Writing: A Project Update

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On my Author-page I declare clearly (and loudly, I’d say) that I plan to become an author. I have also written a couple of blog posts about becoming an author: you can find a fun description about my early works here and a post about how one becomes an author here.

But today I would like to give you something more concrete, and that means an update on my work-in-project! A little sneak peek of my lengthy Word-document that will become a book one day.

The Legendary 50K

On Friday the 14th of September, I hit the legendary word amount of 50k on my work-in-project. To be precise, 50,250 words. When I sat down at my computer that morning, I didn’t even realize I was going to hit 50k that day because it didn’t really matter to me, as long as I would write. But when I did hit that mark, it felt great. It felt better than I had expected because it felt as if had reached a new state writing: I had never written that many words for one project, ever.

You see, when participating in the National Novel Writing Month, the ultimate word goal one is trying to reach is 50,000 words. And when you hit 50k, you have done it. You have written a novel! But then, November 30th, the month of crazy writing is over and you don’t have to challenge yourself to reach that word goal of 1,667 words every day. Instead, you can take a break, let your novel take some deep breaths and rest for a while.

That’s at least what you might think. ”I’ll get back to that project in a few weeks. Then I’ll continue writing it/start editing it.”

However, the thing with NaNoWriMo is that when you hit the legendary 50k, you will feel deflated. No matter how motivated or inspired you are about the story you are telling or how in love you are with your characters – you won’t be eager to finish the story. That’s, at least, how I’ve felt every single time I’ve reached that magical word goal. Somehow, pushing myself to write 1,667 words every single day leads to deflation in the end of November. And that means that I never finish those stories, never edit them, never do anything with them.

So, on that Friday, when I hit that legendary 50k, I was excited. Instead of feeling deflated, unmotivated, tired or any other feeling of the kind, I was extremely motivated to continue the story. I am still inspired by my plot line, my characters and I’m eager to describe their journey. And that feels really good.

Okay, So What’s It About?

I’m afraid I won’t be giving too many juicy details about my plot before I’ve finished the story. Somehow it feels like I’ll jinx the story if I reveal too much about it (anyone else familiar with that feeling?). However, I can tell you this:

The story is about change (and if you’ve been reading this blog for a while you might not be that surprised). It’s also about how a long-lasting life-changing change can be done.

It’s about the cooperation between the rational brain, the willpower and motivation, and the physical body, except that I’ve given all three parts a character: one is a cat, one is a human and one is a squirrel.

And that’s all I’m revealing about the plot to you – for now. However, I will share with you:

Some Fun Facts

Fact Number One

Right now my Word-document is about 129 pages long and has 52,792 words in it. I have written about two-thirds of the whole story so one-third remains. This means that when I reach the end of the story, the total amount of words will be somewhere between 70k and 80k. That’s a lot of words, especially for someone who has always quit the writing project somewhere around 50k, but apparently 70k is a pretty common length for a book, so I have nothing to worry about. Maybe it’s just me who is most surprised and a bit scared for aiming for that amount of words?

Fact Number Two

A comment-thread on Instagram helped me realize who the audience for my book could be. This is how the conversation went:

@uninspiredwriters: Tell me 3 things about your main character in you current project!

@thingsinfocus: My main character is called Jello (he’s a cat) who 1) has eaten food to comfort or reward himself for 10 long years, 2) is an excellent party host and 3) is unsure if he wants to change his way of living or not. I love having a human-like cat as my main character, nothing seems ordinary that way!

@uninspiredwriters: @thingsinfocus love that! Very unique, allows you to write a perspective that’s a little different.

@msmariawrites: @thingsinfocus Jello may be one of the cutest characters I’ve read about so far. Are you writing a children’s book? My 4-year-old would love this story!

@thingsinfocus: @msmariawrites thank you for your lovely comment! Made the rainy day in Finland so much brighter! I think my book will be a children’s book for adults with a deeper thought between the lined. However, I’d say even kids could find it interesting! Have to test the story on a younger reader to find out!

@msmariawrites: @thingsinfocus that’s even better! Children’s books for adults has an awesome ring to it! Can’t wait to read all about it!

And this is how I realized I’m writing a children’s book for adults that even children or young adults could find interesting and entertaining. It has certainly made me even more motivated now that I have a picture about the potential reader in my head.

Fact Number Three

I have had a name for the book since the beginning of writing: Yellow Tails. And last week, as I was diving deeper into the theme, I came up with an idea for the cover of my book. Because change is about cooperation and balance, the cover would have an old-school scale with my three main characters balancing on it. Makes the whole Word-document-turning-into-a-real-book-thing seem like it’s actually possible!

And The Project Continues…

As I reached the legendary 50k and kept on writing, realized my main audience for the story, and came up with a cover for my book, the work in progress has become much more real than it was in the beginning of March when I wrote the first words on that Word-document. I have a long way to go, for sure with the last 20k to write, the editing, the beta-reading and finally, sending it to a publisher but every day I feel motivated to continue the story, keep on writing those words, believe that it’s a story that deserves to be told.

This is the biggest and longest project I’ve ever had. And that’s also a good reason to finish the story – because if I can finish the story, that means there’s a whole lot of other things I can start and finish as well.

 

 

How Does One Become A Published Author?

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It’s been 12 years since I decided to bury my hopes for becoming an author and thought I wanted to do something else instead. However, after all these years, I still haven’t found a job that would feel right and fulfilling, something that I could consider doing for the rest of my life.

So, instead of searching for the this-feels-right-profession, I’m returning to my childhood career plans: I’m going to be a published author.

My ’Why’

As you already know, I’ve written four full-length novels (although only one of them has a proper ending) during my lifetime. That means I’m already a writer. But now I want to become a published author.

At the moment, I’m working on my fifth full-length novel, aiming to complete it and hopefully get it published. But how does one get published? And why do I even want to become a published author – why not simply write for myself?

What is my why for doing this? Let me tell you:

  1. Nothing yet has given me such fulfillment as writing does. Especially writing fiction where I get to use my imagination is rewarding. Therefore…
  2. … this is what I want to do for a living. I want to finance my life and support myself as an author. This profession is also something I can see myself doing for the rest of my life, which is pretty awesome.
  3. Also, I have no clue of what I would want to do instead. I could consider having a part-time job on the side (owning a café, for instance) but my main focus would still be on writing.

The feeling of fulfillment is what keeps me going. Every day, after reaching my word goal of the day, I feel good, energetic, motivated and, best of all, proud of myself. And that’s something worth holding onto.

So, on to the next challenge: how can one become a published author?

Courageous, Stubborn and Serious

I reached out to a Finnish author who has published several books for young adults. I asked her how to get one’s book published and, especially, how can one become a full-time author. This is what she told me:

1. Be Courageous

If you want to become a full-time author, you must have the courage to throw yourself in the game. Being a full-time author means you seldom have financial security, but if you start your career by making sure you are financially well off, you’ll soon realize you’re heading against the wall instead of writing the book you wish to get published.

Instead, focus on the right things, take the financial risks and believe in yourself. Dare to plan long-term projects instead of only relying on smaller ones.

2. It’s A Real Job

If you wish to become a full-time author you need to treat your authorship as a real job. That means that you keep on going even if your financial future is unsure and plan your finances so that you’ll be able to keep on going even if you don’t get financial aid for your projects. As with any other profession, also a writer should strive for continuous development – learn new things, improve your writing and reach out to other writers.

3. The First Book Is the Toughest One

You will probably write your first book while working with something else at the same time. It’s tough, but after that you’ll hopefully get writing scholarships and other financial aid which will help you focus full-time on your writing. Just get your first book published!

4. Be Stubborn

One of the important qualities of an author is to be stubborn: even if you have a writer’s block or whatever you write feels like crap, don’t give up – just keep on going. Don’t give yourself a break.

The same stubbornness is valuable when you try to get your book published: don’t give up. If they reject you, do the edits you need to and try again. Or send them something else you’ve written instead. Be annoyingly stubborn.

5. Know Your Genre

Read books! Not whatever books but books that represent the genre you yourself want to write. This is important because by reading the kind of books you’d like to write, you’ll learn to know your competition (i.e. what kind of books have already been published), what do you want to write about, what kind of books you like and what kind of language is typical for that particular genre.

6. Practice Writing

Join a writing course. By joining one you’ll 1) practice writing and 2) find a community of other writers and friends who are interested in discussing writing and texts.

So, What’s Next?

After receiving these tips, it seems like the obvious thing for me to do is to keep on reading and writing.

I have my draft that I work on and aim to have the first version ready by the end of the year. After that I’ll edit it, have someone else read it and then I’ll edit it some more, after which I’ll send it to one or more publishers.

Feels like there’s a long way to go but it isn’t supposed to be easy, either.

I’ve been thinking about joining a course for writing. The Minimalists have one that a friend of mine recommended to me. I’m still thinking over the financial aspects of joining the course but I am curious to know how it would improve my writing. Have you joined a writing course sometime?

But what I know is this: it is possible to become a full-time author. And that’s nice to know because it will help me to stay focused, motivated and goal-oriented. I will become a published author. And hopefully I’ll be able to share my journey with you in this blog!

My Early Works

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This is the cover of the newest Harry Potter me and my friend decided to write and send to J.K. Rowling back in 2002. We thought it took way too long for J.K. to write the fifth book of the serie so we decided to take action – we would write the next book and send it to her for publishing, including a note that would say:

”Here you go, J.K. Rowling! You can publish this one and start writing on the next one!”

(Funny enough, the first chapter was very similar to the first chapter of the third Harry Potter. The name was also very original: Harry Potter and the Poisonous Snake)

Unfortunately, we never got past the first chapter. Maybe it was because we wrote it on paper with a pen instead of using a computer. And because it actually requires a lot of work to write a book. However, after all these years (it’s been 16 years – we were eight years old at the time) I still respect the effort. I mean, the cover is amazing, isn’t it?

Today I want to tell you about my early works. This book was one of the first ones that got started, and after that there’s been many different writing projects. So let’s dive into my early works of fiction!

Horse Stories and Fan Fiction

The first novel I remember writing independently was on my parents’ old-school computer, located in the basement of our house. It was a story about a girl who desperately wants to participate in a riding camp but can’t afford it, so she decides to do different projects to get money and save up for the camp. She would sell some of her things, do some cleaning, grass cutting and so on.

Even now I think the idea was great. I just never finished. I wonder if the story is still saved on that computer – the machine’s still in my parent’s basement.

After that I wrote several shorter stories. Many of them involved either horses or a mystery – the two subjects I was most passionate about at the time. On fourth grade I wrote a short story in school that was so great that I decided to turn it into a play. The script was about three pages long and took probably less then 15 minutes to perform on stage but my class rehearsed and did the play for two different audiences! This one was about a girl who becomes friends with a dragon and tries to save him from the people of the village who want to kill him, thinking he’s dangerous.

Many of the stories were never finished. They were everything between four and ten pages, some of them divided into four or eight parts. Some only got started when I already had a new idea in mind that I started to write on. I never published anything or sent any texts to magazines, although I thought of doing it. But in middle school I started to get into fan fiction.

I was still a huge fan of Harry Potter and found out that writing stories about characters that already existed and whom I loved was so much fun. I still have all of the short stories saved on my hard drive – they are over a hundred. Some of them consist of only 100 words but the longest fan fiction story I ever wrote, You, Me and Him, is over 100 pages long. Those years that I spent writing fan fiction were also the years when my writing improved a great deal. I was able to get active feedback and comments on my texts from other enthusiastic writers of fan fiction and felt as if I was a decent writer.

Unlike my earlier texts, these I published actively on a fan fiction forum. It was fun and gave me courage and motivation to write more and push myself to try different things and improve my writing, for instance when it came to what words I chose to use or how do develop my (or J.K. Rowling’s) characters.

Three Full-Length Novels

During and after my most active time as a writer of fan fiction, I also became curious about the National Novel Writing Month that takes place every year in November. I was tempted to try to write 50,000 words, a full-length novel, in only thirty days. I had never written anything of that length before – and decided to give it a try.

The first time I entered NaNoWrimo was in 2009. The story was called Harte and Agne, a story about a 15-year-old girl who becomes friends (and more than friends) with a man who is six years older than she is. I got a great start that year and wrote almost 20,000 words, but I had a lot of emotional issues to deal with at the time, and never finished the story.

After that I had two successful years in a row – in 2010, I wrote A Hundred-Year-Old Railroad, finishing with 50 087 words (although I only got halfway in the story) and in 2011, Hear Me Roar On The Inside with 50 146 words (3/4’s of the story written). I am really proud of both of them, because 1) I managed to write over 50,000 words in a month, and 2) they are stories located in worlds that I really loved creating.

However, in 2011 I started dating my first boyfriend and forgot about writing. I didn’t really write anything proper for five years. The relationship ended in 2013 and after that I just didn’t have the motivation and self-discipline to sit down and write. I tried to participate in NaNoWriMo in 2012, 2014 and 2015 but never managed to write more than 2,000 to 3,500 words.

Studying my rate of failures, I started to think that maybe fictional writing wasn’t for me after all. I loved to write but fiction didn’t seem to work for me so I thought ”maybe I should focus on factual writing instead.” So I didn’t even try to keep up my writing, focusing on other things instead.

But in Fall 2016, when I was in Galway, Ireland as an exchange student, I decided to give NaNoWriMo one more try. I had gotten an idea from one of the drivers of the tourist buses, telling a legend of a curse that one of the Irish soccer teams has on them, and because of which they haven’t won a single championship in fifty years. So that November I wrote 1,667 words every day, finishing both the contest and the story on November 30th with 50,291 words.

It felt great, it felt as if I had really accomplished something. But I also felt deflated and didn’t have the energy to start writing anything more regularly. After writing a full-length novel it felt as if I had given everything I had, and didn’t find the energy, motivation or even ideas to write more.

That led to another break in writing for more than a year.

A Fresh Start

In February this year, I was feeling extremely frustrated at my life. I had the feeling I wasn’t doing what I wanted to do with my life. Instead, I was doing something that didn’t have any value to me, only forcing myself to do it day after day. I was a painful partner to have, I knew that, with all the negativity and complaining and frustration that I was dealing with.

But then my partner suggested to me that I would sit down every day and write for half an hour, thirty minutes. No more, no less. It could be anything – writing fiction, fact or a diary. I decided to give it a go and realized soon that this was one of the most fulfilling things I had done in a long while. I felt joyous satisfaction for using my imagination and twisting words into sentences that created sentences with a meaning.

I began by writing diary-like texts about my life but after a few weeks I changed my direction to fiction and started writing a full-length novel about an idea I had been thinking about for the past month.

This time fictional writing gave me the kind of pleasure I hadn’t experienced in a long time. There was no time-pressure, simply the requirement of writing thirty minutes five times a week. Sometimes I wrote 500 words, sometimes up to 900, depending on the day. And I kept on doing that for almost six months.

After I quit my job, that is a month ago, I’ve been able to dedicate to my writing more time than before. And that’s on the way I’m now – writing two blog posts and a short story in a week plus working on my book. And let me tell you, it feels good to dedicate this much time to something I really love to do.

Becoming A Published Author

I wanted to become an author when I was only nine years old. But for the past 12 years I’ve had trouble believing that I could actually become one and have therefore been searching for other career alternatives. I’ve tried working in a café, as a communicator for an organization and as a newspaper and radio journalist – always thinking this is what I want to do, only to find out that this isn’t fulfilling, I don’t want to do this for the rest of my life.

Now I’m trying to re-establish my belief in becoming a published author. It’s not the easiest thing to believe in but nothing gives me as much fulfillment as this kind of writing does – and that makes me think that there’s something in here, something worth working for.

On Thursday I’ll talk about becoming an author – or how one can become one. At least according to a published author I talked with. See you then!