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Nanowrimo 2018 is here!

It’s NaNoWriMo again!!! For those of you who know, that means – National November Writing Month. It’s a wonderful challenge for all us writers out there to write a novel in one month – roughly 60,000 words. That means, writing has to take place EVERY DAY or you won’t win. What do you get if you win? A FRIGGIN’ FINISHED NOVEL!!! And how good would that make you feel?

I know it made me feel pretty dern good in 2015 when I finish “From the Other Seat”. Man, I was so excited about the fact I had finished my first novel that I did that total novice thing, signed up at Reedsy, found me an editor, paid a hefty fee to have it edited only to realize that the novel was SO far from being ready. Editor dude made a few brash critiques and I took that as, “THE NOVEL SUCKS. CHANGE EVERYTHING”. Ah rookie mistakes…

From the Other Seat

In my gut, I knew I should have taken Stephen King’s (On Writing) advice, put it in a drawer and forgot about it for 2 years, but instead I attacked it, kept editing, ripped apart the structure until it was no longer the same book. In the back of my mind I heard King’s warning, if you keep picking at a new manuscript you’ll destroy it….

Well. I did. Done destroyed it. “From the Other Seat” still exists, mind you. It lives in about 5 different versions in 8 different folders in my handy Scriviner software. I’ve opened them again recently… there’s still a novel there… somewhere. I’ll uh… fix it someday… **sigh**

This year, I’m preggers and home most of the time, thus I have a second chance at novel writing. Luckily, I have a few old ideas waiting in the wings, so while I won’t be starting from scratch, I’ll be starting anew. Arizona, Gallup (3)The new project is called, “Freedom Falling” (temporary cover, bad design, I know). It’s roughly about being a rebellious teen, and trying to grow up too fast. She’s a runaway who finds her self in the dusty desert with some shady characters where she tastes fear for the first time, loses her innocence, and her virginity, but gains a whole lot of life lessons along the way.

Boring premise? Well… I’m working on it. The point of Nano is not to be an amazing writer right from the start, but just to BE A WRITER. Write. Whatever. Just let your fingers fly. Let out the good, bad, and the ugly. Don’t edit along the way. Only move forward. There’s no other way to get through the challenge. And even if, like me, you’ll delete half the book when the challenge is through, you’ll have puked out all the bad ideas along the way. You have to get out the bad before you get to the good… I think Hemingway said that.

Anyway, I love this challenge because I make so many excuses in my normal weeks to NOT write, or at least not write in a purposeful way. And I can’t explain how satisfying it is to log in your daily word progress and watch the handy novel graph go up up up up. (If you’re curious what I’m talking about head to https://nanowrimo.org)

In light of Nano, I’ve compiled a simple list of my favorite authors. They are, as follows in order of flavor-favs.

Ernest Hemingway, Haruki Murakami, Sherman Alexie, Barbara Kingsolver, and Katherine Arden.

Not a huge list, but these peeps have been the most impactful on me.

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And here are a short list of books that have helped define me, in order of most inspiring:

A Moveable Feast (Hemingway) (I pretty much read this once a year)

On Writing (Stephen King)

The Shepard’s Life (Rebanks)

Kafka on the Shore (Murakami)

War Dances (Alexie)

Prodigal Summer (Kingsolver)

The Winternight Trilogy (Arden)

Women Who Run with the Wolves (Clarissa Pinkola Estes)

Heroes, Gods, and Monsters of the Greek Myths (Evslin)

The Little Prince (Saint-Exupéry)

The Hobbit (Tolken)

Foxfire (Oates)

Island of the Blue Dolphins (Scott) (all time elementary school life-changer favorite)

The Secrets of Dr. Taverner (Fortune)

Journey to Ixlan (Castaneda)

Good luck to all you fellow writers out there!!! See you in December <3

#waswritinguntil…

We’ve all seen (and used if you’re a writer) #amwriting.

Feels good, doesn’t it? Feels forward moving and the perfect affirmation even if, at the moment, you’re staring at the screen waiting for said writing to burst forth with the same fervor as that little hashtag implies.

The night was set up so perfect. You had time, you had energy, you were feeling emotional – you did not have coffee, but the wine was near by and the music was… helping? … Ok, you got a little distracted with the music selecting. But no matter.

You began editing an old piece. There’s a new piece that you’re really proud of, but you sent it to a friend and they mentioned removing the semi colons that you’ve been judiciously dumping on your writing like they belong there. All of them. You knew it was a bad idea, but somewhere in the back of your mind you were like, “semi colons are so undervalued”.

  1. Since you have a soft spot for underdogs, you ran with it. Next time though, you’ll have learned your lesson.
  2. Now the piece needs to be edited – again. Which means, for good measure, maybe you’ll let it sit in a folder and ferment for another month.

So you’re editing the old piece, you sip the wine and sip it again. A few words fall out of your head, but something feels off. You’re not emotionally invested in the piece anymore so you put a new spin on it, a darker one. You’re good at being dark, but dark is easy and you told yourself to stop being so easy.

Not sure you’re on board with your own shift in direction, you stop #amwriting to thumb the phone for a little, take a selfie or two because you need to affirm that it’s not just your disembodied ego sitting here stewing, but the whole body, vanity and all.

You head to social media to embellish the truth around any real progress and productivity, or maybe the photo is now considered progress so that’s cool, and with the social aspect you hope it will incite actual #amwriting because now you’ve called yourself out, now you’ve a responsibility to method act your way back to the #amwriting you’re supposed to be doing.

Photo posted, you tap away at a few more words, delete a few more paragraphs because #icebergtheory – the less you say on the surface, the more meaning lies underneath. Or as Ernest put it,

If a writer of prose knows enough of what he is writing about he may omit things that he knows and the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will have a feeling of those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them. The dignity of movement of an ice-berg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water. A writer who omits things because he does not know them only makes hollow places in his writing. –Ernest Hemingway

You bow your inner writer soul to the god that is Hemingway because now you’re giddy over how cutting out half of what you wrote makes for a more weighty piece of writing.

So, OK, but I don’t know, is it done? You re-read over and over again. Seems a bit short. You sip that wine over and over again. Does it say enough? Is it even any good? You check the status of your photo. Only two likes so far. You’ve not convinced anyone, even yourself, that you are indeed #amwriting. Should have been more truthful you think, should have posted #waswritinguntil…

You whip out the tarot deck. Close the computer. The night decays into divination and doubts. You tell yourself you’ll revisit the writing in the morning when you’re feeling less cataclysmic.

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Any of this sound familiar?

More often than not I wish I wasn’t a writer in the digital era where social media is paramount to career survival. That said, my output HAS somewhere to output because of the digital era, but that output has suffered since I was gifted a smart phone.

Blog posts seem doable. Short prose, poems, and stories seem doable. Photos – very doable. Still, it’s hard to focus on the horrible tedium that is, editing when it comes to that expansive book I #waswritinguntil…

Point being, there are ways to keep #amwriting even if you don’t feel that what you are doing can be considered such. Even if what you’re doing isn’t the thing you think you should have been doing. Like, do I really need another blog post when I have a book to edit? The answer is yes, yes I do. Because the point is #practice and #persistence and the only really bad thing a writer can do for themselves is to stop writing.

We’re hard on ourselves, us writers and creatives. I know I am. But I’m getting braver about my writer skin – more confident about what I can and cannot consider real work. You know what I’ve been learning?

  • IF YOU SHOWED UP #amwriting.
  • If you ATTEMPT to work on your craft for hours, even if a few or all of those hours were spent torturing yourself over not working efficiently or brilliantly or whatever #amwriting
  • If all you did was delete 5 sentences and reread the same first paragraph 500 times #amwriting
  • If all you managed to do was open your computer and write, “I can’t think of anything to write” – you know what? #amwriting

What I’m learning is that being a writer is a state of mind. If you never publish a damn word but consider yourself a writer, you’re a writer. So #amwriting your little heart out. Maybe #waswritinguntil… just to keep yourself in check, but above all #dontstopwriting even if the words only live in your mind. They’ll come pouring out eventually. They will because they have to because us writers, we didn’t choose the writing life, the writing life chose us.

Music selection is this gem I found – an artist out of Toronto named verzache. The above track is called “hiccup”, this one here is “juvenescence”. Was listening to his whole soundcloud last night and well… I was blown away.

Thanks for coming to my space and sharing this time with me. I’ll be posting the piece that I was working on last night… the old piece “And So We Did” on Scriggler so you can judge for yourself if it was enough of the iceberg or even any good.

As always, be well, love often, and enjoy.

Scriggler: the “Soundcloud” of writing platforms

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Robin Wood Tarot: Ace of Cups

Thy cup runneth over!

In the context of this blog, when I pull a card I’m thinking about some aspect of the writing process. What I’ve been stuck on lately is time. Seems like I haven’t enough of it, like I’m scrambling, yet I’m paired with this feeling of floating in some stagnant abyss, bored and barely moving.

Ace of cups is a card of fulfillment, conception, socializing, love, having all your emotional needs met. This card is the harbinger of joy. This card says, good times are coming. It says, things are getting done, even when we don’t feel like they are; all those efforts are adding up, filling your cup, and they’ll pay off.

That’s why I’ve been sharing sample chapters lately. When I’m feeling stuck, it’s helpful to change gears and ready something for public viewing, to put my foot down on over-editing and say, “Hey, this is done enough for feedback. Submit, walk away and move on.”

Things don’t have to be so official, they just need to be alive, living, as in- you’ve got to share it, get it out of your mind, off your own computer, out of those disorganized chapter files and let it breath in fresh air, under fresh eyes that are not your own. The hope is, by watching how people respond to this or that chapter, you’ll know better what to keep, what to expand on, what to throw away.

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Sharing could change the direction of your story, give you new ideas where to take your characters, and inevitably, your readers.

Sharing takes bravery. It means that you’re opening yourself up to a world of strangers; a wealth of others’ thoughts and emotions. And what a wonderful world-wide-web that sharing has been made so easy, that there are various platforms out there to aid us.

For me, that platform is Scriggler.

If you aren’t privy to the site yet and you’re a writer who’s in love with words and simplicity; maybe you want to share but your blog doesn’t get much traction and all those other sites just confuse the process, distract you further- Scriggler may be for you.

Having tried to integrate myself with Medium in the past, I knew what I did and didn’t want in a writing platform. What I didn’t want, was super shiny and official. I didn’t want it to look like a news feed. I didn’t want to be drawn into others’ stories (even though that’s an important part of it) but right now I’m just thinking of the writing process, my process, and I need to strip away all the distractions. I downloaded Scrivener (helpful software for organizing a manuscript) about the same time I signed up at Scriggler for much the same reason- I wanted something that aided the writer, spoke to the writer, fed the writer, encouraged the writer. Writing is about writing, aesthetics be damned; functionality, yes, but save me the distracting package.

So what is Scriggler?

Scriggler is a cultural, political and intellectual melting pot – a place for exchanging not only stories and poetry, but also ideas, perspectives.

It came about nearly 3 years ago today as an experiment, a concept fueled by founder Dmitry Selemir’s own need for a writing platform that simply didn’t exist yet. His inspiration? Soundcloud.

This was surprising information for me, a musician and a music blogger. Soundcloud is a platform I use daily and currently, can’t think what I would do without it. Their model has changed the way digital music is shared; redefined the industry for a whole crop of aspiring artists, listeners, bloggers, and the like. Knowing this now, I’m not surprised why I was so drawn to Scriggler’s platform.

Translate the Soundcloud model into something suitable for writers sharing their work, and that might be a way to view Scriggler.

Scriggler‘s interface charmed me immediately- a white page with random scribbles on it. Posts are simple squares that arrange themselves in the center of the home feed. When others post a piece of literature (story, opinion, poem, essay, whatever) only the pertinent details are visible: the title, the author, the tags, the views. There are no images to pull you in, initially. You won’t even find the traditional “following for following” set up. Scriggler is organized to “foster interactions around the content,” says Dmitry, who went an atypical route with Scriggler’s launch; bypassed media coverage, publicity, and simply, shared. And while they’ve gone through many changes in the past two years, it was this initial act in vulnerability that has gotten them where they are.

 

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Scriggler founder, Dmitry Selemir

“In part this was perhaps due to lack of experience,” admits Dmitry, “in part – we wanted to get something out there, test it with the real users and hone in on the formula that would really work.”

And things are still changing. Dmitry has modest expectations about what the platform is and where it may go, but he also has a grand dream, that it solidifies itself as a launching pad for writers finding their way in the digital world; that it remains a place writers stay for years, life even. In this way, Scriggler hopes to build a solid community, shape the future of a global collective of writers.

What’s the big difference between Scriggler and everyone else?

It’s all run by the audience. There’s no editorial staff making any attempts to flavour what gets promoted. “Everything is less driven by the topic or genre or locality and more by what material you interacted with positively,” says Dmitry.

And it has to be mentioned that Scriggler operates on a fraction of a fraction of the small change left after Medium’s budget. “It makes it more difficult to build new things,” Dmitry says, “but at the same time we are accountable to our members alone and not to our investors (since we don’t have any).”

They have just added a donate button, letting those who use and appreciate Scriggler be the ones who make it a better place to be.

For readers heading to Scriggler to discover new writings, the experience is a little like records hunting. It takes work, but finding that gem is totally worth it.

But here’s the real clincher that sets Scriggler apart:

For writers, they do something that no other platform ever has – they promote every work you upload, personally, on twitter – sometimes twice.

For an introvert like me, self promotion has always been my biggest challenge. For my blog that maybe reaches a handful of people, posting my work does little for number of views. So going from 4 views to over 300 is HUGE. Not just huge for gaining an audience, but MASSIVE for confidence levels- those necessary doses of encouragement every writer thrives on.

But it can’t be all on Scriggler. Think of them like that Ace of Cups, a helping hand, filling you with the tools to progress even further on your path to, what Dmitry likes to call, “authorpreneur”.

To maximize your experience on Scriggler?

Content strategy.

“Think through your content strategy and make sure that while your posts are not pure promotion – it’s still easy for people to follow up, go to your website or blog, see your other publications and books, sign up to your newsletter etc.”

The other big thing is engaging, which can be a struggle for many of us already pressed for time, but one cannot receive without giving. Engaging leads us to knew avenues, new connections.

A key piece of advice is in comments, meaning, your comments on others’ work. Comments are highly publicized on Scriggler. “Each comment is a projection of your overall image,” stresses Dmitry, “make sure the comment is interesting. Something trivial is likely going to play against you.”

And if you wish, Scriggler also allows you to create clubs or join clubs started by other users. This can help you find your audience.

As far as imagery, like I said earlier, there’s none to distract you on the home feed, but within your own submission one can get creative, embedding videos, widgets (for example Soundcloud tracks) and images, which can be helpful in promotion via social media.

For myself, Scriggler has been a game changer. I have found my audience widening with every post, I have found myself through these interactions becoming more brave, more engaging, upping my own content of which I spread fairly evenly along my own channels. Most importantly, Scriggler has shown me what is possible. With their help, I’ve been able to up my own standards of where I can take my writing career.

Sometimes all we need is a little push – in this case, a digital one, from Scriggler.

So in light of this very full Ace of Cups, I raise it to Scriggler and dedicate this post as a token of my appreciation.

But don’t just take my word for it. Head there and see for yourself what Scriggler can do for you. Get on board, you might find you can’t do without it.

Oh, and while you’re there why not Scriggle me? :)

This weeks’ musical selection to pair with all this abundance of joy- an artist called, JOY.

Be well, love often and en-JOY!

 

 
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