Writerly Wednesday – The Writer’s Notebook

A writer’s notebook is STEP ONE of my writing process.

Throughout my college writing career, I was encouraged (forced really) to use a writer’s notebook. I seriously hated the cheap composition notebooks we were supposed to use for the class. They never held up for me. I tend to be a bit heavy handed, a trait I get completely from my dad, and so I quickly found that the seventy-five cent notebooks weren’t lasting the way a good writer’s notebook should. I tried using them but quickly found that I wouldn’t use it if it didn’t feel right, which they never did. The pages were too thin, too large, to standard student for me to feel creative when using it. I needed something that sang to my writer soul. So I did what every good writer does–

I went to Target.

I’m almost certain that I went to the store toIMG_5484 buy something completely different, but, as tends to happen in Target, I left with more than I came for. I bought my first every designated writer’s notebook. It was last July and I was about to start a new project. Every time I start a new book I decide on one new thing to focus on about my writing. Description. Characterization. Dialogue. Scene shifts. Writing action. — All of these are things I’ve focused on in the past for certain projects. For this book, Not Enough Soul, I wanted to work on novel planning and teach myself to work on both a deadline and a mapped plot. I started with a notebook and I have never looked back. 

In the past my writing professor, Dr. Davis, always had us keep a notebook per writing class. In this notebook, we compiled all of our notes, drafts, and thoughts about whatever it was we were writing. For instance, our poetry notebook contained our ten required poems, as well as drafts and notes on the creative process.

I always struggled with genuinely doing that because I felt like my best work was done electronically, not on the page. I liked the crisp, clean Word Document. I could backspace and quickly fix mistakes without needing to mess up a page or rewrite the work completely.

The downside to this is that you can’t really see the process of getting to the end piece. You can “track your changes” using computer technology, but it still isn’t quite the same as seeing your mistakes and progressively how you fixed them–or learned to avoid them altogether. There is just something nice about being able to see your growth as a writer visually, which is definitely one of the main pros of a writer’s notebook.

It didn’t take me long to realize that I really needed a notebook. Sometimes your don’t realize how much you were missing something until you have it. I wrote seven of my IMG_5485almost ten novels without using a notebook. Five of those books are The Kayla Chronicles. The difference in how I handled writing the last of The Kayla Chronicles books, Throne Over, and how I wrote Not Enough Soul, is ridiculous.  It is honestly a little embarrassing how little planning and organization I had for those five books, especially when it is considered that they are fantasy and required quite a bit of world-building (a lot of which I didn’t even bother to do because I just didn’t know how).

Oh man, was I inexperienced and stupid! But, it is okay. Let me help you.

I write everything in my notebook. It goes where I go. I have a small purple bag of pens and pencils and it goes with me everywhere as well. I take notes constantly. The notebook usually starts out with a list of known characters, their ages and perhaps a description. I then work out the relationship between each character on that list. Are there nicknames that only certain characters can call each other? For instance, in

For instance, in Not Enough Soul, one of my characters, Charlie, is the only person who calls his sister by the pet name, Haddie. Everyone else calls her by her actual name, which is Hadley. This is in the notes, which in turn assists me in remaining consistent. It also can help with smaller details such as spelling. In the first Kayla Chronicles book, Astridia, there is a character named, Aiden. I wasn’t using a notebook when I wrote this novel and there are numerous places where I spelled his name “Aidan” or “Aedin” because I couldn’t remember and didn’t have it written down. He was a minor character and I just didn’t think to keep up with it. Things like that go away when it is written down for future reference. Details like who is tallest in a group, what color eyes someone has, and whether or not a side character has siblings is important, even if it doesn’t seem that way.

There is no such thing as an unimportant character otherwise they would not be in the book at all. Every person that is added to a story serves some sort of purpose, even if that purpose is small. Readers want to feel connected to every single character you mention. If they are meant to remember them, give them reasons why they should. If you can’t even remember their hometown then why would anyone else bother to? I’m preaching to the choir here (Listen to yourself, Brianna. You hear this? Pay attention). Every character needs something that makes them real.

I was taught that vague details make for vague stories. Be specific about who your characters are. What do they want? What will happen if they don’t get it? Who do they love most? Why? Who is their best friend? What do they typically eat for breakfast?Breathe air into their paper lungs and turn them into people with lives.

My best friend, Kayleigh, was living her own life before we met and she didn’t stop living it when I showed up. We became friends and our individual lives intertwined and overlapped, but she didn’t story being herself. Everyone is the star of their own story. Side characters don’t realize that they are side-characters. They are really just living their lives alongside your protagonist.

A writer’s notebook makes this possible. It gives a writer the space to create more than just 200 pages worth of story. I treasure the notebooks that I have because they are the deleted scenes of my story. They contain everything that did happen, should have happened, might have happened and perhaps will happen, in the story. It contains all the details that I am far too scattered brained to remember.

So much of my writing journey thus far has been me teaching myself. I watch youtube videos, read self-help books, follow blogs, spend every free second writing and trying to improve my writing. I am constantly learning. I am nowhere near the writer I want to one day be, but I take a step closer to it every time I write.

In general, having a writer’s notebook has taught me that my first seven books are good, but could have been great with a notebook. I could have gotten to my destination faster if I’d been wise enough to bring along a map. This time around I plan to.

I’m currently in the planning process to rewrite the first book in The Kayla Chronicles, Astridia. I intend to blog quite a bit about the process since I’ll be doing things differently and I’ve learned so much about myself as a writer since I wrote that book in 2014.

 

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0cf4b5_f96085ede92143278d8874b405bce387~mv2Hello! My name is Brianna Joy Crump and I am a twenty-two-year-old writer from Raleigh. North Carolina. I am a recent graduate from Gardner-Webb University where I received my BA in English with an emphasis in creative writing. While in college, I wrote nine and a half novels, as well as multiple short stories and a handful of poems. I am currently rewriting one of my novels and hoping to pursue agents and publishing come the fall. For more information, feel free to contact me on social media or check out my website.

Writerly Wednesday – Writer’s Laziness

Writer’s Block: a psychological inhibition preventing a writer from proceeding with a piece.

– Webster

I’m probably going to jinx myself by saying this, but…I’ve never had writer’s block. I’ve never really struggled to decide what to do next with a plot. Usually, I have a general idea of where I’m going and I’ll either follow my outline (if I have one) or I’ll pants my way through it and hope for the best. I’ve just never had a moment where I had to pause for a long period of time and decide what to do, pausing so long that I physically could not write. Now, this is not to say I don’t struggle, because I am an annual pass holder for the writing struggle bus, but I don’t really find problems in the writer’s block area. .

I do, however, have issues with what I like to call Writer’s Laziness. I’m a college student and I get really tired really often. I got to class, to work, back to class, back to work and by the time I get back to my room it is often really late at night and I have other things to work on. Ninety-nine percent of the time, I will work through this by writing my novel during any and all breaks, even in the back of some of my less-interesting classes. But sometimes I can’t even manage that. I don’t have the energy to be creative. I’m exhausted. I want to Netflix or nap during my breaks, not write. And this is totally laziness on my part. I know it is. I dread writing, even when I am at an exciting part of my novel- I just don’t care. I’m too drained.

I’ve experienced this (am currently experiencing this) with the creative piece I am writing for my senior thesis. My academic project is on Neo-Victorian and Steampunk literatures. I am doing a genre study and comparing the two types to decide if they are overall compatible with one another- I believe they are. And now I am using the last four years worth of writing knowledge to create a piece that represents my beliefs. I’m writing a novel. This novel has been a ton of work. Fun. But work. I’ve never written anything even slightly historical and for this novel, I am settled snuggly in 1882. Working on this and working on a twenty-page academic paper has been draining. I was writing the creative piece a few thousand words at a time and then I just got overwhelmed with the academic part of the paper and had to switch my attention over to it. I wrote sixteen pages of the academic piece in one day and sent it off to my thesis mentor to be read.

Then I told myself I deserved a break.

This was something I shouldn’t have done and now I know it. You see, once I get a taste of what not writing is like (the tv shows, the naps, the video games, the books…) I find it really difficult to go back. I’ve found myself sucked into the void of regular college life and I am loathed to return to my former writerly duties. I don’t want you to think I don’t love writing because I totally do. I am my happiest when I am knee deep in unfinished novel…but I am so tired. And everyone keeps telling me to take a break, breathe, forget about it for a little while- but I can’t. That only makes it worse.

I have writer’s laziness. 

At this point, I think the block might be easier to deal with.

I need to push through this.

But I can’t be alone right? There are others out there. Other people have to suffer from Writer’s Laziness too. Whose with me?!

So here, let me share some of my coping mechanisms for writer’s laziness:

  • Lock yourself in a room and write.
  • Reward yourself for writing. I usually buy myself a bag om peanut M&Ms and I let myself have one M&M per page I write. Or you could use bathroom breaks as an incentive. Don’t act like you’ve never done that! Every writer knows what it’s like to be mid thought and need to pee. Keep trekking on and when you’ve hit your goal go to the bathroom.
  • Challenge yourself. Give yourself a word goal or a page number you have to reach and push until you do. I’d suggest making this a daily thing, versus an overall project number. So something like “1,000 words today” or “5 pages today.” I love a good challenge.
  • Take dance breaks. You heard me. Dance it out. Every five pages get your groove on. I don’t really do this myself, but I have friends in college who do. Get the wiggles out, bounce around. Sometimes you can run yourself dry by just sitting at your desk for too long. Which brings me to my next point…
  • Go somewhere new to write. This doesn’t work for everyone, but if it works for you then it is a really great way to revitalize yourself and your writing. For me, writing in a new space is hit or miss. I either write 10,000 words or I may tap out a lousy sentence. But it can be good for the writerly soul. Go to a coffee shop, sip a latte and try to view your writing in a new light.
  • Give yourself a deadline. This goes hand in hand with the challenge one, but I sort of see them differently. For me, a challenge is a personal thing. It’s just a goal. A deadline means that you have to do it. It’s solid. Something terrible will happen if you don’t. Insert your own terrible deadline missing punishment here_________. Anyway, I usually use deadlines with beta readers. I’ll tell myself that I have to have however many chapters done and in dropbox for my dad to read by midnight this upcoming Saturday. This doesn’t always work, but I tell myself that it has to be done. If you haven’t figured it out already, I thrive under pressure.
  • NaNoWriMo – So this isn’t always running, but when it is you should be doing it. I love NaNo and have written the first draft of at least have of my novels through their camps and other events. For those of you unfamiliar with NaNoWriMo, it stands for National Novel Writing Month, which is in November. In that month you are given the challenge, if you chose to accept it, to write 50,000 words in a month. Now, this isn’t a full novel but it is a great start. And sometimes you need a little nudge to get your crap done. NaNo isn’t just in November, they have what they call Camps that run in April and in July. Overall, it’s a really fun challenge and you can get some pretty nice goodies it you win. Try it.

 

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LOOK IT’S MY CAT.

 

Anyway, those are my tips and tricks for beating Writer’s Laziness. They may also work with Writer’s Block, but I wouldn’t know. I’m just lazy. But the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem. I suppose I’ll give my own advice a try and see if I can kick butt on this novel for thesis. Wish me luck.

 

What are your tips for killing Writer’s Block/Writer’s Laziness? 

 

 

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0cf4b5_f96085ede92143278d8874b405bce387~mv2Hello! My name is Brianna Joy Crump and I am a twenty-two-year-old writer from Raleigh. North Carolina. I am a recent graduate from Gardner-Webb University where I received my BA in English with an emphasis in creative writing. While in college, I wrote nine and a half novels, as well as multiple short stories and a handful of poems. I am currently rewriting one of my novels and hoping to pursue agents and publishing come the fall. For more information, feel free to contact me on social media or check out my website.

Writerly Wednesday – Instagram Captions

This is about to be motivational so buckle up kids!

 

If it isn’t fiction, it isn’t for me – that has been my writing mantra for so very long. I can sit at my laptop and type type type away for hours on a piece of prose, but ask me to caption something for Instagram and I’m finished.

I can’t.

I freeze up.

I don’t know if any of you have seen my Instagram account…it’s sad. The pictures aren’t really sad. They’re nice and pretty, but I’m terrible at coming up with things to say about what I’ve taken a picture of. I mean, let’s be real, sometimes we have a pretty fiiinnnne selfie or we have a damn good picture of leaf and we just want to post it…but what do you say? I’ve never been one of those people who can post a selfie and caption it with a Bible verse. It just seems odd to me. It’s not that I don’t love the Bible, it’s just that it’s always appeared a tad bit odd to me that we would slap a verse on something that is more or less vain. We are literally just posting a picture say, “Hey, look how cute I am. Also, Jesus.” I’m sure I’m guilty of this somewhere along the line. It’s easy to do, but as a writer shouldn’t I be better at this? Shouldn’t I have something witty, poetic, or overall profound to say about my average looking, nice lighting, interesting angle photo of a leaf?

Yes. I suppose I should.

This is the moment where this blog post can head one of two ways, I can either bash myself and fall into a spiraling pit of writerly dispair or I can fix my makeup, stand a bit straighter and get over it. And, as fun as the first choice sounds, I should be mature about this. I shall pout another day. Today is about me, and others like me (insert your name here), realizing that our worth as a writer does not exist on social media.

Okay, I get that I am telling you this on a blog so I somewhat just canceled myself out, but I need you to use your fantastic imagination and pretend that I am sitting across from you, sipping coffee and giving you a pep talk. Help me, help you. Let me, help me.

I’m preaching to the writer choir when I say:

YOU WILL NOT BE THE BEST WRITER AT EVERYTHING. I know, shocker! I’m just gonna pause for a second and let you think about that.

Done? Any tears?

I hope not. I hope that isn’t a surprise to you. It isn’t to me, but I sometimes appreciate the reminder. And boy, do I get reminded of it! Every single day in poetry class I am reminded that I am most certainly not the best poet. I don’t get it. It seems like work to me and I hate that. I like when words come naturally. When they flow. Poetry does not do that for me- but it does it for other people. There are people in my poetry class who are really good at what they do and I low key envy them. And that’s good. It’s a warm and tingly sort of envy, the sort of envy that tells you that your peers are off to big places.

Just because they are headed to big places doesn’t mean you aren’t too. Just means you’re going different big places. Or you’ve missed the big places bus and you have to wait to catch another one. Either way, as writers we will not be the best at every single thing. There are some people who are great at writing captions for Instagram photos. They just say everything they want to say and make it seem so flawless and lovely. I AM NOT THAT PERSON. I will probably caption my Instagram photo, “Me with my dog” before I will ever come up with something sparkling and well versed.

img_4033Also, sidenote, look at how cute my dog is!

Anyway…

I may not be the best poet or the best Insta captioner or the best blogger, but I can write a book. And an okay short story. And I can bake some pretty sassy chocolate chip cookies if I do say so myself…and I do.

You see, we all have our own talents. If you struggle with something as a writer and you don’t want to ride the struggle bus anymore- GET OFF. Work on it. Practice makes perfect, or at least it makes practiced. If something bothers us enough, we will work on it.

We are worth more than a caption on a semi-artsy picture of a leaf. We are writers. We write. Plain and simple. That doesn’t alway mean having the right words or the exact phrase or the sweetest rhyme. Sometimes being a writer is stumbling around until you hit gold. Sometimes, being a writer is just filling a blank page with words.

And that’s just fine. In fact, it’s better than fine. It’s how things are meant to be.

Here’s to all my poetic picture captioners. 

Here’s to all my “me and my dog” people. 

Here’s to all my selfie and Jesus humans. 

You do you.

We all have different words inside of us. Be a writer. Write. 

And now some words from Yoda, because he always says it best:

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0cf4b5_f96085ede92143278d8874b405bce387~mv2Hello! My name is Brianna Joy Crump and I am a twenty-two-year-old writer from Raleigh. North Carolina. I am a recent graduate from Gardner-Webb University where I received my BA in English with an emphasis in creative writing. While in college, I wrote nine and a half novels, as well as multiple short stories and a handful of poems. I am currently rewriting one of my novels and hoping to pursue agents and publishing come the fall. For more information, feel free to contact me on social media or check out my website.