Posted in Writing

Handwriting or Typing?

Do you write your first drafts by hand or on a computer? (Or by typewriter? Who knows, maybe some nostaligic people still use those!)

This question seems less and less relevant in the digital age, but I’m still surprised to hear about authors who prefer to handwrite their works, at least initially. I’m so used to my computer that it just seems easier for me to type my ideas out, and I type pretty quickly, too, although not via the proper Mavis Beacon-approved method. (At some point that method, taught to me in elementary school on an old 1980s Mac, morphed into a three-fingers-on-each hand thing that I’ve used ever since.) Also, from years of school, I’ve learned that my taking notes by hand in a hurry amounts to chicken scratch. I’m not sure the method of handwriting my manuscripts would be able to keep up with the pace at which my brain comes up with the words on a good writing day–sometimes even typing is too slow.

That said, I tried it once a few years ago. (When I was really young, I wrote stories in notebooks all the time before I typed them up, but I wonder if that was more because of a limited access to computers.) By the time I scratched out half the words on the page, I knew I wasn’t getting anywhere, and back to the computer I went.

I do, however, handwrite letters to pen pals. Yes, old fashioned snail-mail pen pals; I started pen palling when I was 7 and have never fully stopped, although I admit my letters are far less frequent these days and I keep in touch with a large number of my pen pals online rather than by snail mail. There’s something fun about receiving handwritten notes from a friend across the country or the globe, and I wonder if this tangibleness is part of the appeal for authors who write their works by hand.

Or maybe it’s about being better able to shut out distractions and not having to deal with the headache of staring at a screen for hours on end. I’m definitely not a fan of either of those downsizes to typing.

Do any of you prefer to handwrite? Do you know why? Or do you prefer typing first like me?

Posted in Writing

Multi-Person Writing Projects

There’s much to be said about working on a writing project by yourself. When you’re tackling the first draft of a project, it’s all your own. Of course, if all goes well, you’ll have multiple readers and professionals down the line giving you input so you can shape the story or poem into the best possible version of your vision… But what about projects that you tackle with other writers right from the start?

I haven’t done it too often, but one of my favorite creative writing exercises is where one writer writers one sentence, another writer writes the next, building off that first sentence, and so on and so on. I’ve participated, but I actually haven’t seen any finished products.

I also love alternatively writing with a friend. I’ve written a comic series script with one of my friends and I’ve read a work in progress she writes as letters from one character to another with another writer. It’s a really fun, inspiring way to write. Can’t think of where a story goes next? Leave your part on a cliffhanger and let your co-writer figure out what comes next!

In honor of multi-person writing projects, I’ll go ahead and write the first line to a short piece of fiction. The first commenter can write the next line, and so on! (I apologize if my delay in approving comments gets things out of whack, but it’s all in fun.)

“If Pepper had to explain the origin of her name to one more stranger one more time, she was going to have to start carrying pepper spray with her wherever she went.”

Posted in Writing, Writing: Help

Happy Labor Day! (Are You Laboring?)

Happy Labor Day to the rest of you in the US! If you’re a writer, particularly a freelance one, holidays are hard to take off, though. If you shimmy your schedule around just right, you may be able to take a day off here and there, but usually they’re out of the question. Especially if you’re being good and writing creatively every day like you ought! In which case, even when you don’t have the business writing to do, you’re still keeping up the discipline by working on a WIP.

An advantage of being a freelance writer, though, is that you can make your own schedule for the most part, and there are a number of days where you work fewer than eight hours. (And some days when you work more, ack. I try to avoid those. I never once pulled an all-nighter in college, but I have for some clients!) Of course, there’s always so much else to fit into any given day: cleaning, cooking and running errands… I don’t think I’ve experienced boredom outside of things like waiting in lines in years.

This week I have a huge freelancing project from one of my favorite clients, one that may extend for a number of months. I’m also roughly 10,000 words from finishing the first draft of the YA WIP that I started earlier this year and that I’ve been determined to work on almost every day for over a month now. (And boy, is it taking a lot more out of me than the first completed book!) I have big, exciting edits for another project. I have two other WIPs not touched in a while… Oh, and I have to live outside of staring at my computer at some point, too.

So how have I managed it so far? And why am I here at the blog? Because I’ve finished my work quota for the day. (Admittedly, I haven’t picked up the WIP quite yet, but I will.) So far (after fighting off panic about how much I need and want to do over the next few weeks) I’ve decided to:

  • Get the work writing done right away in the morning. I need to work on the non-fiction stuff when my mind’s still focused and I have the drive. Whenever I feel my drive slipping, I keep telling myself I’ll be done after lunch, and then I’ll have the afternoon to devote to other projects.
  • Turn distractions into a reward. I can easily spend an hour just goofing off at my favorite websites first thing when I get online if I choose (it’s nice and brain-numbing). Not so this week. I check my email, shut off the Internet, write two articles, check one fun website, rinse and repeat…
  • Stick to the WIP. I’ve spent too many weeks working on this one nearly every single day to give up now when the end is so close. (And I’m at risk of never wanting to pick it up again after all it’s put me through!) I just need to be more lax when it comes to word count. My best days were 2000-3000 words, but now I need to be okay with 500 on any given day, and then I can focus on other projects.
  • Take breaks! When I waste time goofing off online, I feel guilty spending too much time away from the computer doing anything more substantive than a quick run to the washing machine to start a load of laundry. When I’m disciplined, I feel I deserve a 15-minute break to read or step out for fresh air. It recharges me, and I don’t feel guilty.

So far, so good, I don’t feel like a burn out is imminent. What do you do when you’re incredibly busy, but there’s so much you need and want to do? How do you fit it all in?

Posted in Writing

Where Do You Write?

My boyfriend has a pretty nice desktop set-up as his personal computer. More than once, he’s told me he doesn’t understand why I don’t want the same, and I instead rely on my laptop. When I first got my own laptop in 2004, I thought it was the coolest possible way to write. I didn’t even get wireless in my house for another four years. (Late to the game, I know.) At first I was just writing essays for school (and the occasional creative work, of course), but when I became a freelance writer, I’d go the extra step of going online with my desktop with its wired Internet connection, getting assignments and going back to my laptop to write. Why? Because I like to be comfy when I write!

Over time, my “office” set up evolved. Despite loving the portability of my laptop, I actually didn’t like keeping it on my lap. I missed my mouse. (“Why be so stubborn and keep using the laptop?” the boyfriend asks.) So once I finally got wireless connectivity, I turned to something aimed at college students: a small laptop desk, which I’ve upgraded from ugly plain plastic to faux wood over the years. It allows me to angle the laptop (a must, since I prefer to type at an angle) and there’s space for a mouse, too. I work on a futon bed (half folded up to provide back support) every day and it’s pretty sweet! (This is not where I sleep, by the way. Who sleeps in their “office”? Ha.)

I do have a crude desk and a nice desk chair (the latter courtesy of the boyfriend, trying to tempt me to a traditional desktop set-up, perhaps) I use for a bit a few times a week when I feel like a change. I also once tried to type at a desk on my porch, but I couldn’t see the screen too well with the bright outdoor light. (I’m not much of an outdoorswoman anyway!) I’ve also done some work on my boyfriend’s netbook at a Starbucks a few times and even once at a McDonald’s (the latter of which was incredibly icky…) out of necessity while on the go, although I don’t recommend it. Personally, I prefer being alone when I work. And I love listening to music (mostly film, TV show and video game soundtracks–I can’t listen to songs with lyrics when I work or I stop working and start singing!), not hearing the “Whirrr….” of coffee being made. Of course, in college, I worked in the library a few times, but I borrowed the school’s laptops to do so; I’ve always been strangely protective of my laptop and refuse to bring it anywhere outside of the home. (What if it breaks?! I wouldn’t even bring a laptop on my vacations until I had a new one and could bring the older model. It’s heavier, but at least I wouldn’t be crushed if it broke or got lost.)

My cat loves my strange “office” set-up, too! She sometimes sits on my legs and other times curls under the desk, blocking me from stretching out my legs. (Just kick her out? Never!)

She’s not moving.

Where do you write? Does the environment in which you write affect your concentration? Do you like listening to anything when you write?

Posted in Writing

Hearing Your Manuscript’s Voice: Narrative Mode

The work-in-progress that’s been getting the most attention from me lately (despite occasional feelings of this-sucks-itis, only overcome by thoughts of but-you’re-practically-almost-finished-so-keep-going) is in the third person. And it’s actually the first time in years and years that I’ve written a story in third person. It’s so confusing to my brain that I accidentally wrote in first person for a few paragraphs the other day… Never mind that I have two main characters, which is actually part of the reason why I decided to tell the tale in third person. That, and it’s middle grade and the MG books I’ve read tend to be third person more often than not.

My other WIP is first person, although I can’t even blame that for mixing up the two works, as the main characters WIP #1 are about as different from main character in WIP #2 as can be. Still, besides the fact that WIP #2 is YA and a good chunk of the YA books I read are in first person (as is the manuscript-on-submission), there is absolutely no way I could tell this story from any other point of view. The story literally hinges on his perception of the world; from anyone else’s, there wouldn’t be as much of a plot. Any filmed version of the story (ha ha) would have to adjust to the way he sees the world; I don’t even know if it could be done. The voice of the manuscript is essential to the story as a whole.

I think that’s what I like about first person narrative, even if it isn’t always so integral to the plot as it is in WIP #2. Yes, I know that third person narrative scenes tend to have a POV or two, but you may not get so deeply entrenched in a character’s head, and feel all of those messy feelings and biases as the character reacts to the situations you throw at him or her. Third person works better for WIP #1 because the plot is more important than any character’s POV, but still, I wonder if the feeling of detachment I have as I write it is what’s slowing me down. (Manuscript-on-submission’s best words-written-in-a-day stat: about 10,000 [I kid not…]. WIP #1: about 1000…. If I’m lucky…)

How do you find your manuscript’s voice? Do you prefer writing first or third (second seems like a choose-your-own-adventure novel to me, but I’m sure it’s been done effectively!) or switch freely between the two from work to work? Do you prefer reading in any particular narrative style?

Posted in News, Writing

Busy Week: Got an Agent, Outlined a Trilogy… Got a Cat to Shed Lbs

I’m excited to announce that I’m now an agented YA author! Last week, Jason Yarn of Paradigm Talent Agency offered me representation after a record-setting read. (Well, record-setting certainly according to my record of material requests and finished reads!) I was impressed by his enthusiasm (and probably more than a little in shock), but I had four other agents who had yet to reply regarding manuscript requests, so I took a week off to make the decision. (And to nudge the other agents.)

I didn’t sit idly by during that week off, though! Client work slowed to a crawl, so I devoted much of the work day to getting ready for a possibly viable future as a creative writer. (I’m not “quitting my day job,” but my “day job” is simply writing from home anyway, so…). I:

  • Made this website (Hello! Thanks for reading so soon after I created this thing!)
  • Wrote three chapters of the sequel to my book in case it goes somewhere and because I’d been dying to do so for months but didn’t really have an excuse to (my strategy was to concentrate on other WIPs in case this manuscript never got picked up)
  • Somehow inexplicably (well, I can kind of explain it–I’ll do an entry on brainstorming soon) came up with the entire outline of the rest of book two and all of book three in this intended series (and even started thinking of ideas for a fourth book, but I didn’t write them down–I’m getting way ahead of myself!)

And now, aside from editing, I promised myself I’d put this series aside. I’m trying to be an optimist, but I’m also a realist, so I don’t want to put all of my eggs in one basket. Back to the other WIPs…

I accepted Jason’s offer late Tuesday night, and we’re working on edits to the manuscript, getting the retainer signed and all of that good stuff. It’s probably going on submission soon, and I’ll be sure to update with official announcements when I can.

And amongst all of this writing development, I took my cat to the vet. With a little portion adjustment and exercise, she lost almost two and a half pounds over the past year, as per the vet’s instructions! I guess the diet paid off. Too bad the poor thing has developed a habit of spending most of the waking day begging for more food. Anytime I walk past her food bowl, she gets into position nearby and gives me her best attempt at puppy dog eyes. I feel like a cold-hearted bastard every time. Which is probably precisely what she’s hoping… But she’s not getting too many treats from me!

Posted in Writing, Writing: Help

Finding the Time and Motivation to Write

If you’ve read the (long) summary I gave of my experience completing that first manuscript, you might think I’m the last person qualified to dispense advice on finding the time and motivation to write. But you’d be hard-pressed to find a writer who hasn’t struggled with distraction, busy schedules and fatigue at some point. You’re going to have some days that are more motivating than others. You’re probably going to fall off the writing wagon and let days, weeks or even months go by without properly working toward your goals.You’ll have plenty of excuses—my personal favorite involves staring at my computer all day writing (business topics), making me less apt to want to spend my free time staring at my computer writing…—but in the end, only you have the power to see your writing goals through.

Here are some tips I’ve found that help me find the time and motivation to write:

  • Make time, don’t “find” time. Get up half an hour earlier or stay up half an hour later. Work during your lunch break. If you have kids, work while they’re at school or ask your partner or a friend to watch them for just an hour each day so you can work while not distracted. Give up an hour of TV.
  • If you go a day or two without writing, try especially hard to get back into the groove ASAP. The longer you go without writing, the harder it will be to re-capture your muse.
  • Make friends who also love writing and share your works-in-progress with each other.
    Watching a friend meet her goals and getting support and encouragement from one another can help you keep going.
  • Exercise often. I’m someone who groans at the idea of exercise, but taking a break from the computer and getting your blood pumping can wake you up and make you feel more alert.
  • Broaden your writing goals. If working on one manuscript is starting to get like pulling teeth, take a day or two to devote to short story, poetry or essay writing. Start a new manuscript; you can have more than one going at once.
  • Discover your writing “style.” Some people write well by first plotting their manuscripts in detail, so they can write with a “map” to follow, allowing themselves to make changes as they come up with them. (Oh, how I envy you….) Others write better with an idea or scene in mind. Just write whatever comes to you–you can fix it all in editing. If you feel like writing a scene that takes place in the middle of a chapter and going back to write the part beforehand later, try it.
  • Turn off the Internet. If you’re typing your manuscript, more likely than not you have access to the Internet and all the little memes and entertainment news and social network pages that bring our brains such joy, even if they’re of no import at the end of the day. It can be tempting to keep checking those every few minutes when writing is going especially slowly for you. Shut off the Internet if possible when you write… And try not to turn it back on.

What tips do you have that have worked for you?