ARTICLE POST: Planner or Spontaneous

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Are you a planner or the spontaneous type? I rest somewhere in-between the two. On one side, I love to plan–I spent $14.99 on a calendar app, yes, a CALENDAR APP. Sometimes I can’t believe it myself, but then again it’s probably the only app I haven’t regretted buying, and literally use it to list day-to-day tasks and events (It even color-codes! yaaaas). Then on the opposite spectrum, I am so spontaneous–I love surprises and surprising, and trying new things. If you’re my friend, I’ve surprised you once or twice, just for the heck of it.

The type of person and my personality is reflected in my methods as a writer. Every idea has been a result from a spontaneous actions I’ve taken, but if I wasn’t a planner, I would NEVER finish a book. Why you ask? Because behind spontaneity, there is no real sense, it’s purely force of will and desire–a rush of adrenaline. I have this general surge of excitement about an idea, but it’s only a matter of time when I run out of gas, and that’s where my planning side comes into play. Drawing up maps of connections between the characters, listing personality traits and physical appearances, accounting the pasts of each character until they’re real-life people to me, timelining all the events of the world, and outlining a whole series is ridiculously fun to me. It might be because I’m a bit of a controlling, methodical person, and as the holder of the pen, I possess all the power–to kill, to resurrect, to bring together, to separate forever.

But I think every writer needs to be spontaneous. Not only does it open new avenues into your writing, it’ll also reveal hidden doors to amazing discoveries. A writer needs to be open-minded to the outrageous. But they also need to know how to rein in the crazy so that they can get the most out of it.

As you might know, my first published book, KARNAGE, was a self-published book and also a baby of a seventeen-year-old’s spontaneous idea. It some ways, I may have rushed the publishing of this first book. There wasn’t much planning involved and it ended up just being straight doing. I’ve definitely slowed down the pace with the second installment of the series, KALCYON, which is scheduled to release late January, as I am taking the steps of marketing it before its release.

I’m also writing a new manuscript for a new series, titled DEATH WISH UNDONE. I’m hoping to get this series published through traditional methods. I’ve already pitched it to two agents who both found the idea intriguing and asked me to send the first 50 pages of the manuscript. I haven’t sent it to them yet, but I’m hoping to send it out soon. This manuscript was a product of much planning and not much spontaneity. In my opinion, while the world building is much more solid, I feel the story still lacks a spicy kick of sorts and I’m trying to figure it out before I send it.

Anyway, when all is said and done. If you’re the planning type, go out and do something spontaneous. If you’re the spontaneous type, sit down and write down a plan or outline. Either way, you’ll be surprised with the results you get and the ideas that will form!

Check out my young adult fantasy book Karnage (The Phoenix Ashes Book 1)! If you love special powers, dragons, and fantastical worlds then you’ll enjoy it!

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ARTICLE POST: Constructive Criticism Revisions

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The writing process can be a very daunting experience. Some writers will be blinded by the bright overbearing blank pages that are waiting to be filled with a string of seemingly common words woven into something profound and meaningful, while other writers wear goggles as they fill pages and pages of content, most of the time all rubbish. But like everything in life, you need to find the happy medium and be willing to make changes in your work. Adaptability means survival.

Recently, a new manuscript idea came to me and I got really excited and scribbled everything about it in my notebook. Upon returning home, I began compiling a complete series outline before starting to write (something I promised myself I would do from now on). I hadn’t thought about the smaller details of the book and as I wrote my outline I began filling them in where I could. What I ended up with was a goldmine! Or so I thought … I was wearing googly goggles. And I didn’t realize it until I went to my family and pitched the idea to them.

First, I pitched the story to my older sister (27 years old). She had questions but was overall interested in the concept and said it was an original idea that she would like to read. I could’ve stopped there, because validation is the only feedback you want to hear. WRONG, writers keep fishing! So, I went to my mother (55 years old) and I pitched the same story to her. However, she said that even though the idea was unique, it wasn’t grabbing her attention. I can argue that it’s because of her age difference, as this book is a young adult book, however she also read my first fantasy romance young adult novel and said it was very interesting, so it’s not really a valid argument. Then finally, I asked my little sister what she thought (19 years old). She’s the closest to my reading audience, so in a way, her opinion matters the most in this situation. She agreed that the idea was interesting, but admitted that it was a bit confusing for her to understand.

One approval. One denial. And one wishy-washy interest. Something was definitely wrong. For a pitch, I need three unquestionable approvals. So, I took a second look at the outline I had written and realized that each of them was right to a certain extent and that I needed to do some heavy duty revising, even if it meant scrapping chunks of my concepts. So this is what I observed:

First, the premise of the story is strong and original and I need to work out a few details, but they’re minor.

Second, I need to develop a more gripping pitch summary. This is really important since I’m planning on pitching this manuscript idea to two agents at a writing conference I’ll be attending in October.

Third, the series is in desperate need of some simplifying. Sometimes, more is not always more, less is. I realized that just because I make a story more complicated by adding more twists and turns, it doesn’t make it any more interesting; it actually takes away from the main idea because it gets lost under all that gunk, no matter how glittery and shiny said gunk may be.

As a writer, whether creative or academic you must be open to constructive criticism. Most of the time you’re so enraptured by your creation that you turn a blind eye to major problems that others see. So you need to ask a variety of people, revise, then ask again, revise, ask, revise, ask, and repeat until the answers are somewhat in the same ball park. Remember, you won’t be able to please everyone, but you shouldn’t be aiming for that as a writer–your job is to write something that remains true to yourself that hopefully others will enjoy as well.

ARTICLE POST: The Pen vs. the Keyboard

The Phoenix Ashes Trilogy

Where do writers come up with some of their stories? Some of the worlds created in these portable pieces of magic we call books, are insanely descriptive, as if they truly exist. And whether it is in our minds, or another dimension we cannot see, these worlds are real to those who read it. So the question is, where do these authors come up with their ideas for books?

Sipping on a piping hot cup o’ joe in a small nondescript cafe?

Venturing the blazing deserts of Egypt?

Dreaming during a very deep REM cycle?

Spinning around in the office chair making sense of the passing blurs?

I’m positive the experience is very different among the millions of writers out there. One thing I do know for sure, is that these ideas come completely unannounced, so you really need to be ready for it. You know that feeling when you leave your house in the morning and the sky is shining blue–a few clouds shaped as bunnies pass by–but then all of a sudden it starts to rain and you don’t have an umbrella, so you get drenched? That’s what I feel like when I get an idea and I don’t write it down, and I’m sure I’ve lost one too many good book ideas this way, which is why I always carry around a notebook. I’m old school like that. Yes, I know we live in a time where technology is prevalent in all aspects of our lives and I can bust out my handy-dandy iPhone 5s (did you see what I did there??) and type my idea in my notepad app, but I love notebooks and I love to scribble.

I have notebooks galore. I never really need them, but if I come across a beautiful one, then I can never really say “no” to buying it. My shopping addictions aren’t the point of this article, the point I’m trying to make is that I think everyone should carry some form of paper & pen with them at all times.

You not only want to write sudden epiphanies and ideas, but you also want to be able to draw, and you will always be limited with the ability to draw on your phones–the screens may be getting bigger, but your fingers aren’t getting any less fatter!

There are actually scientific studies that say those who practice the art of paper and pen (ok, it’s not actually called that) are more productive and creative. I imagine it has to do with the way your mind works. Your brain is shooting specific nerves to make your fingers move to click the right button. When you type, you’re just clicking a button, each button has a different letter on it, but all in all at the end of the day, it’s still just a button. Your fingers move more by muscle memory as you’re taught at a young age that your left index finger rests on the letter “f” while the right one should be on the letter “j.” However, when you use a pen to write, you are physically moving your hand to write the letter “i” and you can’t forget to dot it or it might look like a midget “L.” When you’re actually writing the word, ideas flow naturally through your mind right onto the page.

I tend to lean toward blank notebooks (because I’m a rebel and I refuse to be confined to the social standards of using lines! jk). Blank notebooks allow me to scribble, write very tiny for ants to read or very large for giants, and draw as if I’m the next Leonardo da Vinci.

Notebooks are like a diary and everyone has had a diary at one point or another (pssst–I still have one today at the ripe age of 24). You can pick up a notebook you wrote passing thoughts in years later and it may strike a chord in you or remind you of something important that you forgot. Those fleeting ideas that seemed trivial may be the next big thing. After a couple days, weeks, or years, if you look back on a simple idea, then you may see it in a different light and it can evolve into a beast of an idea you never imagined it could.

It’s 1:30am in the morning on a Thursday and I’m writing about notebooks and pens, while ironically typing it all on a keyboard. Anyway, give yourself a chance to be creative and carry around a notebook/pen for a month and see what you can come up with–I guarantee you’ll be surprised.