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Spring has sprung (somewhat) here in the Pacific Northwest and everyone is talking about the new things the weather is bringing. Some are cleaning, some are getting their bikes ready to ride, and some are getting ready to pick up a second job because one job and college obviously isn’t enough of a work load while prodding their brains for plot bunnies.

Oh. Just me on that last one? Well, I was always told I was . . . masochistic special.

Even with my classes and jobs, I want to try some new things. First up: A new blogging schedule! My unexpected hiatus demonstrated that even one post a week is too much so I’m going to try posting every other Tuesday.

Secondly, I want to change something in my writing process. Namely, I want to be writing something. Skjulested is still gathering dust but I have other characters and plot fragments floating around in my brain, refusing to connect. This needs to change. While I would normally use Camp NaNo to bludgeon something loose, I would probably be a gibbering heap of stress, caffeine, and sleep deprivation by April 3rd if I tried Camp this year. (Dang it.)

I’m a very social writer and miss the company of my Twitter writing friends, so I’m looking into a writing group or a daily prompt that I can play around with. Skjulested started off as a series of drabbles and character exercises that refused to stop growing so I have high hopes.

What new things are you hoping to do in the spring?


Well. I did not quite mean to take a six-month hiatus but school, NaNo, and more school combined kicked my blog off the back of the stove entirely. But, thanks to Nancy tagging me, I am BACK. What did I get tagged with? Talking about my writing process. Follow the link back to see what Nancy has on her brain at the moment. ‘Tis awesome, I promise.

What am I working on?

Ha. Haha. Currently, the light and love of my authorial life, the Skjulested trilogy, is on hiatus. When I came back to edit the first draft in January, I could not find the enthusiasm that sparked the trilogy back in 2010. Instead of trying to force myself to write/produce inferior work, I’m taking the chance to let some new plot bunnies grow and develop as I procrastinate on Latin take the time to read new material.

At the top of my brain are currently 4 character/plot bits who can’t decide how to slot together. There is a hapless library worker who finds himself stuck with a very annoying ghost-child; the tattoo artist who imbues her work with luck spells; a girl shoving her car off a cliff as she runs away (possibly onto an annoyed merman); and a granny mermaid.

How does my work differ from others in my genre?

Above all else, I write character. I prefer a protagonist who doesn’t fit the traditional “hero” mold for one reason or another and enjoy putting them in situations where they have to be a hero/leader/not themselves.

Why do I write what I do?

I cannot not write. I have ideas in my head and I’m very much of the “write the stories you want to read” persuasion. In my case, I want lots of magic smashed into the real world with plenty of mythology on the side and seeing how characters react and grow when shoved into a new role. Neil Gaiman, Melissa Marr, Naomi Novik, and Jessica Grey are all authors whose work I enjoy and look to for how to improve.

How does my writing process work?

1. Get a particularly persistent plot bunny.

2. Shove schoolwork to one side, write out scenes and tidbits to familiarize myself with the characters. A plot usually shows up at some point.

2a. Nag friends via text message and Twitter about character/plot elements/worldbuilding.

3. Write a NaNo draft during NaNoWriMo or Camp NaNo

4. Rewrite the NaNo draft into a first draft

5. Send off the draft to be lovingly shredded by beta-readers

6. Repeat steps 4 and 5 until I can think of nothing else to do

7. Publish!

(To be fair, I have yet to publish anything. My writing process is, itself, a work in progress.)

Tag, you’re it…:

Jill Marcotte

Tia Kalla

L.M. Murphy

Today is a very good day: After almost four and a half hours of Biology lab and lecture, I will make my way across town to my tattoo parlor and get my second tattoo. Appropriately enough, both my tattoos (so far) have been writing focused.

Last year, someone on Twitter joked that I should get the NaNoWriMo logo tattooed on my wrist in light of my unofficial ML status and the fact that I was flying down to San Francisco for the Night of Writing Dangerously, a deeply fantastic fundraiser for NaNoWriMo. Well. Between my decidedly unhelpful friends (both on Twitter and in real life) encouraging me, I found myself at Five Star Tattoo on November 14th with my friend Lindsey, explaining how I’d like to get the Office of Letters and Light (NaNoWriMo’s parent nonprofit) logo on my left wrist.

“Oh, sure, not a problem!” said Levon, the artist who had some free time between appointments. From signing the appropriate paperwork to wrapping my stinging skin in gauze, the entire process took less than half an hour. I was very pleased with the result and took great delight in showing my new tattoo to fellow Wrimos and the OLL office staff in San Francisco.


(Nancy had much fun introducing me to the OLL staff and saying, “Look, I already got her branded!”)

The tattoo I’m getting today will follow the front arch of my left ribs and is a paraphrased quote from Doctor Who:

“We’re all stories in the end. Just make it a good one.”

While the source of the quote is meaningful in and of itself, I focus on the words themselves: We’re all stories in the end. As a writer I certainly hope my stories will be considered good ones. But more importantly, a person’s life is made up of stories told by friends and family that will outlast our bodies if they do as the Doctor suggests and “Make it a good one.”

EDIT: Here’s a photo of the new tattoo! The ink is a dark, TARDIS-esque blue and I am in love with it.


For the past several days, I’ve been trying to turn my focus from writing all the Doctor Who fanfic bunnies hopping around in my brain to working on my own stories. To that end, I’ve been looking over my (very) basic outline of the second draft for Matters of Magic and have been busy remembering all the major structural changes I decided to make. (There were quite a few.)

Re-familiarizing myself with my characters after two months away has me paying particular attention to the dynamic between my two main characters, Cyrus and Sarkan. Sarkan is a Trickster god and quite the smooth, manipulative bastard leader. Cyrus…is quite the opposite. Shy, stuttering, and he loathes the spotlight. Despite that fact, Cyrus is my primary protagonist and Matters of Magic is going to explore how he copes with being thrust into positions where he is not only in the spotlight, but in charge. Cyrus is very much against the traditional hero-type.

Playing with that dynamic and figuring out how to make sure my readers are going to a) connect to Cyrus and b) root for him is one of my largest concerns. Especially when there is Sarkan who is so very charismatic and persuasive (even in my own mind) and has his own fascinating backstory itching to be revealed and intertwined with Cyrus’s. I’ve compromised, somewhat, in that the second draft of Matters of Magic will have both Sarkan and Cyrus as POV characters but at the same time I have the niggling fear that my beta readers are going to come back saying “Sarkan’s a much more interesting protagonist. Why not focus on him in stead?”

Well, the only way to find out is to shelve my fanfiction for the time being and get to work cranking out a second draft. It’ll be an interesting few months to say the least.

I’ve been back in school for two weeks now and it’s been…interesting. I’m taking Organismal Biology, Algebra Methods and Functions, Accessing Information Research (online), and, because my masochism knows no bounds, Latin (also online). I’ve also been running around trying to get my Financial Aid settled, adding a whole other layer of joy but that should be resolved by the end of this week.

Outside of classwork, I still have my part-time job at the library and my powers a co-Municipal Liasion (ML) for the Vancouver, Washington region for NaNoWriMo have finally kicked in. Nancy and I have all the NaNo events planned out, we’ll do the research for our pep talks in October, and in the meantime, I’ve been reading all the advice I can get my hands on in the ML Forums. Thankfully, the other newbie MLs are just as terrified as I am and we have mentor MLs who answer our every question about setting up events, encouraging Wrimos to come to said events, and writing pep talks.

All the new time commitments haven’t left me a whole lot of free time for writing but I’m sacrificing sleep making do and it’s been a wake-up call to tighten up my time management skills. I grew up with my mother earning two associate degrees and a national certification for her job, while working forty hours a week, and raising my older sister and me. I remember thinking, “I can’t do that! It’s hard enough going to regular school!”

It’s strange how perceptions change as you get older and when not doing something has Consequences. Fail a class? Have to retake it, pay more in tuition, and it takes longer to earn my degree. Not go to work? Out of a job, can’t support myself. Fail at being an ML? Nancy moves to England next year and the region descends into fire and chaos slowly declines into inactivity.

I find myself doing my homework for classes as soon as I get the assignments whenever I get the chance, whether I’m at home or on break at work. I’ve stopped checking DeviantArt, webcomics, Tumblr, and Twitter every hour. My consumption of fanfiction has gone down dramatically and miracles of miracles, I’m actually starting to be in bed, asleep, before midnight. Earlier, if I can manage it. My goal is to have set good habits so that by the time November and my next 50,000 words rolls around, I have enough time to write without killing myself from lack of sleep or overdosing on caffeine. Let’s see how this goes, eh?

Last week, I was chatting with a friend and I mentioned that I was participating in Camp NaNoWriMo. I explained how I was taking the month to explore different story ideas and she asked where I find my ideas. It’s something every writer is asked and everyone has a different answer. Some writers are bursting at the mental seams while others have great droughts of inspiration. I’m somewhere in the middle. I can think of several story ideas in the course of the week but only if I’m actively working at it and not every idea is worth expanding into a full grown plot bunny. 

As far as where my ideas come from, it’s a combination of the media I’m consuming, observing people/places, and playing What-If while at work, relaxing with friends, or just letting my brain spin its wheels as I try to fall asleep. Real-life events occasionally inspire bunnies of their own and very rarely I get story ideas from dreams.

It’s a peculiar mindset that takes me a while to get into but when it happens, stories crop up on a semi-regular basis. The latest maybe-bunny came while I was helping a gentleman check out several issues of a hunting magazine, a gun bible, pregnancy books, and knitting patterns. He was probably picking up some materials for his wife/significant other but I played What-If. What if all the materials were for himself? What kind of man would read hunting magazines, be reading up on pregnancy, and checking out knitting patterns? It’s an interesting thought but not one I’m interested in exploring right now — I’m writing historical fiction this week, which means research and I’m still scrambling to figure out my new main character, Guinevere Hazel Thompson.

What about you? Where do your story ideas come from?

In six days, the July Session of Camp NaNoWriMo starts and I find myself slightly dreading the experience this time around. Why, you ask? Blog aside, I’m looking to play with completely new ideas for the first time in three years and I’m terrified.

We all know how it goes: You settle into something and you get comfortable. A job, a relationship, your parent’s guest bedroom. You know where to find the staples, you have a million in-jokes, you can count on your mom to bake you cookies. Three years of working with the same characters and plots and now I’m hesitant to step beyond that universe. It’s a very nice universe, developed, filled with characters, and all sorts of unexplored possibilities–!

[hangs head]

Life is about growth and change. Life is what inspires my writing and if I want to keep growing as a writer and person, I need to mix things up. To that end, my plan for this session of Camp NaNoWriMo is write at least 5,000 words a week exploring the plot bunnies below and see what potential lurks beneath their twitching noses and placid red eyes…

Bunny One: A MC is taking a road trip to find him/herself breaks down in a middle-of-nowhere town. While waiting for his/her car to be repaired s/he wanders into the small town library that seems to be bigger on the inside…The Eagles’ ”Hotel California” was the major inspiration for this bunny.

Bunny Two: WWII-esque story, fae horse, female hero. Itty bitty fae gardens. The girl would have been part of SOE in France but got invalided home. The family is set on squashing the heroine back into her old role as the youngest girl child and marrying her off but she has gotten the taste of a wider world.

Bunny Three: Magical society where people are born with “craft” magic that dictates their trade. Family business/guilds/alliances are a major thing. Occasionally, there will be people who are born with a different craft magic from their family. MC is comes from a family of animal-husbandry crafters but has a more intellectual-craft magic.

Bunny Four: Something inspired by the recent Florence + The Machine binge I’ve been on. “Howl” and “If Only For A Night” are the top contenders so something paranormal.

There are other nebulous bunnies but they’re variations on the magic/libraries of Bunny One. Or Doctor Who  bunnies, damnyouNancy. Nerves aside, I’m looking forward to seeing what bunnies will catch my attention enough to deserve a NaNo draft of their own. See you at Camp!

When asked to give advice to young/aspiring/novice writers, professional writers will almost give the same advice: Sit your butt down in the chair and write, everyday. My particular favorite rendition of this comes from the fantastic Neil Gaiman: 

“All writers have this vague hope that the elves will come in the night and finish any stories.” 

I can’t track down the rest of that quote but he continues to say that no, really, they don’t come and finish your book for you, you have to finish it. While I agree with Mr. Gaiman and the rest of the famous writers, I think that what young/aspiring/novice writers need first is passion.  No one who wrote anything, ever, woke up and thought “Gee, I’ll write a novel/short story/play/memoir today, just ‘cause.” You’re assigning yourself homework, another commitment that eats up your free time and energy and who does that?  

My current project can trace its roots back to June 2010, back to when I was thought it would be single novel. “I’ll write it for this year’s NaNoWriMo and get it done!” I thought. “Maybe I’ll publish it, maybe I won’t.” Silly me. Here I am, three years later and one novel has become three, with two potential prequels and side characters demanding their own books. My passion for the characters and their stories is what has kept me writing through my first two years of college, three moves, and my first official job. 

When you’re passionate about something, you make time for it and it’s that passion combined with discipline that makes you get up an hour before they have to get ready for work or tap out a few hundred words on your phone while riding the bus. It’s what keeps you going when your writing group critiques chapter five till it bleeds red ink. It’s what keeps you writing.

Hello, all.

My name is Liz Onstead and I am a writer. At least, I hope to be. This blog is going to help me on my endeavor to self-publish the first of several fantasy novels living in my head. Creating a real, live, professional blog and Twitter account are big steps towards that goal and to be honest, my hands are shaking a little bit as I write this post.

To that end, I’ll be talking about writing here– What inspires me to write, the joys of discovering how my editing process works, looking at the self-publishing industry, and figuring out how to stand out from the crowd when the time comes. Knowing myself, some fangirling will appear from time to time but I promise that it will be 100% writing related. (Well, 92%. Ok, 80%.)

But that’s getting ahead of myself. My name is Liz Onstead and I’m inviting you to accompany me on my journey as I figure out who I am as a storyteller. Doubtless there will be laughter, tears, and much fun (probably at my expense) along the way.

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