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My Best Writing Advice Part 2: The Three Keys to a Professional Routine

My Best Writing Advice Part 2: The Three Keys to a Professional Routine

Last week I drew out a very long analogy to demonstrate why having a professional writing routine before publication is, in my opinion, one of the most important skills you can develop as an unpublished author. I claimed that, “Having a predictable, productive, and sustainable approach to your writing is just as important as writing well.”

Now, if I’m going to claim that predictability, productivity and sustainability are the three keys of professional writing, I should probably define what I mean by those terms.

Key 1. PREDICTABILITY
I work analogous to a lot of women who, on top of writing, carry the majority of the domestic duties in their home, such as parenting, childcare, cooking meals, keeping house, and supporting their other family members’ careers, hobbies, educations, interests and pursuits. Some of them also have their own full-time or part-time jobs on top of those responsibilities. Because these responsibilities are constant, pressing, and relatively important, it’s easy for writing to get put at the bottom of the stack. When writing time becomes contingent upon these unpredictable factors, it becomes unpredictable itself. There’s no way of knowing when the next writing session will come, how long it will be, or whether or not that time will be interrupted.

Predictable writing time comes from prioritized writing time. I know that’s a tall order. We all come from different families and situations. But remember, I’m comparing the development of a professional writing method to the development of a professional manuscript. It’s okay if it takes just as long to evolve.

Personally, I’ve found my most useful method of predictability is writing at the same time every day. Last year I had to break my writing time into three blocks throughout the day. Other options might include having a designated writing day of the week, a few days every month, or otherwise basing your writing time off of something you know you can count on. Think of it this way: it’s better to make your writing time rely on the position of the sun rather than everything under it. 

Key 2. PRODUCTIVITY
Blocking off time to write is the first step, but actually writing within that predictable period is just as important. Some authors create a quota for themselves, whether its hourly, weekly, or monthly. Some use websites and applications like Write or Die, a terrifying, seat-of-your-pants application that “punishes” you when you don’t write fast enough, or Written Kitten, a much pleasanter website that shows you pictures of kittens as you meet certain benchmarks. Googling “productivity methods for writers” will provide you with plenty of fun and effective ideas. My personal productivity method is a combination of a 600-word daily quota, using the Self Control application, and Victoria Schwab’s “calendar trick” or “sticker method.”

Finding the productivity method that’s right for you can be just as challenging as honing in on a predictable writing time. Be patient with yourself and experiment with different techniques.

Key 3. SUSTAINABILITY
Once you’ve found a predictable, productive writing routine, it’s time to focus on making sure it stays balanced with the rest of your life, and is something that you can maintain over long periods of time. Methods that work during NaNoWriMo, for instance, might wreck your life if you try to apply them every other month of the year. What is more, your definition of sustainability may change — like when your baby who took a nap for two hours every day becomes a toddler who doesn’t like naps at all — in which case, your ability to adapt may become the secret to sustainability. As counter-intuitive as it may seem, learning when to be flexible and when to make exceptions, is a key component to consistency. Rigidity and austerity may carry you for a time, but their uphill-nature is doomed to burnout. Sustainability means working to balance your predictability and productivity, while also nurturing your inner and outer life. Find a method that feeds your soul.

For me, the trick to creating a sustainable writing practice has been not only making my writing predictable and productive, but making my domestic life predictable and productive as well. When I have a time designated to make dinner, for instance, I don’t have to multitask. I don’t carry my entire mental load every hour of every day, I just carry one thing at a time. I know when I’m supposed to be writing and when I’m supposed to be making dinner, so there’s no inner battle about what should be taking precedence at any point in the day.

So, there you have it. A non-professional writer’s definition of a professional writing routine. I suppose only time will tell how effective my three keys are. In the meanwhile, thank you for coming on this journey with me.

~Christine

p.s. Next week, I’ll share the exact schedule I used last year to get six hours of writing time in every day — with two hours to make dinner and limited screen time for my kiddos. It’s kinda magical, so stay tuned.

My Best Writing Advice Part 1: “Riding” Like a Professional

My Best Writing Advice Part 1: “Riding” Like a Professional

Imagine you have a horse, a newborn foal, fresh out of the caul and at first it can’t even stand on four legs. It learns to walk, awkwardly, and you fall in love. Let’s say there’s a parade coming up in a few years with a prize for the best horse, and you believe in your horse and want to get that prize. So you feed your horse and give it water. Sometimes you give it treats — apples and carrots — and it nuzzles you and oh, isn’t everything just wonderful?

It comes time to train the horse, which you thought would be easy, since you and your horse had always gotten along so well, but now it’s bucking and butting and you’re yelling its name like an expletive and you’re yelling its name and expletives, and part of you still loves it, and part of you is starting to hate it, and part of you wonders why you ever thought you could raise a horse and train it. Eventually, though, you and the horse learn to cooperate with each other. You give it more food and water, more apples and carrots, but most of all, you give it sweat and tears, and somehow that results in you loving the horse more than ever.

After what should have been an inspiring four-minute musical montage, but actually ends up being a grueling decade spent mostly in isolation and the somewhat-disturbing throes of obsession, your horse is full-grown, a purebred champion with a shining coat. Tada! You take it to the horse-parade. Your wildest dreams come true, and your horse gets first place. Everyone is so excited about your horse they want it right at the very front of the parade and you are so, so proud. You have arrived.

And then the parade starts.

And you realize something terrible.

You don’t know how to ride a horse.

You, however, are tied to your horse, and now this parade is moving. There’s no stopping the parade and there’s no stopping your horse. There’s no saddle and no stirrups. You can try and get on the horse now, or you can try to keep up. Heaven forbid you lose your footing, or get tired, or burn out and end up dragged along by the horse and trampled by the parade. Morbid? Certainly. And suddenly, this dream-come-true has turned into a complete nightmare.

The horse is your book. The parade is publishing.

Here’s a thought I’ve had a lot lately. It can take years, sometimes decades, for an author to get a book published. I work with a lot of writers, I share their hopes and dreams, and I get a lot of advice from people who have “made it.” Most of that advice has to do with writing a really good book. Everyone is obsessed with writing the most amazing book they possibly can. And almost everything I read and hear about how to do that has to do with writing craftsmanship. How to craft wonderful prose and compelling dialogue and believable characters and worlds and magic systems that work. How to write a synopsis, and a query, and a pitch. The idea, of course, is that if you produce a marvelously-written book, and a marvelously written pitch, you’re going to get published. Your awesome horse is going to be in the big parade. And that seems to be the focus 99.9% of the time. Because what matters more than the sheer awesomeness of your horse?

Well, you. And your ability to ride it.

So. How do you learn to…ride a book? What’s the equivalent here?

You learn to “ride” your book by refining your riding process — I mean, your writing process. Having a predictable, productive, and sustainable approach to your writing is just as important as writing well. Learning to organize yourself, to create a schedule or a quota, is just as crucial to a writing career as the material you produce. Think for a moment about some of your favorite (living) authors. Do they appear to be riding on top of their horse, or does it look like they’re being dragged behind? Because the truth is, you can get a book published without knowing how to keep a deadline, or without knowing how to keep yourself healthy — mentally and physically. Just like you can get a horse in a parade without knowing how to ride it. The difference is going to be whether you’ll be able to enjoy that success, or feel trampled by it.

Consistency and organization are learned skills. They don’t come automatically, at least not to me. People who meet me in my adult life often assume I’m a “Type-A” personality and I’ve always had my ducks in a row, was probably class valedictorian etc. Which is hilarious, because I didn’t walk with my class and barely graduated high school, but that’s another story for another day. The fact is, I’m advocating for a healthy method of writing because I’ve struggled to find a healthy method of writing. And after almost ten years of writing every day, I can finally say I’ve hit my stride. I’ve cracked the code on my own productivity, and, frankly, happiness in my work.

This isn’t an article about putting your “butt in chair, hands on keyboard,” or “writing every day.” It’s about realizing the value of a method that feels as professional and polished as the manuscript you’ve been slaving over. My writing advice? Make your method match your manuscript.

Today, I just wanted to convince you it’s important.

Next week, I’ll break down what makes a method professional — before publication.

And the week after that, I’ll tell you what works for me.

Thanks for coming on this journey with me.
~Christine

 

 

 

 

 

 

What I’m Working On: Autumn 2018

What I’m Working On: Autumn 2018

Hey guys! I know I just did one of these updates last month, but Autumn starts on September 22nd this year, so I’m going to go ahead and give you the fall writing slate. I also wanted to let everyone know that I’m planning a series of blog posts about HOW I get so much writing done, because that seems to be what a lot of you are curious about. I’m excited to share my secrets with you — as soon as I can organize them into neat little posts!

IN DEVELOPMENT:

  • NEW! History 100 Essay
    A historical essay about the scientists who aided in the creation of the atom bomb, and the emotional and psychological effects it had on them when the United States government decided to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Due: October 2018
  • “SETI@home”
    A 1-2k word personal essay about my late grandpa and a nostalgia-driven look at the SETI@home project. SETI stands for “Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence.” It’s the program Jodie Foster was working on in the 1997 movie Contact. The SETI@home project was a small offshoot of SETI, developed in 1999 as a way for everyday people to donate their CPUs, or computer processing cycles, to help process radio signals from space. UPDATE: I’ve completed my interview with Dr. David Anderson (computer programmer) and have an email interview with Dr. Eric Korpela (SETI astronomer) currently ongoing. Goes on submission: September 2019
  • “Space Circus”
    Sci-fi novelette, still in development but I’m shooting for something around 30k words. It was inspired by several classes at Storymakers 2018, especially those taught by Sarah M. EdenDan Wells, and Charlie Holmberg. During the conference I doodled a picture of a girl in a space suit and imagined what her story might be, and I decided she was going to run away and join the space circus. UPDATE: I’ve decided to make this my NaNoWriMo project and will be drafting it this November. Goes on submission: undetermined


DRAFTING PROCESS:

  • NEW!The King Beneath the Mountain”
    A ballad about a king asleep in a mountain, as told by the witch who put him there. It’s a love story. Goes on submission: November 2018
  • Clarion West Application
    Clarion West is a six-week writing workshop taught by six authors and/or editors. My favorite short story author, Amal El-Mohtar, is going to be one of the instructors. Only 18 people get into the program every year. Admission is based on a 30-page writing sample and a personal essay. For my 30 pages, I’m planning on submitting the first three chapters of my Island Book, plus a synopsis. Those have already been drafted and are in the revision process, but I have yet to start on my personal essay. Applications open in December 2018 and close in March of 2019, but I want to give it my best so I’m working on it now. Goes on submission: December 2019
  • “The Island Book”
    Historical fantasy novel about 100k words. This is the first installment in a series of books about two families struggling for control of a fictional island. Magical beings and speculative science get involved. Chaos ensues. UPDATE: I’m on schedule to get the first draft done by May 2019. Goes on submission: July 2021


UNDER REVISION:

  • “Honeybee”
    Sci-fi short story I’d like to be about 5k-7k words. My original draft was 5k, but the premise is kind of far out and so many of my beta readers had so many questions, I decided to let myself wax verbose on the second draft and answer all the questions. This resulted in the story swelling to 9k (almost twice the length of the first draft). I figured I could review how the additional 4k felt and shave it down if needed. Adding more narration and more backstory, as well as changing the starting point, made the whole thing feel like the first chapter to a Young Adult dystopian novel instead of a sci-fi short. It was so far from what I wanted, I considered shelving the whole project. But I talked to my critique partner Kris, and she helped me create a vision for draft number three, where I could refocus and hone in on the story I most wanted to tell. So that’s what I’m currently doing. UPDATE: On schedule! Undergoing copy-edits. Goes on submission: September 2018
  • “Submarine”
    Sci-fi/fantasy short story around 10k words. When looking for ideas, I often begin with my resources. My husband and brother-in-law both worked on submarines for three years, and I simply couldn’t pass up the spec fic opportunities. The story deals with the ethics of nuclear war, toxic masculinity in the military, and mermaids. After writing a complete draft of this story I’ve decided to go in an entirely different direction with the style. So…I’m rewriting the whole thing. Goes on submission: February 2019


ON SUBMISSION:

  • “ALIENS!”
    Sci-fi short story about 5k words. This project was inspired by my years in Japan, one very interesting SCUBA instructor, and memories of my grandpa introducing me to various SETI programs. The whole story is essentially a conversation–hopefully an interesting one. On submission since: January 2018
  • “Satellite”
    Sci-fi flash fiction about 650 words long. The concept behind this story is so niche I have no idea if it will ever get published. That said, I think it may be one of the best ideas I’ve ever had. I’ve recruited help from my husband and my best friend from high school to help me with some of the technical stuff. They’ve been geeking out about it, which is absolutely thrilling to me. I brought the story to my library writing group and had one person understand it completely, one person understand the gist of it, and three people who couldn’t make heads or tails of it. I asked the group if there was a way to balance the story so it could be understood by a wider audience. The group unanimously advised me to ignore the wider audience, commit to the idea, and charge ahead with it. On submission since: May 2018
  • Storymakers Classes
    I’ve pitched two classes to teach at the Storymakers 2019 writing conference! One is about how to commission an artist (I’ve both hired artists and been hired as an artist, so I feel pretty qualified for this one). The other class is about how to deconstruct strong visual icons in popular/classic media, and how authors can use this knowledge to create their own icons. I feel less qualified to teach a class on writing craftsmanship, just because I’m not yet published, but I’m very passionate about the topic and my background as an artist has given me some unique insight. I’ll know if my classes have been accepted in November, and Storymakers 2019 is in May. UPDATE: I ended up pitching two more classes, one on structuring chapters and dialogue, and one on Joseph Campbell’s monomyth. On submission since: August 2018
  • NEW! “Robot Overlords”
    I meet with a local writing group that likes to issue out weekly prompts, and I used to never do them because I wanted to focus on my novel and shorts. When I was in highschool though, I really enjoyed writing poetry, and I’ve started writing poems for the group prompts. I liked one of my poems so much I polished it up and submitted it to a magazine. It’s a science fiction poem about a girl who lives in a post-apocalyptic world run by robots, and it chronicles seven very important seconds of her life. On submission since: September 2018

Thanks for coming on this journey with me.
Christine

Meet JJ and CC – The First Tylerbots!

Meet JJ and CC – The First Tylerbots!

This is CC (below left) and JJ (below right), the new mascots for ChristineTyler.com.

I’ve actually wanted some robot mascots for several years now, and started collecting materials when I was in Japan. CC’s music box, for instance, plays Always With You from Miyazaki’s Spirited Away. I knew I wanted a robot theme for my blog images when I rebooted the site, but since I hadn’t made the robots yet I had to settle for stock images. Apparently taking pictures of adorable little robots doing daily tasks is already a thing! Now that I have my own robots though, I can take much more specific pictures +  I don’t have to pay royalties to use someone else’s work.

The figures’ heads, hands, feet, and JJ’s torso are made out of spray-painted wood blocks that I found at a thrift store. Their arms are plastic tubing I ordered online, and have pipe cleaners in them so they’re posable. JJ’s hardware came from my husband’s real robot supplies. It was Nathan’s idea to have the wires coming out of JJ’s head and I kind of love it. 

As soon as I started taking pictures I realized JJ was going to be our wild card. His extra long legs make him extra fun to play with. 

Don’t be fooled by CC’s demure expression. She totally digs it.

Of course, no robot-making session would be complete without my kids getting in on the action. Here are Bubs and Rosebud with their own projects. Rosebud is particularly proud of the pink hair she drew on her robot and has informed me that next time I make a robot it needs to have pink hair like hers. 

Bubs brought his robot to school for show-and-tell today. His has wheels. Pretty boss idea. Both kids were really excited to give their robots “gear hearts.” I found those at Joanne’s at the last minute and I agree they make a perfect addition. 

They’ve been having a lot of fun with them.

I have plans to make more robots soon — as soon as I can get my hands on some silver spray paint, because I’d like to build an entire robot army. But in the meantime, JJ and CC are my first two, and I’m really really happy with how they turned out. I’m also excited to be able to bring them on some future adventures…which I’ll have more details about as soon as I get some details nailed down.

In other news, I’ve submitted a poem to a science-fiction and fantasy magazine. Yes, a poem! I attend a local writing group that meets once a week and gives everyone a prompt. Our prompt a few weeks ago was a “word soup.” That meant we had five random words to do whatever we wanted with. The words were CLOCKS, ADVANTAGE, TOURNAMENT, CUNNING, and PLANT.

I ended up writing a poem about a woman who runs the Olympic 100-meter dash against six robots. Why are there robots in the Olympics? Why does she run against them? Does she win? Well, those are questions the poem will answer. Cross your fingers and hope it gets published.

In the meantime, please enjoy this robot selfie:

Thanks for coming on this journey with me.
Christine

 

 

 

My Writing Space (featuring: the Happy Board)

My Writing Space (featuring: the Happy Board)

Want to see what my writing space looks like? Or, at least what my desk area looks like? I actually enjoy switching up my routine and writing in different places around my house, because I tend to procrastinate when things feel too familiar or repetitive. But I do have a “writing base,” as you will, and my favorite part of it is my Happy Board. This is where I like to put things that inspire me or make me feel inexplicably happy when I look at them. So, for those of you who are curious, I thought I’d diagram some of my favorite components of my Writing Base and Happy Board.

  1. Portrait of Giovanna degli Albizzi Tornabuoni (1489 – 1490) by Domenico Ghirlandaio, from when Nathan and I went to the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza in Madrid. This is one of those paintings you have to see in real life to understand why it’s so special. The orange paint of her dress was glowing like a neon sign. It was completely arresting.
  2. Note from my older sister, Heidi, that she gave me when I was probably about five years old. It reads: Christine, I do not know how you feel about being small. Although I can realy tell you are not happy with it! I’m not going to start saying there a a lot of things you can do when your small and the things you do I cant. But I will tell you that I can see you are not happy rite now and I do not blame you. Just reamember that I do not care how small you are! I love you just the same!!!!!!!! Beside I think you look cute small! You remind me of a pretty little ballireana! Love, Heidi.
  3. Brochure from the Olympic Peninsula, where I grew up. I think there’s a map of Hurricane Ridge on the other side.
  4. Train tickets from Spain.
  5. Post-card from Casa Mia, a restaurant my family and friends and I went to a lot when I was growing up in Washington.
  6. Post-it note from Kandice, a friend I made in Japan. It reads: Christine, Please come in and make yourself at home. We were going to get together and she had to run out for a minute. It warmed my heart to feel trusted and invited in while she was gone.
  7. Post-card from Snoqualmie Falls, where my husband and went on our honeymoon. It’s also where they filmed several scenes from Twin Peaks, which is an awesome show.
  8. Post-cards from a buddhist monastery in Japan. My friend April and I went to a meditation session and some monks hit us on the back with sticks. It was awesome.
  9. Map of Hida no Sato, a very peaceful historic village in Japan.
  10. Map of Hobbiton from when I went to New Zealand with Nathan, Bubs, and my sister Emily. (Little Rosebud hung out in my uterus the whole time, so she was technically there too.)
  11. Playbill from a Pacific Northwest Ballet performance of the Nutcracker
  12. Bub’s school project about eclipses.
  13. Post-card from Ye Olde Curiosity Shop in Seattle, WA.
  14. Map of Cordoba, Spain.
  15. Dream Caused by the Flight of a Bee Around a Pomegranate a Second Before Awakening (1944) by Salvador Dalí, from when Nathan and I went to the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza in Madrid.
  16. Raven Boys book jacket drawn by Maggie Steifvater, from when Kris and I went to a book signing in Denver.
  17. Me and my little sister, Emily, on a beach in Washington.
  18. Note from my friend Christian from when she sent me a jar of her homemade maple syrup.
  19. Emily and David’s wedding announcement.
  20. The first birthday card my best friend Kris ever sent me, where she called me a “lovely badass,” and I decided that was the best description of me anyone’s ever given.
  21. Bib number from my first 10k.
  22. Picture of Laini Taylor from a book signing in Denver, and the note she sent me when I won her book trailer contest.
  23. Fishing with my dad. I was probably about five or six.
  24. VIP pass from when I met Lindsey Stirling in Tokyo. As if her talent wasn’t enough, I got to find out she is an incredibly kind person as well, and I’ll always be grateful for the advice she gave me.
  25. Big headphones.
  26. Goal chart — front and center.
  27. Star stickers, because I’m fabulous.
  28. Hubble Deep Field.
  29. Hydroponic garden. I’m a little sad I ended up taking a picture when there are only a few sprouts, but there’s usually lavender or hibiscus or rosemary in here. I like starting seeds with the Aerogarden and then transferring them out when they’re big enough. I’ll have to do a post about my indoor garden in the future, as I have a bit of a green thumb.
  30. Bamboo ukelele. I just got this as a birthday present to myself when I turned 32 this summer. My favorite songs to play lately are Skye Boat Song, The Rains of Castamere, and The Last Unicorn.
  31. Eolian mug my sister-in-law, Ashtyn, gave me for Christmas last year. It makes me so very very happy.

And now you’ve seen a little corner of my world. 🙂

Thanks for coming on this journey with me.
Christine

 

 

What I’m Working On: Summer 2018

What I’m Working On: Summer 2018

I think we’re overdue for an update on my current projects! I picked the picture of the robot juggling all the lightbulbs because…well…

IN DEVELOPMENT:

  • “SETI@home”
    A 1-2k word personal essay about my late grandpa and a nostalgia-driven look at the SETI@home project. SETI stands for “Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence.” It’s the program Jodie Foster was working on in the 1997 movie Contact. The SETI@home project was a small offshoot of SETI, developed in 1999 as a way for everyday people to donate their CPUs, or computer processing cycles, to help process radio signals from space. The most exciting part of this is that I’ve contacted the director of the SETI@home program, Dr. Eric Korpela, and he’s agreed to an interview! Goes on submission: September 2019
  • “Space Circus”
    Sci-fi novelette, still in development but I’m shooting for something around 30k words. It was inspired by several classes at Storymakers 2018, especially those taught by Sarah M. Eden, Dan Wells, and Charlie Holmberg. During the conference I doodled a picture of a girl in a space suit and imagined what her story might be, and I decided she was going to run away and join the space circus. Goes on submission: undetermined


DRAFTING PROCESS:

  • Clarion West Application
    Clarion West is a six-week writing workshop taught by six authors and/or editors. My favorite short story author, Amal El-Mohtar, is going to be one of the instructors. Only 18 people get into the program every year. Admission is based on a 30-page writing sample and a personal essay. For my 30 pages, I’m planning on submitting the first three chapters of my Island Book, plus a synopsis. Those have already been drafted and are in the revision process, but I have yet to start on my personal essay. Applications open in December 2018 and close in March of 2019, but I want to give it my best so I’m working on it now. Goes on submission: December 2019
  • “The Island Book”
    Historical fantasy novel about 100k words. This is the first installment in a series of books about two families struggling for control of a fictional island. Magical beings and speculative science get involved. Chaos ensues. Goes on submission: July 2021


UNDER REVISION:

  • “Honeybee”
    Sci-fi short story I’d like to be about 5k-7k words. My original draft was 5k, but the premise is kind of far out and so many of my beta readers had so many questions, I decided to let myself wax verbose on the second draft and answer all the questions. This resulted in the story swelling to 9k (almost twice the length of the first draft). I figured I could review how the additional 4k felt and shave it down if needed. Adding more narration and more backstory, as well as changing the starting point, made the whole thing feel like the first chapter to a Young Adult dystopian novel instead of a sci-fi short. It was so far from what I wanted, I considered shelving the whole project. But I talked to my critique partner Kris, and she helped me create a vision for draft number three, where I could refocus and hone in on the story I most wanted to tell. So that’s what I’m currently doing. Goes on submission: September 2018
  • “Submarine”
    Sci-fi/fantasy short story around 10k words. When looking for ideas, I often begin with my resources. My husband and brother-in-law both worked on submarines for three years, and I simply couldn’t pass up the spec fic opportunities. The story deals with the ethics of nuclear war, toxic masculinity in the military, and mermaids. After writing a complete draft of this story I’ve decided to go in an entirely different direction with the style. So…I’m rewriting the whole thing. Goes on submission: February 2019


ON SUBMISSION:

  • “ALIENS!”
    Sci-fi short story about 5k words. This project was inspired by my years in Japan, one very interesting SCUBA instructor, and memories of my grandpa introducing me to various SETI programs. The whole story is essentially a conversation–hopefully an interesting one. On submission since: January 2018
  • “Satellite”
    Sci-fi flash fiction about 650 words long. The concept behind this story is so niche I have no idea if it will ever get published. That said, I think it may be one of the best ideas I’ve ever had. I’ve recruited help from my husband and my best friend from high school to help me with some of the technical stuff. They’ve been geeking out about it, which is absolutely thrilling to me. I brought the story to my library writing group and had one person understand it completely, one person understand the gist of it, and three people who couldn’t make heads or tails of it. I asked the group if there was a way to balance the story so it could be understood by a wider audience. The group unanimously advised me to ignore the wider audience, commit to the idea, and charge ahead with it. On submission since: May 2018
  • Storymakers Classes
    I’ve pitched two classes to teach at the Storymakers 2019 writing conference! One is about how to commission an artist (I’ve both hired artists and been hired as an artist, so I feel pretty qualified for this one). The other class is about how to deconstruct strong visual icons in popular/classic media, and how authors can use this knowledge to create their own icons. I feel less qualified to teach a class on writing craftsmanship, just because I’m not yet published, but I’m very passionate about the topic and my background as an artist has given me some unique insight. I’ll know if my classes have been accepted in November, and Storymakers 2019 is in May. On submission since: August 2018

On top of all that, I’m going back to (online) college on September 3rd! I’ll be working on my Bachelor’s Degree in English/Creative Writing, with an emphasis in Screenwriting. Stay tuned to hear more about it!

And…everything else.

Thanks for coming on this journey with me.
Christine

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I Got My Fifth Rejection!

I Got My Fifth Rejection!

Wow! I just sent off a story to a magazine that gave me an estimate of six weeks wait, and they replied in three days! Since I’ve been hearing back from these venues so frequently, I’m planning on making this the last time I share each and every rejection on its own. From now on I’ll share every five rejections or so, at which time I’ll make a compilation list. That way you can still read every letter word-for-word, but it doesn’t turn my entire blog into a never ending list of rejection posts. In the meantime, I have so many posts planned that I can’t wait to share with you. I’m particularly proud of my last post, Adventures in Research: Bad Luck Bananas.

But let’s take a look at #5:

Dear Christine,

Thank you very much for letting us see “[TITLE].”  We appreciate your taking the time to send it in for our consideration.  Although it does not suit the needs of the magazine at this time, we wish you luck with placing it elsewhere.

Sincerely,
[Editor]

As you can see, this is another form rejection, so not much to comment on here. I’ve sent the story to another venue that’s actually one of my very favorites. I didn’t send it there sooner because I’m doubtful that it fits the tone they’re looking for, but I may as well try it out.

I’ve compiled a binder where I can collect all my rejections, and honestly, I kind of love flipping through it. Maybe this is when I find out that I’m a masochist? But I’m not sure if I view rejection the same way most people do. When I was a teenager, I heard a story about a guy who wanted a job, but instead of making “getting a job” his goal, he made a goal to get “twenty-five rejections.” He figured that eventually, he’d fail at his goal and get a job, hahaha. So every time he got a rejection he celebrated, because he was one step closer to his goal of twenty-five rejections. He got a job before he ever hit it. So he was happy in his “failure,” and then happy in his “success.”

I love that story, because I think reframing our definition of success can make the process itself such a joy. I *feel* more successful and more legitimate as an author now than I ever have, and that feeling rings true when I flip through my binder of rejections. I hope someday I’ll have multiple binders, with pages spilling out, with a treasure trove of contradictory feedback and laughable failures. Maybe even some heartbreaking failures that I can look back on and see how far I’ve come, how much I’ve conquered. Because my idea of success is doing the work. So, right now, I’m doing the work. And I am succeeding.

Thanks for coming on this journey with me.
Christine

Adventures in Research: Bad Luck Bananas

Adventures in Research: Bad Luck Bananas

I’ve researched a lot of random things in the name of my writing. To my left is a bookshelf with titles on it such as: The Conlanger’s Lexipedia, The Secret History of the Mongol Queens, Science and Society in the 16th and 17th Centuries, the Crystal Bible, Crowning Anguish: Memoirs of a Persian Princess from the Harem to Modernity, The Secret Life of Plants, and — my personal favorite — Barbecued Husbands.

You can tell a lot by looking at people’s bookshelves. Particularly if they’re a total weirdo or not.

The thing is, even though the research is done for my book, it often just translates into a familiarity with a time period or a topic, and the chance of an actual detail or historical fact making it into the manuscript is…low. Any one of those facts becoming useful or relevant in real life? Slim to none.

Which brings me to last month’s fishing trip. My dad, husband, two brothers-in-law, a nephew, and I, all went deep sea salmon fishing on a small charter out of Ilwaco, Washington. We woke up at five, drove to the docks, and got our licenses. The sky was a beautiful silver overcast, the birds were flocking for shoals of bait just under the water, and we even saw a humpback whale. My brother in law, David, caught a good coho at the beginning, but after that, things slowed down. Way down. We spent a good eight hours perched on our poles. Our skipper couldn’t understand. He’d taken the boat from one promising spot to another, but the fish just weren’t biting. In all, our entire group caught six salmon. That’s a lot less than we’d hoped for.

And then my husband, Nathan, took out a banana. He pointed to the “NO BANANAS” sign on the cabin window and asked, “Is that for real?”

I followed his gaze and stared at the sign. And I, mind buzzing with ten years of random book research, registered what had happened. I realized our fishless fate had been sealed the moment we brought our lunch on board.

“Sure is,” said the deck hand.

“Why?” Nathan asked.

And then I spoke. For my moment had come.

REASON NUMBER ONE. Venomous spiders like to hang out in bananas, like Banana Spiders, which is a name for several species including Golden Orb Weavers, which look amazing and won’t kill you but you probably don’t want your eighteenth century sailing vessel infested with them, and Brazilian Wandering Spiders, which have a nastier bite — the effects of which we’ll leave to this wikipedia description:

The venom of Phoneutria nigriventer contains a potent neurotoxin, known as PhTx3, which acts as a broad-spectrum calcium channel blocker that inhibits glutamate release, calcium uptake and also glutamate uptake in neural synapses. At deadly concentrations, this neurotoxin causes loss of muscle control and breathing problems, resulting in paralysis and eventual asphyxiation. In addition, the venom causes intense pain and inflammation following a bite due to an excitatory effect the venom has on the serotonin 5-HT4 receptors of sensory nerves. Aside from causing intense pain, the venom of the spider can also cause priapism in humans. Erections resulting from the bite are uncomfortable, can last for many hours and can lead to impotence.

REASON NUMBER TWO. You know who else likes to hang out in bunches of bananas? Termites. This is a problem when your ship is made of wood.

REASON NUMBER THREE. Bananas release ethylene gas. You can read this whole article on the effects of ethylene gas on humans, but here’s a highlight:

Ethylene enters the body primarily by inhalation of air containing ethylene, but can also enter the body by dermal contact with ethylene. Ethylene is of low toxicity to humans and exposure to ethylene is unlikely to have any adverse health effects. However, inhalation of air containing extremely high levels of ethylene may lead to effects including headache, drowsiness, dizziness, nausea, weakness and unconsciousness. Studies have shown that ethylene is metabolised to ethylene oxide, which has more adverse effects on human health. 

In other words, breathing normal amounts of ethylene has little to no effect on people, but lets say you have an entire cargo hold full of bananas and its not getting the kind of ventilation anyone thought about until the modern era. In that case, going down into that cargo hold, or staying down there too long, could have some rather nasty results.

REASON NUMBER FOUR. Because of the rate at which they produce ethylene gas, bananas ripen and rot quicker than a lot of other fruits. That means they need to be shipped faster, and as they say, “haste makes waste.” Also, it was a heck of a lot harder for sailors to catch fish when the ship was booking it to the next port, resulting in anti-banana sentiments being even stronger in fishermen than general seamen.

REASON NUMBER FIVE: Bananas float in salt water, so when a ship carrying bananas sinks, everything goes down…except the bananas. At that point, those bananas are looking pretty guilty to superstitious sailors. (There were thousands of bananas on the Titanic, by the way. Coincidence? I think not!)

I relayed this information to my family — rather rapidly — and with the vigor of a woman who has just realized she’s arrived at the very moment her mental database of historical bad-luck-banana information is actually, miraculously, relevant.

My husband put the banana away.

Because that, my friends, is why we had a bad fishing day. Because bananas.

Thanks for coming on this journey with me. #nobananas
Christine

p.s. two of the six were mine. probably because *I* wasn’t the one who brought the bananas.

I Got My Fourth Rejection!

I Got My Fourth Rejection!

I’m pretty sure this blog is about to devolve into a big list of rejections, but sharing these letters with everyone has become part of my process now, so without further ado:

Dear Christine,

Thank you for sending ‘[TITLE]’ to [VENUE]. Unfortunately, we’ve decided it’s not quite right for us. We have to reject many good stories for a variety of reasons unrelated to their quality. We appreciate your interest in our magazine and wish you the best in finding a home for your story.

We thought the exchange between [H] and [S] was compelling, but we wanted more connection with (and resolution to) the first-contact thread.

Best Regards,
[EDITOR]

The first paragraph to this response appears to be their standard form rejection. The “no” statement is pretty general and it ends with a “happy send off” as it wishes the author “the best in finding a home for [their] story.” But then we have this second paragraph sentence tacked on there with a specific note. That’s a good sign! That tells me someone took the time to read the whole story and actually thought about what they liked and didn’t like about it. It’s so weird to think about my story being read by professional strangers…

It looks like they wanted more from the first-contact component of my story, so I could take a look at things and revise to bring that out more. I called Kris and she felt like it was a matter of preference, and that I shouldn’t jump into changing things. Still, getting super specific feedback like this is really valuable, and not something I want to just toss aside.

For now, I’m going to send it as-is to another magazine. If it continues to meet with rejection, I may consider revising it.

Thanks for coming on this journey with me!
Christine

Image © Nastassia Bas | Dreamstime.com

I Got A Silver Honorable Mention!

I Got A Silver Honorable Mention!

Great news! The Writers of the Future contest has posted their official winners for the Second Quarter of Volume 35, and I got a Silver Honorable Mention! This means that out of thousands of contestants, my story “ALIENS!” made it to the top 25. So while I didn’t win or even place, I’m happy to see my work is at a competitive level with other writers. It’s incredibly validating.

I had this to say about “ALIENS!” in a post I shared a few months ago: What I’m Working On

“ALIENS!”
Sci-fi short story about 5k words. This project was inspired by my years in Japan, one very interesting SCUBA instructor, and memories of my grandpa introducing me to various SETI programs. The whole story is essentially a conversation–hopefully an interesting one.

And well, it looks like someone at WotF found it interesting. Not interesting enough to win, but interesting enough to make it to the top tiers, and I am so so grateful for that. I would guess that the stories are judged in brackets, since it’s unlikely that every judge would read every story. I like to imagine that there was a judge championing my story, pushing it up, until it finally met its match and was superseded. But its nice to think that for a short period, someone believed in it.

In the meantime, the rights to the story still belong to me, so I’ve submitted it to a sci-fi/fantasy magazine to see if I can get it published, and share it with all of you.

Thanks for coming on this journey with me,
Christine

I Got My Third Rejection!

I Got My Third Rejection!

Want to see my latest form rejection?

Dear Christine,

Thank you very much for letting me see [TITLE].  I’m sorry it didn’t strike me as quite suitable to our present needs.

Sincerely,
[NAME]
Editor

So. This is the third rejection I’ve received for the same story. It’s the one I call “Satellite” in this post where I describe my current projects. I mentioned that it is very “niche.” It has a unique structure and style, one that doesn’t fit with most of the sff venues I read. I figured I’d go ahead and send it out to some larger publication venues in the odd chance that they might pick it up, but I didn’t have a high expectation. All three rejections have been short/form letters, which is likely an indication that the story isn’t just striking out, it’s not even in the ballpark of what these editors are looking for. This most recent letter’s wording, “didn’t strike me as quite suitable” reaffirms that to me.

Because of this, I think it’s time to try a different tack. This morning I sent “Satellite” to a magazine that’s quite a bit smaller than most of my favorites, but it specializes in more avant garde styles. If it isn’t received well there, I’ll probably continue to submit it to other venues. But since this is the venue I think is the very best fit, it’s unlikely it’s going to get picked up anywhere else.

I’ve enjoyed sharing these rejections online though. It gives me something to do with them, makes me feel like I’m creating something out of them by sharing them. And…next week, I’ll be sharing a bit of good news I’ve been sitting on.

Thanks for coming on this journey with me,
Christine

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I Got My Second Rejection!

I Got My Second Rejection!

Want to read my actual second rejection letter?

Dear Christine,

Thank you for the opportunity to read “[title].” Unfortunately, your story isn’t quite what we’re looking for right now. 

In the past, we’ve provided detailed feedback on our rejections, but I’m afraid that due to time considerations, we’re no longer able to offer that service. I appreciate your interest in [name of venue] and hope that you’ll keep us in mind in the future.

Take care,
[name of editor]

I think sharing my rejections might become something of a tradition on this blog. After I got the first one I decided to print them out and start collecting them in a binder. Someday I’d like to bring my binders of rejections to book signings, because as a writer who aspires to publication, I always enjoy hearing about the journey other authors made in order to get there. But in the meantime, I don’t really want to wait to show them off. Getting these rejections took a lot of work, and I’m proud of them! Plus, maybe they’ll help remove some of the stigma and emotionality around rejections. Maybe seeing mine shared word-for-word will help inspire you to see rejection as a component of success, not an indication of failure.

It’s interesting that this venue mentioned the fact that they used to do personalized rejections and stopped. Honestly, it’s kind of a relief to get a form rejection, at least for a short story. If I were trying to sell a novel I’d much rather revise and resubmit, but part of what I love about short stories is…when they’re done they’re done. If one of my shorts doesn’t sell, I don’t think I’ll rework it. I think I’ll just write another one. I like the idea of finishing things, creating a repertoire, having a dozen or more stories on a submission circuit at once, and retiring the ones that just don’t make the cut, letting them be what they are. It feels more like progress to me.

When would I retire a story? Probably after I’d sent it to every venue on my list that it qualified for. Admittedly, it’s not a very long list. But I feel like, if a story isn’t good enough to be published by my list of favorites, it’s not good enough to represent me as an author. And I don’t mind waiting. Mm, “waiting” is not the right word. It feels too passive, doesn’t reflect the work I’m doing. Instead let’s call it, “biding my time.” And I am very, very good at biding my time.

Thanks for coming on the journey with me,
Christine

I Got My First Rejection!

I Got My First Rejection!

Hey guys, amazing news! I got my first rejection! It was for my “Satellite” short story that I briefly described in this post. I knew it’d be a hard sell, and sure enough, here’s the reply I got:

Dear Christine Tyler, 

Thank you for submitting [title of story] to [anthology], but we’ve decided not to accept it for publication. 

We appreciate your interest in our magazine.

Sincerely, 
[name of editor]

I thought I’d share this with you guys for a few reasons:

One, if you’re thinking about submitting your work, you might be interested in seeing what a form rejection looks like. This is the kind of reply you get when the editor is not interested at all. Not so scary, is it? After getting this, I took about an hour finding the next best anthology, reading up on their submission guidelines, and sent it right off again.

Two, this is a huge milestone for me! If you’ve been following along, you’ll know that I’ve been working on the same behemoth fantasy series for over a decade. Because I never queried my book, that meant I worked for ten years without ever submitting anything (minus pitch sessions at conferences, but that’s another story for another day). In other words, I was in “revision hell.” It sometimes made me feel like, despite all my efforts, I wasn’t actually in the game. I used to daydream about the day I could call my story “done” and start querying. I daydreamed about getting rejections — fighting the good fight alongside my writerly comrades. So this experience is literally a dream come true. You guys, I’m actually, finally, doing it. This rejection is proof of my efforts, and that feels so good.

Obviously getting rejected for a short story — that I already knew was pretty niche — doesn’t hurt as much as getting a novel turned down by a dream agent. But…that’s what makes it even more awesome. It means I get to hang out in the trenches and experience rejection without it being the book-of-my-heart on the line. I gotta say I recommend this tactic.

The third reason I want to share, is because there are some authors who do really cool things with their rejection slips and I want to be one of them. Stephen King had a nail he stuck all his rejections on, until one day there was too much weight and it pulled the nail out of the wall, so he stuck a spike in there instead. I’ve heard of an author who laminated all her rejections into one big ribbon and she takes it to signings and shows it off. Does anyone have any ideas for what I can do with mine? Please let me know in the comments section!

I should hear back about another short story I have on submission by the end of this month. I’ll let you know how that goes as well. Thanks for coming along this journey with me!

Christine

Image © Gorodok495 | Dreamstime.com

Storymakers 2018

Storymakers 2018

Okay kids, I’m back from the Storymakers 2018 writing conference, and it’s time for a play-by-play.

First, Christina Parks came ten days before the shindig. She’s one of my best buddies (and one of the best writers I know). This year was extra special because she brought her five year-old daughter and 10 month-old daughter. We even hung out with our buddy Kris Atkins and her kids in Denver, and stayed overnight. It was a lot of kids! Much fun was had. Driving to and from Denver, I started reading I Feel Bad About My Neck out loud to Christina and it made the time fly. Christina and I happen to have the same *exact* palate, so we made a lot of freakishly delicious food. I made carrot cake that lasted all of two-and-a-half days. She even made meat pasties for the family one night, and let the kids roll out their own dough.

Storymakers is a writing conference in Provo, Utah. On the drive up, we had Christina’s two little girls in the car and they were COMPLETE ANGELS. Her baby literally did not cry until about 20 minutes before we arrived at the hotel. Her five year-old stayed with “grandma” during the conference, but Angel Baby stayed with us. With all the stresses of plane flights, long car trips, strange houses, weird hotels, and new people, this kid took it all in stride and amazed us all. Spending time with her was one of the highlights of the trip. Though one thing I often say about babies, is that having a good baby is like having a good bull. Even when they’re good, they’re still a lot to handle, and I was so proud of Christina for going to Storymakers regardless of the additional challenge.

On Wednesday, we went to the Austen Tea Party, a regency-themed get-together for historical or semi-historical writers. This year we were allowed to break from convention and wear anything from any decade. I wore my Moroccan kaftan, Christina wore a regency dress she made herself, and Kris dressed up like a 90s rocker chick. You know what though? I like our pictures from two years ago better, and I never got much of a chance to share those, so that’s going here, hahaha.

The next day, Kris went up to Salt Lake to visit family and Christina and I spent the morning walking Provo, visiting the temple grounds, and stuffing ourselves on Belgian frites and Hruska’s Kaloches. Those little things are like heaven wrapped in a cloud. The sausage and gravy is my favorite. We went there again before we left so Kris wouldn’t miss out.

On the first day of Storymakers we went to a three-hour intensive on social media. You can thank that class for me resurrecting the blog, since the instructor asked us to send her a link to three blog posts a month or so ago and at the time I didn’t have any. The class was actually really amazing and informative–something that’s hard to do with any social media class these days. One of the best takeaways was the idea of just focusing on something. Not trying to create an account everywhere, but really finding where you feel most comfortable and rocking that. I think YouTube + this blog are going to be my focus from here on out. So now I have to resurrect my YouTube channel…

Oh, and we wore matching shirts. Christina made them. Christina was kind of the woman-of-the-hour every hour that week. She knows how to make it happen.

Shannon Hale was the keynote speaker at the conference. When I came home and showed my son pictures, he said he wished he was there and that he thought the Princess in Black was really cool and it wasn’t fair I got to meet the author. I told him her big speech at dinner was about how there were no boy books or girl books, but just books for people, and he yelled “That’s right!!!” So apparently I’m doing something right.

We also had classes by awesome authors like Sarah Eden and Dan Wells. Dan’s class was really weird for me because I listen to him talk on the podcast Writing Excuses almost every day (they update once a week, but I listen to reruns), and getting to learn from him in real life was an amazing experience.

I also got to take a class from Charlie Holmberg, and lucky me, when I finally got the courage to ask her for a picture, she just happened to be with Adam Berg from Studio C. Whaaaaaaat?!

Another fun part of the conference was pitching my book to an editor. This is me right before my pitch:

Hahaha, I’m actually just kidding around. To be totally honest, I wasn’t super nervous about this pitch at all. I see pitches as an opportunity to fine-tune my concept and make some great contacts in the industry. This pitch also included a query and first page critique. The editor actually thought both my query and first page were really solid and didn’t have any suggestions, but I got some great feedback about what was working. We had a little bit of extra time, so he asked me if there was anything else I wanted to talk about. I ended up telling him about some of my short stories, even though he doesn’t rep them, but just for fun. He got really excited about the concept for “Satellite” and wanted me to send him a link so he could read it when it finds a home.

After the conference, our whole trio + Christina’s husband went to see Hamilton! Again, it was Christina with the hookups. She jumped on this whole thing months ago and had all four of us coordinate our attacks the moment the tickets went on sale. This woman knows how to make it happen.

The show was a revelation. I know everyone says this production is a work of genius, but it really is. It deserves the reputation it has. The talent was totally overwhelming, and there was so much to take away from it and think about later. I loved it so much.

And that was a wrap! Christina and her family stayed for some extra time with family in Utah, and Kris and I drove home. On the way back to Colorado we brainstormed an entire book together.

When I got home, I finally got Satellite on submission. Since then I’ve outlined plans for two more short stories. Storymakers is fantastic for so many reasons. The classes, the speakers, the friends, the professionals…but I underlying it all and making it magical is an incredible surge of creative energy. My fire is rekindled for another year. I’m home. I’m writing.

And I’m not going to miss my shot.
Christine

What I’m Working On: Spring 2018

What I’m Working On: Spring 2018

Whew! Things are getting interesting over here in Tyler Land. I have a number of writing projects I’m working on right now, and I thought it’d be fun to keep you updated on my progress!

Current Projects:

1) “Honeybee”
Sci-fi short story I’d like to be about 5k-7k words. My original draft was 5k, but the premise is kind of far out and so many of my beta readers had so many questions, I decided to let myself wax verbose on the second draft and answer all the questions. This resulted in the story swelling to 9k (almost twice the length of the first draft). I figured I could review how the additional 4k felt and shave it down if needed. Adding more narration and more backstory, as well as changing the starting point, made the whole thing feel like the first chapter to a Young Adult dystopian novel instead of a sci-fi short. It was so far from what I wanted, I considered shelving the whole project. But I talked to my critique partner Kris, and she helped me create a vision for draft number three, where I could refocus and hone in on the story I most wanted to tell. So that’s what I’m currently doing. Goes on submission: May 31

2) “Satellite”
Sci-fi flash fiction about 650 words long. The concept behind this story is so niche I have no idea if it will ever get published. That said, I think it may be one of the best ideas I’ve ever had. I’ve recruited help from my husband and my best friend from high school to help me with some of the technical stuff. They’ve been geeking out about it, which is absolutely thrilling to me. I brought the story to my library writing group and had one person understand it completely, one person understand the gist of it, and three people who couldn’t make heads or tails of it. I asked the group if there was a way to balance the story so it could be understood by a wider audience. The group unanimously advised me to ignore the wider audience, commit to the idea, and charge ahead with it. Goes on submission: April 30

3) “Submarine”
Sci-fi/fantasy short story I’m hoping to keep between 7k-10k words. This story is still in the note-taking phase. When looking for ideas, I often begin with my resources. My husband and brother-in-law both worked on submarines for three years, and I simply couldn’t pass up the spec fic opportunities! This will definitely be my most challenging short story to date because it deals with the ethics of nuclear war, and I’ll have to get all my technical and inside information from interviews and research. Goes on submission: August 31

4) “The Island Book”
Historical fantasy novel about 100k words. This is the first installment in a series of books about two families struggling for control of a fictional island. Magical beings and speculative science get involved. Chaos ensues. Currently working on: chapters 11 and 12

On Submission:

5) “ALIENS!”
Sci-fi short story about 5k words. This project was inspired by my years in Japan, one very interesting SCUBA instructor, and memories of my grandpa introducing me to various SETI programs. The whole story is essentially a conversation–hopefully an interesting one. Currently on submission: Writers of the Future

Okay, that’s it for now! Wish me luck!
Christine

© Gorodok495 | Dreamstime.com

If You Can Dream and Not Make Dreams Your Master

If You Can Dream and Not Make Dreams Your Master

I stayed up until 4:00 a.m. this morning looking at dresses. Let me tell you about that. The 2018 Writers of the Future Awards Event was held yesterday in Los Angeles, California. I started watching it at midnight, and well, it’s almost three hours long. I’ve entered the 2019 contest, so I don’t have any skin in the game for 2018, but after watching the event for a while, I started daydreaming about what I’d wear if I were one of the finalists someday. Here’s a link to the Pinterest board. You might notice I like gold dresses. And floral dresses. And golden floral dresses.

I’ve mentioned how important it is to me to write more than I talk about writing. The same goes for daydreaming. I don’t want to end up dreaming more than doing. Dreaming takes a lot of energy. If I’m not careful, it can waste a lot of time as well—like last night, when dreaming (both literally and figuratively) resulted in me sleeping in and missing my a.m. writing time. As Dumbledore would say, “It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.”

So this morning, after dropping Bubs off at school, Rosebud and I did our hair, packed our bags, and headed to the library. Lucky me, it was my turn to share a short story with my local writer’s group and get a critique. I work with a lot of awesome writers, but I love the guts out of my local library group. We’re a bit of a motley crew. We’ve got an age range that spans several decades. We write everything from genre fiction, to memoirs, to exposés, to beat poetry. Today, I had two people rave about my short story, one say “I couldn’t get past the third page. I’m astounded anyone could read it,” and I had to break up an argument over whether or not the opening needed more description. More than once. I seriously love these people. If your local library group doesn’t regularly end near fisticuffs, you’re missing out. We also have cookies.

Going to the library today helped me a million times more than staying up and planning my winner’s wardrobe. And it didn’t just help my writing; it helped my morale. Because I was out there doing something. I was sharing my work. I was getting feedback. I was talking about ideas with real people. I wasn’t thinking about dresses or awards, but I was closer to them than I had been last night.

Because dreams aren’t accomplished by dreaming. Dreams are accomplished by laying down real efforts, brick-by-brick, and trusting that what you build will be beyond what you imagine.

So tonight, I’m going to bed on time. Let the dreams settle with the feathers in my pillow. And tomorrow morning, I’m going to wake up and write.

~Christine

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Five Things I Got Wrong about Blogging (and the One Thing I Got Right)

Five Things I Got Wrong about Blogging (and the One Thing I Got Right)

Full Disclosure: this isn’t my first blog. In December 2010 I created a blog that lasted almost exactly three years. I had 98 posts and 81,592 views. All things considered, that ain’t bad. So what went wrong? Why’d I quit? And why is the blog nowhere to be found? Well, as far as I can tell, I made five crucial mistakes.

1) I gave unqualified advice. 
I talked a lot about things I had no experience in or real understanding of. I gave advice on how to write a query; I’d never written an actual query. I wrote about reducing your novel’s word count; I’d never finished a novel. I even had a series of posts where I helped a friend write her synopsis…you see where I’m going with this. Out of all the mistakes I made on my old blog, this was the one cringe-worthy enough to make me delete it.

2) I didn’t make it personal. 
I thought writing blogs weren’t supposed to read like personal journals. So I didn’t talk about my family, my fears or my goals, I didn’t even talk about the book I was working on. I talked about writing, but not my writing. As a result, I missed out on a chance to chronicle a very exciting and formative time in my life. Out of all the authors whose books I love, only one of them has a blog I love. Patrick Rothfuss. I’ve read his entire archives (all eleven years’ worth) just for fun. Why? Because he’s figured out how to be real on the internet. He talks about his feelings, his family, and his writing too. It makes you feel like a ghostly traveling companion on the journey of his career.

3) I took myself way too seriously. 
Okay, I admit it: this post took me a month to write because I still struggle with this. I spend way too much time hemming and hawing about the perfect thing to say instead of just settling on something good enough. I should relax and trust that, if I’m myself, people are going to like me. And if I’m sincere, they might even like what I have to say. I don’t have an issue with this in real life. Maybe it’s that writing something down makes it seem so definitive, sharing it on the internet makes it immortal, and whoa, hold on now, baby, I’m just not ready for that kind of a commitment! But perfect is the enemy of good (and done). And, as you can probably tell from reading this, that extra month didn’t serve to improve this post at all, now did it? Nope, it just made it take longer.

4) I posted too frequently, or not at all. 
Consistency is key. That’s true for gaining any kind of social media following, as well as growing individually as an artist. Unfortunately, while I understood this maxim in 2010, it didn’t stop me from either posting obsessively every few days, or checking in every few months. If I’m being honest here, it’s something I still struggle with (I went to Morocco in March and still haven’t posted any YouTube videos about it. Oh. I mean, March of last year.) From here on out I’m planning on posting once a week, but if I can’t maintain that I’ll post once a month. Which leads me to the next thing I did wrong…

5) I didn’t adapt.
Instead of reviewing my progress and priorities and making appropriate adjustments, I quit. As nature’s law states: adapt or die. After running into these issues I didn’t give better advice, share something meaningful, or rethink my post schedule. I’ll admit, I have mixed feelings about this. Because I think it’s a very important truth that in order to be a successful writer, you need to write more than you talk about writing. Quitting my blog was a solution. But here’s where I went wrong: it wasn’t the only solution, and it wasn’t the best solution. Sometimes I wonder how much I would have learned by now, how much interesting content I would have created, had I adjusted my sights and trajectory and kept at it.

Now, my old blog wasn’t all bad. Some of the posts were really fun, or even excellent! You’ll see some of that material recycled here. But the best thing that ever came out of it, came because of the best move I’ve ever made in my writing career–and I’m gonna get real dopey on you here–in my adult life.

What I got right?

1) I used social media to make friends. 
Specifically, I used my blog as a way of meeting people who were interested in the same things I was. I didn’t “establish an author’s platform.” I have some beef concerning that tack. I actually networked. I’d love to write a post in the near future on the difference between networking and creating a platform, but for now I’ll just say that I’ve met literally hundreds of people because of Blogger. I have critique partners, beta readers, and best friends because of it. What worked for me was using my blog as a landing spot for people to get to know me, and then reaching out to them through email, on the phone, at a conference, or planning a meet-up. I’m over thirty years old, married with two kids, and thanks to the “blogosphere,” I get to have sleepovers with my girlfriends. There’s Game of Thrones and popcorn and caramel cookie crunch Talenti involved. It’s pretty radical.

With all that in mind, I have a pretty good idea how I want to operate my blog from here on out.

Let’s be friends, eh?
Christine

Time Capsule

Time Capsule

Book research trip in Cordoba, Spain

Hey. I’m Christine. I’ve thought a lot about what I want to write as my first official entry in this blog. I imagine that someday, when I’m published, I might wander back here to remind myself what things used to be like. I hope there may be a person or two who will enjoy my work enough to be curious about where I started. So my aim here is to create a Time Capsule, to capture a bit of who I am, what I’m working on, what’s important to me, and where I want to go with it all.

First and foremost, this is a writing blog. I create YouTube videos, I draw illustrations, and craft (a lot), but in so many ways, I see those creative endeavors simply as facets to my one true love: storytelling.

As a child, I had an idea for a fantasy book that served as my main obsession all the way through high school and college. In 2010, I finally got serious about the project and began writing every day. I spent the better part of the last decade working and reworking the same book. It evolved from fantasy into historical fantasy. The characters grew and evolved and matured. The world grew. The story grew. And then…I realized that I actually wanted that book to be a sequel, rather than the first in the series. I’m currently eleven chapters into the new “Book 1,” and am enjoying using everything I’ve learned to finally do this book-of-my-heart justice.

Meanwhile, I kind of got tired of writing and writing without pitching and publishing. I’ve always had a great love for short stories, but never found time to work on them because of my novel. This year, I made the goal to write a short story every three months, and submit one to each quarter of L. Ron Hubbard’s Writers of the Future contest. If one of those stories meets with rejection, I’ve prepared a list of science fiction and fantasy magazines to submit them to. If it’s rejected by one of those, I’ll send it to another.

Lather, rinse, repeat until published.

I can’t explain how happy just being involved in this part of the process has made me. So stay tuned for updates on both my novel and short stories! Also art. Also YouTube. Also random craftiness.

What are my goals? To finish my historical fantasy series. To tell the best stories I can to as many people as I can. To have fun doing it. To make friends with people who share the same definition of fun.

What are my fears? Oh, I don’t know. The sea in storm, a night with no moon, and the anger of a gentle man. Everything else is a learning experience.

And I’m not even taking this journey alone. Let me introduce you to Team Tyler.

These are the small humans I created, holding up some small robots they created:

This is Bubs. He likes science, dinosaurs, robots, and playing Ocarina of Time and Banjo-Kazooie on his dad’s old Nintendo 64. 

This is Rosebud. She likes princesses. Today she had me do her hair like her favorite: Princess Leia.

And here’s Nathan, the love of my life, building a robot with my son. We really like robots around here.

And if this is being read in the year 2074 by our post-Singularity Robot Overlords, let this be proof that Team Tyler was always loyal to you.

Looking forward to looking back.

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