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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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.