I can't tell you how excited I am to share this news. Ok, I can. I'M EXCITED!
Earlier this year, ANWA (the writing association I'm a part of) announced they would be putting together a book on writing, and they were looking for members to pitch chapter ideas to write. I pitched my idea on what it really means to write what you know, and it was accepted. Woot!
And now the book is ready. It's such a beautiful feeling to see my name on the front cover. I'm feel blessed to have been a part of this experience.
If you're interested in writing, get the book! It's chock full of writing advice and insights. You can buy it here: Create, Craft, Critique, and More: A Guide to the Many Facets of Writing
I was given this book as a gift a few years ago, and I just barely got around to reading it.
I've read a lot from Ray Bradbury, but I've never read non-fiction from him, so this was a treat. This book is full of writing inspiration, humor, and details about him that I never knew.
His Writing Habit
What impressed me most about Bradbury was his writing habit. For ten years he wrote a short story every week, and each week he sent it out to a publisher. That's a lot of writing, but you know what it did? It made him a stronger writer. He had writing the short story down to an art. He eventually learned what to do, and he became a master at it.
"All during my early twenties I had the following schedule," Bradbury writes. "On Monday morning I wrote the first draft of a new story. One Tuesday I did a second draft. On Wednesday a third. On Thursday a fourth. On Friday a fifth. And on Saturday at noon I mailed out the sixth and final draft to New York. Sunday? I thought about all the wild ideas scrambling for my attention..."
I love how each day had a purpose. As a planner myself, I see the beauty in this. It somehow seems more manageable when it's broken down like this, doesn't it?
Bradbury continues, "If this all sound mechanical, it wasn't. My ideas drove me to it, you see. The more I did, the more I wanted to do. You grow ravenous. You run fevers. You know exhilarations. You can't sleep at night, because your beast-creature ideas want out and turn you in your bed. It is a grand way to live."
As I read about his writing habit, I started to think about my own (or the lack thereof). I began to think that maybe if I could write as much as Bradbury did, even for just a year, maybe I could start to make more progress with my writing career. And that got me thinking even more. What if I started The Bradbury Challenge? Maybe start slowly - one short story a month for a year - and work my way from there. In fact, it could be bigger than myself, inviting other writers to join in - kind of like how NaNoWriMo does it. If you'd be interested in something like that for next year (2018), let me know!
Finding Inspiration & Feeding Muses
I've always loved the idea of muses. It probably stems from watching Disney's Hercules as a child. Those muses were my favorite part. I mean, come on, they sang the best songs.
So, how did Bradbury come up with all his ideas? You'd think he'd run out of story ideas writing one story a week for a decade, but that wasn't the case.
"...ideas lie everywhere, like apples fallen and melting in the grass for lack of wayfaring strangers with an eye and a tongue for beauty, whether absurd, horrific, or genteel."
He made lists of words as way of inspiration, which sounds so simple. And maybe it is. Maybe we're all missing the boat here. The lists would consist of words like skeleton, old woman, lake, coffin, and so on. Take a look at how it worked for Bradbury.
"I began to run through those lists, pick a noun, and then sit down to write a long poem-prose-essay on it. Somewhere along the middle of the page, or perhaps on the second page, the prose poem would turn into a story. Which is to say a character suddenly appeared and said, 'That's me'; or, 'That's an idea I like!' And the character would then finish the tale for me."
Easy enough, right?
What it Means to Be a Writer
Bradbury provides some fantastic quotes about what it means to be a writer. When I read these, they hit home. I'm nowhere near Ray Bradbury's level, but now I know that we were both meant to write.
Some of you know that I teach creative writing classes for Rio Salado College. In about a month, I'll be adding to the variety of courses I teach, so if you're looking for an affordable way to develop your creative writing, consider taking one of my courses. Here's the breakdown:
1. CRW 170 - Introduction to Writing Fiction
This is a great starter class if you want a little refresher or you're starting from scratch. There are 14 weeks, and I love that the class allows you to write about whatever you want. So, each assignment will have requirements, like focusing on dialogue or point of view, but you can write about wizards, teenage drug use, or whatever floats your boat. This course will also have you analyze the short works of other authors, helping you pinpoint what works and what doesn't.
2. CRW 271 - Topics in Writing: Fiction
Improve your fiction writing with this course. This is for those who have already taken some of the 100-level classes or have enough writing experience. Just like the other class, you get to write about anything that interests you. No matter if you're working on a piece well before this class or you want to start something new, it's a fun class that can take your writing to the next level. Plus, sometimes you just need an excuse to write more. And homework is a great excuse.
3. CRW 274 - Revising the Novel
I'm particularly excited about this one. This is a new class for me, and it's a perfect fit. I'm currently revising my own novels, so I know it will be as useful to me as it is to my students. It will deal with everything from a novel's structure to dialogue. I still have to go through the course myself first, but I can't wait to get started on this one.
4. CRW 201 - Portfolio
This course centers on - you've guessed it! - creating a writing portfolio. This is for those students working toward their academic certificate in creative writing. You can take work from other classes and perfect the pieces. I loved my portfolio classes when I was in school. It's fun to see where you started and how far you've come.
Any of these online classes sound interesting? Find out more here.
Creating a story and writing it down on paper requires a piece of your soul. As writers, we’ve all felt it. But we don’t lose that piece of ourselves; it just survives elsewhere, kind of like a horcrux, as cheesy as that sounds. That’s how we make a story, a character, or a place come alive, with a small portion of ourselves, sacrificed for the greater good of the story itself.
Because it requires a piece of yourself to write, take a moment and consider how you find inspiration. Pinpointing your inspiration will allow you to give your best self to your story, and thereby, it makes for an even better story. Some, and you might be one of them, find music inspirational. They create playlists to listen to as they write.
For me, however, I’m inspired by photos and images – all forms of visual art. It’s all about finding a visual representation of what’s floating – or sometimes crashing – around in my brain, which allows me to build a world, create characters, and tell a story.
Discovering Pinterest – Creative Writer-Style
In 2012, I signed up for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) for the first time. The goal of NaNo is to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. I had never written a novel before, and I was a bit overwhelmed with the idea. This story was in my head for close to eight years. It tried to come to life in different forms – including picture book and short story – but it just wasn’t right. I had all these ideas in my head, but I couldn’t organize them.
I consider myself a visual learner, and in order to find focus, I knew I needed something that I could look at that inspired me to write the story I wanted and needed to write – the story that was begging to get out.
One day as I was pinning non-writing-related things, it hit me. Pinterest could be exactly what I needed to stay organized, clear out my mind a bit, and stay inspired. I created a board and then scoured the internet until I found images that closely resembled what was in my head.
Throughout the writing process, I kept referring back to my Pinterest board, and it kept me focused and on track for the full 30 days. Because it was my first go at it, I only pinned a few photos, but it was my game-changer. I even found people repinning or liking some of my pins. It helped me realize that even though these pins were meaningful to me and my story, art touches others, too.
Stepping it Up a Notch - Finding What Works
When it came to the second NaNoWriMo adventure, I was ready to tackle Pinterest all over again. This time, I made it a private board, just to see if I would have a different, more personal experience keeping it all to myself until I was ready to share the finished product.
For my second book, it was all about the places the characters traveled, and because they were in a different world, I needed some visual inspiration. I was looking for unique, magical, and beautiful. I found the most inspiring images, and I wrote the book around them, always having Pinterest open and viewable as I wrote.
Writing a Book without Pinterest – Disaster from the First Page
My latest attempt at NaNoWriMo wasn’t as successful as my previous years. Because I didn’t decide what to write about until the day before the event began, I didn’t create a Pinterest board to guide and inspire me. I figured I was experienced enough to skip this step and simply write from my imagination.
As you can imagine, it didn’t go so well.
But I continued. I pushed through it. Even as I was writing the novel, trying to get in that daily word count, I knew it was chaotic and quite the mess. Because of the short timeframe to complete the novel, I didn’t feel like I could slow down and create a Pinterest board once I doubted my ability to do without. Sure, it was a first draft, but I didn’t feel I had a firm grasp on the characters or even the story until almost the end. If I would’ve used Pinterest the way I had previously, I think the story would’ve been more natural and streamlined, from the very first page.
Moving Forward – Learning From My Mistake
The closer November gets – and the closer I get to starting a new novel – I find myself thinking more and more about how to use Pinterest better this year. After last time, I’ve learned my lesson. Pinterest will now be my #1 tool for developing characters and my story, and I’ll never write another book without creating it its very own Pinterest board. And you can’t go wrong with free.
For writers, books are oxygen. At least they are for me. There's so much I can learn from other writers, and I'd be foolish not to try to learn everything I can about the art of writing. But collecting books can be expensive. Fortunately, I've found ways to build an awesome collection without breaking the bank.
1. Scour Second-Hand Stores/Garage Sales/Estate Sales
This is probably a given, but I've found some of the most beautiful books at these places. While they're not free, you can get a killer deal. And the fun of it is that you never know what you'll discover. There's something special about that.
2. Goodreads Free Books
Did you know that you can enter to win free books (many times they're advanced reading copies) from Goodreads? It's fantastic. I've received close to ten free books this way. Sometimes they're not great, but then there are other times that you find a new favorite. If you ask me, that's well worth it. Plus, hello, it's free.
3. LibraryThing Free Books
LibraryThing has a similar free book program to Goodreads's program. You can enter to win free books. You just have to scroll through the options and pick the ones you'd love to read and review.
4. Review Exchanges on Author Sites
Some authors offer free books to help spread the word about their published works. Just recently, I came across an offer, and I took it. I just needed to read and review an author's newly published book. I had only a few days to do it, but I can't say no to a free book. I barely made the deadline, and a free book of my choice is coming my way soon.
Start following new authors, and be on the lookout for opportunities of your own.
5. Attending Workshops or Conferences
Attending writing workshops or conferences can earn you a free book, too. Last year, I attended a writing workshop, and after the class, the author gave a free book to each attendee. All she wanted in exchange was an honest review.
6. Free Gift for Webinar Attendance
I signed up for and attended a free writing-related webinar, and the first 100 people got a free book mailed to them, the book covering the topic of the webinar. It wasn't the reason I signed up for the webinar, but it was a nice bonus.
7. Public Library Book Sales
I saved the best for last. This is my FAVORITE way to build my book collection. It's not free, but it's so cheap that it might as well be. I wait all year for this. While you can generally always go to the for-sale section of your library and buy throughout the year, the big book sales will blow your mind.
And this year, I get to go to two! I went just a few days ago, and I bought six books for 3 1/2 dollars. For real. It's pure gold.
How have you built your own book collection without breaking the bank?
I'm an adjunct creative writing professor and freelance writer, but I dream of being a published novelist. This is my journey.