Writing and Living

Alright, so a new post is loooooong overdue.

I have been shamefully absent from the blog over the summer and also took a hefty break from Twitter.

So…update:

  • I’m working on draft 2 of my scifi wip. I’m part of a writing group now, so I’m getting steady feedback which has made the revision stage almost a dream–almost because I’d love to wake up and just have my ms be flawless–but I know that’ll only happen if I pour a few more buckets of sweat and tears into it.
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Story Binder
  • This summer my family and I got a new dog, a Briard puppy. He takes up a lot of time, but I’m actually starting to get in shape again–bonus exercise for me!
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Picard the Briard
  • I’m still reading the same book I was at least 4 months ago.
  • I’m still on Instagram and Twitter, though you may find me frequent Instagram more often.
  • And I’ve decided to give myself a break when I need it. Over the past several years, I have put an enormous amount of pressure on myself to get published as well as finish a novel. Well, the news is I’m burnt out. Being a mom, pet owner, wife, daughter, sister, writer, photographer, crafter, traveler…something’s gotta give. Sometimes it’s my writing, sometimes it’s the dishes. It just depends on where I’m at mentally.

But I’m trying to get back in the blogging saddle. I attended the James River Writer’s Conference back in October and have some useful writing tips I’d like to share. So look forward to maybe a once-per-month post. If I can commit to that, maybe I’ll increase my posting.

This summer I started reading The Kick-Ass Writer by Chuck Wendig. (This is not the book I’ve been laboring over for months and months, although I haven’t finished this one either). He said something in there that moved me into action, both as a parent, a human, a writer.

“You can practice what you do. You practice it by writing, by reading, by living a life worth writing about…”

I used to be so worked up about how many words I was putting down per day, how many tweets I posted per week, how many blog posts I was getting up per month, but the truth is…my life is not better spent counting words at a desk. I want to travel, go to movies, play with my kids and my puppy–now large puppy.

 

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I am writing and will continue to write, but now with a realistic and healthy perspective.

Drop by next month for a helpful post on sustaining 1st person.

 

 

Alien Inspiration

Holy Moly it’s been a busy few months!

I decided back in March I would write a novel in 90 days. That would be 1,000 words per day for 3 months. What an undertaking!

I assumed my novel project would total between 80k-90k, leaving me some wiggle-room for the days I was too busy to write. Well, it turned out the first draft is around 75,000 words. A little on the short side, but manageable.

As a writer, I lean more towards less wordage than more, so as my writing group gets back and my editor gives me her notes, I’ll be able to fill in those areas I see clearly in my mind, but have not detailed enough in the ms. My weak points are describing the details of a setting–leaving room for expansion in a short ms.

I’m really looking forward to polishing this ms in record time–as in by the end of the year. Fingers crossed!

So, while I’ve been writing my brains out, feeling exhausted and sometimes overwhelmed, I’ve been finding inspiration for my aliens in the new spring blooms. I don’t know about you guys, but colors really get my creative juices flowing. There’s just something about the vibrant reds and subtle purples that brings my mind back to my ms and gets me thinking about alien life.

What inspires your world and characters? Do you take hints from nature, or are you more into urban influences?

I think I’m going to use the color palette of flowers to influence the skin tones and perhaps wardrobe of alien characters–hmmmm, really something I’d love to develope a story/inspiration board for.

That brings me up to some fun summer plans! With the 1st draft awaiting feedback, I’m planning on taking the time to ultra-organize myself for the Fall–when serious editing commences.

Over the summer I am going to print out my outline and character sheets—detailing everything I can so when I need to reference random character something-or-other, all I have to do is look at my sheet to see their eye color, temperament, etc.–and keep the sheets in a binder with a few inspiration pics and possibly a homemade cover.

I want some inspiration sheets to keep the overall vibe of the story in the forefront of my mind.

I haven’t done this with any of my projects before, so I’m really excited to see how it goes–and if it saves me any time because I’ll hopefully have lots of story info at my fingertips instead of scouring my ms looking for minor details.

How do you manage your novel projects? I’d love to hear what you have to say. Please leave a comment or word of advice! We’re all in this writing thing together.

I became a Writer when…

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I saw this on the internet and it just made me chuckle.

Before I was a writer, I was a day dreamer. With a boring work life, my mind often drifted off into unchartered worlds and built up people and places that I’d never seen. Not the best thing to do while on the job, but it didn’t affect my overall performance.

When I started writing, I found for the first time in my adult life, that I could focus on the people and activities around me. Because my creativity was being written down, and not imprisoned anymore, I didn’t get submerged into it. I could actually go out and appreciate the things I was doing and the people I was with.

That’s how I knew I was a writer. Because my life improved the moment I started to do it.

So, tell me. How did you know you wanted to be a writer?

My New Project!

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I’m working on a new novel! Gheeeeeeee! I’ve been wanting to start this project for several months and couldn’t hold back any longer.

My new novel takes place on Earth and on an alien planet called Belum-Ru, as well as on several space stations dotted throughout the galaxy.

I want to take a moment to break down a few of the main characters, because I’m so in love with them at the moment:

  • The mc is a courtroom artist named Elise Lavender. She loves baking and drawing and has a fiesty temper when provoked. She lives in the city, but was raised in the country. Her family is Catholic and she’s big on forgiveness.
  • Her antagonist (at least in the beginning) is Ambassador Rai-Brune, of the planet, Belum-Ru. He’s big on justice and is a political celebrity amongst his people. He’s passionate, but tries to act with logic and purpose, but fines Elise trying in this area.
  • Elise’s roommate and best friend is Marly Rhea. The girl’s never met a baking recipe she couldn’t master and loves wearing cherry red lipstick. She’s loyal, honest, and never backs down from a challenge.
  • Ollison (Rai-Brune’s antagonist, still an alien, but not from Belum-Ru) is an acrobat who prefers the stage life to that of his real one, as a royal. He purposefully disappoints those whose approbation he secretly wishes for the most. He’s always been jealous of Rai-Brune, but admires him too, and has never been able to resolve those two emotions.
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Since it’s been a while since I started a new novel, I wanted to go at this one a little differently. I usually draft up a little 1 or 2 page outline, just to give the story some structure and give me an idea of where I think I want the story to go.

Well, this time, I wrote a massive outline, full of subplots, emotion tags, and various POVs to give me depth to each scene. (There will be only 2 POVs in the story, but I thought noting everyone’s would make sure I remember how characters react and what everyone’s feeling during any given scene.)

The outline stands at 14 pages right now, and I pop over to it whenever a new detail crosses my mind. Once it’s plugged in, I can keep on writing the story. And I’ll admit, having such a detailed outline has made the writing process a little easier for me. I still get the fun of whipping up those beauties that may or may not make the final cut, but in terms of figuring out the story, that’s done. I don’t feel insecure about what where it’s going and having that confidence has made the writing process more enjoyable for me.

The thing is, I’ve already learned a few things from this style of writing that I plan on sharing here in future posts. I hope you’ll stick with me, and maybe share a few of your own writing experiences. Tell me, are you a plotter or a pantser, or maybe a little bit of both? Do you love your style or are you thinking about switching sides? I’d love to chat! Please leave a comment or word of advice. We’re all in this writing-thing together.

 

 

 

Facing Rejection: aka, being a Writer

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It’s funny, my writing’s been rejected many, many times. I think that’s what makes acceptance so special. When a magazine or website says yes, it’s like winning the lottery. You feel a high that only someone who’s worked hard, faced rejection, and kept on going can appreciate.

Rejection opens the doors to opportunity and self-awareness.

Through rejection, writers become self-aware enough to know what they enjoy doing and to persevere in the face of someone saying no. Of someone saying their work isn’t good enough.

Rejection Just Ahead Green Road Sign with Dramatic Storm Clouds and Sky.

That’s where opportunity arrises! Take rejection with a pinch of salt. Sometimes you haven’t found the right market. Sometimes your writing needs work. Until you’ve done it a few times and heard what others have to say, it’s hard to tell.

Feedback is key. Having people you can rely on to read your work and give critical insight is a must. I have a small circle of friends and family willing to put in the time, and they’ve been super helpful finding typos, plot holes, and asking thoughtful questions.

But I’ve recently felt the urge to join a writer’s critique group. I would love to be able to sit around with like-minded people and hash out ideas face-to-face. I can’t wait for our 1st meeting in Feb.

I encourage writers to put their work out there. There will always be no’s. But a no isn’t the end of the world. Hearing no can actually improve your writing.

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Writers Victoria

To write on in ignorance of it’s flaws or to keep your work secreted away for fear of hearing that terrifying little word won’t help you improve your craft. And you never know, your work may be someone else’s favorite story–heck, you may even become someone’s favorite author! Talk about geeking out! Get out there, put your work in front of others. I bet you’d be surpised how often praise mingles with critique, and how often hearing no or not for us, isn’t as painful as a lashing.

So what do you think? Agree? Disagree? Please leave a comment or word of advice. We’re all in this writing-thing together.

 

Delete It, literally: #Writingtips for Opening Lines

For Christmas I received this beautiful old Underwood typewriter. It works perfectly, but is a real eye-opener in terms of how easyily mistakes are made and how difficult they are to correct.

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There’s no delete. There’s only white out or toss out.

So, while learning how to use this thing, I decided to grab a stack of my favorite books and type out their opening paragraphs.

What a fun exercise! And you know what I learned? Not a bloomin’ one starts with the word it.

You know what else I learned? They all start with either dialogue, the lead mc’s name/I, or an action word.

Here’s a list of first words from the books I used:

  • Sophronia, “You’re…”, Clinging, “I’ve…”, I, Miss Alexia

gw-l-5114-c-libbey-5114-1-75-oz-whiskey-shot-glass-1Well, someone give me a drink because my wip’s opening sentence is: It was almost moonrise, which doesn’t do anything but tell you the general time of day.

I’ve been toying around with a new opener for weeks. Something charming, something interesting. Or at the very least, something that doesn’t start with it. Here’s what I’ve managed to come up with: “When’d you get here?”

I deleted my original opening paragraph because it didn’t do anything for the plot. The dialogue here really gets things going between the MC and her sister–who’s murdered only a few pages later. I feel this is a much better opening than, It was almost moonrise, which is established through showing shortly thereafter, anyway.

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So, brownie points for some improvement!

How’s your writing going? Have you had any breakthroughs to start off the new year? Please leave a comment or a word of advice. We’re all in this writing-thing together.

 

 

2018 Wrap Up–and maybe a newsletter?

I’ve been toying with the idea of writing a montly newsletter, I have some ideas, but need to figure out the formatting and set-up on WordPress. Hopefully, I’ll get this done in January.

So, in lieu of a proper newsletter, I’ll post some fun updates right here!

Pennings:

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I’m delighted to promote the recent publication of the Fark Fiction anthology: Everybody Panic, available on Amazon. My short story, Pastries in Space, is the first story featured inside. All purchase procedes go to St. Judes Children’s Hospital.

I’ve had a handful of family members request signed copies, and I don’t know if you’ve had the thrill of signing something, but it’s super fun. It may be so much fun as to motivate me to write even more–not that I really need such motivation, but there it is.

I have 2 short stories in the works that I’m hoping to submit for publication sometime after the new year.

I finished the 2nd draft of my werewolf novel, Refining Sylver. After the new year, I plan on editing a printed version so I can snuggle up in bed or in front of a fire while making changes in red ink. I really like sitting down with a printed copy. It’s just a different process and requires a different focus.

After the 3rd draft, I plan on seeking betas for feedback, with the intention of agent hunting sometime over the summer–fingers crossed.

Been there, read that:

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Padma Venkatraman’s A Time to Dance

This is a beautifully written story about a young dancer who loses her leg in an accident who must balance her dreams against her new, much more limited, abilities. I read this in early 2018 and it’s stuck with me the whole year. I highly recommend it! The story is poetic and short–easy to knock out.

Find me:

Instagram: @vedbrown

Twitter: @VedBrown

Facebook: @endlessedits (Valerie Brown)

Beasts:

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Butternut is a fiesty 4 year old orange and white tabby who spends most of the day sleeping in my bed, snuggled up with a furry white mouse. She loves privacy, cat nip, and controlled-not-overly-aggressive snuggle-time with me. She avoides my children at all costs.

She’s my writing buddy.

Keeper of the Zoo:

I have two kids–a girl and a boy–who have more energy than an Energizer battery.

But they’re at great ages for the holidays. They believe in Santa and understand they can’t touch the Elf on a Shelf–though my son still has to be monitored on the latter.

The kids helped me shop for angels on our church’s giving tree and gave canned goods to my daughter’s school. They’re still a little young to understand the needs of others, but they’re completely willing to try.

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My kiddos playing in the lake during our summer camping trip.

In Closing:

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I take the month of December off from writing. With so much going on, it keeps the stress low and allows me to focus on having fun with my kids–and getting the shopping done while they’re in school.

Taking a break allows me to think about next year’s goals and leaves me eager to get back to work after the holidays. 2019 holds a lot of potential for me and my writing. 2018 has seen the fullfillment of many a goal, and even a dream or two.

So, Merry Christmas to you! May your writing be well-drafted and witty. May your coffee mug be full.

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