Life, Writing and The Hunger Games.

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Think of the most relaxing time of your life. You’re on a beach with a daiquiri in hand. The brim of your sun hat shadows your face while the rest of your body soaks up the sun. A pool boy walks by to ask if you would like another drink. Why not? It’s your time.

Now, think of the exact opposite because that has been my life.

March has come and gone with a tornado. I started prepping for my store’s inventory in late February but the two weeks before is really the time when shit gets crazy. For those that don’t know, inventory is the one day of the year where an outside company comes in and literally scans every single item in the store. So, it takes a bit of prep time.

I didn’t have a day off from March 9th to the 24th. (That’s 16 days without a day to myself.) Most of those days were 12-14 hour days. I was about to break. Mentally and physically, I was exhausted. When I closed my eyes, I thought of everything I could be doing at the store. I woke up from dreams about problems at the store. Even my sleep was exhausting. Not to mention we were one of the 800,000 homes in Michigan that went without power for three days.

So please forgive me for taking a couple of weeks to un-zombify. So, in my little break I did things like went and saw Beauty and the Beast (It’s amazing if you haven’t seen it!) I also, finished The Hunger Games series –  I know I’m late in the game. I also started writing another project that I am excited to tell you about! But first, The Hunger Games.

I fell in love with the first book. It captivated me and swept me away. Before I realized what was happening, I was anxiously up a tree with Katniss Everdeen staring at a Trakker Jacker nest. I felt everything in that book, and at one point I remember thinking, this is what I want to do for my readers. Then it came to an end. A very frustrating end.

One of my pet peeves is cliffhangers, and I found one. A big nasty one, sprouting little white hairs. Not at the end of chapters but the end of the book. If I didn’t already have the other books, I probably wouldn’t have continued. That’s how much I dislike them.

The second book, I enjoyed. I loved seeing Katniss begin to fall for Peeta. I felt like all the action bits were squeezed into a tiny section of the book and the rest dragged for me. Then, another dang cliffhanger.

Mockingjay. Sigh. I didn’t care for it. I know there is a lot of serious stuff going on, but Katniss was just annoying, moping around and not the heroine that she was in the previous books. I felt like keeping her out of danger made the book boring. It was too political. Yes, I’m happy the Capitol was taken down, but I would have liked to see a little more action and lovey stuff.

Overall, it was a good read. I thought Suzanne Collins did an excellent job of drawing me into the story and that’s what I look for, an escape. However, at one point Katniss said something to Peeta that made me laugh “It’s what we do. We save each other.” (or something along those lines) It always seemed like Katniss was saving Peeta. He was always in trouble and couldn’t fend for himself. I would have liked to see it more evenly split because by the end Peeta just seemed like a burden.

SPOILER!! IF YOU HAVEN’T READ IT, SKIP THE NEXT FEW SENTENCES!

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I also would have liked to gain a closeness with Prim. I didn’t even cry when she died (and if you know me, I’m a crier.) I was more upset when Finnick died than I was when Prim did.

Well enough of the things I read. How about the things I wrote?

As I mentioned earlier I’ve been working on a short story. I’ve decided I will debut it on my blog! Each week I will post a chapter on Friday. I’m not exactly sure when the launch date will be yet, but I will keep you posted with more details in the following weeks. I have taken a little break because the 20th marked the one month mark since I finished my first draft of Spark and I’ve started revising that. Tune in next week for the summary!!

Well all, I hope that next week I will be back to scheduled programming. If you have anything you would like me to talk about on a future blog, I would love to hear from you! Until then, Happy Writing.

Traditional or Self-Publish? Oh, the decisions.

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I think I’m writing this more for myself than to provide advice, but I when I started this blog I wanted it to be more than just tips. I wanted to share the honest and real things that I am feeling about this process. I have been flipping back and forth between traditional and self-publishing for months. My manuscript is not close to being ready, and maybe I’m getting a bit ahead of myself, but this is on my mind today.

I’ve watched Youtube videos, read copious amounts of blogs/books, read every question that had come up in my writing groups and asked for clarification when necessary. With all this information I still find myself indecisive.

At first, I thought I would inevitably self-publish because no publisher is going to pick up a book about vampires. Plus, royalties are higher, and I have complete control over my book. I can pretty much do everything I could with a traditional publisher, except put my book on shelves at brick and mortar stores. With the way of technology that’s not such a big deal. Other than that, it sounds perfect, right?

Well, now I’m not so sure. For me, there is something about Traditional Publishing that seems so official. Like it’s a token of being able to write because someone wants to sell my book. Part of me is excited about the thought of having my books in stores and having a company support my efforts. Then the other part is absolutely terrified. I’m afraid that this is just another endeavor that I won’t be good enough for and despite all my hard work, I will fail.

Then I started thinking about it, and I have never felt this passionate about something. Hell, I just completed a 74,000-word manuscript and I’m fighting with myself to let it rest until I can start tearing it apart on March 20th. It’s something I am not willing to let fail. Once it’s been rewritten, 5…10…15 times (however many it takes), I need to send it out to publishers.

I will get rejections. I promise you that, but I will not let them break me. These rejections are vital and will have areas that I can improve on, and I will use them to better my work and myself as a writer.

How else will I improve? I’m not completely set on Traditional publishing as my final choice, but I know it is a necessary one. I need to know what the industry wants to see. There is no better way to grow than to have your weaknesses exposed and then overcome them.

Either way I choose, I never want to release my work until it is the best it can be. Until I’ve read it so many times that I am confident in every word on the page.

I hope you enjoyed this more personal blog and I look forward to seeing your work in the future. As always don’t forget to follow my page to keep up on the progress of The Siren Project and any writing tips I find along the way. If you have a topic, you would like me to cover on a future blog feel free to drop a comment below, message me on my contact me page or tweet me @shauna_philp.

Happy Writing!

Shauna

Finding Time and Motivation.

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After announcing that I finished my first draft I had several people ask me how I found the time and motivation to write. Here’s what my daily life looks like, I drive an hour to work, spend ten hours there and then drive an hour back home. So, I technically spend twelve hours a day at my day job. Plus, I have social media accounts I have to be active on. Oh, don’t forget about the everyday things I have to do to keep myself from looking like I just rolled off the nearest park bench from under my newspaper blanket (Some days the struggle is real). Then squeeze in time to write a blog post for the week and work on a story project for my blog. Phew, that just sounds exhausting… and it is.

So these are my five tips to keep myself from losing sight of my dreams.

1.) Write Every day.
You don’t have to write on your current or main project every day. Instead, you could write a blog post or a side project just something to keep the creative juices flowing. After twenty-one days of doing something consistently, it becomes a habit. Now, if I go without writing for a day, I get a little anxious about it. But then again, I get a little anxious about the mailman knocking on the door so, I could just be crazy. I also find that the words flow better too. They seem to glide out on a silver runway rather than be pulled out with spikes on their shoes. It can be a little, or it can be a lot, just write.

2.) Make a schedule.

I don’t necessarily need a schedule to write because I’m afraid giving myself only a limited time or a set time would lead me to obsess over the time rather than the content. The bigger problem is my work schedule varies so, I would have to adjust to a new schedule every week. It’s just easier to be flexible as long as I write something.

I do use a schedule to keep my Facebook page posts consistent and plan out blog posts in advance. Sometimes things don’t always line up with my plan (I don’t think I used one blog post I planned out for this month) but at least I am prepared for the weeks that I need extra ideas.

Now, just because making a writing schedule doesn’t work for me doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try it. Maybe, you could try writing immediately after you get home from work before the kids get off the bus or getting up an hour early for work. Just try out a few different places or times until you find what works for you.

3.) Set goals.

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I set monthly goals for myself. For example, for March my monthly goals are:

  • Post on social media daily (I failed at this one for February).
  • Grow my Facebook page by 100 likes (I’m going to try hard, but I’m biting my nails)
  • Finish Emilia’s story for my blog
  • Start my outline for my revisions of Spark (But I can’t start that until Emilia’s story is in the hands of Beta readers).

Setting monthly goals is what has been working for me, but you can try daily, quarterly or yearly goals. I typically write out quality daily goals on my days off. Usually, they consist of writing a blog post, writing a certain number of scenes or writing to a particular point. Then any other miscellaneous things I have to do throughout the day. I find writing them down and being able to cross them off is just a little extra reward.

Another thing you can try is word count goals. I don’t like them very much; it’s kind of like setting a time, I obsess over the word count rather than the content, but it might work for you.

4.) Self Motivation.

aaeaaqaaaaaaaaukaaaajdk2m2zjmgrilwm3mwytngiyyi1hztkwltrimwm0ztzmodm0nqI have always been a self-motivated person. I believe in giving 110% in whatever you do.That explains why by the time I was 23 I was an Assistant Manager for my current employer and I became a Store Manager by 25. I always work hard for my goals, and I don’t let anyone stand in my way. I am always looking for ways to improve myself, and I know to do my best I have to take constructive criticism and apply it. I don’t rely on anyone else to get me motivated.

The only person that will make your dreams happen is you.

5.) Ask yourself, why?

If none of these things give you the motivation to start or finish a project then ask yourself why you want this? If that reason doesn’t make you eager to start then maybe this isn’t what you are supposed to do. I’m not trying to be harsh or mean, just honest and realistic. If your reason doesn’t make you want to jump up and start working then find a new reason that does or explore something else.

For me, I’m passionate about my work, and I want to be able to share my creativity with the world. It’s fun and relaxing to be able to escape to a different place and time. I have people who are excited to see what I come up with and I sure as hell don’t want to disappoint them.

I hope my tips this week have helped you and I look forward to seeing your work in the future. As always don’t forget to follow my page to keep up on the progress of Spark and any writing tips I find along the way. If you have a topic, you would like me to cover on a future blog feel free to drop a comment below, message me on my contact me page or tweet me @shauna_philp.