The Introverted Nerd

The Introverted NerdI am a typical introvert. My favorite kind of activities are ones that I can either do alone, or within a small, trusted group. I like to read books, go to movies, have conversations, and play video games. I like to garden and write and, on occasion, cook a nice meal.

To me, group events, like awkward family gatherings and community events are torture. I’m that person who, at parties, hangs out with the dog. And I am absolutely at ease with that. It has a heavy influence on what makes me such an attentive reader, and a detailed writer. It has helped to make me a more intellectual, thoughtful, and comfortable person.

That’s why my day yesterday was undeniably atypical. Yesterday, I attended my very first convention, and I must say, it exceeded my expectations.

You see, I am quite used to being the odd one out. The one who always has a book on hand, the one who doesn’t want to participate in party games, the one who doesn’t care for gatherings with more than a couple close friends at a time. I’ve always been a bit of an outsider, and it’s something that has given me more than a little pride.

But it has also come with its downsides, such as school bullies, peer pressure, and constantly being misunderstood. For example, if a group of people is having a conversation about something that I have no knowledge of, such as a clothing brand, I am content to listen. I don’t like to participate if I have nothing to offer. Talk to me about a good book and I’ll light up like a Christmas tree. Some see that as being awkward at best, rude at worst.

What does this have to do with the convention? Everything, my friend. Yesterday, for the first time in my life, I was surrounded by people like me. People who are proud of their love for LOTR and Zelda and Mass Effect and Assassin’s Creed. People who enjoy books and TV and games with passion. People who get lost in fantasy without feeling apologetic for it.

Yesterday, I was in a building with tens of thousands of people that were there because they are passionate about something that was completely imagined and created by other people. From Harry Potter to Alien, there were people in costume and merchandise for sale for just about everything. We added items to our collection from Zelda, LOTR, Walking Dead, GoT, Vikings, Batman, Star Wars, and X-Men and could have kept going if we hadn’t set a limit.

And to my pleasant surprise, I wasn’t the one that doesn’t fit, I was one of many. And somehow, with all of our jagged corners and awkward angles, we all fit together.

And no one was weird. No one was a loser. No one was “too into” something. No one liked the wrong things. Everyone was a nerd, but in the best way.  The atmosphere alone was full of excitement and interest and awe instead of stress and hurry and self-absorption.

I can only imagine that it is similar to how people who enjoy sports feel when they go to a live game. To be surrounded by so many people that you could find similarities to is a very profound and heartening experience.

I can only assume that extroverts experience something similar to this quite often, as they enjoy more outwardly social activities with others. For me, it was rather overwhelming to consider going to such an event just because of the sheer number of people who would attend. The first time that we went to Ikea, we walked in, saw how many people were there, and walked right back out.

But at the convention, it was surprisingly quiet. There weren’t any obnoxious hollering jerks, there was no shoving or cutting in line. It was like a fairly polite, mostly soft-spoken mass of people with shared interests. And it was fantastic.

Needless to say, I think I have awakened a rather hungry beast inside of myself that can only be fed with more conventions and fan activities. I’ve even started to think about getting into cosplay.

All in all, for a nerd, or a geek, or an extrovert, or whatever else you want to call me, it was an experience that I won’t soon forget. Whatever you enjoy, make sure to take some time in your life to join with other fans and artists. It opens up a whole new world of inspiration and solidarity that will make you proud to show your true colors.

Have you ever been to a convention? Would you ever go? Are you an introvert, or an extrovert? How does it affect your writing?

I’ll be on Facebook until next time.

Reading by the Season

Seasonal ReadingAs fall approaches, I find myself craving books that I first read when the leaves were turning and tumbling to the ground. I am, as many of you probably already know, a dedicated re-reader. Some books that I have read I will only ever read once, but some I try to read once a year.

Those books, the annual reads, tend to call to me at specific times each year. For example, right now I could do with a bit of historical fiction by Philippa Gregory or a long afternoon with The Hobbit, but come November, I will be itching to read Harry Potter all over again, or His Dark Materials.

In the spring, I like to settle in with something from Mary Stewart or James Herriot, and in the summer I make way for books like Dove and The Hunger Games.

And I can only assume that this is because I am a nostalgic person. When I read these books, I’m taken back to the very first time that I pulled open the cover and ran my fingers over the pages. I can remember the sense of wonder that followed me through every chapter, and I remember falling in love with the story one word at a time.

When I was younger, I would become so entangled in a story that I would start to become it at times. When I was reading the Redwall series by Brian Jacques, I would relish the descriptions of food; heavy creams and honey drizzled over fresh, warm bread, pitchers of berry juice and spiced cider, and soft, smoked cheeses encrusted with nuts.

This obsession would drive me to survive of mostly breads and cheeses and juices for the duration of the book, causing my mother to question why the honey and cheese always disappeared so quickly.

Likewise, when I first heard of Lembas from LOTR, I wanted it. But the closest I could get was by purchasing Sesame Snaps. I would sit up in my room, and every time Sam and Frodo would eat the elven sustenance, I would too. I so desperately wanted to be in the story with them.

The same thing would happen when I was very young, but not with food. I remember reading about fantastic worlds with magic, and heavy woolen cloaks, and mystical beasts and feeling an ache in my heart that I couldn’t be there too.

This depth of reading takes you from the simple experience of being a watcher to being an active player in the story. You become entwined in the words, feeling every weather change, tasting every wine, and wielding every sword as if you were there yourself.

This is the beauty of fiction and the ultimate purpose of writing; to have experience that you, or others, may never have otherwise. To feel the scales of a dragon, or to have a heavy crown placed upon your head. To become a hero or a heroine, or to wreak havoc on the world.

I believe that my seasonal cravings for books are borne from this total immersion into stories. Just like the Sesame Snaps, reading the books again during a season that is either well-described or poignant in the book makes me feel even closer to it. It is the difference between being an observer and being a participant. Whether to stand by or to act.

So now, as autumn settles in, bringing with it cool nights and stunted days, Bilbo calls to me from the worn pages on the shelf, beckoning me to join him once again as he trudges through damp, dank forests and dark cold caves. It’s not really surprising that he is on my mind though, seeing as he and Frodo share a birthday two days from now.

Do you read any books seasonally? Do stories affect you in the same way? What stories call to you the loudest, and which do you get lost in the most?

I’ll be on Facebook until next time.

Self-Editing Tips

Self-Editing TipsA lot of us edit our own work. Sometimes we are the only ones who edit it, and other times, we edit it ourselves over and over before sending it out to someone else for review. The problem with self-editing is that not many who do it are actually trained in editing, so knowing what to look for can be difficult and time consuming.

So, as an editor and writer, I’d like to share some tips and tricks with you so that you can edit more efficiently, or even create a better product.

    1. Become familiar with “Track Changes” in Microsoft Word. This is an editing function that allows for inline edits, inserted comments, and formatting changes. When going over a draft, or having someone else go over one for you, use it. You won’t regret it.
    2. Use “ctrl f”. When you press ctrl and then f, it opens up a search box that will search the text on your page for whatever you’d like. This is especially helpful if you change a name, consistently spell something incorrectly, or know that you made a mistake somewhere. Find it, fix it, and move on.
    3. Use a standard format. That means stick with a regular sized font, double space, and ad page numbers from the very start. It makes editing easier, and whoever you send it to afterwards will love you for it.
    4. Read it out loud. Hearing things can really help you to figure out where there’s any awkward wording or jumpy transitions. If it sounds strange to you when you say it, it needs to be reworked. It can also help in catching small spelling and grammar errors because your eyes won’t just move over them.
    5. Be hard on yourself. If you feel deep down that a passage isn’t working, don’t leave it as is. Work on it until you are satisfied. Spend as much time as you need to make each word fit together.
    6. Don’t expect other people to fix your work. Before you send your work to someone else, it should be the best you think it can be. Don’t send something knowing there are errors or weak sections in it. Polish and smooth your work before handing it off.
    7. If, when editing, you find an issue that you don’t know how to fix, but don’t have time to look into it, mark it with a comment. Go back to it when you have time instead of putting a band-aid on it.

Editing is hard. Whether you are doing it yourself, or having someone else do it for you, it hurts. It’s a long process that can make you feel self-conscious and vulnerable, but ultimately it makes your story better.

It’s important to stick with clarity and consistency while you are writing, so that the editing process is easier later on. Remember to use a thesaurus, avoid repetition, and acknowledge your faults and weaknesses as a writer. Doing so will help you to create a strong piece of writing that comes through the editing process with a lot less red.

What are your self-editing tips? How did you learn to self-edit effectively? Are you comfortable with editing your own work or that of others?

I’ll be on Facebook until next time.

Content: Quality vs Quantity

Content: Quality vs QuantityI’ve talked about setting writing goals a number of times on this blog, and if you’ve read any of those posts, you’ll know that I don’t set any for myself. Some people need that push to get going, or to create anything at all, but I find that this type of writing is detrimental, at least to me.

Since I have skills and training in both editing and writing, my process is very different from many other writers that I know, both online and offline. I used to feel a bit discouraged by how quickly others would produce content, especially those that were able to write a story a week, or a manuscript or two every year. I couldn’t fathom how that was even possible, but that was before I understood how their processes went.

For many writers, their process is to come up with an idea, write a story, and then work through the drafts. After this, they might send it to an editor, and then try to publish from there. By focusing on the story, and then worrying about the content alone, this scrapes mounds of time off of their process.

Mine goes very differently. First, once I have an idea, I follow it to its conclusion in my head prior to writing anything down. This can take months. But to me, to actually be worth sitting down and typing, an idea must meet my standards. If it doesn’t, I keep it in my brain until its aged to my satisfaction.

From there, I start to write. I write until I come to a question, such as something I hadn’t thought of, or how to end a scene. Then again, I take a step back for awhile and let it stew. When I do have a solution, before I even begin to fix it, I read the story from the beginning again and edit as I go. I do this every time I re-open the document, so that during every pass, I take care of another error or I smooth out a few bumps.

Writing fiction takes me a long time (non-fiction not so much). When writing even the first draft, I spend time choosing the perfect adjectives, the right speech tags, and removing anything that isn’t exactly how I want it to be.

By the time I am ready to type “The End”, the content is quite ready for submissions, though I like to have it reviewed by at least one or two others prior to sending it anywhere.

It can take a year for me to write a piece of flash fiction (without a prompt or a competition). If I am writing something completely from my own inspiration, I like to take my time so that I can produce quality work. I’m not overly concerned about quantity, since if I were to write too much more, I doubt that I would be satisfied with what I was creating.

So, when perusing through the countless writing websites and blogs and articles out there, don’t let any of them get you don’t. If your strengths can be found in generating idea after idea, excellent! And if your skills are more geared towards focusing on one piece at a time, well that’s just jolly!

Writing isn’t really a “one size fits all” kind of thing. What works for one person won’t work for another. Some writers are just not great at spelling, others prefer collaboration or to be steered from outside sources. Some of us like to plan everything before we take pen to paper, while others feel their fingers aching for the keys as soon as they think of a new plot or character.

If you are one of those who leans more towards quantity than quality, I would recommend giving it a few passes yourself before handing it off to an editor (which you really should do) so that your work doesn’t suffer from being popped out too quickly.

And if you prefer quality, don’t let it keep you from working on more than one story at once, and try to participate in a few writing prompts now and then to exercise your creativity and spontaneity.

Are you more focused on quantity or quality? What is your writing process like? Where are your weaknesses and strengths when writing new pieces?

I’ll be on Facebook until next time.