Saturday, December 29, 2018

2018 Goal Progress

Time to see how I did on my 2018 goals! I love doing this, but I've got to find a better way to keep up with my goals. I mean ... there's a reason my header image has a snail on it.

I made goals for 2017 and goals for 2018 on my blog. This year I even did a progress check in the summer which is the only reason I currently remember what any of my goals were for the year. I find this to be my favorite way to reflect on the year.

Yet if you look back at those posts (please don't), I'm obviously really horrible at sticking to what I plan. I'm trying to get better at being okay with that!

Memorize 10 items // meh

I memorized a lot of music for choir, a Scripture chorus, Luke 2, and a handful of other verses because I was teaching them ... Not quite what I was aiming for in increasing my poetry and Scripture arsenal this year.

Publish something // complete

The closest I came for this was publishing Snip, the flash fiction prequel to my novel Martin Hospitality. It's available for newsletter members only.

Read 40 books // complete

Yes!! My Goodreads shows that I read 41 books this year. While some were short stories, I didn't include any of the children's books I read, nor did I binge-read things in order to finish my challenge. So an honest finish! :)

I think it's interesting that 14 of these books were ones that I edited. There were also 3 I DNF'd ... but I don't know that all of them counted in my total. I also think I did a better job reading books I already owned and hitting some categories which I often lack (like classics and biographies). Overall, a successful reading year!

Review everything // complete

I wanted to review everything I read on Goodreads this year. This has by far been my favorite goal of the year! It's built a "review immediately" habit into me. While I'm currently a few books behind, I intend to be caught up by the end of the year. And I'll also get on top of copying a bunch of reviews to Amazon.

5 book buy limit // lol

HA! I mean, really, who was I kidding? What bookworm only buys 5 books a year?! I probably bought like ... 30. However. I think easily less than 5 of the books I bought this year were full price. (In fact, I can only think of one full price buy right now.) So that's encouraging to me, and still a good sign for my finances!

Travel // complete

I didn't even remember this being a goal, but it's one of my neatest. God has completely blown my mind with some amazing opportunities this year. When I originally made this goal, I was hoping for another writing conference. But no. I fit in one writer's retreat--a fun time getting to meet some Texas authors.

And then I went to NYC with my sister, aunt, and cousin in September as sort of a joint birthday trip. By far one of the best mental breaks and touristy trips I've ever had. We did allll the things and I would do all of it again!

In early December my two siblings closest in age and I made a somewhat last-minute trip to reunite with friends in Iowa. It was the best vacation. We did a gazillion little Christmassy things that got me in the Advent spirit.

So thank you, Jesus, for all the great people, sights, and experiences that came out of these unforeseen trips!

Writing experiments // complete

Mainly thanks to trying flash fiction, I did experiment with some different openings, POVs, and development styles than I normally go for in longer stuff. Flash fiction in itself was a new thing for me! I also wrote at different locations more than usual. My conclusion is that I have go-tos (writing  in third person, past tense in my bedroom) for a reason.

Finish writing lectures // oops

Weeeeell ... no. I finished the one Great Courses series I was in the middle of. But I still have two untouched ones that I need to complete. Unfortunately, I don't see myself making a bunch of extra time for these in the near future, but I'm glad to have them in my arsenal.

All in all ... I think the only goals I didn't complete were the somewhat unreasonable ones to begin with. And things like memorization and furthering my education with lectures ... it's all a matter of time management. Let's be honest--that's a continual balance for everyone!
I have previously combined my goal progress for the year with my goals for next year. But you'll have to wait till next week for my 2019 goals!! I kind of can't believe that this is my last 2018 post for the year. It's been quite the whirlwind. But I'm so grateful to have had you all tag along on the crazy journey.

What goal for 2018 did you complete? Do always have that one goal you never seem to finish?

If you have any ideas for tracking goal progress throughout the year, I'd love to hear them!

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Read of the Year

Last year I did a book of the year post and wanted to keep up the tradition this year! Let me tell ya, it's not easy to pick my favorite read of the entire year. And I'm pretty sure it'd be impossible without Goodreads.

This year I read 41 books, and I rated 22 of those 5 stars (?!). Of those 22, 4 books pretty readily stood out as my favorite reads of the year:

    • Fawkes by Nadine Brandes
    • The Ringmaster's Wife by Kristy Cambron
    • Christy by Catherine Marshall
    • The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Annie Barrows and Mary Anne Shaffer
    After much consideration ... I think the list above is the order in which I would rank them. 

    My read of the year is Fawkes by Nadine Brandes. Unlike last year, that makes my favorite read of the year a book published in 2018!

    To be perfectly honest, I'm not sure how anyone could read Fawkes and NOT make it their favorite read of the year. 

    The Ringmaster's Wife was beautiful, romantic, and exhilarating. Christy was heartwarming/breaking, raw, and thought-provoking. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society was historical, mysterious, and clever. They're going to remain some of my favorites.

    But Fawkes was all of those things and more. Its magic system was awesome and yet simple to understand, the story was complex and breathtaking, and the spiritual themes among the colorful characters completely blew me away ... in usual Nadine fashion. Every single element was masterful, and I'm still recommending this book right and left.

    If you're interested, you can read my 5-star review here.
    What amazing books did you read this year? Have you read any of these beauties?

    I hope you have a blessed Christmas with your family!

    Saturday, December 15, 2018

    What to Look Forward to in 2019

    'Tis the season for all the holiday madness and new year's resolutions. Among all of that, I'm been prayerfully considering what all of this--our community--should look like next year. Just like last year, that means there are a few changes headed our way!


    For the rest of 2018, I charge $2/1,000 words for new editing customers and $1.50/1,000 words for returning editing customers. I'm completely reworking what I offer and how much I charge. SO ... Been thinking about using me in 2019? Get on the calendar this month and you won't have to pay the new prices! Yep. Book in 2018, pay 2018's rate.

    I'm already surprisingly full for 2019, so no worries if you aren't sure when you'll want me, etc. Shoot me an email if you plan to use me next year and I'll pencil you in. And when I say surprisingly full, I mean for manuscript edits. Especially if you're new to using me, I recommend trying my cheaper, briefer services!

    You can find all of my 2019 editing services and pricing HERE.

    While I quit beta reading a while ago to make more time for my editing business, I'm afraid that in 2019 I'll no longer be reading ARCs or participating in blog tours either. As fun as both things can be, I simply can't afford the time constraints and responsibilities. It's so nice to help out other bloggers, but I think I'd like to get away from featuring blog tours on my blog, and I would feel awful if I didn't follow through. So better I just say no in advance. Blessings on all of you who these things work! You're awesome.

    Still on the editing note, I've joined Reveries Co. This means that you can get a whole host of services for indie authors by going through them, some of which I offer. So no guarantee you'll get me, but I'm excited for all the awesome things offered here by some wonderful ladies.


    In the writing world, my main goal for 2019 is to publish Martin Crossroads. I am still on track to finish the first draft this year! So many of you keep telling me you'll happily beta for me when the time comes. I wish I could keep track of that, but ... I can't :P

    So! I think it's time I go all-out and make a street team! I've already begun a street-team-ish Facebook group HERE. I know not everyone has FB, but it's the best I can do for now. And you should know, if you join my street team, you will be known as a Resonator. *wiggles eyebrows* I plan to have a Resonators-only monthly newsletter up ASAP!

    This means that I will be scaling back my regular newsletter to quarterly instead of bi-monthly and possibly add another incentive. The last one of these for this year will go out at the end of the month, so remember that you can sign up for it in the sidebar!

    Instead of trying to publish anything else or start new projects, as I have no idea how the MC timeline will go, I'll be focusing on two other things:

    • flash fiction submissions (getting published elsewhere looks nice and these are fun!!)
    • querying Behind the Act (I still love this manuscript and want to find an agent for traditional publication)
    And as for blogging itself ... I intend to keep that up once a week. ;)
    That seems like a lot, but I think it will all be for the better! Any suggestions or tips? How are you changing things in the new year?

    Saturday, December 8, 2018

    Take a Hiatus

    Hiatuses are important. They help you refresh and reset. I highly recommend them every once in a while when you're in a slump.

    I can't say I'm necessarily in a slump at the moment, but I just finished NaNoWriMo. So I'm giving myself a bit of a break by visiting awesome friends in Iowa and not writing while I'm there.

    Instead I'm enjoying beautiful sunsets and idyllic country snowscapes.

    Hiatuses are always worth a shot. Don't guilt-trip yourself. Every now and then, they're exactly what you need.
    When do you take a hiatus? I'll be back in the swing of things next weekend!

    Saturday, December 1, 2018

    NaNoWriMo + What's Next

    It's December! Which means National Novel Writing Month is over. While many of my friends clocked insane word counts (either in total or just yesterday in an effort to reach their goals), I haven't written in several days. Because I hit my goal early! (Stay tuned for snippets.)

    For those of you who are new or can't keep your 100 friends' NaNo goals straight, my goal was to write a 30k novella based off my trip to New York. I named it Simply Jane Smith.

    The 50,000 words that NaNo wants me to write is a little much for my sanity (and wrists). I've only written 30k in a month once before and that was when I wrote the first draft to my published novella Andora's Folly. I figured it was time to do it again since I needed a break from my main writing project anyway.

    I'm happy to announce that I finished the first draft of Simply Jane Smith on November 28th at 28,449 words. A little short of my targeted word count, granted, but it feels so good to have finished something!! I think it's been ages since I did that.

    I can already hear you asking the question but was it garbage? The exciting answer is no. While it's definitely a first draft, it's got a bit of a plot and some characters I'd be happy to revisit someday. 

    "Someday" is the key word. I have no timeline to return to the story in the near future. So while I'm content with a finished draft, I know it stinks for you guys not getting anything published for another bit.

    To tide you over, here are a few little snippets that stood out to me as worth sharing while I was writing:

    Next, I'll be returning to Martin Crossroads. Right, the sequel. The sequel you all want. That refuses to be written. I've been reading about Tolkien some lately, and it was an encouragement to me that writing The Lord of the Rings took him literal eons and about did him in. But I will conquer just like he did!!! Or else.

    While I'm sure I'll have plenty of life, editing projects, and whatever else distract me from my good intentions, my tentative writing plan going forward looks like this:
    • finish the first draft of Martin Crossroads in 2018
    • publish MC in 2019 at all costs!!
    • squeeze in revising Behind the Act so I can query hopefully over the summer
    • submit flash fiction for my "fun writing"
    • possible chisel away at the other gazillion ideas I have ...
    That sounds like a ton to me, but I'm also super tired at the moment, so who knows? Maybe it'll be totally feasible. My priority will be Martin Crossroads if it kills me. Don't get me wrong, I really do love where I hope the story will end up. It's getting it there that's slowly killing me. But it will come together and I will get it to you guys! 2019 is going to be the year. ;) Which means by this time next year it should be in your hands. Won't that be a wonderful day for all of us. 
    Now tell me all about what you did this November! NaNo or not, what has your latest project been? What do you hope to accomplish in 2019? By all means, give me details as I certainly can't keep everyone's doings straight. ;)

    Saturday, November 24, 2018

    How I Write Humor

    I had a friend reply to my newsletter the other day, and one of the questions she asked me is how I write humor. That really made me think, and I told her I might have to make my answer into a blog post. So this one's for Katja.

    Humor is actually really hard for me. When I first began writing Martin Hospitality and knew I wanted to see the story through to publication ... I lost my ability to write humor.

    What if it's lame? This became a fear for me, so I hesitated to do anything semi-funny. I resorted to a little teasing and some sarcasm. But even then ... What if it's overused? And trust me, sarcasm can be overused.

    I still wouldn't say I write a whole of humor. I'm never going to be a comedy writer--it's not my gift. At the same time, no one wants a boring, lifeless manuscript.

    So these days, I think these are some things that helped me find my own happy humor medium (see what I did there?)

    • I let my own sense of humor be part of my author voice.
    • I've loosened up to worry less about it being lame.
    • If it is lame, make it lame for the characters!! *MC 1: makes a bad joke* *MC 2: rolls his eyes*
    • Humor doesn't have to be character humor; it can also be in the way you present information (again, find your own sense of humor as part of your author voice).
    • I have to trust my own judgment over what humor ideas to follow.
    • I typically create my humor mostly be playing devil's advocate in my head as I write (this often turns into a sarcastic reply from a character).
    • Play to the flaws in a line of dialogue!! I love seeing other characters nitpick at a loophole for misunderstanding.
    • ^AKA worry less about perfect writing and have fun with it
    • When in doubt, write it. Your alpha/beta readers will laugh if it's funny or tell you if it stinks.
    I'd say that being funny still doesn't feel very funny to me as a writer. But overall, those things above help me achieve a balance that I'm not too embarrassed about. Let's say I wouldn't enjoy reading my books aloud (or hearing them read aloud). But as long as the readers like it, I'm happy.

    It comes down to finding something you're comfortable with and that furthers the story, character, shapes your voice ... It's a useful tool, and there's no one way to master it!

    Have fun finding your humor style! Teasing, sarcasm, joking, outlandishness, good turns of phrase, dialogue ... It's really an open playing field. Just don't overthink it.
    Now I'm curious. xD How do you write humor?

    Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

    Saturday, November 17, 2018

    The Funny Thing About Book Reviews

    I've talked about reviews some before on here, but there was a review incident recently that made me realize some new things about how we review as readers. And I think it all comes down to perception.

    I hate giving books a low rating. I really, really do. And I'm not a fluffy person, so it's always befuddled me as to why that's hard. Even my negative reviews are packed full of positive things.

    And what I realized recently is that oftentimes reviews come down to perception.

    Let me explain.

    When a book is very poorly written, doesn't engage me, makes me angry (in a bad way), I don't finish it ... I don't have much of a problem hitting the one or two-star button and walking away. It's when I feel like the problem was me that I flounder.

    I mean, we've all read That Book. The one that everyone adores and recommends. Then you read it, and you keep checking the cover to make sure it's the same book. I hate that!! I often feel that if it's so well-liked, maybe the book itself is fine. Maybe it's just not for me. Yes, that is a legit thing.

    Because I think reviews come down to perception.

    For example, one of Those Books for me was Unblemished by Sara Ella. Generally well-liked or loved. Yet I felt super meh about it and haven't ever picked up the sequel, although I hear it gets better. So I felt really guilty rating it 3 stars.

    But that's OK! Just because I didn't like it doesn't make it a bad book any more than a book should be defined by its negative reviews! Because there wasn't anything "wrong" with it. It was well-written and overall pretty original and interesting with a good message. Just ... not for me.

    That's because I perceived it differently than other people. I wasn't a fan of the main character or her voice and got confused several times. It just felt a little flat. That could be because of me, my personal experience, my convictions or beliefs ... you name it.

    Sometimes I've read a book and gotten a completely different perception of the plot and the meanings behind it all than someone else. (I read a whole ranting review on Fawkes the other day about how judgmental and misleading it was and thought ... wow. But hey, it was the reviewer's perception.)

    I think the really important thing to remember here is that the reader's perception does not necessarily equal the author's perception. Ideally, it should. But any given book is not for every reader!

    So when I don't read something the way an author intended for me to, it's not really their fault that I leave the book 3 stars. In fact, it may say nothing negative at all about them as a writer. It simply wasn't for me.

    This means that we should be very careful passing judgment on what an author based on what we got out of their book. Because we don't actually know what they intended! There's a difference between reading and reading into something. 

    Every truly negative review I've ever received has done one of two things:

    • taken something I wrote the opposite way of what I intended (so we actually agree at the end of the day; they're just convinced I'm a small-minded person now), or
    • disagreed with me from the get-go and so surprise, surprise they didn't like the book because they didn't agree with where I was coming from (be that grammatical or core beliefs).

    You know what? It stings, but it happens!

    Overall, I feel much better about leaving and receiving negative reviews--and even writing my books--knowing that it cannot be for everyone. That's just due to the uniqueness of people and the one-track nature of a story. Do your best, but embrace it!

    If I'm honest, the subjectiveness of reading is beautiful. It's part of why I love it so and why it prompts good discussion (and disagreement). John Barton said, "You never step into the same book twice, because you are different each time you read it."

    I think that's lovely. But that's just my perception. ;)
    Do you agree or disagree with this whole perception notion? Anything to add?

    If you want to read more about my thoughts on reviews, you can read about why authors love reviews more than chocolate and how I write a book review.

    ALSO, there is a party happening on Facebook on Sunday, Nov 18th! Check it out HERE. :)

    Saturday, November 10, 2018

    How to Be a Consistent Blogger

    This is a topic on my mind at the moment since it's 11am on Saturday and I just realized I hadn't even started a blog post for this week. That happened to me a lot when I first began blogging, too. Looking back, I have a few tips on how to remain consistent!

    If I've ever edited for you, you know I say "consistency is the key" ... like twenty gazillion times. Same goes with just about everything else in life but especially blogging.

    In order to be consistent when I first started out, I:

    • set a low goal (at least one post a week)
    • made a schedule (every Saturday morning)
    • and occasionally planned ahead (schedule post feature, anyone?)
    I'd say the only other thing I've really added to that list is keeping a running list of post ideas. I have several unfinished posts in my blog drafts, and I have an ongoing list of ideas in the notes on my phone. Yes, there are some ideas I'll probably never use. But it's great to have a starting point when I have days like today with zero ideas.

    It's also really nice to have a go-to post style. I prefer to not do pictures because that takes too much time and effort. Most of my posts are tips or how-to posts. I also enjoy tying them to whatever's new to me in the writing world--what I'm learning.

    So consistent blogging? That came to mind because I'm late on this post. ;)

    There's no one formula for everyone, but trust me: it's well worth the time to find your comfort zone. It's very helpful for when you're in more of a crunch! Though, in general, I found that the more I blogged the more I remembered and looked forward to blogging. 

    It all comes down to willpower, honestly. I've been blogging for a while now and so I don't intend to miss this Saturday even if I am late. It's all about the track record and being around to engage all you wonderful peeps on a regular basis!!
    Do you struggle with consistency in blogging? What's your favorite kind of blog post to write?

    Saturday, November 3, 2018

    Tips for Meeting Your Deadline

    NaNo has begun! It's a month of crazy goals (like 50,000 words in a month). But whether it's NaNo or something else, how on earth do people reach that deadline? Good question. I have a few tips to share for next time you're in a time crunch.

    First, let me say that meeting a deadline is not easy. It will probably never be easy. In fact, it's really, really hard. But it's not impossible.

    And, no, I'm not an expert deadline-meeter. I've failed to meet a self-imposed deadline so many times that I've learned many things to share with you today. (Just look at the time stamp on this blog post if you dn't believe me.)

    Make it Attainable

    Sometimes you're not always the one setting the deadline or goal. But if you are, by all means, make it something you can reach! Difficult and challenging, yes. But 50k in a month is way more doable than 150k. Just saying. I'm aiming for 30k this time even though that still won't count as a success for NaNo. I know I'll thank myself later.

    Motivate Yourself

    I've been skimming Write Your Novel in 30 Days by Jeff Gerke. One of his good points was that writing is made up of many small victories, not just the primary victory of hitting your goal. Guess what? If you celebrate those little victories, you have more frequent rewards to look forward to! Motivation, baby.

    (Example: I'm starving and should be eating lunch, but I'm motivating myself to finish the blog post with my hunger.)

    Okay, so maybe pick a better (and less painful) motivator than starvation. We're talking a movie night, expensive coffee, and a dinner out when you finish ... Nice things that will actually motivate you.

    Buckle Down

    This is what reaching most deadlines requires. Pretend you're in Antartica for a month and go off the grid. Keep your phone on silent, ignore your family, don't take extra work shifts. Ideally, we'd all like to go to a cabin for six weeks, but for me it just means taking on less instead of doing less. Just don't do anything extra.

    That allows you to buckle down and get it done. It's not always pleasant, but it's a reward in and of itself when you finish! Spend some time finding what works best for you before you get started so you've got your ideal space, your time, and then just knock. it. out.

    Find a Partner

    Everyone is statistically more successful with an accountability partner. Everyone. Whether it's a group (like Camp NaNo cabins) or one person, find somebody! Someone who will tell you to suck it up and get it done, but who will also listen to your problems and give you ideas, and try to encourage you. Writing is already hard before adding a deadline! So if you can find another writer who's willing to prod you along, you'll have someone who understands.

    Take Breaks

    You'll also need someone who can tell you to take breaks. Breaks are vital to success because otherwise you'll burn out. (Trust me, I'm the burnout queen.) So even when you're on a deadline, you have to eat, sleep, and still take breaks. Even though it feels counterproductive to take a nap, a walk, or watch an episode of something ... it might be just what you need. 

    My go-to break is Netflix. It's the ultimate form of chill and as long as I have the willpower to pick only one episode, it's got a fixed end. Besides, as a writer, I almost always get an idea when watching something. Being a writer isn't only about writing.

    I'm sure there are two hundred other tips I could throw at you, but I feel like that's a good start (and I'm still starving).
    How do you meet a deadline? What incentives help motivate you?

    Saturday, October 27, 2018

    Simply Jane Smith // My NaNo 2018 Project

    I'm not sure why it took me so long to decide what to post this week because ... it's less than a week until NaNoWriMo!!!!! (I already regret this decision.) I've yet to tell the general public about the project I'll be working on, so here goes!

    Should I be writing Martin Crossroads? Why yes. But I just hit the 75k marker! So I'm taking a break from it in November.

    Then perhaps this mysterious Blossoms of Beaumont project in your sidebar, you ask? Ha, nope. That is totally a whenever-I-feel-like-it project. And I don't feel like it for NaNo.

    What then?!

    A new (but not entirely new) project, of course. Some of you may remember my little Simply Jane Smith story. It's over on my Writings page with a collage. I began handwriting it nearly two years ago, but then my wrist gave out. Originally the story was going to be about traveling to Paris ... except I've never been there.

    But I've been to NYC now!! Oh yessss. I'm going to stuff my NYC experiences into a 30k novella about a girl who wins a trip and hopes to find inspiration in the city that never sleeps. (Kind of excited to try that!)

    Here's the most recent mock cover I made, not that the white edges show up very well on here:

    I hope to complete the first draft during November, but writing hasn't been so speedy of late, so there's really no telling if I'll hit my goal or not. Definitely not aiming for the 50k that the website automates though because I value my sanity. But I finished the rough draft of the outline last night and it's actually got me excited to give this a shot! I've still got the NYC bug, so that part should be fun at least.

    Here's the blurb that I have up on the NaNo website:

    Gwyneth Grey is a successful lifestyle blogger, complete with a picturesque apartment and Tiffany's solitaire engagement ring. But Jane Smith, the girl behind the blog, has reached the end of her creative powers. When Jane wins a trip to NYC, she grabs her camera, her favorite barista, and hops on a plane. The city that never sleeps has two weeks to refresh her spirits or she might as well kiss life as she knows it goodbye. Yet Jane soon finds that inspiration is only the beginning of her problems, and the solution might require more of her than she's willing to give.

    I might be getting the hang of this contemporary thing. Does it sound like your cup of tea?
    What are you doing for NaNoWriMo? No worries if you're new to the scene. Just google it and then laugh at all the insane people signing their souls away for a month. :P

    Also, check out my social media for a cover reveal of a friend's flash fiction collection!!

    Saturday, October 20, 2018

    Alternatives to Writing Prompts

    Writing prompts are popular for a reason--they contain little nuggets of inspiration to boost your brain. I always hesitate to base a story completely off a cool prompt because it makes me feel like an idea theif. Whether thats the case with you or not, I've found several alternatives to true writing prompts that help me come up with my own ideas.

    Sometimes there are writing prompts that aren't really prompts. Like this one:

    *from Pinterest*
    These are the kind I like because they allow the writer to still discover their own idea. Not that it matters because every idea we have is based off what's around us. However, I like more "process" prompts than story ideas. It's more like an imagination prompt than a writing prompt if you really want to draw a difference.

    Here are a few more such prompts or methods that I use regularly:
    • ask my siblings for a random word
    • base something off a song (shuffle play is best!)
    • pick a random word, possibly think about its multiple meanings
    • trace a myth or story for an obscure detail (basically how I wrote Andora's Folly)
    • scroll through my Pinterest pins for a thought-provoking image
    • pick a name and research the meaning
    • base something off a season or around a specific event
    • think of something common (regency era) and then something uncommonly followed amongst it (the violinists at all the balls)
    • write down the dreams you remember (how I wrote Martin Hospitality)
    • keep a running list of random ideas to review
    These tend to work better for short fiction because then it can be worked back and forth until you have something brief you like. Every now and then I get something that fits well into a dry spot of a novel, too.

    In general, I have no fail-proof way of prompting myself. I just have to start somewhere like above and eventually, if I chase it far enough, something will often spark.

    What kind of prompts work best for you? Do you prefer writing story prompts (a damsel in distress) or imagination prompts like I gave?

    Saturday, October 13, 2018

    What No One Told Me About Writing

    While I can never think of anything profound when people ask for writing advice, I often find little things that I wish I'd known sooner. Sometimes we learn best through our own experience. But there are some simple writing realities that no one told me about. Today I'm going to share the love and tell you in advance.

    No matter where you are on your writing journey, I believe there's always something to learn. Of course, you can't learn everything in advance (although that might be nice??). Maybe my list has things you had handled, but here are some things that surprised me when I became a serious writer.

    Sometimes you'll be unable to write. Um ... wut? This is a biggie! Writing is kinda in the name of what you do. Yet, I can't tell you how many times I open up a document and sit there. The cursor and I have a staring contest. Maybe I get a few words, lines, paragraphs ... tweak some things? But very rarely do I get the "sit down and write a chapter" experience. Everyone writes differently, but I think we all have these moments. They're not fun.

    Prayer is a gigantic ingredient. This sounds simple, but I really wish I'd found this out sooner when writing Martin Hospitality. I'd never prayed before when writing (?). But when it came to writing a full novel with spiritual themes that I said was my ministry ... yeah, prayer comes in handy! duh And it wasn't just "helpful." It was completely essential. As in, I cannot even take credit for a lot of the book as a result, especially the themes.

    Yes, God helped me a lot even before I asked Him, but it wasn't until I got stuck and desperate that I thought it might be worth asking Him for a leg up and BOOM. His presence throughout the book is what I noticed when I reread it. It's amazing to read my own words and know I cannot take credit. There is nothing I want more as a writer.

    Don't rely just on yourself. That's a huge part of what I learned from finally praying about my book. Book writing requires a miracle more or less (see the point above), and a lot of hard work. Hard work is exhausting. So the more help you can get, the better. As the writer, it's still your name on the front. All help means is you have a whole host of people to thank in your acknowledgments because they saved your sanity. Books aren't meant to be written by just one person. In fact, I don't think such a book exists.

    Writing is super personal. Ew. I'm a huge internalizer and not a fan of emotions or ... anything. I'm willing to tell you facts about myself, but I'm not one to share my problems. So perhaps it's better I didn't know this one in advance. Because my books, which felt like such distant, fun little stories as I wrote, ended up somehow telling parts of my own struggles and giving me a clearer picture of myself. I've never written "my story," but as an author, I inevitably share a soul with my books. That's part of how they give such glory to God. And part of why publishing is so scary.

    Distractions are everywhere. Yikes. I think we all learn this one. But it's crazy how often I don't write when that's what I've sat down to do. This is different than "can't write" mentioned above because this time it's on me. Find some habits for focus that work for you and use that writing time wisely!

    Writing the book is actually the easy but still very hard part. Not gonna lie. I thought writing would be easier than it was. I definitely thought self-publication would be easier than it was. I think I set out with a mindset geared more for traditional publication in that I was very writing-focused. That was my field, and I was going to do well in order to impress everyone and have a great story.

    The technical side of self-publishing?? *shrug* I wanted to self-publish for the control, but I had no idea how much research "having control" was going to take. Endless decisions!!! ISBNs? Literally figured that out one month before publishing. Formatting and cover design?? Hired out, and even that was a process. Scheduling? Biggest pain in the entire world.

    All in all, it's a learning process. Don't let me intimidate you; it's all worth it. As in very, very worth it. But writing, at least for publication, is one big learning curve. That's part of what makes it fun. And that's part of what makes it intense and subject to change. (Still working on that sequel, you guys.)

    It all comes down to you've got this. Just don't be surprised when things are bigger and better and more vast than you could have imagined. Get your hands dirty writing and publishing a book!
    Writing is crazy and personal and subjective. What did you have to learn the hard way? Where are you in your writing journey? Talk to me, peeps!

    Saturday, October 6, 2018

    Farris's Birthday (with snippets!)

    Farris Ebworthy (who is but an infant in Martin Hospitality) had his birthday on October 2nd! Just like last year, I practically forgot. Such a horrible author, I know. It wouldn't be so bad if I didn't have the words "Farris Ebworthy, Oct 2" in literal print for all the world to see. So since a dear reader reminded me of the event, I thought we should do a little celebrating to make it up to one of my absolute favorites.

    Farris is really the best. I know you all only got to see him as a six-month-old (and younger) in Martin Hospitality, but trust me. He's turning out well. ;)

    SO happy birthday to Farris. Even though you're fictional, who passes up a chance to party? A.k.a. enjoy all the party-related things like food. Or in this case presents.

    I don't think I've publicly shared any official words from Martin Crossroads yet, so I thought it'd be a good idea to share some Farris-y snippets with you all today.

    I'll be honest--I absolutely hate finding snippets to share. I think it makes me panic that if I can't find one line or paragraph that's good on it's own ... maybe the whole thing is rubbish. But I put myself through it anyway just for you and Farris.

    The first snippet is when he's coming on five years old.

                “Hi, Mama.” He walked the beam a few paces as if he were in gymnastics—something Gemma had considered to get his energy out and now set her mind against.
    “What are you doing? Josiah, go get the ladder.”
    “It’s OK, Mom! Watch this.”
    He crouched before leaping off the beam.
    For one heart-stopping moment, Gemma foresaw him breaking every bone in his body as he fell the twenty feet. A stall consumed him with nothing more than a rustle for the sound of impact.
    Josiah made it inside first.
               She released a breath when she saw two arms and two legs poking out of a loose pile of hay. He is in so much trouble.


    And the second snippet from when he's fifteen ... ish

    Farris felt something stir inside him. Something beyond pity. He hadn’t thought about dying today. He didn’t have to worry about where his next meal was going to come from, and he knew the twins didn’t either. Together their fathers had harvested the most prosperous crop for miles this past fall. Want was the last thing on their minds.
                Hannah set her chin. “There are kids who die every day from things like hunger and thirst. That’s not even the sad part. The sad part is that most of them haven’t heard about Jesus. People here all know who He is and lots of them still walk away. But there? They don’t have a chance unless we help them. So how will you help?”
                An uneasy silence settled over the room. She curtsied and applause followed.
                “Where did she come from?” Ash whispered.
                Noah shrugged. Farris didn’t care where she’d come from. Through his speech and the rest of the day, he couldn’t get her gauntlet out of his head.


    That gives you a pretty good idea of his personality! So excited to share him with you all. To close it all out, if I could pick one song for Farris, it would be this one.

    What do you think is in Farris's future? I'm so excited to share him with you all!!

    Saturday, September 29, 2018

    How to Have a Guilt-Free Hiatus

    I just got back from an awesome trip to NYC. The post I planned for today was originally going to be "Successful Travel Journaling Tips." But I didn't journal a single word on the trip. It was a true break and I don't even feel bad about it! I've tried to analyze how that all worked out so beautifully to help you plan for a guilt-free hiatus as well.

    Everyone takes breaks differently. Some take a hard, cold break (planned or not). Others remain in and out through a busy season. And then there are those like me: stopping one thing to make time for another.

    That's the special disease of multitasking for procrastination just to feel productive.

    The ingredients in my own special blend of breaks are guilt and fear. Guilt comes because I have a good thing going and I'd feel bad doing something like making my readers wait longer, disappearing from my blog for a few weeks, spending time not getting something done, etc.

    Fear comes in on things like worrying that I'll never want to come back if I stop, or that I'll forget what I'm doing, I'll lose the momentum I've built up.

    You get the picture, and you probably have your own list of fill-in-the-blanks.

    What I've realized is that fear and guilt go hand-in-hand with any project. That's just the way it is for me. So to finish a project, I have to get past all of that. Thus pausing only the project and still having the fears and guilt is not. a. break!

    So let's hash out what my "fake breaks" look like real quick so there's a contrast for what I just experienced in NYC. Fake break:

    • still working one aspect of the story (I was supposed to glean details about NYC for the setting of a new story and hopefully figure out a plot as well)
    • bringing a laptop along to stay on top of things like blogging, emails, etc
    • making promises you don't end up keeping (I'll share pics every day, still post in those groups, still maintain blogging, etc)
    • taking accidental breaks and feeling like they're sufficient
    That ^ is bad. Don't be like Abi. Don't take fake breaks. Deal? ;)

    Here's what my "real break" in NYC looked like. Real break:
    • having a few bookish ideas flit through my head, but keeping the break (not the project) the focus
    • having limited internet and no computer
    • checking email and starring what looks important, but not replying to anything
    • letting go of my "I'll post pictures every day" idea when Facebook simply didn't like me and I was too tired
    • planning this break as a Friday-Thursday hiatus so I could prepare (scheduled a blog post and a few social media posts)
    • choosing fun and/or sleep over anything else
    • having lots to do so I genuinely had no time to think "gee, look at all this free time I could be working during"
    • keeping it short so that I can abandon things like email the whole time without any  repercussions
    Yes, I still thought about my writing once or twice. I did post on Instagram a few times. But all of that was organic, and so it fit the break. There were zero expectations. It was the most freeing and exhausting trip ever.

    And because it was a true break, I do kind of feel like I've forgotten how to follow the rules of the road (which don't apply in NYC), how to work, how to not eat bagoodles of sugar, how to write every day ... but I'll work it all back in a little at a time.

    Basically, my brain took a hiatus. It doesn't matter what you're doing or not doing if your brain is still chanting write, write, write.

    So yes, I started a new book in September as my "fake break" which fulfilled its purpose of keeping me writing something even if it wasn't Martin Crossroads. My real break was so much better than that even though it did put me behind on my goals and whatnot. Because at the end of it all, I have to enjoy some things without the need to write. 

    And let's not forget I am self-published. I'm allowed to give myself a little breathing room. I highly recommend you do the same every once in a while. :)
    How often do you take real breaks? Or are you bad about taking a bunch of fake breaks just to drag out the burnout process like me?

    NYC was so much fun, you guys!!! I have a bunch of pictures up on my Facebook, but I can't wait to share some more because I did get behind. I saw both Phantom of the Opera and Anastasia on Broadway and I do have some great inspiration after seeing those, so time to think about my trip with my writer brain turned back on. ;)

    Saturday, September 22, 2018

    Readers' Block and How to Vanquish It

    We all know what writers' block is (though its existence is up for debate right now). But have you ever heard of readers' block? Chances are you've experienced it, and it's no fun.

    Do you ever sit down to read a book and get nowhere? Maybe it's a book you were previously enjoying. Or maybe you start three different books and still can't get anywhere. You're dutifully trying to read, but it's a sudden struggle.

    Worst. Feeling. Ever.

    I call this readers' block: the sudden inability to enjoy reading. Because it's not that you can't read. There's just nothing going for ya. And like with writers' block, sometimes it's a good idea to push through and other times it's not.

    I've been dealing with readers' block a lot lately, and I've learned one main thing: all it takes is a really good book.

    That's it! I've only ever gotten out of readers' block by finding a book that wholeheartedly captured my interest. One that I looked forward to reading and knocked out quickly.

    And while that sounds so simple, any of you who have ever felt this way know that the very nature of readers' block makes all books less interesting

    Isn't that weird? (Answer: yes, it's a tragedy.)

    That being said, you don't need just any mediocre book. You need a kind of book that's been known to capture you in the past.

    So while this will probably look different for you, here are a few book characteristics I look for when trying to pull myself out of the slump:
    • easy-to-read writing // I enjoy Dickens and Shakespeare, but this is not the time to start one of them. Give me some straightforward 21st-century writing!
    • an engaging main character // I have to care about the main character a lot to get myself out of a reading slump. So he/she needs to be entertaining, mysterious, relatable ... compelling in some way!
    • a vivid setting // I'm 10x more likely to connect to a book in a vivid setting. This doesn't mean it has to be a beautiful vividness, but there has to be that world-painting nonetheless.
    • sprinkles on top // whether it be a plot twist, a well-done romance, a scene of drama, or something that makes me emotional ... yeah, that takes the book that much further.
    • bonus points // some personal favorites like humor, Christian themes, multiple POV, hints of tragedy, and self-sacrifice.
    Again, your list will probably look different than mine, and that's perfectly fine! But I've found that knowing what I like has helped me work around bouts of "all books are boring." Because we all know that's not true. ;)

    Does such a book exist, you ask? Yes, yes it does.

    A few that have worked their magic on me in the last few months are:
    Yes, I bypassed those times when we have no choice but to subject ourselves to a particular book. Lots of things here depend on preference and circumstance. Sometimes you should perhaps take a break from reading all together.

    But when at all possible, I've learned to stop reading if the book doesn't capture my interest. Sometimes the disinterest is on my part and not the book's. So don't be afraid to hold out for that awesome read that will cleanse your reading taste buds and allow you to revisit less glamorous (but hopefully equally rewarding) reads.
    What books have helped you get out of the depths of despair?

    P.S. I scheduled this post in advance, but am currently frolicking about NYC with a notebook in one hand and a (phone) camera in the other. Can't wait to tell you all about it!

    Saturday, September 15, 2018

    How I Became a Freelance Editor

    Not too long ago, I covered why I edit. Now I'm going to give y'all a look at how I got here. (Hint: it's not as hard as you think.)

    First, I'm going to define "freelance editor." I think that's become a term for any editor who isn't employed by a publishing house. A nice way to put that is "freelance" means "entrepreneurial."

    Thus, the whole point is that there really is no set recipe on how to get there kind of like chili. So I'm going to give you my recipe, but don't feel like all of these are requirements. Personalization is part of it.

    While I know some people go to college, take courses (like this one), or even apprentice, I find that the most important thing to have as a freelance editor is experience.

    I've gotten experience in three different ways:
    • beta reading // This is how I started out. I beta read friends' books for free and basically practiced my edits on them. I had actually already begun doing this just "for fun" before considering editing as a career. Enjoying alpha and beta reads is part of what helped me decide I would like editing.
    • read writing craft books // This might not be for everyone since I'm a reader. But so far, DIY MFA by Gabriela Pereira and The Irresistible Novel by Jeff Gerke are my absolute favorite writing craft books. They're so much more than that and taught me a lot of things from masters much quicker than I would have learned them myself.
    • received edits from others // Whether this was beta reads (not for everyone!) or paying for a freelance editor, I learned the most the fastest by having other people give me feedback.

    I did all of those things before ever charging a dime. When I felt ready to make the transition to a freelance editor, I did several things:
    • collected "editing" reviews from the more prestigious people I'd beta read for (all you have to do is ask!)
    • stopped alpha/beta reading for everyone but my closest writing friends
    • chose affordable pricing so I could reach the same group I'd already been helping
    • let people know I was editing through a blog page (now on my website) and post
    And really, it's been fantastic! I've had an average of at least one manuscript a month since I began editing almost two years ago. Since then, I've only raised my prices once to match my growing skillset. Through word of mouth, I've ended up with some college-level papers to edit as well.

    I don't try to sound more accomplished than I am, and I always intend to have under-market pricing. My target clients are young/new writers who need an encouraging edit and more experienced writers who need a once-over final proofing. I think those are key things to make me stand out from the crowd. (We all know every writer and their second cousin edits on the side.)

    I've really enjoyed freelance editing, and hope to continue to build it as a steadier source of income. (If anyone has any tips on how to get any faster, that would be spot on! xD)

    The hardest part for me was knowing how to transition to charging. Would people be all right with that? Would any of my friends want to pay for my feedback? The truth is we all have to start somewhere, so putting that self-doubt aside and stepping out there was hard. But it's what allowed me to gain experience and confidence.

    I'd say the best part of it all for me has been knowing that I'm helping other people. People whose shoes I've been in. Publishing is scary and professional edits are a must (in my opinion). So I love being able to get writers one step closer to fulfilling their dreams.
    Thanks to my reading accountability partner Lisa for giving me the idea for this post! I hope you found it helpful. Have you ever considered offering editing services?