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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

What Makes Me (The Author) Happy


My happy place. Reminds me of my boyfriend and I in Key Largo.
Yes! So happy to have found this when I did. I often don't look at articles I've subscribed to, particular Dr. John Yeoman's writing village. But, now that I'm parting through the proverbial clouds, trying to make something of the time I have while I've still got it, Dr. Yeoman's sage advice is finally starting to strike a chord with me. And this particular article is no exception.

Gamma Hawdon actually contributes her advice in this thoughtful blog post about the real ways authors can keep themselves happy. I'm reading it at a time when I've just had an interesting discussion with my boyfriend about the process of writing. I think I make it sound more agonizing than it truly is; but, to some degree it can be an arduous process. I compared it to something like rehearsing a song. The writing component is far less glamorous. You can co-author with someone if the company suits you, but I wouldn't do it because writing itself is so isolating. It has to be, at first. You have to filter some of your influences into the world you build. And for authors like me, trying to build a fantastic world, it really requires you to believe fully in that reality. I have to live it for my characters, so they can be as real as possible. And that takes time, thinking, getting lost in the process, and sometimes being a social kook.

And this takes me back to my original point: Gemma Hawdon's article.

Right off the bat she comes to terms with the outdated modes of thinking. In order to be a true writer, you have to:
  1. Live and/or breathe your work. 
  2. Become obsessed with your work.
  3. Live a tortured life where, without your work, you're unhappy and irritable
  4. Dilute your story with lyrical and superfluous words and statements (she gives an example)
For Hawdon, being a happy writer should look more like this:
  1. Don't feel bad if you don't write every day.
  2. Write when and how you like.
  3. Writing is only one part of you. 
  4. Inspiration comes from living. So whenever possible, live!
  5. Don't get burnt out. 
I definitely agree with some points. But are her happy points accommodating to all writers, particularly novelists like myself... particularly when you're just starting out?

It's easier to dispel pearls of wisdom when you've already accomplished your goal. But sometimes happiness looks different when you're somewhere in between being an experienced writer and a budding author. This is not my first attempt, but it's the first one I fight for.

Let's start with the basics. What's the end game? Is there one?

Personally, my goal is to push this book, and other succeeding books, out into the public mainstream and get paid for it. I believe it has potential to be as good, if not better than the current authors on the market. Somewhere between Charlaine Harris and Chuck Palahniuk. The former with regards to genre and the latter... dark, biting humor. Anywho, that's my goal. And my happiness is aligned with achieving that goal.

If you're not a novelist, then Hawdon's five paths to being a happy writer may work for you.

For someone like me, it can... with some minor adjustments:
  1. Don't feel bad if you don't write today, but do something that will shape your story tomorrow
  2. Find a routine and stick with it... until it no longer works. It's all about building achievable habits.
  3. Writing is a part of you. You should think of yourself as a holistic being.
  4. Get out there! But, balance that time wisely with the work of writing. 
  5. Don't get burnt out (needs no tweaking). 
I think sticking to #3 and #4 have been the hardest for me so far. When I'm creating worlds, I can't help but live inside of them. It's life taking a vacation, only it's up to me to create the roads, the beaches, the suburbs... Additionally, I do not want to spend too much time on a piece of work. It goes back to #2. Building healthy routines can help the story move along. It still may make some time, and that is why I know that the extra hours can mean a lot in the long run.

So here is a revised copy to address my happiness as an author:
  1. When I'm not writing, I'm reading. Or taking notes on something that inspires me. Or performing additional research to breathe more life into my story. 
  2. A big chunk of living my life is to complete this story. Based on my flaws as an author, it's important to put it first. (Money and whatnot a very, very close second)
  3. What wakes me up in the morning and puts me to bed at night is the sheer happiness of creating a story. I cannot deny that for anyone or anything.
  4. I should immerse myself more with the writing culture. I should get out more. Step away from the computer!
  5. And, of course, don't get burnt out. Try something new.
That's a pretty reasonable list of ways I can keep myself happy. Wouldn't you agree? 

Friday, August 22, 2014

I Got A Major Case of New Idea-itis & The Freelancers Flu


 Hello, my name is Christina, and I have new idea-itis.

Some of you may know what that means. But for those of you who have not been stricken with such a deadly writing disease, let me break it down for you.

I contracted this affliction years ago, before I decided whether or not I really wanted to complete a book. I came up with this amazing plot, outlined the crap out of it, wrote a few chapters...

Then one of these scenarios would occur:
  • Oh I have another idea! Let me just jot that down...
  • Wow, where is this going? How does this story end? This one's probably a dud so I'll just sit on it until I get another idea.
  • You know, I'm not a novelist. Clearly if I'm stumped on this story I have no business writing longer pieces. I'm just going to give it up and see if I can't write something else. 
And finito! The story is over before it ever truly began. 

It happens like clockwork. I have a ton of story ideas, but no story.

Of course, that's not true to some degree. I've been able to complete a few short stories. Hell, I've even published most of them myself. But, there are some ideas that are going to take a space. And the idea of commitment is frightening to me, and exciting at the same time. I eventually get cold feet and back down. 

That is the story of new idea-itis. For whatever reason, I dump one story indefinitely to start another. 

There's also another thought that comes into my head, particularly when I've made that stupid decision to leave a job to pursue writing... and maintain some sanity..
  • Ugh! I hate the 9-5! I'd be better off writing for money. Hell, at least I'm doing what I love.
  • I come up with great ideas all the time. I bet I can turn those into something a business might be able to use!
And voila! I've transformed myself into a freelancer. Achoo! Achoo! Ugh... achy wrists... constipated brain... dammit! Freelancers flu!

I stumble into it every time. Deep down I know I'm not a freelancer. As much as I want to be, I can't. At first I thought I was a literary failure. I searched the internet wondering if anyone else went through this problem. Lo and behold, I find this article about being an author and a freelancer, and how the two don't always mix. It struck me... she's talking about me!

Here are some cliff notes from that article (although it deserves a more thorough read):
  • Freelancing writing won't get you instant cash... matter how experienced of a writer you are
    • I knew this but I'm the stubborn type. My bad!
  • I spent most of my time learning how to build narrative for stories, not on freelance writing
  • I don't care too much about selling my freelancing content
    • Below is an example: 
I was hanging out with the other GTAs before our training commenced. We all started to talk about our projects. I discussed Operation Dark Angel.. and the more I talked about it, the more excited they became. They wanted to learn more about the characters and if this will be a series. It sparked something within my heart to see how eager they were to learn more about this world I built. And to think about writing for a product or a brand... if I tried, I'd only be faking it. They are my audience, the young women sitting at the table. They're the ones I want to imagine reading my stories. And to write anything else is a waste of time.

That's the thing about writing a novel. It could take months, years, etc. Some people have the time while others really have to carve out every single minute. For me, my life is sloppily sculpted to fit this craft. Emphasis on the word sloppily

Today, I can finally say with certainly that I'm over the freelancing flu. 

Now... how do I tackle that New Idea-itis?

So far creating a paranormal world where dark and light energies control everything we do is a full time job. I'm still in the outlining process, which I will discuss more in a separate post, but I'm happy to be in this stage. My last big manuscript that I was working on nearly took up an entire binder. It was fantasy, so I had to build an entirely new planet, with magical worlds and supernatural disasters shaping the outcome of the story to be. I had written up a few chapters, but the narrative was so complex that I had to put it on the back burner.*

Now I've learned from that experience. Operation Dark Angel involves world-building, but I'm taking more of my time with the history of the story's characters. And I'm allowing other influences to help fill in pockets of plot with a senseless scene. It's certainly finding its own voice. Now, when I give it the time and attention it deserves, jumping to that new idea doesn't seem like such an impulse.

*Proud to say that I'm resurrecting the fantasy story. It will be released as an adventurous serial. I'll have more details soon!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Selling My Body For The Greater Good Of Medicine.


During my GTA training, we all sat around and laughed thinking about times when we skipped out on events or took a rain check. We're natural introverts, myself included, but I also brought up the idea that it's hard for me to really remain engaged in party discussions if it's not about sex. Or writing, for that matter. The only exception is pondering philosophies about our culture, but that can be difficult since those types of conversations can sour pretty quickly.

What's great about being a GTA is that I am not only teaching medical students, but I'm naked too. And I'm not afraid to say that. Since I went to school for Forensic Psychology a couple of years ago, I've been antsy. This is the longest I've went without taking off my clothes or wielding my sexual power for professional reasons. Even now as I'm looking for a way to pay rent, everything else seems so dull. Don't get me wrong; I'm not big on stripping or any jobs where I have to be sexual with another client. It doesn't feel right for me, especially since I have a boyfriend now. But, if people can learn from looking at my body, then I'm a happy camper.

Going into porn is completely out of the question too. Right now the landscape is changing too much to really get a good grasp of how stable work could be. When I was in the industry, I didn't conform enough to really make a killing like the other girls. I didn't straighten my hair or got bigger boobs. I didn't want to. I grew up with idols like Annie Sprinkle, women with natural bodies who reveled in their exhibitionism and used it to both enlighten and entertain audiences and admirers alike. Nothing excites me more than showing my body... except for writing about sexuality.

I'm a natural exhibitionist. That's not to say I'm a nudist; I only enjoy showing my body on my own terms. When I'm not writing, I'm imagining myself dancing like a banshee in public or showing others the pleasure I gain from simply touching my body, and how they can learn from that. 

Soon I'll get to teach how the future doctors of America how to treat my body during times of discomfort and confusion. And I can't wait! Besides writing my stories, it is what I'm meant to do!

Friday, August 8, 2014

My Favorite Distraction Free Word Processor: Ommwriter



Like all writers, I get distracted easily. Working on the computer doesn't make it easy, what with the Facebook, email, Twitter, email, cell phone, etc...

I thought that by reducing my time on the Internet, well, I'd get more done. But, nope. When I couldn't remember a specific word or wanted to make sure I was using the right idiom, there I was googling away. Sure, were frequent visits to thesaurus.com. But, then I just had to compare its results to the merriam-webster dictionary online. Then, I might spot a couple of other search results that might be interesting... and, as you can see, I'm distracted all over again.

Researching every distraction free word processor available to me was a tiring and tedious endeavor. However, I boiled it down to two powerful options: Write or Die 2 and Ommwriter.

I couldn't stand Write or Die 2.

I hated that there were so many stupid options, none of which really helped with my writing. The punishment mode made me want to puke. I like to think while I write, and having to type just to keep WOD2 happy was annoying. I spent more time modifying my writing regime and less time on the actual writing.

So I deleted it.

Here are the quick and dirty reasons why I'm in favor of Ommwriter:
  1. Less options: A couple of fonts, beautiful backgrounds, and simple music is enough!
  2. No timer: I write faster when I know what I'm writing, not when I have to beat the clock!
  3. Soothing music: Not too new-agey, not too excitable... just the way I like it!
  4. Resizable writing canvas: You can make it wide enough to write across the computer monitor... or not. It's helpful when configuring the size of your font. 
  5. Save as a plain text file: Easier to save and paste into my Scrivener. 
  6. Not distracting: Everything has been designed to keep you focused on your story. I'm telling you, it's a beautiful processor. 
As for as cost is concerned, you donate as much as you can, with a minimum amount of $4.11. It's a pretty fair deal considering what you receive. I donated somewhere between $5-$10. As far as I know, the cost doesn't tamper with the features. 

What do you think? Have you tried it and found it to be effective?

Operation: Dark Angel - Sexual Catharsis and My Protagonist, Tabitha


Up until last week, I've been having a lot of trouble writing Operation: Dark Angel. There are so many themes I want to explore: For example, the concept of belief in the face of trauma.

Often, I've found belief becomes poignant in a time of crisis. During times of death and destruction, particularly when we feel so close to our demise, we end up wanting to believe anything to save us from the emotional heartbreak. The hunger to survive, also known as the will to live, is the essence of life. We will do whatever it takes to survive, even when we know death is inevitable.

Let me stop here and admit that I'm becoming highly philosophical. I'm high and listening to this tranquil relaxation music. I do have a point to make, though. And that is to shed some light on falling into sex during times of emotional crisis.

"Falling" might be too narrow. But let me explain with a story...

Personally, I've found sex to... for me... be highly therapeutic. Maybe even meditative sometimes, because while I'm still able to derive pleasure from it I also feel like I'm diving head first into open water. I don't know how deep it is, and in some areas I see nothing but a spiraling of heavy shadows into an unknown abyss. I try not to go too deep into the shadows, but rather remain right on the edge, floating somewhere between light and dark while thoughts are sprinkled in the depths like coral reefs. Some time ago, I thought I should be worried about thinking too much. But, I get so much more from it that sex turns out to ultimately shape who I am and what I want.

My sex, and the sex of the people I shared it with (however you want to take it) creates characters like Tabitha.

We see her in a time of crisis. I won't go too much into detail because I'm still fleshing it out, but let's just say that she comes to a critical point of her life when she's desperate for something to change. She's desperate for salvation. And, in the nick of time, she meets Demetria, a supernatural creature who will save her... for a price.

Tabitha is charmed by Demetria, and thinks nothing more of taking Demetria's aid. And to take her mind away from the trauma she's just suffered, she becomes an open vessel for Demetria to fill. She gives herself over willingly to escape not only the abrupt brutality she's suffered through, but also to confront her own morality, and how she might have played a role in her own destruction. Sex with someone who has saved her, and the chemistry that builds between them, becomes very potent for Tabitha. For someone (or something) like Demetria, Tabitha becomes a very willing part of her ultimate plan.

Here are the elements: Sex as a means of escape or therapy; vulnerability expressed in sex and trauma; finding yourself through sex... while trying not to think too much.

As you can tell, my mind tends to work like a funnel. Big concepts usually come first, eventually leading to a point, or finer details that give us the plot and structure of the story. I had been trying to get to that point for quite some time and accomplished this just recently.