Saturday, November 26, 2016

Small is Beautiful

A couple months ago, Jenelle Schmidt totally made my day. She was joining in a "Small is Beautiful" blogging thingamajig highlighting the smaller, but still wonderful, blogs out there--and she included Adventure Awaits. Her words brought a big smile to my face. Blogging can be difficult, and attracting readers can be even harder, so to hear authentic encouragement from a follower is so motivating.

And so today I wish to spread that encouragement around by giving a big ol' shout-out to some small blogs that I love! You might discover a new corner of the internet, and it might just be such a fun place you'll want to stay.

  1. Feature 3-5 blogs with fewer than 100 followers.
  2. Write 1-3 paragraphs about each blog, including information like what the blog is about, a brief bio of the blogger, and/or why you recommend their blog. Don’t forget a link to their blog!
  3. Include an image for each blog, whether it’s a blog button, profile photo, header, or simply a screenshot of the blog.
  4. Thank the blogger who featured you, and include a link to their blog. If you like, you can even include them as one of the blogs that you feature (especially if they joined the tag without having been featured by someone else).
  5. Include the tag image somewhere in your post.
Optional: For extra visibility, share a link to your post on Twitter with #SmallBlogsTag. Don’t forget to follow the hashtag and retweet others’ links!

Jenelle, I'd love to feature you if you had less than 100 followers, but you've surpassed that number (so good for you!).

Okay, I may be biased, since Lost is my littlest sister, but she has a fun blog. She writes about Animal Jam (an online game she plays) and occasionally the books she reads and stuff she does. She shares her artwork, which is detailed and completely adorable, and is also posting chapters of a story she's writing. Her blog is as quirky and fun as she is!

As a busy university student, Sarah doesn't post super often, but when she does, they're usually entertaining posts about writing or reading, or sometimes life-y things. One of her book ideas--which I've heard about personally--is a superhero flip book. As in, half the book is from the hero's perspective, and then you flip it over, and the other half is from the sidekick's. How cool is that?

Skye writes honestly about writing, the difficulties of life, and miscellaneous other things like books, movies/TV shows, art, inspirational things, etc. Her photo shoots are AH-MAY-ZING. Serious photography skills here. She ropes her siblings and friends into dressing up and posing in the beautiful BC woods where she lives. This one is a recent fave of mine.

Mary is just a ray of sunshine wherever she goes, so it's no surprise her blog is like an instant shot of caffeinated happiness. She writes about her stories, reading, occasionally life, and yes, more books. Her book photo shoots are so cute and colorful! She has a love of Lord of the Rings, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Pride and Prejudice. Her posts and comment replies never fail to make me smile!

This friend of mine just recently started blogging! She writes dramatically about--you guessed it--books and writing, including her own journey and some of the clichés that drive her batty. I've had the opportunity to help edit some of her work in the past, and it's neat to see how she's growing.

If you're looking for thoughtful reflections on life, history, and stories, look no further! Blue's ponderings (which she posts every few weeks or so) make me think. They're short and sweet, and often point out the little things in life we can be grateful for, even something as simple as the scenery we pass every day.

A relatively new friend of mine also recently started her blog, where she posts her ramblings about anything and everything--her life as a farm girl turned student, things she's learning, places she wants to travel, and little stories she writes based on holidays/events (such Remembrance Day or Daylight Savings).

Tori's blog has become one of my favorite writing blogs--the advice she shares is always comprehensive and well-thought out. She frequently uses specific books or movies as examples of writing lessons, and has a "So Your Character Is . . ." series. She also reviews novels, and interviews her characters, and talks about the books she's writing. I can't wait till her books are published!

These are just some of the blogs I enjoy!

I sense a bookish theme going on . . . Anyway, go on and check them out! Show them some love! (I do have to mention there were many blogs that were around the 100-200 followers mark that I wanted to mention, but couldn't.) What are some of the smaller blogs you love?

Saturday, November 19, 2016

7 Ways to Write More Words and Read More Books

Before we dive in, I'd like to highlight some great editing tips Jenny Frietag @ The Penslayer compiled this week. You can read the post HERE. I was thrilled to see a piece of my own advice included!

The end of November is drawing near, folks, in case you haven't noticed. Which means thousands of writers are striving to meet their fifty thousand word goal in the days remaining. I am not among that huge tribe of crazy (that is, crazy awesome) people, but perhaps I'm absorbing some of their excitement, because I've been more productive this month than I have been in the last two months combined. Hooray!

Whether you're doing NaNoWriMo or not, if you're a writer, you probably want to write. (I should hope so, or else why call yourself a writer?) And quite possibly, you want to write more than you are currently doing. But life is busy, isn't it? How do you find the time?

However, not all of you reading this are writers. But there's a 98.239% chance that you are a reader.* Life is busy for you as well. Things like school and work and obligations crowd out less urgent things like reading.

*I would be surprised if this blog attracted someone who didn't care for books in some way.

So what are we busy readers and writers to do? I can't promise a magical solution to clear your schedule, but I do have some lil' tips to share that can help you put more time into your creative pursuits.

Step 1: Recognize that time is not a thing to be found or made.

You can't find time--you already have it. Nor can you manufacture time. You have twenty-four hours every day. No more, no less. The most productive writers and most prolific readers out there don't have more time than you do! They've just found a way to manage their time wisely.

Time is a resource, just like health or finances. So evaluate where you're putting it. Figure out what's nonnegotiable, such as sleep, work, school, time spent with God, building and maintaining your relationships, etc.

Step 2: Manage your free time.

Everything outside of those nonnegotiables can be moved around or minimized.

I keep my Goodreads status updated, so obviously I have time for it. Likewise with the shows I watch, blogs I read, and YouTube videos I consume. All good things, but also all potential time-suckers.

For a few days, pay attention to all the little things you do, then decide whether those are things you want to spend time on. Trust me, I'm as guilty of wasting time as anyone else. (I'm trying to break some bad phone habits, to be honest.) But you might be surprised how quickly those little things add up. Five minutes on your phone five times a day is twenty-five minutes, you guys--almost half an hour.

Step 3: Find the blank spaces in your day.

This will look different for everyone. For me, I read during my lunch breaks at work, even if it's only a few pages. My brother and I take turns driving to school, which gives me forty free minutes to read when he's the driver. Three days of the week, my college schedule is such that I have a couple free hours over suppertime, so if I don't have homework, I usually answer emails and blog comments, draft a new post, or write.

If you're in a waiting room, that's another chance to read. If you have a few minutes between activities, you can scribble out some plot points so that later, you can jump right into your next writing session without staring at a wall for ten minutes.

Step 4: Carve it out of your schedule with a ruthless knife of terror.

If you've done all of the above and you STILL DON'T HAVE TIME (oh, excuse me, haven't managed the time) . . . you may have to carve out a block of your day to curl up with a book or write a few pages. Don't feel bad if you have to schedule this stuff in.  If to-do lists and planners are your thing, penciling in your hobbies might be the trick to finally doing them.

Step 5: Hold yourself accountable.

Whether it's the satisfaction of checking off that box or buying a new book once your current read is finished, find a way to reward yourself for sticking to it. Writers, what motivates you? Some of my writer friends like to forbid themselves from using the internet until they've written X amount of words each day--for them, social media is a nice little break before jumping back into their manuscript. Or maybe taking a walk, playing with your dog, grabbing a snack, or indulging in stupid YouTube videos is what will drive you to reach a daily goal.

It's also a good idea to find someone who will keep you accountable, someone who will ask you what you've written this week. Knowing you have to report to them will give you that extra drive to keep going.

Step 6: Short stuff.

Obviously if you read shorter books you'll read a larger quantity of books, and if that makes you feel better, no problem. But that's not really the point, because you're still not reading more pages . . . So I guess that's not super useful! But reading in short bursts whenever you have a minute helps.

In writing, don't underestimate the power of word sprints/word wars. I've found that I can write more if I set myself a series of ten or fifteen minute sprints, with the simple goal to see how much I can write during that time.

Something the 100-for-100 challenge taught me was that even if you're crazy busy, you can still write a little bit. And we all know that a lot of little bits add up to a big bit.

Step 7: There's a time to just do it, and there's a time to relax.

Sometimes you have to work at getting around to the things you love. Silly, I know, but that's how life is. And if you're fighting to guard your reading/writing time, great. But don't become so task-oriented that you suck the joy out of those things. Don't write just because you scheduled it 7:30-8:30 every Wednesday night, and you have to write five hundred words or ELSE. Don't read just because you have to get through six books a month to meet your Goodreads challenge.

Do it because you actually want to.

Really, there's nothing wrong with wanting to shut off your brain after a long day, and watching a movie instead of writing. You need to unwind too, or your writing will suffer. And don't be so wrapped up in making progress that you kill the book you're reading. It should be recreational, after all! Take it easy now and then.

All you NaNo'ers: this is the month to power through and meet those goals, yes! But don't do it at the expense of your health or peace of mind. Take a day off if you need to, even if it means working extra tomorrow to make up for it. The world will not end if you don't write 1,667 words today.

So why are you still hanging around Adventure Awaits? Go write that book! Or read it, whichever you choose.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

The Writer's Life Tag

Time to make a dent in my pile of accumulated tags! Way back in spring, fellow bookdragon Christine Smith tagged me for the Writer's Life Tag. It sounded like fun, since who among the writing community doesn't like chatting about each other's methods and habits? Yet despite my enthusiasm, I somehow forgot about it, and went on my merry way for half a year. #oops

But here I am, digging it out at last! Pull up a chair, honorable questers, grab a cup of tea (or coffee, or juice, or Viking-worthy ale if that's your thing), and let's talk.

picture & graphic belong to Christine Smith

Write-fuel: What do you eat/drink while writing?

I'm don't usually munch and write at the same time, because crumbs in my keyboard = blegh. But I often have water nearby, or sometimes tea. My go-to flavor is vanilla chai. If I'm really in the zone, I sometimes forget to drink, though.

Write-sounds: What do you listen to while writing?

Recently, I haven't been listening to anything besides whatever background noise is going on. It's been a while since I was holed up in my room in front of my laptop--these days I write wherever my family is (usually I'm curled up on the couch or parked at the dining room table) or during breaks in college. But when I do listen to music, it's movie soundtracks or instrumental albums. Some favorites are the Narnia soundtracks, the Divergent soundtrack, Epic Music I and Epic Music II by indie composer Jonathan Maiocco, and music by Two Steps from Hell.

Write-vice: What’s your most debilitating distraction?

Emails, blogging, Goodreads . . . let's just say the internet in general! There are always little things to check or take care of instead of writing those words, and they can either break my momentum or keep me from starting to write at all.

Write-horror: What’s the worst thing that’s ever happened to you while writing?

I know plenty of writers have horror stories about losing their work and whatnot, but that's only happened to me once, and it was only a page or two. So I'd have to say the worst thing would be the times in high school when I got so wrapped up in my story that I lost track of time and neglected to put supper in the oven or change a load of laundry. My family has had to change supper plans at least a few times on account of me!

Write-joy: What’s the best thing that’s ever happened to you while writing, or how do you celebrate small victories?

Every time I get caught up in a story, in a stream of words and images and emotions--when I'm so focused, the outside world barely exists--it's euphoria. I will slog through pages of uninspired words for a moment like that.

It's also very encouraging to receive feedback from beta readers or blog commenters, people who have read something I've written and care enough to share their reactions. It's the best feeling to know that they've been made to think, to feel, to see things in a new light, or to draw closer to Jesus . . . through a story I penned. It blows my mind every time, and I have Him to thank.

Write-crew: Who do you communicate with or not communicate with while writing?

When I'm actually, physically writing . . . I speak to no one, if I can help it. Human beings are distracting. But outside of writing sessions, I talk with a number of friends online and "in real life" (I don't like that term because it implies that my online friends aren't real as well, but I'm too lazy at the moment to come up with a better name for it).

"In real life," my closest friends aren't even writers, but they love me enough that they're fascinated by my authorial rambles and enthusiastically support these dreams of mine. I'm also blessed with a few friends who do write, and they're fun to bounce ideas around with.

Online, my main writing buddies are most often these lovely gals: Christine Smith, Deborah O'Carroll, and Mary Horton. Not to mention my broader network of bloggers and commenters who are always up for a writing-related chat!

Write-secret: What’s your writing secret to success or hidden flaw?

Let's talk about both, because while I certainly don't possess the key to conquering the writing universe, I have learned a few things along my journey thus far. And contrary to the brave face I may wear online, I am flawed. (I try to be genuine, but it's easy to highlight the good stuff and filter out the bad.)

Secret to success: keep at it. Yes, there are times to drop a manuscript entirely or take a break from it, but I see so many young writers flitting from one story to another with the attention-span of a butterfly. They're missing out on what can be learned from actually finishing a story, typing The End, bringing character arcs to completion, and tying up a plot. And if you never reach the end, you'll never edit. If there are things to be learned from completing a book, then there's ten times more to be gleaned from navigating the editing process!

Hidden flaw(s): I'm a relatively slow writer (though I'm not sure if that's 100% true or if I would actually be faster than I think if I could devote full-time hours to writing). I often find research to be a drag and may procrastinate in getting to it. I struggle with self-doubt--sometimes while pushing through a messy first draft, and sometimes while staring at the fifth-and-still-vastly-imperfect draft and hoping that if I stare hard enough, it will fix itself. I'm still finding the balance between beautiful prose/immersive description and action/dynamic plot. Perfectionism gets in my way. But I'm working on all these things, slowly but surely!

Write-spiration: What always makes you productive?

Goals, just like Christine said for herself. A plan of action, self-imposed deadlines, the satisfaction of seeing progress being made. I'm always motivating myself, not necessarily with rewards, because the accomplishment is often enough for my task-driven personality. If I don't set goals for myself, I don't get anywhere and have little drive to keep writing when it gets tough.

Write-peeve: What’s one thing writers do (or you do) that’s annoying?

I am as guilty of this as anyone else out there: talking about writing more than actually writing. Whether it's reading yet another blog post on the craft, or emailing a writing buddy, or coming up with a blog post about writerly issues--those are all good, helpful things, but they can take over the place of real writing. And the best way to become a better writer is to simply write.

There's a place for talking, but if that's all you do...

And now I tag . . .

And you, should you so desire! If you do the tag, leave me the link in the comments! Happy writing to you all, and especially those of you participating in NaNoWriMo.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Subplots and Storylines - October 2016

Well, hasn't this been a packed month! I celebrated Canadian Thanksgiving with copious amounts of turkey; went from eating outdoors at the beginning of the month (I don't recall it ever being warm enough for that in October before!) to shivering in gusty winds near freezing temperature; and generally spent most of my waking hours in college.

I was looking back over my college notes to see what I all did this month, and I was surprised to see what I'd been learning at the start of October. It feels like so long ago that we talked about stress, attitude, belief systems of the heart, figuring out what you want in life, personal capacity . . . Looking back, I've learned a lot this month. More importantly, I've internalized a lot. The things I'm being taught haven't fully stuck yet, but many things are well on their way to changing my thoughts. It's amazing to see that.

Some other college highlights:

  • Allll the volunteering and being a part of awesome events.
  • My first speech in my communicators class! It was an icebreaker speech designed to give me public speaking experience and help my audience get to know me. It was fun and nerve-wracking, and I received great feedback/critique.
  • Loving my junior high girls small group that I get to help lead every week. It's such a fun age group, and there's a distinct mix of girls who have grown up in church, and girls whose only church is small groups.
  • One of my big college projects has been preparing a message for a high school chapel program. Three classmates and I have been working on this for weeks, and we just recently rehearsed our chapel in front of the class. Because I tend to prefer working alone, it's been a great experience to work as a team. We got creative and filmed our own short video to introduce our message topic . . . a video in which I play a cheesy T.V. anchor. A male cheesy T.V. anchor, complete with a curly wig and mustache. (I am sooo going to regret this.)
  • Youth held a Halloween costume party (pictures to come in a minute), and featured two escape rooms! I got to help plan and build them, so it was fantastic to see them completed and ready to be used. We built a zombie lab where the objective was to find the cure, and also a Bigfoot forest with the objective of finding the dead researcher's notes proving Bigfoot's existence. Really fun!

Here's a couple shots of my steampunk costume. It was quite fun putting it together. I already owned the vest, jewelry, one of the belts, leggings, and boots. I bought the shirt and the other two belts at a thrift store for a few dollars, the skirt at a different thrift store for $6, and the aviator goggles at a costume store for $14.
That's actually a watch, not a choker--I used
thread to tie it around my neck. :)

October Films

The Flash
My siblings and I finished season 1. Oh. My. Goodness. This show is just amazing. I can honestly call it a favorite (shhh, I know I haven't watched oodles of shows to begin with). This season ended spectacularly, leaving me satisfied and in agony at the same time. I'm really going to have to make a separate post on this show just to flail over the characters and twisty plot.
Once Upon a Time (Seasons 1 and 4)
My sisters and I almost finished season 4 during October (!!), and we're about a third of the way into season 1 with our parents. So much is happening in 4, and it's still fun going back to the first season and getting a "before and after" snapshot of the characters.
Tron: Legacy
My brother's college ministry area is media, so he has a number of movies to watch as homework. Tron: Legacy looked like one of the more interesting ones, so I watched it with him. It had some cool things about it, like the main character being a young adult rather than the typical teen, going into a digital world, Light Cycles, identities contained in discs, etc. But the plot itself was rather clichéd, and the only main female character was pretty two-dimensional.

October Reads

The Dream Thieves // Maggie Stiefvater
I loved this one, but not . . . completely. It's a complicated issue, much like the first book. I adored Maggie's writing style. I loved the characters. (Gansey and Adam, man.) But the language bothered me again, and Ronan--who was more of a focal character this time around--did some stupid things. There was a middle chunk of the book where I was fed up with him, but then things turned around and made more sense and he made better decisions and a certain somebody got what was coming to him. So yeah. Also the occult stuff from the first book was less occult-y in this one, with more of a fantasy flavor to it, which I appreciated. (It's less real and less weird that way.)

Honestly, though, aside from Ronan's temporary stupidity and the foul language, THIS BOOK IS BEAUTIFUL. I'm so excited to keep reading the series!

Into the Wild // Erin Hunter

This was a reread. The first time I read it was yeeeaaars ago, and I remember loving it until I read further in the series and realized that the astrology-type thing with StarClan was not the best thing to be reading about, and quit. (The idea is that the warrior cats become stars when they die, and living cats seek guidance from the stars.) The only reason I picked up Into the Wild again was to screen it for my youngest sister. It's been a long time since I made the decision to quit these books, so I thought it might be wise to re-evaluate, since she wanted to check them out . . . but I don't think my conclusion has changed.

I will say, however, that the writing was less wonderful than I remembered, but the plotline--once it got past the initial tropes--was still fairly engaging.

Writer to Writer: From Think to Ink // Gail Carson Levine

I have been slowly picking my way through this book for an embarrassingly long time. I think it's been a year? Maybe more? Not that it was hard to read--quite the opposite, in fact. I was just reading a couple chapters at a time here and there between novels.

Anyway, this is Gail Carson Levine's second writing advice book. (I also have Writing Magic: Creating Stories That Fly on my bookshelf.) Writer to Writer is written simply, but in an engaging way that boils down the elements of storytelling into easy-to-grasp sections. I found plenty of good reminders within these pages. Unlike the first book, a lot of the material was adapted from her blog, a valuable resource I've been reading for years.

Eagle Strike // Anthony Horowitz

As the fourth installment in the Alex Rider series, this one broke the mold in some ways, which was a nice change after three very similar books. It still required some suspension of belief when fourteen-year-old Alex runs around pulling James Bond-like stunts (this kid probably should have died three books ago), but it's still an entertaining read. I enjoyed the video game element, which I can't elaborate on without spoiling things, and I had the satisfaction of halfway predicting a plot twist.
Book Haul
Three cheers for second-hand books! I shopped around at the annual book faire, and came home with some fabulous finds.
  • The Lost Road and Other Writings // J.R.R. Tolkien
  • A Hero's Throne // Ross Lawhead (I forgot that I already own a brand-new copy of this book. *sigh*)
  • Inkdeath // Cornelia Funke
  • Mockingjay // Suzanne Collins
  • Allegiant // Veronica Roth (I guess it was the day for YA trilogy finales!)

October Writing

The Prophet's Key advanced by exactly 1,911 words this month. Yep, that's it. I also started working on a character questionnaire by Kristen Kieffer @ She's Novel for Aileen, but didn't get very far. When I actually have the time/take the time to fill out those questions for all my main characters, I have a feeling it could rescue my novel. I've been strangely struggling to connect to my characters, so reviving them should revive me.

And I wrote The Cage, a 1,612 word spooky story. Quite fun to exercise my writing muscles on something with no expectations put on myself!

Altogether, this adds up to only 3.5k words written in October. Of course I would've liked to have written more, but at the same time, I've been doing lots of living lately, and that's just as important. (Not gonna lie, though, everyone's NaNo excitement and wordcounts and progress makes me a teensy bit jealous! One day, you guys, one day I'll join you . . .)

And that, questers, was October.

I'd say it was a pretty solid month. Many subplots going on, lots of personal growth, some good books and shows . . . just very little writing. But Christmas break is coming. Eventually.

How was your October? Did anybody dress up? What's one
thing you learned last month? And who's all participating
in NaNoWriMo? (You guys rock! Keep pushing on!)