Creating Stories within a Story

When I was around five or six, just getting proficient in reading and writing, I made my own books—I crayoned the words onto paper and then drew the pictures to go along with them. I did not make up my own stories, though. I borrowed other stories, maybe my favorite character from my favorite movie. Sometimes I would even feature one of my siblings as the main character. Afterwards I would staple the pages together and run to show my mother the book I had made.

There is one book in particular, which I still have. I wrote it on the way home from an especially exciting family vacation. The vacation itself had played out like a story—my parents had not told us where we were going; we had just hopped into the car and started driving. I remember passing over some train tracks and missing the turn to Grandma’s house—our destination must be very far away indeed, I thought. As we left all the familiar places behind, one by one, our final destination was left to my imagination. But the moment I saw the green-blue shimmer of the ocean, I realized the true excitement was only just beginning. Fine, sugar-white sand dazzled in the Alabaman sun—a seemingly perfect setting for an imaginative six-year-old author. The curious thing was, when I opened my box of crayons to start retelling the story, I did not tell it exactly how it happened. I knew most stories were a little bit different from the real events, so I decided I would be more like a real author if I changed a few things.

When God created the universe and everything in it, he created mankind in his image and after his likeness. We are the only beings God created like that. We are the only created beings in the universe who can admire beauty, who can make a coherent story out of the most trivial events, and create fictional worlds based on our imaginings. We are the only created beings who might look at a delicious-smelling apple tree and start imagining an ancient warlock, banned from using magic, infusing the last drops of his power into an apple seed and planting it.

We all are driven to create something out of nothing, to take a pile of dust and breathe life into it. We like to string together seemingly random happenings and memories. We want there to be connections between parts of our lives, and for every little event to have some sort of meaning in the end. For “The End,” naturally, is where most stories are ultimately headed. Sometimes we still question whether our story will really have an end or not.

We all tell stories. Not all of them are true. We sit around the campfire and spin tales so far-fetched, no one believes them for a moment, and yet our audience sits in spellbound silence until the end. We relive our past by telling pieces of it to our children or peers—either that, or there is some part of it we want to hide, and we make up something false. Either way, we are telling a story. And like our Creator, we want to be original. We each interpret events in our own unique way and sometimes change the order of events or add details that are not completely true. We portray things the way we want them portrayed.

Children especially tend to take creative liberties. Oftentimes a book written by a child is far more insightful than a book written by an adult. Children do not feel the need to hide their worldviews, nor are they afraid to be seen as imitators. While most children have not developed complex worldviews, they see the world in a unique way that is lost once they grow up. We can see it in the way a child draws the sky floating above the ground. It is obvious by the way they try to copy the smiley-face-shaped eyelids they have seen in cartoons.

There are little moments in our lives where we feel like we must be in a story—when we wish we could rewrite small details of our lives (as if we could do a better job), when we find ourselves holding on to the tiniest of trinkets, even the broken ones that trigger both delightful and painful memories, when we miss a familiar turn and end up in an even grander place. We all sense moments of divine interference from time to time. The notion of some celestial Fate presiding over our lives is appealing because it implies a reason for everything. The idea that life is orchestrated by an author-like being gives us assurance that everything is somehow connected, that our life is uniquely connected to every other human life; there is a reason we are all here, right now.

As humans, we have the unique ability to admire the way the seafoam gathers where the water meets the sand; we can feel the soft pull of the current around our hips as we inch farther out into the gulf, and we can choose either to walk over the sharp seashells threatening to cut the soles of our feet, or take caution and steer away from them altogether. We can watch one small journey from our childhood turn into an ongoing legacy, never to be forgotten. We can choose to take long walks down the beach with our dad to see the fancy green house sitting all by itself, or we can choose to relax where we are and never see the things that lie further down the beach or peek into the windows of the mysterious green house.

And imagine that: still to this day never venturing to see what treasures lie inside that lonely house.

Here’s some random thoughts because #nanowrimo

This post was originally titled “Finding Success in Failure,” but that sounded cheesy and I wanted to mix it up. Anyways, today is day nine of frantic noveling, also known as NaNoWriMo, and my second favorite time of the year (second only to Christmas). Today’s post is three-fold: some thoughts about this new story I’m writing (eeeek! exciting!!), some things I learned from NaNo last year, AND a very important announcement about The Conductor, which will be releasing in just a few weeks!

First things first. If you’re doing NaNoWriMo this year, congratulations! And best of luck to you, brave writer. I usually try to compile some tips that are helping me as I write, so here are a few that are working for me this year:

  • Write every day. I’m well into my college career now, and as much as I would love to just get lost in the world I’m creating and stay there all day, I can’t do that. There is simply not enough time. There are days when I don’t meet my target word count, and do you know what? That’s okay. But I have resolved to write every day, even if it’s just half a page or even one paragraph. This has turned out to be a very good decision, because at the end of every day, I feel as though I’ve accomplished something.
  • Make a writing routine. I like to feel cozy when I write, so usually I grab a blanket and maybe some tea before I start writing. Writing in the dark also helps me not get distracted as much. Try out some different things and see what works for you!
  • Make a story playlist. This is my favorite, favorite tip, guys. It doesn’t take that long for your brain to build associations with music! Did you know that the part of your brain that processes music is very close the part that stores memories? No wonder my brain goes into Automatic Writing Mode whenever I listen to that song.

Now, you may be wondering, why am I doing NaNoWriMo at all? Usually I’d say something along the lines of “well I want to write another story and suffer from caffeine and lack of sleep at the same time,” but this year, my motivation for writing is altogether different.

I’m writing because I want to succeed where I’ve previously failed.

I don’t remember if I blogged about it, but I did do NaNoWriMo last year. I didn’t win. I didn’t even come close. And do you know what? That’s okay.

To say that 2020 was a hard year would be a massive understatement. In addition to the pandemic and heightened political tension, I was dealing with a lot of things happening at school and trying to cope with depression. Throw a novel into the mix, and, well… the mixture just kind of spills over the sides of the bowl and catches fire on the stove, which sets the smoke alarm off, and the mess you’re left with rivals the current state of my room.

But although I did not win, there are a lot of things I learned from the experience. To name just a few:

  • 2020 is a bad time for me to write a novel
  • Final exams + novel = something doesn’t get done
  • Mental health comes first

Most of all, I learned to let go. I learned to take care of myself first. That story didn’t work for me at that time, and I learned why that happened. But do you know what? That story will still be waiting for me whenever I decide to come back to it. The characters will just have to wait a little longer.

Writing a new novel this year has, so far, been very healing for me. In the first three days, I wrote more than I had total from last year’s challenge! Not only that, but by writing I get to explore. Not only do I get to explore a whole other world, I get to explore pieces of myself I didn’t even know existed until now. Perhaps I will share more of the story later. (If you’d like to get the details about it, head over to my profile on NaNoWriMo.)

And finally, a quick update on The Conductor! I’ll get more details out on this later, but I may be pushing the release date up a little bit! That means it could hit the shelves in just a couple weeks! This is because I will be hosting a book signing in the next month or so, and I want to be sure there’s plenty of time to order enough copies for that event. Stay tuned for more details, and happy writing!

A Peek into My Writing Process

I don’t usually talk about my writing process, because I’m worried some people may find these stories of my brain’s inner workings boring and meaningless. But this story just holds too special a place in my heart for me not to share the story of its creation.

If you know me well, you know that I do, like, no planning beforehand. I just dive right in and see where the story goes. I write the first draft really fast, then slow down a bit to edit. And maybe that’s what makes The Conductor special… because it was not at all like that.

The idea for the story—two orchestras waging an invisible battle—came to me at the exact wrong time. See, I was right in the middle of NaNoWriMo, perfectly happy writing a new, exciting novel, and the last thing on earth I wanted or needed was a new idea. Nevertheless, that’s what I got.

And to make things worse, the idea was related to a very, very old idea, abandoned and forgotten. I had several years’ worth of drafts of the beginnings of a new kind of story, one where music is a part of the fictional world itself, all centering around a mysterious character named Gahfa (if you know, you know). I kept getting stuck on that one, and finally admitted that maybe I wasn’t meant to write it.

Too bad, the idea said. I’m still here and you’re going to write me whether you like it or not.

So I sighed, took up my notebook, and wrote.

That could’ve been the end of it, but no. There’s a great level of irony with this story. Sometimes I think, maybe I was never meant to write it at all, but then if that were the case why would it have held on to me even when I tried to abandon it?

The book is, at large, about spiritual warfare, and that’s all I will say about that, because I want to let you find that out for yourself. But could it be that as I was writing about battles and spirits, I was myself engaged in such a conflict?

We’re all familiar with writer’s block, no doubt. I get it with every writing project. It’s just a part of the process. The thing about writer’s block is that it usually comes from within. Your creativity fuses blew themselves. Your brain forgot to water the story plants. I don’t know, it’s late and I’m not good with metaphors. The thing about writing The Conductor was that what I called writer’s block felt so strong and so oppositional, and it was so constant, that I reasoned it couldn’t come from my own short-circuited brain. It was something outside of myself. That’s why I say maybe I was never meant to write the story at all, that is, maybe something else didn’t want me to write it to begin with.

(you might notice that the cover is different. that’s because Elizabeth didn’t start illustrating it ’til later.)

I do believe there is a spiritual realm, and I do believe there are battles we aren’t aware of. And through all my searching, I can find no other explanation for this story except that God just kind of popped the image into my brain and then wouldn’t let me run away from it, and I did try to run away from it at times.

So you can imagine my excitement when I held the story in my hands for the very first time. (just look at the picture)

All in all, the story took three years to write, and another three to realize I needed to publish it, and that brings us back to the present. The Conductor is a piece of my soul, and I’m ready to share it with you.

Also, on an unrelated note, NaNoWriMo is just a few short hours away, so stay tuned to hear about some of my brand new writing adventures! And don’t forget to mark your calendars for December 3rd, which is when The Conductor hits the shelves!

Everything You Need to Know about The Conductor

In case you missed my last post, I’m publishing my first novel!!! To say I’m excited would be an understatement. Today, I’m going to be introducing you to three things: the book, myself (whom you probably already know), and the illustrator (whom you might not know).

First things first: The Conductor has an official release date: December 3, 2021! It will be available on Amazon, and I’m hoping to get it into bookstores and libraries as well.

The Conductor is middle grade fantasy, aimed at 8-12-year-olds. Or anyone, really, if you’re still a child inside like me. Seriously, do we really ever grow up? Below is the excerpt from the back cover.

A brewing war. A dead kingdom. A stolen crown.

And only six who know the truth about who stole it.

Alekos, rightful king of Basileia, doesn’t just see Gahfa as an evil tyrant. He sees a powerful Conductor with an entire Orchestra at his fingertips. As long as Gahfa wears Alekos’s crown, Alekos can never restore his kingdom to the way it used to be.

But Gahfa always has another trick up his sleeve. Waging war against his Music would be suicide. Even with the help of Alekos’s scheming best friend, Oliver, and his not-girlfriend, Ashla.

And his fuzzy visions aren’t helping… is there really another Orchestra out there somewhere?

Also, look at that gorgeous silhouette on the cover. It was drawn by my cousin, Elizabeth Tilly (she’s an amazing artist), and this is also her first published work! It was so much fun working with her on the story. We’re basically the dynamic duo. You could look at our official author/illustrator pictures, but this is what we look like most of the time. (We had just finished making a lasagna and were very excited to eat it.)

I suppose you might like to know a bit about myself as well. I’m a college student, but I like to procrastinate by writing stories. I have found that the two ways I best express myself are through words and music. This story is a marriage of both. It’s a piece of my soul, where paragraphs and melodies blend together into a kind of storytelling I’ve always dreamed of.

If you like music, if you’re in the mood for a good adventure, if you believe that there is a layer of magic in this world that we can’t often see, this book is for you.

Be on the lookout for more upcoming posts! And if you’d like to help by spreading the word, it would be much appreciated!

Meanwhile, do you have any questions about publishing or illustrating or cover design? I may be doing a Q&A type post soon, so feel free to send any questions my way!

So, I’m Publishing

An exciting thing is happening. I have a story that’s stayed in my heart for six years now (aside from the few trusted friends I’ve shared it with), and now you get to read it yourself.

Before you get bored with a bunch of backstory, let me show you what my book looks like, because that’s probably why you’re here.

For the first time in my life, I have something I want to say. I say a lot of things, like how much I love LotR, but that’s just my random musings, and if you’ve been reading my blog for awhile, it’s just that. My thoughts.

But now? Now I have a message. A message which started out as a story for my brother and which I now strongly feel must be shared with more people. The world is a dark place, and sometimes we don’t know why the things that are happening are happening in the first place. But just like my tattoo, there’s a reason for it that we can’t often see.

Have you seen my tattoo? It’s this little conductor guy. The thing about conductors is that they know their music so well, they can shape it however they want, even if the audience can’t quite tell where they’re going with it. Music tells stories. Even if some of the notes don’t make sense, and even if you can’t tell how the symphony will end, it’s all there for a reason. And oftentimes, that reason is only known to the one holding the baton–the conductor.

So I guess part of the reason that I’ve decided to publish (finally!) is because of my tattoo. I mean, it was definitely inspired by this story I wrote, which is appropriately titled The Conductor.

Real quick, let me get something really important out of the way. I wrote this story for my brother. My goal of publishing is not to get rich or impress editors or wow fellow authors. Sometimes I still want all that, but it doesn’t matter as much now, because ultimately, I write for an audience, and that audience happens to be middle-school-age readers, people who love music, and anyone who needs a storyworld to which they can escape.

Above all, this story is not perfect, and it never will be. And I have come to realize, perfection isn’t the most important thing to me anymore. This is an adventure story, a story I still hold very close to my heart. But I’m ready to share it now. As a wise man once said, “I’m looking for someone to share in an adventure.”

So, what do you think? Will you join me for this adventure?

By the way, next week I’ll have a post officially introducing the book, and some more fun stuff after that, so stay tuned! 😉

Oh, I almost forgot: The Conductor will be releasing at the beginning of December. I’ll announce the exact date soon!

How to Write an Unforgettable Villain

Well. Spring Break is just about here, which means extra writing time! Today, I have a very fun post about my favorite type of character.

If you’ve spent any amount of time reading fandom blogs, you know how much fans love villains. Don’t ask me why; it’s just a fact that we love to fangirl over Mr. Bad Boy. I’m the same way–have I mentioned how much I love Moriarty?

Maybe it’s just a trend, but regardless of the reason fans are so enamored with villains, writers can utilize this fun little fact to add in some extra tension and emotion. There are several ways to do this–today I’m going to go over a few of them, and show how they work with some examples of well-known villains. Plus, that gives me an excuse to fangirl over them.

The Redeemed Villain

Oh, redeemed villains. My weakness. I don’t think I have to do any explaining here… a redeemed villain is simply a character who comes into the story as a villain, and by the end, they have changed from their evil ways. I’ve written a couple of those myself.

Now, it’s very easy to slip into clichés when writing redeemed villains. But when pulled off the right way, an audience can go from completely hating this character to crying over them. Redeemed villains offer so much opportunity for tragedy, made all the more potent by the fact that we started off (presumably) hating this character.

A famous example of a redeemed villain is Darth Vader. Anakin’s journey to the Dark Side, and his eventual redemption to the Light, makes for a classic character arc.

The Tragic Backstory Villain

*eye roll*

How many of these do you see every day? It seems as if Tragic Backstory Villains are so common, they elicit annoyance rather than empathy, and definitely not fangirls. But when done the right way, a tragic backstory can be a powerful tool.

You see it in heroes all the time… which, again, can become cliché. But a common technique is to have your villain be a mirror of your main character. Think of Tom Riddle and Harry Potter. Or the Doctor and the Master. Similar backstory, very different outcomes. This can often be a very haunting facet of a story, actually, and when done creatively and proficiently, is a powerful emotional tool.

The Villain with Human Needs

All I’m saying is… that until we understand that our enemies are also human beings… we will never defeat them. Yes, they are bad guys, but that is what they do, not who they are. 

-Maxwell Smart, Get Smart

Villains are people, too. Just like your hero, they have emotional and psychological needs. And when these needs are not met, a void is created.

Some of my favorite villains of all time are so fearsome and evil to begin with, when all along, all they needed was for one of their needs to be met. Oftentimes this need is love, but it doesn’t have to be that.

Have I mentioned Erik before? Well I’m going to mention him again. The Phantom is one of the most fangirled-over villains of all time. In the end, even though he was creepily stalking Christine throughout the entire story, even though he killed a bunch of people and blew some stuff up and ruined a perfectly good chandelier… all he wanted was for someone to love him. For someone to look past his physical deformities and accept him. And when Christine did that, fangirls’ hearts everywhere melted, and Erik suddenly didn’t need to be villainous anymore.

This can sometimes be more effective when we get to see the aftermath. What happens to the villain after his need is met? What does the hero do?

The “Let’s Play a Game” Villain

Ooooooooooooohhhhh my favorite.

Moriarty. Moriarty all the way. What is it about villains who play games? Why are they so likable? I’ve written a couple of these too. These villains add a whole new level of creepiness, because while normal villains would just kill the hero (or whatever it is that they’re trying to do), these villains take risks by playing games.

Villains who prefer to compete intellectually with the hero are obviously a bit more dangerous. Because they believe they are better, stronger, or smarter than them–and they are going to prove it. Tire the hero out before they move in for the kill.

The Villain who Acts like a Hero

Who are the heroes we remember?

Fangirls love a good hero-has-to-sacrifice-himself-to-save-the-day trope. I could go into why exactly, but that’s a whole other story for a whole other time. The fact is, one of the the most heroic things the protagonist can do is to sacrifice himself for the good of others.

So. Beware of any villain who would die for their cause. That is the mark of a truly evil man. A villain who is willing to sacrifice himself for his cause and not live to see the fruits of his work is perhaps the most fearsome villain out there. Because most villains are completely selfish and will stop at nothing to rule the universe or whatever it is that they’re trying to do. But a selfless villain? A villain who would give his life for something greater than himself–however evil that thing may be?

Be careful with this one and use it sparingly. It’s hard to pull off well, and fangirls might be disappointed you killed their favorite villain. (I’m lookin’ at you, Sherlock writers… and don’t even get me started on my Moriarty’s-not-really-dead theory.)

The Snape Syndrome

I believe I’m the first one to coin that term, by the way. The Snape Syndrome is exactly what it sounds like, and I’d like to warn you against it, for one reason: J. K. Rowling already did it, and now no one else can do the same.

Now before you throw a big hissy fit about the fact that I’m classifying Snape as a villain, hear me out. Because I don’t think he’s a villain. My official stance on Snape is that he is an antagonist–yes, I know he ended up being a good guy in the end, but Harry spent years thinking he was truly a villain, and no matter how heroic his death was, that doesn’t excuse all those years he spent being absolutely horrible to Harry. Got it? Good, I’m glad we cleared that up.

It’s fine if you want to have a double agent in your story. It’s fine if you want them to act absolutely horribly towards the hero. And you can and should give them a motivation for it. But please. Don’t attempt to justify their actions and make it seem like they were right. It makes me so mad when people try to justify Snape’s Most Horrible Action (<–you know what I’m talking about). Regardless of whether or not they were right, that does not change the role they played in the previous parts of the story. Even if they have a heroic end–Snape is actually an example of a redeemed antagonist–that doesn’t change what they did in the rest of the story.

Other Great Villains?

Guys, there are so many villains I like, I just don’t have enough room to list why I like all of them. But in the meantime, I’d like to hear who your favorite villains are! Let me know in the comments why they’re your favorite. Also, don’t forget to hop over to Wattpad and read my short story–I’ll leave it up to you to decide what kind of villain it has. 😉

For the Sake of Relevance, here is a post about covid

Everything has to be relevant now. It’s kind of annoying, to be honest. You can’t even watch a commercial nowadays without seeing people in masks and on Zoom calls.

Aren’t people tired of all this? Doesn’t everyone just want a break? Don’t you want to read a normal blog post without hearing about how it’s somehow relevant to pandemics and social distancing?

Good thing most writers are introverts. Works out well.

But one of the things I like most about writing is that I can go to Starbucks, order my favorite mocha, and sit for hours working on my book. And now… are you kidding? Who can even drink coffee in a mask? And it’s probably illegal to sit in coffee shops for hours anyway.

And marketing? Don’t even get me started. It’s a gamble. The economy’s not what it used to be, so I know a few authors who had to change their publishing plans.

And what about research? I hop on the good ol’ internet to look up a fact, and everywhere I see virus this and government that, and all I wanted was a sample class schedule for the university my character is attending, and all I’m getting is a long list of safety precautions.

There is no more getting together with your writer friends to have a nice, carefree, caffeine-filled afternoon of stories, unless you want to sit in a mask so far away from everyone else that you have to yell to hear each other. I mean, you could always video call, but after just two classes on Zoom, everyone was already tired of video calls.

The next thing you know, NaNoWriMo is going to be illegal because novel writing season happens to correlate with flu season, and flu symptoms happen to be pretty much identical to corona symptoms. Therefore, writing increases the spread of the virus, because that logic is totally sound, just like all the other logic going around nowadays.

this picture has nothing to do with anything, it was just to get you to click on the post

My point? Writers, it’s hard. You may feel overlooked because everyone assumes that because you’re a writer you’re an introvert and never leave the house anyway. And even if you are that type of writer, it’s hard. Heck, even if you’re not a writer, this is for you to hear too.

The world is changed.

I feel it in the water.

I feel it in the earth.

I smell it in the air.

Much that once was is lost, for none now live who remember it.

When all seems lost, Lady Galadriel’s voice rises out of the golden light of Lothlórien speaking words of wisdom. Listen to the Elves, guys. They know what they’re talking about. Most of the time.

But the world is changed, and writing is not what it used to be. You can’t just expect writers to adjust easily because they stare at computers in their pajamas all day anyway. Writers have feelings too–lots and lots of feelings that get spilled out in the pages of stories. Check on your writer friends; make sure they’re not getting trapped in the darkness of their own minds.

Someone once told me that it’s okay to feel sad about sad things, and I wish I remember who that was, because I would credit them. And I know lots of people react to the changing world with anger instead of sadness, but sadness and grief are equally valid emotions.

Writing may sound like a great activity to do during pandemics, but the truth is, it is so much richer in community. And, like many things, community has suffered. It’s not what it used to be. And it’s okay to be sad about this.

Like Lady Galadriel said, the world has changed, and it feels like the next big disaster is lurking right around the corner. But, do you know what is actually lurking around the corner right now, that no pandemic can get in the way of?

National Novel Writing Month.

And now, without further ado, may I present you with the following covid-free paragraph that has nothing to do with pandemics. That’s right, just a normal ol’ paragraph like the ones from the good ol’ days.

November is, like, a month away already, which means I’m going to be writing another novel, which means this is my official invitation for you (yes, you) to join me! Wanna stay up into the wee hours of the morning with me, drinking coffee and eating chocolate and stringing words together until they no longer make sense? Wanna go on an epic adventure with me, through strange lands yet unexplored? Wanna defeat impossible odds and earn lifetime bragging rights? Of course you do! Join me, and we can rule the galaxy together. (Here’s a link to the NaNoWriMo website, if you’d like more official information.)

I’ll probably be writing more about NaNoWriMo in the future, so keep a lookout for those posts. Happy writing! And as always, feel free to reach out to me if you need something. 😉

That Fateful Night in August

Written by my newest main character

Aside from December, August is pretty much my favorite month. Like, it’s hot and boring and end-of-summer-but-not-quite-school-again, but good writing things always happen to me in August, big defining moments that affect my career as an author.

Fateful nights are phenomena that get talked about a lot in order to seem dramatic. They seem to favor December, because of the magic of Christmas and all that. As if the dead of winter is more prone to fateful things happening than the heat of summer, or the romantic rains of spring, or the mysterious aesthetic of crunchy-leaf-ridden fall. Fateful nights are always defining moments left to be explained by the supernatural, either because there is no other explanation, or because it sounds more dramatic that way.

Sometimes someone dies on a fateful night, but not all the time, otherwise they’d just be called fatal nights, but the word fateful is more versatile, and can encompass not only death but fate and destiny in their larger meanings.

Fate is a strange being who works in mostly unexpected, slightly unethical ways. Fate prefers to work at night, because fateful mornings belong in office romances and adventures with all the dark parts taken out, fateful afternoons are devoted entirely to bad weather, but fateful nights have so much potential for drama and mystery and tragedy.

Fate rarely chooses August, because nothing of significance is ever supposed to happen in August. So when people refer to “that fateful night in August,” it’s a fair bet they’re either mistaken, making up stories, or being over-dramatic about a perfectly normal event that wasn’t fateful in the least bit.

But when a story haunts you for three years and you make no noticeable progress of the half-finished draft you have, and then one ordinary day in August at 4:30 in the morning you realize you’ve actually just reached “The End” and now have a complete, fully-fleshed-out draft, you can’t help but wonder how drunk Fate was that night, because things like that just aren’t supposed to happen.

All this to say, one time I finished a story in August and it was really exciting and now I’m almost done with the sequel. So even if you’re struggling to finish a story and it feels like you’re not going anywhere, don’t give up on it, because the worlds needs it. The world always needs stories like yours.

Rebel.

It’s not a word you’ll hear people using to describe me. I have never been a rebel. I’ve never fit the stereotype or the aesthetic. Teenagers are typically stereotyped as being rebellious, but that’s just not me, and it never has been.

I have always been known as the good one. I was the oldest child who grew up more sheltered than her siblings. I always got perfect A’s, I always excelled at everything, and I always followed the rules and never did anything to test the limits. In my friend groups I was always the cautious one who got anxious whenever anyone even suggested we do anything slightly rebellious.

Sure, I have a rebellious streak that comes out every now and then. People know that about me. Every once in a while I would let it come out for a little bit. If you know me well, you’ve probably seen it.

Notice I’ve been speaking in the past tense this whole time.

Because although I am nineteen, my rebellious phase is just beginning. I’m not rebelling against my parents, or against authority in general. I’m rebelling against myself.

I’m tired of being the good one. I’m tired of being the rule follower. I’m tired of doing everything perfectly all the time. I’m tired of being so afraid of breaking the rules that I give them first priority over more important stuff. I’m tired of being so preoccupied with my grades that I miss out on other things. I’m tired of holding it all together, and I’m tired of pretending I’m okay when I’m not.

If you’re familiar with the alignment chart, you might say that my alignment is changing from lawful good to something else. Something chaotic. Maybe neutral on a good day.

My friends, I must be honest, I worry about myself sometimes. Over the past two semesters, I’ve let myself break the rules a little bit. I let my grades slip sometimes. I’ve stopped holding myself to the standard of perfection I used to have for myself. I’ve stopped pretending to be holding it all together when I’m not.

That doesn’t really have anything to do with being a perfectionist, but I guess it makes sense, in a way. Perfectionism is one thing if you’re applying it to academics or your job or rule following. But the moment you start applying it to the way you present yourself to other people, it’s a bigger problem. Fun fact: pain doesn’t go away if you hide it. I guess I thought that since I was always so good at school and stuff and everyone praised me for it, I should be good at life too, and it should never cause me any suffering at all.

Why am I sharing this, you may ask. Because, I think it’s important. The world is crazy right now, and everything is broken, possibly even my soul. But when has it been any different? This broken world as we know it has always been broken, and it was never meant to be this way. It was perfect, once. A long time ago. People say all of this will be okay, that it will all work out. But it won’t. The world will still be broken and groaning. Until the very end, and then it will be made good again, and all the sadness and pain will go away.

So I’m a rebel now. I’m not trying to be perfect anymore. I’m not pretending I have it all together. Because I don’t. And I’m not perfect. Wanna join me? Then we can go be rebels together and do something slightly edgy, like going to get coffee at midnight when we should be doing homework. 😉

4 ½ Ways to Survive NaNoWriMo as a College Student

Co-written by me and my newest MC

Happy November, everyone! Seeing as I’m clearly qualified to write this post, I thought I’d share four and a half expert tips on how to survive NaNoWriMo as a college student.

First off, I’d like to say I’m sorry for not updating this blog in, well… months. Adjusting to college life is harder than it sounds, and learning to balance classes, homework, getting enough sleep, social life, a job, procrastinating, self-care, and blogging on top of all of that takes a lot of time. Just add in NaNoWriMo and you get what could be a recipe for disaster.

Fear not, friends! NaNoWriMo is not impossible even if you’re a college student. In fact, so far, it’s been going better than it has in years past. So, without further ado, may I present to you four and a half expert survival tips.

1. Be insane. You pretty much have to be insane to even attempt this. People will tell you that it’s not possible, that there’s no way you could complete NaNoWriMo and thrive at college at the same time. And I’m here to tell you that those people are probably right. Please, for the sake of your own sanity, stop reading and run in the opposite direction.

In all actuality, though, it may help to be slightly insane, but it really isn’t as drastic as all that. If you’re like me, if writing improves your mental health, then it might be just what you need. It also helps alleviate procrastination – instead of wasting time while procrastinating homework, I procrastinate by writing a novel, which is still productive. And when it comes time to procrastinate novel writing, I just do homework. It’s a win-win.

2. Take care of yourself. Please. Sometimes self-care trumps all projects waiting to be finished. Sometimes, going to bed at a decent hour is the best option. Remember to eat meals and lots of snacks, and don’t rely on caffeine and energy drinks to survive. Those do help, though. Not gonna lie.

Chocolate-covered espresso beans are my current favorite. If you eat enough of them, you’ll be awake for hours, plus, they’re covered in chocolate, which is the number one scientifically proven magical NaNoWriMo food.

3. Be patient. It’s likely that many people will ask you what you’re writing, and why you’re even writing at all. It’s just something that you’ll have to explain many times, so you might as well compose an eloquent speech to recite as soon as you see those questions coming.

Based on my experience, there are two types of writers. On the one hand, you’ve got the writers who are totally happy with telling you what they’re writing and what their story is about. If you’re lucky, they might even let you read some of it. And on the other hand, you’ve got the writers who keep their stories a complete secret and might kill you for even asking about it. If you fall into the second category, you have my empathy. May you be granted strength to resist all the questions. (We secretly like it, though. The fact that someone cares enough to ask what our stories are about makes our day.)

4. Listen to the story. You’ve heard the phrase “the wand chooses the wizard.” Well, it just so happens that every once in a while, the story chooses the author. And if that is the case for you, then what other option do you have but to listen to the story?

Even if you choose the story… characters have a way of taking charge. Before you know it, your main character might have gotten himself roped into a quest to kill the Archduke of Mordor, and you will have to go along with it instead of dragging him back to finish his tea and studying for finals. Little did he know that had he finished his tea, he would have found a message on the bottom from the Archduke himself revealing that he is his long-lost brother.

Oooh, plot twist!

4 ½. Do something else creative or out of the ordinary. A lot of people are saying this already, so it’s probably cliche by now, but it actually works. For example, try building a blanket fort that can be your little writing cave. Normally, people might chastise you for being childish, but this is college we’re talking about. No one will judge you for building a blanket fort. In fact, they’re probably jealous they didn’t think of it themselves.

That’s all I have for today, but I hope you benefited from these tips! And now, I’m off to work on my novel!

Are you doing NaNoWriMo this year?

What are your best writing survival tips?