The Creativity Corner: Autumn 2017 (Plus, I’m on Hiatus for the Holidays)

I guess I should start this post by wishing you a Happy Winter Solstice… But I’m not a fan of winter. 😉 Either way, it’s hard to believe that another season has passed, and what an inspiring and productive autumn it was, creatively speaking. The funny thing is, when I was writing the end-of-summer Creativity Corner, I was already looking ahead to fall… and I realized that October and early November would be the best time to get as much writing done as possible before Thanksgiving and Christmas.

What a fantastic decision that turned out to be – because I’m stunned at how much I accomplished since then! I’ll get into all of that shortly. And as always, feel free to share what you’ve been reading and writing (or revising, editing, etc.) this past season in your comments.

What I’ve Been Writing

Storm (YA / College-Age Magical Realism)

Since the end-of-summer update in September, I’ve added 22,000 words to Draft #1 of Storm, bringing its current word count to 63,000. And honestly, that number is… just… mind-boggling. Especially since it took me a year-and-a-half to reach the same word count with my previous WIP. 😮 But I already know a couple reasons why Storm is developing so much faster, so I might do a post about that in the future – when I finish Draft #1of course.

Because there’s still a ways to go, though it’s hard to say how much. Right now, my guess is it’s over halfway done, and the completed draft should be about 100K. Which is high (too high, in fact) for YA magical realism, but I’m not worried. If I was able to get a 132K YA high fantasy story down to 98K by Draft #3, I should be able to get Storm down to the 80K range in later drafts.

On top of the writing, I’ve also been researching and conducting informational interviews for Storm. Two sets of these interviews have been on mental health (anxiety disorders and depression). Doing this was important to me, because even though I’ve had experience with both anxiety and depression, I wanted to hear from other people so that I’m not basing my characters’ experiences solely on mine. The responses I’ve since received will be immensely helpful, and I’m grateful for the interviewees for their bravery and willingness to share this part of themselves with me. ❤

The third set of interviews, on the other hand, pertains to my main character’s father’s job as a home remodeling contractor. I’m still not sure why on Earth I chose it, since no one in my family works in construction. (Though I bet my love for home remodeling shows on HGTV must have been a big influence!) But once I had brainstormed how to incorporate magical realism into that idea, I knew I had to pursue it.

To keep the rest of this story short: I reached out to a few local home remodeling contractors in November and early December to see if they would answer some questions about the administrative or “behind the scenes” aspects of their jobs… And while only one “yes,” it still means that one of them said “YES!

That interview has since taken place, and the information that the contractor shared with me will be so valuable as I continue working on Draft #1. I’ll definitely write more about these interviews in the future, especially since they were courage-building exercises as much as they were learning experiences. (Confession: I was TERRIFIED of making those cold calls to the contractors!)

Finally, I want to give everyone a big thank-you hug for their comments on the the premise of Storm, either in person or here at the blog. I’m so grateful that people realize that not only is this a more personal manuscript, but that it’s also unique. Few novels out there right now cover the first-year college / university experience. And since I know first-hand how challenging that time in life can be, I hope this story might be able to fill a void and help future readers who can relate to the protagonist’s struggles with mental health, family, friendship, and self-confidence.

So, here’s the hug!

Poetry

I’ve finally submitted poems again! After rounds of edits, reading aloud, and more edits, I sent a trio of poems to a contest in early October and another four poems to a literary journal in November. No word yet from either, but if I hear anything, I’ll let you know when the time is right. 😉 I’ve also written more new poems and revised a few more older ones. It feels so… so good to be back in the poetry swing, after being away from it for so long.

I’ve also devised a “system” to better balance novel-writing and poetry. For every 1,000 words I add to Storm, I take an evening off to focus on poems. So far, it’s going pretty well – and by that, I mean I don’t feel guilty about working on one project and not the other, since I’m now actively making time for both.

What I’ve Been Listening to While Writing

With every season, the playlist for Storm is shaping up to be more and more diverse. Yet each song is so appropriate to the story in terms of the emotions conveyed in the lyrics or music. That matters more in the end, I think. 🙂 Anyway, here are the most recently added songs I listened to during the first draft:

What I’ve Been Reading

I read 15 books over the fall, which brings my current reading total for the year to 54. With 2 weeks left in the year, I’ll probably fit in two more books (or three, if I’m lucky) to make my grand total for 2017 reads to 56. That would be just under last year’s total of 58 books read, so I’m happy to see I’m still reading at a consistent yet comfortable pace. 🙂

So, what were my favorite reads of the fall? Here are my top five:

  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas: I’m still reading this book as of today, so I don’t have a complete review to share yet. However, I already agree on what many readers have said about this YA contemporary inspired by the Black Lives Matters movement. It’s raw, powerful, and one of the most relevant novels out there right now.
  • The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo: An exquisite collection of myths and folklore that inhabit Leigh Bardugo’s GrishaVerse, her fictional world made famous by the Grisha Trilogy and Six of Crows Duology. Not only does each myth feel like an integral part of each culture she invented for this world, but they also twist the concept of fairy tales into dark allegories of warning, difficult choices, and hard lessons. The book itself is also stunningly designed, thanks to Sara Kipin’s gorgeous illustrations and the embossed jacket art.
  • Shadowshaper by Daniel Jose Older: This book was FUN. It’s a YA urban fantasy set in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood, with an incredibly diverse cast of characters and a dynamic magic system where ancestral spirits are infused into music, chalk murals, and other art forms. Yes, an art-inspired magic system. You know you want to read this now. 😉
  • Skullsworn by Brian Staveley: After reading Staveley’s The Emperor’s Blades over the summer, I’ve been itching to read other books set in his Unhewn Throne universe. (TEB is the first book in the Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne Trilogy.) Skullsworn is a standalone novel set in the same world, about a young woman named Pyrre who must complete seven killings in order to become a priestess of the god of death – and one of those deaths must be someone she loves.
  • Wild Beauty by Anne-Marie McLemore: Another gorgeously written YA magical realism novel by Anne-Marie McLemore. This one follows Estrella, who can grow starflowers with a touch of her hand on soil, and a young boy who has forgotten his name and all memory of his life before appearing in Estrella’s family’s garden. It’s a hypnotic and fiercely charming tale of family, love, and loss. Oh, and flowers, too!

By the way, I’m planning to reveal my favorite reads of 2017 after I come back from my holiday blogging hiatus. And like last year, I might do another double giveaway. 😉 Keep your eye out for it in January!

Speaking of which…

Last But Not Least, I’m on Hiatus Until Tuesday, January 9th

Since Christmas is almost here, I’m taking the rest of the year off from blogging, as well as the first week of January. I’m sure I’ll sneak in now and then to respond to comments and visit friends’ blogs. Otherwise, I’ll be back with a new post on Tuesday, January 9th. And until then, I wish you all the very best this holiday season, and have a wonderful start to your New Year. See you in 2018! 🙂

How are your writing projects going? What books have you read lately? How about musical artists or albums you’ve been listening to? Also, now that it’s December, do you take time-off from creative pursuits while preparing for the end-of-year holidays? Or do you keep at it, just at a more casual pace?

35 thoughts on “The Creativity Corner: Autumn 2017 (Plus, I’m on Hiatus for the Holidays)

  1. Sounds like you’re a veritable hive of activity, Sara! I’m less efficient at the moment, though I have made the important discovery that I can use my cursor to influence the angle at which the snow falls on your blog!

    I suspect you’re writing faster than I’m reading. ‘Storm’ sounds very interesting, particularly regarding anxiety and depression. I’m reading John Green’s ‘Turtles All The Way Down’ at the moment, which portrays obsessive/compulsive health worries realistically. I’m still editing my YA Dieselpunk Trilogy, and arguing with my Inner Critic about it, amongst other things.

    My late father was a builder and I’ve often compared writing a book to building a house, what with planning and foundations and so on, though one usually does not have to remodel the house BEFORE it’s even finished!

    Thanks for your always-interesting posts and I hope you enjoy your very well deserved hiatus!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Ha ha, isn’t WordPress’s holiday snow a nice seasonal touch? 🙂

      Yes, the anxiety and depression aspects of Storm are what’s making it so personal. (The protagonist has anxiety, and another character who she befriends has depression.) So it’s been heart-wringing at times, and therapeutic at others. But at all moments, I want to portray each character in a realistic yet sensitive light. I’ve heard of John Green’s new book, but wasn’t aware that one of its characters has a form of OCD.

      Thanks very much for stopping by again, John, and I hope you have a Merry Christmas and a happy beginning to your 2018!

      Liked by 1 person

      • John Green has been very open down the years about his own OCD, which is similar to that of the protagonist in ‘TURTLES ALL THE WAY DOWN’, though that character is a teenaged girl. It sounds like an extreme form of what used to be termed (sometimes disparagingly) ‘hypochondria’.

        And Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you too, Sara!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Im looking forward to hearing more about Storm next year, I love that you are adding elements you’re unfamiliar with and doing research! And I really want to read The Hate U Give. I CAN’T be the only person on the planet who hasn’t read it😊

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks Tammy! Yeah, I knew I was going to need help with some of the “behind the scenes” aspects of being a home remodeling contractor / company. I’m just grateful that one said yes, and he was incredibly open and informative. He also offered to answer other questions I have about his profession in the future, so it’s nice to know the door is already open if I need him again. 🙂

      YES. Do read The Hate U Give if you can. I should be able to finish it tonight, and it’s… just…. electric. Every time I sit down to read more of it, I want to keep reading, and reading, and reading.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m thrilled that Storm is going so well! I’m delighted that you are so productive – writing the novel AND poetry. Wow! Have a marvellous Christmas, Sara and enjoy your break. I look forward to hearing from you in January and once again, many thanks for your kind support throughout the year:). Hugsx

    Liked by 3 people

  4. There are several movies about home building and renovating, mostly comedies, for some reason! The 1948 ‘MR BLANDINGS BUILDS HIS DREAM HOUSE’ and its loose 2007 remake ‘ARE WE DONE YET?’ spring to mind. Maybe not THAT educational, but good fun! ‘MR BLANDINGS’ in particular has a brilliant scene about how men and women differ in how they see and name colors.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I guess I’ve been missing/sporadic on here for far too long, cos this is the first I’ve read about your new WIP, Storm. And I have to say it sounds really interesting. I am always drawn to books that deal with mental health, as I have quite a bit of experience with the topic. I’m endeavouring to be more consistent, so I’m looking forward to following this story’s journey. 🙂

    I’m taking time over the holidays to plan how I can make m y creative endeavours more sustainable in 2018, to fit in with my new schedule. Happy Christmas and New Year. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah… a lot of changes happened earlier this year. I’m planning to go over that when my annual reflection post goes live in January. It’s very different from what I was working on before, both in genre (well, magical realism is sort of fantasy-ish…?) and subject matter, but it hits much closer to the heart than the last one. So I’m glad to hear this new story idea has your interest. 🙂

      Hope you find some answers and inspiration as you reflect on your own projects. Have a safe and happy beginning to your 2018!

      Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks, E.! 🙂 And I hear you on slow but steady progress with projects over the holidays. I try not to push myself with writing in December – my focus is already bouncing back and forth between so many things, so I’m OK with letting writing slide a little bit. I have the rest of the year off from work (I go back next Tuesday, 1/2), so it’s nourishing to finally come back to writing and catch up on things.

      Hope you had a Merry Christmas too, and have a safe and happy start to your New Year! And stay warm, too! Is it frigid where you are today? (It’s Thursday, and about 15 deg as I’m typing this.)

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you as well! And congrats on calling those contractors for an interview… I don’t know if I’d have the guts to set that all up! My writing is going alright. I’m so, so close to being able to query… I’m take this witner break (hopefully) do so. I’ve got the letter written and a few agents to start off with… we’ll see how it goes. Maybe I’ll get horribly rejected and have the inspiration to fix any errors.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Same to you, Jeneca! 🙂 And thanks! It was incredibly nerve-wracking to make those calls. I’m just grateful that one of them was willing to give me a chance (and, of course, his time).

      OMG querying?? And I thought sending my previous manuscript to beta-readers was nerve-wracking – but this is a whole other thing. Good for you for getting this point, and best of luck!

      Just a quick thought: Maybe it might be worthwhile to send the manuscript to a select number of agents, then wait and see what feedback you receive before revising and/or sending to others? That way, you won’t have cleaned out your list by submitting to all of them at the same time.

      Liked by 2 people

  7. Hope you’re having a well deserved break, Sara!
    I’m so excited to hear more about Storm. With my sporadic behaviour this fall, I’ve missed most of the updates on it, but I am intrigued. I’m glad you’ve turned to poetry again too and I love how you’ve set goals of 1000 words to keep you on task and stay balanced.
    Hoping you have a lovely beginning to 2018. Happy New Year!! Sending much love to you and yours, my dear ❤

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Hi!! I’m mad late but Happy Belated Merry Christmas!!! I hope it was restive and restful.
    That great progress you’ve made on your Storm and you read some great books there. Shadowshaper is indeed fun. I liked it when I read it, but now realize I’m not so hooked that I’m eager to continue with the books.

    Liked by 2 people

    • LOL! No worries! Christmas was actually quite busy for me, but all in good ways. I’ll share a little bit about it in a post later this month. 😉

      I’m actually really looking forward to reading Shadowshaper’s sequel. It’s one of several (or many? Yeah, maybe many is more like it *blushes*) 2017 books that I didn’t get around to reading last year. But I really want to, especially after meeting DJO at the Boston Book Festival last year. He’s a fantastic speaker.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Pingback: The Creativity Corner: Winter 2018 | Sara Letourneau's Official Website & Blog

  10. First of all, congratulations on your progress on Storm! I’m sure that as I catch up with your posts, I’ll see more information about it, but at the moment I’m simply excited that you’ve found a project that keeps you going.
    I’m sure you have reasons for it being “easier” (faster) to write, but I also think it’s because you’ve grown as a writer. TKC’s experience is contributing to your pace and writing in general. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • I think you’ll find the updates on Storm and other projects (especially poetry) very interesting when you get to the next Creativity Corner. 😉 And I agree, I bet one of the reasons why Storm is working up faster is that I’ve grown as a writer since the first draft of TKC. I see it, but it’s hard to put it into more words at the moment. But I have plenty of time to think about that over the coming weeks.

      Liked by 2 people

  11. Pingback: The Creativity Corner: Spring 2018 | Sara Letourneau's Official Website & Blog

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