What I’m Going To Do

Current NaNoWriMo Word Count: 12,522 words

Current NaNoWriMo Mood (via a GIF):

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Kind of kicking myself for waiting till the 12th day of the month to update y’all on my NaNoWriMo progress, but the timing works I suppose since yesterday was the best writing day I’ve had in a long time, for a lot of different reasons.

For one, it was 11/11, which is my favorite day because my favorite number is 11. Good mojo from the jump on that front. Add that to the fact that we had an extended Write In with some of my friends from the PhillyWrimos group, and you have the recipie for a very good writing day.

And boy howdy was it.

Wrote just over 5,300 words yesterday, definitely my best writing day since the summer, and by a long shot my best one of the month so far. Not only was the quantity of words exciting to reach, but the content of those words was so wonderfully unexpected and important to the core of the story I’m trying to tell. Obviously the writing of it itself is probably swiftly written garbage that will need lots of revising, but the ideas are there. The framework has been laid down, and I feel as if yesterday’s writing is something truly thrilling that I will get to build upon later.

The month as a whole has gone pretty well, even though I did have a several day dry spell where I couldn’t get anything down. (Though to be fair, that was less about not being inspired to write and more about being too busy/tired to actually sit down and try any writing.) The month goes on though, and to be honest, it goes a little too quickly for my liking. I can’t believe we’re almost half way through it.

But even as time flies by, I have to say this experience so far this November has been like 90% blessed and 10% stressed, because there is a indescribable thrill that comes with first drafting for me. Its like the one Terry Pratchett quote, “The first draft is you telling yourself the story.” That has largely been how I’ve felt. Its like I’m an archaeologist of my own subconscious, digging around in there and uncovering characters and plot points and moments of meaning. My love for the exploratory nature of first drafts knows no bounds in this or any universe.

I know that the writing process is made of many hills and valleys, and so I don’t expect things with this draft to stay lovely forever. I know I’m going to go through times of writers block, plenty of low points, and if I haven’t tried to defenestrate the manuscript at least a half dozen times before its done, I’m doing something wrong. But every part of the process, both the good and the bad, is what makes me love it. For every murky moment of self doubt, there’s a time for clarity and confidence. When I one day hold the finished thing in my hands, it’ll be worth every second of it, because I didn’t give up on it, and I made a thing that didn’t exist in the universe before. Even in the darkest of times, the little spark of hope inside me holds onto that thought, and it is what keeps me writing. No matter how many times I think I’m going to quit, I just ask myself the one question that’s been my guiding light this year… WWWWD? (What Would Wonder Woman Do?)

Not give up, that’s for damn sure.

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Back to the words. I’ll check in again soon.

 

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Failures & Dreams

This morning, I’m waking up at the crack of dawn for a moment I’ve waited almost a year for. As the sun rises, and the crisp November air bites with both a chill and a promise, I’ll be off to see Hamilton in New York City.

Today also begins another NaNoWriMo adventure; my twelfth attempt in thirteen years. I’ll be taking the month to punch my rewriting efforts to warp speed, with the intention of completing the new draft of They Are the Last before the month is out. I’ve spent months chipping and hacking away at bits and bobs of a second draft, but now’s crunch time. Do or die. Write or—well, there really is no other option. There is no try, there’s only the words.

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And lastly, today is the day my Inkshares campaign should have ended, had I not cancelled in back in September. On the verge of such excitement and success and fulfilling of dreams, there is also a small sense of sadness that I didn’t accomplish what I’d set out to back in February with my campaign.

So many people, my hero J.K. Rowling included, have spoken on what it means to fail, and how it builds you as a person. Hank Green recently did a video about his own experiences “failing” at a convention that’s adored by hundreds. I “failed” at a campaign to fund a book, but made friends and connections and gained experiences that already have, and will continue to shape me. Some of the things I learned haven’t even fully hit me yet, and won’t until the moment is right. But here’s what I do know.

This year has been immeasurably incredible. I’ve fallen hard—my campaign, my financial instability as I search for a job that’s right for me, my depression and anxiety flaring up and making some days feel impossible to function through. But I’ve also seen and done things this year that I could NEVER have fathomed possible, with two whole months more of that to come with who knows what sort of magic.

I’ve dreamed of things, sometimes things bigger than the world has told me I should dare to. Last year, I said I wanted to see Hamilton. “IMPOSSIBLE,” cried everyone. Yet here I sit here with my ticket on my desk. I wanted to get my book published, but instead managed to be part of an anthology to be published by Nerdist Industries. I dreamed for so, so many things, because in my heart, a dreamer is what I always have been and always shall be. But in the process of bringing these dreams to life, there have been, and will inevitably be, more moments of failure.

I will fail, so I can savor the dreams. I will dream harder, so I know that when I fail, there’s still something to fight for.

“We do not need magic to transform our world. We carry all of the power we need inside ourselves already.” —J.K. Rowling

Happy NaNoWriMo, everyone. Here’s to the failures sure to come, and to the courage to strive for our dreams in the face of them. After all, there’s a million things we haven’t done, but just you wait…

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12 Years in Alteria

Get your flux capacitor and TARDIS ready, everyone. For today’s post, we’re going back in time. To when, you ask?

February 9th, 2004 at 10:13am. Room 107 of East Norriton Middle School.

I was 13, sitting in class with a teacher I didn’t much like for a subject I was rubbish at. The few days prior to that, I’d made the decision that I wanted to write a story. Heavily influenced by the magic of Harry Potter and the space and time travel in The Pendragon Adventures – a YA series you should absolutely look up if you’re unfamiliar – I knew that I wanted the story I’d be writing to be some combination of the those elements. Science-y magic, if you will.

I came up with a character to lead this universe, Piper Anderson, who was so named because Piper was my favorite girls name, and Anderson was my 7th grade English teacher’s name. Next, I realized Piper needed a universe to belong in – a world. Sitting in that math class, I tried to come up with a name. Something original. But with nothing around me but other disinterested classmates and a teacher droning on, there wasn’t much for inspiration. So I worked with what I had . . . my math worksheet.

I started using different words from the instructions on the page, combining them in scribbles at the bottom of a piece of paper that I have sadly since lost. I rearranged words and letters, until at last, I jotted down a word that just worked. It clicked.

My world would be called Alteria.

And so I opened my notebook to a blank page – a page I still have – and jotted down the date, time, place, and just above it a phrase. Alteria: The Adventure Begins. Below that, a chapter title. And below that? A horribly cheesy first line that only 13 year old me could have come up with.

Piper Anderon looked like your typical 17 year old girl. But she wasn’t.

Yes, in the first line of my first book, I spelled my own character’s name wrong. DERP.

The rest of that year was spent coming up with alien races, doodling notes, and handwriting pages upon pages of story. That November I decided to write a prequel to this first Alteria story, and the result was very first NaNoWriMo novel called The Waters of Nen. As anyone who’s read this blog before knows, NaNoWriMo is the other thing I’ve been spending the last 12 years doing.

The ensuing years after 2004 saw much of my free time being consumed by coming up with grand ideas, some of which stayed, and some of which went back into the communal creative consciousness for someone else to grab. But even when I came up with something bad, I’d just scrap it and keep going. Most people are still surprised when I tell them the story is as old as it is, usually asking things like, why didn’t you get distracted and just stop writing? I can without a doubt say one of the biggest reasons was an incredibly kind and endlessly encouraging middle school librarian who told me to keep at it. (Spoiler: When I get to write a dedication to this book one day – you can bet she’ll be in there.)

High school saw me getting into other projects, trying new things, and you know, learning how to be a person. Then in college, I was so caught up in the incredibly exciting task of learning to be a filmmaker. While those years were amazing and shaped me so much as a storyteller and creator, Alteria spent much of that time on a shelf, waiting until I was ready to tell the story as it deserved to be told.

Flash ahead to 2015. At the conclusion of one creative project, I found myself wanting to take up the mantle of another one. I debated relentlessly in my head as to which story I should work on, and carried the dilema with me when I went to London and Edinburgh in April for my own adventure. I sat in the very cafe where JKR wrote her much of Harry Potter, thinking about Piper and Alteria, and wondering: is it their time? Am I finally ready? As I walked home that night, mulling it all over, I stopped by a shop, looking for a souvenir for the friend who helped me get there. In that store, I saw this . . .

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I took the hint. I went back to Alteria.

I spent July to October writing the first 44K words, then November and December I began a new draft which I completed with less than an hour to spare of New Year’s Eve. I rang in 2016 standing on a street corner waiting to catch the bus to my friends party, because I HAD TO finish my book first. Watching fireworks explode over the city skyline, happy drunken cheers all around, and with Hamilton the Musical‘s song My Shot blaring in my ears, I gotta say – that was one of the most surreal and profound moments of my life.

Which brings me to 2016. A new year, new beginnings, and a new chapter in the life of my story. And now – a new challenge.

This time last week, I was working on revising my draft, with no idea when I’d ever be published, or hell, even how I’d be published. Would I self-pub? Find an agent? I was preparing myself for all possible avenues I could think of. But as I’ve discovered is the pattern in my life, God usually tends to answer my prayers in the one way I that I could have never expected or prepared for.

Along came Inkshares. My friend – bless her heart – sent me a link to a contest called The Nerdist Space Opera Contest, run by the magnificently wonderful Inkshares website. The rules? Get my book to be one of the most pre-ordered books by March 15th, and I get published. That’s it. I’d be a real live published author, and one of the top 3 items of my bucket list would get to be checked off when I’m only 25. Talk about blessed.

So here I sit. My story turns 12 today. 12 years of my life spent with my head lost across the stars in a world I love, which no one ever used to know existed, until now. Now, Piper’s story isn’t just mine. It can be yours too. I imagine this must be what a parent feels like seeing their kid off to school: thrilling, exciting, nerve-wracking, happy, overwhelming, etc.

I don’t know what’s going to happen with this contest or my story will find itself in the winners circle, because to be honest, SO MANY OF THESE BOOKS SOUND SO GOOD. But the great thing about Inkshares is, even if I don’t win the contest, I still have until May 4th to sell 750 pre-orders, and if I do that, my book will finally be on your shelves.

Suppose it is fitting that a post with the words 12 Years in the title should take a while, but if you’re still reading, thanks for sticking with me. Not just in this blog post, but in life. On this crazy journey I’m on to live passionately and fiercely pursue my dreams. I hope that if you’ve gotten this far, you’ll take some time to check out this story that’s meant all the worlds to me. You can read Chapter One here.

If you’ve been there at any time in any way for these past 12 years, I thank you. You’ve become part of the story between the lines inherently by being in my life. As for the rest of you, Alteria will be waiting.

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Update: As of September 14th, 2016, Elayna cancelled the funding campaign for They Are the LastRead her official announcement here. Readers can still visit theyarethelast.com to learn more about the story.

So It Begins

Today marks the start of a new part of my journey, one I’ve never embarked upon before, but which is sure to be about as exciting as it is nauseating. Today, I set down to start editing my novel.

As I sit with notecards scattered about me, about to delve right back into the story I’ll be spending the next goodness knows how many months combing through, I can’t help but feel the same sense of thrill I felt for the first time last year. It’s not a feeling many might associate with an activity such as sitting down in front of a computer, going through a word document, but the feeling still stands:

This is the same kind of feeling I got the first time I was on a plane that was about to take off. Weird maybe, but follow me on this one . . .

Last year, when I first hopped on a plane, ready to go to England, it was something I’d never experienced before, but which I had heard about from others numerous times. Some had bad experiences, others had great ones. Some felt the need to vomit, while others might have felt exhilaration. That very much captures what I’m getting at.

I’ve had so many supportive and amazing people reach out to me these last few days, saying things like Congratulations on your novel! You finished it! Awesome! Can I read it? And while all of this is LOVELY to hear, the idea that finishing draft one means this novel is done, could not be farther from the truth.

Finishing draft one was merely the end of the beginning.

Now the real task begins.

Am I scared of what’s to come? Sure. A little. That’s how I know it’s going to be exciting. In a conversation with a close friend I had earlier today, I described that I feel much like Bilbo in that scene in the first Hobbit movie, when he’s running down a road through Hobbiton, waving that piece of paper and screaming to someone, “I’M GOING ON AN ADVENTURE!!”

Ya know? This one. (Gosh I love this gif…)

That’s really what I’m doing. Telling the adventure that is my novel is an entirely separate adventure that I must embark on. The road will be long and hard (and hopefully I run into at LEAST one dragon…) but it’s a road that I know will change me and make me a better person at the end. And hopefully, dear reader, the end of this journey will allow me to finally put this book I’m writing into your hands.

*downs last of my coffee* Let’s do this.

VIDEO: Yay for Success!

 

In which Elayna WON NANOWRIMO! Well, she hit 50K words anyway. Watch her flail with excitement & discuss the NaNoWriMo, the #NaNoHouseCup, and her new page on Patreon!


I couldn’t be happier than to have the successful completion of NaNoWriMo be my foray back into YouTubing, especially since other than my adventure to the Studio Tour, the last video I made was during Camp NaNoWriMo in July, which I sadly did not complete.

But I should not be so sad! It was working on that novel for Camp NaNoWriMo that led me to this November’s venture, which currently is a beautifully glorious 50,085 words long. Everything happens for a reason, and I truly feel I was meant to not make it to the end back in July, because my journey wasn’t over yet.

And it still isn’t.

While I’ve slayed that 50K in less than 30 days, there’s about half of my novel left to be written, and I have no intentions of letting the magnificent momentum of the last month slow down. I’m too in it. I’ve never felt so creatively on fire, and I’m loving what I do more than I honestly believe I ever have. I can’t let that die down just because of the holidays. won’t.

Not only that, but in the three days remaining, I will be running two more #NaNoHouseCups on twitter through the @NaNoWordSprints account, which is sure to be magical. Between the first three we’ve written around a half million words, so I can’t wait to see what people can do when motivated at the eleventh hour when it counts the most.

On top of all of this, my newest video is the formal announcement that I am now a proud member of Patreon, an incredible site that allows writers, artists and creators like myself to make a living doing what they love. Basically patrons can support my work for as little as $1 a month, which may not sound like a lot. But if 100 people a month supported my work with a single dollar, that’s $100 a month, and I can start being able to live better and breathe easier because I’ll be spending my days making ends meet doing something I already love doing more than anything in the world. It’s amazing.

Basically, I’m just basking in the afterglow of this beautiful month, and really, this year. As December 31st gets closer, I can’t help but be reflective of all the wondrous things that have happened, and delight in the fact that there’s still about 30 days left in the year. And while a single month may not seem like much, it can honestly change everything.

The Adventure Begins

Today friends, on the auspicious occasion that is Day One of my 11th year doing NaNoWriMo, I present you with a relic of the internet: the following image is a screen grab from my recently discovered LiveJournal, which somehow survived and contains evidence of how I was feeling the night before my very first NaNo adventure . . .

My first NaNo

Note the very 2004 music choice, the adorable 14 year old exclamations (hehe), the fact that I was Trick-or-Treating that night, and that I thought I was going to write a “masterpiece”.

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Basically current me talking to 14 year old me.

It’s hard for me to believe that eleven years later, I’m still here. Still participating, still writing, and have now even become an ML for my region, something that little me could have only dreamed about. It’s all very surreal I assure you.

But why do I share this piece of personal NaNoHistory with you? *shuffles notecards* For several reasons really. For one, it’s hilarious. I mean come on? Did you look at it?

Secondly, it shows that I really have been blogging since the dawn of ever. I can actually feel confident in putting on a resume that I’ve been doing it for 11 years. (Though I never said I’d been a good blogger for 11 years.)

Most importantly however, I share it because of the particular story I am writing for this year’s NaNoWriMo. As you can see in the photo below, it is called They Are The Last and it is the first book in a trilogy that I plan to write, and which will hopefully become my first published work one day. This story, its characters, and its world – a place called Alteria – were all my very first novel idea. We’re talking – 13 years old, sitting in Math class, bored out of my brains because I sucked at Math (ah, how some things never change) and went, it would be so cool if I wrote a book about another world. I was transfixed by stories like Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, The Pendragon Series (if you haven’t read that last one: LOOK IT UP) This idea was one I mulled over a little for the ensuing days, and then on February 9th, 2004, at 10:13 in the morning, I wrote on a piece of paper Alteria: The Adventure Begins along with the date and time.

The rest is history.

I worked on the story a lot in those early days, coming up with races for this fantasy world, a really evil bad guy, and the supporting characters around my main girl, Piper, who was very much the brave person I hoped to be. Interestingly enough, when I came up with her, I knew from those very first pages that Piper was going to be an orphan, even though at the time, both my parents were alive. Sadly in the ensuing years, I’ve lost both my parents, thus forcing me to connect with my character on levels I never could have anticipated then. I guess everything happens for a reason.

The years went by, and high school and college quickly ate my life. My NaNoWriMo novels went largely unfinished, as projects and essays and having to find a job became the order of the day. There was not enough time for creativity. There was not enough time for blogging. Alteria faded, and became nothing more than a very beloved idea that sat in a dusty box of old stories that maybe, just maybe, I’d finish telling one day.

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Maybe…one day…meh

Then came April 2015. Just a few months before, I had celebrated my first NaNoWriMo victory since I was 17! I was writing more than ever, working on a story with a friend of mine. But as time went on, it became clear that the story we were writing together was one he needed to develop more on his own before sharing it, and so I decided to get back to something of my own. So I went to London and Edinburgh, knowing that while there, I would have to decide what story I should tell. #MidLifeCrisis

Me trying to figure out my story
Me trying to figure out my story. (and life)

The time I spent in Edinburgh is another blog post in itself, one perhaps I’ll write for you this November between noveling and regular blogging. But let’s just say, thanks to Edinburgh, I found Alteria again, and have been working on it full steam ahead ever since.

This November, I embark on my most epic journey yet: the quest to tell the story that’s been with me as long as I can remember. Equipped with knowledge of storytelling from my film degree, 11 years worth of sheer writing experience, and honestly surrounded by the most supportive group of people I’ve ever had in my life, I will be trying to tell Piper’s story the way it was always meant to be told.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t scared. This story is the biggest deal to me, and I know that the process to get it from my mind to a book shelf is going to be long, hard, and full of countless things I could never anticipate as I sit here typing this blog. But if 14 year old me and 25 year old me have anything in common, it’s this: we absolutely cannot wait for it.

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Day One noveling workspace. Me & my plot bunny companion are ready.

Why I Write

WHY I WRITE

Why do I write?

Because I have to.

In 25 years on this Earth, I have yet to discover something that thrills me more than a story. Words printed on a worn out page that I have to be careful with because I’ve read it so many times, films I watch over and over again because there’s always some tiny thing to be discovered, staying up all night watching episode after episode of a show because I need to know that the hero who feels so much like myself will survive and defeat the bad guys. Those stories I hold dear were woven with words, words written by those who have come before me.

I write because it is my turn.

I write because of what I’ve been through. Losing loved ones too soon, being the center of tormentors attention, and some days feeling never worthy enough to be held by someone. But I also write because friendship has saved me, love has conquered my inner demons and I have seen enough precious moments slip away to know that each of them is to be cherished as though it will never come again, because the truth is: it won’t. I’ll never smell rain for the first time again or unlearn the yearning for adventure that comes from watching the sun sink below a line to be replaced by stars: but through words, I can experience these sensations again and again, ever in a new way, through new eyes, and with an open heart.

I write because I have a voice. My voice is as unique and precious as it is weird and the same. I’v experienced a life that is so similar to so many, but not one has been through it my way. I write because my story of a surviving a crush on my best friend may make someone else thing, “Maybe I can too…” or because my journeys to other worlds in my dreams could come to be the worlds that someone else escapes to when life tries to tear them down. I write because who am I to rob the world of my consciousness? Who am I, made of stardust and science and wonder, to think my words aren’t important enough to be written down? (Spoiler: This entire paragraph also applies to you…)

I write because more than anything, it is what I love, and love – as I was reminded just this past weekend – is the weapon we all have inside of us. Love is what fights back the night and brings deep meaning to a place that can often feel as though it is reigned by chaos. Love is laced through every word of my stories, my life, and my writing.

This is #WhyIWrite.