Day 5 Prompt: What’s a worldbuilding detail in your WIP that you really like?
I like taking different aspects of magic and witchcraft to create my own spin. One of my favorite things about fantasy is you can really do whatever you want with little explanation besides, “magical energy” and it gives it validation. One detail in particular that I’m really proud of is how the girls can feel each other’s magic when they use their powers. This is something that is specific to an elemental generation only. Witches without elemental powers cannot sense other witch’s magic and other generations are unable to sense outside of the five elements in their specific group. A generation is a set of five witches with powers of the five elements born within five years of each other. The five elements being water, fire, earth, air and spirit. I really love this detail because it solidifies the connection Whitney and the other four main characters have to one another. The obligation they all feel to stand behind one another and protect each other because not only do they have a common goal, but they can literally feel one another’s magic coursing through their veins. It’s like a blood pact. Something that not only brings them together, but keeps them together.
I also want to add how much I love their matching jewelry. It’s probably the main reason the five girls decide they can truly trust one another because none of them really know where each of their gems come from, but they know they’re all connected to one another. The floating ink inside of the jewels that changes color when they’re around one another definitely helps. It’s these details that bring them together but it’s their own decision to work together that truly bonds them.
Day 4 Prompt: Thinking back to the motivation(s) you defined yesterday, what is your character’s goal (or goals) and what conflict(s) prevents them from getting to that? In short: Define the GMC for your characters. G – Goal
M – Motivation
C – Conflict
Lol I guess I already touched on goals, to find the truth behind their powers and where did these abilities originate. The conflict that prevents them from uncovering the truth emerges in layers. The girls aren’t the only witches in the woods and many of them are definitely not friendly, not towards the Elementals, anyway. What happens when you’re the hero of your own story but the villain in another’s? That’s what the girls find out the hard way. Perspective is everything, and one of my favorite things is to blur the lines between right and wrong, good and even. Because it’s all about who you ask. Everyone is the hero of their own story, even when they are anything but heroic.
GMC. Goal: Whitney and the other girl’s goal is to uncover the history of their magic and find if others like them exist. Motivation: Thinking they were the only ones with powers for most of their lives, living in fear of being discovered. What would their families think? Their friends? Their lovers? Conflict: Not only are there others out there working tirelessly to bury the truth, but they are just as adamant of burying Whitney and the other girls six feet under. I love when characters hate each other for very valid reasons, when the reader can look at both sides and be sympathetic, conflicted on who is right and who deserves their support. Obviously, you want to root for the protagonists, for they are the heroes of the story right? What happens when the heroes have just as much blood on their hands? It’s not so black and white, but all shades of grey.
Day 3 Prompt: What’s your character’s motivation? What motivates them to act like they do?
Going back to Elements, my main character’s motivation is to figure out who the hell they are. My two main characters are a pair of adopted sisters with very little knowledge of their past. This only fuels their need to find out where the source of their powers came from. It’s the one piece of themselves they feel is obtainable, like if they are able to know the truth about their magical abilities, it’ll make up for not knowing their biological parents or the history behind the families they were born into. It’ll make the sting of their parents giving them up hurt a little less.
This drive to learn their truth is what motivates them to behave kinda recklessly. They don’t think about how things could go wrong, or who could get hurt on their conquest. It’s not until their lives as they know it blows up in their faces that they take a step back and promise to be more careful, to be more mindful of their actions. This of course is when they finally discover they aren’t the only ones with elemental powers hiding in plain sight. My main character, Whitney, is convinced this is all she’ll ever have in this world. She has a sole purpose given to her through this magic, and it’s her duty to uncover the truth, no matter the consequences. It’s not until she realizes the truth is more complicated than she could have ever imagined that she wonders if she and the other girls have gone too far.
Day 2 prompt: For your current WIP: (do you have many WIPs? I have so many WIPs. So I mean current as of right this moment, the project you’re thinking about right now.) What motivates you to write this specific story? What makes this story special for you? Is there a special twist/trope/setting you want to explore? What got you started on this particular story?
My current WIP (work in progress) is my modern fantasy, Elements. It’s the series I’ve been working on for about ten years now. I know that sounds like a long time but there’s five books that I’ve been plotting out. The first one written, the second one about a third written and the rest I have pretty much pieced together. It’s evolved a lot over the years and it’s something I’m tremendously proud of.
What motivates me to write this specific story is obviously my personal attachment to it. After a decade, it’s very much my baby. I started writing it because I was swimming one day and I jumped in the pool, staying under for as long as I could before returning to the surface for air and it made me wonder, how cool would it be to be able to manipulate water? Witchcraft is something that has always thrilled me, something I was instantly drawn to. From that, mixed with my own personal experiences with magic during my high school years, when is really when I started dabbling with the craft, came this idea of elemental witches. A coven of sisterhood. What makes this story so special to me is how personal it is. So many of the characters are inspired by my people, my close inner circle of found family. So many of the themes are struggles I have faced myself, things I have gone through with my friends, the dynamics of all our relationships and the struggles of growing up and figuring out who we are on top of the added drama of fiction.
As far as special twists/tropes/settings for this particular WIP, I could go on for literal pages. My personal favorite twists are the ones cunningly hidden in plain view, but you’re so preoccupied with other plot elements that you don’t notice it. And when it is finally revealed, you look back and think, “Holy shit it’s been there all along.” As for settings, I love nature. I love how nature can reflect emotion. You’re scared? Here’s a graveyard in the middle of the night, twisted trees barren of leaves in the winter cold hanging above your head. You’re happy? Here’s a meadow full of wildflowers, birds chirping back and forth to one another. The warm sun beating down on your skin. You’re sad? Here’s a rain storm in the middle of the night as you wait at an uncovered bus stop, wondering when your life will begin.
For those of you that don’t know, I’ve been spending a lot of time on Tumblr because I’m a fan girl and that’s the place you go when you want to shamelessly obsess over nerdy things. Some of the other writers I follow over there have been doing this 100 Days of Writing challenge by the WIP Project. I’d been enjoying reading their posts so much and seeing their different writing styles, I decided to go ahead and join in. Their main page can be found here: https://the-wip-project.tumblr.com/
Day 1 Prompt: Write about what your motivation is to write at all. What got you started? What keeps you going?
My motivation is honestly pretty self indulgent. Of course, all writers write for other people. If we didn’t plan on having readers at some point, we’d never put pen to paper. Or fingers to keyboards. For me, I write what I want to read. I write about characters who inspire me, plot that moves me, issues that matter to me. I constantly have these ideas, speeches, emotions buzzing around in my head, and I write to release them. To get things off my chest, to tap into things I keep buried beneath the surface. I create these people and these worlds and after a while of letting them linger in the back of my mind, I get attached. I care about whether they get what they want or if they have to struggle. I care about them finding their own versions of happiness.
What got me started was a dream actually. I was in the third grade and I had a dream about this orphanage with vines growing from the ceiling and these girls who escaped from it. The next day, I wrote out a little story and even drew some pictures. I have no idea if it still exists but I remember taking it to school and showing my teacher. I remember her being impressed and telling me to write more, so I did, and I never stopped. I’ve been writing ever since.
I keep going because it’s part of my soul now. I can’t imagine ever not writing. I can’t imagine not creating characters or weaving stories together. Turning dreams into semi-coherent plots. I genuinely don’t know what my brain would even look like if I never started writing. It’s become so much more than a hobby, but a huge aspect of my existence. Even when I write things that I’m certain no one else will read. I’ve seen a lot of writers talk about how they write for their readers, and while a big part of me wonders how people will like what I produce and if anyone will connect the dots I lay out, I have to selfishly admit that I write for myself. As a mother and a wife and all the other components of who I am to other people, writing is the only thing I have that is purely mine.
Here we are, half way through the New Year. I know I’m not the only one struggling to stay on top of everything, struggling for the get up and go, struggling for motivation. One thing that has helped keep me going is staying organized by writing down my to-dos and my routines. I’m a mom, I have a million things to do every day and there’s always something at the end of the day I’m forgetting. Here are the main five pieces of advice I have and the five ways I stay motivated throughout the year, especially in the first few months.
Write out a physical to-do list
It always seems so much easier for our brains to process what we have going on for the day when we can see it all written out. Not only is it a good way to keep track of everything, but it’s also super gratifying to cross off each task as you complete them.
Write out a morning/evening routine
Same as above, having your goals for the day written out is the first big step to making sure you get all everything you need finished. I find it helpful to get together a solid morning and evening routing, allowing yourself plenty of time to get yourself established in the morning and also to wind down in the evening to help relax your mind for a restful night.
Leave yourself notes of inspiration or reminders
Even a simple post with a kind motivator of ‘You’re doing great!’ can be a great reminder to be kind to yourself. I have a white board up in my office that I use for my daily tasks. While it was empty one day, my husband wrote on it ‘Remember to love yourself, too.’ and it warmed my heart so much that I’ve left it up for the last month. Every time I look at it, it’s a reminder to slow down and make sure I’m taking care of myself too.
Don’t overload yourself
While we have so many aspirations, it can be easy to overload ourselves. As I talked about in my post about resolutions last week, the best thing to do is set realistic goals. Stepping stones that can help lead you on your journey to your desired finish line. Great things take time and we can’t compare our chapter one to someone else’s chapter fifteen. Going at your own pace and taking large goals one step at a time helps you to stay motivated and not get quickly burnt out.
After a long week, or just a long day, of accomplishing your goals and checking everything off your to do lists, we’re exhausted. Something I love to do afterwards is treat myself. Taking a few hours of relaxation to binge a new show on Netflix or indulging in a nice dessert, or your favorite take out when you don’t feel like cooking. Whatever your heart desires. It’s important to treat ourselves, we work so hard every day that rewarding ourselves is one of the most important items to cross off our weekly to-do lists. It gives us something to look forward to and also reminds us to love and take time to care for ourselves.
Habits you set in the beginning of the year can set the tone for the entire twelve months. Having healthy habits and productive routines in place already puts you steps ahead from where you started. Staying motivation is a struggle but staying organized and focused is the key to success.
The infamous New Years Resolution. You have to admire the human spirit. We look at the first day of a new calendar year as a fresh start. A new opportunity to leave the past behind us, to drop all of our old habits overnight and step into a whole new way of being. It’s ambitious, it’s overwhelming and 9 out of 10 times it doesn’t stick. We cannot become new people overnight without putting in the work. Let me say that again, we cannot form new habits and become new people overnight without putting in the work. Creating a skincare routine will not eradicate the demons that are hiding in your soul. Showers are basic hygiene, not self care. It’s deeper than all that.
Humans are creatures of habit. We will choose to sit in the same seats throughout an entire semester of class. We choose the same coffee mugs in the morning. We choose the same meal when we order food. There isn’t anything wrong with this, it’s just how we are by nature. This is why our New Year’s resolutions don’t typically make it into February. Losing weight isn’t about going on a diet for two months and then falling back into unhealthy habits, it’s about completely changing your mindset and lifestyle, which is hard as hell. Especially after the year we just had. 2020 was testing enough as it is, why push yourself even further?
I decided I was going to push myself. Every year I make a New Year’s resolution and most of the time, I don’t follow through. Even last year, I pledged to read more books. And while I read significantly more throughout the Spring than I did the year before, I didn’t complete the 25 books I set my heart on. This year, I set resolutions but I chose things that I was already doing. I know, that’s not technically a resolution, but we’re allowed to do whatever we want.
1. Make time for books, whether it be reading them or writing them.
2. Cut back on single use plastics.
3. Love myself.
That’s it, just those three things. But those are huge, lifestyle changing commitments. Especially that last one, that’s the hardest of the bunch. Honestly, using less plastic is going to be the easiest, and I’ll go more into detail on that in a future post.
The reality is, it’s not the date on the calendar that puts us on a better or healthier track of life, it’s us. We hold all the power. It’s looking inside yourself and deciding you want to change. You’ll never accomplish anything that you don’t truly want and wanting it is already half the battle.
Last year was tough, but it was a big eye opener for many of us, and I think with the arrival of this new year, it’s the perfect time to take the lessons we learned in 2020 and carry them with us. The idea that we are all human beings who deserve love, protection and justice. The idea that we can slow down and cut back, take time to analyze how we are treating our planet. If 2020 didn’t completely change you, I can’t explain it. I am definitely taking 2020 with me as I go forward. If we leave it in the past, then we can’t take what we learned with us. We need to learn from our hard times. We need to keep saying Breonna Taylor and Vanessa Guillen’s names. We need to keep considering the health and existence of other human beings. Compassion is never a bad trait. Educating and bettering yourself is never a waste of time. As Oscar Wilde said, “You can never be overdressed or overeducated.”
To come full circle, the idea of a resolution is great, but it needs to be something obtainable. Something that will improve your life and most importantly, something you’re ready for. Brew yourself a pot of coffee, take your time, and step into this year with the lessons of your past and kick some ass. You create your own destiny, you decide who you are and what kind of person you’re going to be. We’re all on this journey of life, some of us are just getting started and some have been on this path for years, so be kind to your neighbor because you never know which part of the voyage they’re on.
November is one of my favorite times of the year for many reasons. The cold weather, the delicious foods, the cozy sweaters, and most importantly, National Novel Writing Month! Now, I know some writers like to dive right in on November 1 with no plan, no direction, just writing by the seat of their pants. And while I think that’s wonderful, it’s just not something I can pull off. My anxiety won’t allow it. I need a plan for literally everything and my writing is no exception.
NaNoWriMo prep for me begins usually in the summer time as I mull over the different ideas I have for stand alone novels. I like to do stand alone stories during NaNo because it’s a fresh page and I enjoy starting new projects that I haven’t touched before. The reason I gravitate towards new stories is that I like the challenge of writing an entire novel’s worth in just thirty days. It’s like a super power that few people can pull off. That being said, writing and prepping are two totally different beasts.
Middle of October I usually have a concrete story idea picked out and this is when I prefer to sit down and get a loose plot outline together. This can be as detailed as you want it to be. Sometimes I find it useful to type out a description of how I picture an entire scene but other times a simple, “Main character goes to talk to a side character” is enough for the time being. Honestly, you’ll change your plot more than once during the writing process so sometimes detail is not your friend. The main thing I try to get down on paper for NaNo prep is who I’m writing about and what do they want.
One of my favorite things for NaNo is a new notebook. Yes, you’ll be doing most, if not all, of your writing on your laptop and probably your plot too but there’s just something about the first blank page of a fresh notebook to really symbolize the new beginning that is your NaNo project.
So the first thing to decide during your NaNo prep is, what do I want to write about? What interests me? Who’s voice do I want to share with my readers? Who is this person, and most importantly, what do they want? What are they willing to sacrifice to get it?
When you’re writing about 1700 words per day for a month straight, you want to have a vague answer for these questions before you sit down on November first and begin your journey. Especially if this is your first time participating in NaNo. It took me a few years before I dove into participating. I was in college, I was already working on a book in my free time. I thought between working full time, being a full time student and still wanting free time to be creative in other outlets filled up my plate pretty full. And to be honest, it was probably a smart decision for me. So the first semester I had after graduating college, I was so ready to be creative in November like so many other writers around the world.
Also, you want to make sure you have sufficient time throughout the day to sit down and write without distraction. If you’re a mom like me, you want to make sure you don’t have children climbing all over you or a significant other asking you questions while you’re trying to stay focused on the task at hand. Make sure you have snacks on hand, a nice cup of tea (or coffee or whatever you fancy), and a good pair of headphones. You want to be able to focus on and not get distracted. It’s hard to get lost in your own world, let alone create one, when you aren’t able to give it your all.
There’s a lot of fancy writing apps and calendars and pretty floral cover everything, but do we really need all of it? Totally. You invest in whatever is going to help you be more productive and creative. Everyone has their rituals that help them get into the groove for making art. A special pen. A specific corner of the room with the best lighting for sketching. The sun at the perfect angle in the sky. For me, there are five essential things I need as a writer. Things I can’t live without and go out of my way to make sure I have on hand.
An external hard drive– for backups. DO NOT keep all your writing on this and only this. My hard drive shit out on me a while ago and while I lost some pictures, thankfully I had all my current projects saved on my computer as well. Always have your work saved in two or three places, as much as we love and utilize technology, it’s still very fragile.
Notebooks. I shop for notebooks like I’m a kid going back to school, old habits die hard. When I was attending college, I had notebooks for literally everything. While everyone else was typing away during lecture, I was scribbling. Attempting to keep up with my professors. Even though I can type much faster than I can write, there’s something about a pen on paper. I retain information easier that way. I feel more engaged that way. When I’m on a streak, typing is definitely my go to, but when it comes to plot and drafting out chapters, I am still an ink on paper kind of gal.
Evernote and Google Docs. The thing I love the most about these apps, you don’t have to transfer information. You can access your account on your computer and your phone, and what you change on one, you change on both. When I would be at work and have an idea, I would open up whatever doc I needed and jot down my idea. When I got home, there it was waiting to be utilized when I turned on my computer. Having all your goodies in the same place makes your life as a creative writer a million times easier.
A Day Planner. Again, old habits. There’s something about list making that makes productivity more magical. When I see it written that today I have to finish two chapters and do some laundry, I just don’t feel right until I check the boxes that I did those things. If I don’t write them down, then I feel like I’ll never get around to them. Organization is key, and this is how I stay organized. I also keep track of all my blog posts, bills, and my husband’s appointments as well. Let’s just say not a single day in that planner is blank.
Music. This may seem kind of cliche, but it’s so true. If you want to get in a mood to get some shit done, then all you need is the right playlist to inspire you. I have a playlist for every single project. Every story has its own soundtrack and when one of these songs comes on, I can’t help but feel the urge to get some work done. I went into more detail on this one a while back in a previous blog. (Insert blog link for inspirational music).
After watching the series Little Fires Everywhere on Hulu (based on the novel by Celeste Ng), I knew I had to read the book. Usually I don’t go in this order. If I know something is based on a book, I make sure to read it first but I figure I’d try something new. The series was amazing. Kerry Washington and Reese Witherspoon are amazing. If you haven’t seen it yet, do so. The book, on the other hand, was half exactly what I was expecting and half a complete surprise.
First, what I liked about the novel was the writing style. It is a complete opposite of how I write, so it was interesting to see a different approach to storytelling. It’s told in third person, allowing the reader into the heads of not only the two main characters but their family members as well. A lot of times when writers do this, it can feel a bit chaotic but Ng pulled off switching narratives with such grace. It was the most natural flow of view points I’ve ever read. Like all the characters were running a marathon, passing the baton off to one another seamlessly. It was impressive.
The parallels are anothing thing I admired about the plot. I’ll attempt to explain without spoilers, but Mia and Bebe’s story lines are so complex and similar. They really make you sit back and contemplate morality. What is right? What actions are truly justified? What makes a parent and what determines who is a good parent? Good books are ones that make you think, and this one definitely does that. As a mother, parts of this narrative struck really close to home. Sympathy for a character who suffered from half a dozen miscarriages turns to adoption only to have that threatened as well. The love that you feel for your children running so deep in your veins and having to accept the distance as they get older. The space they need to become their own person cracks your soul because cuddling them as infants becomes such a safe haven that slowly gets taken away. Safe havens, another parallel in the novel that isn’t what it seems on the outside.
The town the novel is based, Shaker Heights, stuck out to me. Clashing of the social classes is nothing new, but it’s a theme in stories that I have always found very intriguing. How can someone feel they are more superior than someone else based on the square footage of their home? It’s something Ng did on purpose. No one can expose a town for what it truly is than someone who grew up there. Shaker Heights looks pristine on the outside. Progressive, idealistic, clean and crisp. In reality, it suffers the same issues that every other town in America does. Exclusiveness. Pretentious. White, very white. Although other races do reside in the town, it’s very much viewed as a privilege by many community members. “We don’t see color.” Is a common quote that comes up many, many times. It opens up a question that many people are pondering on today, what does not seeing color actually mean and what’s wrong with seeing people for who they are? Is seeing color the problem or is treating someone differently because of it the actual issue? It’s an important conversation and Ng does a fabulous job demonstrating the conflict some of her characters face with this particular topic.
All in all, it’s definitely a story I recommend, especially if you’ve seen the show. There are so many differences between the show and the book, naturally, but many of the changes I wonder why they did so. Other than attempting to make the show more edgy and dramatic, I didn’t see a need. Especially the ending. Completely changing who actually sets the fire that is introduced in the beginning of the novel really threw me off. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it, yeah?