On Writing Own Voices, and the Trajectory of My Future Storytelling

Lately, I’ve thought a lot about my writing, and where I want it to go. For years, I’ve toiled with different manuscripts, never being satisfied with how they turned out, so I trashed them, or filed them away to be perused in the future. At the time of writing this, I’ve come to realize that perhaps there’s a reason those past ones did not work out, and perhaps it’s time to leave those ideas behind for the writing I plan to do in the future.

For those who have been writing Own Voices works, they already know what I have discovered, which is that it is no walk in the park. Given that I became aware of who I am only in the last couple of years, I never had the chance to do right by myself and write about being me before, because until recently, I was not entirely sure who that was. Now that I am though, the works that I once held so dear mean little to me, and I find myself wanting to start fresh so that I can write characters that reflect who I am, as well as others who are not like me, but deserve to be at the forefront of stories, rather than left out or shoved to the back of countless narratives, as they have been before.

In the past few weeks, as I written during NaNoWriMo, I’ve contemplated what I want to write more than I ever have. I’ve come to the conclusion that perhaps even though I once loved writing fantasy, that maybe I don’t anymore? I have a hard time with change, so even thinking of this inwardly was shocking. However, as I sit down to write or read, I not ice what sort of works I gravitate towards now – romance and contemporary.

Does this mean I will cease to enjoy reading fantasy, or writing it occasionally? No, not at all. It’s simply that as I’ve grown older, I enjoy reading books that can tell a story without the added allegorical trappings, with a nice love story to boot. I still love fantasy, and will continue to write it as fanfiction. However, at this point, when all else falls away, I look forward to writing about love, and current social commentary in a setting that does not require creating fantastical creatures or menacing antagonists that may or may be derivatives of Sauron from Lord of the Rings, or one of that series’ contemporaries.

If you write or read, over the years, how have your tastes changed? Let’s talk in the comments!

Until next time,

T.J.

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On The Come Up: A Book Review

After the release of a fantastic debut with The Hate U Give, Angie Thomas continues to astound in the form of her latest novel, On The Come Up, in which Brianna Jackson, or Bri, is a 16-year-old girl who desires to become a famous rapper, like her father should have been before he died. She has the skills and the drive, but when people continue to misjudge her, issues arise which could make or break not only her career but her family as well. Throughout the novel, she questions what she will and will not do to make it because breaking is not an option.

No story can function without characters, and this one is no different of course. The main character of this novel was outspoken, and witty, which I loved. Bri did not allow life to happen to her. Instead, she made her life happen, for better or for worse. Unlike Starr, no one could mistake her for a wallflower, that is for sure. Her character was a delight, and her voice leaped off of the page. As for the other characters, I loved each one for what they brought to the table. Whether it be her family or friends, each person that surrounded Bri only added more depth to this novel.

The plot was intricate in that it weaved multiple layers together throughout, with each plot line that was tied in only strengthening the narrative. From representation of a recovering drug addict, to issues that I have only read about, such as gang violence, systematic poverty, and police brutality, Thomas has written another novel that addresses each of these, without sacrificing the main plot, which is Bri’s own narrative. Like the main character though, these are part of real people’s lives, and it’s great to see them spoken of in young adult novels like these, rather than glossed over as past ones have done.

Though it treads in its predecessor’s footsteps, Bri’s story is by no means a sideshow. Thomas’ sophomore novel is a book filled with hard truths, lessons learned, as well as lines that could make anyone laugh out loud. After completing it, I could not help but wonder when her next book would release, because this author has become one of my absolute favorites.

I rated this book a 5/5 stars on Goodreads.

Disclaimer: I read this book of my own accord, and was in no way compensated for this review. All thoughts are my own.

Friday Fast Five: Why I Believe Writing Fanfiction Is Beneficial To Writers of All Genres

Thinking back, I can’t remember whether I’ve mentioned it or not, but here it is – I am a staunch advocate for fanfiction. In fact, I still write it now, despite the fact that I am also working on my own original stories. In the time that I have been involved with fandom, the attitudes toward this particular genre have shifted, for the better, I would like to think. Still, if you had told my fourteen year old self, who had just begun their fanfiction writing career, that they would publicly admit that in a blog with their name attached, they would have thought you were crazy. With that being said, while I do have a number of posts that will eventually go up later this year on the topic of fanfiction itself, today I’d like to focus on the actual mechanics of writing it, and why I believe it is overall a help, rather than a hindrance to writers of all skill levels.

I come to write this post with the knowledge that I carry from having written fanfiction for over 11 years. In that time, I have roughly written at least 500,000 words, if not more. Given the sheer amount of words I have written, it would be hard not to learn a thing or two, no? In that same vein, if I were to look back and compare my first work of fanfiction against the most recently posted, I can visibly see how I have improved as a writer. I, of course, still have a long way to go. I am well aware. Every single day, I work to write better than the last. There are some who will argue that being a published author of a novel is the only way to carry any weight as a “proper” writer, but I disagree, wholeheartedly. To have strung words together, and evoke emotion in another, is to be a writer. This is not to say that I am some guru, or a person having acquired a large amount of knowledge. More so, I simply acknowledge that I have learnt enough that I can safely speak about why I believe fanfiction is beneficial to someone who is considering writing original fiction outside of fanfiction.

Now that we’ve established that, I would like to say that like with all writing advice, that mine should be taken with a grain of salt. I just have opinions, and like anyone else with some sort of platform, I state them. Not all advice works for every single person, but it can be beneficial to others. In this post, I will be pro-fanfiction. I am aware, as with everything else, that it has its own issues, too. However, for me that doesn’t detract from what one has to gain from writing and interacting with it.

Okay. We’ve gotten this far, and if you’re still with me, despite my wordy paragraphs above, then I thank you. Below, you will find a list of why I believe writing fanfic is beneficial.

  1. From writing fanfiction, I have learned how to take constructive, and even hurtful criticism. Likewise, I have learned to air my frustrations about the latter in private venues, rather than public ones. Publishing a book is like bearing a piece of your soul, from what I hear, quite like how it feels to press publish on something you’ve toiled over for hours, and possibly even weeks, months or years. Unlike with publishing a book though, the setting for giving feedback is more intimate, and you directly handle whatever you’ve been dealt, be it good or bad. That causes a writer to grow a thicker skin, and to learn that not every one can or will like your work.
  2. Writing fanfiction has taught me to dissect every choice that writers have made before me for strengths and flaws. Thinking critically about the original source material is integral to writing fanfiction. Not only do you have to hop inside the characters’ heads, but also be able to deduce where the writer erred or exceled, and how you can expand upon that in ways that does not take the realism of the world and or characters you are borrowing away from potential readers.
  3. Because I write fanfiction, I have learned how to research and be patient on a project that I would otherwise have sped through creating before. Last year, at some point, I discovered a post on Tumblr where countless fanfiction writers were discussing obscure knowledge they now held, because they had to research for their fics. Before I found that, I had no idea how universal of an experience that was. Furthermore, there have been countless times in which I wanted to plow through a story, only to realize I needed more information than what I had. Though this might seem mundane to mention, I do have a reason for it – a lot of writers have been guilty of skimping on research, when they should have spent more time exercising their ability to do so. Research makes a story stronger when used well, but without it, there will be plot holes and less believable scenes.
  4. From writing fanfiction, I learned how to market and advocate for my writing. As I prepare to work towards publishing original works, I have watched different videos and read a number of articles on the topic. In them, similar advice is employed and mirrors what I, and other fanfiction writers, do for our own work, such as cross posting to multiple sites, and when given the space, discussing with those who might be interested in reading. Of course, marketing in the world of book publishing will not be the same, but the advice is similar and does ring true in both areas.
  5. I learned how to finish novel length projects. The writing process will look different for each person. Regardless, if you have the desire to be published, then you have to first write your work. New writers find this inherently difficult because it is a bear to tackle, especially when you’re not sure what angle is best for you to come at it from. Writing, regardless of project length, it an act of perseverance. If a person cannot persevere, then nothing they write will ever be complete.

Well, there you have it. I could list a few more, because fanfiction has taught me a decent amount, but these are the few I chose to give a spotlight to because as I write my original drafts, I realize how important these lessons were. They have strengthened my skills as a writer and allowed for me to advance as I continue to learn about this craft that I love.

What do you think? Do you write fanfiction? Did I leave any out? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Until next time,

T.J.

The Poet X: A Book Review

I stalled breathing at the close of a book that made use of beautiful and vivid prose; this was my reaction to The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo. This novel, which is written in verse, is an empowering work that reminds us all we have the power to speak up for who we are, even in the face of adversity.

Xiomara Batista, also known as the Poet X, is a sophomore in high school who crafts poems to escape the rigid life that is being the daughter of a devout Catholic mother, who expects more than she is willing to give. Her writing is her escape from her life and a place where she finds her own voice. Throughout the book, we watch as Xiomara changes from passively floating along, to taking charge of her life when she can no longer take what it has become.

For anyone who has toxic family members or parents, or a difficult relationship with their relatives, this book may hit quite close to home. I personally connected with Xiomara as she too had a tense, and at times tenuous relationship with her mother. The representation that remains at the forefront though, I am not, so I will not comment on that. However, even so, that matters little as a well written book transcends identities, and allows us to view that which we might not else be privy a window into were it not for novels such as these.

From beginning to end, I was compelled to complete this story as I became encompassed with raw emotion. Even as I came to the close, I felt that this novel is better left as a bit of mystery, and something that each reader should experience for themselves.

Trigger warnings: Abuse

I rated this 4/5 stars on Goodreads.

Disclaimer: I read this book of my own accord, and was in no way compensated for this review. All thoughts are my own.

On My Unintended Hiatus, Health Status, & More

Contrary to what I said last week, I did not have as many posts queued up as I initially thought. I have many drafts that I need to finish, but given the status of where I’ve been mentally and physically, it was not possible to do so for this past week. Normally, I don’t speak up much about my personal life on this blog much outside of what fits the LGBTQIA+ themed posts, but I figure now might be a good time to explain at least part of the reason this past month and this past first quarter of the year exhausted me so thoroughly.

Health-wise, over the past few weeks, I came down with the flu. I’m not often sick, so when I am, the illnesses I do contract have me down and out for longer than most, it seems. This is merely an observation of my own, not an absolute fact. Secondly, I have seizures. It’s something I’ve dealt with for years now, but over the course of the past year, particularly since the beginning of this year, they have become more frequent than ever.

The seizures I have come in varying degrees and they leave me exhausted to the point my body overcompensates for sleep afterwards. Even with the “normal” amount of sleep an adult should have, sometimes that isn’t enough. There are periods after where I have to exceed that by a great deal to recover. Then there’s the other aftermath symptoms that come along with recovering, such as the inability to concentrate, amongst others. That one is particularly frustrating and overwhelming, especially when all I want to do is write or work on my school work.

That being said, I am working with health professionals to be diagnosed, get on medication, and I’m taking all of the proper precautions, etc. I even bought a bracelet which has SEIZURES emblazoned across the bright red band. Even so, it’s hard some days, to say the least.

Even though all of this has been going on, I’ve still managed to do more school work after copious amounts of sleep and mental rest. I’ve also finished a book. Just one from my 15 count long TBR for April. At this point, I don’t see that being finished, given all that I’ve got going on. As for Camp NaNoWriMo, I’m not where I want to be, but I’ve written a decent amount. Depending on how these last two weeks of April go, I may be able to finish my 30,000 word goal. All in all, I’m just winging it and hoping for the best.

As for this blog, if I don’t post on the days I normally do, it’s not for lack of trying. I am doing all that I can to be on a normal schedule. I’d like to say there won’t be any more gaps, but I’m not a seer. All I can do is do the best with what I’ve been given, and hope it’s enough.

I hope everyone’s April is going well!

Until next time,

T.J.


Friday Fast Five: Author Tube Edition

Hi everyone!

This week I’m introducing a new type of post to my blog – Friday Fast Five. The set up is pretty simple – a list of five items, people, etc. pertaining to writing and the topic mentioned in the title.

With that being said, I’d like to direct your attention to the list below.

  1. Jenna Moreci
  2. Elliot Brooks
  3. Francina Simone
  4. Hannah Lee Kidder
  5. Alexa Donne

In no particular order, you have found my top five favorite AuthorTubers, or authors with their own channels on YouTube. Each channel is chock full of writing and publishing advice, if you’re in the market for any of that, as well as some good laughs, if you need those too. I cannot recommend each highly enough.

If you have a favorite AuthorTuber, please drop a link to their channel in the comments below, if you’d like. Self promo is okay too! I’m always looking for new writing channels to watch.

Until next time,

T.J.

To Live In A Moment

To Live In A Moment

At some point in the future, I hope that all of my labor will bear fruits from the seeds that I have sewn. That is what all of us creative types, parents, or people striving for more desire, right? While that time is what I aspire to, even now I find relevance in the present that I am living.

The light filtering through the window, then splashing across the room that I work in, which illuminates the pages I have filled within my spirals, or the exuberant laughter of a small child often accompanied with requests for a story or a jaunt through the woods, remind me that while one day I do hope to have been published many times over, as that is my ultimate goal, I also have other objectives outside of writing. So for now, I will enjoy the mediocrity that is being unknown, for this time and my daughter’s younger years, are only here for so long.

I do not have a fancy desk, but a small functional one, where I can be found at various times throughout any given day, typing away with a fervent flame of desire that courses through me to tell the stories that are woven into the fabric of my soul. I do not have high end devices, but a laptop that has served me well in the time that I have had it. Scattered notes are written throughout multiple notebooks, and someday I may have them readily available in the way that I have witnessed professional authors do. Right now though, I am reveling in my amateur status, because one day I hope to have the privilege of thinking back on it fondly, with the knowledge that the best is yet to come.