(Insert Sarcastic Title Here)

This post is different.

The years that have passed since I first got serious about writing have changed me dramatically. Writing has been a huge part of me. Heck, it changed me, too. I wrote five full manuscripts and several unfinished ones. In all, that’s approximately 430,000 words.

I don’t regret those 430,000 words. Sure, some of those drafts were a little cruddy (okay, more than a little), but they were real. And I worked hard on them. They’ve revealed things inside of me that I might’ve never found otherwise.

I’d planned on becoming a full time writer for years. It’s all I’d ever wanted. In fact, it felt like the only thing I could rely on.

Then I went to summer camp, where my earth was shaken. Sure, I’d been to this camp before. I’d experienced God in crazy ways at this camp. However, I’ve always tried to run from what He was telling me. A couple weeks after returning home, we had a conversation that went something like this—

Him: Yeah, you should totally stop writing novels. You’re going crazy.

Me: *pretends to not hear* *starts new novel*

Him: Stoooooooooooppppppppp.

Me: Grrrrreeeeeeeeehhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh wwhhyyyyy.

Him: But I—

Me: But this is the only thing I like! What will I do with my life?

Him: But do you really like it?

Me: …

Him: Do you really think this is the only thing you can do with writing?

Me: …

Him: There are so much bigger things than being published.

 

So yes. This is it. I’m not going to write novels anymore.

Writing slowly became an obsession. Then, as my obsession progressed, I was no longer able to focus on my sole reason for existence.

I AM NOT TRYING TO TELL YOU TO STOP WRITING.

 

Writing is an incredible thing. Writing is magic. Writing is therapeutic.

I love creating things out of nothing more than prior knowledge of the universe and imagination. I even love writing about my creations. I love the title of “Writer”.

If you love writing, then keep on writing. If it works for you, then keep working.

But don’t let your creations overshadow your Creator.

A week ago, I would’ve never dreamed I’d be doing this or admitting these things. There are so much bigger things than becoming a published author. I can’t base my life on fear of financial instability. I need to base my life on the one thing I can trust.

I’ll probably keep this blog up (since people seem to like it), but I’m putting my writing to a new cause. You can find me at www.knowingthepower.com, where I’ll probably be talking more about this.

Thank you for viewing this blog. Thank you for reading my posts. (Actually no; you were supposed to be writing.) You guys have made my writing life an even more adventurous one.

But I’m ready for the next adventure—whatever that may be.

Sarah

sarahclay.work@gmail.com

www.knowingthepower.com

100 Reasons I Hate Writing

Tell me about the day your character learned to ride a bike. (Or a dragon, if you write fantasy.)

(Okay, I think we’ve established that I’m a bad blogger.)

I don’t even know why I continue to write.

Oh wait, yes I do.

Life is obnoxious and I like making beta readers squeal. (Tis a passion of mine.)

So yes. One hundred reasons I hate writing. (And for some reason, I still do it…?)

  1. Writing beginnings is like trying to drink broth with a fork.
  2. Sleeping is life but my characters are dying.
  3. Carpal tunnel.
  4. When I sit for so long that I can’t walk right.
  5. My legs aren’t long enough to reach the ground in any chair, so I’m so focused on not falling over that I can’t write. (I think that’s more of a short problem.)
  6. I require coffee to write at all.
  7. One can only drink so much coffee before one’s hands shake so badly they can’t press the keys.
  8. Or focus eyes on screen.
  9. Or sit still.
  10. Internet is fun.
  11. When writing in bed, one cannot position head in comfortable way.
  12. No time to read other books.
  13. Staring at walls instead of actually writing.
  14. Characters cannot develop quick enough.
  15. Ending had already happened in your mind, but it hasn’t been written yet.
  16. Writer’s block.
  17. Back pain.
  18. Neck strain.
  19. Multiple drafts.
  20. Coffee stains teeth. Writer needs coffee.
  21. I own more sweat pants than regular pants.
  22. It’s too hot to drink coffee in the summer, so I have to crank up the air conditioning. (Desperation)
  23. I only want to write when I’m away from my computer.
  24. Netflix has lots of thingsss.
  25. Deadlines accomplish nothing but added stress.
  26. My blinds do not block the sunshine. I must write at night.
  27. Or crammed into the tiny corner of my closet.
  28. Everyone thinks I’m antisocial.
  29. Actually, I’m asocial. Get your terms right, people.
  30. Plot holes are inevitable.
  31. Plotting is gross.
  32. My keyboards get worn out quickly. New keyboards are expensive.
  33. Consistency in my writing is not a thing.
  34. The dang red squiggly lines under my made up towns and words.
  35. Researching.
  36. Spending more time on Google Maps street view than Microsoft Word.
  37. Pinterest. Pinterest Pinterest Pinterest Pin—
  38. I cannot write with music nor can I write without it. (It’s really a problem.)
  39. Focusatwill.com makes me pay money, now.
  40. I am broke.
  41. I made the mistake of telling other people that I write books and now everyone in my school knows.
  42. And asks me about it.
  43. And asks to be in my book.
  44. And asks to read my book.
  45. And asks me to edit their essays.
  46. And do all the writing in the group project.
  47. Plot cannot be solved unless contemporary suddenly becomes sci-fi.
  48. Headaches from staring at the screen.
  49. All of my writing friends are online.
  50. People do not understand that I AM WRITING A NOVEL AND SHOULD NOT BE DISTURBED.
  51. My Google history often includes the words “profuse bleeding”, “guns”, and “brunette girl + blue eyes + freckles”.
  52. I can only write well one out of eight times.
  53. Editing.
  54. Fear of editing.
  55. The after editing stage of “Oh, this actually isn’t so bad.”
  56. BUT IT IS.
  57. Rewrites.
  58. I either have too many ideas or none at all.
  59. Social life is no longer a thing.
  60. Researching dialogue instead of actually talking to other human beings.
  61. Naming characters.
  62. Making characters.
  63. Dealing with characters.
  64. Adding character quirks.
  65. Shipping ships that can’t ship.
  66. Mid-book decisions that change everything.
  67. “Yeah, I’m going to write a book when I’m older.”
  68. “Okay. I have this idea for your book.”
  69. Losing important sticky notes.
  70. Forgetting important character/plot element until end of book.
  71. Fight scenes.
  72. Cute coffee shops are expensive.
  73. If I want to write outside, I have to wear bug spray.
  74. Losing my favorite pens.
  75. Lending favorite pens and never seeing them again.
  76. Book does not seem to fit into a genre.
  77. Book has no significant theme or life lesson.
  78. “Oh my gosh, remember me when you’re famous!”
  79. Non-writers do not understand the writing life.
  80. They think they do.
  81. Writer’s block? Eat.
  82. Staring at wall? Eat.
  83. Standing in general vicinity of fridge while on mental break? Eat.
  84. Writing going well? Eat.
  85. I will never master the art of character death.
  86. People stare when I type fast.
  87. Staring at people when they read my work in front of me.
  88. Busy weeks equal no writing.
  89. Stressing about not writing.
  90. Desk indents on wrists.
  91. Yes, I need this leather-bound notebook.
  92. And matching pen.
  93. It is expensive to print manuscripts.
  94. Querying.
  95. Realizing the book you’re querying is complete trash.
  96. When critique-ers lie.
  97. “What’s your book about?”
  98. I do not know what my book is even about.
  99. Elevator pitches.
  100. Despite everything, continuing to write.

 

*Long, exasperated sigh* I hate writing.

But I’m still going to do it.

NOW GET OUT OF HERE AND WRITE.

The Plotting Adventures of a Hardcore Pantser

Your babies are sitting around in a document all alone and possibly dying because you’re reading this post.

(*nervous laugh* Okay, okay, it’s been a while. Don’t throw rocks.)

I am a pantser.

I get a new idea and flip off of whatever chair I was probably eating cereal in to grab my laptop. And I write. Then I get stuck in an hour and I bang my head into a wall.

I have written five full length, finished manuscripts and pantsed every one of them. Why did I constantly put myself through the torture of hitting walls so quickly? Because I like the characters driving the story, I like to tell myself. And I like not knowing, in a way, how thing are going to turn out.

As you may remember (after such a long time), the last novel I wrote was exhausting when I finally made it to the macro editing stage because of the changes that occurred throughout the writing of the actual story. This happened in every single draft of every story I’ve ever written. At about the midway point of my stories, my writing style changed. I’m not sure why it happens, but it almost always does. And as my next project approached, I was struck with an idea:

Why if I get my crap together and plot?

Having previously failed at plotting, I researched new ways to do so. Outlining doesn’t work for me. The Three Act Structure isn’t good for me. Then I discovered the Snowflake Method.

I went about the method somewhat optimistically (“You? Optimistic?” I know), and it ended up being spectacular. For the first time ever, I knew what I was going to do with my story.

Then I hit step six. In step six of the Snowflake Method, you’re supposed to expand your story into a five-page synopsis. I absolutely could no do this. From this point on, it felt repetitive and unnecessary. But I had what I needed: an image of the basic flow and events of the story. So I moved on to something else: index cards. Oh, glorious index cards.

I debated on whether or not to use sticky notes (because I love them so very much), but…handwriting. I need the lines on the index cards. I sat and meticulously wrote out all of the scenes I could think of and the transitions between. Then I pinned them all up on a cork board.

AND GUESS WHAT.

IT. MAKES. SENSE.

By planning out the characters’ changing emotions as the story goes on, I can write out of order and do whatever the heck I want. And it is lovely.

I’ve had approximately seven cups of coffee in the last twenty-four hours. And it is lovely.

I must go now, mostly because my cat thinks that “kitten” is synonymous with “piranha” and I need a Band-Aid.

SO GO WRITE YOURSELF A NOVEL WITH BEAUTIFUL AND/OR DEAD/DYING CHARACTERS WITH EMOTIONAL SCARS AND FEELS.

Sarah

My Novel, The Dementor

Once upon a time, you started a novel. Once upon a NOW you wrote said novel.

(Okay, okay, okay–*catches rock aimed at face*–it’s been 5 billion weeks. Sorr–quit it! *dodges small truck* You know what? Not even sorry. You should be writing, anyway.)

I’ve been writing the same novel for four years. I went through five drafts of my beloved, adorable, cuddly, happy, usually dying charries. And I loved that book; I still do. But I made a decision to stop writing it a week ago.

Why? Because it sucked the happiness out of me.

And even now, a week after quitting, it’s still attacking me. It has so, so much potential. But despite everything, I’m stopping. I’d much rather be happy than published.

It made me unbearably unhappy for a number of reasons, which I will not disclose, and having distance from it is so alleviating that I’m not really sure why I didn’t drop it sooner.

Now, writer who should be writing, I want you to sit back and think about your thoughts concerning your current WIP (the glistening baby child on your laptop). Does it make you ache over your past failures? Does it make you want to rip your hair out? Does it cause more emotional damage than good? If so, then do yourself a favor and quit.

If the fight isn’t worth it, then stop writing and dive into a kiddie pool of melted chocolate. Paint your walls yellow. Take a trip to Barnes & Nobles. Go to a secluded island off the coast of Canada and sing Queen at the top of your lungs. For a couple days or weeks, separate yourself from the novel. Then make your decision: Do you want to go back to it, or leave it behind?

If it makes you unhappy beyond comprehension and haunts your harmless thoughts, then please leave it behind. Take a couple weeks of break from writing, and then, if you want, come back with a new story. (And go to Staples for new cute notebooks and pens, because I’m pretty sure you can’t start a new WIP without a new set of cutesy notebooks and pens.) But make sure it’s a story that makes you happy.

There is a level of annoyance that yopur novel brings you, which is normal. But you cannot allow your novel control your happiness.

There are a billion other ways to order the twenty-six letter of the alphabet. Find one that makes you happy.

What am I writing now? Something awesome. Something cute. Something slightly terrifying with lots of murder.

And I’m finally excited to write again. I get to torture new innocent charries *cackles*. I get to stare at walls with different questions. I get to freak out in front of my family with new ideas. I get to buy overly expensive coffee for new babies. I get to research drowning and stab wounds instead of gun shot wounds. I have an excuse to go to Staples and spend every dime I own.

Ah, the writer life.

Oh–and I’m *ahem* plotting. *car brakes screech* …Yeah.

Now go write me a novel, for the writing fairies frown upon your procrastination. And buy me chocolate.

Sarah

The GTW Twitter Frenzy

YOU can be unproductive, but so can a sack of potatoes.

DON’T BE A SACK OF POTATOES AND LEAVE RIGHT NOW.

Last night was the most unproductive night of my life.

I was about to start writing, but I thought, “Oh, let’s check the Go Teen Writers FB group! What a GRAND idea.” And I saw a post about starting a viral hashtag.

Six hours later, I was still tweeting. And favoriting. And retweeting.

I’ve written 85 tweets in the last twelve hours.

If you were on Twitter last night, you probably saw the #BeingAWriterIsLike floating around like a glorious disease. Here are some honorable mentions:

@brianawrites: #BeingAWriterIsLike All the fun of killing people, minus the jail time.

@NCWolfpuck: #BeingAWriterIsLike Why can’t my characters have the same sleep schedule as I do?

@sarah_ulery: #BeingAWriterIsLike researching TRAINS for the past twenty minutes. TRAINS. I didn’t think I signed up for this.

@carmelelizabeth: #BeingAWriterIsLike “So what is your book about?” *cricket chirps* *vase falls* *building explodes*

@scatteredwhims: #BeingAWriterIsLike Tweeting with countless other writers about writing instead of writing.

@bethyhope96: #BeingAWriterIsLike Creating higher expectations for your future significant other thanks to fictional characters. #comeonboys

@bethyhope96: #BeingAWriterIsLike…Having your browser look like a serial killer’s search engine. #Forresearch

@Naomihdowning: #BeingAWriterIsLike spending so much time on Google trying to find the answer to a question, you forget the question.

@theAimeeMeester: #BeingAWriterIsLike Slamming your head repeatedly against a brick wall because SURELY SOMETHING IS IN THERE.

So yes, a glorious night, indeed. Fellow Tweet warriors, I applaud thee for thy valiance. If you’re interested in procrastinating further, I recommend checking some more out.

AND KEEP THE HASHTAG GOING.

But otherwise, WRITE BECAUSE TWITTER IS THE KILLER OF ALL PRODUCTIVITY.

Sarah

@sarah_whw

You Are the Mechanic

If your character was to die at this exact moment in your book, what is the most logical cause of his/her death?

Then go do your most favorite thing. (I’m not talking about eating, Netflix, or staring at the ceiling.)

Okay, so I’m a hypocrite, but Supernatural is painful and aahhh.

So I’m literally one chapter into editing and I’m like:

imagesCFS8TSYC

I’ve ripped apart the entire first chapter and kept, like, six words.

But it’s all great, because its 1000x better than it was before, and I can already tell my characters are less stupid, the emotion is killer (Oh man, that was a terrible joke for the chapter in question…), my plot is more balanced, and my metaphors don’t talk about “mental winter times” and weird stuff like that.

So this is a little post for those of you in the painful, exciting, heart-breaking, alleviating editing phase. Keep on going, because that finished product is going to gleam. AND IMAGINE YOUR BABY IN BOOKSTORES. That shiny new cover, crisp pages. And it’ll have the book smell in stead of laptop screen smell! Geez Louise, that should be motivation enough.

BUT YOU, YOU LAZY WRITER, ARE THE ONLY ONE WHO CAN FIX IT.

No matter how bad it hurts, you’re never going to regret fixing your book. Like me, it may take five drafts, but that day when you click the last key of the final, polished draft will be a great day indeed (with lots of confetti and socially unacceptable dancing and singing and sleep. Lots of sleep.)

YOU CAN DO IT. But not if you don’t get to it.

Sarah

Change Your Brain

Write a 200-word story in a universe without any dimension of time. Then go and hash out your novel because YOU CAN AND WILL DO IT.

But really, go away.

What did I tell you?

Sorry for the gap in posts, but the American education system’s got me overloaded with work, and my characters are writhing in pain because their story is so awful and I HAVE TO FIX IT BECAUSE I LOVE THEM and…yeah.

So the editing versus writing process.

I have a system for productivity in writing my book, and a system for ripping it apart and gluing it back together. You should develop your own according to whatever works for you, but I find that this is the best way for me.

The two systems should be completely different. Opposite, if you can manage it. In doing this, your brain changes it gears in between writing and editing. You switch from loving your book and feeling for it to being ruthless and picking out the nitty-gritty details that need to go (even if you love them).

Writing: I listen to soft music (indie folk, usually). Editing: Rock. Classic, alternative, and heavy metal.

I listen to softie stuff while writing to get out emotions in writing. I edit with rock so I can be like, “Woo, editing! I am /horrible/ and /awesome/ and I’m going to make this /awesome/. Did you hear me, Queen? Fall Out Boy? Skillet? I am a /writer/.” But yeah, that’s just me.

Writing: Deadlines and priorities. Editing: Whenever I can.

I write as a priority to ensure I get it done. When I edit, I’m very relaxed because it makes me want to actually edit. Plus, it allows me to slow down and see more things that need to be fixed.

Writing: General ideas. Editing: Mostly concrete ideas.

I’m naturally a pantser. I’ve tried my hand at outlining, and it never works out. This makes my plotline inconsistent and weirdly broken up, but editing makes up for it. When I’m editing, I know what the story is, and I know more or less exactly what I want it to be as a finished product. This is why I write down the exact sequence of events in my first draft as I’m writing the story. I can go from there.

Writing: Coffee. Editing: Tea (Okay, just kidding. Coffee.)

*Sighs* Coffee. I mean, I drink tea a little more when I’m editing, but coffee, coffee, coffee. Coffeee. (I have a problem.)

So there’s my process. I’m a weird kind of thinker, so these may or may not work for you. Changing the way you see your (most likely) sucky first draft will make all the difference.

But you can’t edit a blank page. So GOOOOO write.

Sarah

My Carpal Tunnel is a Trophy

Your character is running. Running. Running. It’s dark. His/her heart pounds like a drum roll on a timpani.

Tell me who she’s running from, then go write your book.

Shame, shame.

If you’ve written continuously for an extended amount of time, you recognize the joy of carpal tunnel the second the fire shoots up your wrist. Deterioration of the nerves is a good excuse for not writing, right?

Absolutely not. Hand braces were created for a reason.

When carpal tunnel hits you for the first time while working on a book, go eat a piece of chocolate; writing for so long and hard that you’re in physical pain is exciting. You’ve stuck to it. You’re sticking to it. Your body says “No,” but you’re stupid enough to argue, “Yes.”

What a blissful stage of misery.

I do, however, advise taking care of your wrist when the syndrome does flare up as to avoid surgery. Sleep with your hand(s) in a brace so that it will stay level and still. Wear it when you have free time. (Free time as in walking the dog; you should be writing in your “free time.”) If you can tolerate the weird way it holds you hand, wear it while you write.

Let the stabbing fire in your hand inspire you. Let the knife in your joint propel you. (Ah, the writer’s life.)

And belt out your novel.

Sarah

Find Your Nerds

Write me a 100+ word story on your character suddenly finding his/herself tripping down a hill. Then go work.

Your poor characters. You’ve left them sitting around in that document, bored. So rude.

When I was a youngin’ at ten fine years old, I decided that I was going to write a book (“Psh, how hard could it be?”). Thus, I embarked on a three year journey of sucky plot lines, ugly dialogue, missing motives, dumb characters, one-page chapters, and lots and lots of pointless injuries. But, on that Christmas morning when I was thirteen, I remember clicking those last keys and hugging the 69,000-word story to my chest and nearly crying with happiness.

So, of course, being thirteen, I decided that everyone I knew should read it. Little did I know, my friends and family are overly nice, biased, and didn’t have the ability to tell me I suck at writing.

The result: I thought I was the best writer in the world. So I proceeded to send out numerous query letters to various literary agents, pleading for them to publish my book. This is mostly why I had to change my email and pray they don’t remember my name from the last round of queries.

The moral to the story is this: Do not trust your friends and family with your work. Even if they’re writers themselves, they could be too nice. And you don’t want nice; you want blunt. Sarcastic. Maybe even rude, because that’s the only way you’re going to know just how much your first/second/millionth draft sucks. You can’t handle the stress of someone not liking your work? Then don’t try to get published.

So find your band of strange, mostly antisocial nerds who also like the feel of clacking keys in the dark of night. I can’t stress the importance of writing friends enough; you’ll never be able to judge your book’s condition on your own. Plus, who else can you talk about the strange, sarcastic voices fighting in you head?Who else can you complain about cold coffee to? Carpal tunnel? The recent death of your characters? You need back up when it comes to the literary world.

Don’t do what I did. Don’t give your cruddy writing to just anyone–give it to people that can help you make it better.

Now get out there, find your nerd, and write the next crappy first draft of the next bestseller. (Which starts with actually writing it. Go away.)

Sarah

Organizing Your Rabbits

Don’t read any farther. Reread the last 100 hundred words you wrote, then write 100 more. Then go away and finish your book.

*Sigh*

I love sticky notes. A little too much, in fact. I ask for them for my birthday, Christmas, and eye them every time I go to Walmart.

The result: stack upon stack of assorted colors of sticky notes on my desk.

Since I love these little suckers so much, I tend to write down sudden ideas on the next sequential color according to the rainbow and stick it on the wall across from my desk, even though I have a notebook designed specifically to jot down ideas. And with each new book/draft, I find them multiplying like rabbits (except that rabbits are cute and cuddly and my ideas usually involve brutally torturing the mental/physical health of a character and inducing feels-related comas).

So yes, I have a problem.

So time after time, when I don’t have any more room to hang them on my wall, I find myself recording them into my notebook for the sake of safer documentation.

So I’m going to share the organization method I used for my latest finished novel. It’s the only way that’s ever been remotely helpful for me.

First, I find a college ruled, one subject notebook. My absolute favorite kind is the composition notebooks with the square binding. I’ll write the title of my WIP on the front in Sharpie so I know what it is.

Then I’ll used my beloved sticky notes to tab the page I’ll record the date I wrote and how many words. This helps me to visualize my progress and how slowly/quickly I’m writing. I also set deadlines that I’ll never stick to on this page.

Two pages after this, I tab the page “Order of Events.” This will be immensely helpful in editing. Here, I write down the events in the order that they happen.

After leaving several pages for this section, I tab “Event Calendars.” I proceed to print and cut out blank calendars of January-December, even if not all the months are covered in the book. Write down every event/location on the day they belong to. This will help you when you’re trying to reference days and visualize the amount of time spent in specific places. Also, write down birthdays. Write down everything, basically. You’ll thank yourself later.

Next, I leave a tab for “Outlines.” I’m a plotter-pantser hybrid, but I advise having several pages devoted to outlines even if you’re a full-blown pantser.

The rest of the pages are for plotting and planning.This is self-explanatory. Where I document my rabbits.

Enough reading. Take some e-coffee and go write about your character waking up to the sound of his/her companion screaming.Then go write for real.

Sarah