A Writer-Reader Sort of Tag

I planned on a how-to post for today, but . . . then I read Kate Flournoy’s latest blog post and realized I was tagged. 🙂 Thanks, Kate! I just love these things. So, let’s jump right in.

1. Would you rather enter a fictional character’s world or bring a fictional character into yours?

Oh, noooo . . .  Can you honestly imagine the repercussions of bringing a fictional character into the real world?

Okay, so, based on the fact that if I were to visit a fictional character, it would probably be somebody from the Ba’ku village in Star Trek Insurrection – that or the hobbits of the Shire – I would have to visit them in their world. To do otherwise would take all the fun out of it. (And yes, I know those selections are rather opposite each other.)

2. Butterflies or moths?

Moths are . . . interesting, but butterflies are beautiful. So I pick butterflies.

3. What is your favorite genre, and what do you think is its primary purpose/goal? 

Favorite genre? That is, like, constantly changing!

Let’s just play it safe and say fantasy and science fiction. But then, some of my favorite stories are action in modern times. So . . . let’s move on. Purpose or goal? To get you thinking. To entertain. To inspire. I guess that kind of depends on the author more than the genre.

4. City or country?

I’m a farmer’s daughter, aren’t I? I’d go nuts in the city.

5. What’s your first memory?

Oh, no . . . oh, no.

Um . . . I think my first memory is of unplugging a vacuum cord from the wall (I know, I know), but I also have a couple other vague memories of us living in that house. Little things, so I can’t really say that is my first memory for sure.

6. Which of your favorite books do you think best matches your personality?

. . . . . . .

. . . processing . . . processing . . .

Either the Out of Time Series by Nadine Brandes or Ilyon Chronicles by Jaye Knight. One is fantasy, one is dystopian, but both of them kind of reflect my personality in different ways. There. My secret’s unveiled. 🙂

7. What’s your favorite virtue? (Courage, joy, patience…) 

Joy. Joy can get you through so much. But I also have to say compassion wins a very, very close second. The joy of the Lord is our strength, and He calls us to have compassion.

8. Do you prefer character-centric stories or plot-centric?

Character-centric! Characters are EVERYTHING to a story! Hmm, maybe I ought to do a blog post on that . . .

9. Electronic books or physical ones?

Is that a rhetorical question? I hate reading books electronically.

10. Would you rather live in a library or a castle tower?

For good, or temporarily? If temporarily, library. If permanently . . . castle tower. 🙂

11. If you could only keep one of your five senses, which would it be, and why?

You didn’t! You mustn’t make me choose!

But you are making me chose, so if I could only keep one sense, it would be eyesight. If I lost everything but eyesight, I could probably still farm. But to not witness the moment a baby goat is born . . . ah, that would be its own torture. Besides, if I could see, I could still write!

And that concludes the tag. But apparently I have to come up with another eleven questions for all of you, so here they be.

Would you rather live in the city or the country?

What is your least favorite genre and why?

If given the challenge, could you live without ALL basic electronics (cell phone, computer, etc.)?

What fictional character best resembles your personality?

If you had to lose one of your five senses, which would it be?

Cats or dogs?

Horses or cows?

Butterflies or moths? (Thanks, Kate!)

Would you rather live on a deserted island or on a spaceship?

If you could time-travel to just one place and time, what would it be and why?

Sum up your current WIP in just four words.

And now, take the tag and let me know how it goes. I also officially tag Tricia Mingerink and anyone else who wants to do it!

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I Have Finished the Book (a book update)

So I mentioned in the last post that there was an unplanned project that came into existence – don’t you love how they do that? – in January. I had temporarily put my portal fantasy novel on the back burner to give myself some breathing space, so I had time to write something new.

And I did.

And I finished it.

*throws confetti and invites you all to the (gluten-free) pizza party*

Now . . . details!

Ashes Remain was born from a New Year’s Resolution to have a book published by the end of 2018. Now that’s my kind of Resolution. To make things a little easier, I wrote this book in novella length. I started on January 3rd, finished on February 1st.

Ashes Remain is a novella taking place in the modern world – culture shock from my typical fantasy manuscripts – at a time when the American electrical grid is attacked and essentially disabled. Trying desperately to get to away from the ensuing chaos is a family that includes lovesick teen Wren and her brothers and sister. I can’t tell you how many times the little things kept changing during the writing. It is true – the characters won’t do what you want in the first draft. 🙂

Ashes Remain is a story of triumph, really – triumph over impossible circumstances. Hope, while seemingly inaccessible, is everywhere you look. And when God seems out of reach, even callous, He’s holding us and all our tomorrows. That, my friends, is my new book, Ashes Remain.

*throws confetti again ’cause I can’t believe it’s done*

I’d like to share one thing I learned from this writing process, besides the last post I did on finishing the first draft, and that is, the benefit of setting aside the first draft when it is completed and taking time to breathe. I am moving on to a new (or old) project after this, for just a couple months, while this first draft simmers and ages on my shelf. Then comes the second draft. We won’t talk about that right now. 🙂

If you’re jumping up and down – like me. I don’t know if you’re jumping up and down, but I sure am – then I do have a couple fun extras going along with the completion of this draft. Okay, one fun extra. Up until now, the Pinterest board containing all the secret tidbits and inspiration of this story has been secret. Shh! I’m giving it just to you! Follow this little link to get an exclusive sneak peek inside the story that I’m totally too excited about. (In case you couldn’t tell.)

🙂 🙂 🙂

Don’t forget to check out Pinterest for those bonus points!

And now . . . let’s chat.

How to Finish That First Draft

I thought it an appropriate post for today because that is where I’m at right now with a project that, until a month ago, was entirely unplanned. Yes, yes, details to follow on the wings of a book update. But not today. Because I want to finish the first draft first. And I’m writing this post to encourage you with your first draft, and also to give myself a kick to finish mine. 🙂  I know, I’m horrible.

But seriously. First. Drafts. Are. Torture.

Why? Because

1. You probably don’t know exactly how it’s going to end.

Figuring out an ending, at least for me, is almost impossible. It’s got to be just right. It has to be good. And that’s the tricky part.

2. You get halfway or so through the story and you realize . . . it’s RUBBISH!

writing doubt quote

We all get to this point, especially with the first draft. But fear not, there’s some potential there somewhere. And remember, there’s a ninety-percent chance it’s not as bad as you think. We writers can’t judge our own work. So don’t you dare throw it in the shredder until you let someone objectively read it. (Hear that, me??) Or maybe a couple someones, to be safe.

 

Now let’s move on. That’s why the first draft is so hard, if you were not already aware. But there are certainly a few tricks in the book for finishing that first draft. In no specific order, some of these I’ve implemented, others I ought to. 🙂

1. WRITE OUT ALL POSSIBILITIES FOR AN ENDING.

This one, of course, applies mostly to those of us who are at the end of our draft – and if you are, then you’re probably also at the end of your supply of coffee or tea or pretzels or apple cider or whatever else you use to keep your sanity during the writing process. I heartily recommend you treat yourself when all this nonsense is over.

Okay, yeah, I’m getting sidetracked. So, take out the good ol’ fashioned notebook and write out all the ideas you have for an ending. Then pick one. And if you can’t pick . . .

2. PICK AT RANDOM, WRITE IT, THEN HAVE A CRITIQUE PARTNER READ IT AND GIVE THEIR ADVICE AS TO AN ALTERNATE ENDING, IF NEEDED.

That title was quite self-explanatory. But you get the idea. Whatever you do, just plunge through. (See what that was, there?) Don’t stop to fuss over that lame adjective or that weak verb or that two-dimensional character arc. You’ll worry about that in the editing process.

3. TAKE A SHORT – SHORT! – BREAK.

Take a couple days to breathe if you think that will help. It might give you a push to keep going, but don’t let a breather ruin your momentum.

4. OUTLINE, OUTLINE, OUTLINE.

Never take a plot outline for granted unless you’re not a planner when it comes to the writing process. A detailed outline, while it is bound to change and should be expected and allowed to change, can be invaluable as you put together your masterpiece. I could not write two chapters without an outline. However, note that a first draft is the one in which the plot and the characters will not bend to your will. That’s the second draft.

 

Whatever you do to push through the many treacherous adventures of the first draft, don’t stop writing. Do not take your word for it when your mind laments over the absurdity of every word you’ve just written. You know why that happens? I have a theory. Maybe it’s because your heart would give a more favorable opinion than your mind regarding your book, but your heart has been shredded, scorched, and put back together with your characters, and therefore, by the end of the book, it refuses to keep up your optimism.

And now, let’s chat! What is your advice for conquering the giants in the first draft? Resupply your survival food and we’ll chat in the comments.

My Top Upcoming Releases of 2018 (for all my fellow bookworms)

There are so many delightful books coming out in 2018, every writer’s or reader’s blog should be doing this. I hadn’t planned on it before, but some of these are just too good to not share. What books are you most looking forward to this year??

1. Fawkes (Nadine Brandes)

Not only does this book sound totally incredible, it is the newest standalone from an all-time favorite author. I loved her previous trilogy – and this is a historical fantasy – so it is an auto-buy. Fawkes releases in July.

2. The Man He Never Was (James Rubart)

Not only do I personally love some of Rubart’s previous work (Well Spring Novels, Book of Days, etc.), but the premise of this story is incredibly intriguing. I think it will have the same impact that his other work did. Plus, it releases in about a month, which is quite exciting!

3. The Ghost Ship (Paul Regnier)

Who doesn’t love a good science fiction from Enclave publishers? Actually, I have yet to read book one of the Space Drifters Series, but since the first two sound so cool, and since I plan to read the series, I decided to put number three on this list. It releases in April.

4. Bitter Winter (Jaye L Knight)

This is the fifth installment into the Ilyon Chronicles Series, and therefore is an auto-buy. No official release date yet, but it should be this year. Oh, so exciting! Seriously, if you haven’t read the series yet, you must. 🙂

 

And there you have it. I’m sure there are a few more books out there I’m not thinking of and I know there are many more that I wouldn’t particularly care to put on this list. 🙂 That’s why you have to tell me the books you are most looking forward to in 2018. It’s going to be a delightful year, isn’t it? Let’s chat in the comments!

How to Write on Crazy Deadlines (it’s not as hard as it might seem)

There’s something in all of us, I think, that resents a deadline. We steer clear wherever we can, or do something really smart like finish wwaayy before the actual deadline. But as writers, we are doomed to face a lot of deadlines. And there are a few tricks to mastering them so they’re not quite so daunting.

1. PACE YOURSELF

I recently took part in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and this was one of the most valuable lessons I learned. In order to write on a deadline, especially one as crazy as 50,000 words in 30 days, you must pace yourself according to the time-word count ratio. Once you enter a place where you are regularly writing a substantial amount on a daily basis, you can actually find yourself in the “zone” of writing more often than not. This was also the case for me in NaNo. The more I wrote, the more I experienced the steady flow of inspiration.

2. WRITE MORE THAN YOU NEED TO

This one is not quite so obvious as the former but can actually help on a lengthy deadline as well as a tighter one. Not only can it help in entering the flow of writing, but it can take off some of the pressure and allow you a day off.

3. DON’T TAKE ON TOO MANY UNNECESSARY DEADLINES . . .

. . . because that can cause serious stress. 🙂 Bear in mind any deadlines you may have in other areas before taking one or more on in writing.

4. KEEP TRACK

This can be crucial, depending on the project. In something such as NaNoWriMo, your words per day are cataloged for you, and this is essential in knowing how much to push yourself and how much to pace yourself.

Are there any I’ve missed? What are your techniques for writing to a deadline? Share them in the comments so we can help new writers explore all the possibilities of writing armed with foreknowledge!

2018 – Highlights and Goals

Yes, and everyone and their cat is writing a greeting to 2018, so here’s another one. (What do you mean you’re getting sick of them?) 🙂

Well, what happened in 2017? Oh, so many things. Some good. Some bad. Some fun. Some a little scary. You know how it goes. But there are a couple highlights I must revisit . . . for posterity if you’re a Princess Bride fan.

2017 gave me my first ever visit to a theater. On a father-daughter date, my dad and I went to see The Man Who Invented Christmas – which I emphatically urge you to take an interest in – just before Christmas. It was crazy cool to see that kind of movie on a ginormous screen, especially since we’re some of those weird people who don’t own a TV and we only watch movies on our computer. 🙂  I found the theater itself a little weird, in a writerly sort of way. The words strange and vortex came to mind, as well as dystopian and story idea. But nevermind all that. That’s coming from the awkward sixteen-year-old who has never been to the theater before last month.

2017 also introduced me to National Novel Writing Month, and as some of you know, I embarked on the adventure that is NaNo for the first time. I hit the goal, and I loved it!

And 2017 also got me started in learning French. Which is fun.

Now for the long-awaited 2018, the year which never was and will never be again. Weird way to think about it. Yeah, so there are some serious highlights looking ahead to the new year. One of them is Nadine Brandes’ new release, Fawkes, which will magically appear on July 10th in the hands of those who pre-order. And seriously, that book looks good.

2018 is also – get ready – the year in which I have set the goal to have something officially published by the end of the year. 🙂 Let’s do this!

2018 is also the year in which there’s a terrific-looking movie coming out. No definite release date yet, but The Reliant sounds seriously good. I’ve read the book and am totally behind the message of faith and preparedness. The story was action-packed in book form, so I have no doubt the movie takes that to a new level. Check out the trailer, people.

And that’s enough for today. What are you up to this year, my friends? Any books or movies that impacted you in 2017? Any you’re dying to see/read in 2018? (And please, somebody tell me I’m not the only one who LOVED The Man Who Invented Christmas.) Let’s chat!

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and a Book Update

So, friends, let’s get back to blogging after a substantial break. Christmas can get busy, can’t it?

How was your Christmas season? Show of hands – how many of you received either reader- or writer-oriented gifts under the tree? Like a good book? Or a new notebook? Or a stash of bookmarks just for you? (Do you lose bookmarks as often as I do? I literally lose as many bookmarks as I acquire.)

Movin’ on, let’s talk about New Year’s resolutions . . . or revolutions? 🙂 I haven’t set any yet. *grins sheepishly* I’ll let ya all know. But anywho, resolutions are good. Goal-setting and all that. Anybody making plans for NaNo in 2018? Okay, that is one resolution I’m making.

We covered Christmas and New Year’s pretty quick . . . but I did promise you all a book update, now didn’t I?

It’s been ages since I announced the stage of my portal fantasy novel, but since NaNoWriMo, there hasn’t been a ton or writing going on. I’m going to be taking January to actually finish the second draft of the novel. Eeeppp! Prayers needed, folks, seriously. That and pizza, please??? Or a little ice cream. Or a lot of cold chicken legs. Mmm, those are good. Who else is taking January for a writing surge? Let me know so I can send you some of that pizza and those cold chicken legs . . . or would you rather just the pizza?

🙂

Yeah, yeah, I’m rambling. But anyway, I’m also polishing up a revised synopsis, which I won’t actually – probably – release until my critique partner and I go through the second draft together, as I’ll need to garner her opinion on a few plot adjustments.

So there is where we be at this December 27th, 2017-soon-to-be-’18. (Was any of that grammatically correct, I wonder.) What’s up in your world?

Let’s chat! Where are you going this New Year? Any special plans? If you haven’t already seen it or made a plan to see it, you must watch The Man Who Invented Christmas. It . . . is . . . fantastic. If you’re a writer or a Charles Dickens’ fan or just a reader, watch that movie. Seriously.

Is Your Story Made of Starlight Dust? (The long-awaited part 2)

Was it really a long-awaited part 2? I don’t know. You tell me. I know it was long-awaited for me because it has pretty much taken me since part 1 to discover the answer to the unanswered question I raised in that post – what is starlight dust and how does it fly from your imagination and into your story?

If you don’t remember or did not read that post, I encourage you to check it out. There were some wonderful responses!

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Is your story one of starlight dust?

So. The question I asked as I puzzled over it in my own mind was, “Why do I write some stories and they just completely flow? There’s little effort to really get it out, and it comes out solid and good. Why do I write other stories and, after great effort and writer’s block, it comes forth choppy, jagged, empty?”

My critique partner and I settled on our own term for this mystery – starlight dust – and I proceeded to observe in my own work when I saw that “dust” and when I didn’t. It’s been eons . . . but I believe I’ve discovered what starlight dust in the written word means to me.

There is not one strict answer. Show of hands, how many of you have seen the epically awesome, squeal-worthy, downright incredible The Man Who Invented Christmas? It’s in theaters now, if you haven’t even heard of it – inconceivable! – and you must watch the trailer. Anyway, enough fangirling – never enough! – let me get to the point.

Spoiler Free: In the above-mentioned movie, we witness the process Charles Dickens went through to write the second-greatest Christmas story of all time, A Christmas Carol. The first-greatest is Jesus’. But I think we’re safe to presume A Christmas Carol ranks second. Okay, so, in this new movie, providing the following bits of the film are true to Dickens’ life, we see an enormous portion of that author’s life, past, and convictions being poured into the book he worked so hard to produce.

And thus, we see starlight dust. Because of what Dickens put of himself into the story – without trying to – it came to life. Again, providing those tidbits of the film are true, as I have done no research on the topic, because A Christmas Carol came straight from Dickens’ heart, it was showered in starlight dust.

So, our past, present, and personal convictions can drastically affect whatever it is we’re writing. They can give the story that special glow I now label starlight dust.

What else? Having observed my own writing, I believe there’s another source. And it’s just a plain and painful fact: Some stories we can put our hearts into, and some we cannot. It is the blessing-in-disguise of writing. But when you can pour passion, like your convictions, into whatever it is you’re writing, it can illuminate the words so they become totally yours.

Of course, just because you deal with writer’s block or fatigue or pulling your hair out – do you do that? I’ve never experienced it – or slamming your head against a brick wall – or your keyboard. I don’t recommend either – those things do not mean there is no starlight dust to be found, or that what you’re struggling with isn’t what you should be writing. Beware of falling into those excuses.

There are, of course, many, many other sources for that special light only you can give your story. We wouldn’t have enough time to write down or read through all of them. Perhaps the major ones are the two highlighted here – convictions/you and passion. But many more exist and only you can uncover what starlight dust means for you.

So, while you’re puzzling over that, go watch The Man Who Invented Christmas. I saw it in theaters yesterday for my first-ever visit to a theater. (I know, I know. I’m sixteen and have never been to a theater.) It was an interesting experience. 🙂

Tell me, friends, what does starlight dust mean to you? Any tidbits you can share to encourage someone struggling as I was with figuring out what’s wrong with this story? And perhaps the most important question of the day . . . drumroll commences . . . drumroll ends . . . HAVE YOU SEEN THE MAN WHO INVENTED CHRISTMAS YET!

NaNoWriMo Coming to Town!

Okay, a show of hands, how many of you are getting ready for NaNoWriMo this year? I’ve wanted to enter forever, but was never in the position with a WIP that I could do it. But can you guess the reason for this blog post? I’m finally taking part in National Novel Writing Month! *is thankful I like writing at night* 🙂

And, yep, I’m going for the 50,000-word goal. Hey, if I’m doing this at all, I might as well do the whole thing.

I will be taking part with my current WIP, One Light Shining, a YA portal fantasy of which I penned the “first” draft this year. I kind of tried to forget about it, but, yeah, books just don’t work that way. 🙂 50,000 words should give me about half or so of the second draft.

So it looks like I’ll be staying up late, getting up early, finishing schoolwork as fast as possible . . .  Fun stuff like that. Nibbling chocolate. Drinking apple cider. Petting the cats when my blood pressure skyrockets . . .

Okay, so I thought I’d show you guys the synopsis of my WIP, in part because NaNoWriMo kicks off shortly, and in part because, by the end of November, that synopsis is going to look a little different. With rewriting always comes changes. Here goes:

Ties of blood are easily broken.

The words Cade spoke the night he killed his brother. Or . . . almost killed. Nothing haunts him more than the reality that he failed all those years ago to end the raging conflict between the nations. So, when two strangers come through the mysterious portal in answer to an ancient prophecy, Cade is ready to see his brother pay in full.

Wrenched from their modern world into a land of swords, bloodthirsty brothers and a nonsensical prophecy, Katrina and her long-time neighbor and nemesis, Andrew, grope for some kind of purpose in this strange world . . . but on opposite sides of a dangerous border. Spurred on by embittered contempt for Andrew, Katrina is more than ready to join Cade if he takes up the sword against the country of Mithunda. Until her own lust for revenge reveals a side of herself she never knew existed.

In a sea of secrets in which both are haunted by inner demons, Katrina and Andrew are forced to give the prophetic words a closer look, to search for what they truly mean. But the prophecy is shrouded in mystery, and all around them, people are proving determined enough to go to great lengths to see it negated.

And there you have it. Keep this storyline in mind, because I’m going to publish the revised synopsis at the end of November/beginning of December.

And I must know . . . have you ever done NaNoWriMo before? How did you survive? Tips you can share? Let’s chat!

Writing From an Unexpected Perspective

It may truly help a story.

So, think back to something you might have written from a non-human POV. Was it a tree? A butterfly? A goat? Short stories especially can benefit from placing the POV in the hands – or paws, or talons – of another creature. The whole “if these walls could talk” sort of thing. Even some novels have excelled in their genre using this unique vantage point.

WHAT’S THE BEST UNEXPECTED PERSPECTIVE?

It all depends on your story. Take The Humbling of Rutherford for example. I wrote this little piece for Faithwriter’s a year or so ago, detailing a day in the life of a rooster we used to have. It was penned in third person omniscient, so as to capture the POV of Rutherford, as well as the farm dogs and the other chickens.

Then there was a story my mom wrote several years ago from the perspective of a tree, an abandoned house, and the land on which these two sat. It was the deep, moving writing that made it special, as well as the POVs – you don’t often hear an abandoned house telling its story, or listen to the voice of its only enduring friend, the pine tree.

HOW TO KNOW WHEN TO ENLIST THE UNEXPECTED PERSPECTIVE

Take this picture for example:

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THIS IS A REAL PHOTO, TAKEN OF ONE OF OUR GOATS AND HIS NEW FRIEND!

If I were to write a story based on this photo, would I tell it from Giddy’s (the goat’s) POV or from the butterfly’s? Or both? Personally, I believe I would write it using both their POVs, in order to capture the emerging of this butterfly and the brief wonder and irritation of Giddy. 🙂 However, I could also tell it from a by-standing goat’s perspective, or another creature. I could also tell it from just the butterfly’s perspective. Any of these would likely work to create an effective story.

At any rate, using a non-human POV can really add an endearing quality to a story. Have you had any experience with this? Any moments like the butterfly and the goat you could write a story from? How about a chicken or a songbird? Or an insect or a cat? Let’s chat about our furry friends! They can certainly make their way onto the page without much effort.