The Story I Want

Quick question, if you could read a book about anything, what would you read about? What is your perfect story? Okay I guess not such a quick question, because I am about to dedicate a whole blog post to it.

This year I decided to write the story I wanted to write. Not the one I felt obligated to write because of how long it had been in a notebook, or the one I thought would actually sell. I tried, and writing those stories felt like pulling strings right out of my heart. It was draining, to say the least. So after my last Nano, I took a break from writing, and used that break to decide what I wanted to work on next.

What did I like to write? What did I like to read?

Melancholy stories. Stories where the land itself seems to be a character. Fantastic worlds that may or may not make sense. Simple stories, where the fluff of the story has been peeled back to find, in all its beauty, a bare story underneath. Emotion, real emotion inside of real characters.

My style was and is slowly moving away from Tolkienesque (for which we can thank our lucky stars for, the world doesn’t need another Tolkien copy) to something I still can’t quite put my finger on, but I know I am on my way to finding it (I hope anyway). Stories that don’t have to do with entire worlds (or that have to have an agonizing amount of world building), or saving the universe, but with people. People caught up in events and then what they do about it. I love the ordinary characters who find themselves in the adventure much more than I like ‘Chosen Ones’. I like characters with flaws and who agonize over decisions, but who do the right thing anyway. I like the complicated characters.

Since I like to read stories with those characteristics, why not write those kind of stories? I can at least try, even though those authors are waaaay above my skill level.

During my writing break, my mind constantly went back to two stories in particular. They sat, like so many others, simmering away in my notebooks. There are literally about 20 stories ideas that could grab my attention in my notebooks, yet I only thought about two. In fact, one of the few bits of writing I did in those two months was to write a scene in one of those stories. Obviously, those had captured my attention.

Those stories were the ones I wanted to write.

Without giving too much away, I wanted to share a bit of the two stories I will be working on for the forseeable future. I am really loving the idea of the aesthetic of a novels, so let’s try that! Please forgive the titles, these stories are barely begun so I have no idea what to call them.

Story One: A Love Letter to My Hometown.

Dragons // Sunshine on my face // Fire // Traveler // Smoke and ashes // Burned trees // Wind whipping my hair into my eyes // Breathless // Gold // Desert soil // The veins in a leaf // Steampunk // Bravery // Wild // Strange world // Mountains // Sunrise

Story Two: Letters to a Sister

Duels // Knights // Old Libraries // Wrinkled Letters // Pressed Flowers // Herbs // Spilled Ink // Feather Pen // Monsters // A Sword on the Ground // Tears on a Pillow // Quiet Courage // Dusk // Steel // Gray // Hope // Palaces

Okay, now I really want to know, what would be your perfect book to read? What would it be about?

Shaina Merrick

February (Febrary, Febraury, Febary???) Fantasy Month!

How is this gloomy month treating everyone? February is my least favorite month. The holidays are over and I am just soooo ready for warm weather, but I still have to go through February (and March because I live in CO, but hope spring eternal). Blegh. At least the month is short!

To lift the gloom a tad bit, I am joining Jenelle Schmidt’s Fantasy Month challenge! It is all about fandoms, which is always fun to discuss (and scream and flail over). Though, I am not usually a fangirl. *hidesface* I enjoy things but it takes a lot for me to obsess over it. Though I may find out just how many things I do obsess over in this post… (I think my family is snickering at me right now)

And on we go to the questions!

What was the first fandom you fell into?

Uuuuummmmm… Narnia I think. I remember being obsessed over the Prince Caspian movie before it came out. I would stare at a little article I had clipped out of a magazine for hours. Then I was disappointed when I finally saw it, but don’t judge too harshly guys, I was, like, thirteen. And the battle scenes were scary for my wee little self.

Image result for the lion the witch and the wardrobe movie

My introduction to Narnia was my parents reading them out loud to us. My mom loved them as a child, and as soon as we were old enough she introduced them to us. There are many fond memories of sitting cozily on the couch with my siblings and listening to the adventures of the Pevensie children. I may have had a crush on Peter at the time…

What is the most recent fandom you’ve become a part of?

The Mandalorian! I was absolutely obsessed with it as soon as I saw the Child’s face. I love the characters, the plot, and just everything about it! I had always liked Star Wars (it’s hard not to when your dad loves them), but the Mandalorian is just amazing. One of my favorite shows. As a plus, any reference to another Star Wars show or movie in the Mandalorian is fully explained to me by my geeky dad and sister. So I don’t have to go watch them to get the reference.

Image result for the mandalorian

So I don’t know if the Mandalorian on it’s own counts as a fandom, but we are going to pretend it does. Cool?

Star Wars or Star Trek?

I think the above question answers this question. Definitely Star Wars as of the moment, mostly because of the Mandalorian. Though I do like both. Funny story, my dad is a Star Wars fan, but my mom is a Trekkie. And yet they still have a great relationship. Miracles still do happen guys.

Image result for star wars

Marvel or DC?

Definitely Marvel. I am a fan of Captain America.

Image result for captain america

Endgame ranks among my top movies. (though do I even have an official list?) I loved it so much, even though it is one of the very few movies I have ever cried during.

What is a fandom you love enough to want to live in that world?

Perhaps we should rephrase this question to what fandom I think I would survive in. The answer would be, hm, well? My survival skills are very sad, so perhaps we shall go with the Mandalorian. I would really like to hang out with him (really I just want to hold the Child) and if I was next to the Mandalorian I have a very good chance of not dying. Right?

Image result for the mandalorian

If you could hang out with a character from one of your fandoms, who would it be and why?

I reaaaaally want to hold the Child, alright? ‘Nuff said.

(yes I am refusing to say his name on purpose, I don’t like it)

Image result for the mandalorian the child

Unknown fandom (something you love and no one else seems to have heard of)?

*clearsthroat*

*unrollslongscroll*

Ready?

The Last Unicorn

Image result for the last unicorn

Royden Lepps’ Rust

Image result for royden lepps rust

Hamlet (shshshsh, it is totally a fandom)

Image result for hamlet david tennant

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (I know you have heard of it, and then outgrew it, but I never outgrew this fandom…)

Image result for teenage mutant ninja turtles

The Prydain Chronicles

Image result for The Prydain Chronicles

Those are the top ones. I like things no one has heard of. Which means I spend a lot of time trying to convince my friends to read things…

Well that was interesting, and slightly embarrassing… Your turn! Please tell me your fandoms (cool and embarrassing)! I wish to know, and to not feel quite so embarrassed over here.

Shaina Merrick

New Year Resolutions (or not)

Any one want to go time traveling with me? Yes? Well then, let’s all go back one month to January so I can properly write a New Years Resolution post. Ready? Here we go!

Last year I had a looong list of resolutions that covered everything from habits I wanted to break to writing goals I wanted to achieve. Some were from the year before, most were new ones I wanted to tackle in 2020. Looking back, I am really not sure how well I did because, well, somewhere along the line I lost the list.

Oops.

At this point I can only remember one of the things on the list, and I didn’t do it. So did I fail? Or did I do amazing and not even know it? We are going with the latter one. Okay?

Since all my resolutions went over so well last year, I decided to try something new this year.

See, ever year I make a set of resolutions. Sometimes it is more like a glorified to do list, sometimes it is things I want to work on. Like exercise more, or finish all the books on my shelf (both Herculean tasks). Things get repeated year after year and sometimes, eventually, it happens. But this year, I had enough to do lists on the brain. I work, I go to school, I write, read, and occasionally I squeeze in a movie or two. There are enough lists to follow, I don’t really want to make yet another one.

So I decided to try something else. A Happiness Project.

What is a Happiness Project? The whole idea was started by Gretchen Rubin. It is kind of a to do list, kind of a new years resolution, and kind of a habit chart. Basically you break your life down into sections and then decide what you can do to make that area of your life better or happier. Like the title suggests, the whole idea is to bring more happiness into your life. (to learn more you can follow this link)

I decided to section my life off into 5 core pieces that I really wanted to work on this year. The first one was health. Surprise surprise. Isn’t that the most popular resolution? In that section I stuck my desire to meal plan better and to go off sugar for a while, among other things. Did I do it all? No. But I did most of it, and I did become healthier and that leads to being happier.

It is kind of a long list of things I want to do and work. But instead of a to do list that I-must-get-done-at-all-costs and stresses me out when I don’t do it, I have a sectioned list of ways to make my life better and happier. Thus far I have learned how to meal plan (well, better anyway), updated my closet, and started drinking more water. Each of those things have made my life better, and happier.

Isn’t that what New Years Resolutions are supposed to be about anyway?

Shaina Merrick

I’m baaack.

Hello!

*And I explode back on the scene in a cloud of cosmic dust.*

Well, *brushes the dust off my shoulders* it has been a while hasn’t it? Two months?!? Yikes.

Sorry.

What on earth have been doing in that time?

Reading. Obviously. Lots and lots of interesting books. I think I finally crawled out of the reading hole of meh I had fallen into last year.

I finally finished the Mandalorian (let all my family rejoice). I thoroughly enjoyed the ending. Then I dove straight into Downton Abbey which I am also completely enjoying. (I never actually thought I would like tv shows so much, so this interesting)

But all the reading and the watching had to come in between two rather important things. Work, and school.

Yes I said school. I have fallen headfirst into the world of homework and papers and tests. It was a long time in the works, and I am excited about this decision. When I am not wracking my brains over a math problem that is.

Don’t worry, I am not about to announce yet another hiatus. Two months was enough for me, I am ready to write again.

I think the biggest reason I took the two months off without even meaning to was Nano. Writing 50,000 words in one month is nothing to sneeze at, and finishing the novel I have spent years on is no mean feat either. After that I was creatively dry, so dry I didn’t realize till later how bad it was. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to write, there were no words with which to write. I had used the last ones up. Perhaps I would have been afraid if I had known what was going on. There is a creepy crawly fear in the back of my mind that eventually I will run out of things to say. But I was so busy starting school and working I didn’t even notice.

All I knew was that I was tired. So I didn’t write. And thankfully, my income does not depend on my writing, so I was able to do that. Instead I read good books and I watched good movies and I talked with good friends. I dabbled in short stories when inspiration struck and journaled my thoughts and frustrations. I knew there was a whole world of stories waiting for me, I just couldn’t drum up the energy to dive into them again.

In the meantime, the well I had drank so dry became filled again, and now I can look my stories in the eye and tell them I am coming back. Sometime very soon, I will pick up a story and begin it.

Anyway. Hello and welcome back to the blog everyone! In the near future expect a long overdue new year new resolutions post and more book reviews.

Anything exciting happen while I was gone?

Shaina Merrick

And it Ended.

I did it. Good golly I actually won Nano. And I completed my novel. In case anyone was wondering.

GUYS I FINISHED MY NOVEL!!!!

Ya know, just the one I have been working on for the last 5 to 7 years. (it took a while before I learned the fine art of dating things) I did it. I wrote the end. Can I sleep now?

Tired The Big Bang Theory GIF

Is it done? Oh yes. Is it terrible? Absolutely. Does it need to edited within an inch of its life? Oh yeah! The thing is a 100,000+ word mess of meanderings and rabbit trails and IhavenoideawhatIamdoing-ness.

I did not stick to the plot. I tried, really I tried. But I failed. Is anybody surprised? Not me anyway. And I am not going to sit and here and say that the novel is any stronger for my inability to stay on plot. Because I have no idea if I helped or hindered my story with all the meandering. At this point I can’t see the forest for the trees people.

On to some stats!

Most Words a Day During Nano: 5,267

Least Words a Day During Nano: 51 (it was a bad day)

Finished Nano at: 50,065

Words in Completed Novel: 129,852 (0.o)

What even guys. I finished a 100,000+ novel in a year. To celebrate I will be sleeping or watching my favorite tv show.

There was a badge on Nano this year that you got if you updated your word count every day. So, you know, if you write every day. I really like getting badges. Just give me a gold sticker and I’ll be happy. Motivated by a shiny little badge, I wrote every single day, even if it was only 51 words. (often at 10:00 at night but we don’t need to talk about that…)

I have never actually written for 30 days straight in a row before. I usually get tired after about five and then take a break for a while. This year exercised some writing muscles! Also, I know I can do it now. It is possible for me to write every day and still be semi sort of sane. It is good to know what you can and can not do, or in other words where your limits are.

I wrote 5,000 words in one day! Wow! Did I mention I am a slow writer (only like every other post). That has never happened before in the history of me. But I did it! I wrote 5k words! During the last week I wrote 3,300 words a day because I was soooo behind. Do not be like me and leave the bulk of your story till the last two weeks of Nano. So much stress… But hey, I made it!

Last Monday I almost quit. I knew I was seriously behind and I wasn’t sure if I could make the time to get caught back up and win. Let alone finish my novel. Then I realized if I didn’t finish it now, there was a high chance I never would. I was not as excited about my story as I used to be, and I am about to start college, which means I get to say goodbye to free time. This was the time to write, I could either buck up and do it, or choose to put it aside. I chose to finish it. I whipped out my handy dandy calculator and figured out how many words I needed to write a day to win. And then I did it.

Thus proving to myself that I did not need inspiration or the perfect words. I just had to sit down and write. The words aren’t pretty, in fact most of the lines are probably garbage. That is what editing is for. I can’t edit something that isn’t there.

All in all, it was a good Nano. I won, I finished my novel, and I proved to myself what exactly I can do when a deadline is approaching with all of its death and glory.

If you will excuse me, I am going to go rest on my laurels now.

Shaina Merrick

One Line

All it took was one line. Just one, and I was hooked forever.

It’s the dream all writers have, of finding the perfect one line that grabs the reader by the ear and tosses them into the story. We want our readers to be so irrevocably involved that there is no looking back, not even for a moment.

It may be a piece of world building that enthralls them, a plot twist that shocks them, or a character they adore. No matter which one it is, we win, the reader is reading our book.

The example that comes to my mind is in Synapse by Steven James. The first chapter of the book introduces the character Kestrel, who has recently had a still birth. An instant, heart tugging connection for anyone who has gone through something similar. However it was not that particular bit of her history that hooked me, nor was it her personality, thought I liked it.

It was one line. A line that described her wanting to have a baby before she was forty. She was desperate to have a baby, desperate enough to give birth to a baby that was no biologically her own. That desperation reached through the pages and echoed in my own heart. I understood that longing. And that was it. I would have followed that character through bad writing, terrible plot twists, and nail biting experiences. No matter where Kestrel was going, I was going to.

That is what I mean by a connection between story and reader, between character and reader. It is almost impossible to artificially create. There is no magic formula, sorry guys. If there was I would tie it in a bow and hand it to you with a smile.

All I can say is that I resonated with that character because I saw something in her that was in myself. That would not have happened if she was this unrealistic wooden puppet. That character was real, living and breathing within her own story, and I felt like I was friends with her.

That one line gave me courage to keep writing. To keep creating good characters that jump off the page. Someday, I want to give my readers the same experience. To find within my books a character they immediately connect with and are willing to follow to the ends of the earth.

Shaina Merrick

Why is this so Hard?

Hey hey hey! I am coming to you from the depths of Nano, so brace yourselves for an odd brain tangle post.

As you know, this year my goal is to finish my novel. I am doing my best to finish up what I started so long ago. As I am writing it though, I am realizing why this particular book has been so hard for me to finish.

I got the idea for Sunlight on the Peaks when I was in high school. So five hundred years ago. At first, all I had were a few scenes. All to do with a girl who had been hurt by a magician. The magic system in the book is one of the first things that I figured out.

Since then, I have written the first part of the book at least four times. At least. I think I wrote the first half twice for Nanowrimo. The poor book has been plotted within an inch of its life. I did everything I was supposed to when it came to world building and plotting and characterization, and still the book gave me, gives me, fits.

Unlike some of my other novels that just flowed from my pen. They were easy to write, this one is not.

Why? Why is it so hard to write?

Well. First off, I came up with the idea when I was still young and overly ambitious. This book has a lot of high fantasy vibes, and sounds similar to lots of other books out there. A prince who needs to take back his kingdom? Who hasn’t done that? At the time I was reading lots of high fantasy and this just came out of all of that.

It has a rather large cast, and a humongous plot. There are a bunch of side plots that keep slipping out of my grasp. (I hate writing romance…) At the time, I was convinced I could do it. After all, everyone else did in the fantasy genre. Big casts and complicated plots are the staples of fantasy. Right?

And now? I don’t tend to write in high fantasy any more. I am more fascinated with worlds similar to ours, but with something a bit off about it. Or non-magical fantasy, I enjoy writing that too. I am not fantastic at juggling large casts of characters, so I tend to keep it small, and nowadays I have one POV. No matter what.

So in writing this novel, I am writing completely outside of what I am comfortable with and almost above my skill level. (or completely above, I really don’t know)

I guess you could say I am a rambling introspective writer. I am all about going through the characters thoughts with them. The world is filtered through their eyes and experiences to get to the reader. I like thinking through things as I write, and often I am writing to make sense of the world around me.

Sunlight on the Peaks is not that kind of book. If I paused to discuss things, I would never get anywhere. I have given myself a little room to breath and think, otherwise I would go bonkers. But still, it isn’t like the last book I finished, where the whole thing was deeply inside the characters head and the whole thing was very introspective.

In the years between that first scene for Sunlight on the Peaks and now, I grew as a writer. I found out what I like to write, and what makes me want to tear my hair out. I like writing a little slower paced novels with small casts and simpler plots. (simple does not mean predictable folks.)

I think at first I was trying to write like everybody else, and I almost stopped writing because of it. I couldn’t think or write like the other authors I looked up to. I tried so hard, and ended up discarding story after story and writing myself into a deep hole of the comparison game.

Finally, I decided to write what I wanted to write, and I wouldn’t care about what anyone else thought about it.

Sunlight on the Peaks is a story very dear to my heart, but it is a hold over from the time where I thought I needed to write a certain way. When I write The End, I will be closing the door on that chapter of my life. And then I will be free to keep on trying new things.

Shaina Merrick

NaNoWriMo. Or the month I die.

Who is here is doing the insanity of Nanowrimo (national novel writing month)? I complain so much about it every year, and every year I wonder why on earth I am putting myself through this. But then I get to the end of the month, and realize how much satisfaction comes from completing a novel, or at least getting 50,000 words on it.

Yes. I am doing it again. Hopefully with less complaining this time.

Though I am not sure how I will stuff work, writing 50,000 words, and general life into 30 days. I would like to meet the person who started all this and ask a few pertinent questions. Such as why couldn’t we write a novel in January or something? Ya know, where there is an extra day to get the words in? And no holidays to compete with?

Anyway. This year I went all out and made a playlist for my novel. Wow. I am motivated.

I am also, kind of sort of, breaking the rules… I won’t be starting a new novel. (oops) Nope, I am starting in the middle of a draft and writing it all the way to the end.

Why? BECAUSE LAST YEAR I ONLY WROTE THE FIRST HALF. Yup. Last Nano I wrote 50,000 words and ended up just under halfway. Can I lay down and cry now? This book is going to be a monster. It already is a monster. This year my goal in life is to complete the thing that has leeched upon my heart and soul for years now.

No I don’t hate my novel, why do you ask?

Because this is a new year, and a new possibility of finishing my novel, I decided to give it a real title, instead of the work in progress title I had for so long. (Valai is boring, okay?)

I am pleased to announce the name for my novel is…

.

.

(what, did you think I would tell you right away?)

.

.

Sunlight on the Peaks

For a long time I thought fantasy novels had to have titles that included the setting of the novel. 100 Cupboards, The Two Towers, or something like that. Then I decided that I didn’t care (story of my life).

If you are interested, you can find the pinterest board here.

Happy Writing! (or at least don’t pull all your hair out)

Shaina Merrick

The Story of My Life

Warning. Introspective post ahead.

My entire life revolves around story. The stories I tell others, and the stories I tell myself. From the time I was little, I was telling myself stories. The settings changed, and the side characters. However I was always the main character, the one setting things in motion and leading the plot forward.

It was, and is, second nature to create a story about my friends and I. Or about strangers. I watched people in the parking lot and made up lives for them, and places for them to go.

When I got older, those stories tended to take a romantic bent. It was not uncommon for me to make up a love story between two friends, two strangers, or more often between a friend and myself. Sometimes those stories were just for fun, an exercise in imagination, sometimes they were more serious. I made up a story because I wanted the story to happen.

All of the stories that I thought up for my life, then and now, they have all been upended. The story I am living out is not the one I dreamed up so long ago.

Still single. Who would have thought? Not me. Perhaps there was a friend who foresaw my lack of romance, but I didn’t. My family didn’t. And now, I don’t know what to think of it. The story writer, surprised by her own story. A year ago I would have laughed at the thought of me being surprised by anything. I found stories and patterns in the ring of a bell, in a robins twitter. Yet I can’t find them in my own life.

What kind of story is being told in my life? I still haven’t decided whether I am living a comedy or a tragedy. Perhaps it is a piece of literary fiction, beautifully written but sitting on a dusty shelf.

I haven’t decided what it is yet. But do I get to decide the story? Or is it merely my circumstances that decide it for me? I can make all the fuss I want, but a relationship is not entirely up to me. Other people will help decide that. (unless I go all psycho and kidnap someone, but that would just be weird.)

Do any of us really know what our story will be beforehand? We can make all the plans we want, but in the end, our story follows along different paths. A death of a family member, a wedding, or an unexpected opportunity all play into our stories. It is not as clear cut as at least I thought it would be when I was young and staring into the night sky.

And it isn’t even over yet. I have the rest of my life in front of me. At least 50 more years of living and laughing and adventuring. I have plans and hopes, but who knows what will happen in that time.

My story is still unwritten, for the most part. I am curious to find out what the rest will be.

Shaina Merrick

Inspiration

First, have any of you seen/noticed the changes around here? Yes, there is a new header, yes, some of the font is blue. I did do that on purpose. Whether it looks good or not remains to be seen I suppose. I also updated the Scribblings page and About Me page (that is a not so subtle hint for you to go look at them).

By the way, if you know how to link your instagram page to your blog, I would love to know. I have worked on it for hours, and followed all the directions, and it still isn’t working! So you will just have to take my word for it that I have instagram.

You know what question I dread the most when I talk about my writing? It is not when I am going to finish my novel, though I dislike that one too. It is not why I am writing.

Where do you get your story ideas?

Cue lots of blinking.

I’m sorry, what now?

I am pretty sure I know I get asked. Some authors have these beautiful stories about why they started writing a particular novel, and where they drew their inspiration from. I love hearing those stories, I hate telling them.

Because mine go something like this.

“Well, I was thinking about something random and then got this phrase in my head. This phrase had a, well, a feeling behind it. I felt what was going on, but it was all a little fuzzy. And then I sat down, picked up a pen, and sort of… Figured it out.”

Real inspiring.

I heard once, or read once, that writers are collage artists. We take bits of ideas and thoughts from everywhere and paste them into our story. Cue me nodding with wide eyes and wondering how the person knew what was going on in my head.

My ideas don’t come from one thing, they come from everywhere. Something someone says, a movie I watched, they swirl around in my brain until it turns into a smoothie. Sometimes a good smoothie, sometimes a nasty orange and green one. (looking at you weird story idea)

Often, I don’t know where I got the idea from. I just know that it appeared one day in my head. And never fully formed. I have never figured out a story from start to finish all at once. Usually, I get the beginning, and then have to start writing to figure out the end.

I wish I was one of those writers who can see the plot laid out before them before they even write one word. I have to go diligently searching for it with pen and ink.

The other reason why I don’t particularly like that question (though I will admit to asking it, sorry) is because I have so many story ideas. I am not kidding. I have notebooks full of nothing by story ideas. None of them are finished, some of them have characters, some of them have a plot, but none of them have everything. They all sit there, whispering bits of their story to me every time I look at them. Do I sound crazy? Probably. Being crazy is an occupational hazard in my line of work.

So where do I get my inspiration from? The long answer is listed above, but the short answer is I have no idea.

Shaina Merrick