Saturday, May 31, 2014

Five Things On A Saturday

  1. Blogging- I feel like I haven't written a real update in awhile since I have been so busy and focused on the 30 Week Writing Survey.  I will be starting a day job next week, so I won't have much time devote to blogging.  I am a few weeks ahead on the 30 Week Writing Survey series, and I have figured out how to schedule posts.  This whole blogging thing has been a self taught experience. Instead of whining and crying about not knowing how to do something and not having help here in Blogger or anywhere else for that matter, I just take a deep breathe, and figure it out myself. I like blogging, but now I need to learn how to balance it with everything else.  So if posts are scarce, yon  know why.
  2. Pop Culture News-  As of yesterday, it seems that the biggest news on social media was country singer Luke Bryan falling off stage at a concert in Charlotte, North Carolina.  Last I heard, he had to have stitches.  It could have been worse, you know.  In other news,I don't know if this is rumor or not, but I also heard on social media that The Arsenio Hall Show has been canceled after one season.  Seriously?  This is very sad because I have been enjoying the comeback.  When the show originally aired back in the late 80's and early 90's, my parents use to let me stay up and watch it if school was out.  I was thrilled when I heard about the comeback in September.  I thought the show was doing well, but I guess it's not.  Maybe it wasn't getting enough support.  I think that someone should fight to keep it on air.  For instance, when The Game was canceled in 2009, someone started a Facebook campaign to get them back on the air in 2011.  I didn't usually watch late night comics, but Arsenio is the one person I would stay up and watch.
  3. Hitting the Road- Last weekend, I went to Atlanta to attend my cousin's graduation party.  Later that evening, we went to the mall.  I was reminded why I don't go to the mall that often.  After visiting Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus, I was discouraged from looking at the prices in any other stores. Who is going to pay $85 for a dress, or $99 for a pair of jeans? Not me.  I would have been happier to browse a bookstore.
  4. Odds and Ends- I have been spending the week doing things that have been on my to do list.  I wrote a letter this morning, I have been trying to figure out why my printer won't print, and pick out pants that are suitable for work next week.  I also needed to organize my shoes.  I have a lot of them.
  5. Writing-  I have been thinking about writing lately, but other than the blog, I have not done a lot of it. Last Sunday, I started a story based on a prompt I found.  I am thinking about starting another short story collection.  We will see what happens.  Also, I haven't done any freelancing lately.  Partly, because I haven't had any work from Knoji.  I have been thinking about writing for Yahoo Voices again. I don't earn a lot from them, but they are stable.  As I have mentioned in a previous post, content sites like Helium and Suite 101 no longer exists. I have a feeling that Knoji is headed in that direction.  I have been searching for higher paying sites, but I have came up empty. So, if you know of any good places to write for, leave a comment here.  

Sunday, May 25, 2014

30 Week Writing Survey: Week 11-Who is your favorite character to write? Least favorite?

At this point in my writing, I find it easier to write characters who are young adults.  I find it harder to write characters who are older and married.  Why?  I'm single and never been married, so I am clueless when it comes to marriage. My knowledge of marriage is limited to my parents, what I read, and what I see.  The entertainment world is not always the best source for information.

I can remember what it is like to be the awkward person at school, what it is like to not have real friends, and other adventures or misadventures of high school.  (Although, some of those memories are fading).  Now, I feel confident enough to write about being a 20 something who struggles to find work after college, or find their place in life.  I can talk about what it feels like when friends, associates, and even family members get married before you, and you are left wondering, will anyone ever be interested in me, will I ever get married, or turn into a spinster?  (Now there's a word that I don't hear too often).  Experiencing different stages in life helps me to write certain characters in a way that is realistic.

30 Week Writing Survey: Week 10-What are some really weird situations your characters have been in? Everything from serious canon scenes to meme questions counts!

Sadly, I can't think of a weird situation that my characters.  However, I can think of some awkward situations my character has been in.

In one of my drafts of my unfinished abandoned novel, I had a character who had a co-worker who constantly asked her out.  She tells him no, but he doesn't take the rejection well and persistently asks her out. Once morning before going to work, she gets really nervous to the point of getting sick especially when she hears a city bus riding down the road.  Why the bus? Because the young man who asks the main character out uses public transportation as his main mode of getting around town.
Another example of a weird or "awkward" situation is when a young woman in her early 30's is asked to lose weight in order to keep her job.  This scenario can be considered controversial. She's not in the entertainment business, so some readers might ask, what's the big deal?  

My character works at a doctor's office, for a CEO who wants all of the staff members to be healthy and in shape, and promote a healthy lifestyle; because after all, the organization promotes healthy living.  I am still working on this story and will need to flush out some details.  For now, my main character is staring at herself in the mirror reflecting on her years battling with her weight, forcing herself to face the truth about herself. She has to decide to lose weight and live healthier or just be content and miss out on opportunities.  

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Interview

Last Friday I had an interview.  Interviews make me anxious. I worry that I may say the wrong things.  I always try to prepare ahead of time by learning a few facts about the company, preparing the "right answers" to interview questions, and that I am dressed appropriately.

I have only been on a few interviews-one or two a year. I'm not kidding.  After a number of rejections and literally sent out over a thousand resumes and applications.  I wish I could make this stuff up.

I haven't had a regular paying day job in two years,  It was a temporary job for eight weeks in 2012.  I have listed self employment on my resume to fill in the gaps.  I am often asked, if you are self employed, why do you want a job?  My simple answer is always because I don't make enough to fully support myself.

Regular readers know that I have written here about the ups and downs I have been having at Knoji.  I have came to a decision about that site.  There have been no assignments since March.  The site continues to have glitches and they do not pay us writers on time. I have decided that if things do not improve within six months-by the end of the year, I am done with the site for good.  They started paying $50 per project, but advantage comes with a disadvantage-lack of assignments.  There seem to be more work when they paid us $4-$10 per assignment.

I feel like I have failed at this whole self employed freelance writer concept.  I discovered that Suite101 no longer exists, and Helium is shutting down by the end of the year.  This shows that content mills and publications come and go and I can't depend on them forever.

So, it's time for me to get a real job.  When I arrived for the interview, I noticed that things were slight differences. First, I was handed a large envelope with forms to fill out.  Later on, I was told that I got the job before I left.  I am use to hearing: we will call you, we will call you next week, and so on and so on.  A week later, I get a nice polite email which starts with we regret to inform you.

Was I dreaming? Will someone throw something at me?  It is a temp to perm position which has high potential of becoming permanent.  The last temp person they hired turned down a long term job with the company that I will be working for. I could draw all sorts of conclusions about the person. But to be fair, he probably decided that the job wasn't right for him.

The job will be full time. Therefore, blog posts will be scarce.  I am trying to write ahead on the 30 Week Writing Survey.  I will update when I can.

Until next time...

30 Week Writing Survey: Week 9- How do you get ideas for your characters? Describe the process of creating them.

How do I come up with ideas for my characters or stories?  My ideas are snippets of real life situations including my own.  Other ideas come from things I see on TV, books, etc.  For instance my short story, Big Brother, Little Sister was based on a segment on Reading Rainbow.  I couldn't think of a story to write for my first writing assignment for a writing course.  I had to write a story based on a selection of pictures.  One of the pictures featured teddy bears.  So, I was watching Reading Rainbow, and there was a little boy who felt left out because his new baby sister was getting all of the attention; and that's how the story came about.

When I am out and about, I try to observe and look for ideas that I can work with later.  I probably should have an ideas notebook with me to write down these observations, because I don't always remember them.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

30 Week Writing Survey: Week 8-What is your favorite genre to write? To read?

I couldn't wait to write this post.  My favorite genre to write is fiction.  Since I have been writing for the web, I am more focused on non fiction.  I like to write fiction because I can make things up, I can make up a whole new world if I wanted to, and just be creative.

Right now, I need to rebuild my confidence in my fiction writing. I believe that my fiction has suffered because I have been so focused on writing web articles, consumer reports, product reviews, and blog posts.
My favorite genre to read is YA fiction.  If you don't believe me, you can check out my YA list on my Goodreads page, and I have an entire blog devoted to young adult book reviews called, YA Books Etc. In addition, my personal library is primarily young adult novels.  So, enough said.  Sometimes, I feel a bit self conscience about browsing the YA/Teen section at bookstores, because I am a 30 something year old grown woman still reading young adult fiction.  I have discovered that their are many adults out there who shamelessly read YA fiction.  So I have nothing to be ashamed of.

I have been trying to broaden my reading tastes.  I enjoy reading historical fiction, biographies, and general fiction (stories about people my own age and older).  When I was growing up, I use to check out books from the library about different countries so that I could learn more about their cultures.

30 Week Writing Survey: Week 7-Do you listen to music while you write? What kind? Are there any songs you like to relate/apply to your characters?

I usually don't listen to music while I write because I am easily distracted.  However, there have been a few times when I have played music while working. For instance, I have worked on product reviews while listening to music.  Since I was just looking up facts about the company and their products and services, listening to music didn't interrupt my productivity.  I will leave the music off if I am doing heavy writing-organizing my thoughts, rearranging sentences, and editing.

These days, I try to listen to different types of music.  I have a mix of R&B, Pop, Dance, KPop, and other random songs from different genres downloaded on my computer.  Sometimes, I will listen to iTunes Radio. Right now, I typically listen to the 80's Dance Party station or 80's R&B Soul Radio.  Lately, I have been trying out the alternative station.  I keep the volume on a low level so it doesn't distract me from working.

When writing fiction, I often think of songs that may fit the character and or a particular scene in a story.  For instance, a particular unfinished project, I think that some of Adele's songs would be fitting for my main character because of the heartache she experiences.

Some of my favorite authors like Susane Colasanti and Sarah Dessen have put together playlists for their books.  I think that this is really cool.  When I read books by other authors I often think, if this book had a soundtrack, what would be on it?  As I read, I would think of songs that would be on that soundtrack.

What would be on your book playlist?

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

30 Week Writing Survey: Week 6-Where are you most comfortable writing? At what time of day? Computer or good ol' pen and paper?

Where are you most comfortable writing? At what time of day? Computer or good ol' pen and paper?

The easiest way to answer this question is to break it down by categories.  

Pen/pencil and Paper vs. Computer

I use both methods depending on the situation.  When I was growing up and before I owned a computer, I wrote longhand.  I can remember sitting at my desk in my room writing stories out by hand. Unfortunately, I don't have those stories to see how much my writing has changed.

I also used pen and paper when writing rough drafts for research papers and essays in school. This method was helpful because I had my thoughts together once I was sitting in front of the computer screen.  Pen and paper has it downsides too.  Sometimes I may not recognize my own handwriting.  

There are times when I do need to write by hand. I can get easily distracted by the computer. If I get stuck on something, I might stare at the screen.  If I get tired of looking about my blinking cursor in my MS Word document, I would go check my email to find junk and advertisements, wonder what's going on social media, shop for books, wonder around Goodreads, and Google random stuff. I also like to see if my favorite blogs have been updated.  I know it's sad.  I went through a period were I would play games online.  I'm not a gamer, but these games were time consuming and I wasn't getting anything done.  I felt so unproductive. Finally, I got bored with those games and quit playing.

Now days, I don't draft by hand as much.  I usually write my blog posts on the computer within Blogger's template.  I can save it as a draft and make necessary changes until it is ready to go live.  When writing product reviews and consumer reports for Knoji, I usually write my rough draft in MS Word.  Once I am finished with the rough draft, I will copy and paste it into Knoji's template, make necessary changes and submit it to editors.

What time of day?

Wow, what time of day?  I have a hard time writing in the morning.  I can type up a blog post or an email. However, I struggle with performing serious writing tasks before noon, unless I have a deadline.  The morning time is when I am doing other activities and chores like laundry, cleaning, washing overnight dishes, etc. (They just keep piling up).  I can really get going and cover a lot of ground in the afternoon.  There have been times when I have written product reviews, web articles, and consumer reports at night with the TV going in the background.   (Sometimes I need background noise if things get too quiet for me).  

Where am I most comfortable writing?

The one thing I love about the convenience and flexibility of a laptop is that I can sit anywhere and I don't have to sit in one spot.  When I typed on my desktop, I would get tired and my back would hurt, partly because of the chair I was sitting in.  Sometimes, I write sitting on my bed.  If my back hurts I can lean back on a pillow.  Two years ago, I got a new desk and got rid of the non working desktop.  I have plenty of room to work at the desk.  I started using the desk more.  When I do write at the desk, it means that I am getting down to business.  Working at the desk says that some serious writing in going on and makes me feel more productive.  

I don't get many opportunities to pack up my laptop and work at a cafe or library. I have worked at the library before and it was really nice and quiet except for the people blasting music through their headphones on the computers.  I try to find a quiet place to write, grab some coffee from the cafe downstairs, and get to work.

Monday, May 12, 2014

30 Week Writing Survey Week 5: By age, who is your youngest character? Oldest? How about “youngest” and “oldest” in terms of when you created them?

By age, who is your youngest character? Oldest? How about “youngest” and “oldest” in terms of when you created them?

The easiest way to answer this question is answer each part one at a time.  My youngest character is a five year bear named Teddy in Big Brother, Little Sister.  As far as my oldest character in terms of exact age was a 22 year girl that was featured as a main character in an unfinished novel.  In my past stories, I had older characters but I didn't assign them an age.  For instance, I have a few characters that can be considered 30 and over in my short story collection: The Stories We Tell When Drinking Coffee: A Collection of Short Stories and Flash Fiction.  

Sunday, May 4, 2014

30 Week Writing Survey- Week 4: Tell us about one of your first stories/characters!

My first story? That's a tough one and I didn't keep any of them. However, I have memories of stories through the years.

I can remember sitting in front of the TV or in my room drawing pictures and writing stories for them. I use to call them "books."  I remember taking one of them to school to show my teachers and they looked at it and read it. However, I don't remember their reaction afterwards.

As I got older, I would write stories at my little desk in my room. I wrote them long hand because I didn't know how to type and we didn't own a computer.  (Y'all, this was the 90's before EVERYBODY purchased a computer and got on the AOL bandwagon). This was an old typewriter in the closet, but I had no clue how to use it.

In the third grade, I wrote a story about a male substitute teacher named Martin.  In the fifth grade, I wrote a story for a statewide writing contest about a girl who attends a celebrity party. There were a lot celebrities at the party who were popular back in 1994-1995.  I didn't win the contest and I got a note on my paper which said, "I don't get it."  I vaguely remember that story, so the judges were probably right.

I continued to write stories here and there.  In the eighth grade, I entered a similar statewide contest. This time it was an essay on my dream trip to California.  I was a bit obsessed with wanting to visit California. Partly because a lot of movies and TV shows take place there, characters from books live or visit there, and Dawn from The Baby Sitters Club moved from there and moved back in the spin off series, The California Diaries.

Honestly, I didn't expect to win, but my essay was one of the winning essays  I received my award at the award ceremony.  I didn't write many stories in high school, partly because I was too busy with school work and writing in my journal.

After graduation, I had this idea that I would write a book.  I decided to write a story called Juliana in Love. It was about a black girl named Juliana who falls in love with a white guy named Josh.  I had never dated and been in any sort of relationship.  All I knew was what was in my imagination, how interracial relationships were played out on TV and movies, and the bits and pieces I got from real life.  I soon abandoned the story because I hit a dead end.  I didn't want their relationship to seem far fetched, unrealistic, or destined for doom.  In other words, I didn't feel confident enough to write such a controversial story and I didn't want to write a stereotypical story.

For the past nine years, I have been attempting to write a novel about a girl who is visually impaired who has to drop out of college and decides to go away to a job training program. While she's there she falls in love with a guy who is also visually impaired. Problem is, no one approves of him.  He is older and more experienced and she is younger and not experienced and green-VERY GREEN.

I have attempted this novel several times, but abandon it every time. I have received mixed reactions to this story. On one hand, I had read it in front of a writing group, and they said they loved it and it was different because it is something you don't see everyday. On the other hand, I have gotten who's going to read it, aint nobody got time for that, and so forth.

There are not many books out there with physically challenged characters. The last time I attempted this novel back in 2010, I was determined to be different. I was (and still am) sick and tired of seeing so many vampire stories on bookshelves.  I think that it is time for something different.

In this situation, you have to be really careful about how you want your character to be viewed. What do you want your readers to take away from the story once it's done?  I don't want to write fluff because there is plenty of it on bookshelves and the Internet.