The Best Years of Your Life?

Not many people know this, but I will be soon quitting this blog, since my senior year of college has left me overwhelmed with thirty handfuls worth of things to do. Although my run on this site has been insightful, fun, and a great way to outstretch my writing skills with the local college community, I figured now was the time to call it to a close. I appreciate all the awesome feedback I have received from followers (and countries around the world!) so far, and I will continue writing my books in the future, I’m sure. But for now, a small hiatus from the writing world is what I need.

Of course, that leaves me with the task of writing one last blog– the blog to end all blogs in the universe of college blog-dom. With that being said, I decided that the topic of that blog should be a very general overview of what I’ve learned from my college experience and the things I wish I had known when I started out as a freshman. So without further ado, here’s my list of advice for you up-and-coming college kids.

1. Organization is key. When you first begin your college career, you will be given your first set of syllabi. These syllabi will be the reason why you probably won’t have much of a social life your first couple of weeks at the university; there’s so much work. So much work that there’s a good chance you will panic, like many of us former college freshman once did.

Being organized is the number one way to prepare yourself for all of this. Your smart phone, your calendar, and your notebooks will all become your best friends, as long as you keep them updated. If you know what assignment is coming so you can prepare for it, you should be okay.

2. Don’t try to plan out everything. When I first started out at age eighteen, I had my entire life planned out: I’d get my bachelor’s, then my master’s, I’d marry my then-boyfriend, get an apartment and a dog, gradually build my way up to getting a house, and then maybe have a few kids, whose names I had already chosen.

But after I thought about what I would achieve after I got all those things. It came with a terrifying question: Then what?

College, as I have said it many times before, is pretty much a training camp for adults. And despite popular belief, even though you are at the legal age of eighteen, you still aren’t finished growing. You will continue to develop as a person through your late teens and early twenties, and you’re still highly impressionable and your emotions can get pretty turbulent through those years. Give your life time to flourish and grow. Not everything has to happen so fast.

3. Dating in college is simple and also infinitely complicated. Let’s admit it: high school dating was kind of cut-and-dry. Chances are, a guy would write you a note to ask you out and you would circle either yes or no.

I can’t begin to tell you how accurate this is.

Because of the turbulent emotions I mentioned before, dating expands on a much wider scale. You are growing up and getting more mature. Yet at the same time, you are still struggling to figure everything out. So is everyone else in your age group. When I was nineteen, I found myself caught in this same spiderweb of confusion when it came to relationships in college. I thought that a guy’s motivations were simple; if he called you pretty, then he liked you. If he talked to you on a daily basis, you would probably date. The truth is, it isn’t that simple. There are multiple reasons behind why people say the things they say and do the things they do. Yours truly still doesn’t have it all figured out, but it’s one of the many mysteries of growing that everyone grasps onto eventually.

4. Know the balance between studying and fun. When I was a freshman, all I did was study. When I was a sophomore, all I did was go out and have fun. In the end, I wasn’t the happiest because I either had no friends or my grades tanked. This may seem like a tug-of-war between good grades and a social life, but it really isn’t. You can have both. You just have to estimate your limits and know when to call it quits on either end. It’s an instinct you will develop over time, but until then, it’s better safe than sorry.

5. Nobody knows exactly what they’re doing with their life. I can’t count how many times I laid in bed, staring at the ceiling, wracking my brain with nervousness and terror about what I was doing with my life. I had a general plan, sure, but would I still want that plan twenty years down the road?

I still don’t know. I may. I may not. Every person I know of between the ages of 18-30 is still hitting that brick wall with “What do I do with my life?” spray-painted on it. So has every generation before us.

But like I said before, a little chaos can be beneficial and even exciting. Maybe you don’t have everything planned. That’s okay. You’re still in this in-between phase of childhood and adulthood and you will figure things out. College is an amazing, scary, emotional, beautiful ride and my biggest advice to you is hang on and cherish every second. It could possibly be the best time of your life, but I’ll avoid that cliche, because honestly, the best time of your life is what you make of it.

Thank you for following and being amazing readers. I hope your experience is just as fun as mine was.

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Writing Part III: Getting Your Story Out There

Now comes the most teeth-grinding, skin-crawling part of the whole writing deal: publishing. Just the word used to send chills up my spine, but it was so intermingled with excitement and aspirations that it couldn’t help but pull me up short some times. Ever since I was a kid, I was nearly ninety-nine percent certain that I had ink running through my veins. I had almost always wanted to get published, and doing so was a dream that I had had for almost as long as I knew how to read and write.

A lot of people share this dream, which is awesome. Being able to push your innermost daydreams into the open takes a lot more guts than most people would expect. Of course, this is probably the toughest part of the whole novel spiel, depending on how difficult the actual writing was for you. There are two ways to go about getting published. Both can bring success and some serious cash, but both can be about as easy as pulling teeth. You can either self-publish or attempt major publishing. Continue reading

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Writing Part II: Give Us Your Vibe

In the last writing blog I did, I discussed a lot about plot and keeping the flow of your storyline smooth and eventful. This time around, I’m doing more with the bells and whistles of your story. If we get into the more complex parts of your story, things start to get a little interesting.

There’s more to a story than traveling from point A to point B. You’ve got to make the person reading relate to your character, tell them what kind of world your character is living in, and actually get the project done as clean and as vividly as possible.

Everyone has to start somewhere.

Here’s a list of a few things that every story has and that every writer needs to consider. Take a few to scan through it and check out how these elements relate to the story you’ve got going on.

1.Voice. Your character has got to have personality. Like people in real life, every character is different. The voice of a sixteen-year-old, happy-go-lucky girl is going to be different than a disgruntled, sixty-something Vietnam War veteran. If you just sat down to talk to your lovely imaginary friend, what would he or she say? You’ve got to keep this in mind while writing their dialogue and actions. A lot of times I ask myself, “What would this psychopathic killer do in this particular situation?”

And then I’m glad I don’t know.

2.Atmosphere. Where is this story going on? Is it a dystopian world with a corrupt government and plenty of room for adventure? Or is it just a normal, suburban town with a couple of local grocery stores and diners that people easily pass up? Where your story is being told is essential to the plot, and you always have to take into consideration when writing it. Think about your hometown. Whether you think it’s home sweet home or not, where you grew up has influenced you. Just like it’s going to have influenced your character. Work in enough details to not distract from the plot, and you should have a good lot of room to talk on this.

3.Wordplay. This is one that has really gotten me in the past. It makes me want to cringe, reading some of my older stuff because I didn’t put in enough capturing scenes in there. Take a lesson from me- you’ve got to avoid narrative storytelling at all costs. What I mean by this is to not tell the reader what’s going on, but show them what’s going on. Use descriptive words. Descriptive words are your friend.

Phrasing is important, too. You’ve got to make your readers feel like they’re there. Look at this as an example of what not to do:

He told them he was running away.

Hold up, wait a minute. Let’s put a little detail in it. Now let’s back up and see what this phrase could have been if we had used descriptive words and avoided narrative storytelling.

He looked over his shoulder and panted out, “I’m running away.”

There. It doesn’t have to be so complex. Still, with just a few more words, you get a better mental image of what your character is doing. Dialogue is great with this. You can reveal a heck of a lot about your characters with the things that they say and how they say them.

4.Organization. This is the most frustrating part, and often where most writers crash and burn. Organizing things sucks. When it comes to this part of writing a story, everybody’s different. There’s no real right or wrong way to do this, as long as you’re aware of what goes where and it doesn’t end up being a total disaster.

Just to give you an easy example, though, this is how I do it. It usually begins by brainstorming with me. I get in front of the computer and type down the lines and quotes from characters that stick out the most. I keep them equal and separated and just keep adding on to them until there’s enough to organize them into separate chapters. These “chapters” are copy and pasted into different word documents and all kept in a folder. Once I know what’s happening in every chapter, I hit the ground running to fill in all the blanks. This is my personal way of getting things done, and it varies from person to person.

5.Word count. Word count matters if you’re trying to get published. If you’re writing for yourself, it’s no big deal. Most middle grade books are from 30,000-50,000 word. Young adult books vary from 55,000-100,000 and adult books are typically in the 70,000-100,000 range. Picture books are usually never over 1000.

Now that we have a good lot of the details out of the way, it looks pretty simple. Like this blog or comment on it with what you think and follow me if you’re interested in more. Happy writing, everybody!

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Writing Part I: The Plot Thickens

Writing can be frustrating. Many people in the past have asked me about what it takes to write a good fiction tale. In all honesty, it’s not exactly a walk in the part, but it can be broken down to a pretty easy science. Half of the problem is will power. So if you’ve already put your mind to it to write a novel, then you’ve already won a good chunk of the battle. Good for you!

However, setting up a good plot line is essential to a story and one of the first things that you will have to figure out when you sit down at the computer. Let’s just face it- when a story lacks direction and a tight plot, things can get messy. Even the most organized of writers can sometimes feel the urge to hit their head into a wall.

Fear not, good readers. Before you break out the Ben & Jerry’s for a pity party, I have some things that could come to your aid. I have put together three images that will help you get a good hang of plotting out a fiction story. I’m not an English professor or Stephen King by any means, but I have put out a couple of well-received books. Continue reading

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The Ye Olde Job Search

Along with the rest of my summer activities (which mostly consists of sleeping in, watching Netflix, and eating cheesesticks), I’ve done what a good percentage of all college students have done and applied for a summer job. Although I have done a good lot of volunteer work, community service, and other non-paying workshops around the local area, I had never had an actual paying job before. It was a new experience, and in different ways was easier and more difficult than I had expected.

For real

First and foremost came finding where I wanted to work. I had a couple of places in mind, but I wasn’t exactly sure where would be the ideal place for me to work. I had picked a couple coffeehouses, restaurants, retail stores and janitorial work, seeing as I’m a total master of the custodial arts from my volunteer experiences. Once I picked out the places I wanted to go, then the rest came with simply waltzing in, asking if they were hiring and, if they were, asking for an application.

Filling out the applications and returning them was the hardest part of the process for me. I don’t have that much experience under my belt, making it difficult to get hired. Instead, I flaunted a lot of the volunteer work in a resume I had created alongside my applications. Resumes are a huge, glorified list of your skills, previous experience, leadership, and volunteer work. Even though I had never worked professionally, I was still able to get the job I wanted due to what I was able to bring to the table. Showcasing your best assets in your applications will highlight everything you are capable of doing for the job.

Organization is also a major kicker here. You have to keep track of who you have applied to and whether or not they are searching for new employees. Organization, however, is not exactly my middle name… so I kind of had a spot of trouble with this. However, smart phones are handy things to have. I used mine to list all the jobs I had applied for on my notepad app, and the rest was history.

One very aggravating part of the whole job search field is waiting. Yours truly does not like waiting. Yet like a lot of things in life, it is a necessary evil. You are going to have to give the employers and managers some time to look over your application and see whether or not they think you would be helpful in the their line of work. It will take some time, but sometimes giving them a bit of space is probably the best way to increase your chances of actually getting hired. It’s a bit strange, but it’s true.

Of course, later on, you have to fill in that space with your awesome presence. After a little while of patiently giving them time to sort things out, revisit the places to which you’ve applied. Ask them if they’re still hiring new people for work. If you do it well, the employers working there will probably write your name down and remember that you visited. These little visits will show that you’re dedicated and highly interested in working at this job. This, obviously, is going to give you a major boost over the rest of your competition in the work place and help you get a little extra brownie points for getting hired.

Yet you don’t want to overdo it with the visiting. You should revisit once or twice- three times tops. The reason being is, plainly, you don’t want to seem desperate. At this point, if they are interested in hiring you, they will do so. If not, then that’s tough luck, but there will be plenty more opportunities to come. Again, that patience factor is going to contribute a lot here. You will have to rely on it while doing the “ye olde job search”, but trust me- it will be worth it.

As for my own personal job search, things panned out pretty well. After tirelessly handing out a ton of applications (Well, maybe just ten, but who’s counting?), I finally got a call back from a local coffee shop in Middlesboro, KY, that was looking for a new waitress and–wait for it–custodians. After looking over my resume that I’d given them, they called me in for a job interview. The interview went pretty well and the very next day, they called my phone and asked me to come in and begin work! It was a pretty nice experience over all.

If you’d like to share some of your experiences getting hired, leave a comment, like this post, or follow me. I’d love to hear from you guys!

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