Author Archives: AJ Prince

Back to Writing Basics

Basics

Before computers and typewriters, the basic writing tools were a simple sheet of paper and a quill/pen/pencil. Imagine Shakespeare or Jane Austen as they wrote their first drafts and having to scratch out any mistakes. They didn’t have that quick delete button or that strange smelling White Out to cover up any misspellings or wrong words. Think about how Mark Twain dealt with carpal tunnel -my hand cramps when writing a simple grocery list. Everything they wrote, they had just the basics; a piece of paper and something to write with.

Do you ever go back to basics in writing? You know, pencil and paper. Turning off the hum of the computer and listening to the scratch of the lead as it scrolls across the notepad.

It is not something that I do very often. I find it more time-consuming to put the words on actual paper, then transferring what I have written into a word document. Not to mention the hand cramping from only using one hand (I could use some ambidextrous skills right about now), and sometimes my handwriting can be difficult to read. Oh, and don’t forget the wasted paper, just these two paragraphs alone have used up one side of a sheet.

I think it’s just easier when on your electronics. You get to use both hands, hit the backspace button when you make a mistake, and the much beloved spellcheck! And the most important thing of all, the save button. I can save everything I type onto a flash drive, and those puppies can store a lot of pages.

However, here lately, I haven’t been wanting to stare at the computer after work but I still have things that I need to get written (this post for example). So I seem to have disconnected myself from the laptop for a bit.

Oddly enough, I’ve been enjoying writing things out by hand. At first I was frustrated, I do not generally have time to waste by doubling up the work on a single post. But I found a way to combine old school ways with new school techniques. After I write my pages I then use the dictation button on my device and just read my words out loud. Bam! Time saved right there. Once I got the kinks worked out I found the upside to writing things down by hand… I feel a little more connected with my work. It is coming across a bit more personal even, and that is always welcomed. So It turns out that I kind of dig this whole hand writing with pencil and paper.

How do you prefer to write? Let us know in the comments, we’d love to hear what you have to say!

Till next time,

AJP

Branding Your Brand

Branding

There are people (who don’t write) that see writing being a solitary career. At one time I was one of these people. I’ll be honest, it was the idea of it being a solitary career path that pushed me to really focus on making writing a future career choice ad not just a mental hobby.

I thought that I would be able to write, edit, rewrite, and start sending things by mail/email and that be it. Done. Now I was not naïve enough to think getting published would ever be that easy, but the actual writing part, yes, yes I did.

Boy how wrong I was.

As writers we have to write, edit, rewrite, find beta readers, maybe a writing group, look for an agent (if you are going traditional)/ or figure out the whole publishing process (if you are self-publishing), AND brand yourself.

That’s right, I said we have to brand ourselves. When I first learned this, I was “What the (explicit)!”. Then I was, “What the (beep) is branding?” The initial mental image when hearing of this branding business was of a cow getting branded – like on a ranch with a red-hot metal Alpha poker. It wasn’t pretty.

To bad I do not know anyone in PR, like the individual who came up with the Frosted Flakes cereal logo with Tony the Tiger saying “They’re Grrrrreat!”. Yeah, I definitely need that person in my contacts list. I don’t even have a regular brand/style in my wardrobe; one day I will be wearing my cowboy boots with a dress, the next in a jeans with 5 inch heels, followed up by yoga pants day.

So along with everything else, I had/have to figure out how to brand myself. It truly sounds painful, and I have to do it all on my own. Hmm, I am thinking that cow thing isn’t sounding so bad after all. Quick and done by someone else…

Instead, us writers, we are on our own for the most part. So what do we need to do to get ourselves out there?

Luckily for us in today’s society we have the easily approachable social media. Anyone and everyone can be accessible with just a few keystrokes on our phones/tablets/laptops/desktops. Easy as one, two, three. Sort of. There are so many different outlets out there, it is overwhelming to choose what is right for you. But wait. There’s more. You also have to figure out what to say to a screen that conveys who YOU are, on a regular basis.

This can be difficult for some of us, easier for others, but really, we are writers so at the end of the day we are just awesome!

Have you thought about how you are going to brand yourself? Share with us down in the comments, we’d love to hear what you have to say. 

~AJP

 

Habitual Bliss

This morning I got into my SUV, to go to work, and proceeded to take the wrong route. I was about three streets into the drive when it dawned on me that I was headed in the direction that I take to go to my grandmother’s or the library (both are on the same road). Now I can still get to my new job this way, but it is not the preferred way due to go due to I have to turn onto a main road and the visual for on coming traffic is limited.

I laughed at my mistake and continued on but it had me thinking about my habits. I travel to the library and my grandmother’s at least 3-4 times a week. Sometimes more. Okay, mostly more.

However, I have only driven to my new office once. That being yesterday morning. So it has not become much of a habit just yet. It is not even a route that I have driven more than a handful of times in the past two years.

This brings me around to my train of thought and to today’s post.

Habits.

Here lately, we are all struggling with finding time to do what we need to do. Amanda wrote about accountability on Monday, and she is right. We have to be accountable for making the time to write. We have to stop treating this as a hobby and take it serious as we would any other job. Albeit, some of us have jobs that require 40+ hours at the office, families, school and so on.

BUT. If we can carve out an hour a day, or two hours a day during the weekend, and make this part of our daily routine, in no time writing will become a habit. It will no longer feel like a chore trying to find the time to do what we love doing anyway.

It goes along with the goals we should be setting for ourselves, pick a goal, pick a day, pick a time slot, then just stick to it. Eventually it will be our normal routine, the road more driven that we are most comfortable taking.

Some of us are already doing a bang up job at writing daily, or whatever their routines are, and if so – bravo! Good for you. But how much time do you spend wasted before you buckle down and jump to it? Do you browse the net before you start? Or scan your Twitter/Facebook feed before buckling down?

Honestly, how much time do we waste when we could actually be putting words on paper/the screen?

So let’s make writing a habit and not a chore and see where we end up.

Is writing already part of your daily habit? Or has it become a struggle? Let me know in the comments.

Till next time,

~AJP

habits

Borrowing Trouble

Last week I was required to take a TSI (Texas Success Initiative) assessment test so that I can begin registering for certain classes come fall. This is just a program/test that determines your skill level in the core areas and helps line a pathway better suited for each individual. It covers the basics with sections in writing, reading and math, totaling almost 200 multiple choice questions and a written essay and you have five hours to complete it in.

Five long hours.

There are worksheets and books out there designed to help you study for these types of things, but I was given exactly 12 hours notice before I was to take the test and that included time needed to make dinner, handle the night time routine with the kids, sleep, wake up and travel to the testing site. Needless to say, studying was not given an opportunity.

Did I mention, five hours of testing WITHOUT prior study.

My apologies, reiteration seemed necessary.

Now I am going to be real honest with you… I hate math. I absolutely detest the numbers and equations and simplicity of something that manages to give me so much grief. Sure, I can add, subtract, calculate percentages in my head – especially when there is a good shoe sale going on – but ask me the square root of anything and I am out of there. Numbers and I, we just don’t really get along, it’s nothing personal.

So when it came time to do the math part of the test, you might be surprised to learn that I truly didn’t sweat it much. I answered to the best of my ability and when all else failed, I any many miny moe’d what I didn’t know. At the end of the day, math is just not my thing and I was alright with whatever my math score was. The worst that was going to happen was me being told that I was not good at math. No big deal.

Out of the three parts, I was most excited about the reading part. Shoot, I can read! Reading is fun. It is an adventure, bring on the reading test!

What had me really panicking was the writing part. I am talking heart palpitations, sweaty palms, eye twitching, it wasn’t pretty. My husband just laughed, informed me to calm down and take a breather because this was not a pass or fail sort of test.

There was a lot of glaring going on at my house after dinner that night.

He didn’t understand. I wasn’t worried about passing or failing really. Sort of. It was more than that.

best-good-enough

I am a writer. I have spent the last ten years of my life with one goal in mind – write. What if this stupid assessment told me that I wasn’t very good at it? Then what? It was too much to handle, too much to consider and I almost called it quits last Wednesday. College just wasn’t for me. Not if it meant taking a stupid test that told me that I didn’t pass a writing assignment.

By morning, I stopped borrowing trouble and remembered something. I am a writer. So what if I didn’t score well, I would just learn to improve whatever I scored low on. That is the great thing about being a writer, there is always room for improvement. A first draft is just that, a first draft. No one expects you to get it right the first time, so do not expect as much from yourself either. Allow yourself room for growth and improvement, and remember… perfection is boring.

Have you ever been in a situation that made you doubt your abilities? If so, share with me in the comments below. 

Till next time,

~AJP

In case you are wondering, I failed the math section by 19 points, but scored a 7 out of 8 on my writing essay! All is right in my world.

 

Piggy back riding Time

After reading Jesi’s post on Monday and then CJ’s post on Tuesday, it seems time is a relevant issue here lately. So I am catching a piggy back ride on their topic. How do we solve the time management epidemic that is going around?

It isn’t like we can add more hours to our day, unless we start sleeping less at night. Hmm, I already average 5/6 hours as it is, if I cut back anymore, I am going to become a walking zombie and I think that will cause more of a problem than a resolution.

Here lately I have been feeling bogged down and writing hasn’t been a priority for me. Part of it has been readjusting my time management, but also because my head just hasn’t been in the game.

With a new job (that I hate), trying to find another new job (and succeeding, thankfully), school letting out (the kids have grown monstrous second heads and I am not sure who these kids are, but they have replaced my cute ones), chores (stupid evil tasks), exercising (got to keep those two-headed monsters and myself healthy), enrolling myself back into school (I needed to make sure that I filled any & all allotted free time), and the blogging (I keep forgetting that I have TWO blogs to write for), my actual writing has merely consisted of playing with scenes in my head.

Sure I have figured out how to fix some of my WIP problems, but that doesn’t really count in the writing world now does it?

We all have life and issues that get in the way. Jesi has her kids, CJ is working overtime, David is a juggler of professions, Amanda has family, floods and a (super exciting) Con coming up , and Joe… Joe is moving to Florida right now. Like. Right. Now. (Hope the weather is nasty and he gets a sunburn his first day! Just kidding. Kind of.) 🙂

In reality, our lives are always busy and going and going and going. Queue the Energizer Bunny, please. So it is up to us to MAKE the time to write. We just have to set reasonable goals for ourselves, be it 500 words a day, or just to write an hour a few times a week, as long as we are still putting words on paper. Because if we don’t, then where are we going?

My goal is to start writing 45 minutes four times a week. I will set aside certain days and times that will become my writing time and stick to it. This might change once I get my class schedule, but that is alright, as long as I find a new goal that fits my timetable and stick with it.

With a new season upon us, what are your goals? How do you time manage? Let me know in the comments below.

Till next time,

~AJP

time-to-write

What sense does that make?

Touch it. Feel it. Taste it. Smell it. Hear it.

Memorial Day weekend my husband and I took our kids fishing. This had been a planned trip since spring break but here of late, Texas has experienced a lot of rain. I am talking 20-30 feet of overflow in some of our lakes. Now in case you didn’t know, when a lake is flooded to a certain point, it becomes a hazard and is closed down which makes fishing impossible. My kids find this confusing because the past two summers, some of our lakes have been dried up to the point that fishing was impossible.

We planned a weekend trip to a lake town about two hours southwest from where we live. It was a rainy weekend (as most have been lately) and we weren’t a hundred percent positive that we were going to actually get to fish with the severe storms in the forecast. With our gear packed up, we headed out of town anyway because this was going to be a dual trip where we were getting to visit with my dad too.

Being such a big lake town, one would be surprised at how very few good fishing holes are accessible to the public due to the lake homes, boat docks and hotels/restaurants. After driven two hours from home, we had to drive out of the main town a good forty minutes further.

Now forty minutes outside of town lead us to a whole lot of nothing. Imagine a beautiful country side, with rolling meadows, lush greenery from all of this rain… yeah this isn’t one of those scenes. It was as if the rain had missed this area and life had almost dried up.

We stopped at the only bait shop, and it was generally the same as any other bait shop that I have ever been in – dark, dank, a bit (a lot) grungy and a hint of fishiness in the air. It was outside that really had my senses rolling: what I saw, what I smelled, what I heard (there wasn’t going to be any touching or tasting). All of this started tumbling around in my head, forming an opening scene. To what I didn’t know.

It stayed with me and I kept chewing on that first sentence, over and over, repeating it in my head, afraid that I was going to lose it. Finally, a few days later it was still with me and I had to get it out, it was just taking up too much space. Five minutes later I had 175 words written and I felt relief.

Part of being a writer is using our imaginations, knitting a world all of our own making that comes from deep within us. However, the key word here is part.

Part of writing is our imaginations. Another big part is our senses.

Sure we have knitted that story together, but how does it sound as you find your way through the passages? What can you see when you enter the pages? Do you smell something within the words? Can you hear the feelings of the dialogue? Will you taste what the protagonist’s tastes?

It is our job as the writer to build a world that the reader can feel like they are walking along with us as the story unfolds. It is fun, it is exciting, it is painful, it is hard; but we love it.

Here is what my fishing trip gave me… (Please remember that it is unedited and extremely rough.)

My Mother’s Daughter

The smell of poor smacked me in the face, much like my mother liked to do when this was my hometown.

Rotting wood structures stood as gravestones, dotting along the broken road. Each one a reminder of a life time once lived. I rolled up the windows in my car, even though I preferred the fresh air and the weather was perfect for it, the stench of wild animal piss and shit made my eyes water.

I pulled up and scanned the place, not much had changed of my childhood home. Her car sat, where I saw it last, in what used to be a make shift dirt driveway. Now, waist high weeds and grass snaked its way up the flattened tires and through rusted out holes in the bumper.

The question was fleeting, “How does she get to the grocery store?”, before I reminded myself that I didn’t care. She could starve. I was here for one reason.

To get the girl, my mom’s most recent addition to our family tree.

I am not sure if I will make anything of it, but I enjoyed the quick trip my senses took me.

What scene can you come up with by using just one of your senses? Pick one and give it a go, let me know in the comments. 

senses

Till next time,

~AJP

Why do you do what you do?

Who? What? When? Where? Why?

Early on in grade school we learned the importance of the 5 W’s and how to apply them in our story telling. Twenty years later and I still use a 5 W’s quick outline for all of my stories. I find it helps me focus when I get lost in the chaos of a novel.

I am sitting here listening to the torrential rain pummel my house and beat up my herb garden, I find myself asking a multitude of questions starting with Why? 

Why do I keep leaving my posts until the last minute, where unforeseen circumstances always threaten to delay my words?

Why do I torture myself on a weekly basis trying to come up with a topic to type out in the hopes that someone will like what I have to say?

Why didn’t I think to write that character’s point of view in a time line sequence instead of a diary?

Why do I think I can write something different enough that somebody will give two cents to what I have to say?

Then finally the big one, Why do I write?

These are the questions that have been rolling around in the back (front, side, other lobes) of my head all day.

That last question had me going back mentally in time to a post that Charli did a few weeks (months?) ago that I loved. As a writer we are always having to think about and figure out our branding. Almost as though we have to pimp out our words in the hopes that someone will like us enough to get noticed one day.

Maybe thinking of it as pimping out is a bad choice of words.

See! Branding is stressful, now I will be known as the writer who considers what she does as pimping.

Branding is a big part of what we have to do, being a writer is not just about writing. (Ha, that is what Amanda just said in her last post!) One thinks that writing is the perfect career choice for a hermit/recluse. And that is still the case… as long as you do not care if anyone reads your work. As in ever.

A writer has to not only imagine the story, write the words, edit the words, re-edit the words, but then sale the words. By doing so, one must brand themselves.

Seems easy. Let’s see how I do…

Who am I? AJ Prince, a writer

What am I? Human… Ha! ok seriously, What do I write? Realistic fiction, contemporary fiction, family; YA (Young Adult)/NA (New Adult)

When do I write? Always, when I am not physically writing, I am thinking about writing/ story lines/ plot lines. Or When did I become a writer? When I learned to spell. 🙂

Where do I write? In the U.S., but never at a desk.

Why do I write? ………………………………….

No one wants to hear “Because I have to.” or “Because the voices talk to me.” or “It’s just a part of who I am.”, because yeah, you and every other writer in the world. To answer the Why, you need to dig deeper than that. Remember, you are branding yourself, trying to stand out in the pool of words/authors.

You have to think of the Why as in a motivation term. Why is your story any different from the next person’s? Why should I spend my time/money reading your book? Why are you special?

So why do I write? Because I have something to say. In this infinite sea of writers, I am the only me and the only person who can tell my characters stories the way that they need to be told. They are as real to me as you are to me, maybe more so because I can see what they look like in my head where as I only know what a handful of you look like on the other side of this screen.

Now here’s the hard question, Why do YOU write? If you aren’t a writer, why do you do what you do? Let me know in the comments below.  

Till next time,

AJP

start-with-why

Duck and cover

Oh how I love my little group of fellow writers. I have stumbled upon a great group of people with equally great sense of humors. I missed my post this morning, and when I was finally able to read their comments from Amanda’s quick note this AM gave me a much needed laugh.

Just for the record, yes, I seemed to have been sucked into some pre-historic, cult-like, wormhole that is trying to take me alive. My washing machine is just fine, yes I am pretty sure I have pulled a good bit of hair out from stress, and what the crap kind of place doesn’t have internet availability – even on my phone- in this day and age! It is not fun guys, not fun at all. Anyone want to throw me a rope? Or hand? I promise to try and not pull you in with me…

Maybe.

Life sometimes throws lemons at us, so we make lemonade.

Then it gets cranky and throws nuts and bolts at us, so we build something cool, like a robot.

That really pisses it off, so it drops big ass boulders on top of us and laughs historically as we writhe in a painful heap on the ground. That is about where I am right about now. But no worries, I will kick this boulder’s (or was it Life’s) butt and be back on schedule in no time.

I hope.

In the mean time, hope your writing/reading/ life is going well.

Till next time,

~AJP

When in doubt…

Shakespeare 

Combing through my bookshelf last night, I came across a book of Shakespeare quotations that my mom bought me last summer. There were a few pages bookmarked that I had liked but the one above resonated with me the most.

Doubt is something that I constantly battle with when it comes to my writing. No matter how many different people tell me that what I have written is good or worth something, I have this little pebble of uncertainty that eats at me. I know that I am not the only one. It is something that plagues us all, whether we are writers or not, doubt just comes with human nature.

How do we overcome it?

I am not sure that we really ever do. There are highly acclaimed authors that still have reservations about each story they write in the beginning. Which is a little discouraging but reassuring at the same time.

We just learn to push past it and ignore the whispering’s of skepticism that slow our writing mojo down. When the doubt gets too loud, take a break and let your designated reader reassure you that you do not suck, that your story is not complete garbage, no matter how much you think you do or it is. 

Remember what Shakespeare wrote in Measure for Measure; Our doubts are our traitors, And make us lose the good we oft might win By fearing to attempt.

Ignore your doubt/fears and persevere, write to the very end, and then write some more. Because that is what we do, we write.

What do you do when in doubt? Tell me in the comments. 

Till next time,

~AJP

 

What do you do when life happens?

Sometimes life happens.

Ha. Life happens every day. It’s a part of life.

Some days we are dealt with a deck of cards that we have to work frantically at sorting and finding the pairs to win the game. Today I did not win the game. My deck of cards was catapulted at me and I missed, sending cards flying everywhere.

Ok, not really, but it sure felt like it.

What do you do when days/weeks like this happen?

You laugh, cry, laugh some more, dig in the dirt and gorge on cookies with your kids (or strangers, friends, even alone – it doesn’t really matter as long as you are gorging). Then you get out the computer and write that crap down. All of it. From point A to point B.

Why?

Isn’t it obvious? Your brain is too fried to get any real writing done so you might as well detail out the crazy days of your life so that you can go back at a later date and use all of that crazy as ammo in your next book. Or current book, whichever.

Why?

Because sometimes there are moments in our life that belong in a book just for pure humorous moments.

Let me back up to the beginning of my weekend that collided with my week, causing me to miss today’s post almost all together…

Friday, one of my minions developed an infected parotid gland, causing one side of their face to swell up to softball size ( it is very painful). After several sleepless nights, by Sunday my family and I were walking Zombies, (hang with me, this is wear the humor comes in.) and we had a dinner at my grandmother’s to attend to. This involved a lot of grown-ups, kids and chaos – not a good mix for the Zombie mom.

While outside, spending time with said family, the demon dog (a new nicknamed given to him just Sunday evening) managed to wrap his leash around my ankle, or foot, or shoe – I am not 100% sure – causing me to fall forwards onto the stone patio. Now in all of my gracefulness, I managed to twist my back – pulling, I am pretty sure, every muscle back there – cut my foot open, destroyed my pedicure, and bust my knee.

Now mind you, all of the grown ups stop and jump to help me… while my eldest minion was doubled over in laughter because my fall was apparently the funniest thing ever. Glad someone laughed that day.

Fast forward another couple of sleepless nights (remember we still have a parotid gland infection, now add in pulled back muscles, I swear the Sandman was laughing his butt off at me too), and we arrive to this mornings meeting. A meeting that I needed to look my best. Where I realized that my swollen, cut up, blue knee was clearly visible and I hobbled along in my dress and tried to avoid eye contact because I knew that at some point I was going to bust out laughing. And not the funny haha laughter. No, it was going to be the insane, cracked up laughter that would have probably had me escorted out by security.

There were some other factors that accounted for my absence this afternoon that helped keep me from my writing duties. But I figured digging in the dirt of my neighbor’s front yard while bent over like a hunchback  didn’t warrant much laughter.

My point is that you can find writing ammo just about anywhere. Whether or not it is your own crazy tales or your neighbor’s, just write it all down and see where you can use it later.

Do you have any crazy experiences that you have thought about using in your novel? If so, leave me a comment. 

Till next time,

~AJP