What I've Learned from Six Years of Writing

6:00 AM

Look at me. *spreads arms* I'm such a seasoned person now! I've been blogging for a year and writing novels for six! That must mean I know alllll the things!

*cricks chirp*


Unfortunately, that's not how it works. But you do learn a lot from six years of writing, and today I'm going to share six of them.

(I did this last year, with What I've Learned from Five Years of Writing and thought I'd keep up the tradition.)

*WARNING: you will get some sentimental photos in this post. Brace yourself XP

And this first point will go to the "unfortunately" in my "that's not how it works".

1. Growth is a beautiful thing.

Think about how boring it would be if when people started writing, they were all complete bosses at it.

Just think about it. It's one of those things that you kind of roll your eyes at and say, "I know, I know, it wouldn't be so great." But really think about it.

Everyone has to start somewhere. And when you start a brand new thing, it only makes sense to start at rock bottom. And then you work and grow into a beautiful seasoned writer.

And you keep working, and keep growing.

And I think that's one of the most beautiful parts of writing.

We've moved past binders, but here's a photo of my cousin and me when we were eleven, holding our books.

*happy sigh* we were so little.

2. It's okay if you don't write like a machine. 

Meaning, it's okay if you don't rip out 5k words every day and get your 90k word drafts finished in a month, and get that thing whipped into pristine shape in three months and off to beta readers right after, and have it all polished and ready for publication before the year is up.

That's ... unrealistic. Maybe not for some people *pokes those select few and checks pulses for proof of humanity* but for the general public, writing just doesn't happen that quickly. It takes time.

And that's okay.

Maybe someday when you're published and writing is how you make your living, you'll be able to write that fast. You'll be able to write and publish a book every year.

But you will be able to write that fast because it will be your job. You won't have school or other work. You will have loads more time to dedicate to writing.

But right now, if you're not writing for a living ... you've got either school or work. And that takes time. I've been writing for six years now, and I've written ... five complete first drafts. (one of them co-written)

And ... I haven't gotten any one of those into reading shape.

Which leads to number three.

3. Pinpoint the (sometimes) subconscious, unrealistic expectations you have for yourself, and your writing, and DESTROY THEM. 

It's unfair to try to make yourself accomplish as much as a published, writing-for-a-living author. Both to you, and to them. This is what they do for a living. Of course they're going to write more than you!

It took a lot of work and discipline in order for them to get where they are today. Why should you be an exception to that?

Sometimes we have these expectations lurking in the back of our minds. And it makes us insecure in our writing because we're "failing" in all these areas that we feel we should be excelling in. And if you feel bad/insecure about your writing, sit back and try to figure out why you feel that way. Are you wasting time you could be using writing by playing on your phone? Okay, maybe you could work on that one. Are you berating yourself for not having the book you started a year ago off to beta readers? Give yourself a break. Think about why you feel that way. If you're doing your best with the time you have, THAT IS ALL YOU CAN DO. Don't beat yourself up if you're not meeting expectations that you cannot reach.

Figure out what you can do with the time you have, and make the most of it. You'll have a lot more peace in your writing.

4. Themes are actually ... okay? 

You might be squinting right now thinking, "...yeah? Is this supposed to surprise me?"

I don't know how I got this mindset. Back in the early days, I guess I read too many blog posts warning authors not to "preach" when they try to get their theme across. And that just drummed into my mind, "DON'T THINK OF ANY THEMES. DON'T ADD THEM IN. YOU DON'T WANT TO SCARE ANYONE AWAY." And it bothered me for an embarrassingly long time.

But now that I've been reading blogs and craft books for a while, I realize that was a really silly mindset for me to have taken on. Themes are not a bad thing. They are what make your story special. They are what give your book true meaning.

They are what impact readers.

And yes, you don't want to preach. I still try to avoid putting names to my themes, but there are some that I'm aware of and look for ways to incorperate. Like loneliness and sibling-friendships and self worth.

Themes are beautiful. So embrace them, and don't be ashamed of them!

(sentimental photo of me flipping through my first book,
back in the old days)

5. You don't have to let everyone who asks read your work.


Okay, so when I was ... thirteen? I think I was thirteen ... Anyway, when I was thirteen, my mom asked me to read my book aloud during our read aloud time.

*cue gasps of horror*

I know, I know. Every writer's worst night mare, right? At least it was for me.

I freaked. out.

I printed out my prologue and first chapter and smoothed it out and took deep breaths, but when I sat in there to read, with everyone waiting and listening ...

I could not utter a single word.

I just burst into tears.

That created a looooot of problems for me in the future which I will not go into right now, but the point I want to make is it is okay to say no to people. Even people who are close to you. People whose opinions you value.

You know when your story is ready to be read. Don't push yourself past that. Just explain to the person in question that it's just a first draft and not ready to be read/going through lots of edits at the moment and you're not comfortable handing it out to anyone yet/etc. There will come a time to share, and you will have to grit your teeth and push yourself to hand those chapters over.

But let yourself have time to give something you're proud of. Something that you've worked hard on. In that way, if they're critiquing it, you'll get feedback you need, too. It won't be stuff you're already aware of but have yet to fix.

I might be smiling here, but should anyone
try to read my work I would shriek and hiss.

Which leads to point six.

6. You will have to share your writing eventually. 

This past year, when I won a contest and got to send the first three chapters of my manuscript to HarperCollins for a critique, I spent a whole month doing almost nothing but editing, desperately trying to whip my chapters into shape to meet that creeping deadline (there's a reason 'deadline' begins with 'dead'). And once I sent those chapters to the editor, my family attacked in full force.

"This means we get to read it now, right?"

"If you can send it to a professional editor up in New York, you can give it to us."

I pretty much had no choice but to hand it over. But at that point, it wasn't that hard to let it go. I had that whole month to mentally prepare myself (I figured my family would finally make me hand over my work) and I had worked really hard on editing these chapters.

In short, I had something I was proud of.

I'm not saying those chapters were perfect. And the feedback from the editor gave me a lot to think about, and a lot of stuff to work on.

But those chapters were some of the best writing of which I was capable at that time. If I look back at them now, I can probably make changes and make it better. But it's been several months. Of course I can make it better.

I've grown since then.

My advice would be to write something you can polish and be proud of. It'll be hard to let go of it, and scary. But it has to happen eventually.

Plus, your family will stop bugging you (save to ask for more).

I hope this post encouraged/enlightened you! I've learned loads more than this, of course, but that's what Stan is for, is it not?

What have you learned from writing? 



Every Step

6:00 AM

Sorry for my disappearance last week! I had a super busy and stressful weekend, and week leading up to it, so since I posted on Tuesday I let myself off the hook for Saturday. Hopefully you all survived without my geniusness ;P

But I will make it up to you! Stan's a year old, so I'm a knowledgeable and seasoned blogger by now (right???) and have much smarts and wow words to bring to you.

I don't do monthly wrap ups (Is that a thing you guys would like me to do? If so, please shout out in the comments cause I've been pondering it.) and since I don't do them, I don't have a reason to tell you about my writing accomplishments / updates / etc.

Right now I'm nearing the end of draft 2 of The Thief's Conspiracy which ... has been quite an adventure. My word count has already gone up 30k words since the last draft which I AM NOT HAPPY ABOUT. But more edits will come, and that's okay.

Once I finish this draft (which I'm going to do this month - I AM.) I will then tackle edits on my wee little nano novel, The Dream Walkers, which I miss dearly and have not touched since November. *shudders to think what might wait for me* Right now, it sits fondly in the back of my mind, enticing me to come and flip through its pages that burst with beauty and creativity.

At least, that's what it's claiming. *squints* I'm not sure how accurate that is. Probably ... not.

Any-who. So I'm at all these stages in these two different projects, and they both hold a huge place in my heart. And it's great! I've been making so much progress lately.

But here's the thing.

I find often myself unhappy with where I am.

I'm one of those kids that grew up wanting to be older. When I was eight I distinctly remember longing to be eighteen so I could go to the moon and fly (cause, obviously, that was the first thing I would do when I became an adult). And even as I got older, I wanted to grow older still. When I was in second grade I wanted to be in third grade so I could be in the special class at church that everyone raved about. When I was in third grade, I wanted to be in fourth grade so I could go to the special summer camp everyone raved about. And in all those grades, I wanted to be in sixth grade so I could do stuff with my church's youth group. And then when I was in middle school I wanted to be in high school so I could go to the special high school age stuff and be cool and one of the "older kids" and drive.

I was never satisfied. I was never happy with where I was.

And don't get me wrong. It's not like I had a miserable childhood. It was wonderful, getting to grow and do all those things.

But looking back ... I just wished I had taken some time to slow down and appreciate where I was in life.

Cause you're only there once.

You're only nine years old for a year, and then it's gone.

You're only in middle school for three years.

You're only in high school for four.

Life goes so quickly. And each step is new and exciting and beautiful. And even now, I long for the excitement and freedom and newness of college, which is only next year *screams in excitement and horror*

How does this relate to writing?

Well, I found myself doing the exact same thing with writing. Right now, it's the beta readers that are really calling my name.

"You have to whip this book into shape so you can GIVE IT TO ALLLL DA PEOPLE." And while yes, I really want to do that, and yes it's a GREAT thing ... I need to slow down. Because right now, I'm feeling bad about myself. When you are constantly focusing on where you want to be, you forget where you are and where you've been. You forget how much you've already done, and you focus on all the things you have yet to do and experience.

And that makes for feeling like a failure.

So please, I beg you, join me in this new mindset. YES, keep striving for that next step. But remember that writing (and life) is all about growth. And it is completely unfair to mentally beat yourself up over not reaching a place in your writing before you're ready. I have not gone through multiple drafts of TC. So I do not need to beat myself up about not having sent it off to betas yet.

That will come in time.

But first, I have to finish this draft. And the next one, and probably another one.

And I am going to let go of the shame of not moving faster and enjoy doing this writing thing. I'm going to enjoy each and every step of this process, and make it all count and matter. When I go to my little nano book, I'm going to have to remember that it's a first draft and really small and little and it will need lots of work because that's just my process. Good art takes time.

Let go of the pressure, the expectations to whip out books and give them to people. Look at where you are in your writing right. now. and admire it. Find something you love about this particular step. Being in the second draft, I love how I'm making the book better, but I'm still at an early enough stage where I can let go of some problems and fix them later. I won't have that luxury as much next draft.

Enjoy every step, of writing and of life. Because who knows? We aren't guaranteed another. So why spend any of those precious steps in shame and misery?

Smile. Breathe. Relax.

Enjoy writing. Enjoy life.

Do you struggle with longing to be further than you are? (have fun working out my wordage) What are some perks to the step in writing you're in right now? 



One Year Blogoversery!!! (in which I tell you what I've learned)

6:00 AM

Yep, you've read right.

Stan is now a year old!!! *hurls coffee beans and confetti and happiness*

I can't believe I've now been blogging for a whole year. It doesn't feel like that long. Like, HOW? I am so, so glad I started it though. I have not had a single moment of regret. Blogging is such a blessing to me, and it's a way to share my thoughts and ideas with other writers in a beautiful way.

In typical Hannah fashion when she reaches a milestone like this, I'm going to give you a list of things I've learned from blogging. since I am poor and can't do something cool like a giveaway

#1: Just do it.

There's a lot of "just doing it" involved in blogging.

"I don't know what to post about next week. Maybe I'll write about vulnerability ...?" *Friday comes* "Um...." then you gotta JUST DO IT.

(also, no. i am not promoting Nike.)

But I'm serious. A lot of the time, I'll have a post and it's midnight on Friday and I need to sleep, but I just don't feel like posting it cause what if it's not good? What if I'm not coherent? What if people think these brain thoughts of mine are just silly and stupid?

You just gotta do it. And what happens, happens. And that's life for you.

#2: Make a schedule and stick to it.

This was a big "guideline" that I knew in a subconscious sort of way before I started blogging. I knew that if I wanted blogging to go well for me, I needed to set a schedule and stick with it. Otherwise, all order would collapse and I would get nothing done and never post and Stan would remain a tiny little creature and no one would ever come by.

Which might not have happened to that extent, but I would not have just reached 10k page views *goofy grin* and I would not have 88 followers.

Stan's been growing slow, but steady. And I think keeping a consistent posting schedule has really helped with that.

#3: Write what's on your mind.

The best posts I write are usually written in a single sitting the day before I need to post.

I like to ponder what I'll write about during the week, and when Friday night comes I'll sit down, crack my knuckles, and get to work. It usually takes me ... an hourish? I think? *should time myself sometime* If I've been pondering it all week, it comes easier. Then it's just getting a cover photo together.

In terms of building an audience, I would suggest ....

#4: Visit other blogs and comment.

If you're a blogger, do not be shy about commenting on blogs. That's how we know you're reading, and that you even exist! So all the comments help.

#5: It doesn't have to be perfect.

This ties back into the "just doing it" aspect of blogging. Blogging is an art form in itself, and art isn't supposed to be perfect. You have typos? That's okay. You have a few grammatical errors? Fine. Some analogies that are limp as wilted lettuce? Let it go.

Which leads to my last bit of advice to you guys.

#6: Let it go.

Just like you have to let go of your story, let go of each and every blog post you put up. Once you hit that publish button, it's out in the world. There's no taking it back. It's gone - bye bye. Which means it isn't yours anymore. Not really. In all likelihood, every person who reads it will take something from it differently than the other. Some meanings they derive may be ones you didn't even intend to incorporate.

But such is the beautiful, slightly messy way of art.

And I lied. I have one more point.

#7: You have a voice. 

Back when I first started, I was kind of insecure. I didn't know if I really had anything to contribute to the blogosphere. There are lots of other bloggers out there who are much wiser and more experienced than myself. What could I possibly have to offer?

It took me some time to discover what kind of posts hold my heart, and what the bulk of what I say here on Stan would be about. Encouragement rather than techy stuff. And that's okay. Encouragement is amazing, and so is the techy stuff. They're all good.

You have to find what you love and enjoy and embrace it. Don't feel bad about it since you might be different than others. Differences are good. Embrace them!

Another funny thing: I didn't really think I had a voice? Which is, ehem, stupid. Cause everyone does. But I felt like I was just a bland strip of words with no color or texture. I just kind of blended in and meshed with the rest of the world.

And then someone commented and said something along the lines of, "Your voice is so raw. You lay it all out there as it is."

And I was stunned by that. I'd never had the perspective to see my voice as others might, and when I read that comment it brought me a lot of peace. 

We all have a voice. But, since it's ours, we can't really see it. 

That doesn't mean it isn't there. 

I hope you enjoyed this post! I'm sorry I can't do a cool give away or something, but ... I'm poor. So just accept my love and hugs and coffee *passes out cocoa and coffee and chocolate*

Are you a blogger? What have you learned from it? If you're not a blogger, are there any aspects of blogging that you can take away for your writing? 



Embrace Your Differences /// #projectcanvas

6:00 AM

Everyone knows something that only they know.

Maybe it's something small. Maybe it's that your sister likes her peanut butter and strawberry jelly sandwiches cut in triangles and won't eat them in squares. Maybe it's that she doesn't like them at all. Maybe you know that if you flick your ear, you'll laugh.

And maybe it's something bigger. Admittedly, the bigger your knowledge is, the more likely someone else knows it too. Maybe you discovered a way to make coffee strong, but without actually using as much coffee. Maybe you wrote a song that brings your mother to tears each and every time she hears it.

You know things. And some things you know really well, like how to do a back flip or play guitar.

Because every person is different.

Isn't that cool? *cue the geek-out moment*

Let's all just think about that for a second. Think about how many people there are in the world. As if there aren't a TON in the world right this second, there have been billions and trillions of people in the past.

Yet we are all, each and every one of us, different. And we all know different things, some that only we are aware of.

Isn't that just ... cool?

Where am I going with this?


Aside from this being just a super DUPER cool fact, I am here to announce something to you today. People are different and know things, and writers are the same way. We writers know tricks and secrets to this craft we have embraced and are striving to perfect.

And there's not a lot of stuff that only you'll know and no one else will. (you know what your main character would do if a flying antelope asked her to climb trees and eat star fruits, but that's not super relevant for other writers)

But maybe there's an area of writing/art that you specifically enjoy. One that you thrive in. Maybe you're super amazing with character backstories or motives. Maybe you love world building (*cheers on all my fellow worldbuilders*) Or maybe you have a bit of encouragement to offer the world when it comes to writing. Encouragement that isn't really out there.

It's time to share it.

Whether you have a blog or not, it doesn't matter. You have an opportunity to share what you know and love with other writers all over the world, and help each other grow.

It's called Project Canvas.


Ehem. *is professional again*

This is a project that my lovely fren Caroline Meek created. I met Caroline at the Minneapolis Young Writers Workshop last year, and she is a fantastic and creative and inspiring human and I am so excited and honored to be working with her! And you can too.

It's so simple. You pick a topic from the topics page on the website and email Caroline or Olivia about it. Then you write a one to three page article (basically a blog post.) and submit it to them, along with your bio.

It's so simple and easy. And it's a great way to get your name into the writing community.

I wrote an article for this called, What Does it Mean to be a Writer? and it is so close to my heart. It's something I wrestled with for several years and is surprisingly absent from the writing world. I don't see many articles about it. But I know everyone, at some point, doubts themselves, and wonders if they really have what it takes to be a writer. If they even are a writer at all.

I address it in this book, and I'll also give you some thoughts on world building (not sure what area I'm going to write about yet). So please get involved with this book! I wrote a message I want people to hear, and I don't want you guys to miss it. And, what's more, I want to hear what you have to say about your writing experiences.

Having doubts? Please don't.

Do you think you don't have anything to offer us? Any advice to share, any wisdom to contribute?

Well, sorry but ...

You're wrong.

You know something about this writing thing we do. Maybe you know how it feels never to finish a book and have encouragement to offer in that area. Maybe you know what it feels like to be alone in your writing, and have advice for people struggling with the same thing.

Or maybe it's something factual. Maybe you're a pro at backstories and have a formula you've developed that makes the whole process smoother and more efficient. *looks at a certain cousin of mine* Maybe you found a simple way to make maps and want to show other writers.

It can be anything. (writing related, of course.) You have knowledge and wisdom.

Will you join us?


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