Student Writer: Balancing writing with school, work, and a bunch of other stuff

Hello, hello! It’s been a while since I’ve posted a rant, since I’ve been incredibly busy with school, work, and editing my first book for publication! That being said, today’s rant fittingly is about how I manage to fit in time for writing/editing while balancing work and school.

For those who don’t know me, I’m currently a senior in college, and am working toward a psychology and sociology double major, with a minor in law/societies/justice. After class, I either head to work or to my internship, often followed by my volunteer position at a homeless shelter. On top of that, I’m often making cosplays for upcoming conventions, editing my first book for publication, and writing the first draft of the second book. So how to I manage to balance all this??

This quarter, a typical school/work day for me starts at 10AM and ends around 6PM – and if it’s a at the shelter, 10PM. As a student paying thousands of dollars for my education, I put my homework first. Luckily, my editor is super understanding and patient. In an ideal world, I would write or edit at least one chapter per night. With school, this isn’t really easy for me. There have been weeks where I don’t get to even open one of my manuscripts until Friday night. It sucks, but midterms and essay deadlines are far less forgiving than my editor. Luckily for me, essays are a piece of cake  – if I know what I’m writing about, I can whip out a standard 5-paragraph, 2-3 page paper in about an hour. I realize this isn’t so simple for everyone, so I’m really thankful for my speedy writing skills (I’d like to thank all my SAT essay prep for that). I do all my reading and studying on my bus rides to/from work. My classes are less intensive this quarter since I’m focusing a lot on my job and internship, so I’m usually free by around 7pm to work on homework, writing, or any other projects.

However, my spring conventions are coming up, and naturally I planned more cosplays than I can handle. Much of my free time goes toward sewing, painting, crafting, etc. I do try to get a head start on most of my costumes, so I usually try to do writing every other night, and cosplay making on the nights I’m not writing. Or sometimes I’ll do a few hours of cosplay, then a few hours of writing, depending on what needs to be done. When my editor has new edits for me to look at or needs a new chapter, that takes priority over anything else. If I know I’ll be busy in the future, like if a con is coming up that weekend, I generally try to get ahead on edits and homework.

Surprisingly, I have something of a social life. Granted it’s all in the evening, but I try to set aside at least one night to go out with friends, and I hang out with my boyfriend as often as we can make time for each other between our busy schedules. Sometimes when I have a lot of studying to do, I meet up with friends to keep each other company while we work on our own stuff.

Sounds like I have everything laid out pretty neatly, huh? Well. . . there’s a few sacrifices.

I get about 4-5 hours of sleep on a good night. My classes aren’t too difficult this quarter, so I don’t need to spend hours each day on studying. Meals are often rushed during bus rides, at odd hours, or I’m stuffing my face while I work on other stuff. Unless I am eating with friends or family, I never really spend time just enjoying my food. Even with free time, I’m often not in my “writing zone” until around midnight, and I’ll often stay up until 2 or 3AM writing. Because writing – and cosplay, since it’s con season – takes up so much of my free time, I rarely have time to watch TV shows, play video games, or really do any of my other hobbies during the week days. Every where I go, I’m almost always brainstorming ideas for chapters and story lines, so I know what I want to write whenever I get the chance. I don’t think it’s necessary to dedicate so much mental energy and free time to get writing time in, but it’s what works for me with my schedule.

Whatever your schedule is, I think the main takeaway point here is managing your time wisely. Know how many hours you need to spend on work, homework, studying – the mandatory stuff. Dedicate how ever much of your free time you fee comfortable with to writing. Cut out mindless browsing on Facebook. Make a schedule. Do whatever you gotta do to find time to write.

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How does my daily schedule compare to yours? Do you have any suggestions for balancing writing with a busy routine? Comment your thoughts below!

Thanks for reading! 🙂

 

 

 

Short Story Contest! My latest paranormal/horror story!

Hello!

It’s been a while since I ranted about writing. So I will rant about writing tonight!

I wrote a short story a few months back for a creative writing class I took at my university and class really enjoyed it, so I decided to enter it in a small contest for paranormal/horror stories. The top 10% most voted are judged and I am so close to having enough votes, but there are only a few days left! Please check out my story, leave a review, and if you like it, vote for it by logging in (you can log in via Facebook, Twitter, etc.) and click the little heart! I would appreciate it very much if you could spare a moment to support me! 🙂 But more than anything, I would love for you all to read my story since I love to share my writing! And of course, if you are in any competitions or have anything you would like me to read, let me know and I will be more than happy to check it out!

You can find my story by clicking here!

About the story:

Whispered rumors of the “13 steps to hell” lure a gang of goth teens to the notorious Paradise Lake Cemetery. Some spirits are better left to rest in peace…

“The Paradise Lake Haunting” is a semi-true story. Located in Maltby, Washington, Paradise Lake Cemetery is home to the notorious 13 steps to Hell. It’s rumored that those who dared to walk down the steps saw visions of unspeakable horrors (presumably Hell) and went insane. A few decades back, teenagers would sneak into the cemetery at night – usually after a few drinks – and investigate the steps for themselves. Due to the frequent vandalism at the cemetery, it is now private property and the steps have supposedly been bulldozed over since they are no longer accessible.

Though Paradise Lake Cemetery is very real, I’m not too convinced that these steps were haunted. I’m not even sure they really existed – there are no photographs of them and the stories of drunk teenagers don’t seem all that credible to me. But local ghosts stories have always intrigued me, whether or not they’re real, so I thought it’d be fun to put my own spin on this.

Please check out my story, leave a review, and vote for it if you enjoy it! I’d love to hear your thoughts on it in the comments section! 🙂 If your town has a local ghost story or if you have a personal experience with ghosts that you’d like to share, please do so! 🙂

Thanks for reading my blog!

WRITING UPDATE!! Maria is going to meet an editor! Way cool!

Title says all, folks!

For those curious about what I am doing with my life as a writer, I will be attending Crypticon 2015 next month for a one-on-one editing session with the Editor-in-Chief of Blysster Press! Crypticon is my local horror convention and Blysster Press is a local publishing company for all things dark and spooky. I submitted the first chapter of my first book to them, and come Crypticon they will have edits and revisions to discuss with me.

I’m really excited to attend, as this will be my first time at a writer’s conference and meeting with an editor. I’m looking forward to learning lots of great tips for improving my manuscript, but I’m also pretty nervous to hear a professional person tell me why my writing sucks. Overall, I think it will be a very beneficial experience!

As I mentioned in my “about me” section of my blog, I am an aspiring novelist working on an urban dark fantasy series. I started writing my first book Midnight Waltz when I was in middle school (stay tuned for a blog on what it’s about!). Since then, I wrote two (working on the third) sequels and made countless revisions. After passing my manuscript along to my friends and peers from writer groups, I feel that I am ready to look for publishers, agents, and get started on my query letter and synopsis.

I’m currently not sure if I want to be published by a big company or a smaller one like Blysster Press. Along with getting professional tips on improving my story, I hope that meeting with Blysster’s editor will help me make a decision.

But enough about me. I want to hear from YOU! Have you ever met with an editor at a writing conference? How was your experience? Are you a published author, and if yes, what publishing route did you choose? Please let me know by commenting below!

Thanks for stopping by!

Vampires: They’re Not Dead Yet

I can’t count how many times I’ve heard people say, “Vampires are so overdone.”

As a writer – especially one who writes about bloodsucking creatures – that phrase always peeves me. Not because I take it as an insult, but because it rarely means exactly what people think they are saying.

Let’s back up a few steps. Vampires have been around for hundreds of years. Several European countries have told stories about vampires. The concept of vampirism has been around for centuries, included in Ancient Greek and Roman mythology.

Back then, vampires were creepy demonic monsters. The gothic romantic vampire we are most familiar with arose in 1819 in John William Polidori’s short fiction prose “The Vampyre,” and then strengthened in Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel “Dracula.” These stories not only influenced later works about vampires, but brought about vampires as literary figures that are seen in non-vampire novels. For example, Count Dracula was not a scary monster. He was an older man who was able to manipulate people, especially young girls, for their blood. The novel used Dracula not as just a horror element, but to touch upon the theme of women’s roles in the Victorian era. Vampires being older men controlling younger women remain an important archetype in literature.

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If you think vampires are “so overdone” because they’ve been a hot topic for thousands of years, then yes, they have been overdone. But so has everything in literature. Greek mythology is full of love stories, war, monsters, and super beings. So if that’s your logic, then I wish you good luck on finding an original concept, but please don’t pick on just the vampires.

BUT…that’s generally not the complaint people have about vampires. Most people are just sick of seeing overly sexualized vampires on TV or reading about them in young adult novels. They’re tired of sparkling creatures that are more concerned about love than finding their next meal, and I’m honestly tired of it, too. But I’m not tired of vampires as a whole.

If you’re a vampire fan who is also tired of all the pretty-boys, you’re in luck: there are other vampire stories out there for you to check out. The great thing about vampires being “overdone” is that there are so many cool twists on them. There’s something for everyone out there.

It’s been a while since I’ve seen a really good, scary movie about vampires made in recent years. However, I recently watched a couple great newer films that use vampires as interesting metaphors for two different concepts.

“Only Lovers Left Alive” directed and written by Jim Jarmusch is about two vampire lovers, Adam (Tom Hiddleston) and Eve (Tilda Swinton).  The story revolves around their struggles to hide their vampirism in the modern world. They are unable to simply drink blood straight from a human’s neck since their blood is tainted, they seek out the “good stuff” from local suppliers.

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If this reminds you of drug addiction, you’re spot on. The vampires are symbolic of drug addicts, searching for clean, safe blood to drink to stay alive. Adam find comfort in playing guitar and is often bothered by the local “rock and roll kids.” Eve’s sister is representative of a drug junkie who can’t control urges and gorges herself on Adam and Eve’s blood supply, which causes trouble for the vampire lovers. The story cleverly uses vampires to create a fresh commentary on the modern underground rock scene and the heavy drug usage that plagues the followers.

If drama-romance stories aren’t your thing, you might find “What We Do in the Shadows” to be more up your alley. Directed and written by Directed and written by Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement, the film is a mockumentary comedy about vampire roommates going about their daily lives.

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Though there are some brilliantly funny and graphic blood drinking scenes, the movie, for the most part, revolves around their surprisingly ordinary struggles. They argue over chores, have unresolved issues with past lovers, encounter enemy gangs (aka the werewolves), and face challenges with their new roommate. The film gives the viewers a realistic view on what it’s like to be a vampire. Sure, there are fun parties to attend and silly pranks to pull on humans, but it’s not easy getting dressed without a mirror, giving up your favorite foods you ate as a human, or entering bars without an invitation. As humorous as the movie is – and it is VERY humorous – it does an excellent job showing that although vampires may not be humans, we are more similar than we may think.

Vampires are here to stay, whether you enjoy them or not. I’m not sure how long the sparkly vamps will remain in the media, but as long as they stir up a fan base, keep an eye out for lesser-known films, as those are the ones that take a fresh spin on the age-old bloodsuckers – or at least as fresh as one can attempt to be on such an “overdone” topic.

Have you seen either of these two movies? What did you think? Are there any other vampire books/movies that you really enjoy? Let me know what you think below in the comments!

5 Reasons Why Writing Fiction is my Favorite Thing in the World

I love writing fiction. It’s the first thing I remember loving. Since I was three years old, making picture books was my favorite hobby. The picture books soon evolved into stories with a sentence per picture, gradually gaining more words and losing the crayon art, and eventually turned to writing novels. Of course, the content I write about has drastically changed, the love remains.

1. Writing is therapeutic. 

I have a lot of anxieties, an overactive imagination, intrusive thoughts, and terrible insomnia. Writing keeps my mind focused on one topic and helps me forget about all my worries. I generally write at night since that’s one of the few times I’m free from work, school, and other life distractions, and also because my thoughts become the most intrusive when I want to sleep. Most of my writing gets done between midnight-3 a.m. because it helps me relax so I can eventually get a few hours of sleep. Throughout the day, thinking about storyboards and potential plots also helps keep my mind away from troublesome thoughts. Yes, this does lead to a ton of daydreaming and makes me overly involved in my made-up world, but it’s better that than worrying about irrational fears and scenarios.

2. Writing is helpful to others

We’ve all heard this famous piece of advice from published authors: “To be a writer, you must read books.” Naturally, I love to read books when I’m not writing. Along with writing my own books, I find comfort in involving myself in other writers’ stories. The best compliment I ever receive from my readers is when they tell me that my books gave them comfort from their life struggles. Knowing that my stories are not only therapeutic for me, but also my readers, means a lot to me. If I can temporarily comfort a reader by bringing them into my little fantasy world, I have done my job.

3. My characters teach me valuable lessons…or is it just me all along?

One of my favorite things about writing fiction is creating characters. It’s fun to get into their minds and think of how they would act in certain scenarios. Learning to think from other perspectives taught me to respect and understand other people’s thoughts in the real world and to always step back and think in their perspective, especially during debates or arguments.

My characters never fail to impress me. I love when they are able to forgive those who have wronged them, accept their losses, overcome grief, stand up for their beliefs – and inspire me to do the same. The events I write about help me cope with my own life struggles, which is really awesome, but the most awesome part is that I created these characters. Their thoughts are my thoughts. Everything I learn from my characters, I’m really just teaching myself on a subconscious level.

4. Writing boosts confidence

Nothing feels better than finishing a well-written chapter or scene. I love looking over my writing and thinking, “Wow, I can’t believe I wrote something so cool!” (Especially since I’m very hard on myself when it comes to writing.) Even if it’s something that I know most of my readers won’t get to see for a while, like a chapter of a new book I’m working on, the self-satisfaction is enough to boost my confidence in my writing and overall make me more confident in myself as a person.

5. Writing makes my readers (and me!) feel all kinds of emotions

As a psychology major, I am fascinated by the range of emotions the human mind can register. I believe all emotions are equally important to experience because they help us understand our thoughts. In my stories, I hope to give my readers a taste of all the major emotions. I want them to laugh, cry, feel angry, scared, and disgusted. A story becomes far more memorable when the reader is able to connect with it on an emotional level. It also means the readers care more about my story and characters if they are able to feel sad when a character dies or angry when the antagonist threatens to hurt them. I care about my characters as if they were my own children – because they technically are in my mind  – and it makes me really happy when I can share my love for them with others.

Now it’s your turn to tell ME why you enjoy writing! Please comment below~