July 10, 2013

Write More Better: Who Am I (And Who Am *I*)

In today’s article, I will tell you who I am -- my background, things I like and dislike, what not -- as well as who *I* am -- how I’m somehow qualified to sit on my chair and blog about writing, and why you should listen.

Who Is Emily Ann Imes

Let’s get a few facts out of the way. I am:
-- a person
-- female. Most of the time.
-- probably a bit older than you think I am. I don’t throw my age out on the Internet like it’s candy, but I graduated high school in 2006. Do the math.
-- a New Yawker while simultaneously being a Buckeye
-- a Mac
-- a synesthete. This means my senses are neurologically crossed, and I experience two senses at once when one activate. Translation: I see sound. This will come up a lot on this blog. Yes, it’s real.
-- someone who is constantly changing whether I like it or not
-- a Christian, albeit a quite liberal one
-- a Shawol (FIGHTING!!!)
-- a pegasister and quite proud of it
-- a Taurus, an alumni member of Delta Omicron, graduate of West Muskingum High School and Miami University, user of Aim toothpaste, Old Navy shopper, and any other useless facts I could bother to tell you

I’ve been making up stories since before I can remember. I learned to read sometime before my memory kicked in, and how to write sometime in school. I don’t remember where the music came in, but that’s okay.

As a writer, I’ve been writing for several years. My goal is to publish young adult books for my readers. My goals start small, but will grow as I learn and change. One of my other goals is to have others write with me. That’s part of what this blog is about.

Who Am *I* -- And Why The Heck I Matter

Okay. Now that we’re done with that, time for the second question -- who am I to tell you anything about writing?

If you assumed I’m not the most accredited writer in the history of writing, you’d be right. I have a couple of small honors to my name, no publishing contracts, no ridiculous amounts of sales. When it comes to self publishing, statistically I’m just another dot on the map. What kind of ego must I have to stand on my soapbox and demand I be heard?

Simple: because I’m not concerned with honors or contracts or sales. They’re nice, but if you think I’m here to stand on the street corner and sing “Buy my CD,” then you can take your business elsewhere. I’m not J.K. Rowling. I’m not E.L. James. I never will be. And that’s perfectly fine with me.

Most people, when they start out writing, see being published by a huge house as the be all, end all goal. If I can only get published, they think to themselves, then I’ll have it made and I’ll never have to work another day in my life. And so, they hold themselves to this goal whether they really want to or not, because they don’t have a choice. Only real authors get published, right? This mode of thinking discourages a lot of authors very quickly, because the big publishing world is extremely rough. When they receive their first rejection letter in the mail, they roll over and play dead. They give their writing power to the publisher, insist they know what they’re talking about, and go back to working at their (insert hated job here) insisting they will never make it.

Those who make it through this process one time are held to it over and over again, with each new book. Sometimes they give up on one and start another. Very occasionally, someone gets signed, but the world isn’t as glorious and butterflies and rainbows as they thought it would be. They’ve -- again -- given their power to the publisher, who now has the final say over their work, in exchange for an amount of money that can vary widely. And if the book doesn’t sell?

Again with the power thing. But self-publishing doesn’t look any brighter on the surface. Self-publishing gives the power back to the creator, but the creator has ALL OF THE POWER. It takes WORK. It takes money. And often, broke and discouraged starving artists (read: me) don’t have either of those things, or at least dupe ourselves into thinking we don’t. We don’t believe self-publishing is real publishing. We don’t believe in ourselves, we don’t promote, and then when we see our ‘measly’ sales, we give up on that as well. We still write, but we write in the shadow of our apartments and houses, for our own eyes.

I know this because I’ve done this for years, and I think it needs to stop. Don’t confuse this with a private self-boosting blog, though. Yes, it’s meant to promote me. But it’s meant to promote you as well.

The Exchange of Power

I’ve already talked on this blog about what it means to identify your power and to take it back from any source that currently has it. This applies to writing as well, and this translates to you writing for the reasons you define, for reasons that benefit you emotionally and not just monetarily. If you are only writing your book because you want money, then quit now, because you’ll never make it. I don’t say that to be mean, I say that to be truthful. If you focus on the numbers and figures, you’ll be so obsessed with making money easily that when one thing goes wrong in your plan, you’ll give up. The first advice I give is write what you want to write, and your enthusiasm on the subject will help sell your book, regardless in whatever format you wish to sell it.

I have also mentioned before that, growing up, I was expected to make a career out of art (music instead of writing). I finally figured out that I wanted to make a career out of writing, not so much music. Music was personal to me, and I didn’t want it to be exploited. I did not have this problem with writing.

I had to redefine writing just as I had to redefine music. When people think of writing as a career, however, they think of the model I have mentioned before: authors giving power away for various reasons, or trying to do it themselves and talking themselves out of it. There is so much talk about business and what sells and how to write a book that sells that the fun is taken out of it. It becomes about the money, not the fun.

I wanted to find a way to write that was fun, and not just about the money. I want to eventually make money off of my books (and music, once I get there again), but I refuse to let others have my power anymore. When I started brainstorming ideas about ‘fun writing,’ it really only made me think of one thing.

I Am NaNoWriMo (And So Can You)

In 2005 -- my senior year of high school -- I found out about National Novel Writing Month, an event held every November in which participants write books. In a month. There’s no stopping to edit or fussing about quality, because that stalls a lot of writers. Admit it. You know it’s happened to you -- you write chapter 1, then go fold the laundry, then go to school/work, then it’s two weeks later and you’re still busy, then two months later you finally get back to chapter 1 and decide, “This is awful. This needs editing.”

NaNoWriMo leaves no time for editing. You have a month to write 50,000 words. End of discussion. There are no ‘prizes,’ per se, save for bragging rights and a certificate (and, if you’re interior book design savvy like myself, free copies of your book via CreateSuck), plus a first draft of your novel.

I have written eight novels in November with NaNoWriMo, plus two other novels in their Camp sessions. You probably recognize some of these: I wrote Blue Impulse in June 2012, and Dvorak Classic in April 2013. All in all, that’s ten novels in a month.

When I tell people this, they’re usually in shock and ask how I do it. Most will attribute this to my 103 WPM (QWERTY), which I can now tell them is a lie because I wrote Dvorak Classic using the Dvorak Simplified Keyboard. (I got up to 50 WPM by the end of the month.) While I type fast, and I have streamlined the process somewhat, there is one component of NaNoWriMo that you cannot forget: community.

I wrote my first NaNoWriMo novel (Steel Angel, for those of you playing along at home) in 2005. I wrote on my desktop iMac using Appleworks, with no real-life support. It helped that it was my senior year, and therefore a significantly lesser amount of homework to clog my writing time with, but what really helped were the forums. There were tons of supportive people online at NaNoWriMo’s website that encouraged me. Many of these people had done this before. Some, like me, were in it for the first time. We all encouraged each other, which I attribute to helping me cross the finish line.

That’s the magic of NaNoWriMo: somebody’s got to hold you accountable. It can be strangers online or your best friend. But if someone doesn’t constantly get on your case about it, you’ll find yourself out by Week Two. I realized the power of community that first year and decided, the next year, I would NOT be doing NaNoWriMo alone.

So I signed up with NaNoWriMo as a Municipal Liaison (ML) and started a region in Oxford, Ohio, home of Miami University. An ML becomes a volunteer NaNoWriMo representative and organizes events in the community, real life events that people can go to, meet others doing NaNoWriMo, and write. MLs also encourage people to write their novels while writing their own. For four years, I lead the community in Oxford, welcoming new writers, setting up events where we could write together, and then pushing them to finish. On random nights, we’d gather at a coffeeshop, purchase some drinks, and sit with our heads over our computers for hours on end. Yes, we appear as laptop hobos, but I make people get drinks. (In case if you’re wondering if there’s a point, I’m almost there.)

Over the years, I found that I could evolve as an ML when my word speed increased. As I wasn’t a newbie anymore and I didn’t need to worry as much about my own word count, I could pressure others to do better on theirs. Some participants found themselves competing with me to see who could get the most words. (Remember: NaNoWriMo is about quantity, not quality.) And as I helped people, I found tactics for writing that worked when one is in a pinch. I realized that what some people needed wasn’t a plot or extensive devices, but to show up at a meeting and to have someone tell them, “I am not letting you off the hook about this. I am making you do this. You will sit here, and you will write your words, and when you cross your word goal for the day, I will buy you a cookie. Then and only then can you stop for today.” And yes, I have bought lots of cookies and milkshakes and the like, but the point isn’t food.

At the end of NaNoWriMo in my junior year, I remember helping at least three people cross the finish line at the last minute. One of them was some 15000 words behind (Kat Mitroi, back me up on this?). And she still made it. While I talked to her over AIM, physically located in Louisiana. Now, the person in question was originally from Oxford and had done it with us locally for two years; hence we were friends and she knew she had to be accountable to me. But helping others that year made me realize that I had a certain knack for making people write.

It was this same knack that I took to my hometown of Zanesville for a year, and a knack I still use here in the city. I’m not an ML at the moment (but would love to be one someday, hint hint Alexis? :D) but I still try to inspire people during NaNo. I type ridiculously quickly, which not only gets me called a cheater (I’m not), it gets people competitive. This last year, I was in constant word wars with at least one other person, often two. I believe she crossed around 110K; I hit 150K for the first time. (Keep in mind I’ve been doing this eight years.) Even though she won’t be in NYC for this next NaNo, I will still be keeping her accountable. (Beware, Leela.)

That is the main reason I am qualified to write this blog. I may not have grand awards. I may not have over a million copies in print. But gosh darnit, if you identify yourself to me, I WILL keep you accountable, even if it’s not November. If you’re reading this blog right now and you’re writing a novel, I’m officially keeping you accountable. I don’t even know you. But I’ve written ten books. Some of them really suck and will never see the light of day again. Some of them are on sale on iTunes. One of them is permanently on Wattpad for everybody to make fun of -- I mean, read and love. And I’ve learned a thing or two about writing novels during these eight years. Some of my methods that I talk about won’t work for you. That’s cool. I encourage you to find what works for YOU and only YOU. And when you find that, you can be assured that I will be standing on the other side, a bubble gun in one hand and a cookie in the right.

You can do this. I can help. I’m human, but we are all human. And if you don’t want me to hold you accountable somehow, well, you’re still at this blog, aren’t you?

The Power of Writing/Fighting!!!

I am a champion of true heart writing. You write what you want to, when you want to, where you want to, with who you want to, why you want to, even how. I once wrote an entire book by hand (Taconum Carnival) because I could. This freedom of writing stretches from everything to genre to what you ultimately want to write about.

I’m talking about fanfiction.

The expectation is that serious writers don’t write fanfiction. They spend hours and hours writing and crafting their own worlds. They respect the intellectual property of others. But what is a serious writer, if I’ve debunked that myth? If a writer is a writer is a writer, then you should be able to write whatever you want to write, fanfiction included, as long as it remains fanfiction (no monetary profit).

I believed this for the longest time, as well. I kept my fanfiction aliases separate from my real life ones (SOSI J-Pop Stop listeners take note). Until one day I realized I was fussing too much over things that didn’t matter much in the long run. I nearly had a heart attack the first time I published A SHINee Night to Remember on Wattpad, but it’s been smooth sailing ever since, and it may have been the best decision I’ve made for my writing in a long time.

This means that if you want help writing your fanfiction, yes, I will help you. If you want accountability, I am there. I’m like a badly written J-Pop song written for a K-Pop boy band (whoever wrote the Japanese lyrics to Kiss Yo, I am looking RIGHT AT YOU). “Baby don’t cry, you’re not alone, I’m with you.” Cheeseball, but true.

It’s Up To You Now.

Read. Don’t read. Love what I write. Get really mad about some of it. I don’t particularly care. I’m here because I exist as a human, and because I want to write, and because I have a voice. I’m also here because I want to see you writing. Yes, you. When you write, you have a voice. You take back your power. You rip off the mask and force everybody to look at the real you, if you’re doing writing right. I hope to continue with more articles and more novels as my adventure continues, and I hope you’ll continue to join me on this side of the noveling river.

After all, we have cookies.

This post was originally done at work -- the links will be live tonight, 7/10/13.

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