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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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.

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.

I’ve Got My Outline, So Now What?

I’ve Got My Outline, So Now What?

The end of the first quarter of the year is approaching with haste, even though it feels like only yesterday we were putting the finishing touches on our resolutions for the year. My, how time does fly. So far this year, with writing at least, I’ve fared well. Between this blog and my other projects, I’ve accomplished a fair amount. As far as my novel goes, my outline is complete, and the first Camp NaNoWriMo session is just around the corner with only a few weeks away.

With the outline in hand, I’ve been researching in preparation to dive deep into the heads of the characters I plan to portray. For this novel and series in particular, I am not writing Own Voice, which is intimidating. There will be Own Voice rep in it, but it will not exclusively come from the main character, who is a far cry from who I am. Still, I adore this MC, as well as every other single one in this series, and so I plan to do right by each one of them.

Within the next few weeks, I will be inhaling more novels, information, and hopefully some rest, as I continue to plan for Camp NaNoWriMo. At this point, I would like to hit 50K if possible, or write until the manuscript is complete. Whether or not my time or life will allow that, will be better determined throughout the course of April. The minimum goal I plan to set is 30K though. I’d like to write at least 1K a day, and then if I need to, complete the manuscript in May. As of right now, that is where I’m at in the writing process of what will hopefully be my debut novel.

With that being said, throughout the course of April, some Friday writing posts will include updates on my progress throughout Camp NaNo, what I’m learning from it, etc.

So, that’s about it for today. This post is a bit more informal than what I normally write, but NaNoWriMo is just that, so I figured I’d follow suit.

If you’re reading this, are you participating in Camp NaNo? Have you heard of it? Let me know down below in the comments if you like. Thank you for reading!

Until next time,

T.J.

Seattle & Stiefvater Seminar: A Recap & Travel Blog

Seattle & Stiefvater Seminar: A Recap & Travel Blog

A few months back, I stumbled upon an advert for Portraits & Dreams. I’ve never attended a writing seminar before, but I’m a writer. So, after reading about the class, I figured, well, what the hell. Why not? Following an early birthday gift in the form of a purchased ticket to the event from my spouse, I was then set to embark to the Emerald City for a class on writing by Maggie Stiefvater.

The day came on a windy Saturday when everything seemed to be against my attending. At least, that’s how it seemed from my perspective at the time. Looking back, there were a set of unfortunate circumstances that could have prevented me from attending, but thankfully, I persevered with the support of my loving husband.

After a dramatic morning of Uber screw-ups, and frustrated cursing, I left with a driver who could bring me to my first destination of the day – the ferry terminal. There, I munched on an apple tart and savored my coffee in a local shop as I attempted to swallow the memory of the morning from my conscious thought.

(Not the best picture I’ve taken, I know. Food and beverage made at Fraiche Cup.)

As one does when utilizing public transportation, I then sat and waited anxiously for the ferry to Seattle. The thrum of various energies surrounding me was both exhilarating and a bit nerve-wracking, but there was cascading sunlight and the promise of a wonderful day in the city. With that in mind, I queued in line when called, and then stepped onto the boat which would bring me closer to my destination.

As we boarded, clouds began to roll in and wind became sharper. It was gorgeous still, but a reminder that nature is not to be stopped by the wishes of humans. It does its will, whether we like it or not. Even so, I snapped a few pictures before I took cover in another viewing area on the upper deck.

One of the first pictures I captured while walking onto the ferry.
Closer to our destination, when the clouds and winds became more prevalent.

The boat rocked and swayed with the water, as it moved at the whims of the wind. Otherwise, it was a beautiful hour-long boat ride, which I quite enjoyed immensely.

About 30 minutes or so in, we had a decent view of the journey’s end. However, pictures were not possible until we were within minutes of docking.

Hello, Seattle!

Right after this pic was snapped, it began to drizzle. Still, the precipitation did not douse my parade of excitement. I had made it this far, right? I couldn’t give up now.

Then, we were docking.

Flurries of feet stamped and pressed against the floor as we each tread towards our separate destinations. The venue where I needed to go was not far from the ferry terminal, but it was an uphill climb.

After a few more minor mix-ups along with some anxiety, I finally arrived!

To summarize, as this is an experience best left unspoiled, in short, it was fantastic! Stiefvater knew how to teach, as well as work the room. Her upbeat energy, coupled with her down to earth attitude, made this class a joy to attend. I learned a great deal. I cannot wait to apply the knowledge I gained to current and future writing endeavors. Attending this seminar is one of the best choices I’ve made for my writing career so far. To be able to learn while also surrounded by over a hundred others who love the craft as much as I do, well, it’s energizing, to say the least. If there’s anyone out there considering it, then please, do yourself a favor and purchase a ticket to a future event! It truly is worth it.

Following the seminar, I captured this last picture as I found my way to the ferry terminal once more.

Again, not the best picture, but I love visuals.

Until next time, Seattle.

Prioritizing Goals For A Successful Future

In a world of push notifications and near constant immediate gratification, it can become overwhelming, whilst in the midst of the slew of communication that appears at the forefront of our thoughts throughout each day, to remember certain events or facts. This can impact the way we approach our work loads for the year, the month, or even down to the minute. Unless one is determined to prioritize their goals, then they are more likely to be caught up in the endless waves of the all consuming ebb and flow that is life in this current decade.

How then, one might ask, with the hustle and bustle that accompanies the majority of our days, can that be done? To this, I say, there can be a variety of ways, because no two lives or people are exactly the same. Perhaps, for some, that means post it notes placed around their homes, or reminders set in phones. The point is to keep the project, or projects, in the conscious part of thought.

Each one of us have dreams that we fantasize about transitioning into reality. However, without making space for them in our day to day motions, they are most likely to be cast to the side, in favor of procrastination. It’s easy to do when there are other pressing matters in our lives, such as work, school, or family. The case can be made though, that if there is a goal we are adamant to see through to completion, then finding time in a day is crucial to our existences overall, and nothing less.

Uncovering My Truth

I was 14 when it became quite apparent to myself that I was different. Different, in the sense that I lived in a small town, where heteronormativity was abound, and I knew from an early age that I did not fall into that category. It was social suicide to be seen as “other” though, and when I realized I might have been part of that gray area, it didn’t take long for me to become depressed and suicidal. Still, I suppressed my urges, as if they didn’t matter, because lying to myself was what Jesus wanted, right?

I was 16 when I partially admitted aloud to others that I found people with female reproductive parts attractive. It was a new school, and a safer time for the most part; Obama was in office and I was no longer surrounded by so many small town minds. Still, I was anything but sure footed, and I had only scratched the surface of who I had always been. But, hey, progress is progress, right?

I was 19 when I married my spouse, and subsequently became pregnant. I was scared, and ashamed, but for reasons that my brain still refused to consider. It was yet again a time of depression and denial.

I was 21 when I miscarried what would have been my second child. Although a majority of my time after was fraught with depression, I also felt guilt. There was guilt, because what I secretly experienced in the initial aftermath was relief.

I was 23 when I admitted to myself, and then later a few close people, that my gender identity does not match what my genitals have supposedly relayed to society that I am. The dysphoria I felt had reached an all time high, and I could no longer pretend that I am not who I have always been. It took over a year of research and education after this initial admission to become aware that I am non-binary.

I was 24 when I publicly came out to everyone I knew. Well, almost everyone. But, that’s another discussion, for another time. The point is that 99.9% of people I interact with now know that I am gender fluid.

I bet you’re reading this, and wondering why on earth is this important. Who cares? Well, even though you in particular may not, there might be others who will. Mainly those who are looking for themselves in the writings of others like them, because representation matters, and when someone is still searching and speculating, it can be helpful to know that they are not alone.

Now, more than ever, when bigots are determined to squelch our channels of exposure, pretending as if we do not exist, the importance of visibility has mounted even higher. To be able to post this blog and write a glossed over version of the years of struggle that I went through is monumental. I can only hope that for those questioning, and wondering if they’re normal, that it might help one person. Every beacon of light, in the murky storm that is uncertainty, helps. This much, I know from experience. So if I can shed some light for another, then I will gladly take up that torch.

With that being said, going forward, I will be writing not only about writing and the craft itself, but about LGBT+ issues as well. It is something close to my heart, and as previously stated, now more than ever, it is important that #OwnVoices authors have a voice. We must speak up, when we are able. Now, that I am in a place to do so, I shall.