Writing and self care

Some days writing is easy. Some days the words flow, your schedule is open and everything seems right.

And sometimes they don’t Sometimes you just can’t seem to write anything, you’re busy all of the time and sometimes your body and mind just will not cooperate.

We love the former and hate the latter, and they exist on a fluctuating spectrum. But there is something important to remember for the bad days.

It’s ok. It’s ok to take a break. It’s ok if you can’t get your brain to cooperate and get words down, it’s ok if you haven’t had time to write because life got hectic. It. Is Ok.

A lot of the time we can get caught up in productivity, the idea that we must always be productive, and if we don’t write every single day we are somehow failing as writers. That idea is wrong. You write at the pace that you can, that you can fit into your schedule, that your body allows you to do.

Don’t forget that writing is work, even when it’s fun. It taxes the mind and after a few hours its normal to feel tired because even if you haven’t done anything physically, you’ve been using your mind vigorously for awhile.

It’s not healthy to work all day every day, there’s a reason we now have weekends. You wouldn’t tell someone they should work 7 days a week at work, why demand you write every day or your not a writer?

Consistent writing at your own pace is far more important than getting words in every day, writing is a difficult thing to do that requires a level of persistence and dedication. But don’t forget to take care of yourself too. If you take care of your brain and body, they will take care of you and the writing will flow all the better.

How about you? What does self care mean to you? What kinds of things do you do when you need to do self care?

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The Poppy War by Rebecca F. Kuang

Rin hates her life. Her adopted parents are abusive and attempting to marry her off to further their Opium smuggling operation. That over her head, Rin see’s the national exam to get into Sinegard university as the only way to get out. As she goes to Sinegard however, past and present collide and as she learns of her connection to long-forgotten gods, she holds the power to change the world.

The Poppy War… what can I say about this book? The world, which took heavy inspiration from China, absorbed me in an instant. The characters were compelling and the plot was engrossing. The magic system was unique and well done.

I should probably mention this is dark fantasy. While it takes place in a fictional land, the conflict is based on the Sino-Japanese war that happened in the 1930’s and 40’s and this book pulls no punches. It shows the horrors of war in full color and, without spoiling things, things get especially dark in part three.

And yet somehow Rebecca F. Kuang manages to make it all feel real without making any of it feel gratuitous or glorified. All of the emotions are processed by the characters and nothing is glossed over. Throughout the book you feel the pain the characters do, which makes their later actions that much more believable and that much more painful to watch.

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There is so much I could dig into with this book, more than I have time to in one post, but The Poppy War is one of my favorite books of this year so far. I recommend this to any fan of dark fantasy or historical fiction, but I do want to caution that this book is not for the squeamish. I also want to mention content warnings for rape, child abuse and gore.

How she managed to include all she did and not make any of it feel gratuitous I don’t know, but The Poppy War is a deeply intelligent book deserving of multiple read-throughs. If you think you can manage some of the darker parts than I highly recommend this book.

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The Saviors Champion by Jenna Moreci

Tobias is miserable. As the only member of his family able to work, this artist at heart faces a future as a laborer. A dream forestalled due to tragedy. When the Soverigns Tournament approaches, he thinks nothing of it. That is, until he hears of the cash reward. Enough to support his family for the rest of their lives. The catch? The tournament is a contest to the death. With the money, his family is safe, but will he survive to fulfill his own dreams.

I’ve known about this book as long as I’ve known about Jenna Moreci’s youtube channel, but shortly after I finished Eve: The Awakening I was more than willing to give this book a shot. And it delivered.

The characters in TSC are amazing. Each feels like their own person and they all jump off of the page. The plot is well paced and the challenges they face are interesting and creative.

Also the diversity in this book is awesome. There are multiple characters from varying backgrounds and sexual preferences. The diversity of health issues was an unexpected surprise as well. Tobias’s PTSD was portrayed very well and I loved his sister Naomi as a character.

She has no use of her legs due to an accident (something learned in chapter 1) and as a result struggles with constantly wanting to do more than her body will allow and having days where she can’t get out of bed due to her pain. Yet she doesn’t wallow in this state and while she hates being coddled, accepts that she needs help when she needs it.

Going into this book I expected the relationship between Tobias and Leila to be good on the strength of the relationship in Eve alone. Multiple reviewers said it was one of their favorite parts and after reading it I agree. Their relationship is as cute as it is healthy and you cheer every step of the way for them to be together.

Overall TSC was a very good, strong book and I would recommend it to any fan of fantasy books. It is dark fantasy and there is blood, gore and violence, but it never felt overdone or overly dramatic.

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Your book isn’t for everyone

I’ve noticed recently that sometimes when I see bad reviews of books i like, I get a bit defensive. Now, I don’t comment on these bad reviews, I just move on, but it does bring up something important.

Not every book is for every person. In an opposite vein, I really could not get into Ready Player One, no matter how hard I tried. I just felt like it kept explaining things to me I already knew, or didn’t need to know for the plot. I stopped at about chapter five.

By many counts, this book is super popular. And just because the book wasn’t for me doesn’t mean others wouldn’t enjoy it, and I and they all have a right to our opinions about it.

Same goes for writers.

Not everyone is going to like your book either, some people are going to leave bad reviews, it is going to happen. It happens to everyone.

And that’s ok.

No book is for everyone, but every book is for someone. If someone doesn’t like your book, they probably weren’t your target audience.

And that’s ok.

Are there popular books that you don’t like? Unpopular books that you love? Let me know in the comments below!

 

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In Review: Something Like Normal by Trish Doller

When Travis returned with his unit on leave from Afghanistan, all he wanted was to return to life as it had been. Life had other plans. On page three, Travis sees a hallucination he thinks is a good friend of his, except that this friend is dead.

I discovered this book a few years ago and got this book as something to go between two larger books (one of those being my first foray into The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson). Despite this book being out of my typical genre preference I was intrigued by the fact that it followed someone with PTSD.

Now, I’ve never been in a war, but at the time I first read this book I was a year in to my own struggle with PTSD stemming from a different type of experience. Irony of ironies, once that page three hit, I started crying. I didn’t stop.

Well, I did, but only to sleep. As Travis struggled with not only his PTSD, but his perceptions of manliness that stemmed from toxic masculinity, things such as men don’t cry, men don’t show emotions, that crap. I was already a step ahead of Travis in the process of getting help, thanks to a fantastic support system, but needless to say the emotional connection hit fast and hard.

In short, I would absolutely recommend this book as it chronicles Travis’s journey as The struggles with PTSD. I’ve read other books since (Like Eve: The Awakening, reviewed earlier this month) that dealt with PTSD in some form, but this was the first I’d read and it definitely left a lasting impact.

 

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To Rewrite, or Not to Rewrite, That is the Question

Whether you’re slogging through the middle of your manuscript, or you’re finally at the end of that first draft, the prospect of rewriting can be daunting. Heck, it’s downright intimidating. You’ve got all these words down and now you’re considering doing them all over again? Yikes.

Now first, what exactly is a rewrite? I’ve seen a few definitions  of what people consider a rewrite, but for the purposes of this post I’m going to define it as entirely rewriting a portion or all of your manuscript word for word. Essentially a really intense edit that probably needs its own rounds of editing.

So why on earth would you do this? Well, a few reasons. When I finished my first draft of my WIP I spent months editing and polishing it afterward. This one is more vague than my other reasons, but essentially I knew something was wrong and didn’t know what, so I started rewriting to change the style of writing. That version became much better for many reasons that had nothing at all to do with style.

That said, years passed and I examined that first well edited rewrite with a more critical eye. I knew there were some problems but I figured I could fix them with deeper edits. Then I realized I had to change a few characters… a lot of them… my cast was ok but needed a rework.

Essentially, I embarked on this second rewrite because I saw enough intense changes that had to be made that rewriting would actually be easier than scanning the entire WIP changing every character-based moment. In making the decision to rewrite this time though, I felt a lot more like Eren Jaeger in Attack on Titan facing down the Colossal Titan for the first time. Back in episode one. As intimidating as starting it was though, I can already say that this rewrite is better than the last version.

I’ll mention one more rewrite I did. My NaNoWriMo Novel from November 2017 was the first one I finished during Nano and my first time winning Nano. It was an amazing experience finally finishing it BUT there was one major problem.

Back at the 10k word mark I introduced a big Deus Ex Machina because I couldn’t figure out how to get my protag out of a jam, nor could I think of further plot for the setting, but dang it I had a word count goal to reach. The rest of the plot went well from there, but that one point needed fixing.

So in December I pulled the manuscript back out, copied the first 10k into another document and rewrote from there. That rewrite ended up being a huge growth experience for me as a writer since I had to write my way out of the Deus Ex Machina and think of real solutions, even though I had to kill a few darlings along the way.

Now that I’ve said what I did do, here’s what I didn’t do. I did not write a story and immediately dump it because I thought it was garbage. Don’t do that. Even for the NaNoWriMo one I saw a problem and went back after the month was over and fixed it. And for the first rewrite it was still months of observation and editing before I realized it had to be done.

A rewrite is a pretty drastic measure to take, and with one exception a lot of editing, reading and writing of other things happened before I made the decision. Heck, I went through several beta readers before deciding to embark on the rewrite that is my current WIP.

Rewriting is not an easy thing, nor should it be taken lightly, but if you feel your WIP might need it, don’t be afraid to do it. It may need its own edits and revisions, but your story can be made better by doing this, and that’s what we want in the end, right? To make the story the best that it can be.

So what about you? Are you looking at rewriting something? Have you rewritten something? Let me know down in the comments!

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In Review: Eve: The Awakening

When she went off to college, all Evelyn Kingston wanted to do was blend in and be a normal human. However, as alien Interlopers begin kidnapping Chimeras like her from campus, she can either blend in and hide from the inevitable ridicule, or stand up and do something about it.

I first found out about Eve: The Awakening through Jenna Moreci’s Youtube channel and through parts she’s mentioned in videos I realized this book might be one I want to check out. I was so, so very right.

From the moment I picked the book up I couldn’t put it down. Like, it was physically difficult at times to pull myself away. The plot was engaging, the characters were relatable… though some were incredibly unlikeable, as they were supposed to be. The aliens were mysterious and terrifying and, well, let’s just say a few moments left me in total shock.

One thing that surprised me though was the romance. Mostly in how well written it was, to the point where they are one of my favorite couples that I can think of in literature at the moment. I can often appreciate a romance subplot to some level, and there are some I love, but this one was great.

As a writer though too, having seen Jenna’s videos, I could almost see several of the lessons from her videos played out on the page, and it was great reading it on the learning end as well.

Over all the book was brilliant and well written, the climax had me on the edge of my seat the entire time. Reading the last 120 or so pages straight through did give me a stress headache, but considering the number of pages and the fact that that’s all book endgame stuff, I’d consider that more bad on my end than anything wrong with the book. I would completely recommend this book.

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Nanowrimo Retrospective

Today is going to be a bit of a special post. As this post goes up it will officially be Camp NaNoWriMo. For those who don’t know NaNoWriMo is where a bunch of writers decide to write a novel during a month. The main event is 50k words in November, the actual National Novel Writing Month, but camp offers different goals.

Now, in November of 2017 I took part in my fourth Nano, except it was my first time winning. As such, I was excited. I didn’t have a blog here at the time though so without further ado, here’s my tumblr post from the evening I hit the 50k word mark.

 

“NaNoWriMo 2017

So as of writing this, it is the night of November 19th 2017. For the first time earlier this evening, I completed 50k of writing within 30 days.

I did it in 19.

I still don’t know how. It’s a little unreal at the moment.

My first nanowrimo was back in 2014 where I joined a skype group with a bunch of friends and most of my interaction with Nano was through that. I couldn’t think of any other ideas and I decided to do it very last minute, so I decided to work on a story that had been in my head for 7 years prior, which was sitting at around 50k words already. I finished the plot at 80k and so I stopped there.

The next two Nano’s, neither novel broke 12k words.

Granted, both Novembers were kind of terrible for their own reasons, but I still didn’t do well regardless.

Before this Nanowrimo the idea of finishing a novel before word count verification day on the 20th was mind boggling, like, how on earth do you finish a novel that quickly? This year however due to certain circumstances I had a lot of extra free time, so I was bound and determined to do Nanowrimo, I had no excuses.

I was still wary of my ability to do such a thing, but I began regardless. I chose to do a story based on the world of my first nano novel set 100 years in the future, it had some characters I already knew from a short story I wrote the month before and I used some outlining tools for the first time to develop some of the new ones.

I took off like a rocket and had one of my best writing days… to that period. I had 4 days that were over 4k words during the course of Nanowrimo, including one that broke 5k words and one that was less than 100 words from 5k. I also had several over 3k, including today at around 3.5k.

Don’t get me wrong, I had my share of days under 1k, I’ve got a dud sitting there at zero. There were days where I got nothing done, days where my plot stalled outright and I did more thinking than writing. I went through every stage of Nanowrimo during this month.

But I did it.

I wrote the 50k words needed to win.

Let me get back to the community for a moment, because most of my experience with the community was either friends I already had or via twitter, which granted is a large amount of people. I didn’t really realize how large though, until I tweeted out my victory.

As of writing, it’s been about 4 hours since I tweeted out my victory picture, which was retweeted by nanocoach, nanowordsprints, and a few other accounts. Notifications are still coming in.

The response has been absolutely incredible. Y’all, the community is amazing. I’ve never not felt supported by the Nanowrimo community, I’ve participated and cheered people on while slogging through my own stuff for four years now. But the response to my first 50k has been astounding, far more than I expected, my notifications have exploded. Thank you.

Part of why I’m writing this is because I learned many things during this Nano. I’ve learned that I really can be a prolific writer, and that I can overcome any blockage my story throws at me, and I’ve learned many tools to help me. I’ve learned that the struggle is worth it the whole way through. Even though I’ve completed novels in the past (In way, way more than a month) the deadline of the 30th expedited everything about the novel writing process, including the slumps. Indeed, I was able this time to condense slumps into hours or a day instead of months where it ends up neglected.

And I learned how to do that, I learned more strategies for getting past those lumps and moving forward with a story. Sometimes relentlessly. For a while now I’ve known I could write at least decently well and while everything would obviously need copious edits, which I expect, I could reasonably write something and sound like I know what I’m doing.

My confidence for writing though has soared through the roof. I’ve gone from having no excuses this month to having no excuses ever. I need to get off my rear and work on getting my other novel published, because I can. (Incidentally the novel I finished during my first Nano).

There are so many wonderful people that have helped along the way. Friends who did nano alongside me, basically all of the people working on the nanowordsprints account, Faye Kirwin with #Storycrafter sessions. And that’s just for Nanowrimo.

In short, I feel kind of on top of the world right now, like the only one holding me back from writing more, and writing better, is myself. I’ve already got massive editing and writing plans for the next couple of months, gonna be a busy time.

I’m ready. This Nanowrimo showed me that I’m ready. Ok, I’m getting kind of giddy writing this and tears are forming in my eyes so maybe I should stop because I’m just rambling at this point and typing words but thank you all so much and this nanowrimo has been so amazing that I just had to write about it, good luck to everyone who hasn’t finished yet! You can still do it! That was a huge run on sentence a couple sentences back, wasn’t it? Oh well!”

Have you done Nanowrimo? What was your experience? Let me know down in the comments!

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In Review: The Sundered by Ruthanne Reid

Don’t touch the water. If you do, it will grab you, drag you down, and you will never be seen again. Unless you are one of the mysterious Sundered ones, who come into and out of the water at a whim. No one knows why.

Into this world comes Harry Iskinder, a young man whose job it is to find the Hope of Humanity and save humanity from these alien invaders. But in a world shrouded in mystery, not everything is as it seems.

I found this book several years ago on a recommendation from someone on twitter. Intrigued, I picked it up… and couldn’t put it down. The characters are compelling; the story is intriguing and suspenseful. It had me on the edge of my seat the whole time. In fact, it’s warranted several rereads since.

It’s hard to say more without spoiling the book, but if you like strange settings, mysterious yet likable creatures and page turning plot-twists, then this is a book you should probably check out.

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In Review: Freedom’s Landing by Anne McCaffrey

 

The aliens have come. The Catteni landed ships in fifty cities worldwide and abducted everyone in them in an attempt to subjugate the human race. And a reader sees more similarities to his WIP and wonders where this book, published in 1995, was when he was in high school.

Freedoms Landing is first and foremost a story of survival after thousands of Catteni slaves, humans and various other alien species, are dumped on a world to test its habitability. Kris Bjornsen is one of these people. And survive she does.

In short, I loved this book. The premise had me from the word go and the world, the conflict and the characters had me captivated. Some books I can’t seem to get into no matter how hard I try, this was not one of those books. This was along the lines of books I couldn’t stop thinking about even though I had three library books out at the same time.

My only gripe was that I couldn’t jive with the romance for most of the story, but by the end it made sense, even if it’s still my least favorite part. And by no means does it take up even a significant part of the story, and it is not a love triangle.

Overall I’d recommend this book to any SciFi fan.

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