Monday, August 22, 2011

Where I Go #3: How To Be Alone

by: Becca Christiansen

The question of where I go to write is more complicated than a matter of physical location. It has a lot to do with my age and what stage of my life I’m at, and the steps I’ve taken to get here.

I wrote my first novels when I was twelve, and at those ages I would stay up until ungodly hours in the morning, typing away madly at my dad’s computer in his basement office. I wasn’t allowed to be down there, but since I was so gripped by stories I had no choice but to pound out the words any time I could grab a spare moment alone.

I started writing seriously when I was fourteen. I’ve been a writer since I learned how to form words with a big, red Kindergarten pencil, but fourteen is the age I began to commit to it. No more stolen hours at Dad’s computer for me. I stopped writing by computer and started writing longhand. When I think back on that, it boggles my mind. I wrote seven novels by hand, on loose-leaf paper borrowed from my school binders. Seven! While my hand aches just thinking about attempting this now, at the time it made sense. I had to write whenever I could, and writing by hand meant it was portable.

And so I became The Girl Who Writes Stories. I had a yellow folder full of pages of scribbles, and I never went anywhere without it. I wrote underneath my schoolbooks in class, I wrote on buses to field trips, I wrote all the time. Only an hour or so after school would I really sit down specifically to write, but the words accumulated anyway from my stolen moments during the day.

My schoolwork suffered. I almost failed a few courses in grade nine because I spent all my time and energy writing. I also was a whole lot less social than most kids my age. Instead of going out to parties with friends, I stayed in and played with the people inside my head.
If you want to be a serious writer, that is one skill you have to perfect: the ability to be alone. No matter whether you’re writing in a coffee shop, library, or in your own bedroom, you have to have the drive, determination, and focus to be able to be by yourself for long stretches of time.

There’s a reason most of us writers are introverts. We draw our energy from our time alone, rather than from socializing, and writing is the perfect opportunity to close a door and tell the world, “I’m busy, don’t bother me.”

These days, I write and live in a tiny, messy bedroom in my family’s home. I’ll be turning twenty next month, but I’m still living with my parents, and plan to for some time yet. At my age and income level, living on my own would mean living with roommates, and with roommates, I’m not guaranteed the time alone to write that I can get now. Roommates may not understand my need to be in solitary confinement for large portions of the day. They might worry about me and contemplate calling the local psych hospital. At home, with family that understands my strange habits, I’m safe to close the door, retreat into myself, and create.

Because even though the ability to be alone is crucial, it’s also important to have a family that is there for you when you need to socialize -- and understands that socialization, for crazy writer-types, tends to happen in manic bursts of desire to play board games all night long.

Becca Christiansen is a 19-year-old YA writer and blogger. She is Canadian and, by default, a rabid hockey fan. Visit her blog at

For more info on this guest submissions series, visit the "Where I Go" submissions page

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A Week of Silence

It feels like a year since my laptop died, but really it's only been a week. The other day I asked my mom what she did back in her day (she hates when I call it that) when they didn't have computers and dinosaurs roamed the land (she hates that one too). She said, "I read."

I don't get it. I read too, but no matter how much I love books (which is quite a lot) they couldn't replace my need for blogs or twitter or email! I need a daily consumption of all--preferably in that exact order--to get by. And don't get me started on Word. Really don't. I miss it too much and the thought of it makes me want to cry with longing. Whoever invented pen and paper should be slapped.

But, this post is not about writing longhand or my vendetta against it or about how much I love the Internet. I'm dropping by to let you know that I haven't forgotten you. My week of silence has given me a lot of thinking time which means I have a lot of goodies to post, including (but not limited to) my first day of college, novel month, and 2 Where I Go submissions that I'm insanely excited about.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Novel Month Day 6

Day Six

I'm having a hard time balancing my writing life and my regular day-to-day life. Usually, this problem is very familiar and kind of expected, and I deal with it. But lately, this problem seems amplified by a million. There's a cruel balance between writing life and real life, and even though I know this I've seemed to lost the knack of getting it right.

The last time this happened to me, I was working on the final draft of my first completed novel. That was December of 09 and I started querying in February of 2010. I remember spending nine hour days working on that novel. I was writing in a bathroom at the time, sitting on the toilet with my laptop on a plastic hamper between my knees. I spent all day hunched over that hamper, breathing in my own stale air, lost in the words on the page and a dozen tea cups by my feet. I was as obsessed with my story and getting it done as I'd ever been.

I feel the same way now, like I'm more grounded in my story than in the real world. And if I could carve out nine free hours, I would spend them sitting in my hotel room with my back against a wall and my laptop on my knees, writing until I reached "The End."

This seems to be my process when I'm getting close to the end of a book.

So, my point is a question: When you're close to the finish line, does your writing process change, and if it does, does it conflict with your everyday life?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Novel Month Day 3

Day Three

Have you ever written a scene for your characters that you knew wasn't really for them, but was for you? That's the problem that I'm facing right now. I know that in the end, this scene will be cut but I really want to write it. A part of me feels like I need to write it in order to get my mind caught up to where my characters are. But another part of me feels like that sort of indulgence is just that: an indulgence, one I can't afford today.

Every single word takes a little more out of me today. All my energy has been poured into packing and more packing and then registering for classes and a whole list of other things that I don't have the energy to get into. So, only 475 words were written today, all of which have substance and are not indulgent. My characters are happy but I'm still thinking about that scene like it's a cake batter ice cream cone on a hot day.

I think I'll indulge myself on the car ride back to Southern Cali. Or maybe when I get to the hotel. Or maybe I wont.

Music I'm listening to: "Home" by: Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros

**If you haven't read Aleeza's "Where I Go" submission, go read it now!! It's inspiring and full of pictures.

Where I Go #2: Writerly Spaces

by: Aleeza

So, writing spaces. I’ve always wished for one of my own—an actual writing space, where I sit down every day to write, where I store all things writerly, notes and books and whatnot. In my mind, it looks more or less like this:

But since I’m a teenager living with my parents and three siblings, that’s exactly what that is: a wish. Instead, I don’t actually have a specific writing space. I write mostly wherever I can, which most of the time includes one of these three places:

My little brother’s room (we call it his room, though all of us are always lounging there), where the desktop is located:

My own bed:

The drawing room:

Yeah, not exactly ‘luxurious.’ But that’s the thing: when I write, where I write doesn’t matter that much to me. It’s what I’m feeling while I’m writing that matters. Happy, sad, angry, etc. I find it incredibly important to be in the character’s head while I write, and as long as I’m doing that, it doesn’t always affect me.

That’s not to say it doesn’t affect me at all. The weather, for one thing, is a really important factor. Here’s one thing about me: I do not function well in heat. In fact, I turn into a monster-version of myself when I’m too hot. As I live in Karachi, Pakistan, which is really humid most of the time, combined with the fact that my apartment doesn’t have air-conditioning, this can become a bit of a problem at times.

When it’s cold, though, writing becomes a lot more fun. Winter just creates this atmosphere for me, one of comfort, one that just always boosts my spirits.

All in all, I have to say, when it comes to writing spaces, I’m pretty choiceless. But I still keep on writing, because that’s just what I do. I could never let my surroundings limit me—unless if I lived in some jungle and always had to be on high alert, maybe. Jokes aside, though, one day I hope I’m able to carve out a neat writing space for myself, that, even if not high-maintenance, is at least organized and, well, writerly! Like this one, for example:

(If you’re wondering, yes, I do have a bit of an obsession with author’s writing room. I just find it very interesting, and I like dreaming of owning a place similar to it.

Aleeza is a 17-year-old Pakistani-American YA writer & avid reader. She loves libraries, cricket, Pepsi & Gatorade, long drives, NEW ZEALAND!, among lots of other stuff. She's aiming to become an accountant in case her novels don’t bring in sufficient income. 

To read more from Aleeza, visit her blog Aleeza reads and writes


For more info on this guest submission series, visit the "Where I Go" submissions page 

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Novel Month Day 2

Day Two

I've spent most of today packing and cleaning. I am officially moving out, going off on my own, starting a new chapter of life...or any other cliche you can think of that emphasizes the fact that I am leaving the nest.Tomorrow is road trip day and I'm excited, even though I know that means I'll have to wake up extra early if I want to get my writing done before we leave.

I haven't written anything today besides this blog post. I keep thinking about how I should be writing, but I can't seem to make myself actually go do it. It seems like there's so many other things, more important things to be doing. If I'm being honest with myself, I can admit that most days there are a million other things (sometimes "more important" things) I could be doing instead of writing, that I probably should be doing instead of writing. The days where there's absolutely nothing that demands your attention but the story are few and far between.

Most days are about sacrificing something for your writing; an episode of True Blood for one chapter, exercise for a few hundred words, a day on the beach with your friends for one sentence of utter brilliance. Sometimes, even food gets pushed to the back-burner.

So, if I'm being honest with myself, I can admit that today is no different than yesterday or the day before. The only thing keeping me from writing is me. Tonight, I think I can sacrifice that hour I was going to spend watching Suits for a few hundred words.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Novel Month Day 1

Day One

I'm going to finish my novel this month. That sounds more profound that it actually is.

I've been working on The Book That Wont End for over a year. This is the longest it has ever taken me to write a book and maybe that's why I'm starting to get a little antsy. I was hesitant to start this book because I knew how hard it would be to write. And it is. It's hard every single day. Writing this book is new on so many levels. There are so many things that I've learned or am learning. I'm a Contemporary writer writing an Urban Fantasy. The doubt that I'm cut out to write this book never goes away. A part of me wishes I could give it to someone else and let them finish it; another part of me understands that no one would be able to write TBTWE the way I will, not because I think I'm the epitome of writerly brilliance, but because this is my story and no one else can see the vision of it that I do.

I'm starting Novel Month with 38,000+ words and hoping I'll be able to get to 90,000 by the end of the month. Okay, maybe it is a little profound, for me anyway. That means I'll be writing a minimum of 1,500 words a day. I'm not sure how I'll manage to do this, I just know that I have to try.

Music I'm listening to: "My One And Only Thrill" by Melody Gardot