Posted in Publications on Coffee House Writers, Writing

Five Truths of Editing Fiction No One Tells You

Red Pen for Editing
Photo by ulleo via Pixabay

This is my latest on Coffee House Writers. You can find the full article here.

Five Truths of Editing Fiction No One Tells You

I’ve been chronicling my experience with editing here at Coffee House Writers with some of my past articles. “Starting Over: Mirroring Kristin Cashore’s Writing of Bitterblue” was about how rewriting the whole story was my original plan. “An Editing Process for Pantsers” mentioned a very analytical way of evaluating each scene and figuring out whether it was worth keeping.

I have been indecisive about how to edit, to say the least. This is, in part, because of the editing everyone talks about versus what it will actually look like.

We need an honest conversation about what the editing process entails.

When someone says the word “editing,” what do you see? A red pen fixing punctuation errors, awkward wording and grammar? That’s what I imagined. I didn’t realize one of the biggest secrets of editing: editing is, at its heart, rewriting.

Because of the common misconceptions about writing, I decided to list out the truths of editing. I stumbled across these through editing my novel.

Truth #1: Editing is Rewriting

In truth, everything after the first draft is editing. You must rewrite scenes, add scenes, delete scenes, and everything in between to get to the polished-draft phase. Everything you write after the first completed draft is editing, even if you are writing a completely new sequence of scenes for the first half of your book.

Truth #2: You Will Cut 90 Percent Of Your First Draft

I wrote 61,000 words for my first draft. The first 42,000 words will be completely rewritten. Some of the later scenes [Read More]

Posted in Publications on Coffee House Writers, Writing

The Heroine of My Life: A Therapy Exercise for Battling Negative Self-Talk

Success is being the hero of your life
Photo by Free-Photos via Pixabay

This is my latest on Coffee House Writers. I had the inspiration to write this from a friend who mentioned that her therapist had told her about this exercise. I was immediately taken with the idea and wanted to see if it could help me. This is what I came up with since I didn’t want to make an autobiography out of it. You can read the full article here. I hope you enjoy!

The Heroine of My Life:

** Trigger Warning** Mentions of Suicidal Thoughts and Bullying

Someone suggested as a therapy exercise to write my story. However, there was a simple requirement. I had to make myself the strong heroine with a happy ending instead of playing the victim. It’s an exercise to battle negative self-image and self-talk.

Here’s my story:

As a young child, I already had a stubborn personality. I liked to call it determination. My mother and I often butted heads because of this personality trait. It was something she called a battle of wills.

Traits of kindness, loyalty and caring for others appeared. I had a strong sense of justice and always helped others. I love helping my friends figure out their problems.

I was a take-charge kind of person. If I had an idea, I was passionate about; it would consume me to the point of obsession. I would work on the project until I couldn’t work on it anymore. I would stop after exhausting the possibilities or resistance from others.

But, as is always the case with young, strong-willed creatives, it put me through trial after trial of resistance.

I was creative; I was always writing fiction and reading whatever I could get my hands on. When eating, I read cereal boxes or labels on food containers to keep my mind occupied.

I was intelligent. My mind was always thinking. I would evaluate problems and ways to solve them. I sought to understand the world around me, why people thought and acted the way they did. I often wondered why I thought and acted the way I did. Understanding how and why things worked was critical for me. My endless questions of “why” often irritated my parents. They often told me to look answers up in the ancient encyclopedia we had or, later,  [Read More]

 

Posted in Publications on Coffee House Writers, Writing

An Editing Process for Pantsers

Editing Process
Photo by WokinghamLibraries via Pixabay

This is another article that I wrote for Coffee House Writers. You can find the full article with this link. I hope you find this helpful!

An Editing Process for Pantsers

The 18th of July was the one-month anniversary of finishing my first full-length novel. You may have seen my article “Starting Over: Mirroring Kristin Cashore’s Process Of Writing Bitterblue,” published earlier this month about the process I was planning on using to edit the novel.

Well, plans have changed. I admit I’ve never edited a longer piece of writing before. The editing process is a bit of a mystery to me.

I have read lots of articles about how to approach editing, but few seemed to lend themselves to the way my brain works. Being a panster, a term for someone who doesn’t plot or plan before writing, means a lot of methods for editing aren’t aimed towards your process. Plus, a lot of these methods didn’t tell me how to approach each step. They just gave a basic rundown of the process involved without going into detail.

I ended up cobbling several methods together to get what I think I need for this specific project. I have a general idea of what it needs to improve.

What methods did I choose to include in the editing process?

First off, I wanted to read through and separate the scenes. I placed a hashtag between each of the scenes. Then, I filled out an index card with a couple of questions. These questions were:

  • Who is in the scene? I wrote down the names of each character that makes an appearance. I made a note if they only appear for a portion or leave in the middle of the scene.
  • What happens? I made a short synopsis of the events in the scene.
  • When does it happen? This has three parts to it.
    • I included the day number during the timeline of the novel (Day 1, Day 2, etc.,).
    • The time of day the scene happens (early morning, morning, early afternoon, afternoon, evening, night, late night,).
    • And the day of the week (Sunday, Monday, etc.).
  • What is the POV Character’s Goal? What are they trying to accomplish? Do they [Read More]

Posted in Publications on Coffee House Writers, Writing

Character Creation: Why Is It Important And How Can You Do It?

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Photo by Mediamodifier on Pixabay

There are two main parts to every story: internal and external conflict. These are also known as character and plot, respectively.

One of the age-old debates in the literary world is which is more important to the story. Neuroscience has answered this question with fMRI technology. According to Lisa Cron’s book, “Story Genius,” the character’s journey is more important. Why?

It’s how our brains process the story. On page 109 of “Story Genius,” Cron writes, “Cognitive psychologist and novelist Keith Oatley… defines fiction as ‘a simulation that runs on the software of our minds.” We use stories as a way to evaluate different social situations and how we would react to them. Basically, it allows us to experience the situation and reap the chemical rewards of navigating it successfully without ever being in the situation for ourselves.

Your character’s journey to change is what makes the story compelling to readers.

You need to relate to the character on some level. Our brains are wired to relate to the character, not the plot. If the character is not relatable, then the reader stops reading.

That begs the question: how can you create a relatable character and make the story compelling?

First, by understanding a few key points:

[Read More]

Posted in Publications on Coffee House Writers, Writing

Starting Over: Mirroring Kristin Cashore’s Process of Writing “Bitterblue”

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Photo by Lum3n.com on Pexels

I am a fan of the “Graceling Realm Series” by Kristin Cashore. In the back of the third and final book, “Bitterblue,” I found a mention of the blog post that detailed how she ended up restarting the writing process for that book all over again.

Imagine having written seven notebooks, all filled with the first draft, the equivalent of 800 pages of a typed manuscript only to be told to “start over” by your editor. Infuriating right?

Well, Cashore agreed with her editor after some thought. And when she sat down to write it, she wrote a much better, more concise manuscript.

Of course, in order to get the motivation to write, she had to trick her brain. She had to use tricks to tell herself she was writing a brand-new book. She had to use other tricks to show herself she was making progress and not just floundering.

I recently went through a similar experience. Although I wrote nowhere near 800 plus pages of a manuscript (more like 200 pages and 61,000 words), I felt overwhelmed with the prospect of editing the novel I had written.

It is the longest manuscript I have written to date, and the whole vision of it changed around 40,000 words in. Not to mention that 90 percent of the plot points happen in the last 20,000 words.

Simply put, [Read More]

Posted in Publications on Coffee House Writers, Writing

An Open Letter to My Younger Self

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Photo by Kirsty TG on Unsplash

Dear Younger Self,

You will be on a journey of learning your whole life. Along the way, there will be tears, great friends, betrayal, suicidal thoughts, and support. You will go through a lot of hard times, but the good times will make the hard times worth it.
You will be an energetic, stubborn, bossy child with advanced social skills and an affinity for writing. For you writing is an extension of playing pretend. It is fun and exciting to create a world all your own. Music and the life you observe and the worlds you experience from reading will inspire you.
Your parents have their faults but have redeeming qualities, too. You will think they are perfect and will have a hard time coming to terms with the fact they will be toxic for you later in life. They will play favorites and treat your brother better with more support later in your life. You will be on medicine from a young age.
You will experience a psychiatric unit and suicidal thoughts induced by medicine when you are just ten years old. You will come out learning of things like cutting and burning. You will be exposed to a world you shouldn’t have at your age. The next year your aunt will die from suicide. This will be hard to see your family so broken about it. You will feel guilty because you don’t cry. You will grieve your way, and that is okay. This event will save your life many times later in your life when you continue to have suicidal thoughts for yourself.

[Read More]

Posted in Publications on Coffee House Writers, Writing

Big Dream: Exploring My Deep-Seated Fears

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Photo by Anemone123 on Pixaby

I had been thinking about a challenge. A challenge to identify my fears as they relate to my Big Dream from Debbie Burns book “The Path to Courage.” A Big Dream is the thing I want to do with the rest of my life to fulfill my calling. I had been thinking all day but had written nothing down. I wrote my Big Dream and all the fears and societal and cultural rules that were stopping me. For reference, my Big Dream is to support myself through writing and writing-related jobs. I don’t want to get stuck in an unfulfilling job and feel miserable. I noticed that a lot of my fears had to do with financial independence and autonomy.

It came to me; I am scared to depend on anyone but myself. I am scared of the rejection and the hurt that comes from trusting someone. I am afraid of having them disappoint or betray me. I am so frightened of trusting others, asking for help, and allowing myself to love.

Looking back on my childhood, this makes sense. From a young age, I was independent. My brother has autism and glaring behavior problems and has my parents’ attention. They praised me for being an “easy, independent” child. When I needed help, they told me too, “figure it out on my own.” I felt betrayed because my brother was getting all the help and attention he needed.

This pattern with my parents’ attention hasn’t changed in 21 years. I still don’t get help from them, even now when I need it more than my brother. He gets a lot more help than he needs. They hold me to higher standards than my brother. I am expected to be autonomous at 21 despite my severe mental illness.

To illustrate this: [Read More]

Posted in Publications on Coffee House Writers, Writing

How 10 Months With My Grandma Taught Me More Than 20 Years With My Parents

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Photo by Carl Attard on Pexels

In my last article, An Open Letter To My Mom, I mentioned how my grandma had helped me. I thought I would elaborate.

The Move

On August 2017, Grandma heard Mom was having trouble with me. Mom had told her and the rest of the family about our problems. Despite this knowledge, she offered to let me live with her for the foreseeable future. For this, I owe her my life.

In the previous three months, I got kicked out of my grandparents’ house and my parents’ house for the second time. I thought I had used up all my family favors and would have to strike out on my own. This was something I was not ready for.

My mental illness is severe enough to make cashiering and food service jobs stressful enough to land me in the hospital. I was not qualified for any other job. Therefore, striking out on my own was impossible. Not to mention I couldn’t handle school and a job at the same time.

So, when Grandma offered to take me in, I saw it as a Godsend. I was determined not to mess it up.

The Rules

I felt nervous and excited when I arrived from the airport. From the get-go, Grandma stated the ground rules. First, always be honest. When you have a problem with something someone else in the house is doing, say something. Second, everyone contributes. You can cook dinner, wash dishes, clean, vacuum, anything as long as you contribute. No one will nag you to do things. You must do them of your volition. Third, we help and support each other. If you need something, tell the household what it is and how they can help. [Read More]

Posted in Publications on Coffee House Writers, Writing

Is A College Education Right For You?

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Photo by paseidon / Pexels

The Millennial generation and every generation after them are being encouraged to get a college degree. However, the cost of college tuition and materials has gone up exponentially while wages remain about the same. Many people of the older generation say how they paid their way through college working a minimum wage job. If you do the calculations, they look something like this:

College
Photo by Into Mathematics And Bondage / imgur.com

As you can see, things have changed a lot. The argument, “I did it, you can too,” is not valid. And people are getting thousands of dollars in debt, if not hundreds of thousands if you add in graduate degrees. All because our culture has instilled the mindset that you have to go to college to get a job. [Read More]

Posted in Publications on Coffee House Writers, Writing

Looking for the Good: A Strategy to Deal with Stress

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Photo by Geralt via Pixabay

My life is overridden with stress right now. Both good and bad. I figured I would let you know what was going on in my life, as a form of catharsis. I hope it will inspire others that they can make it through the hard times, too.

First, I wanted to mention the bad stress because that’s what everyone focuses on. That way, I can end my article with the good. There are good things in everyone’s life. You must look for it. Learning to appreciate the small stuff goes a long way. And it is something I am still trying to learn, but I am getting better at it.

The Bad

To start, I am worried about the rainy season in Florida. The rainy season is from April to October, and it rains heavily every day. Why am I worried about it? Because our house was damaged, and we don’t have the money to fix it. So, every time it rains my room becomes a lake. Water drips through the ceiling at a heavy rate and soaks my stuff and the tile floor, this causes stress. It is easy to slip and fall, and it forces me to sleep in the living room with sheer curtains and windows on either side of me. I don’t like windows because they make me feel exposed. It is because of my schizoaffective disorder and paranoid delusions. If you want to learn more about what life is like with schizoaffective disorder, click here to read my article.

Also, when it rains, the Internet is spotty and rarely works for days. This is frustrating because I go to school online and need a reliable Internet connection to do so. If I stayed in Florida, I wouldn’t have that.

I am trying to move to Ohio. The only problem? None of my family will allow me to stay with them. I am only allowed to stay with them for two weeks but nothing on a semi-permanent basis. Not even my parents’ house.

Because of the lack of support, I have been feeling unwanted and like a burden.

I almost hurt my baby cousin. I lost my balance and nearly fell on top of her, which was more traumatizing for me than it was for her. I was sleep deprived because she woke up and screamed bloody murder at 2 am. I hadn’t been able to sleep before or after that.

I need a job. I have never kept one for more than three months due to stress and my mental illness, so that is another stressor.

My voices get worse with stress, which increases my stress. That makes the voices worse. It’s a vicious cycle that’s hard to break.

The Good

I am in Ohio, currently… [Read more]

Posted in Publications on Coffee House Writers, Writing

The Writing Life: Inspiration to Finish Your Novel

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Have you ever thought of writing a novel? It’s a lot of hard work, and it can be a daunting task to write 50,000 words or more. But I received excellent advice yesterday.
I was watching a webinar recording my school’s career center had on writing, publishing, and selling a novel. The guest speaker was Joan C. Curtis.
She said something inspiring about writing your novel. I know you hear this advice all the time, but it is said for a reason- Write every day.
Now, I know that may not be inspiring, but I haven’t gotten to that part yet. So, here it is: if you write 500 words a day, you will have a 50,000-word novel in a little over three months. One hundred days. Five hundred may seem like a lot, but really, it is one single-spaced page or two double-spaced ones.
And you don’t have to stop there. If you are inspired and want to write more, go ahead! If you have the time, do it! That will cut down on the time it takes to get your novel finished. Don’t mess with the creative flow when you have it. Just keep going for as long as time and inspiration allow.
After you write your novel, then the challenge of editing it and formatting it comes into play. You must allow part of your time every day to editing and formatting, and to write on a second project.
For me, this is important. I have a lot of things to balance my writing time with:
Posted in Publications on Coffee House Writers, Writing

My Life with Schizoaffective Disorder: A Form of Schizophrenia

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Photo by Pixabay

Many people know about John Nash, the Nobel-Prize winning economist who had schizophrenia. Many know of him because of the movie, A Beautiful Mind. It is a fascinating cinematic portrayal of schizophrenic hallucinations.

However, there is not much content out there about schizophrenic symptoms and coping skills written by someone who has experienced them; this is a niche I can fill.

I was put on prescription medication by my parents as a young child. So early, in fact, that I am not sure when I was put on them. I was at least in the third grade, but it might have been before that. I remember taking my pills in peanut butter because I couldn’t swallow them for three years, which is why the smell makes me ill.

I’m not sure if this caused my current mental state or whether it contributed to it, but I’ll never know. There’s no use worrying about it because it won’t change anything except make me blame my parents, and that isn’t something that I want to be bitter over.

I was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder at eighteen. It is a form of schizophrenia with milder hallucinations. Usually a better grip on reality, and a mood disorder to go along with the hallucinations, such as depression or bipolar. I have the bipolar type. Even though I was diagnosed as a legal adult, I had been experiencing symptoms since I was fifteen. It is hard to say when I first…[Read More]

Posted in Publications on Coffee House Writers, Writing

Black History Month: A Story of a Slave Named Jerry Finney

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Photo by Alan Levine
For Black History Month, I thought I would talk about the story of a slave named, Jerry Finney. I found his story a few years ago and was enraptured by it.
Jerry Finney was a slave in Kentucky. His owner, Mrs. Bathsheba D. Long (widowed), permitted two of her men to bring him across the Ohio border to help them in a task. I am not sure what it was, or who the men were.
Jerry ended up escaping and living in Columbus, Ohio for over two decades, working as a cook and a waiter. He had a family and was well loved by the community.
That’s the part that interests me as a writer: what made him so well liked? He had to have been respectful, at least in that time period. Was he also kind? Charismatic? Funny? I can’t find any personal accounts of people who knew him, so it is hard to tell what he was like then. Near impossible, really.
Anyway, years after she lost him, Mrs. Long hired two men, Forbes and Armitage, to find Jerry and bring him back. They did so, but were put on trial for kidnapping in the court case I found: Forbes and Armitage vs. The State of Ohio. The court case was the only substantial record I found of what happened to Jerry. All the other records only mentioned his story for a page or less.
Unfortunately, Jerry had to stay in Kentucky after the kidnapping for unknown reasons. The people of Columbus, Ohio loved him so much, they… [Read More]