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‘The Writing Life’ Category

  1. Why I Didn’t Finish NaNoWriMo

    December 1, 2013 by Kiersi

    Yep. That’s right. I didn’t. You may remember something like this happening:

    – I started a fantasy novel at the beginning of the month. I got about 6,000 words into it.

    – Then, for some reason, I scrapped it and started a completely different book. A New Adult, contemporary romance novel. I wrote the first 31,000 words in four or five days.

    – And then life happened. I had a ton of contract work that had piled up; I met someone (this is a big part of it, I’m sure); I started a part-time job; Thanksgiving; concerts; exercise; and then I lost my way.

    Because I was pantsing this novel (see: no outline, no plan, just writing). Because I had no idea where I was headed when I started besides a final image, a last consequence, and without a road map, I went off-track and tripped in some mud. I’ve been slogging, slowly but surely, trying to re-formulate a plan of attack.

    And I was stressing myself out, wondering: How am I going to get this done by the end of the month? I don’t even know where I’m going, not to mention how to get there.

    Not that I regret not outlining this book. It’s allowed me some great privileges I wouldn’t otherwise have had. It allowed my heroes to go wherever they pleased, to do whatever felt right, to try out new things and push my limits and challenge me in ways heroes of mine never have before.

    Oh, and then somehow, the book had magical realism.

    With all of those things stacked on top of each other, well–I had to make a choice. And I decided it wasn’t worth stressing over. I decided that NaNo had started me on a quest I wouldn’t have otherwise started, that it had done its job and I could finish the job on my own, when time permitted, when life evened out for a few seconds and I could play a little catch-up. So I set a new end date for myself in January, which is perfectly feasible for the last 50,000 words of this novel.

    So, this is why I didn’t finish National Novel Writing Month. I decided that a great book doesn’t have to write itself in a month; I decided it was worth focusing on the important changes happening in my life and waiting for the right story to reveal itself to me.

    A huge round of applause to all my friends who did!

  2. NaNoWriMo: Week One

    November 5, 2013 by Kiersi


    I mean, I’m prepared for it. I have an outline, at least. It’s about six paragraphs long, and as I write, I’m breaking each “chapter” or section out into sub-sections, scenes, whatever else needs to go in there. (And I’m documenting it all so I can put together a Scrivener tutorial for y’alls. Soon. At some point. Maybe once the madness is over. You’re welcome.)

    But “madness” is really a misnomer. National Novel Writing Month–writing 50,000 words in 30 days–isn’t all that spectacularly hard, as much as it’s cracked up to be. It only asks for 1,667 words each day, which–if you’re efficient, if you have an idea of where you’re going already–shouldn’t take more than two hours, three if you’re out of practice (which, after your sixth day or so, will also go away). (more…)

  3. Testing the Waters: A Tale of Two Stories

    October 12, 2013 by Kiersi

    Photo by rickpilot (flickr)

    Photo by rickpilot (flickr)

    I’m stuck.

    So, NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) starts soon. Not that soon, not super soon, but soon enough to get me nibbling a fingernail here and there. It’s around the corner, you might say, if months had corners, just waiting for it to be November 1st and for me to be heinously, ridiculously, unfortunately underprepared.

    I mean, that won’t happen. That’s the Type A in me talking, needing everything to be perfect all the time and why would you bother doing it if it isn’t perfect. Yeah, see? She’s in there. That’s Crazy Type A Writer lurking just beneath the surface, ready to jump out and pull you in by your ankles. She’s a freak show, man. Don’t even try her.

    The real finger-nibbling problem is that I have two big, prescient, powerful, sexy ideas for NaNoWriMo. And I don’t know which one to write. (more…)

  4. Overwriting: It’s Totally A Thing

    September 23, 2013 by Kiersi

    Avatar: The Last Airbender, the Cave of the Two Lovers

    I didn’t think overwriting would happen in my book. I’m a re-writer, not a reviser, so instead of trimming the fat and beveling the edges and picking at each word until it’s perfect, I usually just scrap a scene completely and start over if it’s just not cutting it for me. That strategy’s worked pretty well so far; it’s like losing a document in a computer crash before you’ve saved it, but then the second time around is obviously better than the first now that your brain has had some time to work through it.

    Or maybe I just think that’s the case, and I’m actually overwriting this book to death.

    It’s a problem of setup. In this novel, an agonizingly specific set of events need to occur in order to send the two heroes off on their journey, and the difficulty lies in A) introducing the status quo naturally and as quickly as possible, B) getting the order of events right that change the status quo, and C) making the actions of each character leading to the next event completely believable and inevitable. All of this has proven far more complicated than I anticipated when I began planning this novel. As my friend Amber Keyser put it, “It needs to be like a raging river carrying you along, unstoppable.” (Yes, it does make me feel better to know other writers–very talented writers–also struggle with setups.) (more…)

  5. Ambition and Passion: Ingredients for Life

    August 8, 2013 by Kiersi

    Finish Line, by Pete (flickr)

    My dear friend and professional photographer Aaron Hockley made a great remark to me in a private chat yesterday:

    Ambition/passion for something is essential. It might not be something that I’m passionate about, but folks that don’t have that drive for something, well, they bore me.

    Since a few things in my personal life have changed and somewhat gone adrift, I’ve been mulling over the nature of ambition, passion, and planning a life trajectory. I know a lot of people prefer to fly by the seat of their pants, and sometimes, I can live that way–but usually only as a means to an end. Being free-floating is a great way to seize opportunities; I believe being able to make decisions on the fly or change on a dime is the only way to cultivate good luck. But I always have a year, two-year, and five-year strategy that makes me rein myself in. (more…)

  6. Aboard the Roller Coaster

    July 8, 2013 by Kiersi

    Life is a roller coaster. I’m launching my author website this week, and it will be awesome, and I’m terrified. But also giddy. But also terrified? Terrigiddy, I think is what they call this.

    A couple of things I’m thinking about this week:

    Passing time. Our heroes are going from one place to another. They’re sitting in a restaurant and eating. The heroine and her love interest are hanging out at the park for a whole evening. How do we let the reader in on the event, without boring them for three pages with “here’s what I ordered and what we said to each other and how about that Coke?”

    I read a passage yesterday that I just had to highlight. (I never highlight books, but this one is signed and addressed to me, so I can’t very well resell it when I’m done–might as well make it mine.) The protagonist was at a bar with a cute boy and said, “He kept me entertained. I looked at my watch and suddenly, it was eleven, and time to go home.”

    BOOM. Done. Over. And everything that needed to be said was said. They had a great evening–so much so that she lost track of time. Ingenious.

    My first book. We’re close to having a cover and a sample chapter for THE DEVIL’S FIRE, and a tentative release date. I can’t share any of these with you just yet, but soon, my pretties. SOON.

    Finding your joy. I’ll admit it: I’m a little disheartened right now with one of my projects. I’m stalled in my revision. Every time I look at it, I just stare at the screen and my blinking cursor and chew my cuticles. Seriously, my hands are destroyed and I have almost nothing to show for it.

    How do you conquer your enemy when your enemy is yourself? I’m the only thing standing between me and this revision getting done. Between me and querying this book. I have an ache in my chest to just finish it already and hit the next bullet point on my career goal list, but I somehow can’t bring myself to do it.

    At some point, I started to hate writing.

    Isn’t that sick? What writer hates writing? I felt totally lost, because writing has been my getaway, has been my joy, since I was four years old. Stories were my blood.

    So, instead of despairing, I decided to just let the draft sit and ferment for a while. I’ve been reading books that I hope will give me inspiration–I have a library hold on The False Prince and a friend is bringing me the sequel to one of my favorite books, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making. (Seriously, this book is awesome, you should read it.)

    I’m also working on my Seekrit Project, just to keep my writer blood moving. You can’t become a better writer without practice, and maybe if I can become a better writer, I can tackle this beast that I’ve built for myself.

    When you’re in a bind and feeling low on inspiration, find your joy. Embrace it.

    Time management. Working a freelance job that fluctuates drastically in terms of workload is a tricky creature. I had more work last month than I’ve ever had–which is a great thing, but also a massive distraction from other projects.

    The Freedom app has saved my life. If you’re like me, and have a hard time tuning out distractions without help, Freedom is the way to go.

    Critiquing. I love critiquing, but I’m always a little nervous when I send off those comments to the author. As my significant other would say, my brutal honesty is my best quality and my worst flaw. I just can’t help it. I don’t even know how to lie off-the-cuff, even if just for the sake of a joke.

    So how glad was I when my CP announced on Twitter that I was beyond helpful? I might have hummed a little song. This is the reason I critique–because I want your book to be the best that it can be.

    How was your weekend? What little lessons have you learned lately?

  7. An Ode to Writer Friends

    June 27, 2013 by Kiersi

    "Sunday means get together" by Yassin Hassan

    “Sunday means get together” by Yassin Hassan (flickr)

    Today’s post is going to be a fluffy one. I know, I know, it’s not my usual shtick, but I have a lot to be grateful for (and a lot, lot, lot of non-authoring work that has taken over my waking hours).

    This post is about friends.

    When I was nine or ten, I started actively chatting with people online. I know what you’re thinking: “What parents would let their ten-year-old daughter chat online?” But this was a different era. This was 1997 or so; there was no such thing as a cyber predator back then, not just yet. Besides, I was a smart kid, and my parents trusted me. I was building bad HTML websites and writing stories and role-playing with my friends. It was a good thing for a brainy child who didn’t have many friends at school. (more…)

  8. Vision Quest 2013: Homeward Bound

    June 12, 2013 by Kiersi

    A cat lying on my lap and the computer

    The biggest victory from this trip was making leaps of progress on two stalled projects. I keep wanting to use the “nylon sock” metaphor because I just finished listening to the audiobook of Stephen King’s 11/22/63 (a 44-hour marathon of an audiobook, perfect for road-tripping and a great book to boot), but I don’t think anyone who hasn’t read/listened to it will get the joke–so instead, I’ll just call it a breakthrough, and hope we’re all on the same page.

    Update 1: The middle-grade book is entering a solid second draft stage, and getting the tires kicked by a trusted colleague in the writing trenches. It’s kind of a painful kicking, but healthy. I think of it as detoxing.

    Update 2: Seekrit Project (which I think we’ve determined falls more squarely in the NA category than the YA) is at 20,000 words, but I’ve halted in order to get busy on my new author website, crank up my freelance copywriting workload, and start querying the project mentioned in Update 1. But if I were to summarize Seekrit Project in one sentence, it would be this:

    Fantasy and magic, sex and romance, scandal and political intrigue, all wrapped up in an ensemble cast.

    I am having way, way, WAY too much fun with it. Like, if I know you in real life, I probably won’t ever let you read it.

    I made this, but I only remembered to take a picture of it when it was halfway eaten already.

    Here is a list of other things I did while staying at the ranch and getting the peace and quiet to work on bookish things:

    – We put on beekeeper suits and went and played with bees. We increased the size of their hive boxes and poured in some sugar water. Did I mention that bees are adorable? They wear these really cute little pollen-chaps when they return home, it’s the cutest darn thing. BEES IN CHAPS, my next picture book.

    – Was told that I was the best “city person goat milker” that’s come to the ranch. I salute my teachers.

    – We made the above chevre out of fresh goat milk. It was pretty easy, I’ll grant you that. It only took a few days and a couple good tools to make a killer delicious little cake of goat cheese, and I rolled it in herbs before serving.

    – Cooked my first ever Indian curry from scratch, with fresh goat meat that was raised on the very same ranch. It was delicious.

    All appreciation should probably go to my host, who is as kind a soul as he is a great rancher and human. Hat off to you, Che.

  9. Vision Quest 2013: The Ranch Life

    May 31, 2013 by Kiersi

    Bodega landscape

    I’m on the road again, taking my bi-annual writing retreat to my friend’s ranch in northern California. I’m finishing up a revision and working on a NEW VERY SEEKRIT PROJECT. It’s actually not that secret but everyone else keeps secrets, so I might as well, too.

    The Ranch Life

    dog posing

    An earwig lies belly-up on the gate latch to the pool, like an offering to the Ranch Gods.

    We walk into the tall grass, bare calves brushing thistles, ticks leaping with outstretched arms onto my pants, onto the dog. He wants to stay ahead, keep an eye out for danger. (more…)

  10. A Pep Talk

    January 28, 2013 by Kiersi

    Sometimes it’s hard just to get up in the morning. Other times, springing out of bed before the alarm even goes off is about as natural as breathing.

    I know I need a pep talk from time to time. A spoonful of encouragement just to sweeten up a little-too-spicy reality. A few words to keep my goals at the forefront, and my doubts back in the laundry room.

    So I have a couple items for you to consider, ever-doubter. First is this remarkable little “pep talk” from some adorable shorty calling himself Kid President.

    But while you’re riding that high, it’s important to remember one thing:

    It’s all about creating. It’s about doing what you love. That takes me to my next point.

    Eddy Rivas wrote an amazing post today called, “Why You Should Quit Trying To Make It.” It’s about remembering why you’re here: because you love what you do. And if your only pursuit in doing it is to “make it,” you’ll probably be disappointed.

    So, remember Kid President’s advice. Make stuff. Love it. Enjoy it. Encourage yourself and others.

    These crazy little journeys we all take–go on them with glitz and glamour. And don’t worry about where you’ll end up.