Writing

3 Perks of Being a Writer (aka stuff I discovered my last semester of undergrad)

Hello all!

As some of you know, I have graduated with my BA in English *cue roaring applause.* Thank you, thank you. Anyway, being a recent-undergrad grad, I find myself lost in a sea of post-grad depression. I’m discovering it’s very hard to be determined and focused without the familiar structure of school plus work-life. Without one half of that combo, all I do is work and come home, which leaves me a lot more time to just… think, and I have done a lot of that recently.

I call it thinking, but really I’m just drowning in a sea of nostalgia. I think it may be that it just recently happened, but I have been ruminating on my final creative writing class. It was so different, and the professor was just as different. This professor just boggled my brain. Don’t get me wrong, I learned a lot throughout my entire undergraduate career, but something about that final class during that final semester just really resonated with me. I talk a lot about writing, the crafting of it, the mechanics of it, etc. However, I didn’t realize there were also a set of perks that came along with the title of writer. That is what my final creative writing class taught me, and I wanted to share some of those today.

Well, enough of that. Let’s get going.

  1. Calling yourself what you are — a writer — can open some doors.
    Of course it’s always nice to have the proof to back it up, but just by claiming you are from the get-go, it can provide a huge amount of opportunities. For example, I’ve been working on a piece centered around the history of a bronze sculpture. It probably goes without saying that I know jack squat about bronze and how it reacts to certain elements and time in general. So, I did some googling and found a person that works with bronze metals and restores older pieces from various stages of wear tear. I sent him an email, making sure I mentioned that I was just a writer hoping to expand my knowledge on the subject. He was beyond helpful. He sent pictures, asked me questions about my fictional bronze sculpture, and even helped shaped my story. Just by letting him know I was writer and wanted to learn, I gained so much knowledge and ended up having a great experience I might not have otherwise.
  2. You are always building a portfolio.
    If you are a writer, you are also a creator. You are constantly creating something, and as such you are always building a portfolio. My professor always told us to attack everything we wrote as if someoneanyone might read it. That is something I never really thought of when writing, but it has become truer and truer the farther I travel from my undergraduate career into my professional one. You don’t really realize how many of the pieces you work on you can eventually use in a professional setting. I recently (and by recently I mean 3 weeks ago) I was hired by my dream company *cue second roaring applause.* Thank you, thank you, but surprisingly (or perhaps, unsurprisingly) my job doesn’t directly deal with writing in any way. Even so, I had so much to put on my resume and into my portfolio that proved I was capable of working in a professional setting. They proved to my now-employer that I could meet deadlines, that I could communicate effectively, and that I was able to complete projects effectively. I provided them with multiple versions of one piece to prove I had an eye-for-detail, that I am dedicated, and that I am not discouraged by failure. By constantly creating, you are constantly creating proof of your skills and character. We spend so much time learning to show and not tell, and by doing so, we are creating ways to show our skills, rather than just tell people we have them.
  3. You can always be a writer.
    No matter what path my life takes, I will always be a writer. If I stay on my current career path, if I decide to do something else, if 40 years pass, if pen and paper become obsolete, if we all have to move to another planet, if the world implodes… doesn’t matter. I can and will always be a writer. As long as you writer, you are a writer. A writer is someone who writes journals, who writes for a newspaper, who writes just for their mom, who blogs, who writes grocery lists, who writes poems, who writes stories, who tells stories, who records stories on a laptop, phone, tape recorder… if you believe you are a writer, all you need to do to prove it is to write. Simple as that. To prove you are a doctor, you need a license. To prove you are a NASA employee, you need references, or name badges, or check stubs… but a doctor doesn’t need a license to prove he is a writer, too. He is a writer because he writes.

Are these perks super cool? Probably not to everyone, and maybe not even that cool to many of my fellow writers. Regardless, I hope you got something out of this. Be proud, writers. Read, write, repeat.

Thanks for reading.

-Lissy

Writing

Where is “The End”

Hello all!

I’ve made it a point to go back and look through old posts, edit them, refine them, and cringe at them. This was the first post I ever made on this blog/website/thing. How ironic that the beginning was about the end. What is more ironic? I preached, repeatedly in that old post that there is an end. You shouldn’t feel obligated to change things, to keep going, etc. Yet, here I am, going back to posts I thought were at one time finished, and keeping them going.

The reason I chose this post? I changed my mind. Simple as that.

There is an end, but it can always be changed. Now prepare for my anecdote as to why I’ve had this change of heart:

This fall (Fall 2016) was the last semester of my undergraduate degree. I took classes just for the sake of credits, so I had a chance to take classes I wanted, rather than classes I needed. I took an advanced creative writing class where the theme was “Ghosts.” Super cool, right? Anyway, we had to have one-on-one sessions with the professor. We were to bring a piece we wanted him to look over, and we’d spend the time talking about it. It was super generative and very helpful.

I brought an older piece that I’ve been working on on-and-off for the past year or two. He read it over, silent, for a good fifteen to twenty minutes. He stopped and said “It was fun.” I was pleased. I thought it was done. I was ready to start writing cover letters and sending it off to publications. Then, he asked me, “Why did you bring it?” I sat there for a while, mulling that question over. Why? Why not? I wanted someone with experience to look it over? I wanted someone to say “yay” or “nay,” to it? I wanted a lot of things, but I didn’t know how to respond. He clarified, “There’s a reason you’re still looking this over. If it was done, you wouldn’t bring it.”

That was so true. I wouldn’t keep looking at it if I didn’t feel there was something more. If I didn’t feel there was something I was missing, why wait to send it off? I didn’t have a good answer. Then, I remembered this old post I wrote. This post where I said there comes a time that you just need to stop. There is an end, and sometimes you have to force yourself to put it away. While I do think there comes a point where you start over-editing, over-writing, etc. I also think you shouldn’t settle. If you feel like something isn’t right, don’t stop writing. Don’t stop editing. Keep going because you may eventually find a better end than you had before.

So, I’m going to keep working on this piece. I am also going to go back and edit some of these posts because, let’s face it, they are definitely not done.

Be proud. Keep writing. Keep submitting. Be writers.

Thanks for reading.

-Lissy

Personal Posts, What Gaming Taught Me, Writing

What I learned about writing from Minecraft

I’m embarrassed to say that only a few days ago I finally bought myself minecraft. I’ve played the pocket edition demo and enjoyed watching my friends and favorite let’s players play it, but never had I played the actual game myself before. I can’t believe I have lived so long never having played it. Better late than never, I suppose.

I knew I was going to love minecraft. It’s creative and exciting, two things I love, and who doesn’t? But what I wasn’t expecting was how much I would learn about writing through minecraft, and, as always, I’ve made a list for it. ONWARD!

  • It’s all about location, location, location
    Where your characters take root or travel to should always play a role in the story. Does it snow? Are the characters acclimated to that kind of environment? What kind of trees are there? What kind of animals? Will there be towns to stay in or will they be forced to shelter in isolation. These are all key in setting up a believable location.
  • Physics, guys. Physics
    If your characters are going underground, and they try to dig, will sand fall onto them? If they’re digging into gravel, wouldn’t it shift depending on the gravity involved? If they stand in a body of water, will the current move them? It doesn’t have to be much, buy don’t make it easy on your characters. The environment can be just as big an obstacle as any other.
  • Please, please, please make your side characters somewhat interesting
    The AI in minecraft can be fun, funny, and extremely interesting to watch as they go about the environment, but the villager NPCs are absolutely dreadful. They make the most awful noises and the only thing they’re good for is trading but they hardly have anything worth trading for. If I find a village, I usually just go on ahead and slaughter everyone (I promise, I’m not a psychopath). Make even the most minor characters into something. If they appear, then they need a personality, too. Make every character appearance meaningful in some way. Otherwise, don’t put them in.
  • It’s okay to write scenes where your characters are alone
    A major part of minecraft is when you’re traveling or just living day-by-day trying to survive. It gets lonely. If you’re in single player, you’re just that, completely alone with nothing and no one to talk to. And hopefully this isn’t just me, but I get majorly self-reflecting when I play. I mourn animals I have to kill, I get tired of killing things, I pray I find a village or that I will find someone or something in the seemingly vast and never ending world. Make your characters self-reflect. They’re humans (or non-humans?) too, and will have moments of loneliness, self-reflection, and in the beginning they mourn having to do certain things to survive. Just something to keep in mind as you write.
  • Even in the most fantastical and paranormal of places, there are rules
    In minecraft there is a mode called “Creative Mode” where you have unlimited access to every material available in the game without having to search for it as you would in the regular “Survival Mode.” You can no longer burn up in lava, or drown in water, and enemies no longer attack you, giving you free reign to build and manipulate the world however you see fit. However, there are still rules. You can spawn any creature, including the boss Ender Dragon, but they’ll still try to escape, they’re still hard to control, and the Ender Dragon will still try to kill you even though it can’t. And if you teleport off the map or try and teleport somewhere, which will get you stuck in a wall, you automatically die. Though this isn’t a big deal and everything is still easy, it is something to think about as you create your worlds. Even though you give your characters free reign and fantastic abilities, there needs to be a limit, otherwise there can be no plot and no conflict. What’s the point of a world with no obstacles?

Most of these are common plot aspects we see in everyday literature and things easily picked up on, but it’s nice to see how they are used in other mediums of creativity. Now for a few questions: What have you learned about writing from video games? Is there anything else you’ve learned in minecraft that I’ve failed to notice? Let me know, and comment below!

Thanks for reading.

-Lissy

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Writing

Word counts? How important are they?

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For as long as I’ve been a part of writing communities, I’ve been surprised by how intensely focused everyone is on their word counts. NaNoWriMo? Based solely on word count. Writing sprints? Based on word count (most of the time). Genre? Has preferred word counts. Novels? Novellas? Short stories? Flash fiction? All based on word count.

Success is linked to word count, and I can see why. In the technical and business sense of it all, word count is beyond important. But I am of the variety which couldn’t care less about word counts. If you’ve ever read my editing technique posts (#1 and #2), then you know I start all of my projects on paper, then move up to typewriter, where I then finish on the computer. It’s a long, drawn-out process, but it gets the job done. Paper has no word count, typewriters (unless they are of the modern variety) have no word counts. I usually don’t know my final word count until the draft is already complete and has gone through two edits. I, personally, hate word counts. I feel like they are stifling to writers, though some people find them to be helpful, and keep them motivated.

Though it is against my own personal preference, I’ve decided to make a list detailing why word counts are so important (though I still say write how much you want to write. Write until the story is done, and all that jazz). Anyway, before I change my mind, ONWARD TO THE LIST!

  • Most Literary Journals take Fiction of a Certain Length
    Granted, most of these journals also have themes people can write for, but it’s still worth noting. I’ve found that most literary journals will take lengths ranging from 5,000 words to approximately 10,000, though that is pushing it. They prefer shorter works because the lengthier the journal, the more expensive it is to print. If you’re looking to get into a journal, it’s best to follow their guidelines exactly. If they prefer a certain word count, it would be in your best interest to meet that word count.
  • Most Presses take Fiction of a Certain Length
    Same goes for big name presses. They want big books. The bigger the book, the more money there is to be had. It has been statistically proven that people like buying bigger books. So, the bigger the book, the better (most of the time).
  • Genre Presses always have a Length Preference
    Most YA presses want lengths in the 50,000 to 100,000 word range. Most sci-fi presses want 100,000 to 300,000. Fantasy can go from 50,000 to 500,000. It all depends on how strict the press is and what they believe is the ample word count for the specific genre they are hoping to publishing. It is important to keep in mind the genre you are writing for because that will also determine how much you need to write.
  • Word Counts are Encouraging
    There is a reason NaNoWriMo is always so successful. People like having a specific number to achieve. It’s similar to why I like making lists. I like being able to reach something, to have a specific goal I can aspire to. Thus, setting a word count goal can help to encourage your inner-writer. If you can’t seem to finish a draft, try setting daily word count goals or an entire draft goal. If you give yourself a specific deadline, you’ll have a better chance at achieving it.

Word counts are important, but in all honesty, write until the work is finished. There is no point in adding fluff and useless info just to reach a word count goal. If you finish the draft, then it’s done. Same goes for cutting things out. If you think the work is as complete as it’s going to get, once editing is done, then don’t worry about trimming it down. Now, just for those who are interested. I’ve added a list of common, general words counts for genres and book sizes below. These aren’t set in stone. Each press usually has a different interpretation as to how many words a genre needs, but this can be a fairly accurate place to jump from.

Novel – over 40,000 words
Novella – 17,500 to 40,000 words
Novelette – 7,500 to 17,500 words
Short story – under 7,500 words

Middle Grade Fiction – 25,000 to 40,000
YA Fiction – 45,000 to 100,000 (possibly 120,000)
Paranormal Romance – 85,000 to 100,000
Romance – 85,000 to 100,000
Category Romance – 55,000 to 75,000
Mysteries – 65,000 to 90,000
Horror – 80,000 to 100,000
Western – 80,000 to 100,000
Thrillers and Crime Fiction – 75,000 – 100,000
Mainstream/Commercial Fiction – 50,000 to 120,000
Science Fiction and Fantasy – 80,000 to 120,000

Now then, what do you think about word counts? How important are they to you? How strict are you with them? Are you like me and couldn’t care less about them? Let me know, and comment below!

Thanks for reading.

-Lissy

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Original Work, Personal Posts, Poems

“Sometimes I wake up and decide I’m a rubbish writer…” a micro poem by Alyssa Hubbard

Some days, I wake up and decide I am a rubbish writer. Everything I write, whether it be a novel, a short story, a grocery list, it is all just rubbish.

Some days, I wake up and decide I am a goodly writer. Everything I write, whether it be a novel, a short story, a grocery list, it is all goodly.

Then there are days I don’t write at all. Those are days I cease to be a writer.

-Alyssa Hubbard

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Personal Posts

Open Endings

I’ve noticed a trend with my work. Since I’m in the editing process of An Austrian March I have little time and energy to work on another full-fledged novel or novella, and until it’s done and published, I won’t be doing very much novel writing. However, as I mentioned before, I have a very intense need for writing now. A writing habit, if you will. As such, I can’t go for very long periods of time without writing something.

So, I’ve gone back to writing short stories and poems – pieces that don’t need extensive and copious amounts of time and attention to create. And as I’m writing them and doing quick edits of them, I’m also constantly shipping them off to literary journals/magazines. As I’ve been writing them, I’ve noticed a lot of open endings. And once I took notice of that, I also thought back to Apocalyptia and An Austrian March, both having very open endings.

I, personally, hate open endings in the novels I read.

But on that same coin, I love them because I hate them.

I know that makes no sense, but allow me to explain. I love works that give me an intense emotional response, including anger. If a book can anger me because it didn’t give me closure, then it is a great book. To me, when a book is open ended, it gives me the sense of continuation, of immortality. The characters’ stories aren’t done, they have lives beyond the book that I may never know about. Something about having it end with a sense of more just fascinates me. It’s like saying you’ll see a friend later even though you both know it’s good-bye. Sad, but wonderful, and something I want to emulate in my writing, though I hadn’t noticed it until now.

Books with complete endings aren’t bad either. I also have an emotional response to those, but the analogy is much different in this case. At the end of a book (or series) for me, I feel as if I am burying a friend. I’m saying goodbye for one last time.

I love both and it’s up to us as the writers to decide whether our hero or heroines should get their complete ending or not. We don’t have to have them win or lose, live or die, or do much of anything. That’s the beauty of being a writer. We decide how we want it all to end, or if we want it to end it all. Isn’t that a beautiful thought?

How do you feel about open endings? Closed endings? Which do you prefer? Which ones do you tend to write? Let me know, and comment below!

Thanks for reading.

-Lissy

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Personal Posts

My Presentation at a Middle School

Writers truly don’t realize how much their books mean to people.

I went to a middle school on November 1st to talk about how one becomes a writer, while also encouraging the students to follow their dreams. When I initially came in, most of the students had no clue who I was. Then the teacher announced who I was, naming one of the stories I wrote for Humans and Their Creations, which she had also read to her class.

The room erupted in excitement.

One of the students continuously asked, “Really? Really? The author is here? Really?”

They were all so excited, and I was completely taken aback. Once I had gone over my presentation, the room erupted with questions ranging from where I was from to how one goes about creating characters. They were so excited and so passionate about being heard and asking questions, I couldn’t help but feel excited as well.

I don’t think I’ve hugged and high-fived so many people before in my life, but the best part of it all was hearing one student say, “You’re my hero.”

I don’t know why I was a hero, but I achieved what I had set out to do. I made a child feel as if they could do it, and that is all I wanted to achieve. I wish I could have stuck around and had a bit more fun with the kids, but unfortunately I had to go. I look forward to going to even more places and meeting even more passionate students as my time as a writer goes on, but this experience is definitely one for the record books.

There were so many wonderful kids, we almost didn't have room.
There were so many wonderful kids, we almost didn’t have room.
The only picture I'm actually in. Can you spot me?
The only picture I’m actually in. Can you spot me?

 

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Personal Posts

Screenwriting

I remember the first time I had ever been introduced to the world of script-writing. My mother was reading a small project I had been working on for about three months when she stopped and said,

“Alyssa, you should write scripts.”

At the time, that highly offended me, especially when she went on to comment on how my writing was better suited for short stints of description, rather than full length novel description. I was angry, offended, and I set out to prove her wrong. I have been successful thus far, but just this morning I let my boyfriend read a short story I’ve been planning to shop around. He read it, smiling and enjoying himself. I was beaming, beyond excited to hear his feedback, and as he set down the manuscript with a satisfied sigh, I expected nothing but praise. What I got was not the opposite, but an eye opener.

“Lissy, this would make a great movie.”

A great movie?

Me? A movie writer?

Once again, an inkling of offense creeped up, but then I read over the manuscript again. I googled different ways of getting into the screenwriting business, what was required of me as far formatting and description went. I’ve learned a lot just from a few hours of light skimming, and I’ve even started a practice draft. I’m not sure if this will go anywhere, but I’m sure it will take time. Time and a lot of trial-and-error. We all have to start somewhere, and even if I do find this to be my niche, books and authorship will always be my true passion.

And no matter what, I was born a writer.

Thanks for reading.

-Lissy

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Writing

Why you should always be submitting/writing something…

I am an indie author, nothing new there, but even as I’m writing and preparing my works for their eventual publication, I am still submitting to multiple different literary magazines. I make it a point to write at least three new short pieces a week, and maybe a couple of poems if I can manage them. With my schedule as packed as it is, most of the time I can’t always have my computer on me, which is a problem since An Austrian March is being edited on the computer. So, whenever I have a little free time, I whip out my my notebook and start on something small, something that doesn’t require a lot of attention or heavy plotting, something under 2,000 words. Once I’m done, I polish it up, then prepare it for simultaneous submissions.

Even as an indie writer, I believe it is essential to be submitting to literary magazines and journals. Why? Well, grab your pens, raise them high, and scream HUZZAH! as we dive right into my new list!

  • PRACTICE
    Querying skills, to me, are essential. They teach discipline, how to follow the rules, and they help your technical writing skills. Querying different places helps to diversify your writing.
  • LEARNING A LIFE SKILL
    Querying magazines is very similar to inquiring about possible jobs. Though writing may be your job, a lot of indie writers have to supplement their writing with another job. When you query, you want to think of it like you’re inquiring for a job. You want to put your best foot forward without kissing ass. Just another great life skill to be had from querying.
  • FEEDBACK
    In rare cases, you may receive feedback with your rejected piece. Take the criticism and work it into your bigger projects. Not everything they say may be what you want to do, but there may be just a bit of advice that you can enhance your writing with. This point is very valuable. It gets you a front row seat to what an editor is looking for in a piece. Though you may never go through traditional channels to publish your novels, it is helpful to see what actually sells books or what usually works in specific genres and pieces.
  • IF ACCEPTED, YOU GET RECOGNITION
    Who doesn’t like getting a little praise? When you get published in a journal, it ups your credentials. People who read that magazine will recognize your name and may go after some of your other works, like your indie books. More praise, more recognition, more book sales. Lots and lots of good stuff.
  • YOU PUMP OUT A LOT MORE WORK
    Because I’m always submitting and writing, I always have new pieces to play around with. My writing is getting better, my ability to query is getting better. My writing skill, in general, is getting better.

Though there are a lot of people who refuse to try traditional publishing, querying literary journals for pieces that may be too short to publish individually is a great way to practice and get your name out there. But what do you think? Do you agree? Disagree? Do you feel literary magazines and journals are worth the effort? Have you been published in one before? Let me know, and comment below!

Thanks for reading.

-Lissy

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Personal Posts

AN AUSTRIAN MARCH Playlist

This novella has been in the making for a long time, but as it gets closer and closer to publication, I itch to make a playlist. It’s not just for the sake of making a playlist, but the book itself is based entirely on music. Without music, there would be no point to it, and the main song on the playlist is Die Lorelei, a German folk song. That song’s sad lyrics led me to the create the work.

The problem is that the book is a romance, and it’s actually the book I was referencing in my controversial post all that time ago. So, the playlist is 100% love songs. The problem is, most of the songs I wanted to use were poppy tunes that didn’t make much sense when paired with the classical background of the book.

And that’s how my wonderful journey began.

I’ve searched through Spotify, and I was beyond surprised. There is so much talent out there, and so many talented souls who just aren’t given enough spotlight. Well, today, I will honor those covers. Here I have the playlist.  I believe my characters would be proud to both listen and perform the songs in these forms, and I like most of these just as much, if not more, than their originals.

Please listen.

At the bottom of this post, below the playlist, I will have the lyrics pasted for you to read. Once again, enjoy.

English Translation of Die Lorelei:

I know not if there is a reason
Why I am so sad at heart.
A legend of bygone ages
Haunts me and will not depart.

The air is cool under nightfall.
The calm Rhine courses its way.
The peak of the mountain is sparkling
With evening’s final ray.

The fairest of maidens is sitting
Unwittingly wondrous up there,
Her golden jewels are shining,
She’s combing her golden hair.

The comb she holds is golden,
She sings a song as well
Whose melody binds an enthralling
And overpowering spell.

In his little boat, the boatman
Is seized with a savage woe,
He’d rather look up at the mountain
Than down at the rocks below.

I think that the waves will devour
The boatman and boat as one;
And this by her song’s sheer power
Fair Lorelei has done.

Thanks for reading/listening. If you’d like to read more about this project, head on over to “My Books.” You can read up on it there, and when it comes out, there will be links for you to purchase it. Thank you, again.

-Lissy

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