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    For Writers

    Lay It Flat, Then Iron It

    You don’t throw a shirt down on the ironing board all wadded up and just press your hot iron overtop it.

    I mean, maybe you do, if your intention is to make some kind of shirt sandwich and pressing the wrinkles deeper into the fabric locks in the flavor or whatever.

    But usually, you lay the shirt flat. You make sure the collar isn’t folded up, and you smooth down the sleeves. Then you get to ironing. Giving yourself that minute to prepare the canvas, so to speak, makes the work easier and promises you a better outcome.

    It’s the same with writing.

    No, really.

    When you’re writing your first draft — or even just cobbling your ideas together in your pre-writing Zero Draft — it can be easy to get overwhelmed. Oh no, you might think, should I not reveal this clue until the next chapter? Should this character be so upset by this? When should this happen? Oh, no, this doesn’t sound right at all. Should I just stop?

    No! Don’t stop writing! Just remember — you’ve got to get the story laid down before you can iron it. Get all the thoughts down on paper (or screen, so to speak), however confusing or contradicting to each other. Get the story written — then iron it

    Second drafts, third drafts, tenth drafts, those are the opportunities to tweak timelines, to chart character arcs, to reorganize and rewrite scenes so the story can shine through. But you won’t be able to conceptualize what story you’re trying to tell until you tell it — then, you can fine-tune it. Then, you can iron it out.

    So, don’t get overwhelmed if your story is messy and jumbled and you’re not quite sure what you’re doing. Just write it down. All of it. All the character descriptions. All the settings. The two versions of that scene’s dialogue you can’t decide on. Ten different climatic kisses. Every possible moment a clue for the twist might be potentially dropped. Give yourself, gift yourself, the time and space to get your story laid out. You can iron it later.

    Happy Writing. 

    For more updates related to writing, reading, gaming, and general life-ness, follow Christina on Social Media: Twitter | Twitch | Instagram | YouTube 

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    For Writers

    The Zero Draft: How to Take Your Jumbled Scraps of Bookish Ideas and Make Them Story-Shaped

    Messy desk cluttered with crumpled notes, with text: The Zero Draft: How to Take Your Jumbled Scraps Of Bookish Ideas and Make Them Story Shaped

    Hello, hello, Happy Writers! Today, we’re talking about Zero Drafts. Now, we’ve all heard of First Drafts: the very first incarnations of the stories we tell. They’re messy, they’re earnest, and they very, very often go unfinished, as they’re very often abandoned. Now, why is that? Sometimes, admittedly, stories just don’t work, and the writer loses their motivation to keep clacking away at the keyboard. But, oftentimes, the writer is simply overwhelmed — lost and frustrated and not sure what the story is that they’re telling.

    Often, this is because the writer needed a Zero Draft. A Zero Draft is the percolation stage. It’s the answer to the question: how do I get all of the ideas in my head into something story-shaped? A Zero Draft is and should be the first step to writing a novel. 

    So, this post basically answers two questions: What is a Zero Draft? which, in turn, answers the question:

    I have a story for a novel in my head and I’m not sure how to write it down. What do I do??

    Step One for writing your Zero Draft: Stuff all your notes in a single document.

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    For Writers

    Break Your Writing Into Bite-Sized Chunks | How I Got In the Habit of Writing Everyday

    Person typing at a laptop with the text: How I got into the habit of writing every day

    Since I started keeping tabs of my daily #amwriting in Scrivener, I’m pleased to say I’ve written 20,000 words in the last two weeks! Making yourself sit down for a few minutes every day and write SOMETHING has its benefits! ✨— Christina ✍🏻 (@chuffwrites) September 26, 2018

    So, I’ve been having a time writing this year. Or, these past two years. There’s something about waking up in the morning, rolling over, opening Twitter, and seeing with every subsequent scroll of your thumb the Raging Dumpster Fire your country has become that kills your creative drive. Also, I’m in a weird position where I’m drowning in edits for Book 1 of my fantasy series, but I also have all of these fun, attractive, distracting ideas for stand-alone novels bouncing about my brain that I often get hit with a kind of creative paralysis

    What is Creative Paralysis?

    creative paralysis: a sister to writer’s block, when you just have so much you want to write, you somehow manage to end up … not writing anything at all. 

    Basically, I was pin-balling between so many projects, I just could never seem to sit down to work that substantially on any. And I never felt like I was making any kind of substantial progress in anything.

    So. A new system has been implemented!

    Read more…
    For Writers

    Scene vs. Summary

    scene versus summary

    One of the oldest writing adages (and the most frustrating) is show don’t tell. This advice is applied universally, spread widely, repeated so often the words tend to lose their nuance and meaning. Aren’t there times when a scene doesn’t need to be shown? Can’t you share information with your reader without having it play out stroke-by-stroke? You are telling a story, after all! 

    The thing about “show don’t tell” is that it’s actually talking about writing scenes versus summaries. One is showing, the other is telling. They’re both vital building blocks for any kind of writing.

    Read more…
    For Writers

    April Camp NaNoWriMo Kick-Off | Meet My Novel + A New Way to Support Happy Writer

    Hello, Happy Writers!

    It’s April, and you know what that means?

    That Florida has suddenly transitioned from a somewhat pleasantly cool winter to a burn-your-skin off sweltering summer heat?

    WRONG. It’s still quite pleasant and breezy here in SWFL. The sun is only capable of burning your skin off between the hours of 1 pm and 3.

    That another month has somehow slipped past us in a year that’s simultaneously moving glacially slow and yet zooming by at uncatchable speeds?

    WR-WELL. SURE. Actually. Yes. You got me. Time is a social construct, I tell myself as I watch the sand grains of my life trickle relentlessly away.

    Wait … where was I?

    It’s time for Camp NaNoWriMo?

    YES. THAT WAS THE THING. It’s April, which means one thing and one thing only.*

    * (Okay, it means a lot of things, such as Easter, and April Fool’s Day, and Fred and George Weasely’s birthdays, and April showers, and that thing about time being universally infinite and but for each of us individually finite. Anyway. S’mores?)

    April is the first round of Camp NaNoWriMo, the spunky lil’ sis of November’s huge, exciting, Write Your Novel In a Month over-achieving older sibling. Camp NaNo is a more relaxed, easy-going sister—she doesn’t care if you set a different goal for yourself than 50,000 words. Or if you want to edit a novel instead of write a first draft. Or—a novel? Hell, she doesn’t care if you write a screenplay, or an epic poem, or an anthology of short stories! She’s easy-breezy. All she wants you to do is devote a little time each day to writing—to set a goal for yourself and follow through with it.

    And to eat lots of of S’mores. Probably.*

    * (I actually have weird, occasionally negative bursts of emotions when it comes to S’mores?? I love them, they’re yummy, they’re an exciting summer treat, sure. But I once made a plate of four or five S’mores for my family and excitedly went around to each of them offering them this UNIVERSALLY ADORED SUMMERTIME SNACK, only for every single person to wrinkle their nose at me and say no. Which led to me sitting alone in my room eating an entire plate of S’mores by myself so they wouldn’t go to waste. Huh. I’m a little choked up, recalling this particular bout of pathetic-ness. Maybe I’ll stop leaning into the camping metaphor so heavily and just get back to talking about writing.)

    So. YES. Camp NaNoWriMo is a chance to make a goal and see it through. I’m going to try for the traditional 50,000 words, I really am. I’ve been having a hard time staying motivated and productive this year, so I’m looking forward to a little structure and discipline. I’m also looking forward to winning Camp NaNo and potentially having a WIP that much closer to completion.

    So, the question begs—What am I writing about this April?

    For April’s Camp, I’m going to be working on a first draft of a murder mystery novel I’ve been quietly cooking up ever since reading Lord of the Flies last year, currently entitled The Long Cold Night.

    The Pitch:

    (You can find this on the Camp NaNoWriMo page for this project, as well)

    MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS meets LORD OF THE FLIES. In THE LONG COLD NIGHT, a high-speed rail train on an overnight ride breaks down in the middle of a snowstorm, stranding its passengers in an icy and isolated countryside. The doors won’t open, nor the windows, and the passengers of Carriage Nineteen can’t get in touch with any of the crew. They huddle together for warmth, cracking nervous jokes, awkwardly getting to know their seatmates, everyone expecting the lights to come on, the engine to rev back up, sometime soon.

    Then they see the body at the back of the train. The man who has fallen, dead, from his private compartment.

    Some think it’s a prank, a set up for a hidden camera show; others say the man was murdered, which means the killer is still there, sat amongst them. Accusations fly, tempers flare, as the night only grows longer and colder and more cruel. Eventually, the surviving passengers, struggling for warmth and sense and safety, knowing that help might be hours away, decide to solve the crime themselves — and to take its justice into their own hands.

    The Aesthetic:

    Why I’m Excited:

    BECAUSE IT’S A MURDER ON A TRAIN. AND EVERYONE TURNS ON EACH OTHER. DIVIDING INTO FACTIONS. MAKING ALLIANCES. SHOWING THEIR OWN INTERNALIZED PREJUDICES. The cast is diverse, there is at least one LGBT couple in my outline (with the potential for another). It’s funny. It’s a little suspenseful. And I think it’s going to be a lot of fun to write. The outline has already been a joy to work on, and I’m in love with at least 85% of my characters.

    Where Can You Find Out More?

    I’ve actually shared an extended version of this “Meet My Novel” post over on my brand spankin’ new Patreon Page! (My adorably teensy Patreon page that so far only my dear sweet mommy has donated to.) There are actually snippets from my outline (!!!) over there, as well as looks at my July CampNaNo novel and, locked for Patrons, a look at my editing project The Other Side!

    My Patreon is nothing fancy, just a way to support this blog and keep the fire to my toes, so to speak. If you’d like to show your support, consider becoming a Patron! I’ll be posting even more Camp NaNo updates over there throughout the month, along with previews of upcoming blog posts, behind the scenes looks at my writing life, and a couple more snippets and scenes than I can share publicly on my blog. I purposefully kept the tiers low, only one dollar or three, to keep it relaxed and low-pressure!

    Rest assured, I’ll still be posting these weekly posts right here on Happy Writer. For the month of April, it’ll be all about Camp NaNoWriMo—my progress, my advice, my occasional breakdowns of panic and crippling self-doubt, etc. and so forth. So unpack those S’mores, unfurl those sleeping bags, unscrew your canisters of glitter — we’re going to be singing around the campfire, sleeping under the stars, and making some truly questionable arts and crafts.*

    * I’ve decided to lean back into the metaphor. le shrug

    It’s Camp NaNo time, everybody! This is going to be fun.

    Happy Writing, and I will see you next week!

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    For Writers

    Write What You Know: Creating Authenticity in Your Fiction

    Write What You Know

    mimesis – (noun), imitation of the real world in literature, art, etc. Art imitates life.

    We want our writing to be mimetic, to draw readers in as though they’re looking through a window — or into a mirror — that shows them a world that feels as real as their own. This is what a reader is looking for when they say they want to relate to a character; they want to feel like that character, and their story, is real to them. The most immersive creative works play out almost like a documentary — not in style, but in experience. You leave the film or the book feeling as though you watched the real life of a real person. When that suspension of disbelief breaks, the immersion shatters; when you’re aware that what you’re watching or reading is fake, it’s harder and harder to keep yourself in the right headspace to enjoy the story. That’s why good writers want to achieve a level of mimesis — you want your art to feel real.

    But how to create that level of authenticity? How do we bring our fictional worlds to life?

    Read more…

    Reading Nourishes Writing

    Books I’m Looking Forward To Devouring: My Spring TBR

    Does anyone else feel like 2018 is lasting both a thousand years and yet passing by in the blink of an eye? March has been slipping through my fingers and the consistency of my blogging has been a little lax. I have been working diligently on my GoodReads goal, though! So far this month, my favorite book that I’ve read has easily been Obsidiothe final book of the Illuminae trilogy. UGH. Those books are heart-pounding, I highly recommend them, especially now that the trilogy is done and you can binge them all in one sitting!

    For my Spring TBR (and for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday), I’m trying to think of some of the books I’m looking forward most to read — both those coming out in the second half of this year, and books I’ve had on my shelves for ages that I’m eager to finally crack open.

    Read more…