WOW, GUYS. THE YEAR IS ALMOST OVER. I feel like I say this every year (and with more bitter enthusiasm each time) but I can’t believe how fast time flies!! It’s really remarkable, in a disheartening and horrifying and stressful way. Let’s all stand in awe of it, shall we? AS WE CRY INTO PILLOWS BECAUSE WE DON’T WANT 2017 TO BE OVER???
But in all seriousness*, I’m excited for the New Year. I’m excited for new plans and secret projects yet to be revealed and THE OTHER THINGS I HAVE NO CLUE ABOUT YET. The approaching of a new year is always an electrifying thing, because it just somehow feels like ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE. And I love that feeling more than anything in the world.
So, in honor of 2017, I’m kicking off a miniseries on the blog: 7 THINGS I LEARNED ABOUT ____ IN 2017. Today it’s about writing and next week…it will be about something else. Haha. WAIT AND SEE. But I thought this would be a fun way to open up some new discussions! As the year draws to a close, I love to look back and see how much I’ve learned, changed, and improved throughout the course of twelve crazy months. AND I WANT TO TALK ABOUT WHAT YOU LEARNED IN 2017 TOO. It can be about writing or ANYTHING UNDER THE SUN. But let’s chat about it in the comments! Because my favorite thing about blogging is um… YOU, MY FRIEND. (No surprises there.) So let’s make this a conversation!! AND NOW, ONTO THE POST.
*not that the previous paragraph WASN’T serious…i totally am crying into a pillow over here IS NOBODY WITH ME?? UH
2017 was an epic year for writing. I think I achieved more of my writing goals this year than I have any other year?? WHAAAAAT. PRETTY COOL STUFF, SON. This was also the first year I actually wrote down “writing goals” in a document and tried my hardest to stick with them. SO LET’S SEE WHAT I ACTUALLY ACCOMPLISHED:
2017 WRITING GOALS – REACHED
– Wrote the second draft of co-write YA rom-com book I haven’t told y’all about yet, which turned out to be 76,000 words
– Wrote the second draft of other co-write MG comedy book I haven’t told y’all about yet, which turned out to be 44,000 words
– Outlined and prepared for NaNoWriMo (which was a feat in and of itself, since my outline was 20,000 words long *nervous laughter*)
– Wrote the first draft of One Hundred Days (!!!) which turned out to be 73,000 words
– Wait that’s not an accomplishment??
Needless to say, I’M PRETTY DARN PLEASED with the amount of writing I did this year. All in all, I wrote about 200,000 words this year. I have no idea how I still have things to say on this blog but…I GUESS I CAN’T SHUT UP?? You’re stuck with me, bro. :””’)
2018 is going to be FULL OF EDITING, EDITING, EDITING. Which is kind of terrifying and exciting at the same time. *nervous laughter* I haven’t actually written out my 2018 writing goals yet,* but I know that next year is going to include WRITING NEW BOOKS, plus maybe some preparation for self-publishing! (WHAAAAT. *excited screaming*) BUT WE SHALL CROSS THAT BRIDGE WHEN WE BURN IT.
*maybe I’ll do a post about my writing goals?? AND WE CAN ALL SHARE OUR GOALS FOR 2018?? idk what do you think tell me in the comments!!
OKAY ENOUGH ABOUT GOALS. Let’s talk about what I learned in 2017 when it comes to the captivating, horrifying, daunting, exciting, complex, intimidating, beautiful, indescribable topic of: WRITING.
WHAT I LEARNED ABOUT WRITING IN 2017
#1: I’M A PLOTTER
If I didn’t already know this like the back of my hand, I am a HARDCORE PLOTTER. So, yes: I kind of already knew this about myself. Flying by the seat of my pants does NOT work for me when it comes to writing (or anything, for that matter.) I’m a plotter through and through – I knew this. But I didn’t know how much EASIER writing would be until I tried hardcore plotting.
As I mentioned a moment ago, I wrote a 20,000-word outline for my NaNoWriMo novel this year. AND NONE OF THOSE WORDS CONTRIBUTED TO MY FINAL WORD COUNT.* I just wrote that much outline because I LIKE TO KNOW WHERE I’M GOING. I’m that person who plans out their route on a GPS, days before they hit the road – and they know exactly how many hours, minutes, and seconds their journey is going to take. MAYBE THIS SOUNDS HORRIBLY DULL AND STUFFY TO YOU, but to me it feels like “ahhh, I can just relax and enjoy the ride because I know exactly where I’m going.” AND I DISCOVERED HOW MUCH I LOVE OUTLINING IN GREAT DETAIL. It’s certainly not for everyone (I don’t subscribe to “one size fits all” systems of writing) but IT’S DEFINITELY FOR ME and I’m happy to know that.
*except for little bits of dialogue here and there that I thought of wayyy in advance??? idk my brain is weird hahahaaa
#2: YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE A GOOD WRITER TO BE A GOOD STORYTELLER
THIS. GUYS. THIS. I learned about storytelling this year – the true hidden ART of storytelling – and, bro…my life will never be the same again. See, most people buy the common myth that “in order to be a good writer, you have to be a good writer.” IT SEEMS PRETTY OBVIOUS, RIGHT? But it’s actually wrong. In order to be a good writer, you have to make your reader feel something. They have to connect with your story on an emotional level. More often than not, “good writing” hides your story (or even worse: replaces it) and all you have is pretty words and a disconnected experience for your reader. aaaand… you lost me.
NOT TO SAY YOU CAN’T BE BOTH. Because you can be. I’ve read works by authors who are both good storytellers and good writers. But if you’re going to be one or the other, BE A GOOD STORYTELLER. Because where “good writing” provokes thought, “good storytelling” provokes feeling. I’d rather my readers FEEL SOMETHING than think about how good my writing is. And understanding how important storytelling is, THAT’S REALLY ENCOURAGING FOR ME. Because I, like every other writer out there, have doubts about my work. Sometimes I feel like I’m not good with words – I can’t craft them as beautifully as the next writer. BUT THAT DOESN’T ACTUALLY MATTER. All that matters is…you’re going to smack me if I say it again so I’m just going to shut up now. You get the point.
All that matters is that you feel something!!
#3: IT’S OKAY TO TAKE WRITING ADVICE (WITH A GRAIN OF SALT)
For the first time in my life, I read a book about writing. YES! I KNOW. Me, the person who is always shouting about “non-writing advice” and how you SHOULD NOT PUT YOURSELF IN A BOX. But allow me to explain myself. There’s this book called Wired For Story by Lisa Cron and IT IS AWESOME. I usually don’t pick up books about “how to write a novel” because I don’t believe in one-size-fits-all methods, like I said before. But here’s what intrigued me about this book: Lisa Cron is a psychologist, and she writes about story from a neurological viewpoint. There is, in fact, an exact response your brain has to a well-told story – it’s not just based on your various likes and dislikes. YOUR BRAIN IS HUNGRY FOR A GOOD STORY. It’s science.
That made me curious. Because I’m a sucker for neuroscience (heyo) and learning cool new things about the human brain. ADD WRITING TO THE MIX? I’M SOLD. Wired For Story really opened my eyes to the world of storytelling – and separating the words from the emotions. This book is just LOADED and I want to read it again…and again and again and again.
So this year I learned that it’s okay to take advice (with a grain of salt.) I didn’t agree with EVERYTHING I read in Wired For Story, but I was pleasantly surprised by the new world of intriguing ideas it opened up for me. HOWEVER, I’m still a firm believer in blazing your own trail with your art. As Hans Zimmer says, “When you find a rule, break it.” (Hans Zimmer, guys. NEED I SAY MORE.)
#4: THE PLOT BUNNY STRUGGLE IS REAL
I MAY HAVE A TINY PROBLEM WITH PLOT BUNNIES. Translation? I have 30+ plot bunnies CASUALLY SCREAMING at me from the back burner. Not that I’m cooking them, or anything. They’re just…sitting there? ARE THE BACK BURNERS EVEN ON, WHEN WE SAY “BACK BURNER”?? That’s what I want to know, Rodney.
ANYWAY, MY WRITING STOVE HAS 27307320 BACK BURNERS and they are filling up fast. I don’t know why I think of so many story ideas?? And I don’t know why I want to write literally all of them (because I’m sure some of them are rubbish, I just can’t face it yet *distant sobbing*) BUT I LOVE MY PLOT BUNNIES. THEY KEEP ME COMPANY DURING MY 2AM EXISTENTIAL CRISES. :””)
^ actual footage of me with my plot bunnies
#5: THE FIRST PAGE IS EVERYTHING
We all know this. You want to grab someone’s attention with the first page (or better yet: first line) of your book. BUT HOW DO YOU WRITE AN AWESOME OPENING SCENE???? < I still don’t really have the answer to that one hahaHAHAHA but you love me anyway, right? I’M STILL LEARNING. I’M HUMAN. WOOOOOO. But this year I’ve definitely learned A LOT about writing an opening scene.
First, NEVER OPEN WITH A “DAY IN THE LIFE” SCENARIO…unless something is cosmically off. The one thing that captures anyone’s attention is curiosity. If you don’t have curiosity on page one, you better have some secret weapon. BECAUSE CURIOSITY IS SO IMPORTANT. And also: action. Opening with action >>>>>> opening with anything else. BUT LIKE I SAID, I HAVE NO FORMULA. I’m still learning. Whatup.
#6: I CAN WRITE 70K IN ONE MONTH
This might not seem like a super awesome feat for some of you lightning-fast writers out there, but IT’S A BIG DEAL FOR ME. I was barely able to reach my goal of 50,000 words in 2016’s NaNoWriMo. This year, I reached my 50,000-word goal in two weeks. SO THAT WAS A BIG IMPROVEMENT AND IT MADE ME HAPPY. It was a relief to discover that I’m capable of devoting myself to a writing project and actually surpassing my expectations. IT JUST…IT HAS NEVER HAPPENED TO ME BEFORE. So I was really really really pumped to learn that about myself. Like, pumped beyond words.
#7: THE WRITING COMMUNITY IS FREAKING AWESOME
Seriously. I have no idea what I would do without you guys. The encouragement and inspiration and kindness I receive from this community of bloggers and writers and fellow creatives is BEYOND MY WILDEST DREAMS. The comments I get on this blog alone…that’s enough to keep me going. I PROMISE TO NOT GIVE UP ON MY DREAMS – because you, my friend, inspire me to keep going strong. You inspire me to create the next thing and pour my heart and soul into it. You give me hope for the world. AND I WANT TO THANK YOU FROM THE BOTTOM OF MY HEART FOR BEING HERE, READING MY WORDS. It means so much to me.
What have you learned this year? Any important lessons about writing?? Or just Life™ in general??? Give me your best piece of writing advice! Oh, and how many plot bunnies are sitting on your back burner?!? LET’S TALK WRITING.
BEHOLD! THE BEST WRITING-RELATED POSTS OF THE YEAR: