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My Writing Journey Part 1: Building a Strong Foundation

Happy Wednesday everyone!

So I'm loving all the features Instagram has for their stories. I used the question feature to ask for suggestions on blog posts I should write. I want a fresh list of new ideas going into the new year so I can start out strong and be consistent on here. One of the suggestions I got was my writing journey and what I've learned that I think others can learn from. Not only do I think its a fun idea, but also super appropriate since we've started a new decade and I'm still feeling pretty introspective and thinking a lot about the past ten years.

I guess 2010 would be the right place to start. Honestly, I'm not sure if I was living in Arizona or Indiana at the time. Before 2010 we moved to Arizona and then around that time we moved to Indiana, then back to Arizona for about ten months and then back to Indiana because of my dad's job. Now we've happily been living in Indiana since. But also, I was like eleven at the time and even though I loved writing even then and wrote all the time... I wasn't consistent with it. Or, I guess more I just wasn't as serious about it. It was just something I would do. I remember when we had library time at my little Christian School in Arizona and the one I went to here in Indiana where, instead of reading, I would bring my notebook and a pencil and just write. I have notebooks and loose pages of stories buried somewhere in my closet from that time before I figured out how much easier and faster it was to type up my stories on a computer. I feel like it was in those earlier years that I wrote my first full book. Like the first first draft that I ever finished from beginning to end and was proud of and went back and revised. I'm a little hazy on which was the first one I finished because I wrote two full first drafts around twelve-thirteen. One was called Truest and my mom (who's an artist) even painted a cover for it. To this day she says that was one of her favorites that I wrote. I'm not sure why... because I mean it was fun and good for where I was at but I've written way better stuff since then. Nonetheless... Truest will always have a special place in my heart. The other one was about two twin girls Courtney and Cathleen who end up in a fairytale world (I was watching Once Upon a Time at the time and that book was heavily influenced by that show haha). That one never got a title... But it did get a sequel. That was the first sequel I ever wrote. It was short and messy and I was trying to write concepts and experiences that I didn't full grasp so it just ended up really clumsy and awkward. I know I wrote another one around that time but I don't think that one got a name either. It had a kelpie though and some other Fae-ish creatures.

After those (along with a few others) which I think I wrote from about eleven to... fourteen-ish, I wrote a book that is still super important to me. It was set in a steampunk world with fantastical elements. That was the first book where I did some extensive worldbuilding. Like religious system, (failed) attempts at maps, rules of the world, the political system, all that good stuff. It was also the first book I wrote with a teenage character and the first one I wrote with a romance in it between Keane and Lindsi. Keane was the charming prince and Lindsi was the shy but spunky heroine. The story actually has a bit of a Rapunzel quality to it since Lindsi grew up in a tower over the castle and no one except for her father, the captain of the guard and the royal family knew about her. She was never allowed to leave the castle either for... reasons I can't remember. That one was called something Star... The sequel was called Windstar and had a cool bounty hunter Sabrina as the protagonist. I'll always remember that one because I was revising Windstar in the middle of a very difficult time. I was sixteen by then and after a lot of doctors appointments and tests and tears, I got a very hard diagnosis. Soon after that my depression and anxiety came down on me full force. I remember a few weeks, maybe a few months afterward, I felt very lost in my writing. That was a huge shift in my life. One of the things I learned through that experience and through Windstar, was it was OK to let go of a WIP. That sometimes life throws you a curveball and you change... and the things you write change along with you. I remember being so frustrated because I was in a different place mentally and emotionally than I was when I wrote Windstar and I could no longer connect with Sabrina at all and I think I knew that I would never be able to go back to the place I was in when I wrote that book. But I did still go on to write a third book in that series... that I can't remember the name of either haha

All of that to say, those first few years I did a lot of growing. As a writer you have to start somewhere and I started with learning my process, learning the "rules" of writing so I could break them. I devoured craft book after craft book. The Go Teen Writer blog was hugely helpful to me. For real, I don't think I would be the writer I am without that blog. They gave me a community of teen writers, I felt less alone and there were so, so many blog posts that I poured over, saved and read multiple times. I did so much learning and it was awesome. To new writers out there, young or old or in-between, start out building yourself a strong foundation. You can't break the rules until you've mastered them. Read all the craft books, all the blog posts. Write, write, write. Experiment. I even copied some of my favorite books. Truest is loosely (a little bit of a lot) based off of Sarah Prineas' Winterling trilogy. Even my writing in that book sounds kind of like hers. All of my old stuff is loosely based off of books I was reading at the time. I'm a firm believer in copying other writers when you're starting out. Copy their plots, their characters, even their writing style. It really helps you to build good habits instead of repeating bad habits. To do that you have to read, read, read which is super important too. Devour as many book as you can in genres you're interested in. Build that strong foundation so that years later you're firm in your writing.

I honestly think Weapon Icean was the first book I wrote after that shift in my writing. I feel like I put a lot of my negative emotions into that book. Especially as I think about the ending and Delphi's reaction to the climax... I can definitely see me having put a lot of what I was feeling or had been feeling into certain scenes. That book was leaps and bounds ahead of anything else I had written before. It was the first real book I wrote. Like the first one I was willing to share with others and could be proud of. I revised and edited that book, got a real editor and published it. I do feel like my writing wasn't quite ready yet and sometimes I wish I had waited and hadn't rushed into publishing. I think it was Nadine Brandes on Instagram on Monday who was talking about self-publishing. She was doing a Q&A and someone asked her if she had any tips for young authors going into self-publishing. She said not to rush it and how she's known a few authors have regretted publishing so young years later. It's even hurt their careers. There were some who it didn't, but still... I can see that. She said to do your homework. Really research and know what you're getting into before you do it and I agree completely. Self-publishing is no easy feat. Yeah, anyone can throw a book up on Amazon, but not just anyone can build a career out of self-publishing. You have to really know what you're doing. Research marketing tactics, the best genres that sell the most on Amazon and know what you're getting into. You aren't going to make millions or even hundred or even twenty bucks a week off the first book you publish. When you self-publish, you're playing the long game. You have to be patient and smart about what you're doing. In other words, you have to know what you're doing.

Then, of course, there was the super difficult years of 2017 and 2018 in which I wrote and rewrote Project Hellion (Weapon Icean's sequel) what it felt like a hundred times. I'm super proud of that book though because it was the first one I had stuck with for more than a few months. Back then I would loose interest and move onto a new idea, but I stuck it out with Project Hellion and worked on that thing for almost two years before publishing it in November 2018. That one taught me a lot. It taught me the importance of patience, it taught me character arcs. Before Project Hellion I struggled with wrapping my head around character arcs. I don't know why, but they just would not make sense to me. Then Project Hellion happened and it clicked. I learned so much about character development, plots and subplots and the inner workings of what makes a book a book through writing and rewriting Project Hellion. I think that's so important. Like having that one book (or several) that you just can't put away. Even though it feels like an impossible task and is exhausting and often times frustrating and disheartening, it is so worth it to rewrite a book. It's like building a car from the ground up. Or reverse engineering something. You learn how to set the foundation, you learn how to fit all those little gears together just right so that when you turn the engine on it roars to life. For a book, you have to plot and re-plot the whole thing, rework scenes, scrap whole characters or plot points. Many authors would describe this as a book surgery. It's hard work, don't get me wrong, but so worth it in the end. And that is why Project Hellion taught me so much about writing. Because I spent so much time in the inner-workings of that book, all these different writing concepts started to click into place for me.

Then 2019, this year, happened. After I published Project Hellion (I also published a fantasy short story collection and a children's book in 2017 and 2018), I think I went through my normal phase of feeling stuck and running through idea after idea never landing on one that quite fit. Until I came to Second Star on the Right, which I believe I wrote for Nanowrimo 2018. I was so in love with this book. It was a Peter Pan continuation. It had romance and talked about depression and finding hope and life again. I really poured all of my struggles with depression into Wendy and her story in that book. I thought... this is the one. This is the one that I want to get traditionally published. One of my goals has always been to at least try and get traditionally published. I revised and edited that book like crazy, I loved it so much. And I still do. That book was just what I needed at that time. I needed to write that story. I came into 2019 with the goal of trying to get an agent and getting that book traditionally published. Like that was my big main goal of the year. I was determined and was like, I'm not going to give up just because it might be hard. I did hours and hours of research on agents and wrote out a list and started writing a query while revising and editing that book. I was hyped and ready and everything... And then Katie Phillip's Author Branding Challenge happened.

I've talked about this challenge so much! But really, it was a huge milestone in my writing journey. I don't know what would have happened with 2019 if not for her challenge. Doing that five day challenge with her and going through the workbook every day made me fall back in love with self-publishing. I remembered all the reasons I love self-publishing. I love that my mom does my covers, I love that I have complete control over my story, but most importantly, I really love the encouraging and wonderful community of self-published authors or soon to be authors I've found. It's just an amazing environment. Everyone is so encouraging and so kind.

So, I had planned to write this all as one blog post but then I realized, as I finished talking about Project Hellion, that I could write a whole other post full of stuff just about 2019 and everything I've learned last year about writing. I'm going to be splitting this into three parts. This is part one. Next week will be part 2 about self-publishing and part 3 about social media.

I hope this post was interesting and helpful, and if nothing else, encouraging to you!

What are some of the things you learned about your writing in the past decade? 



Melody Personette is a YA author, book dragon and follower of Jesus. She's been writing since she can remember and now tells stories about the magic of hope, light in the darkness and love conquering all and is passionate about inspiring teens and young adults with her novels. Melody lives in the home she shares with her family in Indiana where she is a college student working toward her Bachelors in general studies, is an avid reader and tea lover. You can find her on her website at www.melodypersonette.com or connect with her on her blog at www.melodypersonetteauthor.blogspot.com where she talks about everything from writing, to faith, to her latest readers. You can also connect with her on instagram @_melody_author_

Comments

  1. Aw, I really love this! It's always so great to hear about other writers' journeys, and I feel like we have a lot of similarities in ours. xD Yes yes yes to taking your time and playing the long game! It's intinct to want to achieve our goals and dreams as soon as possible, but it's important to remember that learning and growing is just as amazing. <3

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    1. Thank you! Yes! I so agree. I'm slowly starting to learn the importance of learning and growing is a great place to be in (even if I already want to be at my end goal haha).

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  2. Life circumstances do really change your writing. I feel like a completely different person before and after my parent’s divorce in 2011. My writing shifted a lot after that long painful year. I’m in the process of rewrites for the I’ve-lost-count time and it is definitely like building a car or for me it’s like modeling clay. You have to keep molding to get it just right. I hope your 2020 is awesome!

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    1. Yeah, I completely get that... those kinds of experience can make you a different person and change the kind of stories you tell and how you write. I love the modeling clay metaphor! That's a great way to describe it! :)

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  3. Oh, that's so cool: I also had a period (maybe a year or two?) in my early teens where I wrote my book using a notebook and pencil at my local library! My dad would drop me and two of my siblings off each Saturday. We'd pick out our books, and then they'd read and I'd sit and right for an hour or so. It wasn't my first project and it of course needs a TON of work, but it's one I'd love to go back to someday.


    Alexa
    thessalexa.blogspot.com
    verbosityreviews.com

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    1. That's so awesome! There's nothing like sitting with a pen and paper and writing by hand. <3 I don't know if you've ever heard of her, but Nadine Brandes (she wrote the Out of Time series and Fawkes) writes most all of her first drafts by hand. She talks about it a lot on her Instagram and it's super encouraging and makes me want to try and write more by hand (even though my hand cramps super easily which is why I am so thankful for my laptop haha).

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    2. Agreed! I have so many notebooks I want to fill up, so I've tried writing by hand more often. But, like you said, there's hand cramps plus it's so much more time-consuming than typing! But I think there is something special about writing by hand, such that I do want to try it more often.

      That's so interesting! I haven't read her books, but I have heard of them and several of the books have sounded interesting!

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    3. It is definitely more time-consuming than typing. I'm not sure I'd have the patience for it... I like that my typing can keep up with the story in my head haha. But definitely, there's something special about just writing by hand too. :)

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