Learning to Draw

I’ve always loved drawing. There’s something about taking a pen or pencil or something and just letting the lines flow, kind of like I do with words. It’s a different kind of creative work… but it’s one that sometimes works the same, in the sense that every now and then stuff just comes out.

I’m not very good at drawing. I used to be pretty okay, back in high school, but since then I eventually stopped because I opted to pursue other interests. Now, though, at least over the last couple of months, I’ve been trying to pick it up again, although this time approaching it from a technical perspective. By that, I mean I’m trying to learn and master the skills I need to make consistently good drawings. Of course, it will take a long while and a lot of work before I’ll draw anything “good,” but I feel like I’m learning some valuable stuff…

It’s a really slow process, learning to draw. That’s probably because I don’t have the time or patience to dedicate multiple hours to it a week, but I digress. It is one of those things I’d like to be able to do without too much thought, eventually. I don’t expect that to happen anytime soon.

Right now, I’m just using online tutorials to learn stuff, but in the summer I’ll be taking a formal course at the university. Oddly enough, a drawing class is one of the requirements for my degree, so I guess it works out?

Maybe I’ll post a couple drawings sometime– once I’ve drawn something I’m happy with. 🙂

~Erynn

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January As a Whole

So I intended to write this post at the start of February, but I kinda forgot. Whoops. I suppose 18 days late is better than not at all–hopefully this’ll be enough of a reminder to keep me on track for similar posts in the upcoming months. 🙂 

So… January. I guess it was a good month overall, albeit stressful. It started out pretty crappy, I was a bit depressed around New Years, but that passed once classes started again, replaced with the stress of learning. 

Japanese has proven to be as difficult as I suspected, although I’ve spent the last two weeks catching up and working on a system to memorize everything I need to know, as well as get ahead. Creative writing has been a handful; in January I had to write and edit the first two chapters of Desolace, which was probably some of the most strenuous writing I’ve ever done. That’s worked out, thankfully, though I don’t think I have the energy right now to continue onto the next chapter just yet. 

I guess January ended up being a month of discovery for me. I learned some about my academic limits and have begun working around them, planning so I don’t burn out and making it easier to study, stuff like that. I learned more about managing my time, more about interacting with people, and learned how that interaction can sometimes sting.

I belive that I’ve finally caught a glimpse of who I want to be, and grabbed that person and taken hold of them. Obviously it’ll take a while to grow into that person, but you know, it feels good to feel like I’m getting somewhere. 

Anyway, yeah, that was January. 

~Erynn

I Should Read More

Books are awesome. Books are, quite literally, what our foundation of aspirations and printed words will, hopefully, one day be.

I wouldn’t say that it’s something I preach, but it’s sure as hell something I’ve mentioned in the past; reading is important for those who want to be writers, especially for those wanting to become authors. I know I’ve mentioned that I’ve only just recently made the switch from crappy YA to full-fledged fantasy. You could still say I’m a beginner in the genre (I most definitely am; I’ve yet to read Lord of the Rings, even, and don’t plan to until some point next year…) and I will be for quite some time. I’m not 100% sure what it’s like for other genres, but for fantasy, there are so many long, intricate series and worlds that are said to be “required reading” for any fantasy fan. And as of now, I’ve barely taken a dent out of that list.

As some of you may have seen already, on my blog there’s a page dedicated to my current reading list- I think at this moment, it’s 45 books long, of which I’ve probably read about 13. It’s October already and I have to say that I’m incredibly ashamed as to my reading habits this year. Unlike the previous years where I read at every opportunity, this year I only really read when I felt I had to. It never really mattered how badly I wanted to finish a series, I just wouldn’t feel like sitting down and becoming invested in the various characters and the world. And I don’t really blame myself for this- there have been years where I read 200+ books- yet I also want to find an in-between, where I can read when I want and still add a reasonable amount of books to my Goodreads “finished/read” list every year. A number I hear thrown around a lot is 50- that writers should aim to read that many books per year. Personally, I don’t find this number at all unreasonable. There are so many opportunities every day where you (or at least I) can sneak in a couple minutes of reading. Nobody said you had to sit down for two hours and do it, though I suppose many of us would much prefer that.

If you aim to read 50 books a year, that’s about 4-5 per month. For some that may be intimidating, because that would mean you would need to, on average, finish a book every week. Some of the books out there are really long, and thus, make this somewhat difficult to achieve. I especially believe that this is a daunting task for me because I’m trying to catch up on my fantasy reading, where it’s not at all uncommon to find series of ten books that are all over a thousand pages long. I don’t think it’s at all unreasonable to believe, with a rather busy schedule, that finishing one of those large tomes every week is a bit of an unrealistic goal. Thankfully, not all books are like that. Even in the fantasy genre, it’s not too hard to find appealing novels that are only about 400 pages long, which can easily serve as the bulk of a years reading in between the giant novels that serve as the main course.

I think what I’ve learned through almost an entire year of minimal reading is how much I miss all of the alternate worlds that I encountered through my journeys in different novels. Sure, I’ve had my own worlds to expand and explore, but there’s something special and enticing about reading someone else’s work. You’re not trying to find the final piece of the puzzle that makes your world authentic and gorgeous, someone’s already done it. All you have to do is read and follow along for the ride.

Another thing I’ve missed about reading so much is that reading gives me the opportunity to view what other writers have done in their work, reflect on what they’ve done, and compare it to mine. I can’t quite explain it, but anyone whose gone and objectively compared different elements of your novel to someone else’s will know what I’m talking about. It’s always exciting to learn that you’ve done something a bit different than someone else, while also keeping it appealing.

So, overall, what I’ve taken from my adventure of minimal reading was that it was a terrible idea to put it on the down-low until I “had more time”. Reading, in numerous ways, has improved my livelihood and overall writing life. Not only did it prove as an effective break from everything, it also served as an adequate “study” time for writing while remaining entertaining.

I fully regret reading so little this year, and as of today, I’m picking up my poor books more frequently. While I don’t think it’s possible for me to finish my 2014 list by the end of this year- unfortunately there are too many long books remaining- I should be able to get what I can, and refresh the list at the start of 2015 to replace what I managed to get done. With that, next year I’ll be taking my reading goals much more seriously!

How have your reading goals been faring so far for 2014?

~Erynn

What I Love the Most About Reading

I’m sure that all of us have plenty of reasons why they enjoy whatever they do as a hobby. And I mean reasons better than “I like it” or “Because it’s fun.”

For example, I really enjoy reading. While I’ve begun to read less and less over the last two years, I’ve started picking it up again because being well read is essential to becoming a good writer. So what really happened was that when I started writing again, I started reading again. Really, the two both go hand in hand. Before I stopped reading as much, I was reading 100-150 books a year. A ridiculous amount, I must say. I think last year I read about 20, if that. As I said though, since I’m beginning to take my writing seriously, I’ve started taking my reading seriously.

When I read, not only do I read to enjoy the story at hand, but I read to learn what about the story I liked. If I was able to enjoy it and I’m able to identify why I liked it, then it’s something I might be able to incorporate into my own writing. On top of that, I learn a lot about my own style by reading other’s books and examining their writing. I can see how I would have written something, compare it to how the author wrote it, and look to understand why it was written that way; I also make it a habit to try and discern whether my method or the author’s was better- generally speaking, it’s almost always the author’s.

Anyway, I’ve strayed a bit off topic. Reading is something I’ve always enjoyed, and though at the moment I’m currently reading a lot to experience a wide variety of different fantasy, there’s a lot more to it than that. When I read a book… it takes me out of “our” world, and brings me into another. I have no difficulty reaching into a book and seeing the world lay out before me, and I have no issues seeing the characters and understanding their struggles. Being able to go somewhere else without doing more than sitting down and opening a book, that’s a magical feeling.

I guess what you could say that what I love most about reading is the ability to escape from everything else.

What do you guys love so much about reading? What do you love the most about whatever your favourite hobby is?

~Erynn

What I’ve Learned From Reddit

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a Redditor. What I don’t think I’ve really gone into detail on, though, is what I actually do on Reddit. For the most part I don’t mindlessly browse through cute pictures (though I admit, I do sometimes), but instead, I use the website’s resources to better my writing. And since I began using Reddit for that purpose, I’ve learned a LOT. Today I’d like to share some of those things with you.

The subreddits I’ve most frequented for writing are: /r/writing, /r/fantasy, /r/fantasywriters, and /r/books. There are many, many more to choose from, but these are the ones I picked as some of them are broad and some of them are specializations. If you’re looking for some of your own specific subreddits, there’s the possibility that you’ll find something you’re looking for. As an example, there are lots of them on ebooks and self publishing, as well as many on YA books and the like.

Now for what I’ve actually learned:

1. About literary techniques and other helpful writing methods to get that growing story out of your head.

There’s actually quite a bit on this, because it’s a question that’s asked frequently. Of course, I’ve never really had this question, as when I know it’s time to start writing, I start writing. That isn’t to say I haven’t found anything in this area useful, though. One of the most important things I’ve learned in regards to “getting it out of my head” is to just WRITE it. You can’t get it out if you just brood and don’t actually put words on the page. This was something I kind of struggled with for a while, but that’s when I adopted the half-drafts; doing so gave me the opportunity to first get it out of my head and holding back any thoughts of self-mockery, and then opening the time where I would tweak it to make it an actual first draft.

For literary techniques, while a broad term, there are some very specific ones that I have on my mind when I think of reddit. Those would be two in particular, actually: “Show, don’t tell” and “ClichĂ©s”. These two very specific, but very broad literary techniques taught me about writing description and crafting characters and situations that are believable.

2. The difference between writing for an audience and writing for yourself

Maybe it’s not really something you’ve thought about before, but there is a huge difference between writing because it’s what you love to do, and writing because you’re hoping your writing will sell.

Personally, I’m a mix between the two. I write because it’s what I love doing, and most of my personal writing is about things that I’d like to read about and things that I do like reading about. Most of the time what I write about is also something that my close friends will like, but that’s not really directing the work at anyone but myself.

On the other hand, I also write a lot for work. When I write for work, generally speaking, it’s specifically to sell that work to the client. I’m not particularly passionate about it, though I put as much effort into it as I would my own writing. The major difference is that instead of writing in tune with what I want, the writing is in tune with what the person who is paying me wants. This also goes for aspiring authors, too.

What I specifically mean, though, is that there’s a difference between writing what you like because you like it, and writing in a genre/category because that genre sells. From what I know, this is largely how traditional publishing works, a publisher will buy something that they think will sell, and sometimes authors will write what publishers want to buy and then sell.

3. What NOT to do

This is actually what I learned the most about. There are lots of things that you can do, that nowadays is considered “wrong”. Most of the time, at least. A lot of this has to do with vocabulary.

There’s a specific list of words that most people recommend you veer away from. Some of these words are: very, just, got, that, and small, but the list goes on forever. Most of them have the same reasoning behind their elimination, and that’s because the words alone are meaningless and it’s quite simple to replace them with something meaningful or remove them altogether.

A few other things that stuck in my mind were the passive voice (I haven’t much looked into this yet), adverbs, prologues with no apparent relations to the story, and dropping projects.

While there have been more things that I’ve learned that would fit into this post, these are some of what I’ve found most valuable. I hope you find them valuable, too!

~Erynn