Looking back on a year of growth

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As I sit here thinking about the year 2015 creeping up on me, I look back on the year that was and smile. Yes, it was a challenging year. I finally completed my school requirements at the Seton Hill University for my MFA in Writing Popular Fiction and I can look forward to graduation next month.

The year, school-wise, has been an interesting one. I switched from one mentor to the next. I reset my writing goals and I was determined to unravel the plot holes that had been plaguing my story, Worlds Apart, for the past year or so. Finally, I had an epiphany when I revised the entire thesis novel in a second draft with my new mentor. It was as if I had forced myself to hone in on the thing in one sitting in one weekend and think about my manuscript as if I were a reader (instead of just the writer). I could see more clearly why I wouldn’t want to follow or care about certain characters if I were the reader. It was so painful to cut scenes and chunks of the book away, but after I did it, I felt liberated to finally write the story that I needed to write. Not only that, but my story grew to be 85,000 words, still within bounds of YA though.

Another opportunity for growth came when I got my feedback from my mentor about what needed to be changed throughout the entire manuscript before turning in the final version for a grade. She could see where I had made changes to the characters and that I had added in the layers of details and exposition that were needed to make the story easier to follow.

There’s still more work to do before I submit the story to agents early next year, but I feel confident that I have the story planned out through all three books and that I wouldn’t be stuck anymore. With that said, I’m already 10,000 words into the second book in the Worlds Apart series as we speak, thanks to participating in the NaNoWrimo writing contest in November. While I didn’t win it to make it to 50,000 words, I still feel like I spent a lot of time working through the plot of the entire second book. I feel more confident about where the story is going and when I sit down at the computer, I know exactly where I want to go with it.

So, that’s just my example of how I’ve grown this year. What’s yours? Do you plan to write your first novel in 2015? Will you try your hand at poetry? Just try, whatever you decide to do. You never know where life will take you and how much you’ll grow in the process.

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Dreams: Where we get our inspiration

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Many authors are ashamed to say they get their story ideas from their dreams. Perhaps they’re afraid someone will say they lack creativity, but I think that’s a crock of horse manure. Although Freud gave us the Interpretation of Dreams and stated that dreams are essentially “wish fulfillment,” it doesn’t mean that all dreams revolve around this interpretation of what dreams mean.

To me, dreams come from a place deep within our subconscious and allow us to playfully imagine worlds and exaggerate our limited powers as human beings. Some of my best story ideas came from my dreams and the only reason I remembered them was because I was so impressed with what my mind came up with while I slept that I simply had to write it down. I have so many story ideas from dreams that I haven’t even had the time to process them all and flesh them out into stories.

Now, for the science fiction and fantasy writer, fantastical dreams about other worlds or amazing superpowers are a goldmine that we can tap into whenever we eat too much ice cream and wine (true story) before bed and fall asleep. For writers of other genres, you might have dreams that may play in your mind like a reality show. Have you ever dreamed that you were there in a dream, but you weren’t? Like you were an observer or a fly on the wall. Don’t dismiss those dreams. Just don’t. That’s almost like delivery POV material. You may have felt like the POV characters in the dream and you might feel like you understand the feelings of all involved.

How do you access this treasure trove of activity your mind delves out in your sleep? No, you don’t have to fry your brain by watching Christopher Nolan’s Inception movie a hundred times to understand the dream within the dream within the dream. Oh no, I’m lost in the dream state! Simply keep a journal next to your bed and capture your dreams as best you can before you fully wake up. I usually don’t turn on the bright lights, it seems to scare away the thoughts that are hanging out right on the edges of my memory. Use a small flashlight or one of those book lights. Poems and songs used to come to me this way and to this day I read that material and can’t believe how deep I sounded. LOL! I’m always in wonder how I came up with those lyrics.

So there you have it. You don’t have to stare at the screen for hours on end trying to come up with good story ideas. You can simply mine your own dreams for awesome ideas that you can totally take credit for…even if you think some alien kidnapped you overnight and gifted you some fantastic story ideas.