Writing and Beyond 2019 Here We Go

 

Here’s a part of my desk because the rest is a little messy ūüėÄ

 

These are the first words I write for 2019.

It’s been a pretty relaxed day, I have done nothing but the things that I want to do, and I am glad! It’s been a while since I’ve had a day like today. The holidays are over although the holiday cheer is still around us, our fridge is full of delicious leftovers from last night, and we’ve begun to cook our first meal of the year: stir-fry.

I’ve got a few hours before this wondrous day is over and wake up to tomorrow–a work day, a necessary day because without them days like today would feel the same.

Instead of writing yet another list of resolutions and expectations for 2019.

I’d like to focus on the year ahead by inviting more positivity in. It goes without saying that 2018 was tough on all levels everywhere in addition to whatever else we’ve got going on. So my focus for this year will be to turn out all the negativity that often plagues us, all of those doubts that seem to invite themselves into our most personal spaces and turn them into positives. Shit happens. Life continues. We have to accept that we don’t have control of everything. Some things are out of our control. There are other things that keep us from letting go and moving forward. I want this year to be the best I can make it not just for me but for those around me as well.

What does this have to do with writing? A lot. Being positive helps us, motivates us, helps others, clears our head and opens our eyes and minds to what’s really there. Let’s us take one step further into a direction we’d made a conscious¬†choice to take.

 

.Rosario

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So long December (writing updates)

December is nearly gone! November, I can’t even remember it flew by me so quickly. I participated in NaNoWriMo as I have been doing in the last two years and I WON this year. Finally.

So what was it? I finished a rough first draft of short stories that would be a companion to my main writing project. I am so in love with these characters and this world that I’m writing and since I had a lot of material to work with—why not? Writing these short stories was–I wouldn’t say it was easy because I definitely had moments where I didn’t know what would happen next, but it was familiar and really gave me a chance to explore the lives of these characters in the time before the events of my main wip. Events that I have been recounting in my head for me to know and thread the main story from there but that I hadn’t really written down fully.

I am a quasi-plotter/pantser, which is an approach that has so far worked for my writing. ¬†I plot a little and leave room for the story to grow and the characters to take me wherever they need to go. Sounds cryptic, but it’s worked. It’s a perfect balance between knowing what you want from the story and its characters while also being flexible and letting the story breathe and lead you where it wants to go. Which sometimes is not where you, as the writer had planned, but somehow works in the end.

For these stories, I knew these characters (I’ve been writing about them for a few years now) but there was so much, I didn’t know and was definitely not expecting to write. So 50,000 words of a new story done. I’m not entirely sure when I’ll begin revising it, but at least the words are on the page. Revising it will be pending until after the holidays for sure.

My main wip¬†is done. It has been revised, and lots of parts have been rewritten and read and critiqued and revised and… well there’s been a lot of that. While I wrote the short stories, I took some time away from it. During this time not only did I write something new, related but new, but I had some time to refresh.

How is it that we can’t often bring ourselves to refresh all on our own?

It was hard to do. I wanted to keep working on it in any way that I could ALL while working on my new project. I’m sure it’s possible, and many authors out there are often managing multiple projects, but this writer is just learning the ways. I did manage to revise and put some final touches before leaving it completely alone.

Last year I had wanted to do the same. In fact that had been my plan: to revise AND write something new. It didn’t happen because I was still in the middle of learning how to revise. I tried several techniques until I found one that worked for me. That took time of course so I decided to focus on one project instead. At the time I felt a lot of pressure because I thought that as a beginning writer I had to have stories coming out of drawers ready to submit to places.

Over the past year, I’d like to say that I’ve come a long way. I’ve learned more about what works for me and my writing, what doesn’t and how the key is to be flexible. Every writing project is going to demand something different. Every new job is new people, new environment, new tasks, and procedures. So this year, ¬†I knew that it was necessary to take some time from the main wip and just let it all settle.

Not winning NaNo in the previous years taught me how time constraints and word counts are not for everyone–it taught me to value my work and it’s quality, to take one step at a time—learn to walk before you take giant leaps. Winning NaNo taught me the importance of consistency, commitment to your work, getting the story out, moving proficiently from point A to point B but also moving from point B all the way to point F and back to point A etc. The important thing was to write the story in whatever order it came. Not sure whether my NaNo project will ever see the light of day, I hope it does, but I mostly wrote it because I wanted to know what happened before the events of my main story. I’ve been wanting to write these stories for a really long time and now I’m glad that I did.

Now it’s time to move on to the next step which brings me closer to….starts with a ‘q’ ends with a ‘y’.

 

.Rosario

A Writer’s Care Package

Hello there *waves from couch*. It’s that time of year you guys, the holidays are practically here. I can’t believe November is almost over if you’re doing NaNoWriMo week 3 is about to start and Thanksgiving is just around the corner. Oh my! The days start to run together and you’re trying to do all the things. We jam our schedules so much with this thing and that thing. But don’t forget why¬†you write.

No matter where you are writing from just remember even just a smidge of time writing or thinking about xyz plot line or character arcs will be time well spent among all the craziness that comes with the holiday rush. Whether you’re doing NaNo week 3 or working steadily at your own pace this too will pass. There’s a whole other world out there that IS necessary for your creativity.

So here’s a little virtual writer’s care package from me to you.

Variety: Fun writer-ly things like washi tape to label binders and folders, sticky notes to keep track of stuff, pencil bag with your favorite pens (I have a favorite pen but I don’t believe it gives me any *magical* writing powers), tea bags, a soy scented candle (that one is coffee+vanilla+orange), warm socks (mine have a corgi with glasses), a book or Kindle (pictured in book sleeve), A card with a motivational quote, warm gloves, a thumb splint (no one ever tells you that you WILL have some sort of thumb/wrist/hand soreness from suddenly writing too much), a hand roller massager thing which doesn’t need an explanation lol, rolls of film or your own version of a hobby that is not reading/writing), and licorice which I like a lot!

Revising, Rewriting, and Editing

In the past few months I have been diligently revising, editing and rewriting my story through a series of drafts. There is still work that needs to be done. Each time I sit down to work I make a commitment to make it better. Each time I reread a chapter I discover how much I know about the story, how I can put it on the page and how to improve what’s already there. Nothing is perfect, but I am trying my best to make it as ready as I can before querying.

So what is revising? What does it mean to edit? What does it mean to rewrite? How do I know¬†what¬†to rewrite? These are some questions that I asked myself when I was first drafting. Editing focuses on a sentence level on spelling, grammar, punctuation and word choice. Revising has a lot to do with focus what’s on the page vs. what needs to be on the page, organization of the events in the story, and dialogue. But most important revising has a lot to do with asking questions. I will admit I’m not that great with grammar so editing really tries me. But when it comes to revising that’s where the story comes alive. I like revising.

Here are some of the questions that I ask when I’m revising:

  • What does this character need in order to accomplish their goal? (in scene, chapter, their character arc)
  • What is the objective in this chapter? Is it clear?
  • How does it sound? (when read out loud)
  • Do I really need this character to do this?
  • Does this make sense?
  • What do I need to clarify this part?

Addressing these questions as well as others that might come up often involves moving paragraphs around, removing paragraphs completely, extending ideas–dialogue, or cutting back on how much information is given. This is the part where rewriting happens and the story grows.

Rewriting is pretty self explanatory. Now this doesn’t mean that you need to rewrite your entire novel. Not unless you feel that’s what needs to be done. Sometimes you just need to rewrite the parts on a surface level, other times it’s rewriting ¬†a whole paragraph so that it makes more sense.

All of this takes time, patience and a love for your story and craft of writing. It’s not easy but stick to it and you’ll discover so much about the story you’re telling.

-Rosario

 

 

 

 

 

North Texas SCBWI

Last weekend I attended the North Texas SCBWI Conference and here’s what I learned.

 

Conferences are important to attend. You not only get to meet and chat with other writers who are at different stages in their writing journey, but there are craft and industry workshops that are super helpful.

You can sign up for critiques.¬†Many conferences offer critiques with other writers, already published authors, agents and editors. It’s a great opportunity to have your work seen and read.

Attend the workshops that interest you.¬†You might be sitting at a very social table or have lost track of time and decide to walk into the popular workshop everyone’s heading to. While it’s nice that you want to be social and hang out with others don’t forget that you’re there for you. Attend the workshops that interest you not anyone else.

Take Notes.¬†Don’t forget to bring a notebook and some pens just in case there are none available at the conference and take some notes. You want to be able to go back to the notes for future reference, you’re there to learn. Also often times, speakers give out their direct email or contact information, discount codes, as well as dates to other workshops and webinars. Be prepared.

Be Social.¬†While you might be shy, I mean what writer isn’t, right? It’s crucial to¬†actually¬†talk to other people. Be friendly, reach out, and make friends. It’s a breath of fresh air to learn about others journey and their works.

Network. Exchange social media, keep in touch, do a writing meet up, get coffee…keep in touch.

 

Now I know most of the conferences out there are not free. There is a cost to setting up a big event where a lot of people are coming; however, I can’t stress how important it is to at least attend one. It is so worth it if you’re serious about writing.

One chapter a day

At my desk

A couple of days ago I decided to write one chapter a day. Let me be clear that in the almost two years that I have been working on my manuscript I have never written one whole chapter in an entire day. Really! I’ve taken some time in between writing sometimes mid-chapter to think things through. Like¬†really¬†think things through. This usually includes research on craft like¬†how to plant foreshadowing clues, how to avoid run-on sentences¬†(yes, I admit run-ons happen among other grammar things),¬†working on character arcs,¬†what type of flowers grow in cold weather, you know things like that. I also look through my notes, make more notes, do writing exercises and read.

Even though I step away I’ve always come back with a solution for whatever conflict I was trying to solve. Yet sometimes I step away because I want to make more sense of the characters motives and how that’s going to play out throughout this book and possibly others. Gotta think ahead. The longest I have been on chapter hiatus has probably been a month. A good four weeks lets me breathe and mull things over, kind of chill and come back refreshed.

So since I don’t have a deadline I’ve been quite comfortable letting the story breathe and percolate as it pleases. But I really want to push through and work strategically and realistically. Someday I will have a deadline that won’t just be my own. So I proposed sometime last week that if I wrote/edited/revised a chapter a day I would be done in a matter of days with my current draft. Note that I am doing a combination of these or just one for a specific chapter. Has it worked? Yes, it has. I worked on and completed four chapters, of course, there’s life that happens and holidays and such. During the long Labor Day weekend, I focused on organizing the following chapters by rough outlining them. It took two days to do that and then I sort of rested on Monday. Since I took some time to get organized I’m not wondering what to work on on the day of, I just start working on what I’ve already set up for myself.

How do you get organized with your writing? I’m interested to know what works for you!

Writing Life Outside of Fiction

Hello again! It’s been a few sleeps since I’ve written a post. The last couple of weeks have gone by so fast I can’t believe September is upon us already. Since my last post I’ve taken a couple of writing classes online, read an amazing some amazing books and learned a lot about my writing. I am going all in as a writer. So I enrolled in a non-fiction class through Catapult and I have learned so much about myself, my writing and my process. Before this class, I hadn’t really written anything that was about me specifically. Never. I wrote poetry and still do but there are ways to easily disguise words and actions within the poetic boundaries. I mean you don’t want your fifth-grade crush to know you wrote about him. So this class you guys have helped me unpack and explore my own story as a person. Writing about my life has given me the opportunity to see beyond what I have experienced and reflect on it.

Writing about my experiences was hard in the beginning and still is because it’s a part of you that’s going on the page. I didn’t know where to start, did I have to start in chronological order, what if I ended up repeating myself, what if no one read what I had to say, I had all these questions. I think I was having a hard time because I hadn’t dedicated some time to think about a certain subject or event in a long time, I hadn’t talked about some of the things I wrote. But once I dedicated some time to think about my life and experiences in terms of ‘story’ such as “this happened, this is how I felt, and I think this”. Lightly connecting one thing with another hoping the reader will notice. Doing this required me to slow down a lot in order to get the event/topic down on paper just as I remembered it with detail and perspective. I’m still learning.

One of the first things I thought was how I was able to think of plot lines, dialogue and backstory for a world I created, but I couldn’t write about what’s happened to me already or my opinion on a certain topic. ¬†A lot of it has to do with being comfortable writing about¬†yourself and experience.¬†I felt ready to take that step so I took the class.

Currently, I am still learning my style and my approach although I have noticed that everything I’ve written so far has been approached differently. A lot of patience has been necessary as I learn to focus on a specific topic and experience(s), memories and then carefully string them together for the piece. A personal essay requires you to give your heart to the piece to go to places that you might not have thought you wanted to go and explore once more. It’s been heartbreaking and relieving to write about my experiences about being an immigrant, a Latinx writer and living with type one diabetes.

Maybe you might not have known that about me.

Hi there nice to meet you!

 

 

 

 

 

Camp NaNoWriMo July 2018

Camp-2018-Writer-Twitter-Header

It’s that time of year again. Yup, you know that one where we prepare to write 50,000 words in a month. Can you believe June is almost over? I can’t believe we are halfway through 2018 already. It’s been quite a year so far. I can’t wait until this year is over–then again I think I’ve been saying that for the past two years so…

As you guys may already be in the know every year writers from all over the world gather (online or at cafés) during the month of November to write their story. However, during the year there are two prep opportunities to get those creative ideas flowing.

There are writing camps in April and July that are built to prepare you for November. These two usually catch people by surprise. For some reason, I¬†always¬†miss the one in April. Don’t worry though if you can’t join in April or July it’s okay you can still join in come November.

What do you need to do?

Head on over to Camp NaNo website. Keep in mind that if you already have a NaNoWriMo login you can use it to log into the camp. Fill in your bio info, let people know a little about yourself and your project. Up next, create your project by giving it a title or if you don’t have a title yet a nickname and a genre. Here’s the interesting part that is my FAVORITE part of the camp. You can join a cabin! You can choose to be sorted (think sorting hat) into a public cabin with others. I did this last year and it was a blast. You can also create a cabin and have others join. If there’s already a cabin that you know about that you’d like to join you can do that too by requesting an invite. Now if you’d rather work steadily on your own, there is that option as well, I did this back in 2016.

How do you find existing cabins? Get on Twitter and ask the writing community. Join a writing group in your local area. Make a Facebook/Instagram announcement. Basically, let others know about it and who knows you might end up with a full cabin.

Ten days to go! Get ready!

When a scene isn’t working

sunrise

What do you do when a scene isn’t working? Why you delete it of course. And start over. Not ready to delete it? Think you can salvage it? But ‘I’m so close’ to fixing it. Nope. Delete it. If you don’t it will drag you down.

But if you feel so inclined you can remove it from your manuscript and place in a folder just in case you might want to look at it later.

You might remember my woes about act two/ entering the middle of the novel as being hard because I had a big mess of shh–things that needed to be addressed and sorted. While this was my particular situation, a lot of writers are in this position when entering the middle. I knew several things going into this self-directed revision and one of them was too much info/unnecessary scenes that slowed down the action. How did I come to that conclusion you might ask? Well, I had 40,000 extra words and a lot of things happening that would make the novel longer. A lot of those things were not really doing anything. Now, I know there are long books out there, but I’m trying to find an agent in due time so cutting the necessary 40,000 words maybe more is a must. I didn’t know how to fix it, so I read up on how to revise and while I am still learning I thought I would share what has helped me.

Here we go.

Recognizing that you have certain types of issues is the first step though. You won’t be able to fix anything or do anything to make your story better if you’re not willing to admit that there is something wrong with it from the beginning and along the way. I believe there’s always a way to make the story better.

Okay, so now that you’ve recognized that there are issues that need to be addressed you must make a list of points you’d like to make, places you’d like to focus, characters you’d like to rework in the story in order to make the rewrite tighter. I am still working on this and hope to get a better¬†understanding once I’m through this draft.

Here’s what happened in my case: I was able to identify that this one particular scene wasn’t working for the story because of the discovery I made while fleshing out the part before that moment. I know, it sucks I can’t give examples, but I promise I will go back and refer to this when this story is published. Just remind me in case I forget. ūüėČ

By fleshing out a previous point in the story, the scene that I really, really thought I needed to go after it didn’t fit anymore–at least not at the capacity that I wanted it. So I removed it and any mention of it place it in my ‘deleted scenes’ folder. I went back and reread it this particular chapter for fluency and continuity. (That had been one of the issues that I spotted when I did a complete read-through of my manuscript). Rereading keeps things fresh and on your mind as you’re working through the kinks of what comes next. As a result that chapter is now finished!! Yay!

Was I attached to that scene? Yes. I really wanted to make it work. But getting rid of it was the best thing I did.

Tell me about your work in progress. What have been some approaches you’ve taken?