Nine Books, Nine Years

6:00 AM

This month marks the time I began writing. I cannot believe it's already been nine years. The time has just flown by. At the same time, however, it is so difficult for me to remember what my life looked like those eleven years I spent without writing. Writing has shaped me as a person and formed my soul, and the thought of what my life looked like--what I looked like--before all that is crazy to me. But I haven't been writing my whole life, and from the time I began, my life has become even more of an adventure in learning.

Do I have any words of wisdom to impart? Nine years have passed, and with that nine books.

I'm not going to do a list like I used to do. I'm just going to give the biggest piece of advice that I have come to find.

Don't be afraid to make writing fun. 

That's a huge reason why we write, isn't it? Because we enjoy it? You have to love writing to a certain extent in order to keep on with it, because writing doesn't fall into your lap. It isn't easy. But a lot of people glorify the stereotypical "suffering artist" that lives on ramen noodles in their parent's basement and rides their bike to walmart to pay for more ramen and a new laptop.

But writing doesn't have to be that way. It can be fun, if you'll let it.

In the nine books that I have written, I've dabbled in fantasy, co-writing, mystery, paranormal, and poetry. I've written magical characters and dead ones. I've written on earth and in lands far away, both in reality and beyond it. I've written stand-alone novels and then books in a series. I've written novels that are distant cousins, and books that are worlds apart.

I know that when you think along the lines of being a professional author, it is often said that you want to stay in the same genre. Because readers that pick up your books because it's a middle grade fantasy novel will not necessarily want to pick up a young adult paranormal book about dead people. That's certainly what was going through my head this year during nano.

Why did I write a book that was so polar opposite from what I've written all my life? Why did I turn around three days to the end of nano and start hand writing a verse novel, while still finishing the first draft of my paranormal nano book?

Because I wanted to.

It's really as simple as that.

Yes, I want to write mainly for middle graders. But hey, right after writing my nano novel, I wrote a middle grade fantasy. And I love that book. It's taken a very special place in my heart.

But part of me wonders what would have happened if I hadn't gone wild and crazy and written something unlike anything I've ever written before. Who knows if I would have been struck with the inspiration to write this little fantasy verse novel?

As creatives, we have to think outside the box. But not only that, sometimes we have to take our metaphorical hammer of curiosity and wonder, and we have to smash that box to a thousand pieces.

Because as creatives, we have to be willing to take risks. It's that breaking of boxes that opens the mind to all the new ideas and possibilities that life holds for us. Life is wild. It's vast and swooping and crazy. And our books can reflect that--they should reflect that.

So, if you've written contemporary your whole writing career, try a fantasy novel. You've written romance? Try historical fiction. You're like me and have only really written fantasy? Try a paranormal book (I will tell you--writing from the perspective of a dead high school boy was really fun.)

Write what you would never expect. Surprise yourself, and you just might find a hidden treasure chest in the corners of the curiosity.

What's the weirdest thing you've ever written? When was the last time you broke out of your writing comfort zone? What's the most valuable lesson you've come to learn in your writing journey? Tell me all the things: I've missed chatting with you guys!


The Danger of Writing

6:00 AM

It goes like this:

You wake up, ready for a brand new day. In the back of your mind, you chant to yourself, I need to write today, at least 100 words. You think on this as you get up, eat breakfast, drive to work.

Need to write, need to write. 

You go through your shift at work, thinking about how you need to write at some point. You get home and do some chores. You make dinner. You spend time with your family.

Need to write, need to write. 

By the time you're in your room by yourself, it's 1 am. You have to be up for work the next day, so you really should get to bed soon. But you haven't written. You endured the chant, but it did nothing for you.

You failed.

The next day, you don't work till the afternoon. So you get up and write first thing. You write the hours away, tearing through 40 pages of edits.

I'm writing! Yay!

You go to work, and while at work you find yourself wondering how the next scene will play out. And you also find yourself wondering when you will get a chance to write next.

Need to write, need to write. 

The chant is still there as you leave work and drive home. Even though you've made plans to write before work the next morning, you still feel that need, that drive, that urgency. You look at your word count for the day--7k! But the chant doesn't leave your mind.

That poses the question, the unanswerable question: When will you ever have written enough?

If this sounded personal, that's because it was. This has essentially been this past week for me. I've managed to edit pretty much every day (the Go Teen Writers 100/4/100 contest is great motivation) and it's been really great. I've had a very productive week.

But the chant? Hasn't left.

When I'm not writing, I'm thinking about how I should be writing. Even now, while writing this blog post, my thoughts are swirling and asking, Shouldn't you be editing your book? Doesn't that need your attention more than your blog? 

It challenges, which matters more to you? Which do you care about? 

But I've realized today (cause I've been doing a lot of thinking today) that this is not really the question I need to be asking.

Because writing, reading, blogging, having some semblance of a social life, cleaning, exercising--those things all matter to me. Some may matter a bit more than others, but they are all important.

When I do one instead of the other, that does not negate their significance.

Me sitting down to read a book does not mean that book is more important than my own writing and editing. Me writing and editing on my project does not make that project more important than my family.


There is a danger here. If we let ourselves give into this chant, need to write, need to write, and don't monitor it, it will never be enough. Because there is always more to write. There will always be another story idea, another book, another draft. There will always be more. You can never write "enough."

So boundaries are vital. 

I edited 7k today. It was tempting to listen to the chant instead of my own logic, but when I tucked away the need to write with a scoff because I'd already done that I realized that this meant I could budget in other things. I had time to read since I'd already well surpassed my word count. I had time to write this blog post this evening.

I had heeded the chant, and thus was able to allow myself to do other things without letting the chant continue to haunt me.

Though the need to write has still been calling, I've reprimanded it. Because, guys, we have to remember that writing doesn't own us. Writing is important and beautiful and amazing, but it cannot dominate every waking moment of our lives. We cannot follow so closely in its footsteps that we are forever in its shadow, unable to break away from the path it's carved.

We have to take ownership of our lives. We have to prioritize.

And that starts with recognizing what "enough" really looks like.

Maybe 100 words is enough. Heck, maybe 50 words is enough. Maybe you've got a goal you're really set on, and so you need 1k a day to make it. 1k is your goal.

But when you reach that goal, you have to give yourself permission to put the writing down. Even if you still have time to write more, that doesn't always mean you should. Because if you fill every spare moment you can with writing, you'll find other important things in your life slipping through those cracks. Reading, communication, life. That will pass you by, and you won't even see because your eyes are glued to your computer screen.

Be aware of what you do with your time. We only have so much of it, and we have to make it count.

Do you struggle with time management? Do you constantly feel the need to write? When do you feel like you've written enough? 



6:00 AM

Hello, friends!

This time last week, I was also in San Diego, California, staying with some lovely friends of mine. I am now hanging out with another of my amazing friends in Washington.

I've been on quite a few adventures in the fourteen days that I've been on this trip. In these days, I've been rekindling my love for exploration. So that's what I'm going to talk about in today's brief post.

What does it look like to explore?

I could go on for ages about the benefits of taking an adventure into the outdoors. Of going on that hike. Of stopping your car and getting out and admiring that view. I took this photo in the mountains of Washington state, and it wasn't even a part of anything we had planned. I just couldn't get over the view with the fog and the trees and the general majesty before me, and so we stopped to appreciate it. All through our hike up here, we stopped and explored little nooks and tiny trails that branched off. Sure, they were out of our way, but in the end, it was all worth it. We saw more, and ultimately did more, than we had planned.

And we had an amazing time.

The same concept can be applied with virtually anything, however. I've been taking lots of physical adventures on this trip, but I've also been having many creative adventures. I've visited every single book I've ever written multiple times, reading over some of my favorite scenes, reconnecting with old characters I'd nearly forgotten about, and peeking at maps I'd made years ago.

I finished the first draft of a book I'd been trying to finish for nine months a few weeks ago. After finishing that draft, though, I was at a loss for what to work on next. I had so many projects I wanted to turn to, but I couldn't make up my mind about which one I wanted to work on most.

So I explored.

I revisited my first book and I revisited my last. I've flipped through and written on nearly every project, testing the waters, seeing how I feel about them now. And it's been an enlightening and surprisingly relaxing experience. There's typically some small amount of stress involved when trying to decide on what project you're going to work on next. But taking an adventurous route has allowed me to realize that I am going to work on all of these stories eventually. I'm not giving up on any of them. But I do have to choose one to work on for now, and in working on one, I have to set the others aside.

Exploring all my old ideas--even just concepts that I haven't even written yet!--allowed me to remember the beauty of creativity and the freedom of writing. Writing is an amazing thing, and it's an exploration of the mind in the deepest sense. It may feel like you're wasting valuable writing time when you're sitting back and reading some random chapter you wrote three years ago, but if that's what it takes to get you excited to write again, to get you back in the writing game, it's not wasting time at all.

But writing is not supposed to be a burden. It's supposed to be something that lifts burdens.

So go. Explore your ideas, books. Take an adventure in your backyard, your neighborhood, your state, or the biggest place of them all--your mind, and see what you discover. I promise you won't regret it.

What have you been up to lately? Have you had any interesting adventures? Please share in the comments! 


Back to Your Roots

1:20 AM

Hello, friends!

I feel like this has been how I start off every blog post the last few times, but man has it been a while. Life is crazy, and it only gets crazier as time goes on. Just a quick update before I get into the post!

1) I finished Freshman year of college and it was amazing. I did well in all my classes and am all set to go back in the fall. I'm looking forward to a restful summer.

2) I'm currently in California, staying with the lovely Carlyn Ross and Sierra Abrams. These two lovely ladies have let me crash at their house, and Carlyn and I have been exploring San Diego together and having an overall amazing time.

3) I am working two jobs this summer. BUT. I really want to blog more while I'm not in school. I'm not sure if anyone will actually read this anymore? *pokes around* BUT. I'm still going to post some anyway because like I said a few posts back, I love the blogging community and want to still be in it, as much as I can. On top of the two jobs, however, I'll be living at home with my four crazy little siblings. So. We'll see how my productivity in the writing world goes.

Today I bring you a short post to break from my nearly year long hiatus. This post is something that has been on my mind and heart for the last few months.

See, the thing is, I haven't just been absent from blogging. I haven't been writing, either. I've been trying, but it's been really hard to do anything, really. I'm not sure why I've got this block in my mind, but it's there and I've been struggling to break out of it.

I read a book last year called Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia. If you haven't read it, I highly recommend doing so. It's an amazing story, and one that rings true with artists, especially. I'm not going to spoil anything, but to put it as simply and as vaguely as possible, toward the end of the story, the main character is in desperate need of inspiration. She finds herself unable to finish what she's started, and she doesn't know how to break out of it.

So she goes to her bookshelf and pulls down an old favorite series. It's the series that started her story, if you will.

She goes back to her roots.

She devours the books, and in the end, they were just what she needed. Reading that book during the midst of my own loss of creative expression and my ability to throw words on the page with reckless abandon, I wondered, what if Francesca Zappia was onto something here?

So I went to my own bookshelf and pulled down the books that started my story. The books that began my journey in finding my true writing voice.

For me, those books were the Percy Jackson series. The series greatly influenced me when I was a young writer. I read them when I was twelve/thirteen years old (I think--it's been so long now I'm not 100% sure) and it revolutionized the way I told stories. Suddenly, I understood what voice was. Not in a way that I could explain to other people, but from reading Rick Riordan's work, I was taught many things about the art of writing that I'd never before understood.

I re-read the series for the first time in many years just last week (right after finishing up finals and coming home from school) and I was floored by the experience. There were passages that sunk into my being as I read them because I remembered them so clearly, and I remembered what I felt and thought when reading them. I remembered certain things I myself wrote after reading his books that were directly inspired by him. After reading that series, my writing sounded like a bad ripoff of Rick Riordan.

But then, that began to change.

I read other books, and their voices impacted me. But I clung to Rick Riordan's way of storytelling. I understood the power of a witty, sarcastic, funny narrator, and even in my darkest stories, I can see the touch of humor in the voices of my characters that he inspired in me. He taught me to find light in the darkest of stories and in the most hopeless moments.

There are so many little things I noticed while re-reading, and I would love to list them all. But that's not the point I'm trying to make with this post. The point I'm trying to make is that going back to your roots, reaching back for what got you started in the first place ... that's not backtracking. That's not being weak because you have to lean on where you started. It's not losing progress.

It's a reminder.

It's a reminder of who you were, and who you've become. It's a reminder of why you started, of where you went, and of why you fell in love.

And when you've been doing and trying for so long, a reminder like that is insanely powerful. I'm not saying it will fix everything. I'm not suddenly a powerful writing machine once more, like I was when I was sixteen. But I am saying that I'm better than I was a month ago, and I'm more determined than ever.

Sometimes determination is all you need to get going again.

I hope this gave you a bit of hope today, and inspired you to reach back to your roots if you've lost your way in recent years. But talk to me! What books inspired you to write? Where did you learn about the craft of writing, and what examples have shaped your writing voice? I can't wait to hear from you guys!


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.


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.