The Benefit of Joining a Book Club, for Writers

Stack of Books for Book ClubOne of the first pieces of advice you will ever receive as a writer is to read. Subconsciously, reading helps you learn to write in a variety of ways: you pick up grammar skills, you learn a variety of writing styles, you learn about story structure, character development, etc. All these are wonderful skills that every writer needs to develop. However, reading is a solo activity in most cases, and completely internal. Two writers could read the same novel, and each come away with totally different opinions, skills, thoughts, etc.

One piece of advice I wish I received when I began to pursue writing is to read… and join a book club. Join a book club, start one, whatever… then suggest a book you have enjoyed, or maybe a book from a genre you are interested in writing, etc. Then go into the meetings and take notes. Take note of what people enjoyed, but especially what the majority disliked. Did it line up with what you thought? If it did, great. If not, even better. Regardless, here’s a list of things to learn from book clubs and why:

If they like a book, listen and learn why

Did they like a character? How was he/she developed? Did they like the end? Was it satisfying? What led up to it to, to make it so satisfying? Take notes on what they liked, then figure out why they liked it. Then you can take those elements and apply them to your own writing.

If they dislike a book, listen and learn *harder*

Did they hate the character they were supposed to root for? Was it because he/she was underdeveloped? Did they even finish the book? Why not? Pacing? Were they a fan of the genre to begin with? That last question is probably one of the most important to consider. I am not a big fan of crime novels, so, of course, I am not going to look favorably on it. However, I am a huge fan of fantasy novels. It’s rare for me to dislike a fantasy novel. There must be a pretty good reason for me not to enjoy a fantasy novel, even on a superficial level. Keep that in mind.

Try some new genres

I think every writer kind of falls into a niche. I love writing in the fantasy genre. I love reading fantasy, but I am kind of stuck in a fantastical loop. Of course, there is nothing wrong with having a favorite genre, but I do think there can be a lot to learn from other genres. Use the book club as a chance to explore. Try on a new genre. What makes it different from your favorite genre? Can you use some of the new elements in your own writing? Heck, maybe you’ll end up loving the new genre! Explore and have fun.

Listen to how your book club peers describe a book

This is how the average reader will review your work. Every writer should be a reader, but not every reader will be a writer. I have found there is a distinct difference in how readers talk about books, versus how writers talk about books. Take in that language. Remember how the negative and the positive sounds. If you are serious about writing, you are going to hear those voices a lot. Enjoy it, and learn from it. Heck, use it! Enjoy being a reader. It’s easy to forget that’s how most of us started.

Learn to make friends, lots of them!

Reading is a lonely activity and writing even more so. Use this time to enjoy literature with others. Laugh, talk, read, and write. Enjoy the moment of being in a group. It isn’t often we get to do that.

In closing:

Of course, book clubs will help you grow as a writer, but they can really help you grow as a person, too. I encourage anyone to try one at least once. If nothing else, you may just make new friends and find new books to enjoy!

Thanks so much for reading! What do you think? Have you been in a book club? Did you enjoy it? Comment below and let me know.

Lissy

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My Editing Technique

Hello!

This is, once again, an edit and repost of an old post I had. I am beginning to realize these are less simple edits and more just flat out rewrites. You know that feeling you get when you scroll through your FaceBook feed from… I don’t know, ten years ago? It starts off all nostalgic and rose-colored, then it just gets more and more cringey. Everything seems so much better, until you actually see it. Well, that’s what ended up happening to me. I went back, started reading these posts, and wondered how anyone read any of this.

I had a tendency to make everything more convoluted and complicated than it had to be, and the same goes for my “editing technique,” whatever the heck that is… Needless to say, I don’t edit the same way I did when this post was originally made (May 4, 2013, jeeeeez). So, it’s time to update. Here is how I edit today:

– Something that hasn’t changed: don’t edit until you finish.
This is pretty much the only thing I held on to from my old “editing technique.” I don’t edit anything until I “finish” the piece. Now I say “finish” because until you’ve edited the piece a couple times, I don’t think it’s finished. Regardless, I don’t edit any of it until I’ve finished the first draft. I think if anything, I’ve actually gotten stricter on this. Before, I’d do some minor edits as I wrote, like fixing a misspelling, putting in missing punctuation etc. Now, I won’t even fix things like that. I don’t pay any attention to anything expect putting words on paper.

– Finish the 1st draft, then add and subtract.
Even after I’ve completed the first draft, I don’t do any copy editing, which is grammar and mechanics editing. I focus on substantive editing. I add things, I cut things, I move things around… this is the fun part of editing because, honestly, it’s still just writing.

– From substance to mechanics.
Once I think I have everything I want to keep, in the order I want to keep it in, I move on to the nitty-gritty: copy editing. I go through and fix all those mechanical issues, grammar issues, misspellings, etc. This is my least favorite because it just proves the point that you never get anything right the first time, and there are always things you need to improve. No matter how long I write, or how many degrees I earn, I still spend the most time copy editing.

– Let her rest.
After long rounds of cutting, adding, and editing, the old eyes need to rest. The piece needs to rest, but so do I. I let my piece rest for a day or two before picking it back up, then I do another round of copy edits, and from there just proofread daily until I feel confident in my piece.

And there you have it. Short, sweet, and to the point. It’s weird how time sorta edits us, too, as writers. Before, I was very long-winded and tried to sound smart, but was more obnoxious than anything else. I have pared down how much I write (though let’s be honest, not that much), and I don’t feel the need to prove I am well-spoken. But we’re getting away from the point of the post, and I think that means it’s a good time to wrap it up.

So, thanks for reading.

-Lissy

3 things you need to do when your hobby begins to feel like a job.

It’s been a long, long, long time since I’ve actually stopped and enjoyed the process of writing. I went through a short phase where I just kept telling myself, “It’s okay, it won’t be long until I can write again,” and that was enough for me. Then it got to the point where I would put things ahead of writing time. I had to prepare for my promotion, then I had to train once I received the promotion, then I had school, then I had tests… Those things do take priority, but even during down time, when none of those things had any hold on me, I still found myself saying, “It’s okay, it won’t be long until I can write again.”

I had become the one person I always blogged about, trying to avoid. I became the writer who talks about writing, but never actually does.

Sure, yes, I do have a lot going on right now. Senior year is right in front of me, and a new job with more responsibilities on top of that eats up a lot of time… Not to mention squeezing in cuddle time with the boyfriend, which I must say I do desperately need during the week. I never considered writing a burden or a chore. It never felt that way to me, and even though I have made it out to seem that way, it still doesn’t.

I just miss the time when it was just all for fun, back when I could sit there and write for hours upon hours, much like how I used to read – another hobby which has met the same terrible fate as writing. Now, life takes so much precedence, I find everything to be tiring. Everything is work, now, even when what I’m doing is supposed to relax me after work.

Writing used to be my life, then reality seeped in and tainted my brain with all of this adult garbage (okay, maybe not garbage, but at least recycling).

But, as always, one thing has helped to remedy my terrible predicament: a list. I’ve put together a few tips and tricks to help combat the adult recycling, and while I still haven’t mastered it, this is a great place to start:

  • You have to become double-brained.
    Unfortunately, this is the hardest thing to accomplish, and it certainly sounds that way. You have to separate the work brain from the writing brain. Or, in my case, I have to separate the Work Brain, the School Brain, the Writer Brain, and the Intern Brain. In most cases, I’m sure it’ll be more like triple-brained, or quadruple-brained, but, for the sake of brevity, double-brained is what I am calling it. The best way I have found to achieve this is to utilize every second of downtime to decompress. Leave a pause between each brain so you can start fresh. This is easier said than done, especially with all of the wonderful social media to sink hours and hours in. You need time to just turn off for a little while. Have a few moments to yourself with no distraction in any shape or form. This way, you won’t lose your precious down time doing something unproductive, both mentally and physically.
  • If you can’t find down time, don’t stop moving.
    As I disclaimed earlier, I still have yet to master this list, especially with the first point. I have a terrible social media addiction. 99% of the time I’m glued to YouTube or FaceBook, just scrolling or passively watching something, not being actively engaged with anything that is happening on my screen. So, until I get my media addiction under control, the only real way I’ve found to stay motivated is to ride the high, so to speak. If I just got done with a paper, I immediately move on to one of my personal projects. I “ride the high.” Granted, I do occasionally burn out because I forget I need to stop, but keeping the productive fire alive is one of the best ways to find a renewed spark with your own work. Do what you have to at work or school in the best way you can, then carry that motivation home with you. Do your homework, then move right into your own project.
  • You have to accept that being good at something requires hard work.
    It’s just the way the world works. If I ever want to be a serious author (make money doing what I love), I have to work for it. I need to treat it like a job, like it’s something that just has to be done because it has to be done. Sometimes we have to think of things like they are work if we ever want to get better. Otherwise, my writing will always be “just a hobby.” Even if you don’t necessarily want your hobby to become your means of financial stability, you want to be good, right? Then you have to work for it. Some people have that natural, raw ability, but those are the exceptions. Not the rule.

It’s okay to slack off sometimes, but when you’re making excuses just to avoid doing what you love because it feels too hard… then you’re avoiding progress. There’s a reason it feels like too much work. If it’s not worth fighting for, then is it really worth doing at all?

Let me know, and comment below! Thanks for reading.

-Lissy

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Don’t be shy!

I’m an introvert, and I’m happy

Introvert – not synonymous with shyness. An introvert is not characterized by being shy, though that does not mean they aren’t. An introvert is someone who finds people, and interacting with them, to be physically and mentally draining, preferring to be alone to recharge. An introvert is not constantly in a state of depression and should not be characterized as such. An introvert can have excellent social skills and have many friends whom they regularly socialize, but won’t make it a point to seek out interaction. Introverts are often introspective and prefer to be alone with their thoughts.

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The farther I go into my college and writing career, the more I realize who I am and who I may be becoming. The summer has come to a close. My internship has ended, school has begun… and I’m still learning more and more about myself.

Life has whisked me away again.

I have friends, lots of them, but I’m probably one of the most garbage friends in the world. I see texts and calls, and often times I just don’t reply. It’s not because I don’t want to – far from it – but the way my life is going right now, I don’t have much me time. At my age, that seems extremely childish to say. At my age, I think it’s okay to be selfish once in a while. I have my whole life ahead of me. I’m going to meet so many people in this short period we call life, and the one person I’m going to spend every second with is the one sitting at this computer, writing this post:

Me.

I don’t want this post to be me lamenting life and how crowded it can sometimes seem, but when 90% of my time is spent in the presence of people I have little to no interest in associating with, I live for those times I get to be by myself.

I love my friends. I love my boyfriend. I love my family. None of that has changed, or ever will change…

I love myself, too. I love sitting behind a book, a laptop, or just sitting and simply existing. I love writing because it’s one of the few things in this world that requires only one person and their thoughts, and I actually have fun doing it. I go to work, I go to school, I spend time around campus, then I go home. Not exciting, not magical or something I want to blog about every day.

But I don’t need it to be. My life is considered boring by most of the population, but I love it.

It’s okay guys. I’m happy. I hope you are, too.

Thanks for reading.

-Lissy

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Writing Goals

With the start of summer break, my new internship, and my job, I’ve had a lot of trouble keeping up with my writing.

I’m not going to lie, I’ve been majorly slacking on a lot of things. Sure, I have excuses:

Tornadoes ripped through my state and my town, the great snowpocalypse, general anxiety… but writing is something that has always made me feel good. It comforts me, and to have avoided just because of sheer laziness is unacceptable. So, in order to keep myself on task, I have set up writing goals for myself so as to start the next school semester fresh and productive.

ONWARD TO THE LIST!

  1. Have my three short horror pieces beta read…
    I have already somewhat started on this, and a lot of these will pretty much be continuations of what I’ve started, but it needs to be out in the world. If I post it publicly, I will definitely feel more obligated to do it. If you’d like to help out, please fill out the contact sheet and let me know how much you’re willing to read and when.
  2. Send my short stories out to as many publications as possible…
    I am extremely lazy. BEYOND lazy. I desperately need to sit down, go through some journals and magazines, and filter through the horror market. I need to see where I can fit in, where I can’t, etc. I don’t want to burn bridges by just spamming my work, but I do need to make a more conscious effort to get out there. I’ve already sent one out. We’ll see what is done with it, then edit, edit, edit, if necessary. Then, send again.
  3. Write for some themed journals…
    I’ve never been in to those journals that only publish for a theme. I understand a genre, but themes have just never appealed to me. If I want to get out there, I need to be able to expand my horizons, so to speak. I need to be more willing to write for something else. It’ll increase my productivity immensely, and I will be able to test myself. I need to at least try.
  4. Finish Ice Over, then go back to writing short stories…
    I love writing long pieces. I love it more than anything else in the world. Apocalyptia and An Austrian March were fun. But I need to become a better writer before I can continue to be a novelist. Short stories are just that, short. They don’t require too much time, though time is necessary. I can write a large amount, send them out, get critiques from a lot more people, and better my writing so I can eventually get back to novels. Ice Over will probably be the last long work I write for a long, long time.
  5. Test the waters with my poetry…
    This year, I thought, would be the year for my prose. It has actually been much more fruitful with my poetry. I’d like to explore my poetry a bit more and expand my skills in that field, too.

I, in general, just want to be more well-rounded as a writer. I thought I had found my place in the writing world, but I’m finding that there is so much more still to explore. Writing is a journey, and I’m taking it one step at a time.

Now, if you’ve made it this far, I want to ask you, what are your writing goals this summer? Anything special you’ll be working on? Let me know, and comment below!

Thanks for reading.

-Lissy

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Self-Publishers Beware, Some Deals ARE Too Good.

With the rise in self-publishing, traditional publishers are scrambling to keep their side of the market afloat. They’re beginning to approach self-publishers, presenting them deals they may not have received otherwise. Self-publishing has opened doors for creative minds. With the addition of #pitmad and #askanagent on Twitter and G+, self-publishers and aspiring authors are able to pitch directly to the people in the business without forking over loads in travel costs and convention fees.

But writer beware, publishers and agents aren’t the only ones drifting through the waters.

There’s a separate sect of publishing known as:

Vanity Publishing
*cue hisses and dramatic music*

In the past, they’ve masqueraded themselves as traditional publishers, offering their services to every writer they come across. Now, with the increase of self-publishing, they’ve morphed into new and improved self-publishing facilities. They offer you professional-grade covers, editing, and even offer both paperback and eBook to all major retailers, all royalties earned included, but there’s a small catch.

There’s a nominal fee. And when they bring up that fee, you better turn tail and run. A fee is the key in distinguishing a real publisher or publishing house from a vanity publisher. Don’t let your excitement of FINALLY getting published cloud your judgement. And believe me, what they call a “nominal” fee turns out to be a small fortune. And while this may seem common sense, their new platform as “self-publishing service” costs much more than the average self-publishing platform. To put it in perspective, I’ve made a list, detailing the many differences between the three publishing options and how to spot the dreaded vanity publisher.

  • Real publishers get paid when YOU get paid
    Never. Never, never, never, never will a traditional publisher ask you to pay for their services. They take their money from your royalty payments. Same goes for self-publishing services. Use your best judgement. $100 for a cover design is one thing, $5000 for the whole pie before you even get to taste it sounds like a bad deal to me. Don’t confuse actual services with the over-inflated scam artists.
  • Self-Publishing services offer you services, you don’t pay for them immediately
    This goes along with the first point, but I feel it needs its own separate bullet. Createspace offers cover designers, formatters, and bells and whistles ALONGSIDE their free, do-it-yourself services. Never will a self-publishing service only allow you to pay for things you could do yourself. If the self-publishing service is asking you to pay for something and is unwilling to give you the chance to do it yourself, then that isn’t a self-publishing service. You’re being swindled into a vanity publisher.
  • Most vanity publishers will actively seek you out
    Most traditional publishers ask you to send things to them for consideration of publication AFTER you’ve already contacted them. Only special circumstances will dictate a traditional publisher contacting you without former inquiry on your end. If you haven’t been doing the #pitmads and you haven’t been shopping your work around for a while, but end up getting contacted by a “publisher,” a little red flag should go up. It’s not unheard of to be contacted if you have previously published before, but to have never been published, self or traditional, and you’re getting contacted, is something to be wary of.
  • A publisher won’t advertise to you
    If you are contacted and are given a whole list of pros and services if you choose to publish with them, then you’re probably looking at a vanity publisher trying to con you. A traditional publisher would give you the minimum of what they have available, such as:
    eBook publishing,
    Paper/Hardback
    And that’s basically the gist of it. You may also see awards and authors they have published. A traditional publisher will want to advertise their prestige to you, so that you may send your work in. A vanity publisher will tell you that you will get all your royalties and will have all these pretty shiny things given to you if you’ll just send your work to them. They will also guarantee publication to every manuscript sent in. You know why? Because they’re going to take your money first. It doesn’t matter if the book sells. You’ve already sent them $1,000+ to them. What do they care if it sells or not?
  • If it makes you uncomfortable, don’t do it
    Like I’ve said before, never let your excitement of being published cloud your judgement. If you notice certain things that make you question the integrity of a publisher, whether they’re vanity or not, don’t publish with them. You’ve worked too hard to just sell your work to a crap publisher.

Be careful with your work. Love what you do, keep trying to publish or publish yourself, but be smart.

Have you ever been in contact with a vanity publisher? Have you published with one? What are your thoughts? Let me know, and comment below.

Thanks for reading.

-Lissy

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Writing For Yourself

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As a writer, I find myself writing more and more to appease others. I write for themes I wouldn’t usually write for, for journals I would’ve scoffed at not too many months ago, and for people I have never met and probably will never meet in my entire life.

None of that is necessarily a bad thing, as it is good to push the boundaries of our own skills – to go outside of our comfort zone, if you will.

Yet, if you’ll look at the picture above, you’ll find the title of a piece I have never published. I’ve shown it to a handful of people, and I’ve debated publishing it too many times to count. I’m still debating it today, and probably will for a long time until I finally decide one way or another.

Or perhaps I won’t.

Regardless, I wrote that piece for myself. I wrote it because I had feelings I felt were best kept on paper. I wrote it because it was what I wanted to write.

Everyone wants to write a piece which will change the world, or will mean something to someone else. I believe that is a noble cause, necessary in a world so open and ever-changing. It’s nice to know someone you may never meet has certain feelings and aspirations akin to your own. Though, is it not just as important to write for ourselves? Must we always write just to publish? Must we always write just for the readers?

I believe we should write for ourselves just as much as others. We can fulfill the duty to others while fulfilling a duty to ourselves.

Yet, I often feel myself losing the answer to those questions. What do you think? Let me know, and comment below.

Thanks for reading.

-Lissy

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The Writer’s Curse

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Writing is both a blessing and a curse. A writer must do what he or she must do alone (excluding the editing, cover design, and all the extra hub-bub which follows the actual writing). Writing is therapeutic, and it’s one of the few professions where the writer is the only one able to complete the task.

Yes. You.

You are the only one who can write the words which are dancing around inside your skull. If you don’t, then your book will never be written. Simple as that.

And that is both a blessing and a curse.

Writing is therapeutic, but it can be a lonely task. One which, when done often enough, becomes less therapeutic and more of a chore – a detriment to one’s mental health. It is key to balance your writing life along with a regular social life.

Go out with friends every once in a while. Though many of us write for fun as well as a living, just like any daily job, it begins to weigh on a person. A writer deserves just as much a break as any man or woman in a cubicle. Stop writing for a while, go on a trip, drink a little wine, take a nice bath with some bubbles and other smell goods. Invite your spouse or significant other to join you. Why not?

But don’t forget, just like any job, you have to go back eventually, or risk losing it all together.

What do you do to get out? Any special rituals you follow? Let me know, and comment below!

Thanks for reading.

-Lissy

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Everyone Can Be a Writer, but…

Maybe I should’ve minded my own business, and I’ve probably “fed the troll,” so to speak. But I just have to share this, because this is something everyone needs to know. There is one thing to be honest, there is another to be cruel, and I believe this to be cruel. Rather than critiquing the work in a constructive way, this person went so far as to attack the individual who asked for a review.

It could be that I’m just tired, as it is nearing midnight where I am, but this has me angrier than I can manage. Everyone has the opportunity to be a writer. Everyone! It can be anyone and everyone’s dream, and the boards I am a part of help to better young writers who wish to follow their dreams. Why would anyone crush them like this? Yes, it’s hard to be a writer. Yes, this person had problems with capitalization and general grammar, but that doesn’t mean you completely crush them and tell them they can never be a writer. No. No. I will not stand for it.

All of you reading this tonight, whether you share it or not, you CAN be a writer. Write every single day. Even if you don’t write as well as Stephen King or Jane Austen, keep going, because practice will make you better, and you will be a writer because you know what a writer does? A writer WRITES! Now, good night everyone.

Happy reading.
Happy writing.

-Lissy

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I put that post on tumblr a couple of weeks ago, and while I still believe that “as long as you write, you are a writer,” I must amend it a bit and say: Everyone can be a writer, but not everyone can be good writers. Just a small clarification, but my opinions still stand when it comes to working in critique groups or reviewing other people’s work.  Just my two cents for the day. What are your opinions on the matter? Do you agree? Disagree? Let me know, and comment below.

Thanks for reading.

-Lissy

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