Saturday, November 1, 2014

NaNoWriMo Strikes Again!


So last year, I got to 50,000 words in only 16 days! Which is really, really crazy.

So this year, I decided to be even crazier. Why not, right? You only live once. (Unless you're a writer. Then you get to live right along with as many characters as you can cram into your head.)

So this year I present to you, using Kickstarter terminology for easy understanding, Erica's Super-Insane-Amazing Stretch Goal:

This year

I am going to write



in 30 days.


Image from DeviantArt, by Merian Rose

I'm working on the sequel not to the novel I wrote in last year's NaNoWriMo - that one is undergoing extensive revision as the giant world that it is set in just seems to want to keep expanding and detailing itself even further.

Instead, I'm writing the sequel to a novel I started back in my senior year of college, a novel that I took out of storage on and off for approximately six years before I finally sat down and finished the darn thing this past summer. I'm incredibly proud of it, and have finally started the process of getting it published.

Considering that there's actually a decent chance the novel will be out in the world early sometime next year, I figured I'd better get going with the sequel. And now that I've finally started to get my life where I want it to be, it's time to work my butt off getting my writing career to where I want it as well. I've made great progress these last few months, and don't want to slow down until I'm done with book 2.

So wish me luck, love, and lots and lots of chocolate!

Inspiration: My mother telling me she really liked the first novel. My mother is a tough critic even of her daughter, so that's real praise.

Music: Silence while writing, but there was much Maaya Sakamoto yesterday, particularly her new album. I love Replica and the piano take on Be Mine is amazing. The speed at which she blisters through the song on the recorded track, and the high notes she hits seem impossible. But then you hear her do the same thing live with just a piano in the background, and you can see that she's The Real Deal.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

I Did Not Fall Off A Cliff...

...Although frankly, you could never tell since I haven't updated this blog in over two months now!

Well, a lot has happened in those two months. I've changed jobs, and am trying to move forward with my writing in a more active and meaningful way. While I really enjoyed my work at my former job, it was clear to me that I would not be able to move forward in a direction that helped me achieve my goals for my life, either personally or professionally.

In my former position, my technical skills were both blessing and curse, in that I felt valued and needed for them, but I was also pigeonholed. I am happy to have been able to do what I was good at, but when my abilities in one area started to prevent me from pursuing my passions in other areas, I realized that I had to move on. I'm grateful for every opportunity that has brought me to where I am now - I've always maintained the philosophy that every step of the road is what it needed to be if you got where you wanted to go. After all, who knows how one small change might impact other things?

Nevertheless, I am actively in the process of retooling my skill set and improving my writing skills to make sure that I don't run into the same issue again. I love books. I love writing. I am creative. I am proud of the qualities that make me who I am.

I want every job I have in the future, whether as a writer, librarian, or something in an entirely different field, to reflect who I am and what makes me special. I don't want this just because I will enjoy my job more, but because taking joy in your work ensures that you will give your best effort every day without ever having to worry about burning out.

So what does this mean for my journey as a writer? Well, it means I've had more time to improve my body and my mind. I've started taking exercise classes, jogging with a friend, and have read several books to make me a better author and creator. For starters, I highly recommend Austin Kleon's "Steal Like An Artist," and its fun follow-up, "Show Your Work!"

The books are full of cheerful gems of wisdom like this one above.

And in light of the above piece of advice, I am no longer referring to myself as an "aspiring" author. I am an author. As I grow more knowledgeable, I am becoming more confident too. My works may still be in progress, but they are moving forward, and I have no intention of giving up on them. Now that I've got my head together, you're going to start seeing more fun stuff from me, like pieces of my actual work popping up on my blog. I can't wait to share it with you!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Growth as a Writer

It's been hard to blog lately, and I am clearly aware of why. Without going into too many details, suffice it to say that my life has not been moving in a direction I had hoped it would. I'm taking steps to reroute, but it's difficult to put myself out on the web, knowing that I can't be completely forthright.

I've seen it said before, by other well-known and successful writers, that you have to put aside others' hopes for you, their opinions of you, in order to write. For some people, the expectations of who you were supposed to be were already lowered. J.K. Rowling and Nora Roberts were both single mothers without lucrative careers when they first started writing seriously. Rowling scraped the edge of poverty, relying on family to get by. She doesn't speak of it, but I can't imagine they were pleased at what she'd done with her life at the time.

Others, like Barbara Hambly, write in their journals of how they tried other careers. Hambly was student teaching in a high school when she created her first novel, "Time of the Dark." Casually, she speaks of losing any chance of getting a teaching job when Proposition 13 went through. Almost as an afterthought, she details having spent 30 months working for her father's company while she continued writing, a dead-end job that she knew was going nowhere.

30 months.

In other words, two and a half years.

Some people can move forward while pursuing other interests. Many writers have, and do, continue in second careers even as their writing becomes lucrative. Hambly is a well-known writer - she's won and been nominated for several Locus awards. Even as she writes, she also teaches college classes, and she enjoys doing so.

But there's a point where you have to step back, and look at your life, and ask "Where is this leading me?" And if your answer is "Not to anything that I want," then you have to reevaluate.

I reached that point several months ago. To be honest, I probably knew I was going the wrong direction over a year ago. But fear can be a powerful motivator to avoid change. After all, if Option A didn't work, who's to say that Option B will do any better? Nevertheless, you have to try.

Moving forward from here, I have started to look hard at what I want from my life. I have a wonderful husband, cat, and home. I will have to work hard to keep them. But I have to make certain that I'm not putting home before happiness. I love my new house and will fight to keep it. But I will also fight to be able to do so in a manner that makes me happy, and fulfills me.

I want to work hard. I want what I do to make a difference. And I want to do work that I am passionate about, that I can be proud of having done. It's time to change directions, so I can once again look forward to telling the world about all the exciting things I plan to do.

Thursday, February 20, 2014


So the snow has finally receded...maybe. Please? And for the moment there is no more on the horizon. You can't possibly begin to imagine how happy I am at this moment. For all you winter-lovers, sorry, but all of us here in the Tri-State Area are downright sick of it. Not to mention the fact that some places have actually run out of salt to put on the unending supply of black ice!

Anyway, I've been spending a lot of my indoor time watching the Olympics, and I came across a commercial that pretty much horrified me. It started out by talking about how other countries value their leisure time, and take it easy. And here I am thinking, "Finally! Someone will stand up and say that America has a workaholic culture and it's time to do something about it!"

And then it goes on to say that the people in other countries are idiots.

Here in America, you should work your butt off. Why? So you can spend your money on nice things, like this shiny car, and show them off to all your friends! The American working spirit put men on the moon, says the commercial. It made us a top country in the world.

All right, so there is so much wrong here that it is absolutely frightening.

"As for all the stuff? That's the upside of only taking two weeks off."

American determination and drive are good things. I value them. I think that you shouldn't skate by in life, you should work hard to get what you want.

But that's not what this is about. This is about greed, pure and simple. I want this car so I can show my friends and family how much better than them I am. And the more I buy, the better I will feel about myself, so spend, SPEND, SPEND!

You may be wondering where I'm going with this, and how it relates to my writing in some way. Well, it does, so keep reading.

This morning, I read the latest blog post from Deborah Chester, a great sci-fi and fantasy author who also blogs about the writing craft. She reminds us that if left too long, our writing talents will rust. If you stop writing, you'll never get better.

She likens books to fine crystal - a book may take a long time to make, but it will be worthwhile in the end because of its beauty, even if it's not disposable, easily cleaned, or convenient. As Emerson said, "Beauty is its own excuse for being."

The American work ethic is valuable because it encourages us to expand our horizons, to push the limits of what is possible and see what lies beyond. It's not about feeding into the consumerist idea of getting more and more regardless of quality or common sense. It's about working hard enough to achieve your goals, and then stepping back to enjoy the beauty of what you've created, or bought with the income you've earned.

A Cadillac may or may not be a great car. I don't know. But it shouldn't simply be relegated to a status symbol, popular because of the name. Hard work shouldn't be about status, but about substance.

You should work hard to support your family, to create your art, or to be proud of yourself for whatever accomplishments you achieve. But if you're always striving for the next expensive item, then you really have missed the entire point of the American working spirit.

I work hard because I think my writing is of value to the world. I want to write to help people, to give them a place to put away their troubles for a time, characters to relate to so they can feel less alone and awkward, and a world that they can live in and share with others so everyone can enjoy it together. Lofty goals, sure, but if I work hard, I believe I can accomplish them. That's what drives me to succeed.

Perhaps it's just me, but if "caring for others" takes less time than leisure and sports,
you may want to revise your priorities.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Blog. Even When Your Head Is In A Fog.

So I'm writing this post with absolutely no idea where it's going.

That's a new one, even for me.

Usually, when I feel this aimless and my head is this far in the clouds, I try to get it down before attempting to put pen to paper, or in this case, fingers to keyboard. Nevertheless, here I am, because it's been two weeks and my head is still foggy.

Winter is my least favorite season, and if you asked me for a list of reasons why, it would probably look like one of those cartoon lists, the kind that come in a small scroll that unrolls all the way to the ground and then keeps on rolling out the door.

Picture from
I sympathize, sir. Truly, I do.
But the worst thing about winter, for me, is how depressed I get. I don't know if it's Seasonal Affective Disorder (appropriately nicknamed SAD), cabin fever, the really short days, or just holiday and post-holiday stress, but December and January always seem to drag.

I had all this writing energy in November, and even the air seemed electric. The chill seemed to tingle along my spine and fingers as I typed, and I really felt like I was pushing forward. It didn't hurt that the little word counter kept filling up and turning green when I hit my quota for the day. I need that counter for every day. I even wrote NaNoWriMo an e-mail asking for it for next year.

But now, I'm sitting here in front of my keyboard, writing an aimless blog post because I can barely remember what part of my story I was at, let alone what to do with it next. Everyone keeps saying that the only cure for writer's block is writing, but that doesn't make the page any less blank, or my brain any less stressed about having no idea how to fix it.

Anyway, I think what I'm trying to get at, oh viewers who have yet to materialize, is that I'm looking forward to spring. In the meanwhile, I'll continue to cough up words here and stubbornly drag myself another day, another hour, another minute closer to being done. Edited. Published. And moving on.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014


So I can finally breathe through my nose again. What a relief!

Everyone I know has been sick, although most of them appear to be on the mend by now. I'm back at work, and the rest of my life is progressing nicely. The cat is settling in - happily destroying our brand-new revolving chair and other furniture - and is so cute that we don't mind our home looking like a tornado blew through. I'll post pictures soon. I've finished "Write. Publish. Repeat." and really enjoyed it. More, I found it informative, inspirational, and useful.

See above for a really good book. Image taken from
The Creative Penn blog, another really great site for writers.

Although a lot of the advice isn't necessarily useful to me right now, since I'm not at the publishing stage of the game yet, it does make clear that the formula for success isn't in writing one great novel, but in several really good ones. And in writing consistently, not just publishing one book a year. There wasn't much advice on finishing books, but I'm starting to come to the unfortunate conclusion that there really is only one remedy for that problem.

It's what many writers refer to as BIC, or Butt-In-Chair, time. For some writers, myself included, this can sometimes be excruciatingly long and painful. It shouldn't be, especially when you love your stories as much as I love mine, but sometimes looking at your own work and realizing that you're not getting the words right is just horrible. It's like trying to talk to a boy you've got a crush on, and all you can do is stammer. You're trying so hard to get it right that everything seems to be coming out wrong, even if it's really not.

Inevitably, I'll look back over my own work later and have two trains of thought, running simultaneously towards each other on the same track from opposite directions. One says, "You know, this really isn't so bad after all." The other says, "You know, this really isn't particularly good after all. What were you thinking?"

That's what I'm going to be working on this year. In 2014, I'll be installing a switch on the tracks, and the bad-thoughts train will be sent on its way. Because I'm starting to realize something: it is not she who dreams of writing beautifully who gets ahead, but she who writes. Period. And if my first books go out into the world and aren't the best things I've ever written, that's not just okay, it's normal. But you can't get better if you never get started...

Inspiration: the thought of actually being a writer, and having actual people read my stuff. Including this blog. Maybe. Please?

Music: lots of Sara Bareilles that I can belt at the top of my lungs as I drive to work. "Say what you wanna say/and let the words fall out/honestly/I wanna see you be brave!"

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Best-Laid Plans

"The best laid schemes o' Mice an' Men, Gang aft agley," wrote Robert Burns, in his impeccably Scottish dialect. In other words, have an idea, start to follow through, and something will inevitably waylay you.

In this case, I made a New Year's resolution to be more healthy...and promptly came down with the flu.

So in addition to adding "GET A FLU SHOT!" to this year's list of resolutions, I want to talk about the push and pull of struggle versus the writer.

I've been reading a lot lately about how to become a published author, and much of the advice boils down to "Write. Publish. Repeat." (Incidentally, this is the title of a book I'm currently reading, by the charmingly funny Johnny B. Truant and Sean Platt)

This advice dovetails with advice I've been hearing from friends and reading in other books about how to live your life - "Think Positive. Act Confident and You Will Become Confident."

Well, that's just the problem.

I wonder, how does one take the first step? Is it a memorable Moment that demarcates one side of your life from the other - Before and After? Or is it a series of quiet steps, unremembered but vitally important, all stacked together to form a jagged, dragging line into the person you want to become?

I never know if I'm moving forward on days like these, or backwards, or not moving at all. Looking at it objectively, I know that I'm not the same person I was a year ago - married, living on my own. And yet, in terms of my dreams, I'm not necessarily sure I've taken a step forward. Yes, I finished NaNoWriMo, but I didn't actually complete my novel yet. Yes, I'm learning more about self-publishing, but I'm still not published.

When I'm ill, as I have been for the last several days, it brings me back to my childhood, when I was often ill - usually with no idea what I'd done to cause it. I've managed to iron out most of my health problems over the years, but there are still days when I believe I'll always be the sickly little girl who's missing out on something important.

I think what I'm trying to say is that being sick has given me one more resolution to add to the list:

Be well not just physically. Be well mentally, spiritually. Don't be the girl looking out the window, waiting for life to happen to her, waiting to be strong enough to go outside and brave the world. Don't miss out on the important things in life.

That said, the view out my window isn't terrible, considering it's the dead of winter.
Resolution: take picture again in spring, with me sitting outside.