Monday, December 11, 2017

Write It Down

Over the past several months, I've had the really neat opportunity to work on my grandfather's personal history, editing it and copyfitting it so that we can put it all together into one place and print it in a book that my family members will be able to enjoy for generations to come.

As I've worked on this project, I've been struck not only by the importance of passing down our stories but by how vital it is to write down our experiences.

Maybe I've just been thinking about this a lot lately after I spent all that time recently writing down five full years of my own personal history related to my infertility struggles, but I've really found that each person has something unique to say, some new point of view that is so vital to understanding the human experience, that it's too important to stay silent.

Take my grandpa, for example. In the course of working on this project, I have learned things about him that I never even knew... and have learned things about other members of my family that I never even knew!

The Grandpa that I knew was very sweet and very gentle, and you can see that in the way he writes, but I had absolutely no idea, for example, that he was such a sassy little prankster! Imagine my surprise reading about him playing pranks during his time in the Navy or reading about his students having to put up with his teasing.

There were, of course, other stories that I'd heard before, that were told around the table during family gatherings. My dad, for example, got my grandfather's playful streak and would prank his dad right back.

But all of these stories combined tell a story that no other person who has ever lived or who will ever lived can tell. It's my grandfather's, and no one else's.

I'm not very good at journaling, but I think through this infertility project and this blog and other things like it, I can at least write down some of my own stories, too, so that my future grandchildren will be able to read things like how my husband panicked during a Newlywed Game and said he'd throw my sister off an island. (Never gonna forget that, honey.)

Anyway, I guess the point is: our stories are our own. Our memories are our own. And we need to preserve them.

Friday, December 8, 2017

To My Husband

Dear Matt,

I know that you knew when we were dating that I was a writer, and I told you that writing was my passion and my life, but I'm still not entirely sure that you knew what you were signing up for when we got married. And it means the world to me that you are willing to put up with all of the quirks that my chosen profession entails.

I'm sure when you pictured your married life, you didn't imagine that you would be spending car rides listening to your wife read her stories out loud or having your comments on various plot twists and scenes written down with rapt attention and delight.

I'm sure you didn't imagine that you would be subjected to your wife staying up late curled up with a laptop and a determination to write just "one more scene" before she went to sleep. And I'm definitely sure that you didn't imagine having a wife who, when she couldn't sleep, would turn over under the covers and start babbling plot ideas to you until she talked herself into exhaustion and finally fell asleep.

But not only do you put up with all of these weird quirks; you encourage them. You ask me about my characters and remind me that I need to do the actual editing and rewriting work instead of just getting lost in doing the fun part of writing more stories.

You get excited whenever I pull out my phone so that I can read you more of my writing. Genuinely. You remember where we left off, and you get invested in the storylines. You even give me input that helps me to improve my own writing, like the fact that I literally redesigned the main character of my Halfsie series just for you.

Everything you do is perfect. You are so supportive, and you are so amazing, and I'm not sure what I did to deserve the Perfect Writer's Husband, but somehow, I got you.

I love you, Matt.

~Shelby

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Upcoming Project: Infertility Book

As some of you who know me personally might know, I've been married for four and a half years now, and my husband and I started trying for kids just a few months after we were married.

We've been to doctors and talked to adoption experts as we've tried to find ways to expand our family. Ultimately, we ran out of money and emotional stamina going to doctors, so now we're focusing more on building our finances back up so that we can adopt.

It's been an emotionally draining process, one that has taken me to the very depths of anguish so many times as I've prayed and prayed and haven't been able to have that "miracle" baby that I want so badly in my life.

But then, a few weeks ago, a little bit before Thanksgiving, things came to a head.

I was having an emotional breakdown, sure that I couldn't handle this anymore, and went to my dad for a father's blessing and for advice. During the course of the conversation, we talked about my writing and the ability I have to create worlds, even if I can't create life right now. We talked about my ability to reach out to people and how that was a God-given talent.

When I came home that night, I started writing.

I spent three and a half days writing like mad. Every spare second was spent writing. I have never in my life written like this before. Ever. The whole book flowed out of me, and I know I had some real divine assistance with it, because previous books have taken years to get to the point that this one did in a matter of days.

By the time I was done, not only had a written a four-year journey down but my heart felt lighter because of it.

I shared it with the people that were mentioned in the book, because I wanted them to know what I was working on, and my mother-in-law immediately read it and told me that I needed to publish it and that she would help me.

I've spent any spare time I've had since then editing it and am now getting ready to shop it out to publishers. Usually, I like to self-publish, because I like the freedom it gives me, but something about this project tells me that I want to go a more traditional route.

I hope that I'll be able to touch someone with this book. It's more than just a story of infertility. It's a story about love, depression, heartbreak, hope, and family. And I hope that I can find a publisher for it soon so that I can share it with you all.

In that vein, I've created a new blog that will chronicle specifically my infertility journey as well as this new, weird, nonfiction venture. I've never done nonfiction before. We'll see how it goes!

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Writing Is My Job

Listen, I know people will talk to you about how writing is their passion, how writing is their life, how writing is their joy.

But I gotta tell you, when you treat writing like a job, that's how you actually get stuff done.

I don't have any delusions about making millions and millions of dollars with my books. I mean, that would be nice? And it's definitely a dream of mine. But I know that it's just that: a dream. I know that I may never be on the New York Times Bestseller List or anything like that.

So the best thing I can do to ensure that I can have a career in writing is to keep. doing. it.

I may not make very much money on every book right now, but as I buckle down and write every single day, my goal is to get back to my original plan of putting out a book every year or so, and those books will add up over time.

But even with that, I'm not deluding myself into thinking that I can make enough money from that - at least, not right now.

So, I take other jobs. I freelance. I write for a photography blogging business, I do summaries for a news organization, I take odd jobs copyfitting and editing books.

Writing is a highly undervalued skill, my friends. I take what I can get.

Now, to be clear, this isn't a "woe is me" kind of blog post. This is a "know what you're getting into" kind of blog post for anyone who wants to be a writer. You're not going to immediately start raking in royalties in the tens of thousands of dollars - or even the thousands, necessarily.

But if I keep going, and I keep writing, and I do this every day, not only can I make a living out of it, but I never let my talents go unused, and I continue to improve (or at least not stagnate) every day.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Some Writing Tips

One of the things I do as part of the collaboration I'm part of is edit chapters before they go up, and as a result, I get to see the fiction writing style of over 20 different people just from this one writing project.

And while everyone's writing style is different, there are some trends that I've seen that I addressed within the group, and to that end, I think it could be helpful to other aspiring writers as well.

So... in that vein... here are some editing tips.

1. "Give" is a transitive verb; it needs an object. So, for example, you can't "give a smile." You have to give the smile TO someone. You can "give her a smile" or "give a smile to the cute boy," but the smile has to go somewhere. Same with hugs, nods, etc. "Give" needs to GO somewhere.

2. "Greeted" is not a dialogue tag on its own. It works the same way "give" does in that it needs an object. You can't, for example, write: "'Hi there!' she greeted." But you CAN write "'Hi there!' she greeted him."

3. There's nothing wrong with using "said" as a dialogue tag.

4. Please don't let your characters' eyes come out of their head. For example, "Her eyes searched the room" should be "Her gaze searched the room." Otherwise, there are now floating eyeballs running around the place. Same with any body part. You can describe what characters are doing (e.g.: "Her hand came up to rest on his cheek" or even look at "Wicked" with "hands touch; eyes meet"), but too much of that gives the impression that everyone's body parts are disjointed.

5. Be consistent with how you describe your characters. Use the same names. If your character does by "Sammy," then she should be "Sammy," not "Samantha" or "Sam," because "Sammy" is the name she's given herself in her own thoughts, and you are writing from that character's perspective. Also, since you're writing from your character's perspective, you don't need to describe your own character as "the blonde" or "the girl." If you were telling a story about yourself, you wouldn't say, "And then I, the blonde, reached for the pudding." You would use your own name. Obviously, in third person, there's a little leeway here, but it's still something you should watch out for.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Working on a Sequel is a Lot Like Writing Fanfiction

...it is, okay?

Seriously, though. One of the best parts about writing fanfiction is the simple fact that the characters and the setting are already established. The readers know who, for example, Cyclops and Wolverine are without having to launch into a description of their backstories and where they came from. I mean, you can still do that if you're doing an Alternate Universe, but that's not the point.

The point here is that fanfiction has an already-established universe, which means that you can just jump right in. You don't need to worry about explaining what the characters look like. You don't need to worldbuild. You can just hit the ground running and GO.

Now, with the release of Rebel Rendezvous, I'm already working on the sequel (which sadly doesn't have a name yet; I know, I'm working on it), and I have to tell you, this feels incredibly familiar.

Obviously, the rules are slightly different because this is a book, and even in sequels, when you have a newly-established universe, you should still do a little bit of calling back and explaining, in case people forgot the details between the release of one book and the next

But the principle is essentially the same. I've already established the universe in this series, and I've already established the characters. All that's left is to dive in with both feet into the plot, and I am absolutely loving it.

It's so freeing to be able to hit the ground running and to jump into the action knowing that my readers are coming with me, that they know who Elaine and Andrew and Michelle are.

And considering I'm going to be working on this series for the foreseeable future, with six books already written in total (in rough draft form)... This is a great feeling to have.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Write to Your Mood

It may seem a little crazy, but I have a gazillion different writing projects going on at any given time.

I'm a huge nerd, and I've been writing fanfiction since before I even knew that it was called fanfiction. And ever since I started writing, I've always had at least a couple fan projects. Right now, for example, I have two collaborative universes running with one of my best friends, not to mention the collaboration I've talked about here before with a couple dozen other writers, and three of my own, separate stories.

Yeah, I know, it's a lot.

This isn't even mentioning the fact that I'm working on the Halfsie series as well as a book with my friend that we will maybe probably someday eventually publish; we'll see how it goes.

It's a lot.

But there's a reason I have so many different projects going on at once, and it's the simple fact that I can't write something that I'm not in the mood to write. If I'm at a point in one of my projects where I'm supposed to be writing about two characters in love but I've had a particularly crummy day, it's just not going to happen. But if one of my other stories is at a point in the story where the hero has been captured, well, that's absolutely perfect for a crummy mood.

(And vice versa: It is so hard to write about something bad happening to the protagonist while I'm in a good mood.)

But having multiple projects keeps me from ever falling into the trap of "waiting for the inspiration to strike." I know for a fact that if I ever wait that long, I'm never going to actually get any inspiration, and I won't write every day.

This way, not only am I writing every day, but I am able to move several stories forward and never feel like I am neglecting a story that I want to tell.

Everyone wins, right?

I'd highly recommend doing this if you're a writer or aspiring writer: write to your mood. Write different stories, and have different settings. If nothing is appealing to you, you can even skip ahead to a part of the story that you want to get to later!

Just make sure that you keep writing, no matter what.