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Flowers and Spring and Writing



I've been trying so hard to take positivity from the fresh air and new life - the green leaves and flowers - but warm weather brings on my seasonal depression far more than winter. I think it's because it's so beautiful outside that I feel such a disconnect from everything around me. Just like holidays, I feel the pressure to be happy. And because of that, I actually feel worse. But I am trying.

Writing has also been tough lately. I'm more anxious about how my current WIPs will be received than I was about my first book's release in 2015. Self-doubt is killing my creativity on a regular basis over the last year, and I don't know what to do. I've certainly had writing anxiety before, but it has never happened with such intensity and frequency. It never really got in the way of my work. Until now.

In a way, I think all the interacting I'm trying to do with other writers on Twitter has been draining me and making me doubt myself more. I appreciate the idea of community, but as with a lot of social things - or maybe all social things - I often feel more alone when I try to connect, and fail. My process is so different from most of the other writers. And that's totally fine. But I don't know. Finding a community just never really works for me. I always feel on the outside looking in.

I've learned a lot from listening to other writers talk about issues in writing and publishing. And for that, I'm grateful. But constantly worrying about whether those people would approve of my stories has been making me so sick that I cannot work. And it's not their fault. That's just where my anxiety takes me. The other writers have been kind and supportive. But it's all very casual, and that's not the connection I'm craving. And any socializing is incredibly draining to me, so it has to be worth it.

What's the right amount of casual socializing for me? I don't know. Some of the discussions have been really enjoyable and motivating. But writing, to me, is about feeling immersed in story and characters. I want to discuss story... not writing, if that makes sense. I want to connect with another writer one-on-one. But it has to be the right match. And I don't know where to find that any more than any other deep connection with another human being.

My birthday is coming up in about a month. This tends to trigger emotional crashes. So, maybe I should pull away for a while. Get immersed back into story instead of all the technical examinations of writing. That's what I want to do. But I don't want to lose the little bit of connection I have found, since it's so rare.

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The Destination is Important, Too

Health issues combined with continuing depression about life and the state of the world have made writing scarce these past few weeks. But I opened my windows today for the first time in ages, and I feel like I can breathe again. If you know me well, you'll know I'm not exactly a summer person. I get terribly overheated in the sun, keep my room fans all year, and wear a tank top and shorts if at all possible. (Seriously - middle of the winter, tank top and shorts.) But don't get me wrong, I don't particularly like winter, either. Snow is pretty from indoors, and luckily, I work from home and can stay out of it most of the time. I favor the in-between seasons. Spring and fall. More fall than spring these days, since the arrival of spring just makes me fear the summer and my birthday. But I love the breeze. Jane is an Air Element for a reason.

I just remembered this bit of advice I left when posting a song many years ago, and it still rings true: "And seriously, the biggest piece of advice I have for writers who are in the midst of a huge writer’s block, or have ideas but can't seem to get motivated enough to write... is open your window." Maybe some of you are more drawn to the scent of fresh earth or rain or the ocean, but I feel like most creative people have at least one major connection to nature. And it's good to reconnect.

Anyhow, I spent the day reading with the windows open, and I feel more alive than I have in a while. (I also packed up some copies of Magic Inc. for my next event!) Some of what I was reading was more Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. Bird by Bird does have some very interesting things to say about writing, and it's a pleasant read. But I'm only deeply connecting to bits and pieces and not the core of the lessons themselves. For instance, I love the idea that characters will form themselves and that you shouldn't betray their personalities for the sake of plot. Also, that you're more a typist for the story that exists out there in the ether or in some other unconscious part of the brain. But I've realized this book is far more a tool for Pantsers than Plotters. The very idea of writing out a first draft with no idea where I was going is terrifying for me. I always need to know where I'm going. Some curves may surprise me, just like any journey. But the destination is important, too, you know.

I planned the majority of the Magic Inc. series before I even started the first book. Some sections of the journey have bigger empty spots waiting than others (which make me nervous if I think about them too much), but as a whole, I know where the story is going. I know my characters' wants and needs. I know the way their stories weave into my other books. And definitely, where it all ends.

But that's pretty far off, so we can just focus on the journey for now.

Inside & Out Book Tag

Swiping another book-related set of questions from elsewhere to post here. This one is the Inside & Out tag. Feel free to take this onto wherever you like to answer questions.

I Inside flap/Back of the book summaries: Too much info? Or not enough? (Discuss)
I really like book summaries, both reading and writing them. Occasionally, I feel like they give away too much, but usually, I like seeing what all the book wants to tease you with. It's probably the most important factor in deciding what I purchase.

N New book: What form do you want it in? Be honest: Audiobook, E-Book, Paperback, or Hardcover?
I love hardcovers. I box up books and move them often, and they take a beating way better than paperbacks. Plus, I just remember the joy of picking up a new hardcover Harry Potter book. Nothing else compared.

S Scribble while you read? Do you like to write in your books, taking notes, making comments, or do you keep your books clean clean clean? (Tell us why)
Clean, clean, clean. Although I like the idea of making notes in books you want to share with friends.

I In your best voice, read for us your favorite 1st sentence from a book.
Well, since I stole this for my blog, I can't do this one. But I'll link to Alexa reading hers, since it's my favorite as well.

D Does it matter to you whether the author is male of female when you're deciding on a book? What if you're unsure of the author's gender? I'd like to say no, but honestly, I read way more from women authors than male. I find books written by male authors tend to be more gory in fantasy, which is triggering for me, or filled with crude jokes in contemporary, which is also triggering. But I don't consiously avoid male authors.

E Ever read ahead? or have you ever read the last page way before you got there? (Do confess thy sins, foul demon!) :)
I have a friend who always reads the end first. (You know who you are!) I've only skipped ahead when it's something I'm considering abandoning. And I used to check all the chapter art when I got a new HP, until I accidently spoiled myself that way in Book 5. Haha.

&

O Organized bookshelves, or Outrageous bookshelves?
Organized. Sort of. I just group books together in a way that makes sense to me at the time, and I only shelve books I've already read and want to keep.

U Under oath: have you ever bought a book based on the cover (alone)?
Possibly? I do love covers and get drawn in or turned off by them, but I can't remember buying any books without reading the synopsis. The cover is the first pull, but it's not enough to sell the book alone.

T Take it outside to read, or stay in?
Reading outside always sounds relaxing, but I'm too twitchy of a person to actually enjoy it.

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Not-so-"Shitty" First Drafts

I am very nearly halfway through the first draft of Magic Inc. Book Two. Well, really, I'm very nearly halfway done with both the first and second drafts of Book Two. Because writing first drafts by computer instead of in a notebook has allowed me to revise sections as I go along. Which I know can be a killer to some writers. Getting all wrapped up in perfecting one small section instead of actually finishing a full draft of their book. I used to be that way when I was a teenager. Forever starting and restarting Dreaming in Shadow and even my fanfiction projects.

But somewhere between then and now, I got into a better relationship with revision. For one, I became more able to do it on my own instead of relying so much on outside opinions of what needed to be changed. I could see more of the flaws with my own eyes. I could also better appreciate which parts needed to stay raw and filled with emotion. The sections that basically spilled out of my soul. So, now, I am writing in scenes as I feel drawn to them and tying everything together later while also revising what I have already. This leaves me with something more resembling a second draft than a first by the time I end each chapter.

Of course, I will need to go over everything again once I finish writing, and I already have noted some scenes that will probably need more additional editing than others, but I feel I'm delivering more polished new chapters by this method. In some ways, I am hoping that streamlining my process will keep me from taking five years to write one book, but it's mostly just the natural progression my writing process has taken.

I've been reading Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird, and mostly enjoying it so far in spite of my hesitation to read more writing tips for fear of feeling even more alienated. Anne's writing is witty and relatable. At least when she's simply talking about the many feelings writers go through and not trying to teach something. Which is to say, I still cannot relate to the "shitty first draft" concept.

I always prickle when writers proclaim that all first drafts are garbage. While I've certainly created work that was flawed and in need of excessive editing, I have not (at least for many years) written what I would consider garbage. Maybe it's because I usually spend years writing a story in my head before I even start the first draft. Maybe it's because I only write when I'm inspired, and therefore, haven't forced whole chapters out of myself before I was ready. Maybe I'm just really bad at writing, and have been doing it wrong all along. I mean, that's always a possibility, I suppose. But I think my process just different from the norm.

I spent some time recently on Miss Masquerade, which has gotten very little attention from me since the release of Magic Inc. Book One. It surprised me how I'd forgotten the ease of working on a real second draft, where the plot had been laid out and all I had to do was make everything flow better. I got to just play with words. Be a writer over a storyteller, because the story was already told. Being a storyteller has always been my priority, but it is nice to have the freedom to not worry about that part. This is why I put so much into my first drafts. So that all I have to do later is polish. It baffles me that writers often say the second draft is the hard part. But I guess that makes sense if what you threw together the first time was "garbage" and you have to change the structure of everything drastically.

I'm certainly no stranger to having structural issues to fix in second drafts, though. Part of the reason I'd forgotten how nice it could be to write a second draft was because my other second draft, Dreaming in Shadow, had a major issue. There was a scene I had meant to include in the first draft that had the potential to break the flow of the entire second half of the book if I put it in now. Okay, it probably was not going to do that. But I am an anxious person, so I agonized over how I was going to fix this issue most of last year. And in the end, when I finally came to the part in the second draft where the scene needed to go, it went. Perfectly. There was a pointless scene sitting there, holding a place for it this entire time. Ugh. So much wasted time and energy. But I'm grateful it all worked out. Now, I just hope the second draft will start to flow again.

So, maybe I can't quite relate to the "shitty first draft". But the feelings of self-doubt that often facilitate the need for them - oh, can I ever relate to those! Doubt is really is my biggest threat to staying productive, besides low energy. Part of the fight actually is against the worry that I'm somehow doing all of it wrong because my process is so different from most writers. That's why I don't like to read writer's tips. They all seem to be the same. And there are so many different ways to be a creative writer.

What matters most is the finished book. So, if part of your process is to write a bad first draft where you let yourself write freely, go for it! But I actually enjoy my planning and "perfectionism"... most of the time. I have a fairly good relationship with it when it comes to writing, at least. The combination of planning ahead but waiting for the right inspiration to hit before actually getting the words down is a good balance for me. Part of the reason I pay so much attention to my first drafts is that I don't want to edit heavily later. I want the emotions to stay raw, while fixing the flow of everything else.

I would encourage new(ish) writers to let your work be raw and imperfect. Don't let your fears keep you in an editing loop, if it means you'll never finish. Know that you can fix issues later. But don't be afraid to take your time, either. And instead of considering first drafts as being "shitty", think of them as an unpolished gemstone. It is still beautiful. It still deserves your respect. And with more work, it will shine.

Music Meme

Rules: you can tell a lot about a person from the music they listen to. Put your music on shuffle and list the first ten songs, then tag 10 people. Take it if you want to!

1. Poe - Hello

2. S Club 7 - Dangerous

3. Sherwood - Gentleman of Promise

4. Erutan - Come Little Children

5. Nobuo Uematsu - Compression of Time

6. Hilary Duff - I Am

7. Linkin Park - Shadow of the Day

8. Adele - Make You Feel My Love

9. Buffy the Vampire Slayer Cast - Walk Through the Fire

10. t.A.T.u. - Show Me Love

A Year in the Life of an Author Redux

This was my first full year as an author, and it feels kind of weird. I've gotten a lot of good work done this year, and I'm grateful for that. I know that finishing my next book is my main mission right now, and that's going fairly well (if slowly). I also did an absolutely terrifying first author event, which took so much personal planning and energy.

But I still feel like so little has changed. Aside from a few moments here and there, I still feel more like a writer scrambling to legitimize her vocation by finishing her first book than an author working on her second. And maybe it's just my predisposition for seeing the negative, but I can't help but be sad that I still don't really have any clue what I'm doing when it comes to marketing and disappointed that Magic Inc. hasn't really found its audience yet.

Year-End Book Freak Out Tag

I feel like I should be blogging about books more (and just blogging more in general). I read quite a lot now. The last few years, I've been reading about 30 books per year. This year, there's a chance I might hit 40. That's nothing compared to some of the most voracious readers out there, but it certainly isn't nothing. I've been trying to find some book vlogger/bloggers to follow, and in the process, stumbled upon this tag. Obviously it's way past mid-year, but I wasn't able to find a similar end-of-year tag yet, and I may forget to look for one once the holidays descend. Sooo, let's just pretend this is an end of year book tag, and I'll amend the questions to fit that.

1. Best book you’ve read in 2016?
Where She Went by Gayle Foreman. I really loved the first book, so I had high hopes for this one. It did not disappoint. As soon as I started reading Where She Went, I fell in love. Something about Gayle Foreman's writing style feels like it was tailored specifically for me. I can't explain exactly what about it appeals to me so much, but it's like breathing in a much needed gust of fresh air. I haven't read any of Gayle's other books, and I'm curious to see if the writing style feels the same or if it's just the way she wrote this series.

2. Best sequel you’ve read in 2016?
While Where She Went qualifies here as well, I'll say City of Glass. After years of saying I would never read Cassandra Clare (here's why), I bought her first two books at my library's book sale last year, and after being encouraged by a friend, read them. And loved them. I mean, really loved them. I then had to decide whether to buy the rest of the books, and if so, how. I tracked down used copies with the original covers and read City of Glass in January. What can I say? I love forbidden romance, and the first three Mortal Instruments books are full of it. The characters are amazing, and the lore is fascinating. Book Three added some interesting new characters to the mix and resolved one of the main plot points in the series. And the ending felt very much like it could have been the end to a trilogy. That's why I've hesitated to read the second half of the series. Book Three ends in such a nice place, and I wanted to let the characters rest. I still have my reservations about reading Cassandra Clare and occasionally feel guilty for giving into the hype. But if I judge the books by what they are, I can easily say it's my favorite series of the last two years. And someday, I'll purchase and read The Secret Country series to assuage my guilt.

3. New release you haven’t read yet, but want to?
SO MANY. But maybe, Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum. Or The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon. Or Remembrance by Meg Cabot. I started rereading The Mediator series to prepare.

4. Most anticipated release for next year?
Either Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth or Once and for All by Sarah Dessen.

5. Biggest disappointment?
I mean, I could say Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. But to be honest, I didn't expect great things from it in the first place. And yet, somehow, even going in with low expectations, I was still disappointed. Maybe even emotionally devastated by the destruction of my favorite series. So, actually, Cursed Child. Definitely Cursed Child. (Runner-up: Something, Maybe by Elizabeth Scott. I mean, it had a book blurb from Sarah Dessen; I expected it to be amazing. I found most of the characters unlikable and the circumstances even worse.)

6. Biggest surprise?
Maybe Cinder by Marissa Meyer? I'd heard a lot of praise over the series but wasn't sure tech-based Cinderella would appeal to me. I loved the writing style, the characters, and the world. And all this is just reminding me that I need to read the second book.

7. Favourite new author (debut or new to you)?
Cate Tiernan. I flew through the first three books in the Sweep series. Loved the main characters and the magic. I have the next six books now, and I'm planning to get back to this series soon.

8. Newest fictional crush?
Probably Aiden St. Delphi from The Covenant series by Jennifer L. Armentrout. Honestly, at this point, I can be hard to please when it comes to other writers' fictional love interests now that I've written my own. I'm not impressed with the way male romantic interests are always described as being out-of-this-world gorgeous. Aiden is no exception to this rule, but he has that watchful protector vibe that I love.

9. Newest favourite character?
Probably still Aiden. But also maybe Dawson Black from the Lux series also by Jennifer L. Armentrout.

10. Book that made you cry?
Basically everything makes me cry. So, it's hard to just pick one. But which books may me cry the most? Either The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger or We'll Always Have Summer by Jenny Han. For very different reasons.

11. Book that made you happy?
I guess I don't read a lot of happy books. But I read Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen, and her books are always a treat. (Bonus: Mink Volume 1 by Megumi Tachikawa. So adorable!)

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Year in Review (Marie Forleo Style)

I was watching Marie Forleo's latest video, and my responses to her questions were getting so long that I decided to turn this into a journal entry. It's been too long, I know. This is only my seventh entry for the whole year. And one was just an excerpt from Magic Inc. But hey, here I am, ready to share more honest, personal thoughts. I suggest you watch the video to understand the questions more in depth, and maybe, make your own list because this felt really cathartic to me. But that's up to you!

1. What’s one thing you did that you’re proud of?
I participated in my first author event/signing. Which was incredibly scary and required a lot of emotional preparation. But I think, considering how hard it is for me to do anything social, I coped well with it. And it was because it was something I really wanted to do, instead of something I felt pressured to do. Plus, I got everything ready ahead of time, which helped calm my anxieties a lot. That could be part of what I learned this year, as well. That giving myself enough time to prepare can really help my anxiety. It won't make it go away, but it does help. I've also put a lot of effort into my second book, and I feel like my writing has improved and I've figured out better ways of working that suit me and my process. It can be hard not to look ahead and see over half a book left to write, but what I have written is some of my best work to date. And it is because I am taking my time with it.

2. What’s one mistake you made and the lesson you learned?
My mistakes are mostly personal, but I think, as always, I struggle too much with worry about what other people will think. I know myself and what I want, and I don't let anyone change that. I don't hide my true self, and I don't fake anything. But I still get triggered way too often by stuff I read on Facebook and the like that I feel is making a judgment on who I am (which sometimes is true, but is often just my perception). I also still judge myself based on other people's accomplishments far more than I ever spend celebrating my own. But I've never been good at celebrating myself, so I'm not sure how to change that.

3. What’s one thing you’re willing to let go of before the New Year?
I have lots of projects I still feel will find their way in the right timing, so I don't want to let go of them completely. I have been doing a lot of physical clearing in my life, though. Going through old clothes, jewelry, magazines, and various papers I no longer need. As well as making a habit of donating books, DVDs, and CDs I don't see myself revisiting. I'm a collector, so I like having a lot of stuff, but it's still important to check with yourself - will I use this again and/or does it have deep meaning to me? You don't have to save absolutely everything. Along with that, I'm trying to keep myself from feeling committed to finish any book series, video game, or TV series that doesn't really capture me. There are so many beautiful stories that will resonate with you, and there just isn't enough time to waste on stories that don't. I tend to try to see the best in creative works, and I have to remind myself that I don't have to like everything. And my not liking something isn't necessarily saying it's objectively bad, just not my cup of tea.

In terms of resentments and guilt, that's a lot harder to let go of. I've quarreled a lot with relatives in the last few years, finally having to block some truly toxic people. Ideally, you would be able to cut off toxic people without holding onto resentment, just forgive and let go (without letting them back in to cause more damage). But that's rarely the case. And for those people who have hurt you without meaning to? The ones you want to forgive and move on with? Maybe that's even harder. And perhaps worst of all, when you're holding onto anger with a person you are currently stuck living/dealing with. Someone you would cut off for good if you could, but life isn't perfect and you have to deal with people you don't like sometimes. And you feel you can't really let go of that anger because you have to continue guarding against them. But at the same time, that anger is killing you, not them. “Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” Ugh. So true. And yet that doesn't make it easier to let go. At least not for me.

Well, there you have it. I'm not sure I'm completely ready to let go of this year and move into a new one, especially knowing at least one bad thing January has in store. But I do feel like I've opened myself up more and given myself the opportunity to think deeply about all of this. Sometimes even I avoid feeling things if I can manage it. (I usually can't, but if I can... oh, man.) The year ahead scares me. But I encourage you all to follow your heart and intiution. To speak out against injustice. And to be kind. The world desperately needs it right now.

A Year in the Life of an Author

Well, it's been a year since Magic Inc. Book One became available for purchase. It has been a very stressful, often traumatic year, so it's hard for me to revisit this milestone with much enthusiasm. However, Magic Inc. represents not only the five years I spent writing it, but the five years of planning before starting it, the many years spent honing my craft before that, and all the passion and pain I felt in my childhood that led to my writing in the first place.

Magic Inc. was my childhood fantasy world. One I never expected to share. One I was scared to invite anyone into. But here it is, one year later. And nothing has exploded. No one has been overly disruptive or unfair in their judgment of the book. But it also hasn't taken off in any big, positive way. Maybe that's what the first year looks like for most indie authors. But it's hard not to get discouraged sometimes. Not to let the success I've yet to find get in the way of writing Book Two. When both your personal life and your "career" are having problems, it is doubly hard to fight off your anxiety and depression.

I do know that, in some ways, I am very lucky. I was able to print my books without putting myself or my parents into any kind of debt. I was able to get a beautiful, personalized cover for my books that some writers could not afford. And my family and old friends have all been supportive of me and my work. Not just now that I have something to show for it, but every step along the way. I mentioned in my last post that I've been reading some of my old fanfiction. I've also been reading some of the reviews I saved from those stories. "I don't doubt you will be an author," my friend, Mallory, says in one comment.

And now, I am. All the work I've put into writing since I was eleven has come together in my first book. First of many, I hope. I certainly have enough ideas to last a lifetime, if not two. Though I still get nervous. What if it just suddenly stops? I don't know how to write from a technical place. I write almost completely based on inspiration and intiution. That actually works for me, in spite of what many other authors will try to advise. I don't really think I could live without writing, but I do worry that I will somehow stop being able to put together whole books. I've already spent a lot of time working on (and worrying about) the outline for Book Three when Book Two isn't even done yet. Ah, I guess that's just life for an anxious writer.

I'd like to take this moment to thank anyone who has read (and particularly reviewed) Magic Inc. Or given me feedback on my writing at any point. It all led up to this. While I became an author only a year ago today, I've been writing for sixteen years. And it was all part of the journey to get to this point. I still have a long way to go, but I will try to step forward with faith that this is the path I am meant to take. When you're a writer, you have to write. It's just who you are.