about me · My Writing

Goals of An Aspiring Author

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Since I’ve begun to get serious about writing and publishing, my goals have become a lot more concrete. For a while, it was just finishing a book. Then I was just hoping that I would let someone other than a friend read it. Then I wanted to work on my craft and then get published. When I made the decision to pursue publishing, then I had a ton of things I wanted to do. So now that I’m officially on the road to having a book on the shelves, here are five goals I made up for myself.

Continue reading “Goals of An Aspiring Author”

The Process · writing

How I Get (and Stay) Inspired

I’m going to start writing about writing. Writing has been my first love and one of the main reasons why I started blogging. I’ve written so many times about why I love writing and why I want to make it my career. The most natural of steps, it seems, would be writing about my process and what goes on when I sit down to write a book. And for that, we must go to the beginning: inspiration for a book idea.

Getting inspired—for just about anything but especially writing—is exciting. There’s nothing quite like the moment when you feel like you thought up the best idea you’ve ever had. I get that feeling every time I think of a new book idea. Most of the time those ideas come as dreams or half-sleep-half-awake musings, and I usually forget them by the time I’m ready to sit down and put words on the page. The ideas that stick, though, one of the forty sitting in my writing queue, have come from a variety of places.

Most often, I get my inspiration—and a little bit of drive—to sit down and write during and after I finish a reading a book. As I’m reading and I hit really good parts, it pushes me to want to write something like that. Something where a character or a plot point or something really connects with the reader. I start to think about my characters and their stories and how I want to work on them. And holding a physical book makes me want to be published so that I can hold my own book in my hands.

The inspiration for specific books depends on where the book started out. Sometimes I’m inspired to write a certain character and the rest of the book builds around them. Other times, it’s the other way around: I think of the plot and the characters get dropped in once it gets developed. Sometimes, it’s a little of both and a little bit of other things that fall into place together.

The novel that I’m currently trying to publish is called What Happens After Midnight, whose main character and romantic plot is loosely based off the 2014 remake of Endless Love. The conflict is based off some random piece I started writing for a different book that took a turn in a different direction. It no longer fit in that book and, instead, fit in What Happens After Midnight better. The setting was based on a photo I saw on Tumblr. I follow a blog that posts pictures of beautiful houses and as soon as I saw it, I fell in love. I built the town around that house. Everything else just came as I started writing. In this case, I got little pieces of inspiration that all started out as separate entities and the more I thought about it, the more they began meshing together. Inspiration can come from anywhere, especially when you’re not thinking about it. One picture can create an entire town.

Staying inspired, for me, is one the hardest parts of writing. I’m often so excited in the beginning that I crank out the first chapter and then the second and then the third and I kind of lose steam. Sometimes these books fall so far to the wayside that when I go back to them, I don’t even know what my original thought process was. Sometimes, I go back to them and I remember why I wanted to write the story and I get a half-wind of inspiration and drive and work at it again. Even in those situations, when I’m renewed, it can be hard to stick by it.

When I’m feeling low on inspiration, I give myself time. Forcing my work never produces anything that I’m proud of. If I’m not in the headspace to write, I go do something else. Reading, working on the blog, watching Netflix, playing with my dog, scroll through social media, whatever, et cetera. It clears my mind and somewhere in there, I get the feeling of wanting to write again.

I also inspire myself with things I’ve written in the past. There are stories and short excerpts that I’m really proud of and every time I read them I can’t believe they came from me. This has been the biggest help when I need a nudge in the right direction.  I go back and read them and remind myself that I can produce something great that I really like.

Getting inspired and staying there is equal parts exciting and frustrating, but isn’t that the fun of it?

about me · Life Update · lifestyle · writing

Post-Graduation Plans

So I’m a just about a month away from graduation. If we’re being specific (and I have been) it’s 37 days away.  That’s five weeks away. That’s thirteen days of classes away.

I won’t lie, as excited as I’ve been for graduation this entire year, I’m a little nervous. School is all I’ve known my entire life. And I know there’s so much more life to live outside of school but there’s something about the routine of it that’s comforting. Tomorrow, I’ll wake up and know exactly what I’m doing. My alarm will go off around 7:30. I’ll get dressed, go to campus, probably get Starbucks, sit outside my classroom, do some work, go to class. Then I’ll go home, eat a late lunch, and get ready for the weekend. In about a month, life won’t be that predictable anymore. And now, making graduation plans, it seems very, very real.

And now, making graduation plans, it seems very, very real. Yesterday, my friends and I made an appointment to have our graduation pictures done. Next week, I’m buying my cap and gown. I’ve picked out my cap design and we’re planning and wine and cap decorating night. There’s plans for senior week: passdowns, a dinner, a sunrise hike. We’re making plans to do things for the last time: dinner at our favorite restaurants, Greek Sing, vineyard and lavender farm trips. In 37 days I’ll be moving away from the place I’ve called home—despite my mixed feelings about it—for the past four years.

But 37 days also starts a freedom I’ve been looking forward to. For four years, I’ve lamented that I didn’t have time to do the things that I wanted because I did school work instead. As of right now, these are my post-graduation plans:

  1. This blog. I’ll be focusing a lot more time on my blog. With no school work or classes to attend to, I can really work on growing it and taking it into the direction I wanted but haven’t had the time to put into it.
  2. My Instagram. I have been focusing more energy into my Instagram that accompanies this account but I think that’s because it’s quicker and on the go. It fit into my hectic college lifestyle a lot better. So maybe not necessarily more time but more focused time. I’m hoping that the freedom of no school will also give me more time to travel and not miss out on things that I’ve missed in the past.
  3. Writing. Arguably, the most important thing I’ve focusing on. I’ve given up a lot of my writing time to school work and I am so excited to have days devoted to working on my next book. I have about forty ideas in various stages of completion and I cannot wait to start working on them.
  4. Your Novel Year. While this focuses on writing, it’s like school. There’s assignments and readings and study questions every week. And since the program is mainly online, sometimes, it gets lost in the shuffle of my more immediate in-person classes. Without school, I’ll have more time to focus on that work and the book I’m working on through that program. I’m also excited because when this eight-week block ends for YNY, mentorships begin. We get to work with a published author on the book we’re writing and I’m looking forward to having one-on-one time to go over my work.
  5. Editing and Publishing. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m working with an editor to get my first book ready for publishing. I’m sending off my manuscript for her to review, and when I finish school, I’ll meet with her discuss it. I haven’t had a ton of one-on-one time for my writing in my college career so I can’t wait for it post-graduation.

The road to graduation has been long and filled with laughs, tears, stress and good times. And now I’m on the final stretch, the sprint towards the finish line. I’m excited and nervous and scared I’ll trip at the ceremony. But I’m really looking forward to what’s coming after.

Life Update · lifestyle · writing

My [Last] Spring Break

I’m officially on spring break, my last of my school career. With the week coming up, I have some fun things planned. That’s beside trying to get ahead in work and resting up from the first two months of this semester.

This spring break, it’ll be my grandpa’s 75th birthday! We’re planning a surprise (shhh!) birthday dinner for him. It’ll be my mom, my grandma, my uncle and aunt, and my cousins. I’m so excited for us to get dressed up and go out to dinner together; going out with my whole family is a blast. Putting us all together always results in laughs and jokes and stories from gatherings past. I’ve really missed all of them while I was away.

I’ll also be starting a new book. I’m in a program called Your Novel Year, which is run through Arizona State University. Our first session just finished up last week (I’m planning on writing about my thoughts and experiences so stay tuned). In the next session, which begins soon, we’re focusing on writing and workshopping. I’m excited to get back to writing on a regular schedule, shooting for 250 words a day.

Towards the end of the week, I’m hoping to go to New York City for a few days for a short vacation and to visit a friend of my mom’s. I’ve been scouting restaurants and bakeries I want to try for weeks now, including a place that has giant mozzarella sticks and another that has artisan milkshakes. I’m a sucker for photogenic food.

My last, and biggest, plan for spring break is the most exciting. This week, I’ll be meeting with an editor to discuss my book. She had read some of my work back in August and really liked the little she had read. One of her comments was that she couldn’t believe that I was only twenty-years-old. I’m really excited to meet with her and get some more in-depth feedback on my work and a plan for publishing. Hopefully, this will be a stepping stone and lead to some post-graduation plans.

This may be my last spring break, but it’s already shaping up to be a good one. I hope everyone else that’s also on spring break, or will be soon, has a happy and safe one!

-Alex

writing

What I’m Working on Now

I’m horrible at sticking to one project.

I mean, I’m absolutely terrible at it. Consistency—specifically with writing—is not my strength. The problem is that I get super excited about a project and work on it until the flame burns out. And while I’m trying to find a match to relight it, another project’s flame starts burning brighter. So I put my attention on there until that flame burns out and the entire cycle continues.

This is no way unique to me. In fact, I think this is a near universal writer issue. I have yet to meet one who hasn’t had the problem of trying to tend to too many fires at once. So, in this post, I’m going to talk through some of my fires.

First, there’s school. Arguably, the biggest fire I’m dealing with is my last semester of college. I’m taking six classes—four psychology and two creative writing. As you probably guess, I’m loving my writing classes a lot more. Although, my psychology classes are interesting and are definitely giving me some ideas to write with.

On a similar note, I’m in a program outside of school. It’s a writing program through Arizona State University. It’s online and called Your Novel Year. The course is broken down into eight-week blocks with each week focusing on a different aspect of storytelling—characterization, plot, voice, setting, et cetera et cetera. It’s only week six of the first block but it’s already an amazing program and I’m excited to get more in depth.

The two writing classes I’m taking in college are an advanced fiction class and a mixed-genre class with a focus on coming of age. They’re both great classes in their own ways. The advanced fiction class focuses more on peer workshop. The second week of school, we were reading classmates’ work and discussing it in class. I love workshop because you get so many perspectives; you can see how your work reads in a safe environment before releasing it out into the world. Workshop can bring up problems that you didn’t see with writing or even problems you did see and wanted thoughts on. One of my favorite feelings is post-workshop after getting good feedback and constructive criticism on what you’ve written.

My second class different from ones I’ve taken in the past because it’s a mixed genre class, which means that any assignment you turn in can be fiction, nonfiction, poetry, screenplay, or a play script. The last couple of weeks, most of the class has brought in nonfiction work or poetry based on childhood experiences. This is in part because we finished reading two memoirs—This Boys Life and The Glass Castle—and our writing prompts drawn from those readings focused on calling back our childhood experiences. Unlike advanced fiction, we split our class time between discussing the last memoir and workshopping the pieces we brought in. Again, like advanced fiction, the workshops in this mixed genre class give new perspectives and critiques on your writing that help strengthen the piece.

The cool thing is that these two writing classes have different vibes and different people in the classes so most critiques and perspectives don’t overlap. Having about thirty plus people make comments on your work is extremely beneficial and no doubt, my favorite thing about writing classes that are workshop focused.

This semester, I’ve been working a lot on writing for my classes and not so much time working on things for myself. However, I have written some things for classes that I have really liked and would consider using in future projects.

I haven’t really settled what book I want to focus on writing next. My ‘Currently Writing’ section has three different books right now.  I have to choose a book to focus on writing for Your Novel Year. I’m not sure whether I want that to be different than one of my personal projects. I have preferences for both but I also have so many ideas that I want to develop and I’m having a hard time picking which to focus on. On top of that, I’m working on editing and restructuring and rewriting a few others.

So I have a lot of flames and I’m trying to tend to all of them. One or two will eventually win out but, for now, I’m enjoying fueling each one on their own.

about me · writing

I Want to Write Forever

At one point in my life, I wanted to move to Boston and be a clinical psychologist. I had it all planned out. I would live in a cute little apartment while I got my Ph.D. and eventually did a residency at Mass Gen. Why Boston? That’s where I wanted to go to college but didn’t get accepted. But I had visited the city and completely fallen in love. In my extended reverie, I was going to meet my future husband in the hospital cafeteria. He was going to be some kind of doctor. We would bond over random things like the bumper sticker on our cars and our mutual love for Chinese food. We’d date, we’d get engaged, we’d move to the suburbs—my eighteen-year-old self had her heart set on Weston—and then we’d live a happy life with two kids, a dog, and a Pinterest-worthy house.

And then I realized I hated psychology. Okay, hate is a strong word. I realized that I only liked a small section of psychology. I realized that I didn’t want to do four to six more years of psychology. I realized that I liked writing more.

I was writing analysis papers when I wanted to be writing fiction. I was reading textbooks when I wanted to be reading novels. At the end of the day, I was so exhausted that all I could do was crawl into bed and fall asleep. It didn’t take me long to figure out that I didn’t want to do this for another day; let alone for the rest of my life.

A couple days later, I told my mom I didn’t want to go to grad school and instead, I wanted to focus on trying to publish a book. I prepared for her to tell me that I had to go to grad school. I thought she would get mad and yell and try to “put me back on track”. But she didn’t. She said, “Okay, if that’s what you want. I’ll help you get there and support you along the way.” And to this day she has been my greatest help, my biggest cheerleader, and the best momager I could ask for.

Now, I don’t want this to sound like the reason why I want to write is so I don’t have to do more school. Or because I picked a major I wasn’t completely in love with. I want to write because I had to choose my happiness over the traditional path of college, grad school, Ph.D., job.

I wanted to be happy. I didn’t want to wake up every morning and loathe going to work. I didn’t want to wish away my life by begging for the day to be over just so I could go home and sleep. I didn’t want to be living for just two measly days off only to have to dread the ending of the weekend. I’m a firm believer in loving what you do. And I love writing. Writing doesn’t make me wish I could just go home and crawl into bed. Writing doesn’t make me want to extend the weekend out five extra days. Writing makes me happy in a way that nothing else does.

So that’s the long way of saying: I want to write forever.

about me · writing

Why I Write

In fifth grade, I switched schools. My new school had a creative writing elective that everyone had to take. It was essentially an intro to creative writing where our English teacher taught us the basics of plot, characterization, setting, point of view, and other building blocks of writing. Some days we had prompts, some days we had free writing, some days we could read what we wrote to the class. I never did that.

Everything I wrote in that class was a rewritten version of whatever Disney Channel Original Movie was on the night before. I borrowed lines, characters, plot lines. If you’re curious, the movies I borrowed from was Twitches and Wendy Woo: Homecoming Warrior.

I remember listening to other classmates read their work to the class and thinking how creative all their stories were. I, too, wanted to create something all my own. So in sixth grade, I sat down and I wrote my first “book”. It was titled Everything, and it was about a girl who had everything but the boy she wanted. It was a simple story: there wasn’t any character development or any kind of arc, the plot wasn’t that great, and the setting wasn’t clear. But I was proud of it. I printed out each page, cut them to size, bound them together with pink craft string and a sewing needle I borrowed from my grandma. For a week, I carried it around with me everywhere.

Every summer afterward, I took writing classes. There I learned how to write fiction not just the building blocks of a story. I’ve been obsessed with writing ever since. I’ve found that there’s no feeling better than writing something and then loving it so much that you’re in disbelief that it came from you.

I love writing because I love creating. I love creating people–people that I want to be, people that I don’t want to be. I love creating places–towns I wish I lived in, cities I wish I could visit. Bost mostly, I love telling stories.