“Guardian” Excerpt + A little writing motivation to myself

“Sometimes the monsters win, Charlie.”

Those were the last words he ever spoke to me. Head down, hands in his pockets, eyes concealing the horrible truth of what he was about to do to the both of us.

What was it that scared me more? The defeat in his voice? Seeing vulnerability in a man who was impervious even to death itself? Or was it the fact that I trusted him enough to take his hand as he held it out to me, knowing with every atom of my being that another step forward would seal both our fates?

I didn’t stop him as he leaned down to kiss me. Soft lips, warm hands, shoulders trembling as if he were braced against a crushing weight. He locked me in an embrace that said everything his lips couldn’t: goodbye. I love you. Don’t be afraid. This is the only way.

Go set the world ablaze, fire girl.

And then there was nothing but the heat exploding through every nerve, searing blood and bone and thought. The pain was total, infinite; everything and everywhere. There were no lungs for me to fill with breath, no tears for me to cry. I burned within and without until I was a living pyre, a star on the verge of a supernova—only, I wasn’t dying.

I was rising.

And it wasn’t until the pain subsided, and I opened my eyes, that I would know the cost of my rebirth.

This is the prologue to the story I’vego-set-the-world-ablaze-fire-girl been writing for over 5 years now.

Actually, this is probably about the 13th prologue I’ve written for the story I’ve been writing for 5 years now.

You see, that’s the thing about myself and a lot of other writers out there–we’re completely self-defeating. We write, re-read, grimace, and delete. We go on day-long writing binges because the words just won’t stop flowing and then we go back later and wipe it all away. We criticize and critique before there’s anything to really criticize or critique!

It’s like drawing up plans to build this beautiful house, the house of your dreams, and you’ve barely built the framework when you decide to light the whole thing on fire.

Many of us get bogged down by the fact that writing is work. Pure and simple. It’s something you have to do when you feel like it, and it’s something you have to continue to do even when the words aren’t shooting like a New York Time’s Best-Seller from your fingertips.

Sometimes writing is a love/hate relationship. But you still have to do it, because if you’re anything like me, then NOT doing it basically drives you insane.

You have to keep writing even if you don’t think it’ll ever make it to print, that it will ever become a “fandom”, or become a silver-screen hit featuring a cast hand-selected by you and a score composed by Hans Zimmer. You have to keep writing even if there are plot holes and underdeveloped characters.

You (I) have to keep writing even if you’re (I’m) on the 34th version of your (my) rough draft. You have to punch through the writer’s blocks, leap over the plot holes, and belly flop into shallow characters, because that’s what builds better writing. Writing and writing and reading and reading.

This isn’t a lecture, it’s more a motivational speech for myself to get off my figurative ass and finish this story–if for no other reason than to say that I did. It’s time for me to put away the excuses and write, even if it’s crap. All I have to do is put one word in front of the other approximately 90-thousand times until I’m done.

 

How to NOT Lose Your Entire Manuscript — Like I Did

I’m still pretty raw over the whole ordeal, so, without going into too much tear-jerking detail, I lost my ENTIRE manuscript last Friday. If you’ve never had this happen to you, good! I sincerely wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy. It feels a lot like losing a piece of your soul. That may seem melodramatic but trust me, I can’t even delineate just how MUCH it sucks to lose your story. how-to-not-lose-your-entire-manuscript-like-i-did

Of course, I took to my writer’s group on Facebook to express my absolute sorrow, and while I was met with many condolences, I was also met with many wonderful ideas of how to safeguard against this happening EVER again that I wanted to share with you.


E-Mail Your Work to Yourself

Probably of one of the simplest methods to backing up your work is to e-mail yourself a copy of your work. You can do this however often you feel is necessary, but I would honestly suggest doing this everyday after you’ve written. Even if all you did was 300 words, that’s 300 words you’re going to hate to have lost later. If you don’t trust that it won’t get lost in your own e-mail, you can always e-mail it to your extremely trustworthy Aunt Eunice whom you know won’t steal your work.

External Hard-Drive and/or Flash Drive

My husband purchased a 1 terabyte hard drive a few years ago and it was one of the best ideas he’s ever had. But the trick is to USE IT. I didn’t. Don’t make my mistakes. Like with the e-mail, save a copy of your manuscript to the drive regularly. I’m leaning particularly toward using a flash-drive because of portability, but I also have this bad habit of losing small things, so if you’re like me, might I suggest getting one that you can attach to your key ring with your house and car keys.

Dropbox

I enjoy Dropbox. It’s an easy-to-use site and app that allows you to store and share (optional) files, photos, videos, etc. They have good security features plus file recovery. But, again, you actually have to utilize it for it to do any good. *pointed look at myself* I also like it because you can link up with other Dropbox users and share/swap files. I used it for work and it was a hell of a lot easier than sending a million e-mails back and forth.

Set a Recovery Point On Your PC

In short, a restore point will allow you to reset your computer’s operating system to a certain point of your choosing–or to an automatic point that was set by your computer. So say your manuscript disappears into oblivion and you hadn’t been smarter than me and backed up a most recent version of your work in other places, you can use a restore point to get your story back, or at least the most recent version as of the reset point. For information on how to set a restore point on Windows, go here. For Mac, go here. And seriously, don’t bother asking me any technical questions because my dad may have been accepted to MIT, but I didn’t get those genes. I got the artsy-fartsy genes instead.

Save Your MS Under a Different File Every Time

One of the suggestions I got was to always save your MS under a different name every time you’ve written–WITH DATES. That way, if you lose one file, maybe an older (or newer) version will be there. It sounds a bit neurotic but I’d rather be neurotic than crying over my lost MS for two days again. This is when an external hard-drive or flash drive will come in handy so you don’t bog down your computer with tons of files, which is especially an issue on laptops as I’ve learned.

Google Docs

I used Google Docs a lot before I got Word. There were several suggestions to save a copy of my MS to Google Docs regularly. My only issue with this is I’m uber paranoid about my account being hacked and my story stolen. My husband and myself had our Amazon account hacked and our bank account drained of what little was in there in the first place so now I’m flat out petrified of it happening again with something just as precious. -.- I don’t know what would feel worse, losing my story, or seeing it published under someone else’s name? Because, you know, that’s EXACTLY why people hack e-mail accounts.

If Worse Comes to Worst – Pay Someone To Fix It

More than anything, people suggested I take my computer to someone tech savvy. Fry’s, Staples, Geek Squad, you name it. They also suggested this for when your system crashes, you spill something on or break your computer, or you’re the unfortunate victim of a virus. “The file is there, you just have to get someone who can find it,” is what they said. If you’re capable and willing to dish out the dough, this would be my first suggestion if you did lose your work. Even if they can’t spare your device/computer, if they can at least save your files, right?

Don’t simply rely on auto-saves and traditional file saves onto your hard drive for your hard-wrought work. Stuff happens. Life happens. Technology can be a fickle, unreliable beast. Be a better writer than myself and backup your work! Be neurotic and obsessive about it if you must. Better safe than sorry, because trust me, trying to rewrite 40k words from memory because you’re also a Pantser writer who doesn’t plan your novels beforehand is a right pain.

Thoughts on Writing Vol. I

Some people read to escape reality, but it’s becoming more and more true that I write to escape reality. I write myself into another place, another time, another circumstance. The one consistency is that my other journey is never easy. There is still pain, turmoil, fear, and uncertainty. Because there is no such thing as a true life without these. There must be a darkness, there must be grief.

How am I to know the sweetness of happiness and peace unless I’ve tasted the bitterness of pain and war?

The Write Diet

Working place. Laptop, notebook

There are approximately 71,900,000 search results that appear when you Google the phrase “How to Lose Weight”. The fitness and nutrition world is extensive, and oftentimes mind-boggling for those attempting to transition to healthier lifestyles. The upside? There is no shortage of information on how to implement healthier lifestyle choices and achieve your weight goals.

The down side?

The amount of conflicting information and suggestions that one has to sift through to find a plan that works for them and their dietary needs.

Every body is different. Some people have to account for health complications like diabetes or thyroid diseases, while others have to consider certain genetic dispositions. Though there are certain methods of weight loss that nutritionists and fitness gurus agree on across the board, like staying well hydrated and choosing healthier foods, the tedious part comes in the form of disagreements between the how and what.

Now here’s the fun part.

When you Google “How to Write”, there comes a whopping 1.35 billion (oh, yes, you read that right) search results. Of course, you could narrow this search based on the type of writing you plan to do. For example, that number goes from 1.35 billion to 197 million when you search the more specific “how to write a novel”.

That’s still no shortage of information. And no shortage of headache.

Much like the fitness and nutrition world, conflicting suggestions and “advice” can have you reaching for the Tylenol bottle in about .5 seconds, or can have you discouraged in an equal amount of time. Some professionals in the literary world will follow suit with the great Stephen King (no sarcasm intended) and say to cut any adverbs of the “ly” variety from your story, while others say, “hey, don’t be an adverb Nazi.”

And if you’re wondering, “Using adverbs in a novel” brings up nearly half a million results. Holy cow!

The silver lining in this literary conundrum is that, just like every body is different, and a cookie-cutter diet plan won’t work across the board, every mind is different, and a cookie-cutter “how to” on writing your novel won’t work across the board, either. Every writer has their style, their own unique “voice”.

And we all have our own muse. We all have our own idea of a perfect writing space, the perfect music, the perfect pen or word processor. We each have a ritual when it comes to writing. And I think that at some point, we all self-loathe our work. If not, snide kuddos to you.

In a nutshell, the English language is a fickle beast. It can both create and destroy. It all boils down to the sequence in which you pluck the notes to evoke a certain emotion, to tell a certain story. For some people, their music is a simple quartet, while others require an entire orchestra. Both are beautiful, and built for their own purpose.

I won’t offer any advice other than to just keep writing. I think that’s a pretty agreed-upon sentiment in the writing world. Keep trying. Even if the rejection letters are rolling in back-to-back, and your mailbox is brimming, still keep trying. And keep learning your craft. Find your voice and run with it; don’t let anyone else take it from you. Finish that first draft with all the plot holes and spelling errors if for no other reason than to say that you did it.

You can pander on the technicalities later.

And, of course, there is always the comfort in knowing that, if nothing else, we can all agree on this:

There, Their, and They're.jpg

Rolling with the Punches

I once dreamed of being a famous author and poet; Survive NowAsk Questions Laterone of those writers whose work was adored, picked apart to find the deeper meaning only to see genius at every level.

(I used to be quite full of myself)

Of course, that was when I still believed that writing was “easy-peasy”, and I could shoot New York Times Bestsellers out of my fingertips on demand. Then I grew up and realized that writing is work. I both envy and dread having the mind of a literary genius. Why dread? Because that’s a lot of responsibility, and I’m very much a pajamas-and-slippers kind of gal.

Could I do my book signings while still in my PJs, please?

But I digress…

I’m a Pantser (fly by the seat of my pants) writer. I don’t plan. I may keep a document or a notebook to organize characters, places, and timelines as I go along, but there’s very little to no planning a story beforehand. Well, this method of mine tends to lead to me writing things without really realizing why other than because it’s part of the story. So when a reader asked me a question about my protagonist, Charlie, in my book Guardian, I had to sit back and think about it for a moment.

Actually, I thought about it for a few days.

Her question was why a 17-year-old girl who’d just been sold off to an underground slave trade run by monsters (evil mages, ghouls, vampires, etc.), and dosed with a magic-laced serum that gave her magic abilities, would just go along with what was happening without stopping to question A,B, and C.

And I realized that there have been a lot of those scenarios in my life. Not the paranormal aspect of it, of course, but I’ve experienced many situations that required just rolling with the punches; going with the flow, if you will. Sometimes, in the middle of a crisis, we don’t really have the time  or the mental/emotional capacity to sit around asking questions. Which is exactly where Charlie was in the story.

She’s exhausted, confused, pissed, and secretly pretty frightened. She’s also a fighter. She’s never been the kind to “sit down and shut up on demand”, as it says in the story. She deals the hand that’s given to her. And this is exactly the case from page one.

She’s in a situation that she can’t control. She’s surrounded by people who are bigger and badder than her on all sides. As a person of action, that’s exactly what she does… she acts: survive now, ask questions later. Have regrets later.

This is why Charlie just goes along with what’s happening.

So, dear reader, I hope that answers your question. And as the editing process happens, I’ll be sure to try and clarify this fact, even if that clarification comes later in the story.