By Collin Suttle, Student Contributor

“One of the gifts of being a writer is that it gives you an excuse to do things,…” Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird

For as long as I can remember, I’ve heard authors talk about how hard writing is. I’ve heard them talk about the satisfaction of progress made, or the reward of writing a story well: you put in work for fifteen years and, somewhere down the line, you have a poem or two you don’t hate, or a few checks from stories you sold. But gifts are not the same things as rewards. Rewards are earned; gifts are freely given. And I can’t say I’ve ever heard a writer talk at length about the gifts of writing.

When I read that quote by Anne Lamott, though, it put me in a new frame of mind. Have I been grateful for writing enough? Not for the things I write, but for the gifts that writing gives me even before I open a notebook?

The answer is, of course, “Not at all.” So, in the interest of mindfulness, the cultivation of a thankful spirit, and list-making, here is my Top Five Gifts That Writing Gives Me, with some significant help from Anne Lamott and Bird by Bird.

1. Excuses to do cool stuff

There is nothing I love more than going into my local library to look up something weird. A few weeks back, I checked out half the section on radioactivity. (None of the books dished on X-Men-style mutations.) More recently, I had some difficulties finding books about the history of Romania. Finding books about crematorium practices and death rituals around the world have become something of an annual thing for me.

One of the gifts of being a writer is that it gives you an excuse to do things, to go places and explore.

The world is big, and there’s absolutely no reason not to see as much of it as you can, whether through books, the internet, or actual travel. If you’re interested in the world outside yourself, which you must be if you’re telling stories, then why not go see it?

This leads to the next gift, which is…

2. Humility

Another [gift] is that writing motivates you to look closely at life, at life as it lurches by and tramps around.

Writing gives you a free pass to learn about and empathize with the weird, the unexpected, the overlooked, the undervalued, the strangely beautiful. We live in an old and tightly-packed world, and we can only ever know the smallest bit of it. But if you want to write, then you have every reason to find out just a bit more. Widen your horizons and you’ll probably write more humbly; the more voices you hear, the less impressive your own sounds in your ears. Which is always a good thing.

And, yes, this is absolutely a gift, as the direction of character development is always a gift. What’s not to celebrate about this side effect of writing that might gently nudge you to be better than you were the day before, more selfless and thoughtful towards the world around you?

3. Good work

That thing you had to force yourself to do—the actual act of writing—turns out to be the best part. It’s like discovering that while you thought you needed the tea ceremony for the caffeine, what you really needed was the tea ceremony. (xxvi)

One of the best things about finishing my last novel was that the act of writing—the harmony of mental and physical concentration—became good work, in the most spiritually invigorating way.

Even when I knew I wasn’t writing a polished, high-quality draft, I still liked doing the work, because I was writing anyway. I was working at something that I cared about. That’s good work, and the opportunity to do good work is a gift.

4. A place in the Grand Scheme

In this dark and wounded society, writing can give you the pleasures of the woodpecker, of hollowing out a hole in a tree where you can build your nest and say, “This is my niche, this is where I live now, this is where I belong.” And the niche may be small and dark, but at last you will finally know what you are doing.

You’ll never be able to know how long your words last, how many people’s lives you touch with the narratives inside your brain. Maybe you’ll see hundreds of people cheer for you at a major convention; maybe you’ll have a five-star review on Goodreads claiming your poetry changed the reader’s life. Or maybe not.

But knowing the grand sum of your reach is, I’m relieved to say, not necessary. It’d be nice (if it were possible!), but, at your core, you don’t write to know you made a difference. You write because you do. You write because you’re supposed to, and maybe the only person you’ll ever knowingly impact is yourself. That’s fine; that’s one whole person. Anything beyond that, as T.S. Eliot says, “is not our business.”

5. Fun

Writing, for me, is like a jigsaw puzzle. And I love jigsaw puzzles. With writing, not only do I get to worry over all the pieces fitting together just so, I get to choose the picture myself—even color in the more unique portions!

I love prewriting. I love the brainstorming, picking at some knotty problem until it slowly unravels to reveal something fantastic, exciting, intriguing, disturbing, heartbreaking—in other words, something fun. And, as mentioned, I love writing, too, putting all my theoretical formulas and structures into practice, letting the characters gasp awake and promptly ruin all my plans by making them better. I even love editing: paper freshly warm from the printer, the aroma of ink, the pens and notebooks and endless tinkering. It’s the heady feeling of being better at storytelling than the past version of myself, aka the slob who produced the literary equivalent of a greasy old pizza box, which I am now reworking with spit and panache into the Mona Lisa. It’s fun. It’s not everybody’s type of fun, but it’s mine. And having good fun is one of the best gifts of all.


There are bountiful reasons to work hard at storytelling, to know that good writing doesn’t come easy or soon, to remember that your truest, most lasting motivations are easily obscured by the prospect of fame or intellectual vanity or maybe impressing the cute guy ahead of you in the Starbucks line. There are plenty of reasons to remember that writing is hard, and even to be grateful for the hurdles to jump.

But that’s hard in and of itself. It’s nice to remind ourselves, once in a while, of the sweet, easy things that writing gives us, as it graciously ignores our motivations du jour, our issues with time commitment, and the fact that we want to talk about writing more than we want to sit in the chair and write.

Writing can be nice without caveat. We, as our own little subculture, might rethink our relentless onslaught of doom and warnings, and embrace a more easygoing attitude instead. Think of what we have in writing, and write with gratitude in mind!

What gifts have you received from the act of writing?

About Collin

I’m an English graduate from Mobile, Alabama, whose senior thesis was the establishment of a literary journal for the university. (It’s now been taken over by the current senior year and I’m very proud.) When not writing, preparing to write, or complaining about writing, I like to read, crochet, listen to DnD podcasts, and take long walks in the woods. I’m now a page at the local library, bemoaning the fact that pages aren’t allowed to reserve books for themselves while working. My blog, with reviews and biweekly storytelling posts, can be found at sympatheticmagicblog.wordpress.com.

* Please note that links on The One Year Adventure Novel Blog to other websites and blogs do not constitute an official endorsement. We are not intimately familiar with all the writing and opinions contained in outside links.

The post Free Gifts of the Writing Life appeared first on One Year Adventure Novel.

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By Lydia DeGisi, Student Contributor

When I was probably around eleven years old, I read a nonfiction book called Plot by a woman named Ansen Dibell. It was published in 1988, is considered a writing craft cornerstone by no one, and is criticized on Amazon for covering little original ground. I loved it, reading and rereading Plot in the same manner I read novels. This is where I started to learn the facts: You must NEVER “head-hop” between different viewpoint characters within one scene. You must NEVER have more than 20% exposition density. And the plot must ALWAYS come first.

When I was thirteen years old, I began writing my first novel. I didn’t expect to be a bestseller within a year—I went with a more reasonable goal: be published before I’m 18. In fact, I was such a reasonable person that I knew that someone’s first novel almost never gets published, so out of all my ideas, I picked one that could stand to never see a bookshelf. The main character was a 31-year-old gardener who was put in suspended animation for over two thousand years, and when he woke up, he was arrested and sentenced to life in prison for hate crimes against weeds. (Incidentally, all those other ideas I was saving for later have never been touched since).

I discovered writing blogs and literary agent blogs. I soon became an expert in the right and wrong ways to be a writer. You must write messy first drafts, you must write every day, show-don’t-tell, don’t flit around from project to project. I had a few sticking points that I arbitrarily decided to champion: Third person can and should be as deep in the main character’s head as first person! Italicizing thoughts is for losers! Self-publishing can ruin your chances at being traditionally published! Trust me, I know these things—I read a blog by a literary agent.

Over the next four years, I wrote my gardener novel, slowly, so slowly. I would participate in online word wars (competitions to see who can write the greatest number of words in their stories over a day or a set number of minutes) and complain to my mom that I was slower than everyone else I knew. “Maybe your words are of better quality than theirs,” my mom would say.

“Uh, no, Mom, this is a first draft. Everybody knows that first drafts aren’t supposed to be good,” I would say.

“You sure?” she would say.

What does she know? I’d think. She doesn’t even read writing blogs.

When I was fifteen years old, I took a pause while in the middle of that book to do something I’d wanted to do for years: OYAN. After getting the curriculum for Christmas, I gained access to the forum, another platform to tell people my correct opinions taken from blogs. My OYAN was the first book I finished. (It took longer than one year.) I brought it to a couple Summer Workshops. People adored it less than I had dreamed. I went through Story Coaching. I went back and edited most of it, then ran out of time and submitted it to the Novel Contest at 11:59 on the day of the deadline.

I went back to the 31-year-old gardener. The document’s wordcount crept over 140,000. Then, at age seventeen, almost at the book’s conclusion, I scrapped everything and started over at the beginning. I took the new beginning to a Summer Workshop. It turned out to not be particularly good. I had been writing for four years, and only had one book to show for it. Where were all the messy first drafts I was supposed to bang out?

A year later, during a break working at Freddy’s, I had a pen in my hand and a paper napkin under it, and I was determined to have an idea for a new novel by the time I clocked back in. It was the last year I was eligible to enter the OYAN student novel contest, so I had less than a year to come up with the winning book. And, gripping that pen, the idea came—old story ideas to recycle, combine, transform. Over the next few months, I wrote. It was slow. It was weird. It was different from anything I had ever written before. In January, eight months before the contest deadline, I had two chapters, and I had no idea if they were any good. I brought them to my first ever Winter Workshop and was surprised to find, finally, that they were. And one evening during that Workshop, I abruptly thought that maybe, I always wrote so slow because maybe, just maybe, I am not meant to write messy first drafts. Maybe I am not meant to write messy first drafts.

So I wrote, slowly, for the next eight months. I was supposed to get my driver’s license. I didn’t have time for that. I was supposed to pack my things to move to college. I didn’t have time for that.  My desperation increased—I wanted to win the contest, never mind, to final, never mind, to be a semifinalist, never mind, to just finish in time to enter. If I finish in five months, I’ll have three to edit. If I finish in one month, I’ll have one to edit. If I finish in a week, I’ll have a week to edit. If I finish tomorrow, I’ll have a day to edit. If I finish this morning, I’ll have all night to edit.

I finished the novel a few hours before the deadline. I submitted it at 11:58, an improvement from the year before. I realized, too late, that the book had multiple inconsistencies, and, worst of all, I’d left author’s notes apologizing for my mistakes in the document. I despaired of my life.

But I had finished.

The months went by, the contest was judged, and finally, on the night of the contest webinar, I was floored to discover that I was a finalist. Then, a few minutes later, Mr. S announced me as the second place winner. It really wasn’t a messy draft after all.

Six years can make a world of difference. I suppose the most obvious takeaway from my life story is to not take blogs too seriously (she said, on a blog), but that’s not quite right—I’ve been helped immensely by writing advice. It would be closer to say I learned not to take myself too seriously. Don’t worship what you think is the correct writing style, or what you think is your writing style—if from now on, I insisted upon writing pristine first drafts forever, that would be just as bad as before.

“I write for the same reason I breathe—because if I didn’t, I would die,” said sci-fi author Isaac Asimov, whom I named a 31-year-old gardener after, six years ago. So I’ll keep writing, keep evolving. I’ll take myself too seriously again and I’ll self-correct. And then I’ll probably take myself too seriously again, and start over the cycle.

But I don’t mind, as long as each time, I grow a little as a writer.

What misconceptions have you overcome on your writing journey?

About Lydia

Lydia DeGisi is a college student from Kansas, currently double-majoring in English and Biology. She loves insects, science fiction, history, and walking in the rain. In addition to novels, she also enjoys writing poetry and journaling.

The post Blogs are Always Right (and Other Misconceptions) appeared first on One Year Adventure Novel.

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By Tineke Bryson, Staff Writer

Would you like to derive more joy from interacting with words? In “Turn Your Gift with Words Inside Out,” I explored the way we writers often elevate what we can achieve with words above enjoying words for themselves. I shared the challenge I set myself: to turn my priorities inside out by focusing on appreciation instead of being impressive.

I bet lots of you share my desire to enjoy language more. A love of words is how many of us got started writing! But how do we become the kind of people who value words over our own ability with them? How do we become excellent “noticers,” appreciators?

Sometimes, society collapses the categories of writer and fangirl—not that people assume writers are female, but they expect from writers the kind of enthusiasm for reading, movies, and fandoms that popular culture calls “fangirling.” I’m a fangirl and proud of it, but being a fangirl—or fanboy—while fun and positive, is not the same thing as being good at appreciating. Thoughtful appreciation of words goes beyond acting enthusiastic.

What we are after is a countercultural approach to language. In an industry where people get attention by eviscerating the work of others in stinging reviews, elevating the art of appreciation takes effort. Here I share some reflections on the ways I have tried to focus on appreciation instead of on my own ability. I want to be an angel in the details—noticing and pointing out the beauty and strength in the writing of others, and enjoying words for themselves not what I can do with them. I hope you will be inspired to turn your gift with words inside out, too!

Learn about Words

I collect the beautiful words I read and hear. As my friends know, I like to share them in lists on social media from time to time. People often reply with favorites of their own, and I love that! But I also deliberately throw learning opportunities in my path. The internet provides so many opportunities to learn about words. Where I used to read the thesaurus and the dictionary (yes, me too!), now I can sign up for a new word in my inbox every day, and follow users on Twitter who share obscure words and idioms.

I have always kept a pen to hand when reading a physical book, so I can underline interesting ideas, but now I also circle words I don’t know the meaning of, so I can look them up and jot down the meaning in the margins. I love that I can look up a word directly on my smartphone—I don’t have to have a physical dictionary handy. I can do it on the spot.

Read Poetry and Poetic Prose

In Reading Poetry: A Little-Used Tool to Strengthen Prose, Gabrielle encouraged all of us to read more poetry. Poems are just such a wonderful way to enjoy words—the sounds in them, the look of them on the page. Lots of fiction writers craft beautiful sentences, but using words beautifully is especially critical to the craft of a poet. For the most part, poems are also quite short—something I can read no matter how busy I am. My favorites are Edna St Vincent Millay, Gerard Manley Hopkins, and Mary Oliver.

I also love to read nonfiction where there is attention to beautiful language. I find I read these quite slowly, but that’s no slight to them; I am just occupied savoring the writing sentence by sentence. Find a book like that and “sip” from it every day.

Become a Fan of a Lesser-Known Writer

It’s easy to join the throngs of people who admire J. R. R. Tolkien, Jane Austen, and Ray Bradbury. In a sense, it’s even relatively easy to pick out why we admire them. Having studied Jane Austen’s novels in minute detail in high school, I have an education on how to appreciate her work. But Austin doesn’t need another fan. Lesser-known writers—and writers who aren’t even very talented—do. Writers you would have a hard time getting approved to write about in school because they’re not important enough to warrant scholarship.

In coaching writers, I quickly learned how much less effort it takes to notice what is wrong with a story than it is to identify what is right. Our brains are very good at finding flaws, cracks, problems, and worrying over them. We naturally obsess over a cruel comment more than a compliment. The same is true when we read. We notice ourselves reacting negatively and—if we’re editors—set ourselves the task of figuring out why. I have to balance this tendency with decisions to notice and appreciate what is good. Not just to avoid crushing the souls of the authors, but so that I don’t turn into a lazy consumer.

I challenge you to pick a writer of mediocre success, someone with potential who also has weaknesses, and study their work. Really study it. Learn how to explain their strengths, appreciate the themes, talk them up. Your “noticing muscle” will grow stronger.

Become a Fan of Your Competition

Along similar lines, you can’t do better than by choosing to champion the work of somebody who shares your own writing traits and aspirations. As writers, it’s hard not to fear and resent other writers who are pulling off what we wish we were doing ourselves. The story I shared in my previous post about my feelings while reading Katherine Rundell’s work is a case in point. It takes special grace to choose to actively admire the work of a “rival” instead of ignoring it. It takes a special humility to vocally support them and recommend them to others.

Become a Referential Writer

One of my favorite writers is Robert Macfarlane. I love to read his books because of his precision of language; he writes beautifully about nature; but I also really admire him because he’s a highly referential writer. By “referential,” I mean that he writes about other writers. He loves to bring a somewhat obscure landscape writer into his own work, exploring their ideas and strengths. Opening one of his books is like setting off on a treasure hunt. I gather clues to other books and poems and art to track down and enjoy. Macfarlane doesn’t seem to suffer from a fear of being derivative or unoriginal. He lends his considerable talents to introducing and praising other writers. I have noticed that since I started reading his books, I am much more likely to quote from other writers in my own work. His example has freed me from a false need to distract my readers from the source material of my own ideas. I now want to be in a conversation more than I want to be on stage.

Find New Heroes

To piggyback on the last suggestion: choose to admire appreciators. We do slowly take on the traits of those we admire. I admire Robert Macfarlane because he is so gifted at appreciating others. I also admire this same impulse in some of my editor friends: people who give their energy and ability with words to building up others. Such people are my heroes. It’s fine to admire a writer just because their books are great, but we need examples in our life of writers who use their platform to encourage others. On a smaller scale, ask yourself who of your acquaintance is good at encouraging people and noticing strengths and beauty. Then study that person’s behavior.

Thanks for reading! I wish you joy in words! I wish for you release from the pressure to impress! I will continue to work hard at these appreciation habits—I want to finish my life having truly noticed and reveled in the beauty all around me, including in the writing of others.

If you’ve got an appreciation suggestion for me to try, let me know in the comments!

About Tineke

I live in the center of a pretty complicated Venn diagram, right where fiction and nonfiction, creating and editing, and North American, European, and West African culture meet. I grew up abroad, and before joining The One Year Adventure Novel, I worked as an editor.

My husband and I presently live in Edinburgh, Scotland. (Read about my move in “Musings on Adventure from an Anxious Protagonist”.) I’m also The One Year Adventure Novel‘s resident creative nonfiction enthusiast. An especially avid reader of landscape writing, I also love British and African history, reading middle-grade fiction, and collecting moths.

Read more posts by Tineke »

The post Angel in the Details: How to Excel at Appreciating appeared first on One Year Adventure Novel.

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By Tineke Bryson, Staff Writer

Why do we writers have an ability with words?

If you’ve been following this blog for long, you might realize this is a theme I have written about before, in The Burden of Purpose. Since that time, I’ve carried on turning over rocks.

I don’t know about you, but when I first learned I had an ability with words, I immediately assumed it could only be for one reason: I was destined to publish books!

I was eleven. Mrs. Patterson called me into her office, and beaming, told me what a lovely “View from My Classroom Window” assignment I had written, and that she saw some talent in me. I felt extraordinary happiness. Yes, one day I would publish a book! I would make Mrs. Patterson even prouder!

Before this fateful day, my book-making was not based on any idea of being especially good at it. It was just something I wanted to do. Now I turned from simply enjoying writing and illustrating stories to the serious matter of becoming a writer. My attempts to impress were nothing promising. They included a mystery novella, Oh, Those Purple-Black Eyes in the Dark! I had no idea what purpose those eyes played in the plot, but I considered the story very romantic! My new teacher, Miss Campbell, carefully hid her smile.

Poems about lost love, war, and other causes of untimely death followed. I did not see anything grandiose in attempting a lament for Jephthah’s daughter or epitaphs for my own tombstone. These were the subjects of serious writers, after all.

It was in high school that my writing received some tempering. I had a no-nonsense English teacher who drew from me increasingly measured writing.

When I later studied under poet and essayist John Leax in college, I lamented that I never got to take dedicated creative writing classes in high school. All I had done besides write essays was fill journal after journal. His bemusing reply: “I’m glad you only journaled. It taught you to write without being self-conscious about it.

But in all these years, my childhood assumption stood. It seemed a foregone conclusion that God had given me a gift with words so I could publish books.

Today, this unnerves me. I didn’t see that there could be more meaning to my love for words. And I don’t just mean that this ability translated into good grades and job performance. I saw those side benefits all along. Neither do I mean that I should have had higher goals than merely getting published.

I mean that my ability with words is foremost about appreciation, not accomplishment.

Does that sound preachy? Am I wrapping a consolation prize in expensive paper? As writers, many of us secretly rank other people as writers, editors (*cough* failed writers), and finally readers. Our gut might say, “Those with true skill publish their own books and appreciate on the side.”

That’s not true. Could we look an English professor or literary critic in the eye and say, “Those with the greatest ability with words publish their own books”? And, if editors are failed writers, why do we pay them to fix our work?

There is more than one way to be good with words. We acknowledge this to some extent, if we’re humble (or at least trying to be), but how many of us could say we would be just as proud of being an astute appreciator of words, as we would be of a publishing contract?

Most of us still think being a published author ourselves is the best-case scenario. And even if we respect editors and literary critics, etc., it’s still because they use words for personal accomplishment. How many of us could stand to be “just” a reader, forever?

This is what I want to critique: the idea that a gift with words is intended for recognition of our ability.

Why are we writing? Are words and stories enough for us in and of themselves? And if words give us pleasure, why does it matter if it was us who strung the beads or somebody else?

Yes, there’s a special pleasure in working directly with words ourselves. We aren’t motivated only by dreams of recognition; we also write simply because we enjoy creating. Yet longing to write shimmering sentences and scenes is not the primary reason we balk at being known only as a reader.

Over the past few years, I have set myself a challenge: to turn my assumptions about ability inside out.

This challenge cuts deep. I have always savored words—their sounds and etymologies. As a teen, I kept a list of my favorites (goblin, periwinkle, smog…), and I still collect interesting words. But I also kept a book for copying out beautiful passages, and my response to these was pleasure mixed with resentment. Each new beauty was an opportunity stolen from me. I would not be able to write that sentence myself now. Such bald arrogance! But underneath the arrogance was insecurity. How was I to make my mark on the literary world when, day by day, writers were plundering the possibilities of the English language?

Have you ever marveled at how many people write? I know lots of writers because of my work with The One Year Adventure Novel, but my job also prompts people who aren’t in the program to tell me about their dreams to write a book. I sometimes wonder if literacy populates all societies through time with would-be authors?

My instinct is to fear—or condescend to—this bewildering crowd of writers. They are either competition or a painful reminder of how ordinary my ambitions are. But, instead, I could view these writers and their works as more opportunity to enjoy words!

My reaction to Katherine Rundell’s novel Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms is a good example. Rundell, like me, spent her childhood between worlds; the novel is set in Zimbabwe and England. The writing evokes strong sensory memories from my own past in Africa. Reading it, I was all admiration, but also aghast. I felt as though she had gotten there first—that if she hadn’t written Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms, I might have. Well, a version set in West Africa.

But even if I could produce a novel like hers, the truth is, I haven’t. She has. How intolerable to resent a fellow writer when I could, instead, aspire to be her biggest fan. I am in a special position to appreciate her word choices and her imagery. Because of my ability and my past, I can, perhaps, offer appreciation like few others could.

Because isn’t that, too, a worthy way to use my gift with words? To receive the creation of another person with understanding and respect? It is a worthy purpose whether I am given the opportunity to share with the author or not.

I put it to you. Let’s think in terms of appreciating words and less in terms of using our gift with words. There is something about the expression “a gift with—” that suggests manipulation, even if it’s well-intentioned. Breaking words to shape them to our hand. Words becoming a tool for accomplishment.

I don’t pretend to have mastered this challenge. The success of other writers still stings—this story of reading Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms was not in the distant past! But I am growing into a more layered understanding of my ability. I haven’t managed this by sheer will power, though, so I would like to share with you some practical ways to nurture the art of appreciation. I’ll be back with a second post!

How might you use your gift with words to appreciate the work of others?

About Tineke

Tineke Bryson (Honors in Writing, Houghton College) lives in the center of a pretty complicated Venn diagram, right where fiction and nonfiction, creating and editing, and North American, European, and West African culture meet. Tineke grew up abroad, and before joining The One Year Adventure Novel, she worked as an editor.

She and her husband presently live in Edinburgh, Scotland. (Read about her move in “Musings on Adventure from an Anxious Protagonist”.) She is The One Year Adventure Novel‘s resident creative nonfiction enthusiast. An especially avid reader of landscape writing, Tineke also loves British and African history, reading middle-grade fiction, and collecting moths.

Read more posts by Tineke »

The post Turn Your Gift with Words Inside Out appeared first on One Year Adventure Novel.

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Each Winter Workshop—for One Year Adventure Novel students 18 and older!—has its own unique theme that sets the tone for the week.

This year’s theme, The Road Through, acknowledged that, sometimes, the writing life is painful. Our roads run through Mirkwood, so to speak! Writers, like others, struggle with loneliness, discouragement, health concerns, family problems, and other serious long-term challenges. In light of that theme, not all of these reflections are upbeat. Nonetheless, our week together provided not only insight into writing, but also hope, comfort, and companionship as we journey through our own personal dark forests.

Catherine Haws

Sometimes before moving on to new territory, you must remember where you have been. At Winter Workshop each of the sessions built upon what we already know—but need to be reminded of—about writing and about life. With a solid foundation we can then launch forward into deeper, more meaningful places.

My favorite memory was on New Year’s Eve in the fireside room. We gathered in a circle and shared children’s picture books aloud. Old stories came to life as others heard the words for the first time. Some stories had hardly any words, but the simplicity powerfully captured the emotion and every listener leaned in, invested in the story.

The Workshop felt like a joyous and peaceful family reunion. With this family to remind me where I’ve been, I look forward to walking the Road Through together.

Isaiah Gray

The 2018 Winter Workshop’s theme, “The Road Through,” was probably the grittiest road I’ve traveled at a workshop as of yet. Looking back, and hearing the roads that each of my friends and their stories have been walking on, it became evident to me that every student came from a different end of the forest, and—if only for this brief week—the paths we walked intersected, often all meeting in the middle in a break in the branches above.

This union of each of the student’s humanity made the entire conference feel “alive”—though, maybe in a non-traditional sense. It was a somber event. Even though there were a million laughs, worlds explored, plots developed, and characters taken to a safe place to be developed, not a moment of the conference was a wasted opportunity to spur on the growth of each student as an author, and as a human. More applicably than ever, the speakers, conversation amongst each other, and message of the teaching asked us to capture the humanity within ourselves. It required us acknowledging that to continue to write new wonder in our stories, we must allow ourselves to grow, change, and see things in the new light that awakens on the other side of the trees, past the hills, valleys, hobbling out into its blinding light on sore ankles. We, as humans, are alive, and always growing into new stages of our life. We were challenged to come to terms with the distance we have walked, not just our stories—looking back in order to move forward along the road through.

Jacqueline Oka

In lieu of a photo, Jacqueline requested that we feature a sketch of Jacqueline done by a close friend.

On New Year’s Eve, Mr. S. gave an excellent talk on the use of tertiary emotions and the depth they can bring to a character. For some situations, the consequences of an event have not yet hit home enough for a character to express their mental turmoil directly. Instead, they must process it through a series of other feelings, the core reason very rarely on immediate display. 

This concept is one that has fascinated me for a long time, starting with the observation as an early writer that there are a multitude of ways to cry; weeping, sobbing, and bawling all carry vastly different connotations, but are often used interchangeably within mediocre prose. This inaccurate equivalence has never sat well with me, and Mr. S. helped to pinpoint why: reaching that breaking point of actually shedding tears often has a build-up to it that cycles through a wide range of reactions before finally achieving salinity. If these precursors are not first explored, it’s no wonder that poor prose tries to combine the soft defeat of weeping with the uncontrollable nature of a sob. 

Although the phrase was never directly mentioned, Mr. S.’ s talk struck me as a literary explanation for the Five Stages of Grief. Most people have endured loss or sorrow in some regard, making the concept of delayed “core” emotions an immediately familiar one. As Mr. S. succinctly put it, “People have subtext.” As Yoda more verbosely put it, “Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.” 

This progression of slowly-developing emotions should be implemented for your character’s reactions to have realism and depth. They bring a human element to difficult feelings, using subconscious but recognizable patterns. As Mr. S defined it, “Find the derivative and unexpected emotions; the ones connected, but not the precise ones.”

Aidan Bender

This workshop struggled.


We aren’t children anymore. Life isn’t rosy and innocent. Life is hard. Unlike past workshops, WW18 refused to live under the impression that life can be escaped or conquered. Life can’t always be conquered. Sometimes, life wins.

We lose.

I came to this workshop empty. There was nothing I had to give. I stood in silence for the first twenty minutes after I arrived watching Garrett scribble in his notebook.


Mr. S opened the week with a short explanation of the theme. There was no big reveal or complex explanation.

“The road through is Mirkwood,” I remember him saying. A dark place, a hard place. I knew that feeling. I . . . had that feeling. Life is a road through Mirkwood. It tantalizes us with temptations, bites at us with snares.

I didn’t share my road at workshop. I was empty. Other people, however, were not. They privileged me with the chance to walk on their roads, even for a short distance: listening in a quiet corner, their words and their tears and their life crashing into mine as I sat with nothing to give in return but silent empathy.

My mentor session with Mr. S became less of him saying “here’s what I think your writing could use” and more of the two of us simply . . . talking. About life. Writing. The Road.

I didn’t know that I needed that.

All of this.

Although to be honest, I left workshop the way I came.


At the same time, however, I also left with a tiny, tiny part of me full. Very, very full. Full of the tears of other people, full of the wonders of other people, full of the roads of other people.

Their roads aren’t over.

Neither is mine.

But . . . we keep walking.

Emily Steadman

Every New Year’s Eve at Winter Workshop, we clear away the tables and chairs in the main room and rig up the speakers to play various ear worms. Chatter fills the room; friends pray, laugh, and play cardgames; some of the braver ones dance around to their favorite songs.

I stand along the wall, my arms slung around the shoulders of friends I’ve grown up with and friends I’ve just met. The room is filled with people who know me, who have prayed over me as I’ve wept and who I’ve laughed with until my stomach hurt. People who love the Lord and love to write and love each other. And as I look at each of their faces, I realize how lucky I am to begin and end every year with them.

As midnight approaches, someone turns off the lights and we all turn to the projector displaying the giant digital clock. In unison, we count down the seconds, our voices building. Midnight strikes and we all scream New Year’s greetings to each other as someone starts playing “Auld Lang Syne.”

None of us know what the new year will bring—whether we’ll grapple with writer’s block or land a publishing contract, start blogs or pound out college papers, whether we’ll see each other again or if this is the last workshop we’ll ever attend. We don’t know. What we do know is that right here, right now, we stand together.

And on that night, hugging friends old and new as we sing with wet eyes and strong voices – that togetherness is enough.

For auld lang syne, my dear; for auld lang syne

We’ll take a cup of kindness yet, for auld lang syne.

Lela Grattet

If you look up quotes on being loved versus being understood you will find an array of opinions. Some say it is better to be understood than to be loved, others argue the opposite. A few point out that we fear being understood without love. It does seem, however, that there is an agreement that it is hard, if not impossible, to experience both.

I had a traumatic event last year that left me on an emotional island. My hope of getting off was getting to the Winter Workshop.

Then I made it. I was there with my dear friends. We clicked back together like little puzzle pieces, learning about each other and making memories to last us until next time.

Yet my island was still intact. No one joined me on the island, I didn’t move to a new one. I was still stuck on that beach of lonely, looking out at the ocean and spotting other islands.

I struggled with guilt for feeling isolated. In reality I am not. I was surrounded by people who cared about me, though they didn’t understand. I didn’t expect them to. My experience was mine alone.

But they love me. They listened and empathized. They swam out to my island though they couldn’t come ashore. And that is because they love me. Not because they understood what I was going through.

And I can’t understand what any of them are going through either; that is their journey. All I can do is look at their islands from a distance and swim over now and then. Which I do because I love them.

Just because we are each living on our own islands does not mean we can’t swim in the ocean together.

If you’ve been to more than one of our workshops, what’s your favorite theme we’ve used?

The post Winter Workshop 2018: In Their Own Words appeared first on One Year Adventure Novel.

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By Daniel Schwabauer

It’s painfully familiar, isn’t it?

You’re four chapters into a novel—a project that recently excited you with its promise of fascinating characters and unexpected plot twists—when you realize your book isn’t going to work. Oh, it could work. If Brandon Sanderson were writing it. Or Stephen King. Or Maggie Stiefvater.

But this book idea got stuck with you. Miserable, fumbling, pathetic, unwriterly you. Someone in the mailroom at Muse Central stuffed inspiration into the wrong box.

Really, why are you still pretending to be a writer? Why don’t you give it up and admit defeat? Your prose is uglier than an airport terminal and less compelling than a dentist’s chair. Your most nuanced characters would fit, with room to spare, in a pizza box. Your plots are as rehashed as a hamburger casserole. Your Beta readers not only don’t respond with feedback, they change their email addresses and move to Venezuela.

Need I go on?

Insecurity is part of every writer’s apprenticeship. It’s the price we pay for loving words and stories so much. We can’t help comparing our work to that of writers we admire. We want to create stories as moving and life-changing as the ones that moved and changed us.

So we set our course by the brightest stars. And it’s not just the best writers we try to emulate. It’s the best works of the best writers. No playwright strives to produce something as good as, say, Titus Andronicus. Instead, we strive for Hamlet or King Lear. We don’t aspire to the “greatness” of Across the River and Into the Trees; we demand of ourselves The Old Man and the Sea or A Farewell to Arms.

Which proves that we have artistic taste. But also that we are a little mad. No one but Hemingway could have produced The Old Man and the Sea. More importantly, no one but Hemingway at the height of his literary powers could have produced it.

Here’s the truth: it is destructive to evaluate yourself as a writer by such impossible standards. If you listen to the voices that tell you how mediocre your words are, you may give up before you have spent enough time as an apprentice to develop your own unique voice and style. You will be tempted to quit when the only real problem with your journey towards artistic mastery is that you haven’t been working at it long enough.

Here then are three things to remember when insecurity sends its nasty little text messages into your mind:

  1. It is normal to feel insecure about your own writing. You dislike it because you saw it born, saw its ugliness and misshapen form. You loved it for its potential, but that potential was never fully realized. The fact you are aware of the ways in which your work fails is proof that you have the artistic talent to be better.
  2. Realize that others don’t see your story this way. Most readers can appreciate a variety of well-crafted sentences. They enjoy different styles, different voices. Which means that they will probably like your work better than you do. They may notice its flaws, but they approach it with different expectations, which means they are more likely to enjoy it for what it is.
  3. It may be tempting to seek validation from awards, financial profit, the flattery of peers, or by prematurely self-publishing a manuscript that isn’t ready. None of these things will cure the feeling of being an imposter.

What might help is teaching yourself to love the discipline of writing regardless of the end result. Any apprenticeship requires time, effort and persistence to achieve mastery. But writing is an especially difficult skill to master. Therefore, learn to love the practice, not just the performance.

When doubt and insecurity whisper in your ear, remind yourself that you aren’t writing to be important, or to be honored, or to show everyone you can do it. You are creating because that’s what creators do. You are writing to entertain, to inspire, to enlighten. Whether you do these things well or poorly is not the most important factor. Not yet. First you must simply practice.

God didn’t just make eagles and whales and leopards. He also made robins and goldfish and moles. And he called all of them good.

How do you combat your writing insecurities?

Daniel Schwabauer, MA, is the creator of The One Year Adventure Novel, Byline, and Cover Story Writing curricula. His professional work includes stage plays, radio scripts, short stories, newspaper columns, comic books and scripting for the PBS animated series Auto-B-Good. His young adult novels, Runt the Brave and Runt the Hunted, have received numerous awards, including the 2005 Ben Franklin Award for Best New Voice in Children’s Literature and the 2008 Eric Hoffer Award. His third book, The Curse of the Seer, released in the summer of 2015.

The post The Apprentice Mindset: Out-Think Your Writing Insecurity appeared first on One Year Adventure Novel.

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By Tineke Bryson, Staff Writer

“When will I write again?” I asked myself. “When I get out of here,” answered my gut.

Over my ten years in the American Midwest, I ran through this inner dialogue so often! I felt in my gut that I needed a change—that if I got a chance to live in a landscape that spoke to me, I WOULD write again. Missouri and Kansas had their beauty spots, but when I tried to find meaning in them, I felt as though I were trying to pick up a toothpick with an oven mitt. As a writer who works with nature motifs, this was a big problem.

But this conviction bothered me. I mean, creativity shouldn’t depend on place, right? If I were really a good writer, I would write anywhere, wouldn’t I? Why did I think I would write somewhere else if I couldn’t make myself write here?

Yet when I thought about it, these statements are not about creativity; they’re about discipline. Discipline means being able to write even when you’re uninspired. Discipline means being able to write anywhere. But creativity is a wild animal. It can’t be tamed.

The truth is, creativity is linked to place. There are so many examples of writers whose ideas and well-being are nourished by the places they love. Lucy Maud Montgomery, who wrote the Anne series, was powerfully inspired by Prince Edward Island. J. R. R. Tolkien is another one. His novels are shaped by his experience of walking—and loving—the British landscape.

So why did I feel so badly about myself? I was aware of this close relationship between writers and landscape, yet I wrestled long and hard to forgive myself for needing—and failing to make—that connection.

I finally did move, last year. To Edinburgh, Scotland, a resonant place for me. It’s been amazing to experience that my gut was right! As soon as I went out into the Scottish landscape, I connected with it. And I spotted that wild animal, my creativity.

I stepped outside my front door, put one foot in front of the other, and creativity broke from cover—burst the dams in my mind. I took off my mittens, I bent at the knees, and I pressed my palms to banks of moss, sank the heels of my boots into soaked paths, tilted my head to catch sunlight glinting off miniscule planes on frost flowers. I stood still and listened, identifying each sound as it presented itself to me. I got my nose smudgy on rain-soaked birch trunks, trying out their smell. My mind reached out a tentative hand, and found to its surprise that the wild animal of my creativity paused to let me stroke its ears.

Yet I also discovered that being in nature is not enough. I have to walk. Engage my senses, yes, but move in space. There is just something about walking that rolls thoughts into a cadence. When I am out walking, words and phrases run down my mind like water. I don’t jot them down. I just keep walking. Maybe take a photo to remind me of what I was looking at when the words came.

There is something specific about walking—the movement of walking—that may not only help us think, but be thinking itself.

I love to read nature writing and travel literature generally, but if it’s about traveling on foot, it just enthralls me. I devour Robert Macfarlane’s books. I am reading The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot. He writes: “The compact between writing and walking is almost as old as literature—a walk is only a step away from a story, and every path tells.”

One idea Macfarlane comes back to again and again is that there is a dimension to thinking that involves the senses.

“From my heel to my toe is a measured space of 29.7 centimetres or 11.7 inches,” he writes. “This is a unit of progress and it is also a unit of thought.”

He quotes the philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau who wrote, “I can only meditate when I am walking… when I stop I cease to think; my mind only works with my legs.”

This is true. I come back to my apartment to write the phrases out, but the thinking is pretty much done before I reach my front door.

I venture that other frustrated writers would find breakthrough if they were to walk, too. Not every writer enjoys the outdoors as much as I do. Not every writer has the opportunity or even the ability to walk, especially for long distances. Location, health trouble, disability…there are many obstacles to spending time in nature. But my story—my telling path—teaches us that our senses, and particularly physical movement, are key to new thinking, even if they don’t take the precise form of a walk in the Scottish countryside.

Often, when we are stuck or frustrated as writers, we retreat. We close the doors of our senses, take off our adventure shoes, pull the blinds and try to think. But that’s not how to think. Tracing a trajectory in our minds is not enough. Getting out of the woods creatively won’t happen by looking at a map. We have to move within the confines of our surroundings, our circumstances. We need to experience the world with all our senses. The walking itself will form new thoughts in us.

It’s hard to believe this. Why should we expect new ideas tomorrow, or even next year, if we have no new ideas right now? But walking and intentionally using each of our senses will form new thoughts. Walking is thinking.

I don’t think it’s coincidence that so many of the biblical psalms are pilgrimage songs. Or that the ministry of Jesus was a walking ministry. When you stop to think, a huge chunk of the Bible takes place on foot. That the Hebrews formed their songs while traveling makes sense—they did a lot of traveling, first as nomads and then as freed slaves, freed exiles, and so on. But I think these walking psalms—the “songs of ascent”—also speak to the fact that we are sensory beings, who think and pray best while experiencing our senses. We are not meant to be cerebral when we’re mentally stuck. Staying in our minds does not get us anywhere.

I have always been struck by the simple description of spiritual life as a “walk with God.” It’s so down to earth that I expect the phrase to have been coined by a modern writer—not be in the Bible! But we find it as early as the Book of Genesis. It is God who emphasizes that we are to walk with him. That was an idea he stamped his inspiration on.

Many things could be said, guessing at why God likes this word picture. It certainly makes me wonder what sort of walking companion I am, to God. And what sort of walking companion he is—what this choice of expression says about him. Clearly, walking is important to who we are. It’s not surprising at all that my creative breakthrough came down to one foot set in front of the other. And yes, my real foot. Not just mental steps in my head.

Let’s listen when our minds tell us we need to step outside. Let’s move down the path, all senses tuned.

Have you ever received creative inspiration by moving through your environment?

About Tineke

Tineke Bryson (Honors in Writing, Houghton College) lives in the center of a pretty complicated Venn diagram, right where fiction and nonfiction, creating and editing, and North American, European, and West African culture meet. Tineke grew up abroad, and before joining The One Year Adventure Novel, she worked as an editor.

She and her husband presently live in Edinburgh, Scotland. (Read about her move in “Musings on Adventure from an Anxious Protagonist”.) She is The One Year Adventure Novel‘s resident creative nonfiction enthusiast. An especially avid reader of landscape writing, Tineke also loves British and African history, reading middle-grade fiction, and collecting moths.

Read more posts by Tineke »

The post Legwork: Walking So You Can Write appeared first on One Year Adventure Novel.

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By Elisabeth Newton, Student Contributor

The following exchange has been endured by myself and others far more often than any of us cares to mention. Does it sound familiar?

New Acquaintance: “What are you studying?”

Me: “English.”

“Oh! What are you gonna do with that? Teach?”

“I’m a writer.”

“Oh!….” (Insert uncertain look here as my new acquaintance debates whether or not to encourage said pursuit. They wish I’d said “I want to be a dental hygienist” or “I’m an engineer” so they could appropriately commend my grown-up- sounding life goals).

Then there’s this joke. Have you heard it?

How do you get an English major off your front porch? You pay for the pizza.


Yes, I majored in English, despite the common perception – both spoken and unspoken – that it was a bad idea. By pursuing it, I fulfilled most people’s expectations: writers major in English.

People have a myriad of ideas about writers. English majors don’t make money, it’s said, and so writing should just be a hobby. More than one writing mentor I consulted said, “Don’t do it.” Articles and books I read wavered on the topic, but most condemned the pursuit of the English degree. I did eventually change my major, but not until I completed the Associates in English.

Writers themselves have plenty of ideas about writers, too. I am no exception. I had expectations I decided other writers should likewise follow. I have been writing stories since I knew what a story was, and since the age of twelve I’ve written approximately one novel a year. Being a relatively “weathered writer” amongst most writers in my support groups, I felt like those who didn’t write as much or who hadn’t been writing as long couldn’t be “real” writers. (Spoiler: I was wrong.) And then, because I didn’t follow all the rules my writer friends seemed to follow (“All real writers stay up ungodly hours writing. All real writers talk to their characters. All real writers carry notebooks with them. All real writers think about NOTHING but writing.”), I felt I wasn’t doing everything I was supposed to do to be a “real writer” either. I met published teenagers and felt as though I was falling short of my own identity. I struggled with what others expected me to do with my talent, as have many other adolescent writers. I was always either doing too little or doing too much by identifying as a “writer.”

So, where do we, as writers, draw the line? Who are we and what should we be doing with ourselves? Should we dive all in, or should we keep the writing-thing at a “hobby-level”?

First, as a writer, you probably fall into one of the following three categories:

  1. The Covert “Hobby” Writer. When someone asks what you do, writing is the last thing you mention—even if it’s the thing that keeps you up at night. You’re just a bit shy to tell people you write. You’re probably majoring as a dental hygienist.
  2. The Extreme Writer. It’s your identity, it’s your passion, you’re gonna be a writer/literary agent/editor (if you grow up), and you’re gonna make it big. Right now, you’re probably living on Ramen, wondering how to pay for your next conference, chatting online with writing support groups, living the Writer Life and proud of it.
  3. The Guy in the Middle. You identify unashamedly as a writer, but you’re also pursuing other things.

Now that you can see there are different kinds of writers (and perhaps there are more), let me establish something else:

It doesn’t matter which one you are.

Here’s another (frustrating) truth: I can’t tell you what you’re supposed to be doing with your art.

What I can say for sure: if you like writing, honor the gift that you’ve been given to the best of your ability… by writing.

Do you like writing? Then write. Do you like other things? Do those, too.

I don’t regret my choices. I learned from majoring in English, it was a field I was comfortable pursuing, and it was–at the time–the way I honored my gifting. And yes, now I’m pursuing other things, and writing on the side. And yes, it’s ok for me to do that, too.

You shouldn’t regret your choices, either, because one thing that all writers have in common is that we write from our experiences. And part of our experiences is changing our minds, exploring our options, daydreaming, building and re-building, and finding our place in life. Everything happens for a reason. Don’t let expectations hold you fast to one thing if you’re supposed to move on, and don’t let them make you give up something that means the world to you.

What makes you a real writer? Let’s keep it simpler than the world has made it out to be. You write what you love, and you love what you write. No matter how difficult it may be, don’t let others’ expectations make you pursue it more or less than you should.

Do you feel that the expectations of others have influenced your writing journey?

About Elisabeth

Elisabeth Newton is a college student from Colorado. When she’s not working or studying, she’s writing her next novel, hiking backcountry trails, reading, travelling, serving her God, and then writing about it all. She blogs (occasionally) at https://secretlifeofliddy.blogspot.com/

The post Facing Down Expectations as a Writer appeared first on One Year Adventure Novel.

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By M. R. Shupp, Student Contributor

All authors struggle with their inner editors, especially during the first draft. We know that first drafts are allowed to be skeleton-bones drafts—riddled with typos, misspellings, misplaced commas, character inconsistencies, and little description.

Author of Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott, says, “Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere.”

Shannon Hale, author of the Princess Academy series, adds to this by saying, “I’m writing a first draft and reminding myself that I’m simply shoveling sand into a box so that later I can build castles.”

First drafts are that start, that pile of sand, and they’re hard for everyone. Overcoming the cringing and sneering of your inner editor to write that first draft is not for the faint of heart. But when I started editing and taking classes to train my inner editor to be especially keen and nitpicky, I found first drafts to be even harder. As an editor, I have to notice passive voice, misplaced commas, character inconsistencies, and a whole list of other issues. I struggled not to allow my inner editor to shred my writing each time I opened the document or grabbed a pencil and notebook.

“Did you just use passive voice again?”

“There should be a comma there.”

“Would your character really do that?”

His comments shot down every word I typed. I told myself, “It’s good to be nitpicky.” I wanted my story to be perfect, right? So, I listened to him. Every single time he opened his mouth.

It’s been years since I’ve completed a novel and moved on to a new one. Sure, I’ve had ideas for other stories, but I could never get past my WIP (“Work in Progress”) to truly start on something else. I struggled moving past that first chapter because it wasn’t perfect. I couldn’t seem to get it just right. I allowed my inner editor to control and destroy my writing.

As I completed editing projects, writers told me that I was good at it—that I was helpful at pointing out and helping fix mistakes. But when I sat down to write my own story, I couldn’t get out of editing mode. I couldn’t unsee the passive voice I wrote or all the sentences beginning with the same word.

I had a dilemma. Editing is my passion and part of God’s calling for me, so I couldn’t stop developing my inner editor. However, God has also called me to write, and I wasn’t writing. Somehow, I needed to find a way to switch between my editing and writing hats.

Only recently did I find a solution that has worked as I switch hats: setting specific goals.

It came to me slowly. I had entered a previous draft of my WIP in the 2016 OYAN Student Novel Contest, but I knew this was the last year I could enter again before I aged out. August 15 was the deadline, and as of the end of the Summer Workshop (June), I didn’t have a novel I could enter. Writing excerpts for my Summer Workshop critique group when my story idea was barely developed was tough enough with my inner editor, but write a whole novel?


Being my last year to enter, though, why not try?

After rush-outlining that same barely-developed story idea, I joined Camp NaNoWriMo this past July and set a goal of 50,000 words. I wrote the entire novel that month and entered my rough first draft into the OYAN Novel Contest.

For the first time in a long time, I’d actually accomplished a writing goal!

Of course, instead of learning from that experience and analyzing what worked, I fell back into a slump of not writing and not being able to stand looking at my writing. I missed writing. I wanted to write. I just didn’t know how.

That is when I decided to give some serious thought to how I could manage to wear both hats without one of them taking over. NaNoWriMo worked well for me because my focus was on the goal and not on perfection. My inner editor was focused on that goal as well, instead of on nitpicking every word I wrote.

So, at the beginning of November (I know, it took me a while to actually think about it), I decided that I would complete the final written draft of my WIP. Perhaps it won’t be the final draft forever, if I decide to pursue publication, but it will be the final draft for now. To accomplish this goal, I am writing five hundred words a day until I reach the end.

Each day, I set this goal high on my list of important tasks. And my inner editor knows that. Having this goal changed my focus from perfection to completion. No story will ever be perfect because there will always be someone who can find something wrong with it, and by switching my focus, I found it easier to switch hats as well.

In my editing hat, I am focused on finding and correcting grammatical mistakes, pointing out character inconsistencies, and suggesting areas to add more description. However, while wearing my writing hat, I am focused on reaching my goal of five hundred words a day and finishing this manuscript.

Even if you aren’t a freelance editor like me, all authors must wear both writing and editing hats as they go from first draft to final draft, and that switch can be a difficult one. If you find yourself struggling to switch hats, grab your favorite notebook and pen and set some goals for yourself.

The goals will be different for everyone as we are from different walks of life. For me, five hundred words a day is manageable with my work, school, and other activities. If I write more words, wonderful! But on days where I only have half an hour to spare, producing the minimum five hundred words is still an accomplishment of my goal. Decide on what goals will work best for you.

Take some time to think. Are you struggling to switch between editor and writer hats? What are some specific goals you can set to narrow your focus?

About M. R. Shupp

Galaxy tights, mismatched socks, and a cup of tea in her tea-rex mug often accompany Megan when she sits down to write. Her passion for story has impacted her life since she and her sister first began enacting stories with their dolls and using their imaginations to create worlds of stories in their backyard. After graduating with her BA in English, she is currently earning a Graduate Certificate in Editing through UC Berkeley. Megan is using her love of story and purpose of serving Christ to write and edit at Literary Portals Editing. Find more about her and her editing services at http://literaryportals.com.

Staff Note: The novel that M. R. Shupp entered into our Student Novel Contest in 2017, Starless Night, was one of our finalists! We’re so pleased she set that particular goal.

* Please note that links on The One Year Adventure Novel Blog to other websites and blogs do not constitute an official endorsement. We are not intimately familiar with all the writing and opinions contained in outside links.

The post Editor & Writer: Switching Between Hats appeared first on One Year Adventure Novel.

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By Rebecca Morgan, Student Contributor

In October, I posted on my blog that this November would be my first time participating in NaNoWriMo (“National Novel Writing Month”). However, seven days into it, I had to post again, stating my withdrawal.

Now, I’m not one to quit. For me, the drive to persevere is like an annoying fly. I have to keep trying and trying because it just won’t me leave me alone. It’s a constant buzzing around my head that I can’t quit, I have to keep going. But the fact of the matter was, I was losing the joy I had for Ashes Like Frost, a story I had begun before NaNo started.

I loved that story so much. I had spent hours poring over books on Roman culture and had scoured Pinterest for pictures. The characters were real, solid, and precious to me. Each one of them has a unique back story that, however distantly, in some small way entwined with the story of my main character. If you were that same fly finally resting on the wall, you would have heard me giggling with happiness.

And then NaNoWriMo began, and I decided to do both of my WIPs (“works in progress”) at the same time. After all, how hard could it be? My YA idea, It Started When You Saw Me, was a sweet story, easy to write. But I didn’t want to give up Ashes. I could easily work on both of my projects. And day one was awesome—I worked on both manuscripts, writing almost 1,500 words in each.

But then, day two hit. Day three. I sat at my desk, staring at my computer screen, the words for neither novel coming, and I wanted to cry and scream at the blinking cursor. What was wrong with me? I had to get the words for the YA novel in, I had to reach that goal. And I couldn’t very well work on Ashes without working on the YA first. After all I had a word count to meet, a challenge to accomplish.

And then one day at work, while making a packing list in my head for the upcoming Winter Workshop, it came to me.

Joy Makers. Last year’s Winter Workshop topic.

What I had learned came flooding back. Sessions from almost a year ago, I could hear fresh in my ears.

Mrs. S taught that a loss of joy can make you do stupid things. You start to think that you aren’t good enough, and that the words on the paper are worthless. I was doing many stupid things, like spending hours on Pinterest looking up nonsense. The words in Ashes Like Frost went from beauty to ashes in my eyes. It didn’t matter how much I knew about Rome, how much I had learned about that archaic culture, I was stupid, the story was stupid.

It’s hard to fix a story that isn’t written from joy, Mr. S. had said. Writing is forgetting yourself and focusing on the story, on the creation and discovery. That is joy, getting to experience the joy of the story world.

This was so true for me. I had a binder crammed with the history of my story world, but for the life of me, I couldn’t fix what I knew needed work. Before NaNoWriMo, I couldn’t help but be happy about the cultural references I was playing with. For example, I had a character named Marcello from Ithaca. Ithaca is the home of Odysseus; the Odyssey‘s plot is all about his delayed return to his island home. Marcello’s delayed return to his home was a key point in my story. But November rolled around, and the joy I took in those little things was no longer there.

I don’t have a label in my notes to tell me which workshop speaker said this, but God introduces Himself to us through creativity and we should enter our writing with God. God himself is creative; we have only to step into nature or look at the stars to see that. The biggest joy maker is God, and He is always there. From Him I received a joy in writing and a passion for stories, and with Him I can throw off the chains of worry and despair.

Tineke Bryson taught me to write even when the writing is bad, because that is my joy maker. When you think your writing isn’t good enough, you lose your passion and love for it—the joy of writing is sucked right out of it.

My passion for writing should not become a burden—that doesn’t come from God. When our writing becomes a burden, we stop writing from joy, but start writing only for a cause. Writing It Started When You Saw Me had become solely for a cause—to be able to say I did NaNoWriMo. It left me feeling frustrated and empty.

Nadine Brandes taught me to commit my story to God daily, and to enter into it with prayer. Philippians 1:6 says, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Don’t think that God doesn’t care, because He does. If He cares for the sparrow of the air, then the good work He began in you matters to Him. Jesus Himself used stories to bring hope and truth to us, don’t think your story is any different.

I think of J.R.R. Tolkien. He had an immense love for myths and legends, and he took that joy that it brought him and produced one of the greatest works of literature: a story of a powerful ring and a small hobbit that has prompted even atheists to consider whether there is a Higher Power in this world.

What if my Ashes Like Frost could do that?

As Tineke had said on that cold day so long ago, isn’t that why we write? To come out of ourselves and meet the Lord? My writing is something God gave me, and the more I enjoy it, the more I find God and get closer to Him.

So I withdrew from NaNoWriMo.

Speeches and stained notes from almost a year ago now hold more meaning, having a greater impact on my life than I would have thought. It Started When You Saw Me is a story I want to tell, but now is not that time. God gave me this Ashes Like Frost story; it is my Joy Maker, a story like a second skin, and I was slowly losing my passion and joy for it. And that was something that I didn’t want to happen. I don’t want to continue writing something that is not coming from God, but me just wanting to complete a challenge.

A day may come when I do complete NaNoWriNo, but it is not this day. This day I fight for the story that God gave me to tell, because I hold it dear, and because He gave it to me to tell in this dark world.

Have you ever had to change your writing process in order to keep your joy in the story intact?

Rebecca Morgan is a 20-something girl with a deep passion for Middle-earth and ancient tales like Beowulf. She began writing poems at the age of seven and hasn’t really stopped since. When not writing or reading, she divides her time between working, studying Medieval England and Middle-earth, and playing games with her four brothers. For more on her and her writing, check out her blog at: https://authorrebeccamorgan.com/.

The post Finding and Keeping My Lost Writing Joy appeared first on One Year Adventure Novel.

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