Update and a Poem

Hello, everyone!

It’s been a while since I’ve updated and I feel terrible. Because it’s been so long, this will just be an update post and as a bonus, a poem. I’ll try to post in a couple weeks with something more, though.

So, it’s NaNoWriMo month! Are any of you doing NaNoWriMo? I did NaNo for both Camps this year and I’m doing it this month. Although, it is going a bit slow for me. I hope to reach 50,000 by the end of this week, though. I’m rebelling this month and doing a mix of writing a rough draft of a story, editing my series, and planning three different stories. Yes, it’s a lot, I know. But it’s fun, nonetheless.

I took a break from writing, which is part of the reason why I haven’t posted in so long. It was a terrible case of Writer’s Block, but NaNoWriMo has helped me get out of it. Also, I think I kind of needed the break because my mind was dead for the first two months during it — meaning, I barely thought about my story at all because I’d worked my brain overtime. And then, two months ago, I started getting ideas for stories every day. Aha! My brain is awake again. It reminded me why I’d started writing in the first place, that rush of ideas.

So, yes, breaks can sometimes be detrimental to your writing, but often are needed. Though I wouldn’t always recommend a three month-long break. That’s right. I didn’t write at all for three months. I felt like an awful non-writer. But ultimately, it did help me be more fresh with writing my stories.

Anyway, that’s what’s been up with me these last few months. I’m still working on my series, doing a lot of character developments and working on some holes in my plot. I’ll probably end up having to rewrite the whole series, but oh well. We’re writers! We all know that the first draft will never be the final draft.

Without further ado, here is my bonus. This is one of my favorite poems that I’ve ever written: it’s titled “Strike My Soul.” Hope you guys like it!

It starts when I see you in the distance,
Far-off, at first, only thunder I hear,
Then clouds twist in, a beautiful romance,
With all my veins, and every single fear.

Lightning, oh, lightning, please strike near my heart,
Slice me in pieces till there’s nothing more,
Send your blinding light to shatter me ’part,
Lightning, make sure there’s nothing to restore.

Make me anew, no longer can I fall,
Through my muscles, your crystal sheen can rip,
Your sweet incandescence become my all,
Make me a path in which I cannot slip.

Connect me to life, then sever the thread,
Give me electricity, make me kneel,
Obliterate the life I once had led,
And once you’re done, there’s nothing left to heal.

To those who tried to destroy me with words,
No longer do you have the upper hand,
Your time’s up, now we’re all moving forwards,
A new era is here, run while you can.

And now with the power of loss and pain,
I’ll make you all cry in the thunder’s roll,
I am a beauty, tangled with the rain,
But this metamorphosis takes its toll.

After the days of my ruining haze,
I raise my regret as bright as fire’s blaze.

~ J. Dominique


On Finding Inspiration (6 Suggestions and Exercises)

Are you stuck on your project right now? Can’t seem to get the juices flowing? There are millions of ways to find inspiration. Here are just a few of my favorites:

1. Go outside.
Being outside is brilliant. Just to feel the air around you, to smell the scents, the sun above, the ground below. There are simply tons of things you can write about about the outside, and most likely, your characters will be going outside some point in the story — use what you experience to fuel those scenes.
Exercise: Pinpoint a single setting outside (the bridge over the stream; the bench in the park; the tree in the middle of the forest), and write every detail you can about it. Let your five senses overcome you.

2. Listen to music.
This is a big one. Notes and tunes can influence in so many ways. The make this pleasant feeling in our minds so we crave more, more, and more. If you want to shake things up a bit, try listening to a different genre of music than you usually do.
Exercise: If you have a music player, turn it to shuffle, and write about the first three songs that come up.

3. Read/watch/make creative work.
Reading other authors’ work, watching movies or shows, and crafting can help funnel your creative juices. Sometimes there are lines in poems, books, movies, or images in pictures or crafts that simply scream Write about me!
Exercise: Option a: Make something — whether it be jewelry or some cool knick knack. Option b: Read a poem by a famous author. Option b: Watch your favorite movie.

4. Switch things up.
Ever tried moving to a different surrounding? Maybe try and switch from writing on the computer to paper; or vice versa. Just switching simple things like this will you get your mind running in different directions.
Exercise: If you type, then write with a pen/pencil on paper. If you write with a pen/pencil on paper, then type on the computer.

5. Listen to people talking.
I know it sounds creepy, but it works, trust me. And if you’re an author, you’ve probably done it before. It’s why you’re sooo good at dialogue. Not only does listening help with dialogue, it gives you plenty of unique ideas — because the things we talk about are so varied, so random that you’re bound to find something useful in them.
Exercise: Go to someplace busy like a Starbucks or something, and simply listen to people’s conversations.

6. Observe the world.
Much like #5, except this time you’re seeing, not just listening. Take in every detail about people, the setting, etc. Ask yourself: Why is this? How is that? When did that happen? What happened there? Who does that? Pretend you’re on a top-secret mission, and take everything — simply everything — in.
Exercise: Go to someplace that is frequented well, and observe for fifteen or more minutes. Question everything.

I’m sure there are many more sources of inspiration, but these are just what come to mind. What are your favorite ways to get inspiration?

Thanks for reading, and happy writing!

~ J. Dominique

The Editing Process: 14 Steps on How to Edit Your Novel

If you have a rough draft of a novel, but don’t know what to do now, here are some tips about editing that might help you get started. This isn’t the official way you should edit your story (there is no official way), but the way I do it, and a few of my friends, that has seemed to work for us.

1. Leave your manuscript alone for at least a month.
The longer you leave your manuscript alone, the longer it will stew in your head, and you’ll get all these great ideas of what to change or add or subtract. Plus, it’s good to just leave it be for a while so that you can get a well-deserved break. You just wrote a whole novel! You need the break.

2. Read through your story and write down the big things to change.
When you read through your whole story two things happen: you hate some parts, and you love some parts. But regardless, reading the whole story reminds you of what you’ve written, and knowing what happens in the end, you can know what to change. (While writing the story, you probably changed several things, so it might be a bit confusing at this point. But no worries.)

3. Add/subtract/change the big things.
This part usually requires more writing, so if you’re feeling writing-deprived, this will get you back into the groove.

4. Read through your story for flow now that you’ve added/subtracted/changed some things.
Of course if you’ve changed a lot of the big things, the flow is undoubtedly interrupted. So, you need to work on that a bit.

5. a. Leave your manuscript alone for a few weeks.
Another break. You’ve done some hard work. You will probably welcome it; just don’t let the break last too long or you’ll never finish your story.
b. OR have someone read through your story and tell you the things you need to change.
If you’re worried about not wanting to finish your story, or maybe you’re just plain tired of it, option two might be a better fit for you. Instead of taking a l-o-n-g break, try having a friend or family member who will give you honest critique read through it. That way, you are now accountable, and someone out there wants you to finish the story.

6. Read through your story and write down things you need to change, while, perhaps, doing some line-editing.
This is almost the same as Step #2, except for the fact that you can now line-edit. Line-editing is basically looking for typos, lack of description (or maybe too much), dialogue errors, grammatical errors, etc. I wouldn’t do too much of this yet since your story still isn’t quite done yet, and you’re bound to change a lot still.

7. Add/subtract/change the things that need it.
The same as Step #3.

8. Read through your story for flow.
The same as Step #4. Except this time, you can start line-editing some more, too.

9. Start line-editing.
Now comes the nitty-gritty stuff. It might be good for you to look online or read through books so you can compile a list of questions: Does it flow well? Are the characters in character? Does the dialogue sound cheesy? Are my middles too long? My endings too short? etc. You need to look for everything, every aspect, every detail, and make sure it is sound. No plot holes, no loose endings, no out-of-characterization, nothing.

10. Line-edit some more.
Line-editing is a hard and long process, but it is so worth it in the end. Keep on going; you’re almost there.

11. Ask someone to read through your story.
It can be the same person who did it earlier (if you took that step), or a totally new person. It doesn’t even necessarily have to be someone who will give you really detailed critique. Just someone who will say honestly, without being brutal: “I liked this story for this reason” or “I didn’t like this story for this reason” or “I felt like this story . . .” or “Overall, this story . . .” and so on.

12. Ask several more people to read through your story.
At this point, it might be good to join a writers group. Writers groups contain writers, obviously. Writers who are just like you. They know what to look for, and I bet you they will give you some of the best critique ever. If you don’t have a writers group near you, create one. If you don’t want to join a writers group, you can share your stories online (though beware: plagiarizing/stealing may happen; enter at your own risk), or just ask family and friends.

13. Change whatever needs to be changed, per their critique (if you feel their critique is valuable, that is).
This is a must: If someone tells you to change something but that isn’t what you want the story to do, don’t do it. You are the author. You command the characters and the plot and the story. If there is ever anything that someone tells you to change but you don’t want to because of this and that, don’t do it. This is your story. Make it how you want it. On the other hand, don’t just say you don’t want to change something because you’re lazy or because you really like that part. You know what they say: Kill your darlings. Yes, it hurts, but you can always save it for a later time. Don’t let your pride get in the way of what you honestly need to change.

14. Read through your story as many times as you need to until you feel it is ready.
By this time, you’ve gone through hundreds of drafts of your story. Now, it’s time to go through a few hundred more. Read, read, read, change, change, change, whatever you need to do. Until you feel you are ready. Only then should you, if you want to, send for an agent, or official editor, or publisher. Never tell yourself you’re ready if you’re not. If you don’t feel you’re ready, neither will the agent/editor/publisher.

So, what do you think? Are you ready to start editing? Or is this so daunting that you don’t even want to try? I’m in the editing stage, and I feel so intimidated that I’m being rather lazy. But you just have to get your nerve up, and do it. Face your fears. You’ll find that afterwards, you’re glad that you did it. Believe me, I’d know.

Happy writing, and, of course, happy editing!

~ J. Dominique

Seven Basic Query Letter Tips

I’m not an agent, editor, or master of query letters. I haven’t even written one query letter. However, from reading different articles and books and hearing things people in my writers group have said, I’ve compiled this list with some of the basic rules of writing a query letter.

1. Follow the rules.
If the agent/editor asks you to write in 12 point, Times New Roman, double-spaced, do it. If the agent/editor asks for only email queries, do that. If the agent/editor asks only for certain genres, make sure yours is in it. The agent/editor won’t take one look at your manuscript if it doesn’t follow their rules.

2. Research.
Research query letters. Research your agent/editor. Research for your book. Do all kinds of research and make sure you know, and aren’t just guessing.

3. Sell yourself, as well as your book.
You don’t need to just present your book, you need to present yourself, too. The agent/editor needs to know why you’re as good as your book. They need to know why they should take on not just your book, but you.

4. Keep it simple.
Don’t go extravagant and over the top. A query letter is generally only one page, and that’s double spaced, too. Keep the insignificant details away, let the agent/editor know what they need to know (the protagonist, the characters, the plot, the theme, etc.), and don’t add anything else that won’t aid in your plea.

5. Show your worth.
Why should the agent represent you? Why should the editor take on your book? Why should your book be the next bestseller? Why will you be a favorite author among thousands? Don’t tell them this: show.

6. Don’t scare yourself.
I’m scared of writing a query letter. I really am. More scared of it than I am writing my actual story. I’ve never been very good at selling myself or my book, and maybe you aren’t, either. However, you need to put your fears aside, and write. Write your story. Write your query letter. Send it in. Don’t worry. Just do it. Even if you don’t get accepted, the editor/agent might send back a note of what you need to improve. Follow this. And maybe tweak your story a bit more.

7. Have confidence.
You are worthy of being published. You can do it. You don’t have to be afraid, scared, fearful, intimidated, daunted, overwhelmed, or whatever. You have written a funny, thrilling, captivating, beautiful story, and if you really want to, someday you will be accepted.

Thanks for reading, and have fun writing that query letter!

~ J. Dominique