Earlier today, I posted my 2015 goals.
But before I completely put 2014 in my rear view, I feel like I should give it one last shout-out.
I'd have to spend all day to describe the awesome that was 2014 -- and no one needs that. So instead, here are my highlights and favorites and things that I want to remember.
I welcomed my amazing son into this world, which will forever make this one of the best years of my life.
I made some money BY WRITING. That's right. 2014 is the year I started getting paid to do what I love.
I started calling myself a writer, marking the transition from hobby to job.
I saw a play. The Lion King. It was amazing. I didn't realize there would be puppets. I love puppets.
I joined a book club.
I moved back to Texas.
I finished not one, but TWO full length novels.
I co-founded Common Novel.
I started a children's book. It's about a bowl who has ambitions to be a hat.
And I began planning a third novel.
Favorite book: Rebel Belle, by Rachel Hawkins.
Favorite newly discovered author: Sarah MacLean
Favorite newly discovered book series: Bloodlines series, by Richelle Mead
Favorite movie: X-Men Days of Future Past. Honorable mention goes to Guardians of the Galaxy.
Favorite new TV Show: The Flash
Favorite returning TV Show: The Originals. It was the one show that never let me down. I'm looking at you Reign, with your incest and your rape.
Favorite piece of advice received: "Just show up." - Elizabeth Gilbert. (Obviously not given directly to me. And also probably not given this year. But I heard it this year, so I'm counting it.)
Favorite news story: The Interview turns into a triumph for free speech.
Favorite website: Fast Co Create
Favorite activity: Hanging out with my beautiful little boy
Here's to you, 2014! Thank you for the amazing memories, and a big thank you to everyone who made this year so special.
I'm now blogging (almost) exclusively at Common Novel.
Common Novel is a joint venture between myself and my writing partner, Diana Biller. Despite dominating the publishing market (and we mean DOMINATING—romance, mystery, and speculative fiction alone brought in around 2.8 billion dollars in 2012, compared to about 471 million from classic literary fiction), popular fiction is often overlooked when it comes to serious reviews, commentary, and analysis.
We thought it deserved more, and that’s why we founded Common Novel.
It's is a celebration of genre reading. It’s a celebration of the tattered paperback, of the third-time-through, and of the book that’s currently living in your purse. It’s a celebration of the genres themselves: romance, young adult, new adult, horror, mystery, science fiction, and fantasy.
Day 0: Disbelief
The day you finish is a day of mixed feelings. It's hard to explain what happens when you finish your first draft of a novel. Or, at least, it's hard to explain what happened to me. My first urge was to just continue writing. How was I supposed to know if I had made a satisfying ending for my reader? But after adding 100 words (that will probably all get cut out later), I ended it. No, I didn't write "The End" at the bottom, though in hindsight, I wish I would have. But, I did compile it into a Manuscript and save it as "Katherine's Destiny - First Draft."
But then what are you to do? I think the best approach is to spread the word. Some people know you have been writing; some have noticed your distance even if they didn't know the reason; others had no idea.
The first thing I did was email my writing partner, without whom I couldn't have finished. Then I text my husband. Well, to be more precise, I blew up his phone with dozens of texts meant to convey my shear bliss. Then I posted about it on Facebook; then Twitter; then I called my parents; and so on. And after that was all over, I sat down to enjoy the rest of January 16, 2014--the day I finished the first draft of my first novel.
After having several people ask me about my Harry Potter nursery, I decided to show it off here. It would be impossible to describe the sheer number of thoughts that ran through my mind when I found out I was pregnant. At the time, my husband and I were living in a one bedroom apartment but had already signed a lease on a two bedroom apartment that we would be moving into later that month. The original plan for the second bedroom was to make it my office, and I won't lie, I shed a couple for its loss. But within a week, I was already planning the nursery.
Recently, I've found the Internet most unhelpful-and it isn't the Internet's fault. The problem appears to be that people in the world have not embraced the Internet to its full potential. If you have a professional business or if you offer a service in exchange for money, there is no excuse to not have a webpage. Nothing is more frustrating to a consumer than the inability to find what they are looking for online. This is especially true for small business.
What with this being National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), writing has been on my mind lately. I spent the last two weeks of October busily plotting my novel, making storyboards, and creating character profiles. My story was pretty much my only thought. I anxiously awaited November 1st like it was Christmas, hoping that my story would unwrap itself in one swift flow.
But then November 1st actually came. I sat down at my computer with all of my planning and, then, nothing. Nothing. I had no idea how to start. I wrote something and thought, "that sounds stupid," and deleted it. Of course, the point of NaNoWriMo is to write as quickly as possible, without thinking about quality, in order to achieve the end goal of writing 50,000 words. So, on the very first day, I was already failing.
Despite the point of NaNoWriMo, I want to write a story that people want to read. I always have. And it is hard for me to move past that desire and just write whatever. The funny thing is that I have a story - and it's a story I think people would want to read - it's just that I don't know how to write the story to make sure people want to read it. Every time I write a piece of my novel, I realize how uncomfortable I am with fiction writing. It's as if law school, blogging, and life in general beat any creative writing skills I had right out of me.
But then today, I came to a magical realization. In an effort to avoid writing, I turned on the TV. It's Sunday morning, so of course, there was nothing on. But then magic happened: I noticed that episode four of "Witches of East End" was playing on Lifetime. Generally, I love any show dealing with magic and witches, so fate intervened, and I decided to watch the first episode On Demand.
The story is just such a cool concept. These four witches are cursed, and two of them are reborn and raised by their mother every thirty years or so. This time, the girls are in their late twentys, and their mother hasn't told them they are witches. Of course, the secret bubbles over and everyone finds out. But just the idea of the mother having to re-raise her children and lose them when they reach thirty is fascinating. And so I was hooked.
But here is the interesting part, this is NOT a good show. The acting is on par with the worst soap operas; the writing is cheesy as hell. No bad joke is left untold. No stupid line is left unsaid. But even worse, it so unbelievably unrealistic. I watch it and find myself thinking that no character would ever act like that. But here I am marathon watching it.
And now that I think about it, this isn't the first time that I have been obsessed with something bad. I think everyone can agree that Fifty Shades of Gray is horribly written. Yet, I marathon read the books, soaking in every horribly written word. Same story with Twilight. Even Hunger Games isn't written that well, and I loved it too. But all three of these books had a story and characters that I wanted to know more about. I wanted to know what happened. Strike that: I needed to know.
So, what's my point? It doesn't matter if you can't write beautiful prose. It only matters that you know how to tell a story. And since I already have my story waiting to be told, all I have to do is sit down and write it. Bad writing be damned.
As I promised last week, here is my first post on why, despite the backlash, using hashtags can be a good thing. After experimenting with various hashtags for two weeks and reading other people's hashtag experience, I've compiled this short list of reasons to use them.
You can find a million different marketing blogs on "why using hashtags is imperative to your Twitter success." But you should think of this list as more of a "why you should use hashtags for your Twitter enjoyment."
Find Like-Minded People
I think the number one reason to use hashtags is to find people with similar interests. I don't mean that your goal should be to have tons of followers and that you should get those followers through hashtags. Instead, I mean that you can connect with people you might not have found
For example, let's say that you are super into Doctor Who, but all of your friends think British TV is weird (true story). You don't have anyone to talk to about the new doctor, John Hurt, or the epic 50th Anniversary Special (maybe coming soon to a theater near you!). What do you, as a super fan, do? Well, you can take to Twitter, and because of hashtags, you can easily find people who are geeking out about these very things.
Of course, there are people on Twitter whose only goal is to grow their following. I imagine that the best way to do that is to provide interesting, relevant information. But, in addition to good content, a hashtag makes it more likely that someone can search for and easily find your
Here is a personal anecdote to back up this sentiment: I don't have any real life friends that use Twitter. All of my actual friends spend their time on Facebook. So when I became interested in social media almost a year ago, I started my Twitter with zero followers. I don't have a personal business, or any real need for a lot of followers, so finding followers has never been a goal for me. However, I have noticed an uptick in people who follow me when I make several posts a day with hashtags.
Support A Cause
Supporting a cause is probably one of my favorite reasons to use hashtags. As I mentioned, I'm not trying to promote anything, so I don't need a lot of followers. However, there are projects and ideas out there that I support. And those projects often need followers. When something is "trending" on Twitter - meaning a lot of people are talking about it - it's more likely that the topic will get noticed.
As an example, I am currently very into National Novel Writing Month - or #NaNoWriMo. In November, people all around the world band together while trying to write 50,000 word novels. It's a pretty lofty goal, but it forces people to sit down and tell their story. One of the best ways to get the word out, is to use the Twitter hashtag. It shows my support, all of my followers can learn what it is, and if enough people talk about, it will start trending. So, every time I tweet about my novel (a real work in progress), I try to add the NaNo hashtag.
And while NaNoWriMo is a great example, you can also support your favorite store (think #maxinista) or social movement (think #occupy). It's just one way to let people know how you feel about a cause, product, or event.
I don't know about you, but for a long time my various feeds were blowing up with this Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake video about #hashtags.
I don't actually use hashtags.* I can count on my hand how many times I've used a hashtag. Once I posted #YOLO with a picture on Twitter as a joke, and the other time I used #copyrightabuse as the title of a research paper. Clearly, the title of my school paper doesn't give me any hashtag-cred. I doubt my professor even understood it.
As a late-comer to Twitter, I always thought hashtags were as ridiculous as these two make them sound. Who talks like that? No one. But I know that I am in a small minority. And, as lame as I think hashtags look, I've tried so hard over the past year to understand them and adopt them.
I have various friends in the social media industries, and like a good student, I've actually read books on using social media. The consensus among everyone is a resounding: "You should use hashtags." To be fair, I do understand the benefit. Hashtags sort data and help others find whatever it is you are posting about. You can even search hashtags and find out what others are saying about whatever topic. I've seen people live tweet events using hashtags, which seems like an excellent idea. But knowing the good doesn't make me comfortable with throwing out a #hashtag in the middle of my tweet.
So, for others like me, I am going to do a two part series starting next week on the benefits of hashtags and the best way to use them. In the meantime, I will experiment with hashtags to see what works and what doesn't.
*When I started this post, that was a true statement. Since then, I have started using more hashtags, and I am pleased to say that it has greatly increased my enjoyment of Twitter.
Recently, I've become an active crafter. In particular, I've been Harry Potter crafting (because it's awesome).
I have a particular project that I am currently working on (that I am not ready to share with the world yet), but when it is done, I will. It'll be pretty epic if I do say so myself.
In any event, here is my most recent craft:
It's Hagrid's Hut! There are some mistakes for sure, but it was my first quilting project. I found the pattern online at Fandom In Stitches, which is an awesome little site for fandoms.
It's a pillow cover, and I have three other pillows to do. I know I want to do Hogwarts Castle, and I think the other two will be embroidered Harry Potter quotes. I'll post them when I am done!
In the mean time, here is a round-up of places to find Harry Potter craft ideas and get the inspiration flowing.
Recapturing the Magic: Newt Scamander, Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them, and the Return of the Wizarding World
If you know me at all, you know that I love Harry Potter. I've been a fan since the 6th grade when my English teacher read the first book out-loud. After we got through the first one, I devoured the second one. And then, I skipped school to stay home and read the third one when it came out. Ever since then, I've been hooked.
So, you can imagine my excitement when J.K. Rowling announced she would be returning to the world of Harry Potter. No, it isn't a prequel or a sequel. It's better. Harry Potter is the perfect, self-contained story about a boy who comes of age. There isn't anything left to tell in Harry's story. But the wizarding world universe is fertile grounds for other stories. And that is where this new story finds us.
It appears that Newt was born in 1897, which should put his Hogwarts graduation year around 1914. According to J.K.R., the movie will take place about ten years from his graduation, putting young Newt at around 27. At that time, he was working for the Ministry of Magic in the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures, Beast Division.
His work in the Beast Division "led to many research trips abroad, during which he collected information" for Fantastic Beasts. It appears that this movie will be based on one of those research trips, as it starts out in New York seventy years before Harry's story takes place, and a couple of years before the first edition of Fantastic Beasts was published.
As the main character is older, it is safe to assume that the movie will probably be geared toward a slightly older audience than the first couple of Harry Potter movies. However, I think its also safe to assume it won't be rated R. Let's not forget why WB wants to make this movie - it wants Potter fans back in movie seats.
It is no secret that Hollywood has been trying, and spectacularly failing, to recapture some of the magic associated with Potter and Twilight. Since the success of those two, Hollywood executives have made several young adult novels into film franchises. Most of them have been unsuccessful, if not disastrous, with the notable exception of The Hunger Games. The most recent example of a failed young adult novel series is The Mortal Instruments, which didn't even open at number one (or two, for that matter). But there are other examples: Percy Jackson (one of my favorite book series that just can't seem to translate into film); Beautiful Creatures; and The Host.
So, if new books aren't getting people in the seats, it's time to bring back the old classics. And nothing is more classic than Harry Potter. It remains unknown whether Harry Potter fans will come out for the release of this movie, but I suspect that they will. I know I will see it opening weekend. I may even see it twice.
Rachel Paxton is a typer of words in Dallas, TX.