My Self-Help Challenge

I am obsessed with the idea of self-help books and courses. What does that mean? It means that my Kindle is currently packed with self-help books of all kinds, and I take advantage of every Udemy sale to buy courses that claim the ability to teach me all sorts of things from writing to drawing and learning German. I love the idea of these courses. But ask me how many of these books I’ve actually read, or how many courses I’ve actually taken the time to go through.

Answer: none.

You can only imagine how much money this has led me to waste. Just last week I spent about twenty dollars on Kindle books about writing. Each book was between one and three dollars. So it bought me quite a few. But upon buying the books I promptly shut my laptop and ignored my Kindle which had just downloaded them. And I went to work on my WIP (work in progress).

Why am I so obsessed with these books? Why do I continue to buy them without touching them ever again? The answer is simple. I like to think–stupidly–that the simple act of acquiring these books and courses about all sorts of subjects will somehow allow me to learn the material inside them by osmosis. All I have to do is purchase a drawing course to be able to draw like I’ve been doing it for years. It told me so!

Well no, not really. What it said was if I applied the lessons and practiced hard I could achieve this. But who wants to do all that, right? So I continue piling the courses and books up to one day be inspired to read and apply.

I have issues.

But realizing you have issues is the first half of the battle, right? And this is what inspired my latest challenge. There are two things I’ve always wanted to know how to do.

  1. Draw (like, you know, well)
  2. Write faster

So I recently bought this book called 5,000 Words Per Hour by Chris Fox, and instead of letting it rot on my Kindle, I forced myself to read it. And I am thoroughly inspired. I am going to apply it the way the author instructed, and will check in here every week, reporting my progress. And for drawing, I bought this figure drawing course by Riven Phoneix (an amazing artist) years ago, and I’ll be following the course as well, and will post my progress each week for that as well.

This is a lot, to go from nothing to something all at once. I don’t expect to do it perfectly, and I expect to miss a few days, but I will try my best. You guys will keep me accountable, right? I hope so. Over the next year I want to get faster with my writing and eventually I want to be able to draw my aliens and characters from imagination in non stick-figure form.

I can’t guarantee I’ll stop buying self-help books, but I am making a promise to myself that I will learn how to use the ones I do purchase instead of wishing they’ll bestow magical powers upon me.

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Legacy of Sex Abuse and Terror

I loved this book, and only after extensive thought did I myself come to understand what the author was attempting to portray through her main character. It’s good to see my understanding was correct, and I continue to wait for the next book in this series.

AM Justice

The past week I’ve been thinking a lot about a headline from Tor.com:

Do Better: Sexual Violence in SFF

In this article, Sarah Gailey bemoans the fact that sexual violence is the default character-building motif authors use when they need their heroines to suffer or overcome a challenge. Why not physical violence, or mental or emotional difficulties, or another form of negative personal experience? She lists several books where the female protagonists do not experience sexual abuse, then asks authors to:

Look at them and ask yourself why their imaginations are strong enough to let their female characters have stories that don’t include sexual violence. Ask yourself why those stories are so rare.

Ask yourself, and do better.

cover92828-mediumSuch admonishment puts me on the defensive, since I’m one of many authors whose female protagonist experiences sexual abuse. In A Wizard’s Forge, sex abuse is the driving force behind Vic’s quest…

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Exciting New Stories

I am so excited to be starting something new. You have no idea. I was writing the same story for years and years. Why? That… is a complicated question. Let’s just say I’m indecisive and wrote one million and ten drafts before deciding I was finished rewriting. And yes, by “let’s just say” I do in fact mean “this is exactly what happened.”

But no more. I closed that book (literally), and now I get to explore one of the millions of other ideas in my head. That brings about my next challenge, however. Which one? And that is how I’ve been spending my time for about a month. Writing down new ideas, separating them into pro and con lists and numbered lists and highlighting the ones I really like, etc etc. When I’m focused on one specific idea I can write about it forever, but I can’t do that until I have one specific idea, and I truly am one of the most indecisive people you’ll ever meet in your life.

For example, I thought I had a good idea a few days ago, but then I started writing it and realized I hated it, so another idea popped up, and I’m going to write a chapter or two of this one and see how it goes. The interesting thing, is that I could actually combine both ideas and make something completely new. One of the ideas is loosely based on my very first novel, actually. Novel Zero, I like to call it.

Isn’t it amazing how life can come back around to the beginning? Certain aspects can repeat themselves over and over again. I haven’t thought about that novel in forever, but suddenly I’m starting something “new” and it pops into my head? And it is exciting me, which is more than I can say for a lot of my ideas.

As a writer, my process is sporadic. It goes this way: get idea, write one chapter to see if it works (without any sort of idea where the story is going), if it works, stop and focus on the characters (developing them as necessary. My favorite part), then figure out the ending, then write. Basically. But it could also go in a different order. Sometimes I like to plan out everything. Sometimes I have thought about an idea and dream of it so often that I know every detail. Then there are the ideas I know nothing about but have such happy feelings about that I just start writing and don’t stop until I reach THE END.

And the best thing about that is that I’m not wrong. As a writer, I have the liberty to do as I wish with my imagination and my words. I can start and stop as many times as I want, go with my gut or with logic. I can write a book one way one time and a completely different way the next. I can write more than one at once, or nothing at all. I’m free to express myself however I want without consequence.

So I think I’m going to do that now. I’d write more here, but I’m too excited to get writing on my fiction. Question, though. Are you a plotter or a pantser? Or both?

Imagination & The Origin of Ideas

Today I learned that Gene Wilder passed. Though I will admit to not giving him much thought in my everyday life, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is one of my favorite movies. If only for the song Pure Imagination, and all of the imaginative, crazy things in the movie. I was a child who always ended up in trouble for daydreaming. I’ve never lacked imagination, and this song makes me feel good about it and forget all the scoldings I received. And that leads me to my first official blog post:

Where do I get my ideas?

For a long time I’ve been puzzled and semi-irritated by this question. I was like, what do you mean? Where do you get your ideas? But as more people have asked me, both writers, readers and strangers, I’ve come to realize that they aren’t asking for small talk. They’re asking because they truly don’t know. And this boggles my mind.

I’ve grown up with an artistic mother. My mom is the one you see in the movies who has craft supplies on every surface. Paints, crayons, coloring pencils, stencils, clay, glass bead materials, jewelry materials, fabrics and sewing machines, wires and tools of all shapes and sizes. Everywhere. She’s tried multiple times, without fail, to interest me in one of those crafts. I’ve tried everything, and am interested in everything. I just wasn’t interested enough to want to do it myself. In the end, I was drawn to a creative field she’d never tried to get me interested in: writing. And it worked far better for me, because I didn’t need anything but an idea to get started. For me, ideas flow like water. But I’ve only just discovered how the opposite is true for many people out there.

So where do ideas come from?

Maybe I’ve been stumped all this time because this question is so huge. So complicated, despite its simplicity, that I haven’t had the time to explain. But no longer. Let’s break this thing down.

a-world-of-pure-imagination-gif-in-willy-wonka-and-the-chocolate-factory

What are ideas? Let me crack open a dictionary for you (hey, I said we’d break it down, right?):

1. any conception existing in the mind as a result of mental understanding, awareness, or activity.

2. a thought, conception, or notion

Then, skipping to 6, which I most appreciate: a groundless supposition; fantasy.

Now, what do we get from these definitions? From one, I’d like to highlight the word “awareness.” You must be aware of the world around you to then be open to definition two: thoughts, conceptions, or notions about said world. Which will lead to six: fantasies. And that’s what ideas are. Fantasies about the what ifs of this world.

Now where do they come from? Think about air. Where does it come from? Answer: everywhere. The air we breathe is above and below us, to our left and to our right. You can’t point to the ground and say that is the only place air comes from. It is the same with ideas.

Ideas can just as quickly come from a simple phrase as they can from some sort of magical/freak accident or event. I’ll take you through my thought process for developing ideas. The other day I passed by a field of trees whose roots were half-submerged in water, so it looked like the trees were rising from the drying lake and moving to another location. As I drove, I continued to think of them. The what ifs started in my head. And so the conversation with myself went as follows:

What if trees could sense dangerous situations and simply pick themselves up and walk by the roots to new locations? What if this was common knowledge? What if it wasn’t? What if the earth was in a state that there was nowhere for the trees to go? What if, then, they spent all their time wandering around and looking for a new home? What would that mean for us as humans? Now there would no doubt be tree crossing signs and they’d be all in the way. Maybe there would be tree hunting or something—no, that’s stupid. Or is it? What if they became capable of intelligent thought? What if they could communicate with us, or us with them? What if, what if, what if…

On an on that conversation in my head went until I had a vaguely fleshed out story idea that I fully intend on writing one day. I got home and typed it up, then locked it away in my “story vault.” Yes, I have a folder on my computer named story vault. Because I have so many ideas that started out just like the one above that I had to find a way to keep up with them all.

“We’ll begin with a spin, travelling the world of my creation. What we’ll see will defy explanation.”

When you’re aware of the world and the tiny details around you, it seems to me that it should be nearly impossible not to get ideas. A dog dragging his human around could lead to the what if of a world where we exist to serve animals. A crumpled old building or a cabin covered in moss could lead to the what if of an earth that rebels against us and aggressively starts trying to fix itself and get rid of us humans altogether. A couple arguing in the street could lead to the more realistic what ifs of a romance novel or a thriller.

Or is that just me and how my crazy mind works?

I feel like I’m not explaining this right. But it’s the only way I know how to explain it. I just feel things and see things, and my curiosity leads to questions and those questions lead to thinking about ways I could answer them in my fiction. Awareness leads to questions, questions lead to fantasies. Those fantasies are ideas. Those questions are ideas. Ideas are everywhere. You just have to open your mind and change your thinking to receive them as such.

“If you want to see paradise, simply look around and view it.”

So for those of you who have trouble getting ideas, I’m going to give you an assignment. Pick a place—any place—and have a seat. Or stand—Whatever you choose. I want you to look around for a good five to ten minutes. Use all your senses and all the emotions you feel in those minutes and open up your mind. What do you see, hear, smell, feel? What’s the most dominant emotion inside of you at that moment? What stands out to you? What doesn’t stand out? Who is there? What are they doing? Are there animals around? Is the place in good shape? Ask yourself what ifs, no matter how crazy they sound. If you’re in a cluttered room, you might ask something like what if this room isn’t messy enough? What if someone lived here who wanted it to be messier? Why would they want that? Etc, etc. I can almost guarantee you that no matter what genre you write or read, you can come up with a good story idea if you do this assignment. Give it a shot.

For all the artists out there, I’m interested in your process for finding ideas. Does it come naturally to you, or is it difficult? If it’s difficult, can you tell me why? The same way others are confused with how I get so many ideas, I’m confused by those who don’t. I’d love some enlightenment.

“There’s no life that I know to compare with pure imagination. Living there you’ll be free, if you truly wish to be.”

RIP Gene Wilder.

Awkward Intro

I suppose we should get the awkward, boring stuff out of the way first. My name is Tatyana Tyson, and I’m twenty years old. Nearly twenty-one. That is quite a depressing thought. Not because I feel old, but simply because I’m nowhere near where I thought I’d be at this age. For instance, I wanted to be moved out with a career and a husband by now. Instead I live at home, work at a movie theater, and have never been on a date. Go figure. But as I was saying, I’m nearly twenty-one and very upset about it.

I don’t understand the people who get all excited about twenty-one. Sure, I’ll be able to buy alcohol. But… is that really all there is to this magical age? It’s just as disappointing as eighteen was. I thought hitting eighteen meant I’d be treated like an adult and get to do whatever I wanted without consequences. All eighteen got me was a stack of bills in my own name instead of my parents’ and debt collectors calling for me in that mechanical, creepy robot voice.

Okay, moving on from my age. Anything else technical and boring you should know? Not really. Now for the fun stuff. If you actually maneuvered yourself to this page, it must be obvious to you that I’m a writer. And contrary to belief, that is one of the coolest things to be in the world. Not to toot my own horn or anything. But really, if you want a good, interesting friend, find a writer. We’re the best. Just sayin’.

Who else will willingly and excitedly sit around with you or text with you about aliens any time and anywhere? Who else will listen to your borderline-psychotic dreams with rapt attention, asking questions and possibly even taking notes? And who else, dare I ask, can you call or text at four in the morning with half-baked story ideas that you need help fleshing out without getting an earful, if not hung up on entirely and unfriended?

No one else, that’s who.

So what do I write? I write YA social science fiction (a subcategory of the subcategory soft science fiction), romance, and contemporary drama. Sometimes a good mix of the three, sometimes separate. And before you write me off as another vampire/werewolf/zombie/wizard/omgimsoinlovewithyou young adult novel writer, can I just say that I hate YA with an unbridled passion? Because I do.

“So why do you write YA?”

Good question. See, in my barely-escaped teen years I felt no small amount of animosity toward YA fiction. The characters did stupid things and spoke in stupid ways and somehow never knew why they were attracted to one another. All too often I’d find myself shaking my current read and yelling at the pages “you like him because he’s hot, stupid! Why are you making this so complicated?” Or other times when the characters met and two days later pronounced their eternal love, I’d simply throw the book against the wall and walk away. But always, without fail, I would finish a book disappointed in both the author and the characters because both had so much more potential than I’d just witnessed.

But as my mom always tells me, if you can’t find what you want, make it yourself. And that is how I came to be determined to write YA fiction that isn’t an insult to teens everywhere, whether they know it or not. Of course, it may just be that I’m stuck up and strange… Everyone says I’m an old soul (personally I feel I was born thirty years old) and I’ve seemed to skip a lot of normal phases in life. That “angry, teenagery phase?” Yup, I never hit that. I’ve remained pretty consistent from childhood until now, save a few adjustments in temperament and maturity.

Anyway, I was an avid, dissatisfied reader until age eleven when I met a girl named Emma who was writing her own novel. Fascinated, as the thought had never occurred to me to write a book, I pestered her and my sixth grade language arts teacher to let her read an excerpt. I remember not one word of that excerpt, but it must’ve been either really great or really horrible, because it inspired me to attempt to write something better. And so I did. I wrote–by hand in bright, purple gel pen–what I thought was an amazing novel.

I take it out every once in a while. It reminds me that I have no idea what I’m doing.

I’ve been writing ever since. Novels, short stories, essays, poetry. I like to think I’m doing well, but I won’t be satisfied until I’m published. But until then I’ll be satisfied to continue what I’m doing and write as much as humanly possible, share my thoughts and what I’ve learned with you all along the way, and have a good time. I’m young, I’ve got time. Unless I die, which is also possible.

If there’s one thing I can say about myself…I’m a pessimist. And a hypochondriac. And I’m a germaphobe. And I will always tell you the truth, even if it hurts. But deep down past the pessimism and truth sits a little girl who used to sit in class and daydream instead of learn her multiplication tables.

My head is filled with worlds of all shapes and sizes and ideas of all kinds. Characters both good and evil, happy and sad, lazy and hyper. Aliens who want to take over the world and aliens who, like us, just want to explore and meet new races. Creatures that can kill you or carry you across the stars in a bundle of fur and snot. I dream of candy rivers and scale-covered roads over which carriages made of pure glass float. A world covered in lava can become a world covered in cotton candy and filled with raisin-people who want to avenge their brethren we’ve enslaved and murdered here on earth because… well… why not?

I hope to one day have a vast following of other wide-eyed, wonder-filled individuals who love nothing better than to immerse themselves in incredible worlds and the deep, actually interesting lives of non-stereotypical(and decidedly not angst-driven) young adults.

But that’s enough about me. What about you? Do you read or write (or both)? What genres? And if you write, when did you start?