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?

Saturday, September 8, 2018

The Rejection of Bittersweet Endings

While I've always been a bit of a fan of a well-done bittersweet ending, I've found that much newer media receives a lot of pushback for doing that. I'm curious to explore a little bit of why they're largely unpopular, and yet creatives keep choosing them.

I don't think it's too much of a stretch to say that one reason I think bittersweet endings are often rejected is simply because of what they are. They're bittersweet. Not completely happy. I'm not going to lie . . . I was kind of in shock the first time I watched Roman Holiday because of how it ends. And yet, it's still oddly satisfying because it feels so right.

When I look at why people see such endings as a bad thing, two things come to mind.

First, bittersweet endings create a sense of dissatisfaction. Why? Because we all know there could be more! (The excess of happy endings has spoiled us.) People already suspended belief to a certain extent when reading or watching something, so they're often content to have anything happen in order to reach a satisfying conclusion. That's part of what they're trusting the creator behind the story to do.

Second . . . our brains might actually be geared toward happy endings. Jeff Gerke mentioned readers being predisposed to prefer happy endings in his book The Irresistible Novel. If a reader or moviegoer is properly attached to the main character, it's natural to want things to work out well!

The only other reason I can think that this might be the case is that perhaps a happy ending is built into us. Even people without belief in God hope they go somewhere good when they die (or else nowhere at all). Most people can still admit that this world has problems, but they want to believe it will get better, not worse. And the Bible tells us it will! Sometimes it just has to get worse first. That right there is the pattern of most stories. Conflict before resolution.

And of course there's the simple fact that many expect entertainment and an escape from the real world. They'll take a happier than might be realistic ending than not. Because happy endings instill hope.

Having said all of that, I don't hate bittersweet endings as a general rule. Off  the top of my head, here's a few reasons I can like them:

  • They're unusual! Happy endings are typical even if more widely accepted.
  • They're often more realistic. Sorry. Just because all of creation will end up OK at the end of time doesn't mean a specific person's life has a happy ending.
  • They're impactful. Even though bittersweet is what it is, it's often the result of something lovely that's faded, or gives birth to something that couldn't have otherwise existed. (Take the controversial ending of La La Land.)
I mean, no one likes an ending that's bittersweet just because it feels like a happy ending couldn't be made plausible and so you're stuck with what should have been the scene before the actual ending. So what makes a bittersweet ending good enough for me? Well, it has to strike a chord on those points above. But most of all, it has to have meaning; it must be sweet because of the bitter. That, too, is the way of the world. Sometimes things are better in small doses even if that means coming to an end.

Jeff Gerke described the balance like this, "A main character can suffer harm and even die and it will still feel like a happy ending to the reader if that's the 'right' and satisfying resolution for that character." There are some key ingredients there, including making it feel happy. Quite thought-provoking!

I guess my only real conclusion is bittersweet endings should be given more of a chance.
I feel like that turned into one big tug-of-war with myself. What are your thoughts on happy versus bittersweet endings? Any bittersweet stories to recommend?

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Why Blogs Will Never Die + Author Website

I keep hearing things that say blogs are on their way out. I've not done any research on why people are saying this or if they're actually dying out, but I think it's impossible for them to die off completely for a couple reasons.

First, I don't intend to stop blogging for a long time. Therefore, at least one blog will remain on the internet. I can't imagine not blogging anymore if I'm honest. Which is crazy because I used to be SO turned off by the very idea of a blog. But here we are. God thinks He's funny or something.

Second, blogs are community-based! And while "professionals" keep saying blogs are phasing out, the desire for community is only getting stronger. It's almost reached the level of being a buzzword in today's culture, so why would something that helps unite people of common interests die?

Third, I really think blogs are unique. While exceptions of course exist, they're not life journals or formal articles. They're a beautiful blend where personality meets help. Again--a community! Blogs are great if only to know you're not alone.

Fourth, they're newsletters on steroids. Despite what professionals have been saying for a very long time, mailed-to-people's-homes newsletters (real print ones!) are still effective according to mutliple business professionals I've heard from lately. They can be more effective than electronic ones even ... And what are blogs but an electronic newsletter on steroids?

Fifth, I want to trust agents and publishers. If blogs were really on their way out, would all of us younglings be turned away for a platform that's too small? There are other platforms--I get that. But blogs die without community. I can have 500 followers without any interaction elsewhere. So I think numbers mean more here--and I think the big guys know that.

So I'm not sure why people think blogs are dying. I guess it's because blogs are easily abandoned, the internet evolves, kids these days don't read as much.

That doesn't mean blogs have to die! That just means presentation might have to be tweaked in order to meet muster. But, really, flexibility is what marketing and being successful is all about, then I know nothing.

*shrug* That's just me. I guess I'll believe it when I'm the only blog left standing.

Now, for the big news.


Yes, I'll give you the link and all that good stuff, but I want to explain. I'm not going to stop blogging. I just wanted a more professional space to ... be professional! That way I can have my services, salesy links, and snazzier design over there without having to touch much here.

So expect minor changes to the pages at the top, but that's about it. The editing page will go away and perhaps some other things. If you're super attached to something, let me know! All of this is in an effort to make things better for all of you.

Now, for the link. You can visit my author website at Not too complicated, right?

I'd love to hear your thoughts!
Do you think blogs are on their way out? Why or why not?

ALL THE THOUGHTS on the author website!!