What’s Up With Aly

So, here’s what has been up with me!

-I fell off the face of the Internet for 10 weeks instead of 2.  I apologize!

– My 40+ hours/week job is finally becoming routine and much less stressful.

– I went to a family reunion in Illinois, and came back with an outline to co-write a book with my dad, based on his life.

– At that same reunion, I found out one of my relatives wrote and published a book(I have a signed copy!).  It’s a book on quilting, with patterns she designed.  They’re based on the signs/symbols hobos would use to communicate with each other and leave messages on the road.  In fact, she goes into a lot of history, which is why I bought the book since I don’t quilt!  (If you’re at all interested, let me know and I’ll send a link to the book)

– I may (finally) be joining a writers group.

– And to add to that, I found a writing partner in my best friend’s girlfriend. 🙂

Overall, I’ve been thrice as busy as usual, but I’m finally getting this balancing act down.  I still won’t be posting as much as when I first started, but hopefully I’ll have a few posts each month.   I hope you guys have been doing well, and I definitely look forward to browsing all the blogs I’ve been missing!

A Guest Post and An Update

I am thrilled to announce that my very first Guest Post has gone live today!  I am deeply honored to be hosted by Rebecca T. Dickinson on A Word or More.   Be sure to check out her warm & welcoming blog, as well as my guest post, Our Personal Lenses.

Fantastic news aside, my writing, blogging, and twittering has taken a seat on the back burner for the past few days.  (I promise I’ll get to everyone’s comments on my previous post in the near future!)  Mostly this is due to a little thing called Life.  Of which, I won’t bore you with details, but let’s just say, I’m busy.

Hopefully, it won’t be long before I’ll be back in the swing of things in regards to my blog.  At least I plan on it in time for the Sunday Versus.   But in the meantime, here are a few noteworthy things:

  • Sara Flower(who is currently doing a blog tour for her book By the Sword) is hosting an Amazon Gift Card Give-away here.  Submissions are free and they close April 8th, so there’s still time left to enter!
  • I’m considering updating my layout to something…more welcoming.  I love this layout because it’s very clean and easy to navigate.   I like the grey scale because it reminds me of the grey, cloud covered, rainy, dreary place I used to call home.  But I wonder if it seems too “cold” and unwelcoming.  Thoughts?
  • Also, I’ve seen a few people with ‘signatures’ at the bottom of their posts, and I thought it was really fun.  A great way to leave a more lasting/unique impression.  So here I am, trying it out.  What do you guys think?  Is it too cheesy, or just cheesy enough? 🙂

Happy writing, everyone!

Writing Under a Pen Name vs Real Name

Aly Hughes is not my real name.  There, I said it!  The illusion has been shattered!  But no, my first name is an English variation of a common French name, and my last name is Filipino in origin.  And if I’m to believe most of my teachers, substitute teachers, employers, coworkers, doctors, and mechanics…they’re both damn confusing to pronounce and spell, especially next to each other.  Which has always been news to me, since they’re actually not that complicated.  Then again I did grow up with them so my view is definitely skewed on that end.

But I digress.  I don’t use a pen name because I dislike my real name.  I don’t use it to hide my identity, heritage, or gender.  And I most certainly don’t use it to adhere to what genre I write in.  I use it for simplicity.

I use a pen name because it’s easy to spell, easy to remember.  Short, sweet, and actually not very far off from my real name.  Aly, being a shortened version of Alyse, and a seldom-used nickname of mine; and Hughes, being my mother’s maiden name.

Really though, how much of a difference does it make if I write under a pen name?  

To me?  Not much.  But then, I didn’t pick it for me, I chose it for my audience.

Yes my name is unique and guaranteed nobody shares it, but that doesn’t mean it will help people remember it.  I don’t want someone to become familiar with my writing then attempt to share it with a friend, only to find that they can’t pronounce OR spell my name.   Being known as “that one writer” or “that one girl” isn’t something I strive for.

So I chose a name to write under, one that isn’t complicated.  I didn’t go to the far corners of the internet to find unique names with hidden meanings.  I simply found one that is, essentially, still me.  It’s a name I’ve grown to love, one I can write under, and one I can answer to.

What about all of you?  Do you write under a pen name or real name?  If you do use a pen name, why?  How did you choose it?   If you don’t use a pen name, do you think that I am in some way “caving in” to society by picking a name other than my own, just so people can remember it?

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

How Not to Play the Social Media Game

It has come to my attention that in the world of writing, it’s all the rage to hop on any and every social media bandwagon.  Every writer is constantly looking for an in.  A way to promote themselves and their writing, and hopefully to catch more than just a few straying eyes.

I understand that prospective editors/agents/publishers are looking for someone who already has a fan base.  Sure, your writing chops will always be looked at first, and given priority.  But it’s like brownie points all around if you can actively market yourself and your writing to the masses.

So we start a blog, we start an author’s page on Facebook, open a twitter account, throw in a dash of google+(even though we have no idea what we’re supposed to do with it), and start ritually gathering four leaf clovers and pennies.  The more, the better!

Except, well, not.

I’ve searched out other bloggers on WordPress that I enjoy, ones I can share comments with, talk with.  I’ve also been concentrating on blogging and producing(hopefully) interesting posts.  Oh, and there’s this little hobby of mine, called writing, that I’ve put a lot of effort into.  With all of this hubbub I’ve been neglecting the poor Twitter account I started along with this blog.

A few days ago after a particularly long period of neglect, I logged on to see that one of the bloggers I had connected with on WordPress had mentioned me in a Tweet.  I was so excited I immediately tweeted back, only to realize he had sent that five days before.  With how often some people are on Twitter, I had no idea if he’d even remember tweeting that, which left me thinking.

Is it bad form to wait so long?  Will it make people think that I’m lazy?  Or worse, that I don’t care enough to update them?  If I only post updates about my blog, and not about my life, will people think I’m just shamefully self-promoting?  Will they think I’m boring?  If people think I’m boring, will that affect how they read my writing? Am I expected to tweet and tag other people?  Will they think I’m just trying to con them in promoting me?  Am I shallow to think that that’s what I should be doing to get my name out there?

Don’t get me wrong, social media outlets are great…if you can use them.  But what if you’re terribly forgetfully, or just plain apathetic about them?  Is it worth it to have a Twitter or Facebook page if you only update it once a month?    I would say no, just because that’s one more loose string your name is attached to.  I think readers and the audience deserve something that is at least decently kept.  With how many connections we make online these days, I think that unless you’ve REALLY done well creating a platform, the more quiet you are, the less people will care to listen.

My advice?  Start slowly with one type of outlet until you’re comfortable with branching out to something else.

I’d like to hear what you guys think about it though.  Do you think it’s worth it to have an author Facebook page or a Twitter account even if you rarely use it?

Side note: Right after I wrote this, I realized a blog that I follow posted this: How to Effectively Use Twitter for Authors  Why didn’t this happen before my Twitter lapse?  In her post she has a link for 8 Twitter Tips for Authors, that she guest posted on another blog.  I’d recommend checking that article out for some great tips, if you’re struggling with it like me.  Also, feel free to post your own tips, as well as articles on this topic.  Any social medium tips are welcome, blogging, facebook, twitter, etc. 

Forcing vs. Flowing in Writing

In my experience there are two ways to write.

Example 1. You frantically scribble away on the nearest napkin as inspiration strikes you at a very inopportune moment, and you’re left with a smudged copy to store away for the next month before you’re inspired enough to revisit it.

Example 2. You sit down at your desk and stare at the computer screen until your fingers begrudgingly begin to type.  Before you know it you have a very, very, rocky draft that vaguely resembles the scenery you meant to describe, and is left as such until you force yourself to edit it.

Pretty obvious which one is ‘going with the flow’ writing as opposed to ‘forced’ writing.  What isn’t so obvious?  Which one produces better writing.

I have arguments for both styles.  Ultimately I think it’s up to the writer to decide a certain combination of the two that works for them personally.  But- here are my thoughts on the matter.

Flow.  Everyone has had that lightning bolt of inspiration hit them.  It doesn’t even have to involve writing!  There’s a moment, where all of a sudden, things become clear, and you know what you have to do and what you want to do.   So you go and just do it.  That’s what happened to me when I went and saw the movie Hugo.  It inspired this short story.  And I’m pretty happy with the result.   The words just seemed to flow from out of my fingers, and I barely had to think about what I was writing.  I believe it’s this natural, raw inspiration that produces the most fluid and honest writing.

But if you only write when you’ve caught the lightning bug, those spurts can be few and far between.  Even if it produces some of our best work, we can’t completely rely on it.  Sometimes we have to hunker down and treat writing as what it really is: hard work.

Forced.  This is where we struggle, as writers, to produce our stories.  Every decent writer needs to spend time on their writing.  It’s like clocking in hours at a job.  Even if you don’t want to, or don’t feel like it, you need do it.  Why?

Because you can’t edit and perfect what isn’t on the page. 

This is especially true when you’re in it for the long haul.  Short stories and Flash Fiction are wonderful for the strikes of inspiration.  But when you enter novella and novel territory, more often than not there will be days when you force yourself to write the story, even if it isn’t flowing out of your fingertips.  It might not come out exactly as you want, unlike some of the spur of the moment stories, but you can always go back and edit.

So, if you’re like me, and just starting to realize you want to be serious about writing, then find that balance.  Be ready to find inspiration in unlikely places.  And if that fails, don’t be afraid to sit down and write against the current.  Take your own writing seriously.  Don’t let if fall by the wayside just because the words are struggling with you.

I’m Running With It

When you have a good idea people tend to use the phrase “run with it” in order to encourage you.  I’ve yet to tell anyone my fantastic idea, and therefore have not gained such encouragement.  However, I am indeed “running with it” regardless of nobody telling me to do so.

This grand idea is in the form of a novel.  I know it will either turn out to be a romance novel, or a young adult novel.  Shockingly these two seem to be getting closer and closer these days.

My plan is for this to be my first novel length project to actually be finished.  I’ve generally been a flash fiction/short story kind of lady.  Every time I start a big project like a novella or novel, I tend to just rush straight into it then quickly burn myself out after the three chapters.

Why does this happen?  

Honestly, it’s because I can be impulsive, and impatient.  I also generally like doing my work in big chunks at a time to get everything done.  With homework, I would work for hours with no breaks to finish it.  Doing a new craft?  I’d be at my desk concentrating on only that until I finished it.  Writing?  I’ll sit there and write in a big chunk of time, blocking out the rest of the world.

If you’re the kind of person who can get up and walk around, answer a text, grab some water, go to the bathroom, and make lunch in the middle of a project, well, I envy you.

I know if I don’t take the time to pause and break from my writing, I will completely burn myself out.  I think, for once, I believe in this idea so much, that I need to step back and really plan this out.  Sure there’ll be a lot of free writing and re-writing, but I think for someone who rushes into everything, taking the time to plan and organize is exactly what I need.

And for everyone else out there like me, maybe try setting specific long-term goals that you can achieve.  Looking at the Big Picture of your grand idea can really keep you focused on the short term(chapters) writing that you’ll be doing.

Good luck, and happy writing everyone!

Prioritizing

Being new to blogging, I’m still getting into the rhythm of consistently posting.  I must say, it takes a lot of work, and a lot of time.  To my fellow bloggers who can crank out consistently well written posts, I tip my hat to you!

So, prioritizing and blogging.  I probably could have picked a less busy time of the year to start my blog, but hey, I’m not going to let that stop me!  However, right now, this baby blog is still not top on my priority list.  In fact, as of right now, this is how it goes:

1. Clean the apartment before leaving for the holidays.

2. Pack my bags before leaving.

3. Finish making presents for my family from scratch.

4. Put my studded tires on my car.

5. Work on concepts for a new storyline.

6. Write.

7. Blog.

As you can tell, this is somewhat of a freebie post, but I am determined to be consistent in posting!  So here’s some advice that I’m still in the process of learning. Make sure your blog is in the top 3 of your to-do list.  Always.  Write posts ahead, so when you do get busy you can just post something that you have saved as a draft.  That way your blog doesn’t have to take the back burner just because you have more pressing/time consuming “real world” things to deal with.

What do you guys do in order to stay on top of posting?  Or do you sometimes find that blogging gets pushed down the to-do list as well?

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