One Year Anniversary

I’ve had this blog for officially a year now, and while I haven’t always been the best at updating it like I wanted, I have learned quite a bit about writing and myself since I first started it. Some are lessons I want to share with others so they can learn my own mistakes and experiences.

  1. Don’t Force Topics

My original plan was to have a topic a month on the blog and write a few articles. It worked for a while too, until this year. Between life throwing me curveballs, and not having as much free time as I once did, I stopped posting for a while. Which is fine, because I was starting to force myself to write certain topics rather than let them come naturally.

There are plenty of other booktubers and bloggers out there who post content a few times a week which is great for them. I’ve come to realize I do not have the time to support such a schedule. If I did, I’d be posting material that’s already been done better elsewhere, or that I have no experience on as I’m barely into my writing journey.

If you’re going to start posting your own content, or already do, keep this in mind. Don’t post content about navigating the publishing industry when you haven’t even written your first query. Same goes for posting content that’s been done before a hundred times—unless you have a new and interesting take on it. Otherwise you run the risk of burning yourself out, or alienating the audience you’re trying to reach.

2. It’s Okay to Shelve a Project

I’ve done this before, but they were usually projects that were only partially completed that I lost the plot on, or desire to finish. This year was the first time I shelved a project that was completed, had been edited several times, and I was planning on querying. After a few beta reads I realized that there problems that needed to be fixed, and thought I had the perfect solution—one that required a lot of rewriting.

It worked for a bit, but then I hit a wall. I kept re-editing the same chapters over and over, and wasn’t making much progress. A lot of days I’d stare blankly at the document if I even bothered to open it.

By that point, it was June and Camp NaNoWriMo in July was around the corner. I realized I needed a new project and a fresh start. It took me a while (see below), but I finally have one that I’m excited about. Looking back, after all the edits on my last WIP, my excitement had sizzled out, contributing to my lack of interest in finishing it. If I don’t have that spark, it’s usually hard for me to continue with a WIP. Sometimes shelving a project, is really what is best for you and your writing.

3. The Second Chapter is the Hardest

Over the years, I’ve had plenty of ideas. I have an entire CD somewhere full of them from my high school days. Most never made it past the first chapter. Those that did, never made past it the second. All for the same reason—I just didn’t have the spark or excitement to continue with them.

When I started trying to find my next WIP I had the same issue. My last WIP was YA Fantasy. For something different, I tried YA Contemporary, then a fairy-tale retelling, an Adult Contemporary, back to YA Fantasy… and then settled on a different YA Fantasy. But one that was set in the same world (most of the background/world building was done) in a different time period than before, and switched from third person narration to first person.

I still have the files and outline for the other projects saved in case I ever wish to return to them, but I never made it to the second chapter for any of them. Like high school, they were great idea, but I just didn’t have that spark or connection. There were plenty of times I thought I did, usually when the idea first popped into my head and as I figured out the plot. But after a while it’d leave me, and I was back where I started.

That’s not saying you can’t fizzle out after the second chapter, but usually if I can make it to the second chapter, then I’m good for a while. It’s not that the second chapter is hard to write, but simply reaching the second chapter and going beyond is the hard part. I’ve known plenty of people with great ideas, but they never make it past the first page or on to chapter two. My personal experience has taught me that if I can get that far, then I truly have a new WIP.

4. Embrace Other Parts of Your Life When You Fail

I saw this or a quote similar to it a couple months ago, and it’s true. When I was having issues with my editing and feedback from beta reads, my writing came to a sudden halt. I flirted with a few different story ideas, but as previously stated, never got very far with them which only added to my funk.

So, I decided to focus on something else for a bit while searching my next story: engineering. I’m currently in the process of studying for my Professional Engineering Exam in October which I need in order to be licensed. If things go well, I might share some tips, but for now I’m not going to count my chickens before they hatch.

Switching my attention to engineer helped distract me from my writing slump, and gave me some renewed energy. When I hit a wall with studying (statics) I’d take a break and write.

Going back forth between the two—along with a few other of my hobbies— was just what I needed, and eventually I did find a new WIP (though I am still studying). Sometimes taking a step back from something that’s frustrating and trying something else, is what you need. It can get your creative juices flowing, renew your energy, and boost your confidence.

5. You Don’t Have to be Alone

When people think of writers, the picture that usually comes to mind is of a loner, huddled in the dark over a brightly lit computer screen, typing furiously away. And for the longest time I was one of them. I might share my work with a friend or two, but I never reached out to other writers or tried learning how to improve my writing.

But I wish I did. Over the past year, I’ve become more active on Twitter, tried applying for mentorship programs, met other writers, and joined a few different writing groups. Not only have I learned more about the writing/publishing process, but I realized I’m not the only aspiring writer out there trying to balance a life, full time job, and get published.

Now, such a realization can be daunting. After all, if you’re not the only unicorn in existence, how special are you? But it can all be a relief. I can connect with other writers sharing the ups and downs, see successes, and get feedback on my writing which will ultimately helps me in the long run. If I hadn’t encountered the wonderful writing community that exists, I know I wouldn’t have been able to move forward with a new WIP. I’d either be running in circles with my last one, or have given up on writing completely.

So, if you’re looking to publish a book, or just interested in joining the community, don’t be timid and shy. Reach out. Connect with people. Yes, it’s not perfect and there are people you should avoid, but overall the community is great, open and welcoming, especially to those who are new. Don’t be like me thinking you have to be alone on your writing journey.

That’s it for now, hopefully next year I’ll have even more to share.

NaNoWriMo 2018: Day 1

If you missed my previous posts about NaNoWriMo, how to pick a plot, and tips and tricks to increase your word count, feel free to check them out now.

Normally I have posts centered around a theme each month, and this month it’s all about NaNo and blogging my progress. Today’s post is going to be how I first got interested in NaNo, previous wins, how today went, and what I hope to accomplish this month.

I don’t remember when I first heard about NaNo, just that I didn’t feel confident that I had a story idea that could make it to 50,000 words since all of my previous writing attempts ended after a few pages. I had a few friends who participated in NaNo, and in 2014 I felt like I finally had an idea that would work.

I barely made it to 50,000 words, only doing after writing an afterword and stretching out names and contractions. That novel is mostly dialogue and exposition, and isn’t my best work.

But it was a learning experience, mainly how to outline a novel and an introduction to world building. The following year I wrote a different novel with just over 50,000 words. Even after some additional work and being at roughly 80,000 words, it’s only 85% of the way done, and in need of some editing and rewrites. I hope to go back to it someday. I didn’t participate in NaNo in 2016 due to spending a week at Disney and admitting I wouldn’t have enough time to write.

2017 was a completely different experience. In the months leading up to November I was planning on either revisiting my 2015 novel, or finally writing a story that I’ve had in mind for years. In August, my plans were completely derailed. I had a random idea pop into my head that started off as a parody on fantasy stories, fitting in as many tropes as possible— the Chosen One, magical MacGuffins to collect, old wise wizard, the Big Damn Prophecy, Evil Dark Lord, Epic End Battle— and more. At first I thought once I got an outline in my head, it’d leave me alone. But it didn’t. The more I worked on the story, the more invested I got in the characters and taking those tropes and figuring out how to twist them around.

I then spent the next few months world building more and more, and my initial idea grew out of control. By the time November came, I was extremely invested in my story and managed to reach my goal of over 100,000 words without a problem, though still not finishing the novel.

After that NaNo my life got busy and I was unable to start editing until this summer. A few chapters into editing,  I realized the fact that my chapters were averaging around 10,000 words, which meant unless I did something drastic my novel could be around 300,000. From what I’ve been able to find, the average young adult fantasy debut novel shouldn’t be more than 120,000.

So my novel went through some serious restructuring. Chapter order got moved around; instead of having two parts to the novel revolving around a handful of characters I now have three parts revolving around two main characters and their similar yet different journeys. I still have a lot of background material on characters and world building, but it won’t make into in the novel beyond a reference or two.

I’m now in the process of rewriting it with my new outline. My hope for November is to get through the majority of the novel, and have it finished by the end of the year. That way I can edit it next year and move on to the next step in my path to publication.

My first day of NaNo went well and I managed to write 2,638 words today between my lunch break and a little more once I got home. I’m optimistic at the moment that I’ll actually get the rewrite done before the end of the year.

That’s all for today. The next update will probably be around November 15th, followed by November 30th. That way I can still update on my NaNo progress, without resorting to the same basic word count update every day. If you have specific questions about NaNo, my writing process, WIP, or anything else NaNo related you wish to see, let me know in a comment.

—Kay S. Beckett