Ambitious Goals Are… Ambitious

What I’m learning from February so far:

  • I am good at being crazy productive for one month, but after that I need a break

…Yeah that’s about it. I set a lot of ambitious goals for this quarter, and they still aren’t out of reach. Since this quarter is halfway done, it’s probably about time for a personal check-in. Overall I’m doing pretty well! I’ve kept up with work hours, done all of the dog walks and date nights and journal entries and vlogs.

But there’s those pesky revisions.

I’m still procrastinating them. Two weeks is enough time to do the things I think I need to do, but if I let much more time pass I’m officially in the danger zone.

So I think I need a little more specific goal setting.

I am going to start revising my novel tomorrow. I’ve got to film and upload my WordNerds video and do some work for my day job, but other than that I’m pretty open. SO THIS IS HAPPENING. I’ll tweet/vlog about it, because that seems to be the best way for me to stay accountable.

Are you setting any goals for this week? Let me know in the comments so that we can help keep each other accountable!

Another First Draft Down

Welp, I’ve written another first draft!

It’s pretty exciting, but also a little weird feeling. Since I decided that I wanted to take writing seriously (summer of 2012), I have completed six first drafts. I have queried two of those novels–although if we’re being real here, it’s just one. I sent out five queries for the novel before that before coming to my senses and realizing that it was just not ready.

And I’ve done so many revisions. Revisions fo dayzzz.

I know there are people out there who sell their first completed manuscript ever, who work their butts off to get that first book into shape so that it can be the one. Sometimes it’s hard not to compare myself to those people–like it’s taken you six manuscripts and you still aren’t sure any of them are ready for an agent. What’s the problem?

But other days–like today–I’m grateful for all of those words. I’ve put a lot of hours into them, and every new book I write gets a little better, a little stronger, a little closer to that goal of getting an agent. And as long as I get there, does it really matter how long it takes?

Okay, it does a little.

Like I’d rather it happen tomorrow, but I’m willing to wait. And while I wait I’m going to work as hard as I can to improve my writing, to make my plots stronger and twistier and my characters more fleshed out and deeper.

There are a lot of revisions planned for 2016, and I am excited for them… But what I really can’t wait to do is start that shiny new idea. Here’s to first drafts! 🙂

The #1 Reason We Turned Down Manuscripts When I Interned at a Literary Agency

It feels like forever ago that I interned at a literary agency, but those times were some of the most valuable for me when it came to learning the art of editing. I was almost exclusively reading requested pages, usually full manuscript requests. It was an eye opener! Reading can be so subjective, and sometimes the reason for a rejection really was, “This just isn’t for her.”

But more often than not, there was a bigger reason–the main character didn’t drive the plot enough.

This is a problem that, if you don’t catch it right from the beginning, can be a massive pain to fix. You have to reevaluate your entire plot, analyzing each point to make sure that your main character played some part in the events that unfold.

A great example of things happening to a character can be found in basically any inciting incident. Hagrid hunts Harry down and tells him he is a wizard, then gives him everything he needs to go to Hogwarts. Tris takes the test she is supposed to take, they tell her her results were inconclusive, so she needs to pick one and pretend those were the results all along.

These are all fine for an inciting incident. But beyond that, your character has to make choices. Harry goes to school and decides to be friends with Ron rather than Draco. He tells the sorting hat to put him in Gryffindor, that one action defining everything else that happens in the series. Tris chooses Dauntless and then decides to jump into the pit first, thus earning her a reputation and putting her in the spotlight for the first time.

Let the plot happen to me? I DON'T THINK SO.

Let the plot happen to me? I DON’T THINK SO.

If you are still in the plotting phase, this can be an easier thing to look out for. You’ll need to spend some time getting to know your main character–really getting to know them. And then you start with your first scene. What would a person like your character do after that inciting incident? How would a person like your character get from point A to the point B that you’ve thought out for them? It’s important to keep an open mind, because there’s a chance your point B might need to be adjusted according to the character you’ve created.

If you are in the revisions phase and have noticed character inactivity issues, don’t fear! It’s a bit more difficult, but still completely possible to make your character a more active participant in the plot. There are a couple of different things you can do to make your already-written character a more active participant in the plot.

  1. See if there are aspects of your character’s personality/backstory that need to be changed. Maybe your passive character wouldn’t normally head down that dark tunnel when they see a shifty character headed down there. But if you add a more intense backstory–like maybe your character’s best friend was attacked by a werewolf down that same alley and your character wants to make sure their BFF is never hurt again–now your character has more cause to go in the direction you want them to. Keep in mind, though, that changing one aspect of your character’s personality or backstory may change they way he/she reacts to future events.
  2. See if there are plot points that need to be adjusted. There’s pretty good chance that, now that you have spent 50k+ words getting to know your MC, they are a little different than you originally envisioned. And even though the thought of deleting a bunch of scenes is scary, the character you’ve created may need to take a different path than the one you wrote for them in draft one. If you’ve seen my series on revisions, then you know my favorite method for this–note cards. You can write down all of the scenes from your first draft, then lay them out, shuffle them around, try sketching out how the scenes would play out if you changed a plot point or two… the creative possibilities are endless. And even though implementing those changes will be rough at times, your story will be a thousand times better because of it.

How do you make sure your characters drive the plot, rather than the other way around?

For Sucky Days

Yesterday was a day. I really like our apartment and I’ve been killing it with my quarterly goals (learn more about those here, if you don’t know what they are), but so far Georgia has been a pretty big bust. Jared and I don’t have a ton of friends here, and it’s been difficult getting to know people because we are so much busier than we were in San Diego.

No people would be introvert-Meghan’s dream, but the more I get my depression under control, the more I miss talking to people. I relish going to the grocery store because we can have a conversation with the checkout person. You might think that sounds crazy–and it is–but in Georgia it’s also the norm. Like people will talk for five minutes at checkout, even though there is a line behind them. Then on their way out they get the person’s name BECAUSE THEY DON’T KNOW EACH OTHER. AND THEY JUST UP AND DECIDED TO CONVERSE.

And the fact that I am now relishing in that grocery store opportunity must mean that I have reached a new level of weird.

Anyway. Long story short, a bunch of sucky things compounded with writer’s block blues to become one colossally sucky Friday (Friday! The one day I thought I could trust!). So I spent today making videos that cheered me up, and used them for my videos on the WordNerds channel and my personal channel. Good feels all around! The first one is of some wildly successful authors sharing some of their favorite/most intense one star reviews:

And the video on my channel is cute dogs saying nice things. Because nice things are always better coming from dogs.

So if you’ve had a less-than-stellar day, maybe they can help you too! As long as there are cute dogs in the world, no bad day could possibly keep any of us down forever. 🙂

Putting Down The Phone

Don’t get me wrong–I will be the first person to call BS on those viral articles or videos that are like, “She put down her phone for 23.7 Seconds… You Won’t BELIEVE What Happens Next.” You know, the ones that have crotchety people in the comments sections talking about how millennials are ruining the world with their online friendships and selfies.

But I also have been using my phone kind of a lot lately. I have a decent amount of anxiety tied to specific places, and so when I find myself in those places, I pull out my phone. Sometimes I’m reading on the Kindle app… but most of the time I am playing Candy Crush. Or surfing Twitter and Tumblr.

I’d noticed that the habit was bleeding into situations where I wasn’t particularly anxious, like during lunch when I was already watching a YouTube video, or while walking my dog. Easy enough times to overlook it. But then I caught myself Candy Crushin’ it while watching the extended edition of Return of the King. RETURN OF THE KING, GUYS.

And so I said GET THE HENCE SATAN, pitched my phone across the room, curled into the fetal position, and looked into Viggo Mortensen’s ocean eyes until I achieved a sense of balance again.

LOOK AT HIM. Aragorn could solve all of the world's problems amirite?

Aragorn could solve all of the world’s problems amirite?

(Or I set the phone aside and resolved not to pull it out for anything other than researching critically important Return of the King trivia.)

Once I did that, I was so much more into the movie! You might be saying to yourself, “No duh, Meghan.” But for some reason I was really surprised at just how much of it I had been missing when I was only half watching (like half of it. wowowow).

The Lord of the Rings movies are my all time favorite movies. I could probably quote any part of any one of them. But for the first time in awhile, I found myself getting really invested. Like ready to throttle Gollum when he tosses the lembas bread over the side of the mountain. Or actually LOL’ing at Gimli on the Dimholt Road. Or getting crazy choked up when Sam asked Frodo if he remembered the taste of strawberries with cream AND I WAS EATING STRAWBERRIES WITH CREAM AT THAT EXACT MOMENT.

sobbing

The point is THOSE MOVIES ARE AWESOME. Go watch them now. And maybe put your phone to the side if you don’t need it.

New Year, New Existential Crisis

WOWOWOWOW it is 2016.

I didn’t post much because (if you’ve looked at my social media pretty much anywhere else, then you know) I was sick. It was not fun. But now I am not sick. And that is (mostly) fun. The not fun part is really just all of the catching up from being sick.

Like writing. I think I remember how to do that. And working. My eyes already hurt from staring at Adobe Photoshop and Premiere for so long the last few days. And maybe someday I will be able to edit the copious amounts of footage that I have for my personal YouTube channel that I swore I would upload before the break/during the break/on the 1st/…

But productivity is good! It feels good to be working again, even if the new year tends to bring on a bit of anxiety for me. I’m excited to finish my current story and get back to writing fantasy. I’m reading Truthwitch by Susan Dennard right now and WOW does it make me want to reevaluate my world building skills. You should pick that book up if you haven’t yet (and there’s a decent chance you haven’t, since it just came out yesterday. Thanks to Calyn, my Secret Santa this year, for getting me this book so that I could read it right away!).

Last year I set a goal to write two new novels and revise one old one. In the end I wrote 1.5 new novels and revised one old one…so close! And I could try to blame illness on that unfinished half, but if we are being honest I probably stopped writing a week before the kidney stones made their grand appearance.

This year I am going to set the same writing goal, I think. A little more writing than last year, because I still need to finish the last half of my NaNo novel. Probably more editing too, since I need to do another round of edits on the novel I am querying before I can send it out to anyone new.

And though there are a lot of things that make me really anxious about this year that I’m not quite ready to do a big post on, there are some things that I am excited for. I’m doing my own form of journaling–really it’s a slightly more artistic form of list making. But still, it seems to be helping. Jared and I have some exciting travel plans this year (Denver and, hopefully, Washington D.C.). I have an idea for a TV show (or web series?) that I want to write. There might be some co-authoring going on, too. And I still love my job and am hoping to learn more about animations this year.

So here’s to a year of productivity, good books, and lots of writing!

What goals did you set last year? Are they any different this year?

Revisions, Revisited

It’s Friday again! Where did this last week go? I feel like it’s been a blur of stress and work and Christmas decorations.

If you’ve been following me at all in the last couple of months, then you know that I did a four-part vlog series on revisions. I had so much fun making it!

I am gearing up for yet another round of revisions (based on that agent rejection I talked about two months ago). And I’m honestly a little nervous about them. Though that probably doesn’t surprise you much–most things make me nervous. #anxietylyfe

I’m planning on making a pretty drastic change that will involve completely trashing a massive chunk of the book. Like, it’ll get rid of some characters that I really love and take out a piece of the magic system that I had set up. I think it’ll help the book a lot, and so in that regard I’m looking forward to it. And I’m excited to be working on a fantasy novel again. I love this contemporary, but when people’s lives aren’t at stake, it is difficult to feel like there’s much of a plot. 🙂

But also it’s going to be haaaaard and I want to whine about it.

ANYWAY. That’s not why I’m here today.

If you wanted to see that four-part revision series, I’ve embedded the video below. But I know videos aren’t everyone’s style, and YouTube’s automatic captions are really not that great, which sucks for people who are hard of hearing or deaf. SO, I’ve also written up my revision steps! Now you can print them out and do whatever you want with them.

As long as you don’t sell them, because that would be weird. Don’t make it weird.

But if you’d like to access that, you can here.

Again, a ton of my revisions process was influenced by Susan Dennard’s guide to revisions (so much so that, while going back to find the link to it, I realized some of the titles of our lessons are really similar! Whoops…)–so be sure to hit her up for even more amazing revision tactics!

Still Behind, But Grateful

Thanksgiving! The time of cheesy gratitude posts!

Things have been crazy over here, and sadly I haven’t gotten anywhere close to caught up on my NaNoWriMo novel. I’m at almost 27k at this moment. Jared has to pull an all-nighter for his job (and he is TERRIBLE at staying up late), so I am going to try to write while he works. Y’know, to be supportive and all. So in my fantasy world I miraculously write 23,000 words in 27 hours…but the odds are stacked against me.

Win or “lose,” I’m so glad that I started this project for NaNo. I’d been so terrified of writing it, and nothing forces you out of your shell quite like National Novel Writing Month.

That being said, I had an idea for a new YA fantasy that I am DYING to get started on…so I can use that to push me toward the finish line, as well!

I am also incredibly grateful that Thanksgiving week is about to be over. I will be home in around an hour and a half. Back to my own bed and my own desk and my slightly uncomfortable plastic chair and the schedule that I love (even though I sometimes pretend like I hate it).

Sometimes I think I’m a lot like Bilbo.

Bilbo

So here’s to a week full of normal things! And hopefully lots of writing too. 🙂

Getting Behind

I am SO behind this NaNoWriMo. And while I was sitting there, panicking and feeling depressed about it, things were just getting worse. The more I felt like I was ruining everything by not forcing myself to write, the more I felt like I couldn’t sit down to write. I started to feel like my story sucked and I had no plot and all the things I write are actually only going to damage the LGBT+ and the Mormon community because you don’t even know what you’re writing HOW CAN YOU EXPECT TO WRITE ANYTHING GOOD IF YOU CAN’T EVEN GRASP THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE WHAT DECENT WRITER USES AS MUCH CAPS LOCK AS YOU DO.

(in case you couldn’t tell, I depression-spiral when I feel like I’m not doing enough…)

But I don’t think I’m alone in feeling this way. I think it’s pretty normal to hit the middle of your book and start feeling like you have no direction and no clue what you are doing. And I think that feeling that way doesn’t necessarily mean that I (or you, if you’re feeling like this) don’t know what I’m doing. Or that I can’t figure out what I’m doing in revisions.

(aforementioned beautiful, inspiring place)

(aforementioned beautiful, inspiring place)

So I went to a beautiful, inspiring place and thought about my plot and why I love this story. I wrote down some of the ideas for scenes that I wanted to come next. Then when I got home I took a nap. And THEN I sat down and made myself start writing.

And things went so well! So much of writer’s block is just fear of moving forward, and the second I looked that fear in the face and said,”Shut up. I’m telling this story,” everything went so much smoother.

So if you’re also hitting a block in your writing, tell your fears to shove it. Then write your story.

NaNoWriMo & YALLFest Update

It is almost the halfway point of NaNoWriMo and I am feeling PUMPED! I am a little behind thanks to YALLFest prep and travel (I’ve got 19k and I need to have almost 22k), but I’m pretty confident that I can get caught up over the next few days. How is your NaNo experience going?

I’m currently writing with the other WordNerds (and one of our viewers, Rye!) at the cutest coffee shop in Charleston, Tricera Coffee. THE PLACE IS TRICERATOPS THEMED. Can it get any better than that? I submit to you that it cannot! Everyone is so great in person, and I can’t even remember why I was nervous for this trip. Except for I do keep catching myself looking at everyone’s legs like you have those too???

In all, I am having a great time, and looking forward to the amazing panels coming up. I’m hoping to learn a ton and not pass out when I meet some of my all-time favorite authors (lookin’ at you Elizabeth Wein, E. Lockhart, and Libba Bray).

WordNerds write-in at Tricera Coffee!

WordNerds write-in at Tricera Coffee!