Sunday, May 22, 2016

10 Years by the Seat of my Pants

Author’s note: This is a long ramble about Faith's life but there are two important things to note at the bottom of this post, marked with asterisks (**).

I’m not really sure if we’re getting anywhere with my “writing tips.” Heaven knows I haven’t studied writing for very long. So I’m going to put up a poll to figure out what you guys would rather have me talk about. (I’m not sure if I have enough readers to conduct a proper poll; however, I’ll give it a go.)

So today I’m going to talk a little about my personal life -- give you all a proper introduction, which I don’t think I’ve done. Then I’ll tie it into writing, as I always do. Such is my life.

As you can see if you follow the link to my profile, I am a college student -- a rising sophomore and a recently converted English major, in fact. I started out as a Nursing major, but quickly discovered that my jumbled brain worked much better in the humanities than it did in science. Then I switched to Journalism, but I didn’t feel ready to specialize so narrowly when I hadn’t taken time to explore the many facets of writing. At the end of this year I converted to the English major, and I’ll be concentrating in writing. I also hope to minor in Spanish and possibly Chinese. I may pursue editing as my day job, or I may go into something that has to do with foreign languages. Translating, perhaps, or public relations. I don’t know. The English major is very versatile when it comes to career choice, which I, the ever-procrastinating decision maker, enjoy. Besides, I love foreign languages. I’d eventually like to add German and maybe French to my repertoire as well.

I started writing creatively when I was probably around eight. I was homeschooled, but I begged to go to public school. My parents wouldn’t let me, so as my revenge I decided to write about public school and live vicariously through the characters I created. I wish I could find this story now. I’m sure it’s horrendous. I remember something about a super long hallway with even numbered doors on one side and odd numbered doors on the other...little did I know public school was hardly so organized. (My parents finally caved and let me go public for my junior and senior years of high school. Not the greatest years to adjust, let me tell you...although it did allow me to skip a grade.) Writing was my escape into the world I wished I lived in -- I also wrote about summer camp a good deal, although I’d never attended one of those either. I remember spending more time designing flyers for my make believe summer camp than actually writing about it. I had a good time. Eight year olds write for pure enjoyment -- no pressure, no self-doubt. It was a good starting point.

I was also a big proponent of fanfiction from a young age. According to my sister, I would tell her stories about Disney princesses ever since she was a toddler. I don’t remember this; however, I do remember spinning tales about the characters from my favorite TV shows, including Arthur, Backyardigans, and Magic School Bus. I told these all out loud until we got into the Lord of the Rings. Then we started writing our continuations of Merry and Pippin’s adventures after they returned to the Shire. At this point we learned the name of what we were doing, although we never published any of our stories. Publication flitted across my mind from time to time as I worked on a few original things, including a fantasy story that marks the longest novel I have ever written (totally by the seat of my pants, too -- it’s only about 60,000 words, but my attention span was usually shorter than that), a badly-researched historical fiction novel, and a short mystery. However, it wasn’t something I thought too seriously about.

Then my sister and I discovered the Harry Potter fandom. And oh, what a fandom it was. Growing up, our internet usage was pretty restricted, but at this point we were teenagers -- young adults, our grandfather called us -- and we were given access to the wonderful world of Pinterest. My sister had read the series several times; I had stopped after Goblet of Fire, the fourth book, but she filled me in on the rest of the series. I also saw the movies -- not the same, I know. However, we were intrigued by the idea that two of the next-generation characters, Scorpius Malfoy and Rose Weasley, could get together. (If you’re not in the Harry Potter fandom, just bear with me for a second.) Because our fanfiction took place after the series had ended, I felt justified in not having technically read the whole thing. Plus -- and herein lies the rub -- I found my first chance to get unofficially published. is the largest hall of -- you guessed it -- Harry Potter fanfiction since 2001. I’m not going to tell you my username because seriously, I’m trying to build a professional base here, and also the writing isn’t as good as I’d like it to be. However, this is such an integral part of my writing journey that I can’t leave it out. The site also has an extensive forums, and while it is intended for those who love the series to fangirl (or fanguy) together, for me it was a veritable playground for marketing and publishing. I entered challenges, published stories, got reviews, even advertised a little. This went on for about two years, and for a while I didn’t think I could ever stop. Although I played entirely inside J.K. Rowling’s ready-made world, I learned to develop characters more deeply than I’d ever done before. I tried my hand at writing romance, humor, suspense, even children’s fiction. I learned how to leave constructive feedback without being nasty. I learned how fun it is to have people who follow your work. I learned that when I write a character solely for the purpose of love interest, they fall flatter than a toad taking a siesta on the highway. (Looking back, I see this happened in my other works as well. However, this is when I realized it.) I fell in love with my characters, which made me feel slightly guilty, since after all they were technically J.K. Rowling’s. But the characterization was mine, and at this point I began to wish I had my very own characters to develop again, so I could claim full credit for them.

Then Rowling decided to write a play (called the Cursed Child, if you haven’t heard) about the Next-Gen characters, and I realized my headcanon was doomed. HarryPotterFanfiction also began to fall apart -- in fact, if you’re interested in that sort of thing, I suggest you check it out now before it disappears forever. As one thing followed another, my fanfiction days slowly drew to a close. I decided that if I ever wanted to get into the realm of published fiction -- really truly, honest-to-goodness, professionally published fiction -- I should start work right away. I had a couple ideas, and I slowly started to develop them. I eventually settled on the sci-fi/YA novel that I’m planning right now. Hopefully you’ll get to see some snippets on Wattpad after Camp Nano this July. Time machines are involved. However, I can’t promise I’ll get that far by that point.

My publish-happy fever got me into this blog at the beginning of this year. I’m pretty sure I started this project the day after I thought of it, which explains my struggle to participate and my general lack of planning. (Hey, I wrote and lived by the seat of my pants for almost ten years. Forgive me if I’m just now starting to get into planning ahead.) I’ve started to slow down a little, now that I’ve realized how much time this all takes -- plus, I really need some training on writing short stories, to be honest. I might have to revamp this project after I take the fiction writing workshop my school offers. In any case, it’s been a good experience and maybe gained me a few followers. Possibly.

I’ve recently started reading through the wonderful Writing Fiction for Dummies by Randy Ingermanson and Peter Economy. You may have heard of Randy as “The Snowflake Guy” due to his novel planning method (which you can check out here) and Peter -- honestly, the guy just has a great last name. It’s a great resource for anyone who wants to get published. They are very real with you. Novel writing is a buttload of work, no kidding. So is writing short stories. Or blogs. You have to be dedicated and write even when you don’t want to. Writing changes you. Heck, I’ve even become a planner in the last week! When did that happen? (Well, for novel writing, anyway. For everything else I’m just as spontaneous as ever. For example, I had a totally different blog post “planned” for today. Maybe I’ll write it next week.)

**Oh! I almost forgot to introduce the new co-writer of this blog! Meet Grace Weiser -- yes, I know, she’s already written about half the blog in guest posts, so we decided to make her an official writer. She’ll be posting at least once a month. Click on her profile link up in the sidebar. JUST DO IT. (Sorry Nike, I totally stole your slogan.)

Also, for any of you participating in the Once Upon Now challenge, the deadline is June 12 at 3:59pm EST. So you can’t post it at midnight as we procrastinators usually do. Or you can, but it would have to be midnight on June 11.

Ciao for now!

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