Writing And Traveling

AHH forgot to reblog this when it went up, but here it is now! Here are a few of my thoughts on writing and traveling, posted on Writer’s Block Party, the awesome blog (I may be biased) that my critique partners and I started on writing, critiquing, wine drinking (did I say that out loud?) and everything in between. 🙃

Writer's Block Party

At the beginning of 2014, I abandoned the last half of my senior year in college to study abroad. While the rest of my classmates enjoyed relaxing senior springs, I…have never been good about taking the simple way. Instead, I started from zero, willingly making myself the new kid in another school’s program, in the middle of a country where I knew no one and was still working on the language.

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Granted, living in Spain was not such a hardship: tapas, sangria, and three-hour siestas were just a few of my consolation prizes.

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But. It was an upheaval of my life. I went from being surrounded by family and friends, having a job, a plethora of extracurriculars, and a long list of classes I still wanted to take, to having just a few, low-intensity courses and almost no other commitments. In short, for the first time in years, I had…

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Roundtable #1: CP Love

Sorry for the hiatus y’all! If you’re a writer/love writing advice/like hearing writers being ridiculous together, check out WritersBlockParty, the group blog I am now a part of with my extraordinary critique partners ❤

Writer's Block Party

Hi everyone! Welcome to the Writer’s Block Party! We’re a group of critique partners (CPs) who write young adult and middle grade speculative fiction. Though we all met online, we’ve quickly become close friends, sharing our love of books and writing. As an introduction to our blog, here’s a little more about who we are, how we met, and what we love about our CP relationships.

Note: This post is done in a roundtable style where members of Writer’s Block Party discuss a topic together.

Moderator: Mara Fitzgerald / Editor: Axie Oh

4.pngAkshayaEncouragement. Even about non-writing things. I love that anytime I’m having a bad day I can come here and know y’all will come through for me with the exact words of wisdom I need.

ChristineCritique partners turn writing, a solitary hobby, into a group effort. Even though you still put the words down by yourself, just…

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Very Big News…

…that I’m not going to share completely here! Hehe. Oops.

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Well, ish. Basically….I’m moving!!! And not quite to the next town over in Illinois.

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Yes, scheming has been happening. And I’m not entirely horrible/all cryptic hints. Just lazy!

Which, for me, means I made you all a video instead of typing out a whole post. A likely crappy video, but hey, it gets across the point! Can we say…welcome to YouTube??

 

So without further ado, here is a quick intro into my YouTubing forays:

Intro and Disclaimers

 

And here it is, the big news itself:

The News!!! 

 

Enjoy. Or don’t! That much is entirely up to you. My work here is done. Sorry about the vertical orientation–I do not have enough time or motivation to re-film it at the moment. Ah well! In the meantime, I’ll just leave you with this:

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Stay wonderful. Stay in touch. I’ll see you on the other side of the wor(ld)!

❤️ Maddy

 

Quiet August

I now interrupt my regularly scheduled radio silence to announce…more radio silence!

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No but really. I know it sounds like a bad joke, but I am, in fact, coming back to this blog after weeks (read: months) of nothing, simply to forecast…more nothing.

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This being said…I have good reason for said heaps of absentia. Mostly.

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The past months of silence were due in part to travel, but mainly to my gluing butt to chair/fingers to keyboard/eyes to manuscript’s word doc and NOTHING BUT THAT WORD DOC SO HELP ME–oh, not a court of law? My bad.

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Point is, I took some time, put the blinders up on everything in my life that I could,  aiming to cut distractions and GET. BOOK. DONE.

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And it has worked, ish! The lack of distractions has helped, but….See, well, here’s the thing…

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I’m not done yet.

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Now, the good news is: I have made progress, I am making progress, and I may at last be in the final stretch of finishing this book!

YES

The bad news….

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It’s going to be a very quiet August in the cave.

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…and possibly September and October too.

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Now, I do have some pretty major life updates to share, and I promise I will get to those soon….

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….just not today.

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So if you see me on social media/gif vomiting any more/existing out in public lol, over the next few weeks…

I see you

I probably shouldn’t be there, so feel free to yell/nudge/shove me back to my cave.

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And with a little luck, lots of long hours, and all the wrist destruction later, I will have another update for you soon.

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Until then, good luck in your own writing caves/endeavors everyone…

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And I’ll see you on the other side (of the cave or the war, depending on your Hamiltonian fluency levels), til we meet again!

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Critique Partners

A collective post from some of my wonderful CPs and me full of rambles and words of critique partnering advice!

Akshaya Raman

Hello!

Last week I was at RT with a bunch of my closest writer friends and we had an absolute blast! Because we’re all so spread out geographically, we only get to hang out once or twice a year so we really try and make those few days count. And because a bunch of us were together, I thought I’d take the opportunity to answer some questions I get frequently about my critique partners—and have them chime in with some thoughts as well!! They were all so generous with their time despite a packed schedule at RT, and I’m so grateful that they were all willing to share their thoughts!

Fair warning: this is a LONG post. But hopefully it’s a fun read/cool to see the insides of our very weird brains. Or I should say, coherent versions of our brains. In person we make a lot of very lame jokes…

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In The Flow

Ok. You want to know how bad it was? I’ll tell you anyways.

I went to my blog to write a quick post… and my site asked me if I wanted to sign up to follow Those Who Wander by email. That’s right, apparently 3.5 months of inactivity is about when you get signed out your own website, on your own laptop. Oops. That would be an all time record of radio silence…. ah well!

The long and short of it is: I have been writing. And rewriting. And rewriting some more. Imagine writing a cover letter for a potential employer….reading it, and discovering it’s not actually the story of your life…scrapping it, writing it again, and repeating. Now imagine your cover letter is 300+ pages long. :-O

Yeah. You get the idea.

The good news? I finally made a breakthrough last week, thanks to revisiting one of my favorite writing posts, Summarizing the Book You Wrote by one of my favorite authors/humans ever, the incomparable Susan Dennard (part of her The Basics of My Revising Process series).

The breakthrough went something like this: 

At 2:17AM on a Wednesday night, a grimy, chocolatepeanutbuttercup-fueled cave-creature writer was sprawled on the ground beneath her desk. Yes, beneath. She clung to the brightly colored mechanical pencil in her fist for dear life, and made her contacts blur before slightly crazed eyes, staring at the blank worksheet on the floor, meant to summarize her giant mess of a thrice rewritten story.

She grudgingly scratched out the opening image of her story’s world. It took an embarrassing amount of time to come up with those two sentences, but they felt right.

She repeated the process for her protagonist’s introduction. Once again, it took longer than she would’ve imagine to come up with the simple summary for the character she’d been writing about for the past two years, and dreaming about for years before then. But once she had those sentences, she knew they were the right ones. They just felt true.

Next came the inciting incident. The sparking moment for the young, story-obsessed bladesmith in the craft-rich world she’d imagined up for him. And that, dear friends, is when our half sleep-deprived writer nearing the end of her wits, had an AHHA moment:

The scene that had to come next. The only thing that felt natural. The protagonist’s pivot point, the excruciatingly tempting offer he has to consider, the moment where everything changes. The whirl of music, inseparably textured into a vivid world that surrounds it all.

The writer closed her eyes, and she finally smiled. She knew exactly what she had to do.

She had to get the heck out from under that desk, climb into bed, sleep a full night, and let that image simmer. She knew it would be waiting for her when she was ready, that the words would flow easily once she’d let the seeds of ideas float about in her mind and take root. And guess what? They did.

She woke that morning to an ease she hadn’t known in writing for weeks, maybe months. She found that inexplicable, irreplaceable feeling of rightness, when you know that you’ve found your story’s heart at last.

Somewhere in there, the writer apparently also developed a penchant for talking in the third person, but that’s besides the point.

Point is… I am writing again. On the right track, clear-focus writing, and it feels so good. I can’t even begin to describe the thrill that feeling is.

Imagine your favorite hobby in the world, whether it’s a sport, your job, a musical inclination, or just a beloved book. Picture how easy it is to lose hours of your life to the flow you enter when you’re in that zone, where the entire rest of the world drops away. That, to me, is being in my drafting cave at it’s finest.

So while I hate to dine and dash, and I’d love to babble on a bit more about my writing process/life and how it’s been over the past few months (let’s be honest, mostly lot’s of cave time/writing with a bit of lovely travel thrown into the mix)….Well, I have to get back to my book. Because, for the first time in a while, the words are flowing, and I am utterly determined to get them down on a page.

I will be traveling in a few weeks, to RT2016 (!!!) so I will hopefully post again from the road/plane/hotel. Until then, be well all! And please excuse me my upcoming social media/social anything/above-the-surface-life hiatus, again. I’ll see you all on the other side of this writing cave.

❤ Madeleine

 

 

The Dog Ate My Internet

…Or something along those lines.

Soooooo… I thought the two month mark of my dropping off the face of the blogging world would be a great time to pop in and say hi (errr… definitely nothing to do with the struggles I’m having on this current chapter or anything). This is actually just a quick hi though, not a full length post (oooops) but I figured a short stop in/explanation for my radio silence might be nice!

Alright, explanation time: Remember that time, exactly two months ago, as in the last time I posted (hides face in shame) when I mentioned I was rewriting my book? Well… yeah… see the good news about that is – I have been doing that, with a good amount of success! As in, I have drafted nearly half of this new version of book 1, as in, from scratch, drafted it, and now have a sprawling new manuscript in the works to contend with. YAYYYY THINGS ARE HAPPENING AGAIN! I love drafting!! Woohoo!!

Now, the ah, less good news, which is probably fairly obvious: I’ve had to essentially hit pause on most other things in my life (including but not limited to this blog, social media, leaving my house, seeing people other than my cat/parents, responding to texts within the same month I get them, working out -lolz we can just pretend I did that before – wearing real people clothes, being a human… you get the picture).

But, for all those whom it may concern who have missed my being partially human/out in the world (really, I’m not sure who that is, but I guess my cat wouldn’t mind if I left the house more/left her in peace once in a while – which should give you an idea of my true level of cave creatureness at the moment…) well, the second piece of slightly good/extremely terrifying news: I have a deadline to finish drafting this rewrite! And that deadline is – drumroll please – December 31.

December 31, 2015. As in 3.5 weeks from now. As in I should not even be writing this blog right now. As in sorry not sorry in advance for typos because calculating the weeks I have left just freaked me out enough that I’m definitely not going back to reread/edit this post. Oops.

SO. In sum: Sorry for dropping off, but not entirely because I did get half a book written!!! Annnnnd since that half apparently took me two months and I only have 3.5 weeks to write this second half…. BYE ALL I’LL SEE YOU IN JANUARY!!!

🙂 Happy Holidays y’all. Hope they bring lots of joy, love, and meaningful time with family and friends for everyone. See you on the otherside (of this bottomless cup of coffee and never ending writer cave).

❤ Madeleine

More BTAF Updates and Blank Book Slate

Life: Hello all! Sorry for being a day late on this posting. It’s been a good week for me writing wise, so consequently…. I got distracted from most life things, like blogging. Ooops. But basically – had an awesome time in Boston, as mentioned last week. Since then I have pretty much just been working on my book… so here are a few more Boston/Vermont photos for you!

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Exploring Shmarvard Yard with JanellaAkshaya,  and the wonderful Sara Raasch

And since wonderful my critique partners Akshaya and Janella have put all the dignified pics up already… guess it falls on me to put up the ridiculous ones. You’re welcome ;).

Being silly at BTAF with the lovely Adam Silvera
Being silly at BTAF with the kind and hilarious Adam Silvera

Reading: On the Boston Teen Author Festival note… I now have piles and piles of books, but I haven’t actually finished any of them this week with the mayhem of Boston and travel and rewriting…. but included on my list of up next are:

Sara’s Ice Like Fire

Adam’s More Happy than Not

Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows

Renée Ahdieh’s The Wrath and the Dawn

Becky Albertalli’s Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

Kim Liggett’s Blood and Salt

Mackenzi Lee’s This Monstrous Thing

Lori Goldstein’s Becoming Jinn 

…and many others! Can’t wait to give updates about these awesome new books in YA over the next few weeks :-).

Writing: Ok. So. Here we go – biggest update writing wise also may be the scariest thing I’ve done all week month year. Ready for this? Here is a quick view of my giant cork-board, and the change I put it through on Monday, before and after.

Before:

Before - plotted out scene by scene
See all those notecards? Those are all of my scenes, beautifully mapped out. Or at least, they were…

After:

GHASDKJHASHDIUHWAKS IT'S SO BLANK BUT SO EXCITING!!!
GHASDKJHASHDIUHWAKS IT’S SO BLANK BUT SO EXCITING!!!

So, as you can see, figuratively and kinda literally…. I have a blank slate! As mentioned before in my updates, I’m about to dive into another rewrite of my book and as such, I am repotting it out, from the ground up. So, rather than try to patch up what I already have, I am starting from scratch now and will add in any old scenes/plot as I go on. At least I have a friend who has camped out amid my mess to keep me company as I rewrite!

Look at me! I'm helping!
Look at me! I’m helping!

So anywhooo… that is my life in brief for the week! Sorry for another short post – seriously, next time I will discuss some of my world-building methods. But for now I am still figuring them out, as I’m doing a bit more world-building (and plot planning) this week. But next week I’ll be back to drafting, so I’ll hopefully have some retrospective insights about world-building for any interested writer buddies! Until then, be well all.

❤ Maddy

And finally, a shot of Chicago, as seen from the Lincoln Park Zoo!
And finally, a shot of Chicago, as seen from the Lincoln Park Zoo!

New England Colors and Boston Teen Author Festival

Hello from the beautiful woods of New England in the fall!
Hello from the beautiful woods of New England in the fall!

Life: This will be a quick update, as I am writing this blog in the midst of my last evening in Boston. The night promises to be full of Pirates (At World’s End), a last supper of cheese and guac with my wonderful critique partners, Akshaya and Janella, and (mostly) trying to make my huge suitcase of books be under 50 lbs :D. Oops. A longer update will come next week, but for now, a few pictures and quick highlights!!

Cheese and Disney princess cups, because what else would we be having?
Cheese and Disney princess glasses, because what else would we have?

Reading: Finished one AMAZING book last week – Snow Like Ashes, by Sara Raasch. Such an intensely captivating, original YA fantasy, centered on a girl and the group of fellow refugees she lives with, as they try to work towards reclaiming Winter, one of the four “season” kingdoms of the world.

SO GOOD
SO GOOD

Also read it just in time, because at Boston Teen Author Festival this weekend (which was SO MUCH FUN!!) I acquired an early copy of Ice Like Fire (book 2 in the trilogy) and I cannot wait to dive into it tomorrow on the plan (if I’m not crashing, in which case, as soon as I’m home). Either way, i will report on it soon here :-).

The critique partners and I, tromping around Boston on our way back from authory events and things!
Janella, Akshaya and I, tromping around Boston on our way back from authory events

Writing: So while my writing week was a bit speckled with travel and events and critique partner time, we actually all managed to carve out a fair amount of writing time – particularly on our mini-retreat these past two days int the woodsy areas of New England!

Writing in idyllic New England <3
Writing in pure bliss

Did a good deal of overall plot work, world-building and brainstorming for the new version of my WIP. This rewrite is completely daunting and still needs so much work, but it was great to get a solid start on it. Sorry to delay my thoughts on world-building, but I guarantee I will still be doing it for at least the next few days, so I will share some of my strategies next week.

Hard at work in the woods
Hard at work in the woods(ish)

Be well everyone, and enjoy these first few weeks of fall!!! Any fall plans, apple picking, haunted houses, etc, for anyone??

❤ Maddy

And one last shot of this glorious place!!
One last shot of this glorious place!!! Happy almost October!

Back to the Windy City (Briefly)

Hello all! Hope everyone is enjoying this lovely, last official day of summer. Tomorrow is the equinox and officially the last day of fall… which is a bittersweet thought for me. On one hand, summer is my favorite season of all… on the other, fall is a darn close second.

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But really, what can beat being able to eat peach and berry cobbler for breakfast, with your book, out in middle of this sunny greenery??

So while a tiny part of me can’t wait for soups and boots and sweaters and leaves and apple picking, the rest of me will soak up the last few rays of the summer sun with a shameless grin. And in keeping with that/in commemoration of my favorite season I am going to sprinkle this post with picture highlights of this summer. Enjoy!

Lake Michigan, the weekend of the air show!
Lake Michigan, the weekend of the air show!

Life: As alluded to last week (okay fine, as I was shouting over social media to anyone listening or not) I had an absolutely fabulous time at my “cabin in the woods.”

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Woods!

Being out west, in the middle of mountains, with clear air, plenty of hikes/outdoors available, and no life demands pressing down on my calendar was nothing short of amazing. I cleared my head, I read, I breathed that beautiful fresh air deeply, and… I wrote. A lot.

With Bambi to keep me company :-)
With Bambi to keep me company 🙂

Being out there was so needed, so inspiring, and so good for my soul. Also, thanks Amanda for hanging out with me/saving me from complete hermitdom!

And for taking me around to everything from hikes to bookstores to amazing ice cream!
And for taking me around to everything from hikes to bookstores to amazing ice cream!

Reading: So I may or may not have stayed up wayyyyy too late one of my last nights in the “cabin” reading Queen of Shadows… Like, definitely not until the sky looked like this:

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….but what a gorgeous dawn!

Oops. Sorry, but not really at all sorry because that book was amazing and had me on a wild and deathgrip-on-book-level-of-suspense-like roller coaster until the very. last. page.

I won’t risk spoilers for anyone who hasn’t read the series (if you like fantasy at all, DO!/where have you been the last few years if you haven’t??) but I’ll just say that once again, Sarah Maas doesn’t disappoint. QoS had me hooked, heart racing, until the end. And mourning the fact that I have to wait another year for the fifth book. Seriously, trying not to think about that part!!

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On another note, a beautiful Chicago day – and a bench fit for reading.
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And a skyline view from the lake!

Writing: Ahhh so much to say, coming off this fabulous week of writing nonstop, but I’ll focus on one main thought for now, namely: getting deeper with main characters. This is something I spent a lot of time doing the past two weeks.

***Non-writers: feel free to skip this part, as it might be boring! Though of course you’re welcome to give it a look :-).

So, as promised last week, here’s a glimpse into how I go to deeper levels with my characters (not new characters – old, familiar ones who I’ve already been working with for a while). Last week in particular I was focusing on my main character, Partho.

Even though I’ve been writing books (three) in large part from his perspective for the last year and a half (and planning his story for longer than that), I realized that in some ways, I know his backstory much less than I do the backstories of other characters who play far smaller roles. I had always assumed I knew his so well, it wasn’t necessary, but I finally decided that this assumption and lack of fleshing out his formative years up until the main story starts was unfair to him, and that my story could only get stronger from my knowing him even better.

So, with this decided, I set out to dive deeper into Partho and his past than I ever have before. How, you may ask, did I go deeper? I’m a big fan of trying lots of methods when in doubt, so I tried a few, namely:

  • I talked to myself! More than usual…. But actually! I literally talked to myself, as I tried out voice memos this past week.
    • Why I tried it: I’m an auditory learner in many ways, but I also think I need a combination of different methods – so talking out loud (for anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour an half) while also scribbling ideas in my notebook sounded like it might help me sort out the knots I’d had trouble working out solely in my head/on paper.
    • Example: One convo with self went something like this – “Okay, so today I want to talk about Partho and the most pivotal moments of his childhood. Different ideas I’m toying with – A) The time his brother comes to work at the forge for a day, and it’s a disaster B) The times that Maignee comes home late and he’s still up listening to stories C) Confrontation with a magistrate at mandated kingdom lessons apprenticeship…” And then I talked out all those options, letting them take me wherever they did (sometimes far off original topic, but I went with it!).
    • Verdict: I loved this method! Definitely going to use it again. And ended up using it for general plot planning as well.
  • Another method I’ve used before and tried again: writing memories/backstory in first person.
    • Why I tried it: like I mentioned, I’ve tried this approach before and it’s worked well for me. Something about heaving to tell a character’s story through their own eyes, even if it’s in a child’s voice, helps me really get into their head.
    • Example: In Partho’s case, I ended up writing a story he is telling to his mother, still as a child, about an encounter he had with one of the magistrates teaching lessons about their kingdom.
    • Verdict: I’m still having trouble getting into first person with Partho for some reason, but that struggling through was helpful. I definitely need to try it again some more.
  • Last thing I tried was poetry!
    • Why I tried it: I love playing around with new mediums! Even if they don’t lead to anything that will see the light of day, new styles can sometimes help bring back my “play” mentality and spark some magic.
    • Example: Seriously, I just composed an impromptu, terrible set of sonnets spoken about Partho.
    • Verdict: I always love this method, and it definitely helped this time too!

Okay, that’s all for now! Hope this was helpful/at all interesting. Writers – how do you get deeper/more in touch with your characters? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Up next week: diving into world building with a vengeance! Be well all,

❤ Maddy

Last one I swear! Buckingham Fountain with the city behind it.
Last one I swear! Buckingham Fountain with the city behind it. Life is excellent. That’s all.