The Importance of Titles (and some notes concerning them)

6:00 AM

I love book titles. They're something I'm very passionate and excited about. I love that moment when you finally come upon one that just sticks. It feels so right and you just can't stop reading it and smiling.

Unfortunately, coming up with those beautiful, perfect titles usually stinks.




Finding titles is hard. But the goal of every story is to hook you. To draw you in. And the title is what does that first.

Think about it. You're in the bookstore, running your hands along the beautiful spines of hundreds of volumes. You can't pick up every book to read the back cover blurb or inspect the cover or glance at the first page. Only a select few get that privilege.

The title is the first test.

And this applies to blog posts, too. When I'm scrolling through my blogger reading list and my email, there are simply too many blogs to read all the posts I see. So I usually pick the ones that sound like I'll connect with them.

And how do I get that idea? What about the article or book tells me I might find it interesting?

The title.

Titles used to be super hard for me. I'd agonize over them, unsure if they were good or not. Of course, the first four years I wrote I was committed to the same book series. And that series was ... cliche. It was not the most original idea in the world, and as a result the title was not easy to find.

I've grown a lot since that nine book series I'd planned. And I've discovered a lot about titles.

Let's break down some of the different types of titles, shall we?


NAMES & TITLES

Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. The Thief Lord. The Book Thief. The False Prince. The Lost Girl of Astor Street. Peter and the Starcatchers. Steelheart. Coraline. The list goes on and on. Names aren't my favorite types of titles, and I think the phase of that has passed. But the opportunities for titles are endless. It can be the title of the main character (The False Prince, The Thief Lord, The Book Thief). It could be the title of an important minor character (The Prisoner of Azkaban). It could be the title of someone who was hurt (The Lost Girl of Astor Street).

Every story has someone that's important to the plot. Someone that set everything in motion. Sometimes, the title you give them is just a good description of who they are, and being who they are is important enough to warrant their label being the title of the story. Sometimes, it's the reason they are called what they are that gets them on the spine of a book.

Either way, the name/title tactic is a common but good approach. You could also fit groups of people or organizations under this category (like The Mysterious Benedict Society or The Boxcar Children or The Fellowship of the Ring or The Color Project). My current project is called The Dream Walkers. I gave it its name because the basic premise is about a group of children who go to a land of dreams every night, until one of them gets stuck there and they have go venture deeper in this world to save him. When you read the book, you come to know that these children are called Dream Walkers. And these children are the reason this story exists.


OBJECTS & PLACES

Howl's Moving Castle. Treasure Island. The City of Ember. The Westing Game. The Blackthorn Key. Serafina and the Black Cloak. The Screaming Staircase and The Whispering Skull. Dragon Slippers. 

The title could be something they're searching for (Treasure Island) or some puzzle they're trying to solve. It could be something everyone is after, or a place no one dares to go.

I wrote a book in July called The House at the End of the Lane. The title is tentative because it's similar to another well known book that I didn't know about until after I'd already come up with the title and let it stick, but I still like it because it plants that seed in readers' minds. They know there's something about that house at the end of the lane that will play a key role in the book. It'll be important. It's almost like a hook.


THEMES & UNDERTAKINGS

Pride and Prejudice. Divergent. Dare, Deny, Defy, and Deliver by Tricia Mingerink. A Proper Pursuit. Summerlost. 

It could be a lesson that they learn. A misconception they start out having, but have to learn to overcome. It could be task they have to complete, or a milestone they're working towards. Or it could foreshadow events later in the book.

I've had a story idea for ages that I'm still fleshing out, and I got an idea for the title today (hence, the post). I'm calling it Ashes of the Dawn and it's foreshadowing of what happens by the end of the book, with a little theme thrown in as well.


These are just three categories, and they cover a lot. And of course, you can always combine them. You could specify a name with an object or an object with a theme or place. The books in my YA series are combinations of people titles and actions/objects. The Thief's Conspiracy, The King's Vow, The Queen's Game, and The Hunter's Lament. 

Hopefully me breaking down the different types of book titles gave you some ideas. Go look at your book shelf and analyze what titles are your favorites. Go to the library or scroll through goodreads and see which titles catch your interest and think about why. Watch for cliches, too. Words that commonly come up in titles (like "thief") would be best to avoid if you want something really original. Then again, one of my favorite book titles is The Thief's Conspiracy. I was miffed that the book wanted to be called that, but I couldn't really say no. So if you have a really insistent title, don't throw it out just because one of the words is common in book titles.

Now you might be thinking, "Right, but how do I find out which type of title to go for?"

And the answer is, you just have to experiment. Sit down and pull out your notebook. Write down key people, key titles, key objects, places, themes. Write everything you can think of. Create an aesthetic of words for your story. Then string them together. See if any will fit and toss the ones that don't. The title I finally came up with today (after trying to find one for nearly a year) was the last of about fifteen-twenty combinations of the words dawn and ash. It took a lot of tries before I finally saw that they fit together and worked.

Don't be afraid to put down stupid ideas, either. Get it all out in the open. We have to scrape the weeds off the top before we can reach the rich earth underneath.

I've gone on enough. What about you guys? What category does your book title fall into? Are you trying to find a book title? If so, which category is your favorite? 

<3

Why Do You Write?

6:00 AM

I GOT A TWITTER! I know it's been ages. Everyone told me I needed to get one, but I was so lazy and I didn't do it. And finally I randomly downloaded the app and made an account. So you should go wave at me so I can follow you and we can be buddies! YAY!

Anyway. On twitter (which I like very much, by the way. the character limit generates a delightful aura of sass that I thrive on) I was tagged by the lovely Audrey Caylin in a thread that asked the question, "Why do you write?"

I skimmed through old responses and found most everyone had lovely thoughts to share. They had well rounded, short summaries that captured the essence of why they wrote. I sat there for a while, trying to figure out why I was having a hard time answering.

Why do I write?

I don't really know. 



Is that a bad thing? Maybe. I may not be able to say firmly why I write. That's partly because the reason I write changes as I do. When I first started writing, it was because I was bored. I kept writing because I was determined to finish--and I found out just how fun it was. And I write today because I have so many things I want to share. So many ideas and hopes and dreams. I've discovered ways to see the world--to live and breathe in it--and I want to share that. It's this desire bursting up from within me. 

How do I just keep all that inside? 

I think that's something important to remember. Sometimes we cling to things that we don't really need anymore. We know they mattered at one point. We know we needed them at a time in our lives, for that time of our lives.

But you outgrow more than just clothes.

And I'm not saying that you'll outgrow writing. I know I won't. But the reasons I write? I didn't even realize it could happen when I first started. I didn't have a clue what it would become to me. How I would use it to help myself, and hopefully others.

Don't be afraid to change and grow. Just because you're changing doesn't mean the old has to be done away with.

But why does it matter, anyway? Why does it matter why we write?

It matters because when things get hard, you're going to need a reason to stay. If I didn't write because it meant something to me, I wouldn't have made it five chapters into draft 2 of either of my current projects. Those would be wrecks, abandoned and never to be looked upon again.

But writing does matter to me. Deeply. So I pushed through the hard times. I pushed through the agonizing hours of editing, through the late nights and blurry eyes and sore wrists and throbbing head. I suffered through the doubts and fears and insecurities because I knew it would all be worth it to me in the end.

And it was. It has all been worth it.

Take a moment to think about why you write. Write it down. Put it somewhere you can easily access it. That way, when the edits are heavy, when you feel like you're out of ideas or your writing will never be good enough, you can look at the heart of why you do what you do and gain the strength to press on. Because when we do what we love because we love it, the doubts and fears lose their power against us.

Why do you write? Do you write now for the same reason you wrote back when you started? 

<3

was it enough?

11:17 AM

I'm sitting on my bed right now. It's December first, and I'm gazing at the mostly empty page in blogger, wondering what to write.

This month was crazy. This month was stressful. This month was filled with words and excitement and confusion and doubts and happiness and fear and dread and hope all wound up in a ball that hurtled into my eye and began slamming against my nose repeatedly.

Yeah, that's how my month went :P 

For those of you who don't know, I went into this year's nano without a plotline. Now, some of you pantsers might look at me like, "So?" And any plotters out there are probably gasping in horror and praying that whatever possessed me to do such a thing will leave at once. 

I tried to plot this book for two years, and it didn't work. So I decided to finally just write it, and let the story tell itself. 

It ... kind of worked? But mostly, it didn't. XP I made a lot of breakthroughs, but not as many as I'd hoped. I think the answer to book two is in book one, but I only know that the key to the answer is there. I don't know the answer.

If that makes ... any sense? 

#whennanostealsyourwords

ANYWAY. Point is, this novel is kind of a mess. It's also unfinished. 

I hit the 50k, but that was it. And right now, I'm not sure I'm going to finish it. The Dream Walkers is calling my name, and I want to have it ready for betas sometime January-Februaryish. So the characters of The Thief's Conspiracy are going on hold once more. 

I look back at this month, and I see all the stress. I see the sore motivation that brought me to my laptop every day that I was able to write, and I see the painstaking taps on my keyboards. One after the other after the other.


Was it enough? 

I don't really know. I feel like I should have done more. Should have figured out the plot of this book that's been driving me crazy for two years. I feel like I could have gotten all the answers, if I'd just been smart or clever enough to catch them as they breezed by. 

But I didn't.

Was it enough?

I made some breakthroughs. But there's still so much work to be done. And, I'll admit it: I'm exhausted. I just want to read right now. I want to read words by other people. I want to venture into their worlds, listen to their characters and see their stories. 

I'm done with mine for a while. 

If you don't feel like nano went that great for you, I encourage you to step back for a bit. Give yourself a few days to breathe and read and see the world around you (and maybe say hello to your family...maybe). 

Do all that, and remember: as long as you did and do your best, that's enough.

Sorry for missing last week's post! Nano swallowed me whole. And I had this all good to go last night but stupidly forgot to publish it? LOL. I was tired. Nano stole my words AND my brain, it seems. Sigh. Hopefully by next week I'll have myself together again. XP

Sorry if that was mildly rant-y. In my defense, it's late. XP How did November go for you guys, nano-ers and others? Do you feel like it was enough? Talk to me! I love you guys.  

<3

m o v e

6:00 AM



you may feel like you've been walking for ages
and the road, it doesn't end.
you may think you've accomplished nothing
and the list, it keeps going on.

your feet may have callouses
from the miles you've tread
and your bones may ache
from holding your weight for so long.
your eyes may be sore
your jaw may ache
and you may fear
it is all for nothing.

because when you look back
you recognize the terrain
and you might realize that
this whole time you've been walking
you haven't really gotten very far.
your steps have been too small
to cover much ground
and you've only made it
a couple of yards.

and when you see how much you've done
how little ground you've covered
you might throw up your hands in despair
because it wasn't worth it--those tiny steps
it wasn't worth it.

but wasn't it?

where would you be now
if you hadn't tried?
where would you be now
if you hadn't taken those little steps?
small, though they may be,
those steps are still steps
and steps carry you forward.
you cannot move
and stay where you are.

you may be slogging through mud
and your bones may scream
that's enough!
your eyes may protest,
it's not worth it!
and your lungs may heave,
give up!

but look at the ground you've covered.
it may not be much
but it's something.
and do you know where you'd be
if you hadn't moved?
you'd be right back where you started.


~~~

Hey guys! How are you all doing? This installment of Hannah's Nano-Poems is short once again. I'm behind on nano but I'm determined to catch up this weekend. And I now have significantly more of a plotline? About 1/2? Mayyyybe 2/3? Anywho, I've made some progress, which is nice. And, as stated above, every step counts, no matter how small.

How are you guys doing? Talk to me peeps! Are you behind? Hit the 50k? Do you have any other goals this month apart from the nano standard?

<3

Nano

b r e a t h e

6:00 AM



breathe.
in and out
closed lids
tongue between your teeth
fingers drifting on your keyboard

breathe.
the time is here now
you have no reason to be afraid

breathe.
i know you feel like
you won't make it
like these words you're crafting
can only take you so far
but you can make it.
i know you can.

breathe.
just a moment
a day
a month
but
you're here because you chose to be.

breathe.
nothing's keeping you
nothing's holding you down
you have wings of light and laughter to spread
and spread them if you must.

breathe.
you're not alone
you're okay
you're strong
and brave.

breathe.
you won't know if you can do this
until it's over
so instead of stopping,
quitting,
running

breathe.
and remember
it's okay.
the world stretches on
and it's so vast. 
it's waiting beyond your closed lids
ready for your eyes to feast.

breathe.
your heart is wide
and wider still it will beam.
it isn't over yet.



How are you all doing? Did you like this poem? If you did, let me know! I'm thinking of writing more during this month as mini motivators through the nano craze. 

<3

Will We Ever Measure Up?

6:00 AM

I remember when I was younger and I used to believe that the world was endless. It stretched on forever in every direction, and no matter where I went, I would be faced with billions of possibilities and even more wonders.

I'm older now and I know a little better. I know now that you have to do more than just step in a direction and hope for chances to come your way. You have to step up and stand firm. You have to charge full speed ahead and go at it with all you've got.

Because living isn't effortless anymore. It might have been easy as a child. There were no goals, no expectations. Life was all color by numbers and chapter books. Outside games and fights on the trampoline and trying to hold your breath the longest in the pool.

Now, living isn't always fun. It takes will and work. And there's this cloud of expectations looming overhead sprinkling the same thoughts on you again and again: "will I ever measure up?"

And when I look around at the people I pass every day I draw breath, I wonder, "who all is living? who all is trying? who all fears they'll never make it? who else thinks like me?"

I can't be alone in this. Can I?

So many eyes, watching. So many ears, listening. So many expectations. The pressure swells and burns, and sometimes ... it's too much.

But it doesn't have to be like that. 



Nano has the potential to be another one of those "to-do's". It's another accomplishment we have to check off our list, another thing we need to do. You have to write write write in order to be good enough, to fit in with the rest of us. And if you fall behind, well ... I guess you've lost. Unless you work work work yourself till drowning to catch back up to that standard you fell short of.

Writing is an art. There is no set standard for how to do any of it. There are no absolute rules, except maybe for grammar. There is a freedom that comes with writing. And with that freedom should come breath. 

Remember who you are. Remember what you write for. Remember who you write for. There's always another draft. You're just a few brainstorming sessions away from working out that plot hole.

I'm going into this nano with no plotline and the barest idea of an ending. But I'm doing it, and I'm alive. It's so easy to feel like a failure. There are so many things to mess up on, so many little things to get wrong. But I beg you, take a breath and look at what you're doing. Don't try to make anyone happy. Don't try to write a perfect draft. Editing exists for a reason.

Have fun this nano. Let go of any pressure to hit that word count or write that perfect line.

Breathe. You are enough.

Sorry about my disappearance last week :P I had the ACT and then Trunk or Treat and work the night before and the post just didn't happen.


How are you doing on nano? If you're not doing nano, how are you doing with your WIP?

<3

A World that Breathes

6:00 AM

I've been planning this post for several months because I love any excuse to talk about world building. BUT. I'm an editor for the Project Canvas blog (which you should totally follow, like, thirty minutes ago), and there's a post already up on the blog, and a post that I recently edited, and they're both about world building. *sheepish grin* 

SO. I was racking my brain trying to think of a new spin I could take on the very broad topic of world building. 

So here's a question for you.

What does world building look like when it's done right? 

I don't know if you've ever read any of Shannon Hale's books, but I would recommend reading Book of a Thousand Days RIGHT NOW so that we can flail together because #GENIUS

I'm also super pumped because I'm getting to visit the world of my old WIP since I'm writing the sequel and THEY GET TO TRAVEL and I am so so pumped for this. 

Anyway. What are some good factors that make a setting truly come to life? What makes a world breathe?




#1: It's detailed.

You know all those world building posts that talk about how you need to do a bunch of brainstorming and get down all the little, seemingly insignificant details so that your world comes to life?

They're right.

Don't be afraid to ask lots of questions. Read posts full of them. Jill Williamson's book, Storyworld First, is AMAZING to get your brain gears turning. 

Do the work. You'll definitely be able to tell because it will bleed into your entire story.

One thing about Shannon's story that I liked is how not only was everything very detailed, but there were "little things" that made the world come to life. One of those was the different idioms characters had, carried over from their homelands. That was really cool to look at. 


#2: It's real. 

It's easy to go a little crazy with world building. Sometimes a little too crazy. And while creativity is great, you have to make sure you're still making a world that people could live in. A world that you could climb into a walk around in. 

In order to make a real world, however, you need to look around you. Study other countries and cultures. See how they tick, what makes them work. What kind of government they have, what kind of arts and recreational activities. Study what kind of people live there as a result, and think about how the world they live in might have influenced who they are, how they act, how they dress, speak, think, etc. 

Book of a Thousand Days was really good about painting the picture. You could see how the main character was so largely effected by her culture. Her people really influenced who she was and how she thought about herself, and it was stunning to see what power a setting has over everything.


#3: It's immersive. 

This is the overall top point of this post. Your story world needs to have a lot of aspects, but overall, your reader needs to be immersed. Your characters need to be immersed. It needs to be a world that you could go visit.

Your entire story is effected by story world. What your characters do, what they say, how they dress, what they think. Their internal struggles are effected by the culture of the world and the lies they have, their goals are effected by what society has to offer. 

Your story world is where your characters live. So it only makes sense it's what shapes them, and it's what directs their lives. 

It's what they have to work with, after all.

I hope you enjoyed today's post! I wish I could have made it a bit longer, but I just got back from a Thursday/Friday trip and I am, quite frankly, exhausted. If you have any thoughts or questions about stuff I didn't address, I'd love to chat in the comments with you! 

I love world building so much, and I really encourage you to go researching for some good world building posts. There are so many out there! (especially on the GTW blog)

Is your nano project/WIP in another world? What's your favorite feature of your story world, and how did you come up with it?

<3

Finding The Story Your Idea Deserves

6:00 AM

You know when you get an Idea?

And it's so cool. And you're super excited and you start getting all these amazing components to go along with it and it's going so well and your creativity is just seeping into the grains and going absolutely wild and THERE ARE SO MANY IDEAS and you are crazy pumped about the story?

But then you realize ... you have a bunch of super cool concepts, but you don't have a plot.

And then, not only do you realize you don't have a plot, but you realize ... you're kind of afraid to find one. And, instead of realizing this and going, "Pshhhh that's stupid" and shrugging it off and creating that epic story idea, you end up getting really stumped. And you want to hide from your story.

But you love the idea! But ... you also can't think of any more ideas to go with it. And you still don't have a plot. And you really want to write it--maybe even for nano--but you can't because you don't know what you're writing about.

Do you get what I'm saying?

I've had this happen to me before. This actually happened to me with my WIP, The Dream Walkers. Like, DREAMS?? DREAM WORLD?? DREAM GIVERS AND MARSHMALLOW CLOUDS AND OCEANS AND CLOUDS AND FLYING CHILDREN AND SUPER AESTHETIC SETTING AND JUST GENERAL AWESOMENESS??? How can I create a plot that matches the awesomeness of the setting?

I was afraid. I was afraid I would "waste" this idea that I KNEW was brilliant.

I was afraid I wouldn't give this idea the story it deserved.


Generally speaking, you begin a story because you're excited about the idea. If you're doing nano, it's probably a big deal the story you picked to work on next month. You've probably been brainstorming characters and creating a setting and pondering theme and searching for plot, if not for several months before now, at least some this month.

If I had to guess, I'd say you're pumped for it. And who wouldn't be? New story! New idea! Or idea-you've-had-for-ages-and-are-finally-getting-to-write idea! Excitement! Fun! YAY!

But eventually, you have to move past that state of ecstasy and infatuation. You have to face this unpleasant thing called reality. And the reality is that finding a spectacular plot for your concept is not easy. It's tough. 

Finding the right story idea can often feel like searching for water in a desert. You're slugging through the endless waves of sand, your entire body is sweating and you're gross and sticky and hot. You feel a rush of excitement as you see something sparkle in the distance, but as you run towards it, it stays just out of reach. And you realize it was just an illusion the whole time. A mirage.

And that's a risk we run in every story. Following the mirage first, before finding the real oasis.

What do we do then?

We edit. That's what editing is for.

But for now, let's look at some ways to find that plot in the first place.

Tip #1: Let your characters lead.

There's a reason I kicked off this mini series with a post on characters. They're really important because, when created and fully developed, they will drive your story. You'll be sitting there, agonizing over your plot when suddenly BANG. Your characters break down the door and charge, carrying your story with it. You snatch up your notebook and race after them, yelling after to hold on! wait! come back! you weren't done with that idea yet!


Tip #2: Be creative.

This seems like an obvious one (and it kind of is) but I'm serious. Think outside the box. Think about other books in your genre or books with similar components to yours, and try to create a plot that's polar opposite to them, or has hints of them to spice it up, or just to avoid their influence all together.

Sometimes, not going with your first idea is a good idea. I heard a piece of advice once that went something like, "Discard the first idea you get. And the second. And the third. Then, only when you surprise yourself, you can write that."

And that's a good thing to think about, especially if you're crafting plot twists.


Tip #3: Just do it.

To condense the long list of advice I have for you on this topic into three tips is quite a feat. But I think this encompasses everything.

You're not going to feel perfectly and fully confident in every scene you put into your story. You're going to have a little doubt, a little insecurity, a little unease.

That's normal.

And you've got to push through it. Just do it. Write the book. Pick and plot thread and write it if one won't come to you. Grab it with both hands and wrap a leash around it and make it work for you. Often, that's what it takes to get our stories up and running.

You've got to be a little bold. And it's scary and uncertain, but I know you can do it. <3

Do you struggle with creating a plot? What tips do you have for finding a great story for your idea?

<3

A Character to Root For

6:00 AM

So for October, we're all (well most of us) getting ready to write new books in preparation for the ever famous NaNoWriMo. If you're unfamiliar with this, YOU MUST ACQUAINT YOURSELF. Nano isn't for everyone, but it's super fun and usually very productive.

So I like to do a little sort-of-not-really-series on the basic foundations of writing.

Post one, hence the title, will be on characters.



I could do an 8 week, daily posting series on characters. I could do an 8 month post series on characters. In fact, I could probably go and create and entire blog dedicated solely to creating and developing real characters that people will love and cherish.

But today I'm going to touch on just a few aspects of characters that make them ones we want to stay with. Character we root for. How we create characters, how we help them become their own person, and what we do with them once they've formed.



I want to make a quick note. I am going to highlight three aspects of character that I find make me root for them. When I posted about making your scene emotionally gripping, having a character to root for was one of the key aspects of that.

But how do you do that? How do you craft a character that people will want to read about?


#1: Make them interesting.

No one wants to read about the next door neighbor taking care of their cat for 8 weeks. That's not unique, and as a result, really not captivating.

I just read the first book of The Reckoners trilogy by Brandon Sanderson. I loved it so much, and one of my favorite aspects of the books was David, the main character. I didn't really connect to him on an emotional level, but man was that guy fun to read about! He has so many quirks that make me just want to grab him and hug him, or better yet--sit and watch his movie for a while.


#2: Make them sympathetic. 

Even if they seem a little dull, if your character makes people cry or threatens to wrench their hearts right out of their chests, they're likely to keep reading anyway. When you  have a character that you really feel bad for, a character who has captured your heart, you're not going to put the book down anytime soon. You have to see how they survive!


#3: Make them relatable. 

If all else fails, do your best to make them relatable. Most characters should be relatable on some level, but if you character is kind of dull and completely unsympathetic, a relatable character can often make the difference between someone picking up a book and leaving it on the shelf.

They don't have to be relatable in a huge way. It could be a common quirk they have, or a certain phrase they use. More often though, you'll fin the most power in lies they believe, and other struggles they are battling. I actually bought a book one time because from what I read of the blurb, I knew I would benefit from the main character's story.



Even if you already have a pretty good idea of who your character is, I would reccommend checking over these three aspects. A character readers will root for is so important. It can make the difference between reading the story, and not reading.

I'll share a piece of why I think the MC of my nano novel is relatable! I'm going to be writing the second book to my YA Fantasy series, and my MC (Rissa) is sympathetic. In book one, she lived in a really tough situation. She was hopefully fairly interesting and relatable, but her situation making her sympathetic was what I really think will make readers want to finish her story. They want to see her rise above the challenges she faces and conquer.


What about you? Are you doing nano this November? If you are (or if you're not!), what trait does your character have to make them a character to root for?

<3

Third Quarter of 2017 /// Wrap-Up

6:00 AM

Wow. To think the next time I'll be doing this, it'll be the end of the year?

Guys, 2017 has flown by. 2018 will be here before we can blink.



I'm going to do this a liiiittle differently. I was inspired by Katie to share some of my own goals for the end of the year. So as I'm giving updates of things that have already taken place, I'll share some goals and hopes for the remainder of the year.

OH HEY! That'll be my "thing" for this quarter wrap-up! I'll give goals for each topic in place of poems for first quarter and mottos for second.  :D

and so hannah still somehow manages to remain original


L I F E

There are so many new things that have been happening. The most exciting of which being ...

*I GOT MY FIRST JOB!

I've been wanting to mention it on here, but I haven't really? So yeah. I GOT A JOB. And it's super cool and wonderful so far. I'm really enjoying it. It's at my local coffee shop/cafe and it's super cute and hipster and has been one of my favorite place in my hometown forEVER so getting to work there is just awesome. I'm learning a lot about EVERYTHING. And the change of pace is really helping with life in general. It's good prep for graduating next year.

But I will say my writing has suffered. I'll talk more about that in the writing section though.

* I am taking my first college class (Pre-Calc) which is suuuuper fun. Eheh. Ehem. Yeah no, it's HORRIBLE. And I did really badly on my first test (thankfully not fail-badly, but still NOT GOOD.) I'm a writer, and I indignantly protest to myself that math is not my thing. So that's how I've been consoling my horrible groove which is totally not a groove.

* I participated in my final year of Bible Bowl and it went well and was just a lovely way to end something that's been a part of my life for 12 years (Bible Bowl is a country-wide event where churches gather together to answer questions over the chosen book/s--this year being Mark, Philippians, and Colossians)

* We went on vacation to Florida which was SO MUCH FUN. I got to spend a whole week at the beach with my family and my cousin, which means ALL THE BRAINSTORMING. I played a lot with one of my ideas and got some major break throughs. I still have no idea when I'm going to write it, but I am hoping soon ...



* I'm finally starting a study of The Armor of God with my mom, which was awesome (we were unable to start it sooner because of Bible Bowl, but now we're a week into it and it's so amazing!)

* I GOT A CAT. Well, technically we found her, but STILL. Our theory is that someone dumped a litter of kittens on our street, and she wondered up to our house and fell off the side wall into a bin. My 5 year old brother found her there, and we took her under our wing. My mom doesn't like cats and we never end up keeping them, but this cat is DIFFERENT. She's gentle and sweet and snuggly and just SO ADORABLE AND SHE SLEEPS WITH HER TONGUE STICKING OUT LOOK.

she sleeps rock hard and IS ACTUALLY MY SPIRIT ANIMAL


Some goals: Life wise, I'd really like to not fail my college class and I'd like to take one more big trip which I am crossing my fingers for. :) 


W R I T I N G

Like I mentioned above, my writing time has taken a beating. With a sledge hammer, fashioned in the Flames of Life, formed from the iron of school and the force of work.

AKA: I'm not eleven years old anymore.

August was pretty rough writing-wise, but I've finally found a sort of rhythm. I still have days where I don't get to write (a lot of days, sadly) but I am writing. And that's the important thing. I'm really plowing ahead with The Dream Walkers and I ONLY HAVE 30K LEFT OF THE BOOK?? Ashdfkasdhsdjfhlasdkjfh *flails wildly* Which meeeeannnnns *whispers* beta readers are in the near future, hopefully. I'M SO PUMPED AH. This might actually be happening 2018. I CAN'T BELIEVE IT. actually I can because I've been working my fingers off

Some goals: So Nano is a Thing. I want to write the sequel to my 2015 nano book AT LONG LAST. I meant to write it last year, but I wasn't ready. But now ... 

I also want to finish draft 2 of The Dream Walkers. (duh) 


R E A D I N G

Reading has actually been okay-ish this month. Taking the whole quarter into account, however, I've been quite the slacker. But since getting my job I have been able to get several books that I'VE BEEN WAITING FOREVER FOR but have been too broke to purchase :P

The top read of the quarter was, hands down ...


ISN'T IT BEAUTIFUL??? *flails endlessly* You've no doubt heard of this beautiful debut novel by Sierra Abrams. She's a total boss, and God has really spoken to me through Bee and this whole story. It's given me some heart change and revealed things to me that I had been previously unaware of. It brought several important things to light, and I am endlessly thankful for that.

One of the other top reads would be The Creeping Shadow by Jonathan Stroud, which was the fourth book in the Lockwood and Co. series. I own the paperback copies so I HAD TO WAIT THE YEAR to get mine and the last book came out a few days ago and IT WAS HARD ENOUGH TO WAIT FOR THE PAPER BACK OF THIS ONE and I really don't know if my willpower will hold out to keep me from buying the hard copy. (though that really would mess with my brain. Like, I just can't have all paperback copies until the last book. It would be ATROCITY.)


Some goals: I want to read Macbeth and Hamlet with my younger brother before we go and see the plays together (I AM SO EXCITED), and I want to finish my Goodreads goal ... which means I need to read 24 more books. UGH. (Not UGH because I love to read ALL THE BOOKS but UGH because finding time to do that is so difficult. Maybe I'll write a blog post about it to inspire myself and hopefully you guys.) :P 


M U S I C

So I actually have an odd thing to put in this section.

Last week, I took a music fast.

It was kind of a spontaneous decision, but one I felt very compelled and led to do. Music means a lot to me, and I listen mostly to Christian music that helps deepen my faith and reveal things to me and get me thinking and praying. But my spirit had grown tired, I guess? Because I was no longer really hearing the music, and it wasn't just not affecting me, but it was also showing in other areas of my life. And that needed to change.

It was really hard giving up music for a whole week. Some of you are probably gaping at me in horror and gasping. A lot of you probably have ear buds in right now, come to think of it.

But sometimes, we can have too much of a good thing. And, as a result, that good thing starts to mean less than it should.

I'm going to try to do a post on this soon, because it was a really neat experience!

Some goals: I want to find a new artist/album that I can listen to lots during nano! I've been trying to find some new music, so if you have any suggestions drop them below, please! <3


O N  S T A N

Let's see. My most popular posts this quarter have been ...

My second quarter wrap-up was actually number one? But who wants to read that? :P





*looks up* Yeah, I like this round-up! I'm pretty happy with how blogging has gone this quarter. I've enjoyed all the posts I've written, and have put in more of an effort to plan what I will be talking about so that I don't stay up till 3 AM Friday night, scrambling to find a topic to work with and make it coherent.

Some goals: I want to plan the rest of this years' blog posts! I've already got through November, so that just leaves the beautiful month of December :) (Also my birthday month ... where I'll be turning 18? O.o WAHT. I'm old WOW.) 


F U N   F A C T

So my wifi has been super mean to my family lately, which means lots of random google searches to "test" if the wifi is working again (cause just refreshing the current page is boring). My default googling test word is "poodles" (don't ask why--I haven't the faintest) and one of the times I was googling this fascinating subject, I noticed that poodles are hypoallergenic. Like, what?? And apparently that's a thing? I was led to a whole list of hypoallergenic dog types. The Maltese, Standard Schnauzer, and the Giant Schnauzer make the list, as well as the fascinating Portuguese Water Dog, Bedlington Terrier (which actually looks like a sheared lamb), and the Xoloitzcuintli (who just sits down and looks at a dog and says, Hmmm. You, dog, look like a Xoloitzcuintli to me. That shall be the name of you and your brethren. Like ...?????)

Anyway life will never be the same.

Some goals: I WANT TO FIND MORE RANDOM FACTS. They make my soul happy but I don't find them nearly enough?? And I want to be loaded with them so when there's an awakward silence I can give a charming smile and say, "Did you know that the Kumquat is a small orange fruit that grows on an 8-15 ft tall tree and is native to south Asia and the Asia-Pacific region, also cultivated in India, Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines, and southeast Asia?"

Spouting stuff like that is how you make friends, right??

Anywho. I've resigned myself to the fact that QUARTER WRAP-UPS TAKE AGES TO COMPLETE. I'm pretty sure I've been rambling quite a lot by now? But OH WELL. YOU TAKE WHAT YOU GET, STALKERS. Just kidding come back I love all of you.

These past months have flown by, and I'm sure the next three will too. It just reminds me of a phrase that has been on my heart lately. Carpe Diem. Latin for Seize the day. And my, is that some wisdom. We only have so much time here. Let's make it count.

How have the last three months been for you guys? CAN YOU BELIEVE WE ONLY HAVE THREE MONTHS LEFT OF 2017?? LIKE ???? What are your goals for the end of the year?

<3

4 Things I've Learned from Barry Allen

6:00 AM

Confession time: I love The Flash.

I'm not usually such a big fan of DC related stuff, but when I started watching it (not really sure why, I just wanted to find a new show cause I hadn't watched one in ages) I could not stop. It's so good. I'm almost done with season two right now. In my eyes, the plot has stayed spectacular. Season one was absolutely brilliant, and season two was right on its heels.

But what makes this show so special? I was pondering that as I watched late into the night. Good books keep me up till crazy hours. TV shows rarely do. So what was it about this one?

What is it about The Flash?

At some point in season two, it finally hit me.

I couldn't stop watching the show because I related so much to the main character.

Now, I knew this all along. But something happened in season two (I won't say because #spoilers) that made me realize, I didn't just like Barry. I connected with him. Deeply.

And that's what made all the difference. Liking a character is really good, but when you connect with a character, there's a new level of "hook". You need to keep watching or reading. You need to stay with this story, because this character holds answers for you.

I've learned a lot from the character Barry Allen, but here are four things I'd like to share with you today. 



1. People can be angry and still love you.

One thing about this show is that it models a lot of healthy relationships. None of them are perfect, of course, but Barry has a lot of people he can go to. He has a lot of people that care about him, and they care about him enough to call him out when he's made a mistake.

At the beginning of season two, Barry tries to isolate himself because he feels responsible for some severe things from season one. And his friends honor his wishes and keep away ... for a while. But they soon realize he's not going to forgive himself, so they need to be there for him. Even if it means doing what he doesn't necessarily want.


2. The weight of the world doesn't belong on your shoulders. 

That's another big one. Barry takes the full responsibility of everything that happens that's connected to him. People die? It's his fault. A building is destroyed? All his doing. And he's constantly beating himself up about if only I was better and if only I was faster then, of course, none of this would have happened.


3. Your loved ones are there and you need to talk to them.

Barry is really good about sharing stuff with those who he loves and those who love him. When he gets down or feels ultra responsible, he tries to shoulder it all on himself. But that never lasts very long before he's going to Joe or Iris or Wells, asking for advice.

One of the devil's favorite tactics is to isolate you. He wants to make you feel alone and vulnerable. And if you don't hold onto your friends, if you don't reach out and open yourself up to them, his attack will succeed.

Don't let that be the case.


4. Even though you've messed up, you don't have to despair.

Barry is far from perfect. He makes a lot of mistakes, some of which result in very serious consequences. But there's a turning point in the series when he finally realizes, yes, I messed up. Yes, this was my fault. Yes, I could have done better. But I didn't. I messed things up this time, and there's nothing I can do about it. But I can change the future. I can put all my energy from being upset about this to making an effort towards that never happening again. Then I'll actually make a difference.

I don't know about you guys, but that really hit home with me. Watching him let go of the guilt ... he wasn't blameless, but he was able to let the guilt go. He was able to free himself from that heavy burden, with the help of his friends.

We mess up. We make mistakes. But Jesus has given us the chance to let go of all of that. We can move on. We can move forward.

We just have to let go.


I know this isn't really writing related, but I hope you enjoyed this post all the same! If you want something that is writing related and written by yours truly, go check out my guest post on the lovely Savannah's blog! You should totally check out all she's got going on over there. It's awesome!

Have you ever watched The Flash? What do you think of Barry Allen, and what have you learned from him? Are there any other characters in fiction that you've deeply connected with?

<3

What Do You Do With All Those Ideas?

6:00 AM

Ideas are everywhere.

They permeate the air. They flit about minds, from words people say that kick start something, from slogans or phrases, from pictures or pieces of art. They can come from a funny story someone tells, from a mistake someone makes when trying to say something but hey what if there actually was a school with only two people enrolled? 


Ideas are everywhere. But, sooner or later, the time will come to reach out and take hold of one of those ideas--one very special idea--and sit down with it. It'll take you months, years, to finish up that idea. And it's impossible to live those months and years without getting any new ideas.


Those story ideas ... we need them. They're the future of our works. If I didn't keep the ideas I get, my two WIPs wouldn't exist.

Story ideas can be quite a nuisance, however. Especially if you've been dutifully working on a project for a year or so, and even more so if you're getting tired of it. That shiny new idea that comes along can hardly be resisted.

So what do we do? we can't just shove them away completely. We want to make friends with our ideas so they'll like us when it comes their turn to be written. But we can't neglect our WIP...

We need to find a balance.


I don't know about you, but I used to feel a little guilty when I got a new idea. Especially if it was a super good one.

I guess I felt like I was "cheating" on my WIP? I don't really know. But I didn't want to give it too much love and attention because can't stop working on the WIP! 

But is that really the best approach?

If you've got this new idea, and you're getting tons of the pieces to the story ... if you just shove it all away so you don't forsake your WIP, what happens later? What happens when that WIP is done, and it's time to move on to a new story?

I've opened documents in my idea folder many times and found just one sentence. It seemed brilliant at the time, but since I only took the time to write down one sentence, I often completely forget where I was going with the idea.

So it's useless to me.

I've settled into a groove of things now, and it works fairly well for me. So allow me to share my method (which I've referred to several times) with you all.

I have a file on my computer. It's called, "She's an Author". There are currently 51 files labeled "Idea" in it. I like to number my ideas so I can look back later and see which ones I got first. (That's how I know I got the idea for my current WIP before my last WIP.)

I started doing something recently, too. I have "Character" files. If I get an idea for a really cool charrie but they have no story (that doesn't happen for me very often, but it does sometimes) I'll just give them their own file. (I only have 12 of those types of files right now)

Now, most of those 51 ideas are just a couple sentences long. I thought they were cool in the moment, and so I ran to my computer to write them down.

But there are few, 5-6ish, that tug at me often. Idea 5, 21, and 35 are my top three ideas. These are files that I open maybe once or twice a month to make notes in. These are ideas I think about.

These are ideas that are dangerous.

They tempt me to flutter away from my WIP. They're so cool and fun and new and exciting.

But you know what? Allowing myself to visit those idea folders, to make a map of the world and to write a character's backstory and to write down the vague plotline ... that keeps me going. It helps me write my current WIP when I don't feel like writing because I have more stories to tell. And that's exciting. I want to move on. (I reallyreallyreally want to write idea 35. It's this giant fairytale/epic poem mashup and it's a chaotic mess but IT'S A BEAUTIFUL CHAOTIC MESS AND I WANT TO WRITE IT NOW.)

It's tempting to shove that away, because UGH I JUST WANT TO WRITE IT. But if I shoved away all the ideas, I wouldn't have anything to look forward to.

So the conclusion? You don't have to organize ideas like I do. (I also keep a journal for various story ideas, since I like to handwrite stuff.) But I do encourage that you document your ideas somewhere, and you let yourself visit them every now and then. That will keep you excited for them, and keep you motivated to edit that WIP so you can move on to something new.

How do you organize your ideas? Do you have any stories you're dying to write?

<3

A Different Kind of Beautiful

6:00 AM

So most of you probably know the wonderful Aimee human. She is brilliant and started a new blog HERE. Which you should totally go follow right now.

I was reading through her posts (because my laptop wouldn't let me view her site when she first put it up? Natasha, why) and I found this one. Your first assignment is to go read it, because it is AMAZING. It also inspired a sequel to one of my most popular posts on this blog: a post about the monstrous beast of comparison.




I've never really been the best at confidence. But there are so many lovely bloggers out there that have been sharing confidence-y thoughts lately, and it's been like a blow to the noggin. I'm finally really getting a grasp as to what true confidence is. And some people have different definitions than I might, but here's the Hannah's definition because this is my corner where you will get All My Opinions.


Confidence is when you can walk into a room and not feel better than everyone, but feel happy in yourself knowing that you don't have to be better than anyone. 

This is a quote based on what my youth minister told us when giving a lesson full of quotes. I don't know who said it, but it's so true. If you stop and think about it, what causes us to be insecure in the first place?

Comparison. Looking at other people and realizing that we're not like them in certain ways. And being angry or upset that we're not like them.

We look. And we compare. And then we feel bad about ourselves.

But what if we didn't do that?

What if when we looked at others, we could see them as they are? What if when we looked at others, we were able to see them as God does, see the talents God gave them and admire how amazing they are?

What if we looked at others and appreciated them and their abilities and talents and didn't let it hit us in the gut?

If we can just take a step back from ourselves and stop comparing everything to us, life would be so much more beautiful.

We'd see that we don't have to be like everyone. We don't have to be uber skilled with youtube videos or singing or photography. We have strengths in other areas. It doesn't make that person any less amazing. It just means you're both amazing in your own unique ways.

And I know that sounds a little cliche. You've heard it before. "Everyone's amazing in their own ways." Yeah, yeah.

But guys. It's true. It's so, so true I just wanna SHOVE THE TRUTH IN YOUR FACES. Comparison is the bane of confidence. It's the bane of what God wants us to see ourselves as. And we need to stop doing it. 

"But how do I do that, Hannah? How do I just decide not to compare myself to other people anymore? How do I just look at myself and appreciate myself?"

First off, stop looking at other people for a bit. If you're not in a place where you can handle appreciating others achievements, then don't look at them. Just spend some time reflecting on your heart and mind. Maybe write down some things about yourself that you like and love. Some things you are proud of.

And then I want you to write down some things you don't like. Some things you're not proud of.

Look at those things and ask yourself--why aren't you proud of them? Are they bad? If they are bad (like a sin you struggle with, or a flaw you're trying to grapple) is there a way you can fix it? A way you can mend it or fight it? Examine some of those sneaky things that seem bad. Are they really? The way you laugh too loud--is that really a bad thing you should be embarrassed by? Are you embarrassed when someone else laughs too loud? The way your hair won't be curly or straight and is just a floppy mess--is that really such a bad thing? Is it really such a "mess"?

Often the reason we feel bad about certain aspects of ourselves roots back to comparison. We might not like our moody hair because that girl has perfect spiral curls, or, that girl's hair is so smooth and straight IT'S LIKE WATER AND SO BEAUTIFUL. 

But just because straight hair and curly hair are pretty doesn't mean anything else is ugly. It doesn't mean that those are The Two Types of Pretty Hair and nothing else at all is even close to pretty. And you have to have one or the other or else YOUR HAIR IS UGLY. Nope. Nope, nope, nope. JUST PLEASE. NO. CAN I SAY NO ENOUGH?

I guess that's the overall point I'm trying to make here.

Look at those things you thought were flaws, and then look again. Are they really flaws? Or have you just been conditioned to think they are because there's another way that it could be that would qualify as "pretty"?

I beg you, plead with you, to remember this: just because something else is good, doesn't mean something different can't be good too.

That amazing book you read yesterday? That doesn't make the amazing book so-and-so read horrible, even though they're different books. They are both amazing books.

That poem so-and-so wrote? Beautiful. Just like the poem her friend wrote. They are both beautiful works.

Need I press on? Need I say more?

Step back and look again.

There are more than one types of beautiful.

Do you struggle with comparison? What are some methods you've found to battle it? 

<3

Why Planning Can Sometimes Be a Good Thing

6:00 AM

Let's face it: sometimes, we just don't want to do anything.

We all have a list of responsibilities. Things we must do, whether we like it or not. Get up, work, school. We have all these things that we do, even though we might not feel like it sometimes. But they're our responsibilities. 

What about the rest of it? 


What about the stuff we want to do, but just don't seem to get time for? What about the stuff that we kind of want to do maybe someday, but never actually plan on following through? What about that stuff?


There's a reason people have day planners. There's so much to do and see. We don't want to miss out! We've got to keep track of all these things going on, and still manage to make time for the things we love. Like reading and writing. 

Which leads me to my point. If you don't start writing stuff down, making note of the things you want to accomplish, be it critiquing someones work, reading that book that's been on your TBR for two years, or reaching chapter 20 in your WIP ... all those things will begin to swirl and swarm in the vast expanses of your brain, and soon they'll flutter far out of reach in the bounless folds of your cerebrum.

AKA. WE HAVE NOTEBOOKS FOR A REASON.



Now don't get me wrong. I'm an ENFP. Emphasis on the P. If you don't understand Myers Briggs, let's just say that letter "P" means I am not fond of making detailed plans and schedules. I feel more confined by them than helped.

But lately, with so much to do, I've needed a list. I've needed a blow by blow of all the things I need to get done, becuase if I don't make that blow by blow, if I don't make a list of at least one thing to do on a given day, I won't do anything at all.

And then boom. A day wasted.

Planning out a day, or a week, or a month, is so benficial because it helps you remember what all you need to do.

But it also has other perks. Take blogging for example. Blogging is something I didn't use to plan. I used to just whip out a post every Thursday/Friday night and put it up. I'd ponder it at the beginning of the week, but that was just it. Pondering. I'd toy with it.

Lately, though, I've been a bit more behind. I don't usually write posts until Midnight the night before. Which is totally not what I'm doing right now why would you ask that.

Becuase, like I talked about last week, sometimes inspiration doesn't strike. Sometimes I don't get a post idea during the week, and I'm left with zilp. I have nothing to post about, and I'm left spewing incoherent brain thoughts that I've likely already said in one form or another.

But when you plan, when you think things through, you don't have that problem. Instead, you can just look at a list of post titles and say, "Today I am blogging about this." And then that's that. You write the post for the topic you have. You're not left, helpless and clueless. You have a game plan.

Some might say that squashes all the fun. But here's my little secret.

A plan is not something you have to follow. It's just a fallback for when you don't have any other ideas.

This applies both to planning things like blog posts and book chapters, and it applies to making lists of those little things. If you end up getting time on a given day and you don't know what you're supposed to do, that list can serve as a fallback. You can find something there.


So there you have it. The spontaneous ENFP's method of planning for efficiency. I hope you enjoyed this and got some ideas from it!

I want to point you all in the direction of Scattered Scribbings because Savannah is hosting a giveaway AND  a writing contest in a month long celebration of her blogoversary which is just SO EPIC. Go join the fun!

Now tell me: are you a planner? What's your Myers Briggs type?

<3

Strike Inspiration

6:00 AM

You know that moment when you're sitting there, minding your own business, and suddenly ... WHAM! 

Inspiration strikes!

You stand there, mouth opening and closing like a goldfish pulled from the water. Then you suck in a breath, sputter, blink, and bolt for the nearest writing utensil and paper, to the bewilderment of your family and friends. 

We all have experienced this at some point in our lives. It kind of comes with being a writer. We have wild imaginations that are constantly at work, even if it's in our subconscious. And those gears produce ideas, and those ideas feed into our lives and make themselves known.

We've all experienced this, yes. But what about The Blank Page? You finally get time to sit down and write, and you pull up your document and ... nothing. You sit there and stare, and you have ... nothing. All you can think about is what will happen on the next episode of The Flash and what time would be best to sneak up on your cat so you can wash him? (he smells like fish)

While it's great when inspiration strikes, it's horrible when it doesn't. When it refuses to show up.

Sometimes we mope. We claim we "don't want to write" so we don't. We slouch about and pout.

But is that any way to act?

Inspiration is not going to show up every day. And most of the time, you're going to have to go after inspiration with a hammer. 



Why let inspiration bully you any longer? Well, I've got news for you. Inspiration is over. And I don't know about you, but I'm done letting it bounce out of my reach. I'm done letting it be the boss of me.

It's time for us to be the ones to hit inspiration for a change. And that steel hammer looks like a good tool to start with.

Striking inspiration isn't fun. It's hard. It's like slugging through a river of cold butter. So in order to take a stand against this annoying inspiration beast, you're going to have to get over some things.

It won't be perfect.

The words you're grinding out are going to be ugly. They're going to sound like a toddler wrote them. The story you're crafting in this state is going to be riddled with plot holes.

In short, it's all going to stink. A lot.

But you've taken a step. You've gotten somewhere. You now have ground on which to stand. You have a starting point. And I can guarantee you that the next draft will be better than the last one.

In order to push through and hammer down inspiration, you have to remember ...

It won't be fun.

Writing without inspiration is unpleasant. You want to pull your hair out sometimes. You want to slam your head against the keyboard. You want to scream until your throat is hoarse. You'll be thinking, "What happened to the days of carefree, easy writing?"

Not only will it not be perfect or fun.

It won't be easy.

Someone (I'm not sure who originally said it) once said, "If writing was easy, everyone would do it." That's true about everything, isn't it? If painting was easy, we'd all be painters. If hockey was easy, we'd all be hokey players. Breathing is easy, and we all breathe, right?

But the easy things are the things people don't really look for. People don't seek out others who can breathe because everyone can do it.

When you don't have inspiration, you're going to sit at that keyboard and stare at that page and nothing. is. going. to. come. And it's going to be so frustrating. But take a deep breath and just start. Write about what your character had for breakfast. Write some of their thoughts. What's their best childhood memory? How many siblings did their best friend have? What's their biggest regret, and what in the story made them think of it and wish once again to change it?

Write garbage. Write trash. WRITE. And it'll flow eventually.

Sit down with your notebook and list all the plot holes. Don't wait for a realization to dawn about how to fix all the plot issues. Sit down and ask those questions, and think of logical answers. Create. Make the solutions come.

It won't be easy. It won't be fun. And it certainly won't be perfect. This attempt to strike inspiration will be grueling and miserable.

But it will be worth it.

It may not feel worth it in the moment. But if you wait for inspiration to write and build your story, you're not going to make much progress. You're going to fly to a gazillion different projects and not know what to work on because your mood changes too quickly. You're going to get nothing done, and you're likely not going to feel very good about it.

So stand up, writers! It's our turn to strike inspiration.


Do you tend to write only when you're inspired? What are some ways you overcome a lack of inspiration?

What Makes a Scene Emotionally Gripping?

6:00 AM

"Make your readers care."

Have you heard that before? I know I have, loads of times. And it's good advice. But ... how are you supposed to do that? How do you make readers care about your story?

Let's say you start a book. Right off the bat, it's intense. There's a fierce fight scene, blades are flying. It's great action, fantastic writing. But the two fighters are ... faceless. This is the beginning, so readers don't know who these characters are, they don't understand what's at stake, and they have no investment. They don't know who they should be rooting for, and what outcome they want to see.

You see the problem here?




The reason there's no emotional attachment is because we're not invested in the story yet. We don't know what we want, because we haven't been given any options.

So how do you change that?

There are three integral concepts that are key to emotionally gripping your readers in a scene. There are no doubt tons of others, but I'm going to cover these three today.


1. ESTABLISH YOUR CHARACTERS

Those faceless people don't mean anything to us. Aside from being a decent person, we have no incentive to want them to remain uninjured. I don't know what the fighters are fighting over. Did one fighter kill the other's friend? Or did one of them steal the other's inheritance? Or their dinner? Or Oreos? Or, heaven forbid, their coffee? I know I would grab the nearest knife and go at it if someone stole my coffee, but I could get over dinner and Oreos. 

Maybe they're both to blame. Maybe one called the other's face a chicken, and the other called the person's soul an acorn. They both show astounding immaturity in this case, and neither would get my vote to win the fight. 

But let's focus on that last stealing option there. Character 1 steals character 2's coffee. How will he live without coffee? We'll deal with this more in point two, but right now we want to focus on the character whose coffee was stolen. 

We know this person (let's make it a girl named Shirley) is a smart, protective bean who likes coffee. Yes, that gives her a bunch of brownie points. But what if she steals coffee from other people? What if she steals little preschoolers' Oreos? We don't want to cheer for a coffee robbing, Oreo snatching thief, do we? 

We need to know a bit about these fighters. We need to know who is in this scene. We need someone to root for. Otherwise, we have no emotional investment. And that is not good. That's why readers put books down. Because they don't care.

Let's say Shirley is a barista. Character 2, let's make it a guy named Phill, comes into Shirley's coffee shop and steals a whole bag of coffee beans and races out of the store, knocking over Old Aunt Suzie on his way out and scattering her seventeen grandchildren, who stumble out the door and into the street where cars and scooters are whizzing by.

That instantly makes us dislike Phil. And Shirley gets some brownie points when she abadons her post behind the counter to help Old Aunt Suzie and races after the thief. 

CONCLUSION: Make sure we know who our players are.


2. SET THE STAKES

We have very high stakes in this scene. I mean, come on! Someone stole coffee. This is a very serious matter. We all must hate Phil. Although, he does show a sense of priority. But STILL. Stealing is a no-no.

Ehem.

So what are the stakes here? Shirley runs after Phil. But what is she risking? What's at stake for her? We care about her now, but just because we care about Shirley doesn't necessarily mean we'll care about what she's doing. And one way we'll care about what she's doing is if we understand the stakes. I love my characters, but if my little Wolf goes to get some cereal, I'm not going to care much because there's no risk. I'm invested in him, but I have no reason to care about the cereal.

Let's say Shirley is not supposed to leave the store while working. But she does here. What's at risk? Her job. And we see how much Shirley loves coffee. We don't want her to get fired from the coffee shop. WHAT TRAVESTY. 

Let's add on. Shirley can get over losing her job. But what if she saw a gun in Phil's belt when he came and stole the coffee? Now we have two big stakes to consider. Shirley's job and her life. We can be pretty confident, especially since this is the beginning of the story, that her life will not be taken. But her job sure might.

I don't know about you, but I'd keep reading.

*SMALL NOTE: it's a good idea to make at least one of the stakes you set something you could very easily take away. Her job can very easily be taken away. We'd still have a story. In fact, we'd probably have a better story because #CONFLICT. But we don't want her to lose her job. We can be pretty confident she's not going to die (yet)


Now, you might think once you've established your characters and set your stakes, everything will be covered. The readers will care about what's happening because, well, THE CHARACTERS. And sometimes that might be true. But I know when I'm reading, if the scene doesn't really belong there, if it feels shoved in or forced, I don't really care. You might say there are stakes, but they don't feel real to me. You have to paint them in the story. You have to make it so that, if I am to continue reading this book, I have to accept the stakes you've raised.

But how do you do that? 


3. MAKE SURE THE SCENE BELONGS

This could also be called streamlining the plot. Kind of like the candle stick scenario. If you write a fight scene in a room and a character hits someone over the head with a candle stick, show us the candle stick the moment we enter the room. Then when we read the nice thunk the stick makes on said character's skull, we'll understand that it belongs there. 

You know how when you're reading a book and the middle gets all crazy? And there's a bunch of stuff going on and it's all mayhem and madness. And then you reach this point where you think, "Oh no, I'm so scared because the characters are obviously in danger of DEATH." Only you don't really feel that way. You're kind of tired of the same old stakes. 

So what is going to keep us reading? Say Shirley chases down Phil. Let's say he gets away, but before he does he warns her that he is developing an anti-coffee serum that will transform all the coffee in the world into jet fuel. DUH DUH DUHHHHH! Shirley doesn't lose her job, since Old Aunt Suzie raved about what a wonderful employee she was for chasing down Phil and helping her with the kids. So the manager can't fire her or else he'll look bad, but now he doesn't like her and things at work start to get difficult. And she can't be the good model employee he wants her to be either, because Phil is still out there with a plan to take out all the coffee in the world, starting with her beloved coffee shop.

Now let's say in the midst of all this, Shirley takes a trip to Kroger and buys cleaning wipes. Just like with Wolf's cereal, we don't really care about the wipes because they have nothing to do with the plot. If you have a bunch of action whirling in your story, make sure it belongs there. Don't put a fight scene in just for the sake of having a fight scene. Don't kill a character for the sake of making someone die and crushing your readers' souls.

Make sure these scenes belong there. They need to have a place in your story. They need to keep the plot driving forward, and to keep things moving, stakes rising, characters developing. That's what makes readers care. They want to see things happening. To see the things they truly care about change, for better or worse. 

That's one reason readers will keep reading, even if they don't like what's currently happening. They can be assured that things will change soon, and hopefully they'll like the change. And if they don't, they'll desperately keep reading until they find a change they do like. And then your readers are finally satisfied.

Establish your characters, set your stakes, and make sure it belongs. And, through all of these, keep your story moving and changing and developing. Your readers are rooting for change. Give it to them!


I am on vacation currently, so that's why things are a bit slow here. But I hope you enjoyed and learned something from this post!

Do you struggle with making readers care? What do you think makes a scene emotionally gripping? 


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