always reflections of the characters, sometimes they’re reflections of their family, their place, their journey.  My WIP’s main character is named Serendipity Jones, but she gets called Dip.  I started off calling her just Serendipity, then I tried Sera but it didn’t fit the character.  Then the name handed me Dip, which matched well with her aunt Daff and her boyfriend Danny.  Dip and Danny sound like a cool couple.  Her sister is named Alliana, automatically called Alli.  She has never been anything else.  When I wrote Dip’s scene with her pseudo father, I discovered he called her Dippy as a kid. 
                I’ve written characters named Phoenix called Nikki or Nix or even Phee.  I’ve written girls named Alice and Sophie.  I’ve written girls named Elektra (a sister to Phoenix, her name was later changed to Elaine). 
                A character’s name, to me, is a symbol of who they are and what they’re going to do in the story.  I know some authors regard this as secondary to knowing every detail of your characters down to what they like best for breakfast (Dip – chocolate chip scones, homemade or from Connecticut Muffin on ninth avenue) but to me knowing their name is important.  Knowing what they want to be called, whether it’s a full name or a nickname, is important to who they are. 
                I’m a Name Nerd, I love reading meanings and derivations for names.  I spend a lot of time on Behind The Name, Name Candy, and Baby Name Wizard.  I own a name book and spend hours debating the perfect name.  For many of my characters their names are the start of their identity.  Dip came to me as Serendipity Jones, a long drawn out unusual word name anchored by a short, to the point, Welsh surname.  Sometimes a character comes to me fully formed but nameless and I have to try names on them like you would try on coats at a department store.   Sometimes the names they give you don’t quite fit and you have to find a reason.  Dip’s mother Americanized her name when she immigrated here, she had a very Celtic name and changed it to the simple Lyssa.  Dip’s bff had no name at all for a long time because I couldn’t find just the right name.  I’m particular about names, they’re important. 
                Names tell us something about characters.  It might imply where their loyalties lie, it might imply their national origin, it might imply their personality.  No matter what it is, though, names are meant to tell us who these characters are more than any physical trait does.  Being named Jennifer makes it clear a character is an all American girl more than being blonde with blue eyes.  Naming a character Ophelia implies a tragic end to anyone familiar with Shakespeare. 
                Naming a character is as intricate and intimate as naming a child, but we writers have one thing parents don’t.  Knowledge.  We know our characters.  We know their personalities, their professions, and their lives.  We know if they are good or evil, loyal or traitorous, kind or cruel.  We know if they’re a nurse or a shop owner, a begger or a billionaire.  We know them in a way parents of a newborn don’t.  We know their futures. 
                This should, theoretically, make it easier.  You know your character will be a loyal, generous nurse say, so you don’t want to name her Bellatrix or you know your character is a treacherous thief so you won’t name him Honorus.  There’s so much to consider about a name.  Do you want the reference to be obvious?  Say naming a faerie queen Titania, or less so, say middle naming a thief Oliver?  Do you want the name to have absolutely nothing to do with what your character does or who they are?  Do you want the name to reflect their background as Jones reflects Dip’s Welsh heritage?  Do you want them to hate their name and go by something else?  All of these are valid considerations when naming a character just as when naming a child. 
Further Reading:
BehindTheName.com
NameCandy.com
BabyNameWizard.com
You can also check out any author blog where they will undoubtedly have a post about naming their characters. 
One example of such: Reading Writing Rachel 


Stay Tuned.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Nom De Plume


                Many authors throughout history have chosen to write under a pen name or nom de plume.  Sometimes it takes the form of initials, like H.G. Wells or J.K. Rowling.  Sometimes it’s a part of their name being used as a full name, like Dr. Seuss whose given name was Theodore Seuss Geisel.  Sometimes it’s a wholely unrelated name, like Mark Twain or Lewis Carroll, whose given names were Samuel Clements and Charles Lutwidge Dodgson respectively.  Stephenie Meyer wrote once that she had considered the pen name of Morgan Meyer.  Anne Rice (given name Howard Allen Frances O’Brien) has written as Anne Rice, Anne Rampling, and A.N. Roquelaure.  Lillith Saintcrow uses her given name but changes it slightly when she writes her YA series Strange Angels to Lilli St. Crow.  Nora Roberts (given name Eleanor Marie Robertson) has famously written as J.D. Robb but also as Jill March and Sarah Hardesty. 
                I could go on and on and on but let’s stop here.  All of these famous authors have used names other than their given name, and they have all had good reasons for doing so.  Some were stepping outside their established genres, some were changing audience ages, and some were simply tired of their names.  Many writers choose to use a nom de plume to keep their personal life and professional life separate. 
                I choose to blog and write (and eventually publish, positive outcomes only) under Jeanni Grace.  I’ve used Jeanni Grace for several years.  I chose it because it fits me.  My personality is a Jeanni, not a Jean.  Grace is, to me, a feminine last name that represents me well.  It’s also a family name and my given middle name.  I don’t want my given name attached to my writing because I want to preserve a small amount of anonymity especially as I get older, go into the professional world, and have a family.  I don’t want potential future employers or grad school boards searching my given name, finding that I’m a writer, and questioning my commitment to my job or grad school studies. 
                Writing is very personal and it’s a very lonely vocation.  It involves being raw and pouring yourself into the stories you write.  It involves baring your soul to everyone who reads your work.  Sometimes it’s better to have a small buffer between your writing self and your professional self.  For most writers writing is a passion, something we can never completely stop doing.  But it doesn’t pay the rent, it doesn’t pay the medical bills, it doesn’t support us fully.  I write because I can’t not write.  Even if I don’t put everything I write down on paper, every story I tell myself on the metro or in a museum, even if I do put it down and nothing comes of it, I can never stop writing.  It’s who I am.  But it’s not my job, it’s not my whole life.  I do intend to have a job, a profession.  I want to dig archaeology sites and write long papers about Viking bones.  I want to work in a lab with ancient bones and eventually I want to teach at a university.  Along the whole way I will be writing.
                Do any of you write under assumed names?  Why?  Do you prefer assumed name, pseudonym, pen name, or nom de plume?  (I prefer nom de plume).  I’d love to hear from you.  


Further Reading On The Subject:
Rachelle Gardner:


Nathan Bransford:

Word Server Water Cooler:


Stay Tuned.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Chapter 6

Chapter 6 is the second longest chapter on my outline.  The longest is chapter 8, but it's full of action.  I'm having a lot of trouble with chapter 6 and I think I finally figured out why.  I hate the section I'm up to right now because my main character, who's been in a relationship for the last four years with this super sweet guy has to flirt with another guy in order to get to the evil guy and save her family.  She hates doing it and I hate writing it, but it's important for the plot and it feels right for the story.
Writing's a job, you know, just as much as waiting tables or teaching kindergarten.  It takes work and there are parts I don't like, but I have to keep going and finish it if I ever want it to get off the ground.  Also, I have to write instead of planning the second book in the series and saving pictures of New Orleans for description.  That's my one hint for the second book, they go on a road trip to New Orleans.  Who goes on this trip I won't say though, too early.

Do any of you have this problem?  What do you do to fix it?

Stay Tuned.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Inspiration Through Photos

Inspiration comes from all different places.  Music, movies, other books, photos,  the world around us.  I get my ideas from everywhere, as I'm sure you do.  One of the best places I find are photos.  I look at these pictures and see, say, a girl in a scarf in a snow storm and wonder what her story is.  Sometimes when I have trouble working on The Book Without A Name About Faeries And Boyfriends I go through the Pinterest pinboard I have about the story.  I have place photos that I'm using as models for settings in the book, I have people I'm using as models, I have things that inspire me toward the story, really anything.
A few of the WIP inspiration photos:


And from my general story inspiration file:


A lot of old fashioned photography inspires me.  So do landscapes.  And just about anything featuring a woman with bones.  Or a dolphin.  
You can find my story inspiration pin board here.

Stay Tuned.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Writing Challenge 2 Response

I know, I know, it's been almost a month.  I also know that I'm still in chapter 6, which for the record is the second longest chapter in my book.  Like, almost a page of outlining long.  A lot happens.  There's even a river.  And boots.  I haven't finished chapter 6 yet.  I don't really have a good reason, I just haven't felt it.  But, I'm putting myself back to work.  My original goal was to finish the book over the summer break.  I don't think that's gonna happen.  But we'll see.
As for my response to writing challenge 2, here we go.


Writing Challenge 2:
Describe an object you use in your daily life that connects you to the generations before you.

                Slowly I take the mixer from the cabinet.  It is green, the green of a mod sixties kitchen, the green of a minidress with long sleeves, worn by a girl with a bouffant and kohl eyeliner.  The mixer is in a matching green box, made of the same hard plastic as the mixer itself.  A compartment within the box holds the mixer blades and I settle the box on the counter before pulling the blades from their home.  I pop them into the mixer body and plug the mixer in.  I pour the ingredients into a large, white plastic bowl and turn the mixer on.  The blades whir and spin, whipping the flour and egg together. 
                Fifty years ago another brunette woman had stood at a counter mixing flour and eggs.  She wore a knee-length dress, seamed stockings, and nude heels.  Her hair was up in a beehive and white horn-rimmed glasses were perched on her nose.  She had an apron tied over her dress.  A dusting of flour covered the apron, and a small spot of white perched on the end of her nose.  She tapped her foot to music coming from a radio in the living room where her young daughter was playing.  The windows were open in the New York summer heat, and through them she could hear neighbors’ conversations in the other apartments in the building.  She poured in the sugar and cocoa and turned the mixer speed up higher. 
                Thirty years later, her daughter stood at her own kitchen counter.  By now she was a grown woman, her dark brown hair tied up in a ponytail.  She too had the windows open, sweating in the heat of the kitchen.  She cracked two eggs into a bowl of cake mix and put the mixer blades in.  She flipped the switch on the top of the green mixer body and wiped her forehead.  A smear of flour blossomed in the wake of her hand.  Her daughter sat on the table top, licking a lollipop, while her mother made a birthday cake.  The girl swung her legs under the table, heels lightly hitting the stool beneath.  The woman turned the mixer off and set it down, then popped one of the blades from the mixer and handed it to her daughter.  The little girl eagerly started licking the batter away. 
                Fifteen years later that little girl stood at her own counter, mixing a batter from scratch.  I mixed cocoa powder and vanilla extract into my batter, thinking of the years this mixer had seen.  It had been my grandmother’s first, and she had used it often, beaten eggs with it, mixed birthday cakes, and whipped up muffins to comfort neighbors who’d lost a loved one.  When she died it passed on to my mother, who’d spent years baking from a box to make cookies for bake sales, birthday cakes, muffins for breakfast before school.  She baked brownies for girl scout parties.  When I left for college the mixer passed to me.  Every time I use it, I picture the warm New York evenings my grandmother spent baking with the electric green mixer in her hands.  I remember the snow days spent in our kitchen with my mother, baking cookies or brownies and licking the mixer blades.  I bake often, and the mixer connects me to not only my mother and grandmother but to the generations of bakers who have come before me, to the women who have used the same recipes all across the country.  


Stay Tuned.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Writing Challenge 2

Writing Challenge 2:
Describe an object you use in your daily life that connects you to the generations before you.


Stay Tuned.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Where Do You Write?

                Right now, The Book Without A Name About Faeries And Boyfriends is being written in my grandma’s living room, in the dining room, on the pool deck, in my bedroom, in my parents’ bedroom, and in the Festus Library.  Residents of Festus, if any of you read this, you might just find me sitting in the front café section writing away.  And bonus points, I just might have homemade cookies, brownies, or bread with me. 
                Writing in my room is difficult.  Writing at home at all is difficult but especially writing in my room.  It’s so easy to get distracted by all my stuff that I hardly get any writing done.  Writing in the living room can be quite difficult too because my grandma watches loud tv, talks on the phone even louder, and my dad listens to radio shows on his computer.  Headphones help, but it’s impossible to block it all out.  Ditto the dining room.  So I often find myself in my parents’ room when they’re both at work because I can shut the door, turn off the tv, and focus on the computer screen.  When that doesn’t work I shut the computer, take a pad and pen, and write without the internet or games as a distraction.  The other option, when it’s cool enough, is to go outside to the pool deck and write by the water.  Usually preceded by swimming. 
                The library is pretty ideal, because it’s hard to be distracted when there’s nothing of mine there.  There’s general quiet, there’s distance, there are tables to sit at, and there are other people focused on their writing or other work.  It’s a more disciplined environment.  Stripped of distractions.  Plus, when I need to do research, I can hop over to the folklore section.
                I find most writers like writing out of the home.  Rachel Hawkins wrote Hex Hall in the children’s section of her library and at a café.  Libba Bray writes at the Tea Room in Park Slope (pretty close to where my book is set, about a dozen blocks from both my middle school in one direction and my old house in another).  I don’t know how many nice people I’ve met at the university library or libraries in Brooklyn when I lived there who were working on their books. 
                Libraries are ideal places to write, to me, because you don’t have to buy something to sit there, unlike a café, you don’t have as many distractions, unlike your house, and you are far from most of the people that would distract you.  Unless your best buddy’s the librarian. 
                When I go back to school in August I’ll be writing a lot of The Book Without A Name About Faeries And Boyfriends at the Tenley-Friendship library, at the AU Library, and all over campus.  My fellow university writers can probably find a million places on campus where you could sit and write.  In most of our academic buildings there are lounges or study spaces that are perfect for writing.  The first floor of the student union is good for writing too.  Other universities probably have equally as many good writing spots. 
                Where do you write?  Are you a home writer?  A library writer?  Do you write in a café?  What are your best tips for finding the ideal writing spot?  


Stay Tuned.

Friday, June 24, 2011

My Writing Challenge 1 Response

Challenge 1:
Write a short fictional story based on the quote:
Greatness is more than potential.  It is the execution of that potential.  Beyond the raw talent.  You need the appropriate training.  You need the discipline.  You need the inspiration.  You need the drive. 
- Eric A. Burns

                I was only two weeks old when I was first put into the pool.  No inner tube, no baby suit, just me, my dad, my sister, and my waterlogged diaper.  Water got into my blood that day and it has never left.
                Each morning I stand at the edge of the pool and stare into the water.  The water is murky and green, almost like a lake.  It smells like chlorine and that smell awakens something in my soul and my body.  It’s cold and that creeps into my bones, chills me to the core, hardens me like ice.  It has taken me my entire life to build up the discipline to swim over half a mile every day.
                Everyone has the physical potential to swim, to reach their arms out and push the water back, to kick their legs and propel themselves forward.  But this sport requires, no it demands, discipline.  Self-discipline.  No one can teach you self-discipline but yourself, so in a way you must be born with it.  It requires drive and self-motivation to get up at 7 every morning and get in the water.  It requires a tremendous amount of self-discipline and focus. 
                It also teaches.  Swimming teaches you to have full command and control of your own body.  It teaches self-confidence, it teaches perseverance and determination.  It teaches you to trust your body.  To trust that your thigh muscles will expand while your calves contract to push hard off the side, that your arms, no matter how much they ache, will continue to pull you forward.  You to trust that your feet will flex and your toes will point and your legs will kick.  Trust in your body and soul is essential. 
                Swimming is not just what you do at the pool or the beach for fun, it is the way that I push myself.  I know where my limits are and I push myself to them, and then past them, every day. 
                Every morning and every evening I stand at the edge of the pool for a moment before I jump in.   I stretch in the water to loosen my muscles.  I swim fifty laps every day, twenty-five in the morning and twenty-five in the evening.  I push myself.  Because greatness is more than potential.  


Okay, so I broke the rules.  The challenge said fiction and I wrote an essay.  Well.  It's not that great anyway, but it gets across what I wanted it to.

Stay Tuned.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Writing Kit

                My writing kit so to speak goes with me everywhere I write.  I know what you’re thinking, you don’t need a writing kit, you just need yourself and a writing utensil.  But I find other things helpful to have so bear with me.  My writing kit contains:
·         Sticky Notes
·         Writer’s Notebook
·         Colorful File Folder
·         Planner
·         Notepad
·         Many, many pens
·         Highlighters
·         Laptop (of course)
·         Zip Drive
·         iPod
                These things are not all essential to writing of course.  Sometimes I write in the margins of a notebook because I have an idea before or after class.  Sometimes I write with just my laptop and my zip drive to save it all to.  Sometimes I write by the pool with my notepad and million pens.  But fantasy writing can be complicated.  We have to keep things straight in our world building, so I find that keeping my folder and my notebook with me helps me to ensure my details are in line with my continuity. 
                I also keep my outline in my folder, which really keeps me on track.  I refer back to my outline all the time, not only to ensure that I’m following it, but also to remind myself that even if this part is boring to write I have to get through it to get to the rest. 
                My writer’s notebook keeps track of ideas that come into my head that may have absolutely nothing to do with the story I’m working on right now or that may come later.  Keeping everything in that notebook keeps me organized.  It allows me to jot down other thoughts that might otherwise distract me. 
                You may be wondering what my planner has to do with anything.  I block out time to write and schedule the rest of my day around writing.  It also keeps me on track with my Written In Fairydust posts and often enough the idea for one of these is what’s distracting me from, you know, WRITING THE DAMN BOOK!
                Every writer’s writing kit will be different.  It may involve ear plugs or sunglasses or perhaps even a tape recorder, but most of us have them.  Deciding on what’s in your kit is an important step to getting to where you want to be, but if you put too much focus on the kit and not enough on the writing, then you need to refocus.  It’s not the kit that’s most important, it’s the writing.  


Stay Tuned.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Halfway Through

Ladies and gents, this morning, actually five minutes ago, I finished the fifth chapter of my book.  This means I'm finally finished with the first half of the book.  I've spent the past week trying to get the last two pages of this chapter out, and I finally finished it today.  Yesterday there was a blackout out here in the boonies, so I got some writing done but guess what?  It was a scene for an entirely different story.  The untidy mind of a writer.  Ah well.
The Book Without A Name About Faeries And Boyfriends is halfway finished!  YAY!  Let's have a blog party!!!!


Stay Tuned.

Friday, June 17, 2011

How To Avoid Distraction

                Ah, distraction.  A writer’s biggest enemy.  We can champion over writer’s block with outlines or by just pushing through, but distraction is a sneaky little snake.  It creeps in when you least expect it, when you’re really on a roll, and next thing you know, it’s three hours later and all you’ve accomplished is reaching level 3-3 in Plants vs. Zombies.  There are a million how-to articles on avoiding distraction, but I’m gonna throw my two cents in. 
                Turn Off The Internet.  Turn your internet access on your laptop off.  If you really need to research something, write it on a post it and then go back to it later.  If you need music, use iTunes not Youtube. 
                Find A Silent Place.  Whether you use music or not having the tv on and other people talking makes you more susceptible to distraction.  So find a quiet corner or go outside to the porch, as long as you block out distractions.
                Close The Door. When you can, close the door.  It cuts you off from the rest of the house, apartment, wherever you’re writing, and physically separates you from your distractions.  If you look up and you see the open door, you may be enticed toward the kitchen, the living room, the phone.
                Speaking of Phones: Turn Yours Off.  Turn your cell phone off if you can.  Tell your boyfriend/husband/significant other/parent/sibling/cat that you will be writing and will be unable to pick up the phone.  If they really need you they can call the landline.
                Clear Your Computer.  Close all programs unnecessary to writing.  Close spider solitaire.  Close your folders.  Close sticky notes.  Close photoshop.  Close Google Chrome.  Close them.  If you can’t just flip to them it’s much easier to focus. 
                If Something Is Bouncing Around In Your Head, Bounce It Out.  It’s hard to focus on one story when you have an idea floating around for another one or for a blog post.  Write that idea down in you writer’s notebook, and then put that away.
                Change Your Scenery.  If you find you’re writing in the same place every day and constantly being distracted by that place, move.  Go to the library.  Go to a coffee shop or a wifi enabled restaurant.  If you’re in university you should have a million places to go to write.  A step away from your things will help to separate you from your distractions.  I also go into my parents’ room sometimes because my things aren’t in there and it’s much easier to focus when I’m on their bed than when I’m on mine or in the dining room with my books to distract me. 
                Get Some Exercise.  Get outside and walk around the block or swim for an hour.  Exercise helps clear your mind and it releases endorphins.  Getting fresh air into your lungs helps clear out the cobwebs and distractions you create for yourself. 
                Set A Timer.  Whether it’s a literal timer or a deadline for yourself, decide on how long you’re going to write.  If there’s a clear end in sight it may be easier for you to focus on the task at hand than if it seems dauntingly eternal.  
                If All Else Fails, Write By Hand.  If you can’t find any way to keep from being distracted by the internet or your favorite game, close your laptop, get a pen and paper, and write by hand.  You can’t just click over to a game or check your tumblr when you write by hand.  I do this a lot and it allows me to focus on my ideas and my story rather than spider solitaire. 
                How do you focus?  Do you put on metaphorical blinders and write in a frenzy akin to Celtic warriors or do you find ten minute bursts to be more efficient for you?


Stay Tuned.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

How I Use Evernote As A Writing Tool

                It’s no secret to anyone who knows me that I love Evernote.  Evernote is a program that keeps digital notebooks.  You can create an unlimited amount of notebooks for anything under the sun.  You can keep a notebook for fashion inspiration or for class notes or for quotes that inspire you.  You could make notebooks for all of those things. 
                As a writing tool it’s useful for a lot of reasons.  Number one being, it’s backed up online.  Always, always, always back up your manuscript!  Back it up on a flash drive or an email server, just back it up!  For all the other details, like a typed outline or a random scene thrown in for character development or a list of characters, I use Evernote.  I have what’s called a “notebook stack” for my current work in progress (also known as The Book Without A Name About Faeries And Boyfriends) and in that I keep a notebook for research.  Yes, even fantasy writers do research.  I see you laughing, but I combed through multiple books on Celtic and Norse mythology along with Irish folklore, Scottish folklore, and specifically Orcadian folklore.  In such intense world building as fantasy writers do we need a firm grounding in mythology and folklore.  This notebook contains the names of the books I’ve used as well as any details I want to pick out of the research I’ve done and use, let’s say what the Norse call Faerieland, my main location. 
                Another notebook contains character information, settings, pieces of world building that I may or may not use, and quotes I may or may not use.  I have a notebook in the stack that contains “character interviews” fashioned after ones that Rachel Hawkins did on her blog with her characters just tailored to my world.  For another story I might keep a list of short scenes that I wrote for it, a list of creatures in it, details that connect it with the real world, and once again my characters’ backgrounds.  You can attach files or set source urls so if you come across a great site for your research or an article that you particularly like dealing with your subject, then you can either write the most interesting information in a note and set that as the source url, or you can clip it.
                There is a Google Chrome extension, and I imagine for every browser, that allows you to clip the entire webpage or just a piece of it into an Evernote notebook.  This will then sync with your computer.  Attaching files also allows you to find photos you like, save them, and attach them while also adding their source url.
                Evernote also backs up everything online when you sync it.  This means not only that everything is saved but that you can access it on your phone, iPod, iPad, and any computer with internet access.  So, go to the library to do research and don’t want bring your laptop?  Just use Evernote and it’s all there when you get home.  You can also email or print directly from Evernote. 
                It’s a good place to keep important details that don’t quite have a place in your story or on your outline and that Storybook doesn’t seem to have a good spot for.  It keeps me organized and as writers I’m sure you all know that the creative mind is rarely tidy.  
Evernote Site: www.evernote.com
Evernote Program Download here.


Stay Tuned.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Plotter or Pantzer?

                There are many kinds of writers and many ways to write.  But one of the main debates is whether it is better to be a plotter, someone who plots out their story ahead of time and writes an outline, or a pantzer, someone who, to quote Rachel Hawkins, “flies by the seat of their pants.”  There are benefits to both and there are published authors who do either one.  There are people who plot and then pants their way to the big plot points. 
                Personally, I used to be a complete pantzer.  When I was younger, generally in middle and high school, I would start a story with the characters and have no idea where I was going.  Sometimes that worked.  Most of the time, for me, it didn’t.  After a while I had no idea where my story was going, or I did but only the very end, and I would give up on the stories. 
                Last year I did NaNoWriMo and I read a post in those forums about the benefits of plotting and outlining.  So, on a whim, I wrote an outline for my story.  It clicked into place as soon as I started outlining.  A story I had started on a whim with a bunch of teenage witches in 1812 New Hampshire at a Worst Witch style boarding school became a true blue plotted story.  I haven’t worked on that manuscript in a while but guys?  I know where it’s going.  I can pick it up again and do it and I won’t be giving up because I can’t figure the story out. 
                I also plotted my current work in progress.  It doesn’t have a working title and I had started it last summer.  Last summer all I had was a few paragraphs about a girl named Serendipity Jones and her sister Alliana coming home from school through Prospect Park.  Now, I have a fully fleshed plot that leads on to a series. 
                The way I plot I leave enough wiggle room for a little bit of pantsing.  My current outline is six pages and it goes into enough detail to keep me on track, but not so much detail that I just wrote the book on the outline.  It hits all the major and minor plot points and tells me basically what’s happening between major plot point A and major plot point B.  It also keeps continuity and structure.  For me, that’s important.  I tend to, shall we say, go off script.  If something big changes, I’ll change it on my outline.
                I also write small snippets on my outline if a perfect line for the scene comes to me.  Let’s pretend I have a scene where my main character and her sister are in a pizzeria and I want Dip (yes, her nickname is Dip) to get hit on, and I think of the perfect worst pickup line ever (say: “Girl…you make me wanna f*** a bunny.”  Seriously, someone said that once to _______) I will write that into my outline. 
                An outline is a jumping off point.  If you go into too much detail, well you might as well be writing the book on the outline paper.  If you go into too little then there’s no point in the outline.  But find your balance, that mix of major and minor points, small scenes and general feelings, and you are golden. 
                Are you plotters or pantzers?


Stay Tuned.

Writing Challenge 1

Challenge 1:
Write a short fictional story based on the quote:

Greatness is more than potential.  It is the execution of that potential.  Beyond the raw talent.  You need the appropriate training.  You need the discipline.  You need the inspiration.  You need the drive. 
- Eric A. Burns
In two weeks I will post my own response to this challenge and if any of you want yours posted, email it to me at FollowThePiratesCode (at) gmail (dot) com with the subject line Writing Challenge 1!  Please include the name you wish it to be posted under and, if applicable, your website/blog.  I'd love to have other writing blogs to link to!


Stay Tuned.

Friday, June 3, 2011

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Welcome

Some of you reading this might have followed me from Carpe Omnes my regular blog, from twitter or tumblr or perhaps even found the link on my etsy store page. If you have, hello again; if you haven’t, hello for the first time.

My name is Jeanni and I consider myself a storyteller and a writer. I’ve been telling stories as long as I can remember, longer according to my family. In elementary school I made up stories and adventures for my friends and I to take on the playground, in high school I wrote ten minute romances about people on the subway. I started my first novel in the sixth grade. Needless to say, it was terrible and never got past 30 pages. But though I’d never show it to anyone, I’m proud of the effort I put into it. I’ve yet to publish a story but I won an essay contest and the essay was published name-withheld in 2008, a few poems have also been published via the Brooklyn Public Library. 

Though I haven’t finished a novel yet, nor published a short story, I am an optimist. I’m only 19 and writing isn’t like modeling or gymnastics, you’re never too old to write. I write not because of a pretention to create literature, I believe literature has to be time tested, but because I have stories to tell and I pour my heart and soul into every piece I write. I write because it is my passion.

I created this blog because I wanted to put myself out there as a writer of fiction, and I wanted to post short pieces that I’ve written, share some writing challenges, get and give advice, and compile a list of resources. I want to share my journey as a writer with others on the same journey.
You too?


Stay Tuned.