The Setting of a Writer

// Setting: noun. the place or type of surroundings where something is positioned or where an event takes place. //

As writers, we sometimes discuss the setting in our writing: the forest where the lost traveler finds himself at night, the tavern where the princess in disguise strikes a deal for her father, the garden where the love interest finally confesses his burning passion.  But what about the setting of our writing: where it happens, what it looks like, how it feels, what we wear?

Today, I wrote for a short while at my local Panera Bread (excellent choice for writing, if you ask me).  Tonight as I scrolled my twitter feed (follow me, @3lizabeth_A) something caught my eye: an author I follow (Ally Carter) posted that SHE had been writing at HER Panera Bread today as well.  And.  Wow.  For a shining moment, I saw myself as an author.  Not just a writer, like, someone-who-writes-for-fun, but an Author, someone who publishes books.  I had been working on a novel at a Panera Bread, while, at the same time, one of my favorite authors had been working on her novel at another Panera Bread somewhere else in the world.  It was a magical feeling.

So.  On the topic of writing and setting and all that jazz.

I wrote my first novel, The Sound of Color, almost entirely in my bedroom.  Sixteen-year-old Beth was a little terrified of the fact that she was writing a novel, so she kept it a secret for a while – a private, behind-closed-doors thing, only shared with a select few.  I wrote it in an armchair from my grandparents, with slippers on my feet and silence in the room.  It was a late night love affair, requiring only a Lord of the Rings soundtrack and a wild imagination.

But THEN, the 2015 NaNoWriMo struck and everything changed.  A busy Senior in Highschool, if I was going to write 50,000 words in a month, I was going to have to get creative with where I wrote.  So I brought my laptop to school and wrote between classes.  I’d write during carrides and lunch breaks, letting my novel-writing bleed into all the other areas of my life.  It was so freeing to write anywhere and everywhere.

And then I moved off to college.  And to be honest, I’ve struggled to find a time and place that feels right for writing when I’m away from home.  But I am teaching myself to let writing bleed into my “adult life” as well.  I’m teaching myself to look for Writing Spots.

So now?  Now, writing happens at Panera Bread in the half hour before meeting a friend for lunch.  It happens late at night with candles lit because the power has gone out, and I’m hoping my laptop battery lasts until I finish the chapter.  It happens in a childhood bedroom while I wait for my best friend to get out of the shower after I’ve dyed her hair.  It happens at the table after dinner, dishwasher humming in the background, family members talking in the other room.  It happens in a quirky coffee shop on campus, or in a busy college library.

One of the things that I’ve learned about myself in the past year is that I tend to write better when I treat is as something professional, or official.

Power to you, writers, if you can write in sweats and sweaters, laying in bed, with the covers pulled up to your chin.  The writing you do is still valid and still hard work and still important.  But I’ve found that I write the best if I take five minutes to put on real shoes, do my hair, and pretend like I’m going to a meeting.  If I try to write when I’m in bed or in my room, it’s too easy to sneak over to YouTube or Facebook or Twitter.  But if I dress like I’m off to a meeting, and I take my laptop to a table or desk, then it feels like I’m there to get something done.  And so the writing gets done much easier.

So, I’m curious: what do you all wear to write?  Where do you write the best?  I’m fascinated by how different settings can effect my writing so much, and I’m curious if you all experience the same thing.  Let’s chat in the comments.

// ps, this post is partially inspired by my friend Vivian’s recent post about writing and sweaters and books.  she’s great, go check her out. //

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My Three Goals for Winter Break

Hello, lovely writers!  I just got home from college yesterday, and it’s so nice to not have HOMEWORK assignments or EXAMS or PAPERS.

Without further ado, I’d like to share with you my plans for my Winter Break.  That way, I have to actually stick to these plans, because I’ve told people about them!  Accountability, you know?

Okay, goals.

1. Edit every day.

I have a project that I really really want to work on.  It’s a YA Urban Fantasy featuring sassy characters, baby dragons, and a lovely platonic relationship.  It’s about two years old now, and it’s in the “slightly edited, but still needs a lot of work” phase.  So this Break, I’m planning to edit for 30 mins (or more) every day.

Because here’s something that NaNoWriMo taught me: writing projects work the best with consistent love.  So I’m pledging to write/edit 30 minutes every day that I am physically able to.  I want to finish this book.  I want this story to get out into the world.  I want to give it the time and love it deserves.  And I have the time to now, so I just have to make myself do it.

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2. Blog More

The end of the semester was a bit crazy, and I didn’t have the time or energy to put into this lovely new blog I have here.  But no longer!  I  have free time, and I’ll be working on a novel every day, so I will have lots to say (hopefully).  I love blogging, and I really do feel like it helps keep me accountable to write more regularly.  So stick around, follow this blog, and you’ll probably hear from me once or twice a week.  YAY!

3. Read ALL THE BOOKS!

Good writers are good readers.  I have a TBR pile that’s a mile long, and I’ve been slacking on my reading lately (again, exams don’t give much time to read).  Like this one famous writer dude said, writers need to read.

time spent reading.jpg

 

// If I don’t see you all until the new year, I hope your holidays are full of joy and happiness. //

Thoughts During NaNoWriMo

I wrote similar post to this two years ago, and it was a lot of fun.  (Find it here.)  So, even though I’m very very very behind on my word count, I thought it was time for another fun blog post.  Best of luck to my fellow Wrimos – I hope your writing is going amazing.

Without further ado, here are some Thoughts I Have During NaNoWriMo:

  • Time to make coffee!  And write!  WOOO!
  • I like this novel I’m writing.  I really, really, do.
  • You know, I should clear my browser history
  • Okay, hopefully my professor isn’t going to notice me writing in class instead of taking notes
  • Sleep? What’s that?
  • WHERE DID THIS CHARACTER COME FROM?
  • Just one more cup of coffee
  • I want to be a paid, published author. I want that as my job.
  • Why does every single professor assign us an enormous paper that’s due during November?  Don’t they know we’re all over here trying to write novels?
  • Wait.  This character is going to have to die, aren’t they?  Darn it.
  • Come on, Beth.  Get off twitter.  Go write.  Hehehe, that’s funny, I should re-tweet that.
  • Social Life?  Huh?
  • Wait… staring at a blank page doesn’t get my novel written?
  • I want there to be write-ins year round.  Write-Ins are EVERYTHING.
  • Also, word sprints are great.
  • THIS PERSON.  BEAT ME.  IN A WORD SPRINT.  BY THREE WORDS.
  • I’m not going to hit 50k this year, am I?  *sigh*
  • Just.  Keep.  Writing.
  • It’s okay, I can always finish this novel in December… hehehe.

Don’t forget to blare some Christmas music, drink some hot cocoa, and get to writing.  Your story matters, and it’s gonna be great!

Three Lovely Things

November is two-thirds over, and I am only halfway done with my NaNoWriMo goal of 50,000 words.  But despite that, it has been a month of many wonderful and special moments so far.  I’d like to share some of my favorites with you, if that’s alright.

1.  Monday // 11:24 pm // My Dorm

Sitting in my room, writing a story that I’m falling in love with.  I’ve just hit 25,000 words on my NaNoWriMo story (only 5 days behind schedule lol).  I’m checking out @NaNoWordSprints on twitter, seeing if they’re running sprints so that I can use some friendly competition to fuel my writing.  They ask us how we’re doing, and ask us to share a graph of our wordcount for the month.  (Here’s mine, by the way!)

my wordcount

So we all screenshot our graphs, and post them in a reply, and then there’s this glorious thread of graphs and writers and people cheering each other on.

2.  Nov 15 // All Day // My College Campus

November 15, 2017 was my best writing day.  Ever.  I wrote 4,200 words that day.  I got up in the morning and wrote.  Then one of my classes was cancelled so I wrote.  I brought my laptop to lunch and wrote at the dining hall.  I brought my laptop to the library and wrote all afternoon.

And as the day went by, I fell head-over-heels in love with writing again.  The feeling of a story seeping out of you through your fingertips and onto a page.  The thought of giving life to characters and plot ideas that you’ve hoarded in your head.  The thrill of a new character popping up unexpectedly and rocking your world in the best way possible.

3.  Days I Can’t Write // Days I Can

Let me be honest, folks.  I’m a full-time college student.  I’m taking 18 credits this semester (for my wonderful non-American readers, the ‘typical’ course load is 15 credits).  The end of the semester approaches, which means papers and tests and more papers are swarming me.

The days I spend 4 hours writing 1700 words for a British Literature paper?  I’m done writing for the day.  I have nothing left to give to my novel for that day.  And that’s okay.  But, NaNoWriMo has been reminding me of something essentially important: writers write.  Especially when I’m working on a big project, like a rough draft or a big edit, I need to put in the hours.  Many hours.  It’s okay to take days off, but they should be rare and they should be followed by many more days working.  And when I do that, writing may still be hard and difficult at times, but there are just as many times when it is pure magic.

A New Site (and a NaNoWriMo update)

Hello, writers old and new!  I’m so glad you’re here.  You may recognize me as Beth from my old website, ateenagelookonthewritingprocess.wordpress.com – this is my new domain!

I have three reasons for dragging you over to this website instead of using my old one:

1.  I’m not really a teenager anymore.

Okay, technically, I’m still a teenager.  But I’ve also been an adult for over a year, and I don’t really see myself as a teen anymore.  It seemed silly to keep calling myself a teen writer when I really am an adult adult.

only nineteen but my mind is older.gif

2. My old site was kinda long.  Like Really Long.

It’s a lot easier to tell people, “My Website is ‘A College Writer dot wordpress dot com’ than the entirety of my old blog’s url.  You know what I mean?

well 10

3.  I wanted a chance to redecorate.

You know.  I’ve been using the same blog for two and a half years.  I wanted a fresh start.  (You’ll notice, however, that some of my most recent posts have migrated over to this site.  It felt very empty with no old posts.)

you've redecorated gif.gif

So here we are.  In another two and a half years, when I graduate college, I suppose I’ll have to change blog name again.  But I think that I’ll be ready to redecorate again at that point anyways.

 

// some housekeeping notes //

  1. If you’re following my old blog, and would like to keep up with my blogging (which will now be over here), feel free to hit that “Follow” button.  Thanks!
  2. If you want, I’d love for you to drop by the guest book and introduce yourself!  Let’s have this website be a true community of writers, and get to know one another.

 

// finally, an update on NaNoWriMo! //

I’m really quite spectacularly behind.  To be specific, I’m 5,000 words behind.  Oops.  However, I’m having a blast writing this novel.  It’s gone in some exciting and unexpected directions, and I just hosted a write-in on Friday.  Hopefully I can have some 3,000-word writing days in this coming week to help me catch up.  It’s exciting and time-consuming and thrilling.

Also, the first year I did NaNo, I threw literally any words on the page.  But this year, I’m trying to actually follow a plot.  So the writing is going a little slower this year.  That’s okay though, I’m really happy with what I’m writing, and I’m okay with a little bit of quality over quantity at this point in my writing journey.

Thanks for checking out the new blog!  I’ll be back later this week with more thoughts on rough drafts and characters and writing and all of those wonderful things.  Until then, happy writing!

A College Campus

Hello my lovely writers!  Sorry it’s been a while.  The fall semester just started up here in the US, and I’ve been a little busy.  This is the third week of classes me, which my friends and I affectionately call “death week” – it’s the week when all the first papers are due, every class suddenly has ten homework assignments, a quiz, and fifty pages of reading, and oh by the way you have an exam next week so START STUDYING!

I’m actually pretty on top of my homework-game.  Not so much the writing-game, but, you know, priorities.

she needs to sort out her priorities

Anyways, if it’s been a while since you’ve been on a college campus, let me tell you: it’s an amazing place for writerly inspiration. 

I’ve said before that I view characters as a jigsaw puzzle of details.  Well, if you need some details, look no further than your college campus (if you live on one).  The extraordinary and strange surround us every day in the form of sleep-deprived young adults and strangely-purposed buildings.

Here are some examples from the few weeks I’ve been back on campus:

  • The guy in the coffee shop at 10pm, bare feet proudly displayed
  • The lady in the library whose office has about two hundred books, a spinning wheel, and a beautiful vintage bicycle
  • The guy in a sports jersey watching a football game alone in an empty lounge, standing and pacing as he watches.  His team scores a goal, and he jumps into the air, complete with the fist punch and cry of victory.
  • The girl with twenty body piercings who is the most gentle, quiet, Hufflepuff-like person I’ve met
  • The guy who skateboards around sitting down on his skateboard
  • The professor who curses a lot, has tattoos up his arms, and is passionate about medieval literature
  • The guy who, no matter the weather, is always wearing a trenchcoat
  • Those two girls that you always see together, no matter what.  Do they never get tired of each other?
  • The guy who can’t help but put his feet on the table in class
  • The girl who snorts when she laughs, even when in class

It’s not just people, it’s places, too:

  • The coffee shop with green and black walls, abstract paintings, and metal chairs that feel like they’re from the 80’s.  Also purple couches, mirrors along one wall, and low, pulsing music that makes you want to dance a little.
  • The oldest building on campus, with narrow, catercorner halls and no elevator and little half-staircases every fifty feet.  It smells like a mixture of old carpet and old books, and it’s very easy to get lost in.  Unmarked doors that seem to lead to Nowhere or Narnia.
  • The little courtyard and fountain, with wooden benches and flowers around it.  If you walk there early in the morning, it feels like you’ve just missed the fairies.
  • The quiet section of the library, back where the endless rows of books stand – a place where whispers earn glares, and it feels like if you make too much noise you’ll wake the furniture.
  • The whole campus on a Sunday morning: quiet and empty; a city with sunshine and birds but no people.

College campuses are fun places to be most of the time.  I’d love to hear your experiences at university if you have any unusual ones to share.  Don’t forget: inspiration walks around you every day, not matter where you go.  (It’s just a little more obvious – and more strange – on a college campus.)

A Little Thing I Wrote

Some days, the words just won’t be written.  The novel is hiding in a far-off land, the plot is taking the day off.  On those days, you take the elevator to the top floor of your school’s library, let go of your expectations, and simply write for fun.  Sometimes, writer’s blocks need to be written around.  Sometimes you need to remind yourself how to connect your brain to your fingers to the keyboard.  Sometimes you need to remind your fingertips how to sing their melody as they tap the rhythm of a story.

Somedays, you don’t get any noveling done, but you fall a little more in love with the power of writing.  Somedays, that’s all you need.

I’d love to now share with you a little thing I wrote: Libraries and Dragons.  It’s not really a short story – more like an essay in an imaginary world.  It hasn’t really been edited; it’s not going to win any awards.  But I love it anyways, and this little tiny piece reminded me that writing is a sort of magic that I adore.  So.  Enjoy.

One last note: the first paragraph is a note to myself.  But it’s kinda a part of the piece, so I left it there.

Alright, brain.  You’ve had your coffee, now write your words.  Forget the product, the answer, the perfection.  Write the words.  The words are the only thing you care about.  The words, the words, the words.

All libraries are living things.  Picture them dragons, if you will.  They’re not dragons – no, they’re nowhere near as polite as dragons – but picture them dragons for a minute.  They’re really quite similar if you think about it.

The largest of the dragons are the Nightmares, ancient things, all black scales and blazing eyes, huge leathery wings that haven’t tasted night air in centuries but would blanket the world in darkness if they were opened.  These dragons are like the Great Old Libraries.  The libraries that now only exist in faraway lands and are in danger of disappearing entirely.  Most people only see pictures of them on Pinterest.  But a picture can’t capture the smell of thousands of souls, aging away together for centuries until their stories are all intertwined.

The next in size are your Sea Dragons – not really dragons, per say.  (Although never try telling a Sea Serpent that she’s not a real dragon; it will be the last thing you say.)  These represent your – uh – electronic libraries.  Provided for you by deities such as the great River-God Amazon.  Do they count as real libraries?  Can a book still be a book if it’s pixels instead of paper?  Can a dragon still be a dragon if she doesn’t breathe fire?

The next largest in size are the Green Giants.  It’s said that they like to impersonate hills, curling up for years on end, covering themselves in dirt blankets, letting green grass feel at home on top of their already emerald scales.  These are the noble dragons, quick to come to the aid of needy kingdoms, quicker still to deliver justice to those who betray their trust.  These are like College Libraries.  They come in many shapes and sizes, but most are light-filled and shiny, always being renovated and repaired, full of bustling students and sleepy sunshine.  If you’re not careful with them, they’ll suck you away and you’ll never be seen again.

Then you’ve your Common Dragons – your Public Libraries.  They come in all shapes, sizes, textures, and colors, each full of their own magic.  First there’s the fast-growing White Dragon, which is full size in six months, and eats only vegetation.  These are the shiny new public libraries, such as you’ll find in any suburbia: spacious and brimming, with smiling librarians and fast wi-fi.  Second, you have the Blue Gypsies – these smaller dragons are known for speaking in verse and giving directions (usually in rhyming couplets) to those who have lost their way.  These are represented by those quaint, compact little libraries you’ll find in small towns. Candles of light and knowledge for the weary traveler come home.

Finally, we come to the Hound Dragons, named for their small size and dog-like trainability.  These are the most popular species to keep as pets, as they are quite happy to nest indoors, and also will follow humans with unwavering devotion if they are treated fairly.  The males are deep purple and the females are scarlet, and they have clever faces, bright eyes, and nimble talons.  Their smaller wings are only practical for short-distance flying, and they prefer climbing, hoping, and bounding with short bursts of flight, unmistakably like large grasshoppers.  These dragons are like Home Libraries.  Some are quite small, some are more impressive; some are old, and some are filled with crisp new spines.  Like the Hound Dragons, home libraries tend to reflect the nature of their owners, and one can learn a great deal about what sort of house one is in simply by examining either the dragon or the library.  If a house is missing one or both, it is recommended that you exit the premises as soon as possible, as the home may be prone to Nargle infestation.

There you have it: hopefully this discussion will help you in the future, either when dealing with the winged beasts or the book-filled creatures.