Blog Tour: Project Canvas

6:00 AM

Hello, all! It's been several weeks, and I hope to bring another post on writing drought soon, but I have a special subject for you all today. 

It's likely you've already heard of the amazing book, Project Canvas, that will be coming out in just four days. I am here to give you a little more insight on what all has gone into the making of this book. 

Here's a quick summary, along with the stunning cover.



COMING NOVEMBER 15TH, 2018

An international writing community.

61 authors
11 countries
6 continents

Are you looking for advice on how to create the perfect villain? Do you need the courage to put your story down on paper?  Find this and more in Project Canvas, a writing resource written completely by teen and young adult writers and compiled by Caroline Meek and Olivia Rogers.

Isn't the cover stunning? I freak out a little every time I look at it. I can't wait to hold it in my hands!

This project has been in the works for years. It's been such an amazing opportunity to be apart of it. I got the chance to write two articles for this, and also edit several others' works. I can't wait to see them all compiled into this beautiful book. 

I don't remember when Caroline first told me about this idea. Back when I first heard it, it was still just a dream. I remember hanging out at the Minneapolis Young Writers Conference with her, Olivia, and several other amazing writers, most of which ended up contributing. I remember how excited Caroline was, and I remember admiring her drive to make this dream a reality. 

One of the things that impresses me most about this project is that it takes an army. Literally. Dozens of people have put hours upon hours of work into making this the best it can possibly be, for writers like you. We've all been where you are, and are still where you are. This book is written by young writers, still struggling and trying to figure this writing thing out, just like us. And I think that's a really special aspect to Project Canvas that nothing else in the published world has. 

There are many amazing craft books out there. I can think of some stellar ones right off the top of my head. But if you want a book that motivates you and inspires you, if you want a book that understands what it means to be a teen writer, still figuring things out ... this is for you.


Keep a look out on the Project Canvas blog for more on my contribution to the book. I'm really passionate about one article especially that gets to be apart of this book, and I can't wait for you all to read it!

There's a giveaway going on that you definitely don't want to miss out on. But hurry! It ends the 15 so scoot on over and enter in!

Just click here to enter the giveaway, and also check out the other posts in the blog tour. And while you're on the blog, if you want to read the story behind the phenomenal cover, it waits for you!

I hope you all are as excited as I am about this. I know we're in the midst of nano, but I believe in all of us! Just keep pushing forward. I've only got a few more weeks of my first semester of college left, and then I'll be home for a whole month. Hopefully I'll get to hang out here a bit more then. 

In the meantime, write on! 

Have you heard of Project Canvas? If so, what do you think of the cover? Would you like to contribute? You can always submit a guest post to the PC blog! Everyone has a voice, and everyone has an idea to share. We'd love to hear yours.

<3

Let's Talk Drought

6:00 AM

So Nano is next month. *cue the screaming* I'm super pumped to be writing a brand new project! I love the first drafting process, and the chance that November gives me to revel in that. Normally I spend October on planning posts that are focused on developing book ideas, characters, settings, etc. But in light of the recent hiatus, I felt that the blog was in need of a different sort of planning month.

So. Let's talk drought.



What exactly is a drought? Or, in writer lingo, a creative dry season?

There are many definitions, and many aspects of a dry season, but for this post I'm going to assign writing dryness a simple definition.

No motivation. 

When you're in a dry season, you have no motivation to do anything. You might want to do something. You might want to write that blog post or edit that chapter, but when you sit down you just ... can't. It's like someone's stacked bricks on your arms and locked your brain in a closet under your grandmother's staircase. You want to work in a logical sense, but your spirit just isn't there. Your spirit wants to watch Netflix for three hours or curl up and sleep. Or read that book that's been on your shelf since last April. Or play Settlers of Catan with your little siblings. Or--

You get the point. When you're in a dry season, anything looks better than writing. Writing, which was once this glamorous, enticing escape from the monotonous reality we all live in, is now something you dread. It's something you try to avoid thinking about, and quite possibly hide from.

And sometimes it's something you don't think about at all, and it's not intentional. That's almost worse than avoiding it on purpose. Because you can't help it if you don't consciously think about your book often. You can go days--weeks, even--without your characters coming to mind even once, and then before you realize it, it's been a month since you even touched your third draft.

Anyone relate?

I lasted a long time before hitting major dry seasons, and I think there's a reason for that. We all write because we love it and like doing it, to some extent. But there comes a point in every writer's journey when the like of writing, the desire for it, the drive to do edits and make your mess of a novel a masterpiece becomes ... work.

Because, to some extent, that's what writing is for us writers. If you're in it for the long haul, if you're serious about your writing, if you want to craft a good story ... then it's going to take work.

And sometimes, work just isn't fun.

I don't have the answers. If I'm being honest with you all, I'm still in this dry season. I haven't touched my edits in exactly a week. Two years ago, that would never have happened. But nowadays, it's a common occurrence.

Now. Am I just trying to drudge up unpleasant facts, or is there a point to what I'm saying?

There is a point, believe it or not. The point is this: if you acknowledge that writing is hard, and that writing takes work, you won't be taken by surprise when it begins to feel like it. You won't be taken by the fear that you're doing something wrong, that you've messed up somehow because this isn't what you signed up for. You'll be ready to tackle that dry period with determination.

We'll talk more next week on what that looks like. But for now, I want you to think about your writing routines. What do you do when sitting down to write or edit? What do you think about to get yourself in the zone? How do you approach writing, and what makes you stick with a project?

I'll see you next week!

<3

My Unplanned Hiatus and the Battle for the Future

11:27 PM

I know what you're thinking. "She's alive? She hasn't been on here in ages!" 

I know, I know. I was wondering where I went to. Well, I'm here to shed a little light on that subject. 



Here's the deal: I went to college. I'd been planning it in my mind for ages. I knew I'd be leaving home and facing a lot of new things. School, friends, social life, being independent, being on my own, etc. The list goes on. I didn't know what my blogging would become, but as I feared, it became nonexistent. 

It wasn't that I didn't want to blog. It wasn't even that I had no time. I was busy, yes, but I've always found a way to make time, and going to college wasn't going to change that for me.

It's that I was creatively drained and, to be honest, I didn't know what to say. Every time I thought about writing a blog post, my mind went blank. Suddenly, I had nothing to write about anymore. I was empty. 

And then, last weekend, I went to the ACFW conference in Nashville.

This conference changed my life. It majorly impacted the way I perceived a lot of things in the writing world. It changed the way I thought about social media. It gave me peace and foundation in my plan to wait for pursuing publication. But the biggest thing I brought back from this conference (aside from the fantastic friendships I made while there) was the information I gleaned about building a platform.

A lot of people have been saying blogging is dying. I don't think that's entirely true. At least, I'd like to believe it's not. And while it's not "where it's at" compared to Instagram and Twitter, it still holds a special place in my heart. 

I realized several things at the conference, and one of them was why blogging mattered to me, personally. Other forms of social media/platform are great, but the blogging community (at least, the one I've found myself part of) mainly consists of artists. More specifically, writers. There are all sorts of people on Instagram (which is FABULOUS!) but with blogging, I have a chance to reach out to people who really get me. People who know, first hand, the blessings and challenges of doing what you love. People like those at the conference.

Being surrounded by writers reminded me of who I am and, more importantly, who I want to be. I want to spend my life writing books and telling stories and reaching out to people through vivid characters and vast storyworlds. That's what I love. And that's why I'm here, typing up this blog post in my college dorm room in the deep hours of the night. I'm here because I love writing, and I want to share that love with anyone who comes along, and offer advice from things I've discovered to my fellow writers.

I'm probably not going to post every week, and that's okay. The point is I'm going to post when I can. And that's the best I can do. 

So. I now have a stronger mission for this little blog than ever. I'm going to become a better writer every day that I'm alive, and this blog is going to be my way of holding to that. I want each and every week of my life to pass with a lesson learned. It doesn't have to be big or earth shattering. It just has to be change. 

And that change starts now. 


Do you blog? Have you ever found yourself in a season where you no longer know what to say? Talk to me in the comments. I've missed you all!

<3

Writing

Keys to a Balanced Writing Diet

6:00 AM

"You're so pretty."

"You're so sweet."

"Man, you're such a good writer!"

"I love your ideas--you're so creative and inspiring!"

Don't comments like this just make your day? When someone says something, be it in a blog comment or in an email or message, I get all warm and fuzzy inside. The words lift me up into the clouds and make me feel as if I can do and be anything.

The power of words is extraordinary.

But while words are good and healthy and beneficial to us, they can also be dangerous. 

See, while compliments can lift us up, insults and criticism can bring us down. If we let the words of others have too much power over us, we surrender our peace and happiness to their will. It's easy to see the harm in harsh words, but we have to remember that whether it's a compliment or an insult, it's still one person's opinion. Ultimately, you need to decide what you think of your book. You need to decide if you're going to keep writing and why. Are you going to write because your little sister thinks it's the most amazing book ever? What happens when she finds a new favorite book? Or her best friend thinks your first chapter was just "okay"?

Feedback and praise from others is so great to take in. But it's kind of like sugar. It's sweet--but addictive. If you only eat sugar, you're going to get weak quickly. You need solid foods in your body. The protein of good craft books and blog posts, the vegetables of self discipline, and the grains of determination.



PROTEIN 

If you keep feeding yourself constructive criticism, you'll keep growing. One problem with just eating sugar is that while it tastes good, you don't grow. That's why constructive criticism is so valuable. It expands you as a writer, and helps you see both your strengths and your weaknesses.

The best kind of feedback is full of positive comments, and notes on weaker areas in your writing. Even though that doesn't feel like the most awesome feedback at the time, it is the healthiest for you. Everyone needs protein, even if they don't really like eating chicken or kale.


VEGGIES

Everyone needs their veggies. In writing life, you've got to write for more than just your readers. You've got to write for yourself. Because at the end of the day, it's you that has to do all the work. It's you that's left with your characters, it's you that has the stack of paper filled with your messy words, red pen waiting. You're the one that has to spend hours in front of a screen trying to find the right words.

At the end of the day, you're the one that writes the book. While sugar is a great treat--word wars and sharing snippets--sometimes you're not going to have access to those sweets. You won't be able to find a good snippet to share, and so you won't be able to flail much with your writer friends. You don't really have a good way to explain your book, so you just have to tell them theirs sounds amazing, and you'll tell them about yours someday.

At the end of the day, it's up to you.


GRAINS

Shove down the rice. You've got a book to write.

Determination is your fuel. Just like carbs give you energy to run that mile, determination will see you through those countless hours of work that your book requires of you.

Writing stamina is something that grows over time. But it's also something you can't get from anyone else. People can encourage you and help you along the way. They can give you boosts and spikes of energy, but the long endurance of the writing journey is up to you and you alone. If a certain writing friend were to stop messaging you, would you still write your book? If a dear friend you met through writing were to grow apart, would you drift from your novel also?

Grains are important. And grains are a lot of small things that pile into a big one.


DESERT 

Sugar is not a meal. It's a reward for having eaten (as we say in my family) a "happy plate". Once all the veggies and meats and grains are gone, you get to reward yourself by downing that delicious bowl of ice cream.

Struggling to edit your next chapter? Tell yourself that when you finish, you can look at the comments your critique partner sent over. Having trouble editing during the war? Tell yourself that if you meet your goal, you can tell your friend about that book idea you had the other day and can't stop thinking about.

Others can help you (we need their help!), but they cannot do the work for you. Writing can be encouraged and supported, but being a writer is up to you.


What are your small grains? What keeps you writing? What do you think of feedback?

<3

Life

Show Up and Give your Best

6:00 AM

Even if it isn't much, show up and give your best.

These words have just come to my heart and I really felt the need to share them with you. I'm not going to lie to you guys. All-things-writing have been really difficult all this year. I'm not sure why, but I'm struggling to get much done.

With my edits, I feel like I'm slogging through mud. I'm only 25k in, and I've been working hard since January. That's six months. It's hard not to feel really lame.

And here, on my blog, I feel like my well has finally gone dry. I stood at the top for two years and lowered the bucket each week, but a few months ago, my bucket scraped a bone-dry bottom. I've been running all over the desert of my mind, searching for a new well or some kind of miracle oasis, but so far my search has been fruitless. I'm empty, and my ideas just aren't coming.

I think my blogging is suffering because my writing is suffering. My creativity has been ground to a halt, and so when it comes time to actually talk about creativity and doing better and improving, I don't have much to say.

Because I haven't done much this year. I haven't improved. At least, I feel like I haven't. Then again, sometimes it's really hard to be sure about these things when it's concerning your own mind. 

One thing I'm having to remind myself with Camp this month is that you just have to write. I've written six complete novels now, and I thought I was past the "wanting to write a perfect first draft" stage of my writing journey. But I'm totally not. I want this book to be pretty and perfect. I want it to be awesome. 

But it has to get written before I can do anything with it, now doesn't it?

And the other day it occurred to me that maybe I should give myself a little more grace here on the blog, too. Every post doesn't have to be a masterpiece. Everything I say doesn't have to be a brilliant, well-worded speech. And that's okay. Giving your best isn't about being the best, but about doing what you can. And if that's a mound of barely coherent words, or a puked up chunk of cringe-worthy dialogue, at least it's not a blank page. 

This post is a little short and a lot ramble-y, but I just want to say that everything you do doesn't have to be perfect. There's a whole lot of stuff we wouldn't get done if we waited for perfection. There are quite a few blog posts I've skipped, quite a few days I didn't edit, because I was waiting for that great feeling to come, that inner strength that makes me feel like I can write, I can do this. But if we wait for perfection, we'll never get anywhere. Sometimes, we have to settle for a little bit of mediocrity. 

What helps me is to remember, I'm doing this for more than just looking good. It's not about how people will fawn over my books someday (which would be super cool). It's not about how someone will sit back and think, man, that was a really enlightening post. It's not about how we look, but what we do. What matters is the effort you put forward, and if it isn't great, then at least you tried, and there's always tomorrow. And you can try again and again, and the more you try, the stronger you get. 

Edit because you love your story. Blog because you love your readers, and want to share your heart with them. Don't worry about who will like and dislike your content. Just create, and let go. Show up, and give your best, whatever that may be. 

How is nano going for you? Are you struggling with perfectionism? If you blog, how has your blogging been treating you? Are you still plowing on, full of energy, or are you struggling to come up with content? Give me your thoughts! 

<3

Plotting

Writing Small

6:00 AM



The first book I ever wrote was 453 pages long. I've estimated that it's around 92k, but I'm not sure, given that I wrote it by hand. Once I did get around to typing it up, it came out at 97k words. As I grew more serious about my writing, I wrote an 85k draft which morphed into a 124k monster. The book I wrote with my cousin was 137k. Our sequel to it is already at 110k, and we're not even done yet.

When I set out to write my first middle grade novel, I knew I needed to write smaller. That didn't really work however, and I ended up with a 94k novel. I thought that was doing well, until I figured out that Middle Grade books were supposed to be 30-60k.

Even now, it's hard for me to imagine such a small book. I think reading so much young adult fiction has made my brain work on that wave length.

You see, I realized after writing that first Middle Grade book--which was The Dream Walkers, by the way!--that plotting for Middle Grade novels is not the same as plotting young adult novels. Young Adult novels are much more complex and intricate. There are multiple plot threads weaving together, lots of characters with lots of issues, and lots of high stake conflicts happening.

Middle Grade is different. It's not that Middle Grade is less intelligently written. Middle Grade writers don't have to dumb stuff down to be at "kid level". Kids are much smarter than most people realize.

But. In order to write a book of appropriate length that will keep children's attention, cutting is required.

My first successful children's book (word count wise) was my July nano novel last year: The House at the End of the Lane. It was a spooky little novel, one that was simple in my mind and didn't require a ton of plotting. I wrote it, and it was 36k. Thirty. Six. That's under half the size of my shortest work.

But it didn't just happen. I planned for this. I read Coraline and took extensive notes, analyzing structure and pacing. I figured out the guidelines of a smaller plot, and I fit that book to those lines.

And it worked! I wrote a short novel! I wrote a Middle Grade book. And I loved it. I can't wait to dig into edits. This month, I'm writing another short and spooky Middle Grade novel, and so far it's going great. 

So what does all this boil down to? 

The structure of a Young Adult novel is very different from the structure of a Middle Grade novel. That's why the sizes are so different. You don't just drop 50k to make a book a "children's book". The entire core of the story has to change. 

If you're struggling writing smaller Middle Grade books, or longer Young Adult novels, read. Read and study the structure of the story. Study the pacing and flow of it. Get familiar with what a 30k word book looks like, vs. a 130k word novel.  

Once you know what the book you want your novel's size to match looks like, go and plot intentionally. With writing small, I had to stop myself from throwing in exciting plot threads that were fun and cool--but would make my word count shoot up. I have one big plot thread and a few tiny others, and that's what my story hinges on. There's not a ton going on behind the scenes. There simply isn't the page time to afford it. 

And lastly, just write the book. It's always nerve wracking for me to write a book with what feels to me like very little plotting. I'm afraid I'll run out of content and the story will end at a meager 20k, and I won't know how to beef it up. But I can, and you can too. That's very important to remember. How can you write fearlessly without first knowing that you can always go back and change things? Writing is different than real life. You can always go back and edit. There's always another draft. 

What's your target audience? Are you doing Camp Nano this month? If so, what are you writing? If not, what are you up to? 

Life

they say we are world changers // a poem

6:00 AM

In the wake of graduation, I've had a lot on my mind and heart. I wrote this poem earlier this week and thought I'd share it with you guys. Remember: it's okay to let yourself not be absolutely amazing. You're right where you need to be, and the big things will come in time. Let yourself find your feet first. <3



they say we are world changers
destined for greatness
we have the earth stretched before us
and the wind at our backs.
nothing is unattainable
so everything should be seized
no holding back, they say
make a difference
shine
step out and become
what you were meant to be.

they ask where we're going
what our plans are
what we've accomplished
and when we don't answer quickly
they tell us
all the things we've tried to forget
how we've got plenty of time to figure it out
(so why do you keep asking?)
how it'll all come together
and they're sure it will be soon.
there's always tomorrow
(but what if there isn't?)
and there'll be a chance to
make a difference then.

they wonder what our plans are
what we aspire to
and I think why?
their eyes watch as
I fill out those college applications
and scholarship forms
somehow all that I do and have done
it just isn't enough
it will never be enough

but this is what we think.

we say
the world is massive.
why are you urging us to be the ones to change it?
we haven't really found our place in the world yet
we're new at this thing called life.
yes, I want to be a world changer
but can you stop looking at me?
I just stepped out my door
and now
the world is out before me
the largest thing I've ever seen.
I don't know it very well yet
so what makes anyone think i'm ready
or up to changing it?
I barely know what I'm doing
I barely know who I am
much less the world.

we ask
what more do you expect of us?
what will make you happy?
tell me
I'm dying to know
what the perfect new adult looks like to you
and once you begin your speech
I will wait for you to stumble
over your elegant description
when you realize this person you're describing
doesn't exist
cannot exist.
you formed an image in your mind
of us being
what you never were.
why do you think we can be perfect
when you could not?
we're all people,
aren't we?

we wonder
how much time do we have
before our chance is gone?
they say we are world changers
but they say nothing about themselves.
are they too old now?
too tied down?
too busy, too involved?
has their chance to make a difference come and gone?
will ours go, too?

they say we are world changers,
but how can we change a world we don't know?
they call us to action
but how can we act before we know what to act on?
there's so much left to see and learn
there's so much left to know
and the pressure is
building building building
nothing we do feels right anymore because
we're so small
nothing's changing
why aren't I making a difference?

oh, my friends.
I've heard it said
(not by me)
and I will say it to you now;
it's okay if you only change one person's world
and it's okay if that person is you.

***

Do you have any thoughts? Have you struggled with all the well meaning questions people ask you? 


<3

Life

Here Comes the Sun // some thoughts on summer

6:00 AM

Today is my graduation ceremony. I'm not one for big shows of such things. I like the quietness of moving on, of finishing something great. The silence and peace is reward enough for me.

But it does only happen once, and it's made me think a lot about how special this summer is. Someone at my local congregation told me, "This summer will probably be the first and only summer you'll ever have where you don't have to worry about work or school."

And that's true. Yes, I have a job. Yes, I'll be getting ready for college. But I'm at a unique transition from one type of school to the next. I'm not yet working full time with a career job.

Point being, this will be the first and only summer ever where I don't have the weight of school responsibilities on my shoulders. And I think that's both special and neat.

But you know what else it is?

An opportunity.



When presented with a good, once in a lifetime opportunity, I tend to do one of two things: plow into it with everything I have, or freak out and not take advantage of it.

But since the very reason this summer is special is because it's naturally stress-free, I want to take as much advantage of that as possible.

SO! Whether you're like me and just graduated and have a couple of beautiful months ahead, or whether you're still in high school or long graduated. Here are some ideas to make your summer special.

TRY SOMETHING NEW. The opportunities here are endless. Never been canoeing? Go canoeing. Never ice skated? Ice skate. (it'll feel amazing inside.) This summer, my main "new" thing is bullet journaling. I've been thinking about trying my hand at it for a while now, but I finally took the step and got a dotted journal Thursday night. So far, I'm loving it! I'm hoping to use it as a planner when I go to college.


TAKE ON A NEW PROJECT. And I don't mean something small, though a small project is perfectly fine. But I'm talking large scale here. Have a book you need to write? Write it. Need to deep clean your room, purging all your belongings, going through all your clothes, sorting books and reorganizing, etc.? Do it. And come tell me about it because that's what I'm in the midst of right now. I made a list in my bullet journal for the different parts of my room I need to tackle. Having little boxes to check off my list makes the massive project seem much more manageable!


TAKE ON AN OLD PROJECT. Maybe you have been working on a massive project--for five years, and you haven't really gotten anywhere. Now's a good a time as ever--better, actually--to rededicate yourself and give another go at it. Maybe it's a book you want to write or edit, or maybe it's a massive classic novel you've been meaning to read, or a scrap book or musical piece you've been wanting to learn to play.


CHALLENGE YOURSELF. I guess this can apply to all three suggestions above. Find something to push yourself. You've got time: take advantage of it. You might think you're too busy, but trust me. You have more time than you think. I've been reading This Changes Everything by Jaquelle Crowe, and the chapter I read yesterday talked about the different spiritual disciplines God commands of us. That really got me driven and inspired to put some of those into practice in my life. I memorized Psalm 119:11 last year, but I didn't really take the application to heart. This summer especially, but for the rest of my life, I want to be more dedicated to scripture memory, as well as reading and praying daily. As she says, these things are not just commanded of us, but they're done out of joy. And my heart is eager to serve Him!

I hope this post might have gotten your gears turning, or at least made you think about the summer ahead for you! I'm also doing Camp Nano in July, and I'm going to write another creepy middle grade novel. I'm super pumped about it. It's got forests and monsters and all that fun stuff. I can't wait to write a first draft again!

Do you have any summer plans? Any books you want to read? Write? Are you doing Camp Nano in July? Do you have any big projects you want/need to undertake?

<3

Writing in the Cracks

6:00 AM

You know how I was so confident last week that I would post Saturday? As you can see, that didn't happen. SO. I have decided to alter my schedule a bit. Since this is a common struggle for me, I'm going to start posting on either Saturday or Sunday. That way if I don't end up getting it in time on Saturday, I can just put it up Sunday. Kind of a grace day concept. :)

Anywho. Just a minor update there! I had lots of graduation stuff going on and had written a partial post, but completely forgot to finish it. Let this be a mini note to give yourself grace. When something just isn't working for you and your schedule, try altering it or changing things up a bit instead of beating yourself up about it and trying to force it to work.



I have a new story idea. It came out of the blue last Friday, and it already has a journal dedicated to it and a 15 page document on my computer.

The unique thing about this book idea is that I've already started writing it. I don't really think of it as a book I'm currently writing, because I'm deep in edits for The Dream Walkers and it's not even a book I was planning to write next. Yet it rose from a topic that means a lot to me.

I've been trying to pin it down. Why am I writing this book? There's an idea I've had for several years that I am crazy excited about. I have so many pages of ideas, and I've brainstormed and made pinterest boards and All the Things for it. There's another idea that I want to write for July Camp Nano this year, similar in genre to the book I wrote a year before, The House at the End of the Lane. 

Both of those ideas, and countless others, have been around much longer. They're more fleshed out, and I've had a lot of time to think about and get excited for them. In other words, I have plans for them. And the funny thing about this book is that I have absolutely no plan for. At all. I don't know if it's something I want to publish. I don't know if I'll write it this year or in twelve.

But I do know that I need this story in my life. The main character is facing some of the same issues I am, in a different sense. And she is how I'm answering a lot of pressing questions. My book writing and planning process is very God-directed. I'm waiting for Him to lead the plot along. And the other day, when I got two very vivid scenes, I decided to write them. And just like that, I've got 5k of this random book that I only got the idea for a week ago.

Seems pretty random, doesn't it?

God is so cool. He takes our plans and tosses them out the window. He has much better ideas for us, if we are willing to hear His voice.

Part of me wants to dive headfirst into this idea. The other key pieces of the plot are just out of reach. I know if I tried really hard, I could probably get to them. But I realized something. This book is different. The idea is coming in a way no other has ever come before. And, as a result, this book is special. I believe God has a plan for it, and I'm going to trust in Him and His timing.

Write in the cracks. That's what came to me as I was writing up a note to explain how this project would work. Editing DW is top priority. But this book isn't going to be forgotten.

Long story short, you can work on more than one book at once. If you get tired of editing (does anyone not get tired of editing?), have another project that you can fall back on. Something that you don't just brainstorm on. Something that you can actually write. A way to unleash that creative desire. It's beautiful. It's healthy. It's new.

Write in the cracks of your life, in the bits of time you find waiting for you. Let writing bring you joy! That's part of why we do it, after all.


Do you work on multiple books at a time, or just one? 

<3

The Importance of Discipline

7:00 AM

Hello, lovely writers! 

If you follow my blog, you might have noticed that I've been absent the past two weeks. Neither of those absences was intended or planned, yet they happened and I don't have much excuse.

But I have been reflecting on it, and thus comes a post :) Bear with me. It's a good message (I hope).



See, life is only getting crazier. I'm graduating. I had classes to finish up, deadlines on a number of things. I have a job, and not to mention being one of seven children, oldest of four younger siblings. Unread books sit in piles on my dresser and desk, and my younger brothers are pulling at my sleeve every other minute begging me to come play with them.

My hands are filled to bursting, and it's nearly impossible to keep things from slipping through my fingers. I've been wondering for a while what would happen here at the blog after I left for college. It's my hope to keep posting weekly, but it might not happen. I don't know yet.

But I do know one thing. The past few weeks have taught me that if you want to do something, you have to make a decision to do that thing. (Yes, I know. I could have used better wording but you get the meaning.)

Another word for that would be discipline. It takes discipline to do things you don't necessarily want to do in the moment. But you have to decide beforehand that you're going to do those specific things. Otherwise, your motivation will be like coffee brewed through already used week-old grounds. You're left staring at brown tinted, mold flaked hot water and expecting yourself to drink it.

That's not fair for anyone.

I want to note really quickly that discipline is done out of love. Discipline does not equal beating yourself up when you make a mistake or bashing yourself and treating yourself horridly. That's punishment, and that's quite a different matter. Discipline is self control. It's commitment.

Discipline has a partner, and that would be called motivation. It's that warm gooey feeling in your bones that helps you get stuff done, come up with ideas, and be generally productive.

But while we can discipline ourselves with relative ease, such is not the case with motivation. So how do we get motivation? How do we fix the lack of motivation syndrome? This is something people have been wondering for ages, and since no one else has come up with a solid answer, I think it's a somewhat safe assumption to make that there is no fixed cure. But if we look at what motivation is, that might give us some ideas.


#1: Motivation is a feeling.


This is key. Feelings cannot be forced. They come and go as they please. Motivation is as tricky as any.

#2: Motivation can be jump-started. 

Just like seeing your best friend fills you with happiness, or watching March of the Penguins makes you cry, motivation can be triggered in you. You just have to find the right materials to produce that response. Some people make to-do lists. Others use a reward system. Some use both. Find what works for you, what gets you fired up to write or blog or edit or study or whatever it is. Find what helps get your motivation churning and use that to help you out in low spots.

#3: Discipline can operate solo. 

When none of your tactics are working to create motivation, when nothing seems to fill you up and make you want to do the thing you're faced with, discipline comes to the rescue. You've decided to write that chapter, and by golly you're going to do it. It doesn't matter if your eyes are drooping and you really want to pick up that new book that just came in the mail. You made a choice to write a chapter. And what's more, you said you were going to do it. On paper, out loud, to a friend, whatever it was. You are committed. It takes discipline to keep to commitments, but if you do keep to them, you'll find that it's not just your writing that improves. Your attitude will. You will. You as a person will develop a stronger character and a good dependable backbone.

But you want to know a secret? Sometimes, if you simply do the Thing, if you feel like you really don't want to do it and can barely manage to work up the willpower, holding yourself accountable and doing it often brings that feeling of motivation back. It's not always the case, but you never know when simply doing the Thing instead of stalling will stir your love for it again.

I'm making a commitment to post when I can, and even though this week is going to be just as crazy as the last, I'm not going to chicken out. I'll see you guys next week :)

Do you struggle to motivate yourself? What are some methods you use to inspire motivation in yourself?

<3

Under the Sun // the importance of resonance

6:00 AM

There's nothing new under the sun. Can we really contribute to the world? Can we really share anything new?

There's a key point here. Under the sun. That's where we live. We all live under the same sun. We're all the same in some ways, yet we are vastly different.

So if we're all living on this earth, and we all have this in common, and there's nothing new to be had ... that begs the question: why do we write, and what should our writing contain, if not newness?



I will first point out that there is newness to be had. Just not pure originality. But we can take mixtures and combinations and throw them together and make something wild and beautiful. We don't get annoyed with people for not being "new". People are people, and while we all have so much in common, and every trait you have can be found in someone else somewhere on this planet, that doesn't make those people any less unique and interesting. What matters is the combination of known things in an individual person (or story), and how those combine to create something in and of itself, which could be thought of as new.

But I want to focus on the question I mentioned above. Why do we write, and what should our writing contain, if not newness?

The short answer? Truth.

We write to show the truth about the reality we live in. About human nature and conflict and pain and happiness and joy and love and sorrow and grief. We write to explore these concepts that everyone knows and everyone faces at some point in their lives.

We write to explore the deeper meanings of what we already know. Where did this idea come from, anyway, that says our writing has to be full of new things? If we could create something completely new, it wouldn't be as amazing as you might think because people wouldn't even be able to relate to it. They might find it wild and interesting and highly entertaining, but it wouldn't last because they wouldn't be able to connect to it. And if we can't connect, it doesn't really have true meaning.

The best stories are great because they contain the rawest forms of things we know. And those things resonate with us.

That's what story telling is really about. It's about writing relatable stories that touch our hearts. It's about writing the truth to issues we face. It's about doing the opposite of what we often feel we need to do. It's about plunging headlong into what we know and experience every day, and confronting the truth in those things.

Where the newness comes in is with how we approach it. And the opportunities to do that are quite endless. The combination of truths to explore and the ways to explore them are limitless. Don't stress about not being "original" enough. If you have a message pumping through your veins, it'll find a way to make itself heard. Truth has a hard time keeping quiet.

Do you struggle with writing new ideas? What are some common truths that you explore in writing? 

<3

Your Greatest Teacher is You

6:00 AM

I was squished in the back of a seven passenger minivan with my laptop on my legs at 6:45 in the morning, on the way home from our eventful youth trip to Washington DC. Normally I don't function very well at such an early hour, but this morning was different. While everyone else was curling up to sleep for the long drive ahead of us, I remained upright and wide-eyed. My fingers flew across the keyboard, and something in my brain shifted.

Suddenly, without warning, I could edit. 




I've been struggling with editing The Dream Walkers all year. From January to now, I've been a bit unsure of how to tackle edits. I've asked myself stupid, panicked questions in moments of crisis like, "How do you even edit?" and "What is this book even supposed to look like?"

But on this car ride, after this week of broken down buses and stomach bugs and skewed plans, somehow it was after all this that I sat down and-squished legs and all-began to edit like I have never edited before.

Not to say I did it perfectly. Not to say my words were flawless, and that my book is now a perfect masterpiece.

What I'm saying is that something in my mind shifted. I had little to no warning. Only months of endless frustration and irritation. Months of feeling like I was getting nowhere, and making next to no progress in my writing.

Do you want to know a secret?

Even though I wasn't editing, even though I've only edited 20k since January, I wasn't making no progress. That sounds crazy, but it's true. Progress was being made. It was just progress I couldn't see. The brain is an amazing creation, and while I couldn't see what was going on, my mind was working these past three months, trying to solve this puzzle, trying to fix this problem. While I was helpless and beginning to lose confidence and hope, my mind was determined to save the day.

I've read a lot of blog posts over the past three months. I've looked up motivational quotes on Pinterest to try to get me "into writing" again. I've written what I hoped were motivational blog posts, as much a message to myself as it was to you all. I've made to-do lists. I've sat my tushie down and forced myself to stare at my document.

But none of that seemed to work. I didn't make much progress at all, and it was agonizing.

Yet, through all of that, I was learning. Because the best teacher in the world is not your favorite blog. It's not the best selling craft book you just finished reading that changed your life, and it's not your role model's "for writers" page on their website.

No. The best teacher is you. I know that may be hard to believe, but it's true. There are some lessons we must learn, and we are the only ones who can teach them. And do you know why?

Because people are unique. Every person on this planet is different than the other. None of us are the same, and so it only makes sense that we don't all learn the same either. But our brains know how to teach us lessons. They study the world around us, and they think about things even when we're not aware. They do a lot of work for us, helping us come to a better understanding of the world and ourselves.

My brain has finally figured out how I, personally, need to go about editing my book. Not only that, but it's given me the right mindset to do that. Again, I'm not saying I've got everything figured out and that my words are now sparkling and perfect.

I'm saying that I know where to start, and I know how to make progress on my story. I know where I'm going with it, and I know (at least, I think I know) how to get there. I'll still have rough days of staring at the screen of endless black text, but they're no longer the normal. And that's what I want to share with you. It's not just me. We're all teaching ourselves lessons every day, and a lot of those lessons are being learned unconsciously. As crazy as it sounds, you are working out puzzles 24/7. And soon, something is going to click.

If you've been stuck, keep pushing. If you stop trying, you'll never know if you've figured out the answer to your problems. I wouldn't have known if I hadn't pulled out my laptop and started trying to edit again.

Be persistent in your writing journey, and be patient. You learn the most about writing by actually writing. You learn the most about editing by actually editing. The key to writing clicked in my mind about three years after I started writing. The key to editing has taken significantly longer, but I've now reached a point where I think I'll be able to make headway.

Don't give up. Keep editing, and soon your brain will fix the problem, and you'll start making progress again. Just keep pressing on! You've got this.

Have you been in a rut this year, or has your book been going along smoothly? Are you writing or editing? What stage of the process are you in with your WIP, and what have you been learning from it recently? 


<3

First Quarter of 2018 // wrap-up

6:00 AM

Hello friends! *waves wildly* Man, it's been ages. I totally didn't mean to miss ... three? Was it three posts? *counts on fingers* Ouch. I'm sorry guys. Life has been ... well, it's been crazy.

But! I'm getting ahead of myself. This is my quarterly wrap-up post (coming a week late, but alas--it is the best I can achieve) and I like to be weird and spontaneous SO. For each section today we're going to have Story Time and I will share a small anecdote for each given section. 

Enjoy!




L I F E 
Storytime!

We were three hours away from home when our bus broke down. Eighty-six sixth through twelveth graders piled into a YMCA and hung out in a half court of a gym for six and a half hours while waiting for the bus to be repaired. When it finally was, we set off again, far behind schedule. At eleven in the night, still a good four hours from our destination, we hit a snowstorm.

I had a seat on the bus all to myself. I was relatively comfortable, curled up with my fuzzy blanket and reading The Two Towers, the noise of the other kids toned out in my mind. But when our youth minister got up, the chatting died down and I snapped away from the great fields of Rohan. I realized we had pulled over and were parked in a Walmart parking lot. Go figure.

"We've made about eleven miles progress in the last two hours," he announced. "And it's one o'clock in the morning. We physically cannot make it to DC tonight. We will not be at Church tomorrow because we physically cannot make it there. We've called ahead and they understand. Everyone is exhausted. We'll be sleeping on the bus tonight. Pull down your window shades and makes yourselves comfortable. Try to get some rest."

I watched as our ever humorous youth minister turned around and walked back to the front of the bus. I sat, not sure what to believe. Was he serious? He rarely told the time of day without messing with us. But the longer we all sat, the shock and disbelief palpable in the air, we began to realize that he was indeed serious. Window shades began to come down. A silence settled over the bus. And so it was that I slept on a bus with my youth group of 84, not to mention the ten or so adults that were chaperoning the trip.

As my cousin later said, at least we know that Walmart will always have our back.

The story doesn't end there, but I'll cut my story time and summarize. We got up that morning and went into the Walmart to get our breakfasts. As we got back on the busses, the bus that had broken down the previous day shut down again as we were leaving the parking lot.

So the eighty-four of us spent half the day in Walmart. We rented minivans and eventually did make it to DC that evening. But the next day, a stomach bug broke out and took down exactly 40% of our group. It was violent vomiting, but thankfully it only lasted about 24 hours before the effected person was better.

Nothing has gone as planned this quarter. It's hard to share just one story, but I think that statement applies to just about everything that's happened. Between the bus breaking down (it broke down again after spending several days in the shop, so we had to leave it and take the minivans back home) and the stomach bug breaking out, forcing us to change our plans, my trip to Washington DC was quite a ride.

*I also went to Guatemala for a week long medical missions trip

(check out the chocolate!)

*I got to see Priscilla Shrier in person and sat in on a talk show she conducted

*I decided at last what college I will be attending in the fall, and what major I will be pursuing

Life has been crazy, and it's impossible to sum everything up here. It's already getting long, so I'll move on, but I will say that I am going to pursue a major in English, and I'm thrilled to see what path God leads me on with that degree!


W R I T I N G

Storytime! 

My little brother trailed along behind me, brows lifted. "Why are you getting three packs of index cards?"

I snagged the packages off the shelf, along with a couple packs of sticky notes, and shot him a grin. "Because I'm a writer."

He said nothing as we headed to checkout, so I went on to explain that I was going to make a massive wall chart. Which I did. I sat on my bed for about three solid evenings and wrote my book down, scene by scene, on index cards and cut them up, taping them to a poster board. This process was very beneficial, as it forced me to go through the book and find a reason for each and every scene there. I discovered many weak ones that could be cut, and even an entire chunk of the book that could be removed with very little change to the rest of the story. 

I've gotten a new story idea that I'm super excited about (and hoping to write for July nano!), and I'm also making good headway on Draft 3 of The Dream Walkers. Though I will mention that after my crazy month of March (both the DC trip and the Guatemala trip were in that month), I was a little frazzled and exhausted when I got home. On April second, I decided to open my email and begin sorting through the literal hundreds I had piled up, and then I saw one from Nano. I sat bold upright in bed and gaped. I had completely forgotten that Camp Nano was this month, and that it had already started. I'm still not sure whether this is really bad or just downright hilarious. 


R E A D I N G

Storytime!

I sat outside in the thick, humid air of Guatemala. It was a soft moment, and I was reading The Two Towers next to my traveling partner. She was reading through something also, and at one point she said, "Oh look. There's a quote from The Two Towers movie in here."

I had told her earlier about how I have grown up watching the movies. We put them on when we work on a big project, so I've listened to them more than I've watched. 

"It's between Theoden and Aragorn," she said. "I will not risk open war."

It was almost as though someone had reached into my chest and yanked the words out. "Open war is upon you, whether you would risk it or not."

She blinked and then looked up at me. "That was word for word."

I smiled sheepishly, and she just shook her head. "Goodness."


I've actually been keeping up relatively well with reading this quarter! I've averaged at almost five books a month, and I'm trying really hard to maintain that. 

CONFESSION TIME: until February, I had not read A Wrinkle in Time. I saw the trailer for the new movie and realized I had been missing out on something that looked really good. So I read the book and loved it! I read the first and second books and am eager to finish the series. 

My favorite book so far was probably Dealing with Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede. I highly recommend the series. I'm on the last book right now and have thoroughly enjoyed all of them. The world building is amazing, and it's been a very pleasant read. 


M U S I C 

The Oh Hellos released a new album which is so good! I love the vibe of the songs and the general mood they put me in. I put together a new playlist for the spring season, and it makes my heart happy.

I've been listening to a lot of those songs, as well as the La La Land soundtrack. My mom also got me the piano sheet music books for Lord of the Rings and for Frozen, so I'm pretty excited to learn them.


F U N   F A C T

You wanna see what chocolate looks like? *grins* 

This is what chocolate looks like. 



They're like beans, and when you suck on them they're kind of sour. They get dried, and then roasted, and we got to taste the roasted beans and they were amazing. They tasted like dark, unsweetened chocolate. Guatemalans sure know how to make chocolate! 


I apologize again for how behind I've gotten in all the blogger things. I'm hoping things will settle down somewhat, or that I'll adjust better into this new rhythm of life. College is in the very near future, and we'll see what changes that brings for Stan!

How have the last three months been for you? Do you have any stories to share? 

<3

Where to Start // creating a character

6:00 AM

Welcome to week two of my Where to Start blog post series! As you're reading this, I am on a plane flying to Guatemala for a week long medical mission trip. So please pray that everything goes well with my team and me, and that we can reach out and help people while we are there. 

I will have no access to wifi until next week, so though it will look like I'm around (I've scheduled a post to go up automatically since I won't be able to do it at the time) you'll have to forgive my absence. 

Anyway. Enough about the life of mwa. Time for the post!




When getting started with something, one of the most important things to do is to ask questions. Keep asking and asking questions. Even if some of them sound stupid, ask them anyway. Don't leave any stone unturned, or any morsel of an idea forgotten.

This is especially important with character creation. Think of creating a character like you would meeting a new person that you're going to have to be with a lot, like a coworker, business partner, or roommate. You'll ask lots of questions to get to know them.

Most of us know the basics to creating a character. But there does come another step. Once you get to know your character a little, there are three questions that need to be asked and answered.

Question #1: What's this character's role in the story? 

Why are they in this book? I don't just mean are they the main character, antagonist, best friend, etc. I mean what is their purpose in this book? What are they there for? What made you choose them to be the main character, antagonist, best friend, etc.?

If a character doesn't have a clear purpose in the story, they won't last long. They'll likely either end up disappearing pretty early on, or they'll only come in as a convenient plot device. Figure out why they're in the story


Question #2: What drives them? 

Motivation is integral to getting your story moving. When you know what motivates your character, you'll be able to see where they want to take the story. It'll help your character take control of the plot, and write their own story. And if you want something real,


Question #3: What burden do they carry?

Everyone has baggage. Some have more than others. What does your character carry? What has s/he been through? Knowing the answers to these questions will give you the foundation of why your character is the way s/he is, and will give you a beginning of a backstory for them. It will help you understand everything about them.



Sorry this post was so short! I will not be posting next week due to my trip, so I'll see you again on the 24th!


Where do you start with creating characters? 

<3

Where to Start // taking on a new project

6:00 AM

Writing is easily overwhelming. Not only are the ideas massive, taking time and effort to build, searching to make sure it's not too similar to anything else, but the books themselves are a massive project. There's planning and plotting to be done and characters to be built, there're outlines and spreadsheets and notebooks to fill. Then there's the entire first draft to write.

But it's not over yet! Nope. You've got to go back through and read your entire book--which you find out is actually a complete mess. Then you have to figure out how to un-mess the whole thing, which means an entire second draft of the book. And when you go to read through that, you find it's not a perfect work of art now like you hoped. Instead, the problems you solved may be gone, but a dozen other issues went overlooked, and even more little plot holes have appeared with your solutions to the original problems. 

And the cycle repeats. Rereading and writing that next draft. When you finally have something you think you can share, then there comes the whole process of beta readers. And then they notice problems that you didn't, and then it's back to taking more notes and writing yet another draft. 

Looking at it like this--all the hours of work, all the frustration, all the effort and backtracking and hair pulling--it's easy to get completely freaked. And, if you're like me, at each one of these stages I look at all that it involves and think, "Where do I even start?" 

Over the next few weeks and months (however long I feel like it, I guess) I'm going to be talking about how to approach these steps in the writing process. I'll be writing about picking up ideas, taking on first drafts and re-reads, tackling edits, etc. And you might even join me on my adventure in where to start with beta reading. 

So. This is the intro post, but it's also got a bit of meat to it! Let's talk about taking on a new project.


For the first four years of my writing career, I worked on the same book series. I've mentioned it multiple times here, so I won't talk much about what it was I poured so much time into. But I will say that something sat a little off for me in the last year of editing. I kept thinking that there was something missing with this series. That I was falling short. That I wasn't writing a book worth reading, really. 

I was the only one who really cared about this story, and deep down, I knew I was the only one who ever would. 

And when I finally realized the days of writing my beloved first series were drawing to a close, I froze up. After texting my cousin, she said, "Just pick an idea and write a different book!"

Said like that, it sounds so simple. But doesn't it always? I knew it wasn't going to be easy, but I was up for the challenge.

The problem, though, was where to start. 

And it's really not as difficult as you might fear. If, that is, you have the proper organization installed.

Do you want to know what I did when my cousin suggested I pick an idea? 

I picked an idea. I went to the folder I keep for random book ideas on my computer, looked at the ten or so files there, and selected number seven. I opened up that document, read the three pages of vague ideas and notes I had, and then I pulled out my journal and got to work.

So, when wanting to take on a project, my first piece of advice to you is to have all your ideas somewhere you can easily access them. If I hadn't written down ideas when I got them, if I hadn't kept my mind open and on the hunt for new stories, I wouldn't have had those ten or so ideas in that folder. But I did keep my mind open, and I did write down ideas when they came to me. 

So write your ideas down. Please. I know you think you'll remember them, but often that's not the case. Sometimes you will remember them (that's part of how you know it's a good idea) but if you don't write it down, you'll miss an integral process to idea development: voicing. Voicing your ideas by either writing or talking it out has a powerful impact on the development of it. 

After I picked out my idea, I set off on my second piece of advice. Ask lots of questions. 

Who was my main character? I had a vague idea already, and likely you do to, but I wanted to know more. How old is she, and where did she grow up? What are here parents like? Did she have parents at all that were a part of her life? Does she have any siblings? Who are her friends? Does she have any? Why, or why not? What are her hobbies? What does she like to do? Where does she like to go? Can she do what she loves? Why, or why not? 

I could go on and on. The more questions I asked myself, the more I got to understand my MC, and what kind of story I was preparing to tell. I realized quickly with this book I took on my MC's drive was directly related to her difficult life situation. And since the whole plot of the book was so rooted on that, I needed to know exactly how difficult my MC's life was.

Get to know your character. You might be freaking out and thinking, "I don't know what's going to happen in this story! I don't know what direction to take it!" I thought the exact same things starting out. There were so. many. possibilities. I didn't want to mess it up, or waste a good idea. 

But when you get to know your character, and when that character begins to breathe with a life of their own, that character will pick up the bits of plot ideas you have and arrange them in a way that suits them. They're the stars of the story, after all. It only makes sense that they lead the way.

A second key aspect to fleshing out an idea is getting to know your storyworld. Be it a fictional land or a historical period or a modern town; setting is important. 

One of the first things I did for this project was make a map. And it instantly clued me in on several very important things. It gave me the beginnings of the world's history, which led to the culture of the world, which greatly influences character. With this book, history was especially important as it played a key role the underlying plot.

Take it one step at a time--this is key to staying sane in any given stage of your project. If you look at the thing as a whole, you'll get overwhelmed fast. So take a deep breath, look at the step before you, and take it.

Lastly, pick a title. Even if you end up with something you know you won't keep, find something to call your book. I usually find my titles pretty early on, and they grow and mold into the story. 

I'll probably do a separate post on titling things, but I'll just make a quick note that titles are nothing to get worked up over. There are many different types of titles, and dozens of methods in forming them. Remember to take your time and breathe deep. It's okay if it's not perfect right off.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, the book I've been talking about? That ended up being The Thief's Conspiracy. 


I hope you enjoyed today's post! Are you interested in this series? Please let me know in the comments! I wouldn't want to post a ton on something you guys don't enjoy ;) And give me some ideas. What are things in the writing process that stress you out and overwhelm you? 

<3

Some Thoughts on My First Novel

6:00 AM

In honor of my writing anniversary this year, I pulled down my bulky purple binder and began to read my first book.

Don't get me wrong. It's absolutely horrible. But it's also intriguing and fascinating to me (in a way I did not intend to make it when I wrote it). I've never really read my first book before. Sure, I went over it once and made notes [back when I was still serious about editing it and hopefully publishing it (HAAAAHA)] but I haven't, that I can remember at least, gone through and just read my book.

And my, is it interesting. Today, rather than giving you seven things I've learned in the style I've used in the past, I'm going to give you a few things I've noticed about my first book, and how they can help me, and hopefully you, in our writing journeys today.



(QUICK NOTE that Katie posted recently about her first book, and I couldn't help but think of her as I typed this up!)


#1: MOST AUTHENTIC 11 YEAR OLD VOICE EVER

The advantages to writing middle grade when you are in the middle grade is that you are the audience. And, more so than ever at that age, you write what you want to read.

The way I word things. The way I write description. The way I rationalize and think things through. The way I plan. The way I have my characters notice and observe and react to things. It's all so childish. And, for my purposes now, that's actually a good thing because it lets me know what a real eleven year old would think. It lets me know what kind of things they might notice, and how they might react to getting kidnapped or finding out they have magical powers. Even if the character's reaction isn't done well, you can still get a glimpse of the reaction in what happens.


#2: WE'VE COME SO FAR

There's nothing like looking back at your work and relishing in just how horrible it is. The writing is jerky, the plot is wild and often too coincidental. The characters are flat, they learn too fast, they all sound the same in dialogue ... and there's not really anything unique. There might be some good ideas, but the writing is so dull, that doesn't matter. There's nothing that makes your book stand out.

And then you look at your WIP. Maybe you're still in the first book stage, but I promise you that if you keep writing, and if you write a lot, you will get better. And, someday, you'll even get good.

It's so satisfying now to look back and see how different my first book and my fifth book really are. It took years of writing, hundreds of thousands of words, but I finally have something I can work on, something I know I can be proud of someday. I know what the mistakes are in my novel, and (for the most part) how to fix them.

I've come so far. And, whether you've been writing a week, a month, a year, five years, ten years--you've come from somewhere too. We all started, and we've all grown from that moment. So look back and let yourself appreciate just how bad you were at writing. It makes what you're doing now even more incredible. 


#3: THEME HUNT

Writing has a way of slipping the hard things out of you. The fears and doubts, the insecurities. It reaches into our minds and is just small enough to grab hold of it, and it weaves it into your words. It's sometimes really hard to spot. I didn't realize it for years. I knew writing helped me emotionally, but I wasn't sure how or why. I just thought it was an escape.

But writing isn't really an escape. Because, in writing, we confront our deepest fears, our biggest questions, our deepest insecurities, and we line them up for all to see. It takes a discerning eye--often a writer's eye--to see these hidden gems. But they're what makes stories matter.

They're your theme.

If you're anything like me,  you might have started out thinking you didn't write theme into your books. I had somehow come across a writing "tip" early on in my journey that basically said, "Don't lay out your theme or you'll be preaching." At the time, I only had a vague idea of what theme was, so my only thought was, "Oh dear. I better not do that." So for several years after, I never read any articles on the importance of theme. I thought they were all lies.

*sighs at young self*

Theme is so important. And I firmly believe that there is theme in every story ever written. It just takes a discerning eye to find.

Why is there theme in every story ever written?

Because in every story, we have a character. And a character, in a good story, must face something.

That's where theme comes from. It can be simple, or it can be complex. It can be countless things. We can mean to tell readers this encouraging information, or we can just ignore the fact that we're even writing theme.

But when I look at the first book I wrote, and when I study my characters, I find a girl who just wants to matter, and realizes that even though she felt like she didn't, she did. I see themes of what love should look like, of friendship and bravery and hope and trust. I didn't mean to put any of this into my story. It wasn't my intention when writing about a very special girl to make others feel hopeful and special themselves. And yet, as I read this book, that's the gentle message it sends. That you are important, and you matter. Even if the whole world is oblivious to your existence, that doesn't mean you don't have a place in it. Even if you feel useless and insignificant, that doesn't mean you are. You're here for a reason, and you just have to be brave enough to step out and find that reason.

These are all things I was unintentionally saying in my first book. They were things I, as a young girl, needed to hear myself. And I can only imagine how many other children out there need those kinds of messages. How many times have we seen The Chosen One trope in fiction? It's prominent for a reason.

When you look at your old writing, you're looking at a treasure map. It might take a little hunting and a little work, but once you find the key, you'll be swimming in the buried treasure of authentic children and the messages they need to hear most.


How long ago did you write your first book? Are you still writing your first book? Have you broken out of the everything-i-write-is-horrible stage, or are you still struggling to find your voice? (Don't give up! It just takes time, and a lot of writing.)

<3

Stan's Second Birthday! + some reflections on where I started

6:00 AM

CONFESSION TIME: Stan's birthday was eleven days ago. February 6.

That's right. I completely forgot about it. And I even had a chance to make amends on the tenth when I posted! But I forgot. Again. I almost forgot this week, but I managed to get a hold of my brain, scold it for embarrassing me, and, well, here we are.



I looked through all my posts and I just have to say ... I think it's super cool that I've now been blogging for two years. You know why? It doesn't feel like two years. When I look at each post's title, I remember writing it. I remember what my thoughts were behind it, why I chose to write that post.

Which makes me think about blogging in general. Blogging is awesome, guys. We have this chance to share our thoughts and hopes and ideas with the world. We can tell others revelations we have, things that help carry us through life, and we will be able to look back years later and see exactly when we posted it and read it all over again.

Isn't that just so cool?

So this post is (kind of. I mean, bloggers can read it too. I won't kick you out ;P ) for you guys who don't have blogs.

Get a blog.

As I reflect on what was going through my mind when I started Stan, let me share with you some advice I took when starting, and am very grateful I heeded.


#1: MAKE A GAME PLAN

Blogging is not the kind of thing you should just wake up one day and decide to do. It takes time and thought. It takes intentionality and dedication. I spent months thinking up my blog. I didn't start it until I knew the perfect title for it, what my first five-ish posts were going to be, and what I wanted to say, overall, with the blog.

Let me explain why that last one is so important.

If you don't know what your underlying message is--the core reason behind why you're doing what you're doing--you're not going to last long. You might post those five posts you planned when you started, and maybe even three more after that. But you'll eventually stop posting and fall off the blogging train.

You have to know why your blog matters to you. Because blogging takes time, and we only make time for the things that matter to us.


#2: DECIDE ON A POSTING SCHEDULE 

This is probably my top piece of advice for new/wannabe bloggers. Not everyone posts on a schedule, but I know personally I appreciate it when a blogger sticks to some sort of consistency. Not only does it give readers knowledge of when to stop by your blog, but it also gives them a date to look forward to, and it gives you motivation.

If you start, and have great ideas, but just say, "I'll post whenever I feel like it" you could likely go weeks without posting a single word. Life happens, things come up. If you don't have a date you have told yourself you'd post on, then you'll have no reason to post. When you push off posting for a day, there's nothing to stop you from pushing it off till the next day. And the next. And the next ...

If you know when you're going to post and stick to it, you won't miss often. You'll keep up consistency. And it might sound hard (I thought it would be nearly impossible) but it is so satisfying to commit to something. You're in charge. You have the power. But one good thing is, you're blogging. Readers will look forward to those weekly posts. And if you don't post, they'll keep you accountable.


#3: BE FEARLESS

I still remember those first few posts I put up. I would stare at that publish button, gnawing on my lip, wondering if I should risk it. Would anyone even read this little blog? Why would they? No one cares about the words of an insignificant little sixteen year old.

But they did. I'm almost at 100 followers on Google now! *cheers for you all and throws coffee beans and confetti* Stan has been slow going, but he's grown steadily. And I honestly don't think he would have grown if I hadn't kept posting.

Running a blot takes a certain amount of guts. You have to surrender part of yourself. You have to let go of perfection: perfect writing, perfect formatting, etc. In order to post regularly, you can't spend hours upon hours tweaking every post to utter perfection. That would be awesome--you guys deserve the best!--but it's unrealistic.

So you have to dust yourself off and say, "I'm going to post this now, and I'm going to be proud of it." And so you do the thing, and you lift your chin. Because you put your words out there for the world to see, and that my friend is absolutely epic.


I hope you enjoyed my little blogger tips! I may have been blogging for two years now, but I still have so much to learn. 'Tis the beauty of writing, I suppose.

February is a special month for me. Not only is it Stan's birthday, but it's also the anniversary of when I started writing novels. Next week I'll talk about what I've learned from the last seven years of writing. Stay tuned!

Do you have a blog? What is your number one tip for bloggers, new and old? If you don't have a blog, are you considering getting one? *cough* do iiiit *cough*

<3

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