Today I’m participating in Beautiful People, a monthly linkup about WRITING hosted by Cait @ Paper Fury and Sky @ Further Up and Further In! This linkup has been around for a while – I linked up way back in 2012 – but I haven’t participated in it very often because I was uncomfortable talking about my fiction. I love talking about my blogging and creative nonfiction and whatnot, but my stories? Um. NO WAY.
I grew more comfortable doing so last semester, though – as you’ll read about in just a sec – but that’s a rather recent development. I want to keep working on that this year and in order to accomplish that, I aim to do this linkup as many times as possible! I don’t know if I will link up every time – it all depends on how busy or shy I feel at the moment, and how much I’ve been able to write – but I’d like to participate in at least half of the 2016 linkups!
So without further ado, here is my Beautiful People post for the month of January!
What were your writing achievements last year?
I took a creative writing class! It was taught in a workshop format, so each of the students received feedback from everyone else in the class, including the professor. This was nerve-wracking at first, because I wasn’t accustomed to sharing my writing with anyone else. (Not even my family or best friends!)
In the end, however, I’m grateful that I chose to enroll in this course, because I had a great teacher and my reservations about sharing my writing slowly but surely began to dissipate. We wrote a ton of short pieces – one to three pages each – but our main project was a short story that had to be between seven and fifteen pages. Mine ended up being about ten pages long. It’s about this girl and her girlfriend and her girlfriend’s brother, and they fight zombies and stuff!
It’s a mix of humor and horror, and I purposely made the ending feel hopeful because I’m tired of reading super dark horror stories. I want my heroes to have a bit of hope left even if everything else has fallen apart, you know? If you’ve read Misery by Stephen King, then you’ll understand the feeling I was aiming for – the protagonist has been through hell, basically, but at the end of the story there are still a handful of things that keep him happy. (Such as his writing, in fact!)
Also, I REALLY REALLY didn’t want to write a Story With Tragic Lesbians, because there are far too many of those already. I incorporated many of my classmates’ comments from workshop into my first and second revisions, but I ignored the suggestion to kill off my protagonist’s girlfriend, because… people, that’s been done before. That’s the least original thing I could do with this story – it’s a trope in F/F, for heaven’s sake! I want to subvert tropes, not follow them.
And I’m all about writing positive F/F relationships in my fiction because I want to support other queer women, not tear them down! Stories have a bigger influence in our lives than we realize or care to admit, and though I may be only nineteen years old, I’ve already decided to make happy(ish) portrayals of F/F relationships a priority in my writing.
Tell us about your top priority writing project for this year.
…this is complicated because it all depends on whether or not I’m accepted into the study abroad program! I’ve spent winter break working on various bits and pieces of writing to include with my application to the Irish Writing Program. (Thank you to everyone who gave feedback on my statement of purpose essay! It really helped. You’re the best.) My zombie story is actually one of the writing samples I plan to include!
If I’m accepted, I’ll spend June and about half of July in Dublin, taking two courses: Irish literature and a writing workshop. We’re supposed to bring some of our existing work to improve upon, in addition to creating brand-new pieces.
So, my top priority writing project kind of falls into both of those categories? My friends and I watched Song of the Sea – an adorable animated Irish children’s movie about selkies – this fall, and it really sparked my interest in them. I’ve been researching selkies, along with various other fantastical creatures, throughout the past few months. So I’ve sort of already been working on that project, I guess? It needs a lot more work, though, which I hope to put in during the IWP.
…one thing that has been on my mind a lot lately is climate change, because global warming has been in the news so often these past few weeks. I’d like to explore how that might affect magical creatures – does it kill them? Does it enhance/diminish their magic? Does it force them to find new places to live, and will that put them in contact with human beings?
Aaaand if I’m not accepted to the IWP, I’m going to take summer classes in Iowa instead, and apply for the program next year. Either way, I plan to continue researching and eventually start writing my new story, but wouldn’t it be so amazing to work on this project in Ireland?!
List five areas you’d like to work the hardest to improve this year.
- Dialogue! I’ve always felt that it’s the weakest part of my writing.
- I’m really terrible at staying organized – I need to start writing down all my story ideas, notes from research, et cetera in one notebook (or at least keeping them in the same folder) because I currently have scraps of paper floating EVERYWHERE and can never find anything when I need it.
- Find a critique partner! (I totally read that in a cowboy voice as I was typing it. OMG.) I normally write and revise all alone, but that creative writing course really made me realize that I shouldn’t be doing that… at least not as much. I need to work on sharing my writing with other people and not feeling like I should go hide in a hole when they give me feedback, good or bad.
- I need to avoid infodumping. I don’t seem to have a problem with this when it comes to short stories, but my longer fantasy and science fiction pieces suffer greatly from this. I need to come up with better ways to incorporate information about my characters and their world, whether through dialogue or documents or whatever. (I’m particularly fond of reading stories told in epistolary format, such as Dracula, so maybe I should try writing one! Also, this reminds me that I still need to read Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff because everyone’s been raving about it and apparently it’s told in the same format!)
- Honestly… double-checking little details in my stories? I especially need to get in the habit of sketching little maps to remind myself where things are located. Sometimes I realize that I have no idea where certain characters are located because it’s been several chapters since they last appeared, and then I have to go back and reread through all my stuff only to realize that they’ve been upstairs, not downstairs, this whole time. THIS IS A PROBLEM.
Are you participating in any writing challenges?
Um, maybe? I don’t know yet. It all depends on whether or not I decide to participate in NaNoWriMo this coming November. I didn’t last year because I was still trying to figure out how balance my time between studying, sleep, fun stuff, et cetera.
I definitely don’t want to do it as a junior or senior, because I’ll (hopefully!) be way too busy by that point with internships, writing my senior dissertation, applying to grad school / a full-time job / whatever. So sophomore year would definitely be the ideal time to do it.
Buuuuut I’ll just have to wait and see how busy my schedule is next fall! In short, I have no idea if I’m participating in any writing challenges this year. I might. I might not. WE’LL JUST HAVE TO SEE HOW IT GOES.
What’s your critique partner/beta reader situation like and do you have plans to expand this year?
I don’t have one! I’ve never had one, actually. But it’s one of my goals, as you saw earlier. So I guess I do technically have plans to expand this year? Because I’m expanding from nothing to something?
Do you have plans to read any writer-related books this year? Or are there specific books you want to read for research?
Stephen King’s On Writing and Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott have been on my TBR list for YEARS by now, so I really should read them this year!
Also, I want to read stuff about selkies. And mermaids. I’d be thrilled if you recommended books and websites in the comments! I’m particularly interested in reading more about the ways in which different cultures viewed mermaids.
Pick one character you want to get to know better. How are you going to achieve this?
Morgan, maybe? She’s the protagonist from my zombie short story. I’ve been thinking about expanding the section that explains the beginning of the zombie invasion, while still compressing time so that it would only add two to three pages at most. I don’t know if I’ll end up sending that version as part of my Irish Writing Program application packet, but it would be fun to explore nevertheless.
Do you plan to edit or query, and what’s your plan of attack?
Uh. I plan to edit, but I don’t plan to query… not this year. I would like to polish some of my stories to the point where I’m ready to query them, but I don’t think I’ll arrive there until early 2017 at the earliest.
My plan of attack involves… sitting at my desk and slogging through it? You can all yell at me to work harder if you want. It’d probably help.
Toni Morrison once said, “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” What are the books that you want to see more of, and what “holes” do you think need filling in the literary world?
Uh… genre fiction with queer girls and women as the protagonists?
(This post has become much gayer than I originally intended.)
(Rather like myself in 2015… but I digress.)
I love reading F/F fantasy and science fiction novels, but I can never seem to find very many of those. I want something with the size and scope of Star Wars or Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels or something.
Also? More cute, fluffy middle grade and YA contemporaries with queer girls.
What do you hope to have achieved by the end of 2016?
If I haven’t written something about lesbian mermaids, I’ll feel that not only have I let myself down, but that I’ve let down Orphu @ A Mirror Made of Words as well. (She is one of my favorite nerds and also sent me drawings of lesbian mermaids one day when I felt sad.)
…on a more serious note, I’d like to write more fantasy, experiment with the epistolary format, and work towards querying with the goal of being published in 2017 or 2018. I’d love to take more creative writing classes as well, and I’m considering joining the Iowa Writers’ House for support as well!
This post has gotten really long, so I’ll end it here. I look forward to what 2016 will bring in terms of writing ideas, inspiration, and productivity. What do you hope to accomplish this year?! Tell me about your latest writing projects!