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Friday, January 23, 2015

NYG: Up My Short Story Game

I don't think I'm particularly good at short stories.

I feel like I've been hearing quite a bit about them recently from a plethora of different authors. Most notably, I keep hearing about them from Stephen King and Neil Gaiman. (Though I've also been listening a lot to First Draft, which is a really cool podcast where Sarah Enni interviews YA authors, and a lot of them talk about short stories as well.)

I used to write short stories when I was younger, which means most of them weren't very good at all. I suppose they were good enough to get by when it came to class assignments, but I remember few, if any. The only one I can really remember is one I wrote in ninth grade about a girl getting hit by a car just before the boy who liked her could ask her out.

I was a fairly melodramatic teenager.

I don't think my writing started to resemble anything I would call "good" until I discovered fan fiction. Fan fiction was an awesome creative avenue for me. It helped me write fun stuff in worlds that were already created, with plenty of characters who already had their own backstories. I could change whatever I wanted and I got some pretty good writing advice too. If you look at my first fan fiction story compared to my more recent ones, you can see a huge difference. (Here's a link to my Fan Fiction profile, if you really want to take a look: Kirsten Erin. Don't judge me! :P) Writers are always saying that the best way to improve is to write and they are so correct. (I could go on and on about this, but I'll spare you that diatribe for now.)

I'm now working on trying to write a novel, but I would also like to hone my short story game. It's a part of the craft that I think I could do well at if I really gave myself the chance. I think my biggest problem is that I get attached to characters and want to stick with them. Thus, I'm more inclined to writing books than short stories.

I don't know how I'll make this a goal, other than just setting aside some time to sit down and write a story other than the one in my manuscript and see how it goes. It would be nice to have some shorter bits of fiction I could show and maybe, if I feel I'm doing well at it, be able to send out for contests or submission in magazines or journals. That would be pretty freaking cool.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

NYG: Clean That Shit

You know you're getting older when "Create a better cleaning routine for apartment" ends up on your New Year's Resolution, but what can you do?

As a kid, my mom used to tell me that the reason I had so much trouble cleaning my room was because I was a perfectionist. That may sound strange to those of you who only associate that with neat-freaks, but I do think there's something to it. She would explain it this way: I didn't want to clean my room unless I knew I could make it perfect. Therefore, I would put it off all the time until it became this insurmountable task that I then avoided because it was way too big for me to tackle all in one go.

I found this to be pretty accurate. I love a clean room and usually, once I really get myself going, I can make everything fairly perfect. And once I get it clean, it usually stays clean for a while. At least a week or two. But then I get distracted with work, school, and writing. Before I know it, one day of skipping the dishes turns into a week of skipping dishes. One pair of clothes that I left on the bathroom floor morphs into my entire closet on my bathroom floor. The package I opened and set aside turns into a mountain of boxes from packages that I need to break down or get rid of.

So this year, I made "Create a better cleaning routine for apartment" a New Year's Resolution. Yes, this is one of the ones that actually made the list. I've learned over the past year that though I like to think I'm very free-spirited, routines are actually really good for me. They help me stay on top of things and really boost my productivity. This can most easily be seen in my writing schedule over the last few months. I started making writing an integral part of my morning and I found myself spending more and more time getting it done and making progress on the book I'm trying to write. While working a part-time retail job isn't exactly conducive to creating routines in my life, I try to schedule more of it now, because it gives me purpose and keeps me from aimlessly wasting time that could be spent working on something worthwhile.

I intend to apply this to cleaning by starting to set aside time for specific tasks. For instance, I will be picking a day (with a back up day in case I work) for laundry each week. I will work on getting myself to consistently do dishes every morning and scooping the cat litter every other day. I want to start setting aside time every other week in order to vacuum and sweep the entire apartment.

This will be difficult for me, but I think it'll be good. Plus, then I won't turn off the lights at night and have to worry about stepping on a pair of knitting needles on the way back to my bed in the dark.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

NYG: Get My First Rejection Letter

This is a picture I took right after I printed out Draft #1
For about the last six months, I have been working hard on a manuscript for a YA novel I've been trying to write. It's fantasy and one I've had jumping around in my head for a while now. Finally, I sat down and got to it. It's had a lot of ups and downs. If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram, you've likely heard about it. I've been working steadily, trying to up my word count each day or time spent working on it. I've posted a few pictures of the manuscript itself when it was particularly thick and kept myself accountable by marking how much time I spend on it each month and uploading it to my Instagram to show how I've improved or declined since the previous month.

Like with pretty much anything I've ever written, it goes through stages of my loving it and hating it, but I haven't given up yet and I'm getting to the point where I can see the end in sight. (Though it will be part of a series, so it won't be quite the end.)

It's really exciting for me to finally have a manuscript that I haven't given up on and that I feel might be going somewhere. I'm pursuing my dream and that makes me so incredibly happy. I love it.

At the rate I'm going right now, I think I will have the manuscript complete sometime around May and hopefully ready to be sent out by the end of the summer. Let me repeat: THIS IS INCREDIBLY EXCITING FOR ME.

Obviously, part of this resolution is to finish it and get it ready to be sent to agents and publishers, but my specific goal here is to "Get my first rejection letter." That may sound morbid and/or depressing for those of you who aren't familiar with the publishing industry, but in my mind, I think it's a pretty positive goal. It would be naive for me to think that the first person who reads it is going to hold it up and say, "This is it! This is the book!" I mean, J.K. Rowling sent out the first Harry Potter book to 12 publishers who said, "No thanks!" (Man, I bet they're still kicking themselves for that.)

So my goal for 2015 is to get my first rejection letter. That means, I'll have finished the manuscript, sent it to a few close friends to get opinions, edited the thing entirely, hopefully have more concrete plans for how many books will be in the series, and have sent it out to at least one agent. Even if no one picks it up, this will be a huge milestone in my writing career and I will be happy with that.

And who knows, in a few years you could be settling in to read about the adventures of Maya, Jace, and Alice, all because this was my goal this year. ;)

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

NYG: Read More!

This is NOT my drawing. I got it off
Pinterest. Not sure if this is the artist,
but here's a link to the Tumblr it was
pinned from (x)
Last year, I read 106 books.

I had spent the last four years trying to work my way to 100 and I finally reached it. I won't talk about that much now, because I've already posted about it on Novel Attraction (Goodbye 2014. Hello, 2015!).

This year, my goal is going to be 120 books.

Now that I've officially completed my goal of reaching 100 books in one year, I was a little hesitant to up the read count. After all, there's only so many books a person can read and I foresee 2015 being a hectic year. However, I'm always up for a good challenge and it's not like I'm going to beat myself up if I don't make it. If I do it, great! If not, I'll try again next year.

Reading is my favorite pastime and has been for as long as I can remember. It is also a major part of my trade. I want to be an author myself and the best way to get better at writing is to WRITE and to READ. So I have to keep striving to do more and to learn more. This is an excellent and fun way to do that.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

NYG: Start Blogging More

Since I pretty much gave this resolution away in my announcement post for the series, I figured I would start with this one. 

In 2015, I want to start blogging more.

2014 wasn't a great year for my consistency in blogging. I did 18 posts on my book blog, Novel Attraction, (most of which were posted in the last few days of December); and a paltry 7 posts on this one. I would like to blame this on moving to Seattle and all the challenges that came with getting settled in a new city, but that really only accounts for the first few months after I moved. Honestly, I've just been lazy. 

I love blogging. I love sharing little tidbits of my life and I love writing book reviews. I didn't keep up with it last year because it didn't take priority, but this year I'll do my best to keep it high on the list. I'm not promising a post every week or even necessarily every month, but I'm promising effort, which is really all I can give at the moment. 

2015 looks like it's going to be a busy year for me and I want to share that with you, so hopefully we'll see a little more of each other in the months to come.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

New Year's Goals: A Blog Series

My New Year's Kiss was clearly better than yours.
(This pic makes me burst out laughing every time I see it.)
New Year's Eve/Day is one of my favorite holidays. I'm a big fan of new beginnings and blank slates. I love lists and making goals for the future. Every new year, I find myself eager to see what's ahead of me and happy to step into it. It's one of the few times I really feel like an optimist.

Last year, I made five New Year's Resolutions and I completed four out of five of them. I moved to Seattle, I went back to college, I read over 100 books. Though I didn't exactly write 1,000 words every day of the year, I did up my word count/time spent writing each day significantly in 2014. In December alone, I spent 38.75 hours working on my current Work in Progress. The only resolution I didn't make any headway on was Be more forward, which was essentially a Learn how to flirt kind of resolution. Unfortunately, I am inept at that as ever.

This year, I have made a list of 10 Resolutions in my journal, but I'm not going to post them all at once the way I normally would. I have a different plan in mind. Instead of having an intensely long post on those ten resolutions that you'll probably just skim anyway, I'm going to do a bit of a blog series. 

For the month of January, I will be putting out small blog posts on things I would like to get better at or work on in 2015. This will include, but will not be limited to, my actual New Year's Resolutions. I think there are a lot of things I would like to get better at that I won't necessarily make a resolution. There are plenty of small things that are more like reminders to myself than anything else, but I think they're worth mentioning. 

So, let's see where this goes. I think it will help me focus on what I want in the new year and hopefully inspire you to see where you would like to go. Maybe you'll see some stuff you want to work on too. Either way, it'll get me blogging more, which I miss doing and would like to start up again. (And yes, blogging more will be the topic of one of those posts you'll be seeing this month.)

Well, that's all for today. I'll see you soon with the first post!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A (Platonic) Love Letter to Faith Erin Hicks

Dear Faith (and other inspiring creators like you),

I'm writing this open letter because I've tried to say this in a tweet and there's just not enough room. So I figured a blog post gave me enough space to say what I need to say.

I'm an aspiring author. I've wanted to write books since I was old enough to read. That's still my dream.  In particular, I want to write Young Adult books. (Side note: Congratulations on writing one of your own. I'm sure it is amazing.) Like I said, books and writing have always been my passion. But I'm also a procrastinator. And, as I'm sure you are well aware, just because we love to do something doesn't mean that it comes easily to us. It's hard work reaching your dreams and I'm reminded of that on a daily basis.

So why am I writing this? To thank you.

Thank you for all of the amazing artwork you create. Thank you for helping shape stories that resonate with their readers and cultivate imaginations. Thank you for working your ass off bringing beauty into the world. (And thank you for writing a comic that made me want to ship Suki and Sokka, though I will go down with my Toph/Sokka ship.) But I want to thank you specifically for working hard every day on your comics and for tweeting about that.

It feels like a small thing, especially in the face of all the other awesome things you've been busy accomplishing. I mean, you got an Eisner for Superhero Girl this year, and here I am thanking you for tweeting about your work.

But I do want to thank you for those tweets. You tweet quite a bit about your daily struggle with comics, about how you love it but never have as much time as you want to work on it. You tweet about how you wish sleeping and eating didn't get in the way of your creating and about how you hate having to turn things down because there just isn't time for you to draw everything. You tweet about how you wrote a novel during your airport visits because you're drawing comics the rest of the time, but you can't bring your Cintiq to the airport.

And that inspires me. It reminds me that writing is what I love. Writing is my drawing. (Drawing pisses me off too much to be my actual drawing. It's not fun for me, it's just frustrating.) Seeing how dedicated you are to what you love, how dedicated you are to your dream job, reminds me just how much I want my own dream job . . . and I can't get there if I don't have that kind of dedication that makes me write until my hands cramp up and my brain gives out. I can't get there if I don't make myself sit down and write every day. I can't share my stories with the world if I don't ever get to typing.

So thank you, Faith, for reminding me with your tweets and your dedication that we have to work for our dreams and that it's a pleasure to run after them. It's hard and exhausting sometimes, but it's totally worth it if you're willing to go the extra mile.

I'll stop writing this now and get back to revising my actual work in progress and you can go back to drawing more comics instead of reading this rambling love letter from a twenty-something girl in Seattle who's still sitting at her work table in her pajamas.

Thanks again,
Kirsten Erin