Monday, May 11, 2015

Writer Unboxed (Comfort Zones)

Hey friends, I know it's been a while. I miss interacting with you all, but during this time away, I'm happy to say I spent a lot of time writing, and learning, as a writer, how to step out of my comfort zone.

As you know, writing YA fiction has been my passion for the last few years. That was already a stretch for me, writing something I loved reading but didn't know much about. I was used to contemporary romance. The formulas, the POVs, the happily-ever-afters. And then I had to go and make my writing life VERY uncomfortable.

There's a lot about writing that comes naturally. Some people are just born storytellers. But there's so much about it that has to be learned, researched, practiced. To top that off, writing in a new genre is like starting that process all over again.

This winter I finished my first contemporary YA, and I have to admit, it was WAY out of my comfort zone after writing speculative fiction. However, I pushed myself to try something new and it was a wonderful experience. Here are a few things stepping out my comfort zone has helped me learn:

1) Your love for writing needs to be renewed sometimes.
I am a writer. That's part of who I am. But that doesn't mean it's not hard. Sometimes even exhausting. You need to take breaks, and sometimes your passion needs to be renewed. Stepping out of your comfort zone and writing something new or different can help with that.

2) Risks are worth it.
You never know what you're capable of until you try. The contemporary YA I wrote isn't something I ever thought I'd try. Not to mention it was done in dual POVs. It was a risk. But I loved writing it. I fell in love with the story and the characters. No matter what happens with it, it's a story that helped me branch out with my writing and taught me something about myself, too.

3) The world needs your story!
Yes, there are heaps and heaps of stories out there. Everything you can imagine. The market is full of something new and different, as well as the old fall-backs. The traditional stories from authors we're familiar with. But that doesn't mean your story doesn't fit in. Most of those authors started with something new and different to them. If they hadn't taken a risk, we wouldn't have their stories. And if we, as writers, don't step out of our comfort zones every once in a while, the world won't have our stories either. Let's be fearless writers!

Have you ever stepped out of your comfort zone with writing or something you enjoy in your personal life? Was there anything you learned from it?

Monday, May 12, 2014

Writing Process Blog Chain

Thanks to Monica Mansfield for tagging me in the Writing Process Blog Chain last Monday. If you're curious about her process, you can visit Monica here.

The purpose behind this blog chain is to learn a little more about our fellow writers, so here are my answers!

1. What am I currently working on?

Oh, I can't tell you how excited I am by my new project. I've been mulling it over for months and I finally had the chance to start writing a few weeks ago. It's a YA urban fantasy and a retelling. BUT, sorry to say, I can't give much more information than that because it's a secret. I will tell you, however, that my MC is good at throwing knives, building things, and skirting authority--you know, until she gets caught.

2. How does my work differ from others in its genre?

I'm a big fan of character driven stories, and in a plot-driven YA world, I feel my stories delve further into my characters' psyche than most. Not all. But most. Also, it's a retelling, which is not unheard of but it's completely revamped. The MC is a different gender than the original story, and it's set in a completely different world. It's one of those "based on" stories rather than a very strict-to-the-original retellings.

3. Why do I write what I do?

Oh, because I can help it. Truly. I write more than one genre, but YA is my super-duper passion. I like it because it's relatable, because it appeals to all audiences, because it's okay to write outside of the box. And mostly, I write YA because I get to write characters who are learning about themselves. Who are old enough to make choices, but young enough to become completely overwhelmed with those choices and, well, cause a lot of drama. These characters feel like real people. And then I get to dump them into a fantasy world and go crazy. Love it!

4. How does my writing process work? 

It varies depending on the genre. I write both contemporary and paranormal romance as well as YA fantasy. For my contemporaries, I tend to plot a little more, but for my YA stories, I'm a pantser--for the most part. That said, I still have a process, which looks something like:

* Get an idea. It's usually vague, like "I want to write about witches." I develop it to the point where I know the ending, can think of three major plot points, and can come up with some pretty good conflict. If I can't do that, I either keep thinking or discard/set aside the idea.
* Flesh out my characters. I come up with character pics and back stories and GMC because I have to know what's driving my character. I add in more and think of more later, but I have to have the basics. I also like to think of something small my character is interested in, whether is mechanics like my current MC, or drawing like a character I've written in the past. I don't necessarily have to use it in the story, but I like having a better feel for my character and what he/she likes.
* Write! Yes, I know that's basic. But after that, I write. I'll mull over my current scene or chapter while I'm exercising or cleaning in the morning, and then try to write soon after that.
* Then I edit for basics, send it off to one of my CP's who gets to see my work first, and make changes she suggests.
* Next is another CP and beta readers. I like doing edits in stages so different things are caught and I get feedback as the story is progressively (I hope) getting better.
* Polish and submit!

Thanks for letting me share my writing process with you. I'm happy to pass this chain along to one of my very talented CPs, Jessica Hoefer who also writes YA fiction. Please visit her blog next Monday to learn more about her writing process.

Jessica grew up in the Seattle suburbs and moved east of the Cascade Mountains to start a career in broadcast news. While she no longer works as a television reporter, she freelances for Northwest magazines and business publications, but her true passion is writing YA Speculative Fiction.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Contests and More Contests! How to Stay Sane

I've been all about the contests the last few weeks. I entered Pitch Slam and Nestpitch and I might do another next month. It's a great way to get an agent or editor's eye on your work and perhaps get a few requests. But submitting to contests can be nearly as nerve-wracking as querying or submitting to publishers.

So how do you stay sane while you're waiting for results?

Keep busy - Yep. Put your mind to something. Either a task around the house, or even better, your story. You'll feel a lot better if you're productive while you're waiting.

Don't get your hopes up - I know this might sound harsh, but it's a good idea not to get your hopes up too high while waiting for results. Just like with querying, agents, editors, and judges have their own opinions. No matter how much polishing you do on your entry, it just might not be right for them.

Give yourself a break, even if you did just hit the refresh button 7 million times - Don't be too hard on yourself if you go a little overboard and stalk Twitter feeds or refresh your e-mail dozens more times than you normally would. It's okay to be excited.

Lastly, Congratulate yourself - It's scary putting your story out there. It's a representation of you and your hard work. No matter what the results, it's wonderful you had the guts to enter/submit in the first place.

So how do you stay sane when you're waiting for contest, query, or submission results? Have you done any of these lately? Is the waiting killing you?

P.S. I totally forgot that it's okay to indulge in lots of chocolate!

P.P.S. And you are allowed one day in sweatpants.

P.P.P.S. Without feeling guilty.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Spring Cleaning--Inside and Out

I don't know about you, but for me, when things get tough, I like to plan. I like to keep busy with lists and plans and tasks to keep my mind off of the bad and feel productive. In fact, some of the most productive times of my life have been when I'm going through hard points.

So these last several weeks, I've been working on my Spring cleaning. But I'm not just cleaning and organizing my house, I'm doing it all. Mind, body, soul, career, and yeah--my house.

I know it sounds like a lot. It is. But big plans and big ambitions make big results, and for me that's worth it.

So, what's my best piece of advice for making over your life?

Set long-term goals and short-term goals. Drink lots of water. Get plenty of rest.

Yep, that's it. Because you can't do everything in one day but can't make big progress without little steps. And you also can't be the best you can be if you're not healthy.

Are any of you in a transition stage of your life right now? What's your advice to keep sane, healthy, and productive?

Monday, March 24, 2014

When Your Life Changes Forever...

You learn how strong you really are.

You have to take it one day at a time--you have no choice.

You're forced to see life with a new perspective, and if you do, it might change who you are inside and out.

Have you ever had a crystal clear view of what your life is like or is going to be like and then it shatters in a blink of an eye? I've had that happen to me twice. Twice in thirty-three years. The first time I fell apart. This time, I didn't. Sometimes that means you're stronger, and sometimes that just means you're numb. I'm not sure where I fall on this one.

I'm not ready to talk about what's happened in my life on my blog yet. However, I did want to acknowledge there is a reason I haven't been blogging or using Facebook as much or even staying in touch as much. And you know what? It's made me realize how much I miss blogging and the community it brought me. It's amazing how much support you get from people you've never met because you're writers, or mothers, or partners in some life event or another.

I've also realized how therapeutic writing is. It's an escape and it's brought me hope. It's given me perspective. It's made me focus and relax and strive toward something I've wanted my whole life in a new and different way. In a renewed way. Since the beginning of the year, I've written two books--one that's about 100K and the other around 60K, and I'm about 15K into another. Writing makes me smile, and right now, that's a wonderful thing.

I'd love to hear from you all, and find out what's been going on in your lives. What have I missed? Can I support you in any way? Virtual hugs, prayers, reviews, words of encouragement? There are so many of you who have encouraged and supported me over the years, I'd love to return the favor!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Bloggy Break - Hope to be Back Soon!

Hey friends! I know I've been gone a while. I've posted here and there, but there's been a lot going on. Serious family stuff that's made it hard to keep up with blogging. I figured if I had to choose between blogging and writing, I'd better keep going on my stories. But I miss connecting with everyone!

Anyway, I just want to repeat to anyone else who's going through some difficult times that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. Cliche, I know, but it's true! I hope you're all doing well and I hope to be back soon.