Me

Life of a Teenage Homeschool Writer

I’m a teenage home-schooled writer, and I know at least some of those who might be inclined to read my blog are as well, so I thought I’d share what joys and struggles I’ve found this brings, and then if you’d like you can share your own joys and struggles in the comments.

First off we have teenager. I’m in my mid-teens, which is annoying because I’m old enough to want to go places and not quite old enough to be able to get myself to those places, and since my mom is chronically ill and I have younger siblings it’s not a viable option to get her to take me to things. I’ll be very excited when I can get my license. Some of the things I’d like to be able to drive myself to are choir events, writing group meetings, bookstores, and coffee shop writing sessions, among other things. I always see advice for writer’s block suggesting going and writing at a coffee shop or someplace like that and I hate it just because I can’t do that and I would love to be able to. I hate having to inconvenience people anytime I need to go to something because I can’t drive myself. One more year… Being a younger-middle teenager also means that I have no income currently other than allowance (yes, I still get allowance), so I can’t take writing courses or save up my own money for an editor for my book very easily. However, teen years tend to be the cutoff for a lot of things, and you can only join them once you’re a teenager (e.g. camp, my writing group,

I’m also homeschooled, which is great because it means if I can get my schoolwork done quickly I have more time to do things like write or chat with friends (those are basically the only things I do because… I can’t get to anything. And I have very few friends. And I’m not good at much/don’t like much.) Anyway, the point is, I have more free time if I can get my schoolwork done. I’m not stuck in a classroom for eight hours, sometimes already done with my assignment and just waiting around for others to be finished and class to end (I’m not being proud here. I went to a school-ish thing and was ahead of everyone in one section and just had to wait for the next step because people were still working on the last step. It was boring waiting and I wished I’d taken a book.) It also means that my writing can sometimes count as schoolwork.

As a writer, I do a lot of wri… never mind. I do a lot of procrastinating and pretend I’m writing, and wish I was writing, and continuously tell myself I should be writing while continuing to do whatever it is I’m doing to procrastinate. One downside to my current writing process is that when I’m stuck on both of my current projects I feel like I don’t have anything else to work on (except short stories, which I’m doing a lot of lately because of my Short Story Sunday blog series), so it’s hard to find something to write. *glances at huge “pending” folder* Oh come on, don’t look at me like that. *cough* Yeah, so that’s tricky currently. I’m waiting for outside feedback on The Dark War and I’m just going through writer’s block on The Heart of the Baenor. *wishes she could write in a coffee shop and see if it helped* I guess now it’s time to work on the short story for next Sunday that I’ve written about… five paragraphs for.

What are some things you struggle with or like about being a writer/homeschooled/teenager?

Farewell to August

August’s Writing

August has had a lot of worldbuilding and development for The Dark War Trilogy. I’ve designed flags, royal seals, a brand for traitors, I’ve created all the advisors I think I’ll need for royal councils, I’ve come up with a new way to timeline that’s working really well for my overlapping storylines, and I’ve finished several character profiles, among other things.

I’ve also written a short story, which you can read here, and gotten my blog on track to be posting regularly.

Also, I finished my third draft of House of Mages on the 26th, which I’m super excited about because it means come the sixth I can send it off to my editor and get it polished up. ^-^

August’s Reading

I’ve done some reading this month. I finished First King of Shannara by Terry Brooks and The Collective by R.S. Williams (see my review of that here), and I’m in the middle of several (read: fourteen) more books. I won’t list them all, since there are a lot, but so far they’re all really good. I’m particularly enjoying Graceling by Kristin Cashore, The Hobbit by Tolkien, and North! Or Be Eaten by Andrew Peterson.

August’s Blogging

A list of the posts I’ve published this month:

Character Development

The Dust Thief – Short Story Sunday

I’m Publishing A Book Soon(ish)

My Writing Role Models

Character Interview: Roran Brance

Through A Character’s Eyes

An Interview With Me

My Bullet Journal

Sea Glass & Pressed Flowers – Short Story Sunday

My Writing Process

My Experience With Collaboration

Character Interview: Nissa Quail

Idea Organization

This Is His Story – Short Story Sunday

Writer’s Block: How To Deal With It

Guest Character Interview: Taya Pars

Book of the Month Review: The Collective by R.S. Williams

My Writing Process

My writing process has changed a lot in the last couple of weeks. For a long time after I started writing I didn’t really have a writing process. It was basically write whatever comes to mind, try to finish it in a timely manner (I never did) and then move on, and usually I was writing quite a few stories at the same time. On Aug. 1st I came up with a better idea, which was based on the idea of a bullet journal. I had the idea to make small daily goals on each of my current projects, which is something I feel like I should have come up with a lot sooner because it seems like such a “duh” thing. But anyway, I started doing that and it worked really well. (I wrote a post on my bullet journaling process here.)

Currently I’m working on two drafting projects, an editing project, and an outlining project, along with my blog and a short story on the side. I make goals on all or most of those each day, and then make color coded check-boxes for each goal each day. At the end of the day I mark them done, cancelled, or rescheduled and do a journal of my writing that day, putting the day’s word count by the date up at the top of the page. I’ll be writing a post about my bullet journal on Monday so you can see how that’s set up.

I’m a lot more productive now that I’ve started this, and I’m getting a lot of writing done. Although I had a dry spot at the end of last week/beginning of this week because I was really busy and tired and couldn’t bring myself to really do any writing.

Hopefully one of my drafts will be done my the end of the month, the other will have a sizable chunk out of it, the editing will be done, and I will have gotten a good ways through the outlining process. I hope to be able to write that planned story… maybe for NaNoWriMo, maybe for one of the Camps next year. I’m not sure yet what I’ll be working on for Nano since I have a couple of different options there. One of them depends on getting the other of my drafts done before then, which I think should be doable.

This process has done a lot for my blog, as well. I used to be posting really infrequently, but then I decided on the 9th to really buckle down and write a bunch of posts ahead of time so that I could be posting regularly, and then I wrote several of those between the 9th and 10th and scheduled them. Since then I’ve been a lot more active with writing posts and getting them scheduled and it’s been cool, even though I’m not really sure how many readers I have, if any.

My aim is to have a couple novel projects, an outlining project, and an editing project going at one time fairly consistently, at least for non-NaNo months. I think that’s working pretty well for me. I’m sure my process will alter somewhat as I go along, but I think I’ve finally found a system that works for me.

What does your writing process look like? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

My Writing Role Models

There are certain authors that I look up to and seek to emulate as I write, as I’m sure there are for every writer out there. The list for each writer is unique and even when they overlap their reasons for looking up to an author can be entirely different. I’ve always found it interesting to learn who friends of mine look up to in their writing, and now it’s my turn to write a post on it. I’ve never really been the best at answering questions like “who is your role model” or “what author do you think your writing style most emulates,” so we’ll see how this goes.

A few authors I look up to are Wayne Thomas Batson, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis (a couple of classic answers, I know), Andrew Peterson, Livia Blackburne, Terry Brooks, and Marissa Meyer, and I’ll go into why I admire each of them in the rest of this post.

Wayne Thomas Batson

Wayne Thomas Batson (or, as I like to call him, Batman) is not an author that many people have heard of, but he’s who I always tell people is my favorite author. One my favorite things about him is his ability to craft interesting characters that you can really connect with and get attached to. I know with his The Door Within and Dreamtreaders trilogies the characters felt like family on the first read-through, and then rereading the books was like going to a family reunion. Except that family reunions tend to have a sense of awkwardness about them because there are those family members you only see at these family reunions and you don’t know them very well, while Batson’s characters aren’t like that. They’re like those dear aunts and uncles and cousins and grandparents that you see all the time and are super close with. It’s really, really cool, and that connection is something I’d really love to be able to give my readers with my own characters.

And aside from his writing, he’s just a cool guy. He’s a Christian middle school teacher, and he’s really open to talking with fans, as far as I can tell. He opened a forum for his fans to chat with him, though he’s not been on it in a while, and when I messaged him asking for writing advice once he was really laid back and friendly in his reply. That’s how I’d like to act if/when I have fans of my own. :)

J.R.R. Tolkien

I know this is probably what everyone says when they mention Tolkien on their list of writing role models, among other things, but I admire Tolkien’s worldbuilding. Worldbuilding is something that I find fascinating, even though I’m not always the best at it. His world is rich and incredibly well thought out, and has an entire written history behind it. Another thing is his ability to write noble characters. Aragorn, Samwise, Faramir, Eowyn, they’re all noble, deep, rich characters. They have numerous layers (particularly Eowyn and Aragorn, among these examples), and they’re really interesting to read about. A lot of my characters are more morally grey, and while I like these characters as well, it’s often nice to have at least one or two of these truly noble, good characters because they’re just such good characters.

C.S. Lewis

Believe it or not, Lewis almost didn’t make it onto my list. However, there is one aspect of his writing that really means a lot to me, and that is the childlike wonder of his books. That childlike wonder is something that my early books had a lot and that as I’ve grown up I seem to have grown out of, and it’s something that I’m constantly trying to regain in at least a few of my books. For some of my stories, for instance those set on Themar, I like the more mature (in style, not content), almost harshness of what I tend to write now, but for others I wish I could recapture that wonder and it’s something I really struggle with. So I seek to write “childish,” wonderful stories like C.S. Lewis did.

Andrew Peterson

Andrew Peterson is author of The Wingfeather Saga, among others, and I really like that series because of all of the humor. It constantly has a layer of humor and that same childlike wonder that I mentioned before, and yet it also manages to be serious under all that when it needs to be. It’s a really interesting mixture that is really enjoyable to read. I’m really bad at writing humor into my stories, so that’s something else I’d like to work on.

Livia Blackburne

Livia Blackburne is extremely good at worldbuilding. I read her book The Midnight Thief and within seven chapters I was fully immersed in the world. She did a very good job of subtly working in that worldbuilding so that it wasn’t overwhelming or huge chunks of description, but enough when it was needed to make the world seem real and important.

Terry Brooks

Terry Brooks’ Shannara series is probably one of my all-time favorites because it goes on and on and on and I never get tired of it. The world is such that I could spend years and years in it and probably never know all there is to know about it, and the characters are nearly always likeable. The excitement to go back in and learn something else about the world or read about someone else saving the Four Lands again and the long Shannara family tree is something that I’d like my readers to feel as well with my stories (although of course not with The Four Lands and the Shannaras.)

Marissa Meyer

Have you seen that pin on Pinterest that says “You know a writer is good when they can build a villain’s backstory sad enough that you feel bad for them no matter how horrible they are”? Well this is exactly what Marissa Meyer did in her book Heartless. I highly recommend you read that book because it is so. Good. She creates lovable characters that you can really get attached to and root for. And when she writes witty characters… *insert heart-eye emoji here* Carswell Thorne from The Lunar Chronicles and Jest from Heartless are high on my favorite characters list, because they’re witty and flirtatious and I love witty, flirtatious characters because they’re so much fun to read. Her writing is just excellent, and I love her books.

 

Now, these are the professional, fairly well-known authors that I look up to and admire, but they’re not the only ones. I have writing friends that I look up to as well, some of them published and some not. Probably the two who I most look up to in my writing groups are Melody Jackson and Miranda Marie, who are both published authors.

Melody is another excellent writer, she has published three books – The Dragon Within, Dragon’s Bane, and Dragon’s Might – and I’ve actually only gotten around to reading The Dragon Within, but I really liked it. The characters were enjoyable, the worldbuilding was good, DRAGONS!, and a half-human half-dragon character is totally awesome. In addition to writing great books, she has also encouraged me in my own writing and helped me get through rough patches in my writing and she’s just a really good friend and supporter and stuff like that, so a big thanks to her. :)

Miranda is probably one of my biggest role models. Her book Echoes, which is slated to come out in mid-October, is a favorite of mine even though I’ve only been able to read half of it. The imagery and poetic writing style she uses in this one is captivating, and the characters… Ahhhhhh. I need to know what happens next! I’m so eager to read it when it comes out! But in addition to being an excellent writer, she’s also a strong Christian and her amount of faith is something I don’t feel like I’ll ever measure up to, but it’s something I’d like to grow in and that I really admire her for.

 

I’m Publishing a Book Soon(ish)

*insert incoherent crazy-person noises here that portray every emotion ever* All right, now that I’ve gotten that out of my system…

I will hopefully be publishing a book later this year. I have a front cover, a back-cover blurb, and I’m only $150 shy of being able to afford an editor. I still have to finish the draft I’m working on (#3), write an author bio, get a back cover, and then get my book to the editor, but I feel like I’m getting really, really close and there are so many emotions that come with that. This post will give you a glimpse of those emotions, a bunch of dates that are probably rather boring but I’ll appreciate having chronicled all in one place later on, and some information on House of Mages itself.

I started thinking up this story at 12:25 a.m. on May 10th, 2016, and it had a very different plot and plan from what it does now. So far it has been in the works for only a little over 15 months, which feels really weird for some reason. This is one of those things that feels simultaneously like it’s been so much shorter and so much longer a time than it actually has, and it’s really weird.

To begin with, the main character was an alchemy mage named Alark Meary and the basic synopsis was this: “Alark is a mage in a house of mages (a mage tower), and he starts to suspect the archmages of hiding something. Turns out they’re killing anyone who believes in Abba. Alark doesnt think this is right and sets about putting a stop to it, gathering other mages to his side. In the process he meets Abba.” (I wrote this on my tablet the night I came up with this idea, and I decided to leave in the grammatical error when I copied it, and I’ll probably do the same with the rest of these.) The plan was also for this to be a trilogy, and I had really cool titles for each one, and for the trilogy name: House of Mages, House of Thorns, and House of Elves, the books of the Mage of Thorns Trilogy. I’m disappointed I won’t have a chance to use those.

The other two summaries were, for House of Thorns: “Alark has uncovered a plot to kill all Abba’s followers, but now he finds that there is something much more sinister going on. The archmages are summoning demons to help them, and soon they’ll overrun Thesbia and from there all of Titania. Alark must rely on Abba and this will test his faith more than ever before.

And for House of Elves: “The demons have been sent back to the underworld, the Archmages have been punished for their crimes, and Thesbia is at peace thanks to the elves who recently reappeared. So why does it feel like something is dreadfully wrong? As Alark seeks to find out he realizes that the elves may have something planned other than nationwide peace. They seek to destroy humans, creatures they consider an “inferior race.” Yet some of them seem friendly enough. How can anyone tell which are evil and which are not? A close friend sells Alark out, and his faith in Abba is tested once again.” (Ooh, I think this summary was when one of my two favorite characters was invented.)

I started the first draft that very day, with this lovely beginning:

Alark opened his eyes and immediately closed them again against the bright morning sun.

“Get up, ssleepyhead. It’s almost seven thirty already!”

Alark glanced across the room at Fidgeon, his roommate, still squinting.

“Wake me up again at eight.” Alark grumbled, pulling his soft pillow over his face.

“No. It’s Friday, remember? And that means…” He stopped, allowing Alark to finish the sentence.

“Altar.” Alark said, his voice muffled through the pillow. He lowered the pillow and sat up slowly.

“Theeere we go. Now, if you don’t get changed in the next five minutes were going to be late, so hurry!”

Alark slid out from under the covers and pulled off his nightshirt, puling his purple tunic over his head to take its place. He threw on his purple robe after that, then pulled on his black leather boots and grabbed his alchemy bag on the way out the door. He strapped it around his waist as he and Fisgeon hurried dowmn the stone corridor to the steps that led down to the altar room, where the mages assembled every Friday morning and every holiday.

They ran down the steps and slowly opened the heavy door that led into the alter room, quietly slipping into a back pew. Archmage Pagod was already speaking, and Alark recognized the sacred prayer, always spoken in Old Elvish, though elves hadn’t been seen in years. He assumed that they had been important in mageic history.

************

Like with the original summary, I left in all the tablet-keyboard typos. (And “mageic”? Why would you use that as a word, younger self? Just use “in mage history.” Then it’s an actual word.)

Eventually I cut this, along with the entire first and second chapter and rewrote them, because a side character decided to hijack the plot and make it all about her, instead, so… yeah. And then the plot ended up changing, too, because all of the plots mentioned in the summaries above decided to merge into one, which kind of derailed the whole trilogy idea. (I didn’t plan out this story ahead of time, so it took on a mind entirely of its own.) Now, though, I don’t think I could imagine it any other way. I certainly couldn’t imagine Alark as the main character at this point.

I continued writing at least a little bit until July, and Camp NaNoWriMo that month. My aim was to write 50k on House of Mages and 1k on another story I decided to work on that month, and I didn’t get anywhere near that goal. I only wrote 3,647 words on the two of them combined that whole month. Then I worked on it some more up until November and classic NaNoWriMo when my goal was to finish the first draft, which I did on either the 3rd or the 4th. I’m thinking it was the 3rd since that was the day I reached 50k on it, and it only ended up being a little over 51k, which is why I laughed when I found my original notes and saw I’d anticipated it being 80k-90k. The 1st was a lot of fun because it was my best friend’s birthday, and she was reading along as I wrote the story, so I decided to give her five chapters for her birthday… All ending with cliffhangers. I had so much fun torturing her with the suspense.

After I finished the first draft I set it aside until about December or January, and fairly quickly went through and used Microsoft Word to leave comments on spots that needed to be improved. I started the true second draft on March 11th, 2017, and that took until May 9th to finish. (It took me less than a month to finish my second draft?!?!?!) I waited until June 6th to start on the third draft, which is actually something of a rewrite. I read a blog post… which I now can’t find… that talked about how rewriting is a better option than revising. Not a huge rewrite, but literally writing it again from the original because then you can adjust the flow as needed and stuff like that, and I decided to try this method. A big reason I chose to use this method as opposed to classic editing (which I really have no experience in and therefore wouldn’t be doing “correctly” anyway) was that I don’t do well writing description into the story in the first draft (which is something I’m working on), so I felt like it would be easier to organically insert more description if I was writing it over again. It has helped a bit, but not as well as I had hoped, so that’s something I know I still need to work on in this story.

I’ve been working on this third draft since June 6th, so over two months, and I’ve only finished eleven chapters out of twenty-five. Obviously this is going a lot slower than the second draft (I should use that as motivation. “I finished the second draft in a month! I can totally handle this!”), but I’m getting through it… very slowly.

With this draft I’ve had a lot of issues with not liking the story. I think I worked on it a little too much all in one big chunk and got tired of it. I actually posted on Facebook on June 26th that said, “I want to watch my story go through a shredder right now… It’s not really that bad, but I’m tired of dealing with it. That’s terrible, I know, but I just want to be done with it for a while. I’ll probably set it aside for the next month and hopefully by the end of that I won’t be as annoyed with it anymore.”

Since the next month/last month was Camp NaNoWriMo again and I was planning on working on another project anyway, it was pretty easy to set it aside for a while, but when I came back to it after making my Camp goal, I was still annoyed with it. There was one section and the character within that section that I just was really not liking and I didn’t want to work on, but I finally got through that on about the 24th of July and got through two chapters that day and mostly pushed through that block.

Throughout this process, though, there have been instances in which I have wondered if I should really be trying to publish this book or if I should start with one that’s better even as a first draft, there have been instances when I’ve wondered if I’m ready to publish or should just give up and wait for a while. I’ve beaten all of these occasions, but there’s still that nagging feeling that another story would be easier or I shouldn’t be attempting this yet, and I know that they’re wrong, but they’re also persistent. (In case anyone was worried, I am indeed publishing this book in the near future.) I tend to beat those thoughts with the reminder that if I give into that I know it’ll just be a vicious cycle. There will always be a project that’s better-written than the one I’m working on, I’ll always wonder if I’m ready, and if I don’t do this then I don’t think I ever will, so I just need to push through it, and that’s what I have done, as best I can.

On March 21st (I was a ways through my second draft at that point) I got a book cover, which I was super excited about. It made the fact that I’m working toward publishing seem real for a while, and I was doing so much premature celebrating. It was awesome. I still really like the cover, but I’ve had it for long enough that the novelty of it (pun intended) has mostly worn off. That was also the day I finally settled on a pen name – R. M. Archer – since I kind of needed to know what name to put on the cover. That’s just a little important, you know?

I finally finalized my synopsis on April 19th, which I was happy about because I really don’t do well with synopsis writing, and I was happy to have one that worked.

So now I’m getting closer and closer to accomplishing the goal I’ve had since I was about twelve of having a book published, and it’s extremely exciting and it’s been quite an adventure. I’ve learned a lot about my writing and I’ve gotten so much encouragement from family and friends and it’s just been super cool. I’m really anxious to see this project completed and be able to hold my book in my hands with a gleaming cover and… it’s just going to be awesome when it’s completed and all of the hard work that’s gone into it has paid off.

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