Hi everyone!

 

 

 

Since I just started blogging a few weeks ago, I wanted to experiment with both wordpress and blogspot, just to get a good feel of both.  I’ve found that I am much more comfortable on blogspot and I have a lot more creative freedom, which is why I’m going to be focusing on that blog from now on: kristaquintana.blogspot.com.

 

I’ll still keep this site, just to keep up with the rest of you and the great posts that you’re putting up. 

 

 

 

Thanks!

 

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What have I learned this week in writing?

Have you ever realized that what you’re writing something that you’ve never experienced or wanted to experience?

Just to premise this, I am not an animal person.  I’ve been terrified of dogs my entire life.   When I was little, my entire body broke out in hives the size of baseballs whenever I was around any animal with fur.  I still remember the oatmeal baths that I had to have.  I’ve never been fond of the smells, the fur all over the place or the noise that they always make.  Dogs barking all night, cats shedding, or the smell of my cousin’s turtles just drove me crazy.   My husband and I have an agreement that he can have pets once I’m dead.  I’m not saying this because I’m have to say something against pet owners.  

I understand that there are people who don’t like babies, children, sports, etc.  Everyone has their own personal preferences.  Everyone has their likes and dislikes.

Mine just happen to be animals.  And I never understood pet owners.  Why would they stay home from work because their pet is sick?  Why would they let their pet sleep on their bed?  It never made sense.

Gradually, I’ve incorporated animals into my writing, and they were so subtle that I barely noticed that they were there.  Then I needed to start researching the difference between dogs and cats.  I learned that cats are natural hunters.  I seriously thought dogs were the hunters, but apparently not.  I went to the zoo to watch animals in their ‘natural’ habitat. 

Today, I think I reached the apex.  I wrote a scene where my MC talked about how much she missed her dog.  Sure, this isn’t what you might consider a normal dog, but in essence, that’s what she misses.  Her dog’s been a constant companion, and now she’s alone.  She misses the animal.

This is an emotion that I really haven’t been exposed to, much less experienced.  As I wrote the scene, something clicked.  I finally understood pet owners, and their strange attachment.  It’s not about the smells that animals give off, or the fur all over the furniture, it’s the companionship that’s provided. 

Sure, I probably will probably never have an animal in my house.  I’m still terrified of dogs, but I feel like a tiny part of me now will be able to sympathize with those whose pets are sick, or dying. 

Writing can be almost cathartic because it helps me work through issues that I never even knew I had.  And it pushes me to understand others, to try and put myself in their situations.

What about you?  How do you try to put yourself in your character’s shoes when you don’t understand them?

Using Life as Inspiration

There’s an old writing rule that probably most of us have heard.

WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW

What exactly does that mean?  And is it true?

I can honestly say that I use real life knowledge and experiences in my writing all the time.  I have those moments when life just stops for a second when the writer in me just screams, “Write this down!”

When I was younger, I had a writing journal that I took with me everywhere.  I’d write down everything that I thought might help me later.  Descriptions of scary looking trees, cool looking buildings, even conversations I overheard (until my siblings learned to make sure I didn’t have a pen and paper when they were talking.  Love you guys!)

How does that carry over into my writing?

Two years ago, I was having trouble with a scene where I had a character who needed a trying personal trail while locked in a room.  I couldn’t figure out how to make that room more challenging, until I went to live with my grandparents for a summer.  While there, I had a mouse jump in my bed.  Not once, but twice.  After throwing the darn thing out, it jumped right back in!

After the initial shock (of rodent sleeping partners), I realized that this was exactly what I was looking for.  I had a few rats jump into her bed and voila!

“The sound of scratching sounded from overhead and Kanya froze. The scraping increased in pitch before the creatures above her scurried across the ceiling toward the wall. Kanya trembled. The sound intensified into a frenzy and the animals squeaked as though preparing for the kill. When a creature appeared from the corner of the room, Kanya jerked back and gasped as pain caused lights to dance before her eyes.  Once again, she lost consciousness, but only for a few seconds. When she awoke, she couldn’t hear anything.

Kanya took a deep breath. She would live through this. A strange sensation hit her face, like a tiny gust of wind blowing from narrow nostrils. Bright, beady eyes stared back at her and she screamed and scrambled backwards, throwing herself from the bed onto the floor.

The creatures danced up and down on the bed, only pausing to sniff the blood-covered sheets. Kanya curled up in the corner, pulled her knees up against her chin and leaned against the wall, ignoring the sting of the cold and the throbbing in her back. One by one the rats joined her, cuddling up to her body, feeding off of her warmth.”

For me, anything I experience or see is fair game.  Is there an exception to the rule?

YES.  A very resounding YES.

I am very careful when it comes to using people as inspiration.  Why?  First off, there is a chance that whoever inspires me may read whatever I write later.  They may or may not appreciate the way that I portray them, and I don’t want to offend anyone.

Also, I am a nurse.  I have very strict HIPAA regulations, stating that I am under federal law to protect the privacy of my patients.  So putting them in a story would not be appropriate.  However, I have used experiences when it’s universal, something that any nurse might experience, or understand.  One such instance: feeding.

Any nurse (or care provider) will understand the concern and desperation that might occur when a patient doesn’t do what they’re supposed to.  It’s especially heartbreaking when they don’t eat, wasting away into nothing.  That’s not based off of a particular resident, it’s based off of the nursing experience.  It’s a fine line, I know, but one that I believe needs distinction.

Here’s a few snippets from a WIP based on that feeling:

“In the opposite corner, Temar held Rose in her arms and rocked her back and forth. Just the sight made Aydra want to cry. Rose was only a few years younger than Cassie, but she reminded Aydra of an infant. Her skin hung loosely on her body and her eyes sunk in their sockets. They’d watched this girl wither away since Temar brought her to them. Temar met Aydra’s gaze and shook her head. It’d been another long day.”

“Temar held the thin girl in her lap, and through the noise of the children, Larzo focused on her pleas.

“Open your mouth, Rose.” Temar held a spoonful to the girl’s mouth. “Just a bite.” Rose held her lips together tightly and shook her head. The soup slid off of the spoon and down Rose’s chin. Larzo glanced over at Aydra, who watched Temar and Rose as well.

Does she ever eat?

Aydra gave a slight jump in her chair before staring over at Larzo. She paused before giving the faintest shake of her head.”

Sometimes I think that writers have the opportunity to live their experiences twice.  Once in person, and again when recording it.

What about you?  What experiences have given you inspiration for your stories?

Worth Fighting For

Recently, a good friend asked me an interesting question.

What is worth fighting for?

Then he asked:

What would you fight for till your last breath, with all your strength?

We all have needs.  It’s a fact of life.  When studying for my nursing licensure test, I was instructed to always focus on Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs.  According to some healthcare professionals, here’s our list of needs, in their order of importance.

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But sometimes, we don’t stop to think about what we find most important.

During my orientation at my first nursing job, we had an activity that reinforced this idea in a way I will never forget.

We were given 6 slips of paper and told to write what we find most important, whether it be relationships, identifications, or physical goods.  For me, my slips included my family, my beliefs, my career, my home, colors and music.

Feel free to write your own top 6 as well.

Then we were instructed to fold the slips and mix them up.  After selecting one random slip, our instructor told us that we could no longer have whatever was on that slip.

How do you feel?

I remember the first slip was my family.  It was almost impossible to imagine life without something so important to me.  We continued the exercise until we were left with only two slips.  This exercise was used to help us understand the frame of mind of older adults moving into a care facility, but I think it’s something worth thinking about in everyday life.

As readers, I think we like to follow characters who always come back fighting.  It may be my personal response to respond to loss by crying in the corner, but who wants to read about that?  It might be okay in the beginning of the journey, to show what they’re coming back from, but not in the end.

I had a character lose everything in the course of the novel.  Her home and only source of safety was burned, her parents killed, her family taken away, and her most trusted confidant betrayed her.  As each situation arose, she still had the underlying cause she was fighting for.

But what happened when even that was taken away?

Originally, I had her give up.  She stopped fighting because she didn’t know what was worth fighting for.  Multiple readers told me they were disappointed with the entire story just because of the ending.

Was it a normal reaction?

Yes.

Is it what will draw readers in?

Probably not.

We, as humans, naturally fight for what’s important.  We like to see the underdog win and overcome his trials.  And if that’s what we like to read, then shouldn’t we live that way as well?  We control our own stories, just as much as a writer controls the character’s, so maybe it’s time to change the ending.

What do you think?

What am I working on?

What am I working on now?

Right now, I am in the process of getting my Red WIP critiqued and edited by some great betas that I’ve found over on scribophile.com.  If you haven’t used that website before, I highly recommend it.

While I let that one sit and simmer, I’ve been working on the first draft of my Blue WIP.  I’ve found that each WIP is different, challenging me as a writer.  This WIP is based on a challenge that I’ve created for myself. 

I’m a plotter, not a pantser.  I have to know what’s going on and how my characters are going to behave before I write a single word.  But I was starting to wonder if that was restricting me.  So this WIP, I decided to start writing and see where it took me.  I began about a year ago, back before things got a little crazy.  I felt that of all my WIP’s, I’d be able to do that with this one.  It’s a sequel, based off of the Red WIP currently being critiqued.  I already knew my characters, as well as their motivations, so it was much easier for me to run with it.  (So to speak!)

I pulled this draft out (about 20,000 words) and reread it, taking notes as I went.   Then I organized my notes into sections.  Here’s what I ended up with.

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What amazed me more than the fact that I could write 20,000 words without an outline, was how well that random details weaved in together.  Though I still have a basic idea, I still haven’t written an outline. 

What is my Blue WIP about?

Cassie’s seen injustice all her life, and she’s ready to make a stand.  When King Brednon creates that school for future leaders, she enrolls, intent on becoming one of the king’s councilors.  But when her dream comes true, she realizes it isn’t all she thought it would be.  The other councilors treat her with distrust and prejudice, just because she’s a woman.

When the neighboring kingdom attacks at the borders, Cassie sees this as her chance to prove herself.  She convinces King Brednon to let her go to Mocra and speak with their king.  When she arrives, she learns that there’s more happening than a border conflict.

There are days that I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I’m finding that very exciting!

How do all of you write?  Are you pantsers or plotters?  What are you working on?

Inspiration

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I dabbled in writing on and off growing up, but I can clearly remember the inspiration that pushed me to actually start and finish my first novel.  I was in high school and I loved reading.  Anything I found, I read.

So, of course I was confused when everyone else didn’t feel the same way.

Especially my youngest sister.

She had difficulty with reading, and she was very vocal about how much she hated it.  It was almost physically painful listening to her talk about her dislike of books and reading.

But that didn’t stop me.  I knew my sister, and I was set on finding something she would enjoy.  I can’t count the number of books I went through, until finally, I found Ella Enchanted.  I gave it to her on her birthday, and that’s when things changed.  She loved it.  She read it over and over until she had it practically memorized.

Fort Christmas, I gave her a second book by the same author, The Two Princesses of Bamarre.  Slowly but surely, she began reading more and more of Gail Carson Levine’s books, expanding to others in the similar genre.  Watching my baby sister learn to read, and to love to read brought me more joy than I ever expected.

That’s when I realized that I could write something that she would enjoy.  I knew how to write, and I knew what she liked.  That’s when I stared my white WIP, following in the footsteps of retold fairy tales.  I think my most fulfilling moment as a writer was when I showed her a draft and she enjoyed it.

I still think of my sister when I focus on my audience, and she will always be one of my first readers.

Who inspires you to write?

Taking Writing Seriously

I’m one of those goal oriented people.  I decide I want to do something, and I research.  I try to find a way to do it.  Of course, I get quite a bit of encouragement from my ‘pushy’ hubby who always encourages me when my fears and self-doubt get in the way.
 
When I was 7 or 8, I decided I wanted to be one of three things: A Geriatric Nurse, A Geologist or A Genealogist.  Now, nearly two decades later, I’ve become a Geriatric Nurse, and I work on Genealogy as a side hobby.  Though I’m no geologist, I still go to rock shows and get excited when I find a mineral I haven’t seen before.
 
So why did it take me so long to really pursue writing?  I think the biggest reason was because I was afraid.  I enjoyed writing for me, but it’s almost like putting a part of yourself out for everyone to see.  It’s a much more intimate process. 
 

 

How about the rest of you?  What keeps you from taking your writing seriously?  What keeps you from focusing on that end goal?