Camp NaNoWriMo Questions: Plotting vs. Pantsing

It’s the age-old debate. Plotters form one side of it and pantsers form the other. The two groups of writers have gathered to hold a debate to decide which method of writing is better. There’s a twist, though: the plotters have all of their arguments carefully planned, written, organized, and well-rehearsed. The pantsers haven’t prepared at all. They don’t know what they’re going to say or what arguments they’re going to make. They’re winging it.

Obviously, this debate never took place, but if it did, it would probably go exactly like that. Most writers can be sorted into one of the two groups. Summed up in a sentence, plotters know what they’re writing, and pantsers… most of the time don’t. Plotters like to start with a lot of materials: outlines, maps, character charts, plot boards with sticky notes… you name it. When they finally start the actual writing, they know what they’re writing, where they’re going with it, and how it will all end up.

Pantsers, by contrast, like to start with next to nothing (if they start with anything at all.) They start writing and… that’s just it. They write. No outlines, no characters, no plan whatsoever. They figure it out as they go. They don’t know their story as a whole until they see the finished product.

So without further ado, welcome to my new-ish hopefully blog series: Camp NaNoWriMo Questions! I say “new-ish” because I’ve done a similar series before, and “hopefully” because trying to consistently blog in the summer when I’m also trying to get ready for college is a lot harder than it sounds.

I’m also not even doing Camp NaNoWriMo this month… yet. That may change. Who knows? With two novels sitting on my desk arguing over which one of them is more important (and my Muse not showing up at all), I might just have to set some goals for myself and go for it.

Now I am pretty much a full-on pantser. Which honestly is surprising even to me. Usually I can’t stand not knowing everything, but when it comes to writing, I guess my brain works oppositely.

But… want to know something? Most writers are neither. I know very few plotters or pantsers. Most writers I know, myself included, are somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. A lot of people tend to lean one way or the other, which is why we like to use these terms to describe them.

With Camp NaNoWriMo in full swing, and regular NaNoWriMo looming just three and a half months away, you’re probably wondering which method of writing is best for this particular challenge.

Okay, first, if you’re asking that question, I would like to ask you another question: why would you write any differently than you normally do? If you normally write outlines, then spend a few weeks before NaNoWriMo starts working on all your planning stuff. Then you can just focus on writing once it starts. And if you’re a pantser like me, then jump in on the first day and go crazy. It’s one of the best feelings in the world!

I love pantsing during NaNoWriMo, because it’s so fast-paced and high-adrenaline and intense, it kind of just fits. Every time I sit down with my notebook, I have no idea where the words will take me. But I also wish I was a plotter, because the idea of writing outlines and then actually having a plan sounds so inviting. (I tried that once and it didn’t work. But it sounds lovely.)

So that’s my take on plotting vs. pantsing: why change you usual writing style? Especially during Camp NaNoWriMo, when the stakes aren’t as high, and you can set your own goals? The point of these challenges is to get you to write, and what better way to write than to practice the way you’re used to?

Have a question about Camp NaNoWriMo? Or a question about writing in general? Fill out the form below and I’ll do my best to answer it in a future post!

Advertisements

The Idea that Haunts You

I bet you know exactly what I’m talking about. I may only be a writer, but I bet all creatives know the feeling.

^^Five years’ worth of ideas!

If you’re anything like me, you have dozens of notebooks and Word documents filled with old ideas that never made it off the ground, snippets of scenes that got discarded, and characters whose names you may not even know. And I’m willing to bet you have at least one that you keep going back to.

You know, The Idea?

No matter how many other stories you finish, you keep going back to that one half-crazed idea. Or do you? Maybe it keeps coming back to you, like the ghosts that haunt people in those old horror movies. And maybe you keep pushing it away because even when you try to work on it, it doesn’t really take you anywhere.

Enter J. R. R. Tolkien.

I know I talk about Tolkien a lot on this blog, but I’m going to tell you about him again, because he’s my favorite author of all time. LotR is my favorite book, my favorite movie, and contains some of my favorite characters. You could for sure consider me a Tolkien geek (and yes. I know Elvish.)

Everyone knows that The Lord of the Rings is one of the most well-known, most quoted, most memorable classics of all time. But how much do you know about the man behind the story? Did you know that it took him twelve years to write it? Not counting the time he spent perfecting it? Did you know it started out as a sequel to The Hobbit, but ended up being a sequel to The Silmarillion? Did you know that he kept giving up on it, but found that he just couldn’t get away from it?

It is written in my life-blood, such as that is, thick or thin; and I can no other.

-J. R. R. Tolkien

Obviously I can’t get into Tolkien’s mind, but to me, it seems like this idea haunted him. It followed him around, and no matter what other things he wrote, he couldn’t get away from it. Even when he tried to write it – and kept trying – it didn’t work.

How discouraging.

Or does that make the finally finished story that much more beautiful? You decide.

But no matter how inspiring Tolkien is, we still have a problem. You have an idea and it won’t leave you alone. What should you do?

Well. Unfortunately I can’t read your mind. But if your idea is tugging on your heart this strongly, then maybe it really was meant to be, and it’s not just your Muse being annoying.

Can I tell you a secret? I have one of those ideas. It’s been haunting me for years. My notebooks are filled with many failed attempts at it, and vows to never come back to it.

And then, one magical day, I found the right story to go with it. Pretty fun, right? And I did end up finishing it. It was finally a complete story. So now I can finally let it rest, right?

NO.

That’s the bad thing about these ideas. They never leave you. Even after Tolkien published The Lord of the Rings, he couldn’t let it rest. The land of Middle-earth was forever his true homeland, and that other idea he was working on – the bigger idea, the idea which LotR came from – was still in his heart. It never left him alone.

And I suspect it will be the same for me. And the same for all of us. But don’t let it get you discouraged. In the words of Tolkien himself (and don’t bug me about how I’m totally taking this quote out of context):

Not all those who wonder are lost.

My Honest Review of “Beyond the Circle”

Hey, everyone! After much recovery from NaNoWriMo, I’m back to blogging. And today, I’m going to give you my honest opinion of Ted Dekker’s newest adult series: it’s a two-book series called “Beyond the Circle.”

I did a review on the first book, The 49th Mystic, which you can read by clicking here. The sequel, Rise of the Mystics, came out in October, and I was so excited, I read it in a matter of days. However, I was… not very impressed (I’m cringing as I’m typing this). Don’t get me wrong: Ted Dekker is a brilliant author, and Rise of the Mystics is some great storytelling. But I wasn’t very happy when I got to “The End.”

There won’t be any spoilers in this post, but if you’re VERY sensitive to sentences that very vaguely talk about things that might could possibly maybe happen, then I’d suggest reading the book first. 😉

Now, I went into Rise of the Mystics very hopeful and very excited. The 49th Mystic was amazing and promising and, simply put, awesome! (The villain was pretty epic too!!) I’ve got no problems with that one. Rise of the Mystics, however…

Let me start with the stuff I did like.

The storytelling. Ted has a natural gift for storytelling, and it shines through in this one. And overall, it was a great story. The characters were complex, the protagonist had a great character arc, all that stuff writers are supposed to say about other people’s books.

The story itself. It’s a gripping story, minus the fact that the beginning is really confusing. It’s definitely fast-paced and has that traditional thrilling Dekker suspense vibe. I won’t tell you too much about it, seeing as it’s a sequel and the story is just a continuation of The 49th Mystic. Plus, I promised there wouldn’t be any spoilers.

My problem is with the theology. (gasp!) If you’re unfamiliar with the series, theology plays a huge part in the story. Characters quote Scripture right and left and have huge, life-changing encounters with God. Which is great. Because encounters with God are very real things, and Scripture is of course the Word of God, and thus it is the source of all Truth. Ted’s not denying any of that, but the way he started interpreting parts of the Bible made me wonder what he was leading up to.

At first I just stopped reading for a second and made a mental note about it. No big deal. But as the story went on, the problem just got bigger… and bigger… 

And bigger.

And let me say, I was NOT happy with the way it ended.

Green was better.

And if you’ve been in the Dekker fandom for any length of time, you’ll know that the ending of Green is something we Do. Not. Talk. About.

At first, it seemed like Ted was trying to present a certain truth from the Bible, but the way he explained it didn’t quite feel right. Sure enough, it led to problems later in the book. Major problems. Like I-can-literally-point-to-a-hundred-specific-Bible-verses-that-directly-contradict-you kind of problems. Does the Bible say we should love everyone? Yes, because God made everyone, and all human beings are made in his image. Jesus personally told us to love our enemies. But that does not imply everything else that happened in the story… which I will not tell you about, because #spoilers. 

So… those are my thoughts. I enjoyed “Beyond the Circle” in general, but I am definitely still upset about the theology presented in it. All in all, I was disappointed. It’s a great story, it had great potential. It could have gone amazing places.

As a side note, Ted and his daughter Kara just came out with a children’s series called “The Dream Traveler’s Quest.” I actually really liked that series, but it was literally the same story, and thus some of the same theology. They presented deep truths in a way that kids can understand – a feat I admire – but once again, I started to question their theology at the end. It did have a better ending than Rise of the Mystics, though, so I was pleasantly surprised.

Have you read “Beyond the Circle?” What did you think?

The Sequel Game

Hi, everyone!! NaNoWriMo’s halfway over, it’s less than a week till Thanksgiving, and Christmas decorations are popping up all over the place. (Like, why? I’m a HUGE fan of Christmas, but I draw the line at getting a tree before Thanksgiving.)

At the end of this post I’ll have a little tip about NaNoWriMo, but first, I need to talk about something. One thing I’ve noticed about the writing world is that there is a plethora of advice floating around on the Internet. Everybody wants to tell you how to write a book. Which is great, because there’s actually a lot of really great advice out there… how to structure a plot, how to develop a character, how to add in backstory, how to do worldbuilding…

But one thing I’ve noticed that nobody can explain is that most of the writing advice I’ve ever seen is for either writing standalone books or the first book in a series.

What do you do with the rest of the series?

The first thing you need to realize about sequels is that there are different kinds of series. Probably the most common type is where each book picks up where the other one left off – think A Series of Unfortunate Events, or the Harry Potter saga. The other kind is where all the books are related, but you can honestly start anywhere and read them in any order because they don’t relate to each other much. The Nancy Drew series is a good example. 

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, we need to look at the very first thing you’ll come to when reading a sequel – the beginning. (duh.) In a first or standalone book, you’ll want to introduce the reader to the main character, give them a reason to like them/root for them/get emotionally attached to them. I’ll assume you’ve heard all that a million times and don’t need a reminder. 

It’s different with sequels. In a sequel, the reader already knows the main character, and they must have cared about them enough to pick up the sequel. It’s a good idea to restate a few basic facts about the protagonist – especially if it’s a series like Nancy Drew, where you don’t know which book the reader will pick up first.

The next point is backstory. It’s difficult for me to give advice on backstory, especially for how to handle it in sequels, because every series is structured differently. Unless the main character’s backstory is a mystery and a central part of the plot, you’ve probably already shared most of it, if not all of it, with the reader.  In sequels, we don’t need to be reminded of all the details. Just go over the main stuff.

And this makes sense, because people naturally think about the important parts of their past. Like in Harry Potter we learn in every single book that Harry is an orphan because his parents were murdered by Voldemort. That’s important. The fact that Dudley bullied him is not quite as important.

Plot structure is the big one. Of course each individual book should have its own climax and everything, and the main character should have a character arc. But in a series, this is multi-faceted. The series needs to have a plot structure as a whole. There should be one point where we reach the climax of the whole series. Like an individual book, the series should have a definite turning point somewhere around the middle. The same idea applies to character arcs.

Of course, I’ve only scratched the surface when it comes to writing sequels… there is SO much more to think about! Real quick, let me give you a survival tip for NaNoWriMo…

If you’re behind (like me), you need to find a way to get those words written. What I’ve done is set a timer for thirty minutes and start writing. Don’t do anything else. Don’t check Facebook, don’t look at Harry Potter memes, don’t do the dishes or fold the laundry. Just write. At the end of thirty minutes, check to see how many words you wrote.

Then, take a ten to fifteen minute break (maybe it’s finally time to fold that laundry), then do it again. Write for thirty minutes. Don’t think about all the typos you’re making, don’t think about how stupid the scene probably sounds, just write.

You can keep going with that cycle for as long as you want. Usually what happens for me is that I get more and more words written every time. Sometimes I can even get up to 2000 words per hour. It’s a very exciting way to see your word count grow!

That’s all I have for now (I should probably get back to my NaNo novel…). But let me know in the comments if you have any advice to share about writing a sequel. And best of luck to you if you’re doing NaNoWriMo!

Have you ever written a book series?

Are you doing NaNoWriMo?

#NaNoPrep: Last-Minute Panic

AAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH! (<– me screaming) NaNoWriMo starts in THREE DAYS!!! And guess who’s been slacking on their #NaNoPrep posts?? Yep, you guessed it. Me. I had a good reason, though. I was on vacation.

So what do you do when you realize November is literally right around the corner? Well…

KEEP CALM

No. Please don’t freak out. It only gets better from here.

Okay, that’s not entirely true. A quarter of the way through November you’ll hit a wall and feel like giving up. Your characters won’t talk to you, your plot has worn seventeen holes in itself, and worst of all, you’re five thousand words behind schedule. You think Halloween is the perfect time for horror movies? WAIT TILL NEXT MONTH. YOU’LL BE LIVING ONE.

Okay but also:

  • You are embarking on a journey only the bravest dare begin
  • You are defying all odds and achieving the impossible
  • You are pushing past what you thought were your own limitations
  • You are stretching yourself and growing because of it
  • You are finishing what you started
  • You are writing an entire NOVEL in a MONTH

Doesn’t that sound nice? Take it from me. I’m not a NaNo veteran, this is only my third year participating, but NaNoWriMo can be a game-changer when it comes to your writing habits. There is something very satisfying in not giving up. And the satisfaction is purely a personal one – when you realize what you’re actually doing, you feel a great sense of accomplishment. And if it’s hard to keep going, even better. Just don’t give up.

And it’s okay to freak out a little bit. In fact, it’s probably necessary. That’s why NaNoWriMo works the way it does. The intensity is so high, the odds are so impossible, that you don’t even care anymore. At some point, you stop caring that the story is crap and you write it anyway. Maybe it’s just my personality, but when something is impossible, it makes me try even harder. And I usually find out that whatever the thing was wasn’t so impossible after all.

last-minute panicI actually think that this is among the more important topics during NaNoPrep. I’ve seen maaaaaaaany posts about how to get your story ready, but almost none about how to get your mind ready. NaNoWriMo is like running; the hardest part is in your mind. It’s psychological.

Logistically, it’s not that hard (and it’s a lot less physically exerting than running) – you can set aside an hour or so a day for writing. And… that’s it. It’s as simple as rearranging a few things on your schedule and sitting down and focusing.

The rest of it is in your head. Most of it’s determination. Confidence is also helpful, but not 100% necessary. How determined are you to finish?

Notice what I said there? I said finish. I didn’t say win. Winning is awesome, but finishing is an even nobler goal. To win, you have to write 50,000 words by November 30. But to finish means to keep going. Even if you fail. Even if you don’t win, will you keep writing, or will you give up and never go back to the story again?

NaNoWriMo is just the beginning of a book-writing journey. I like it because it forces me to get the story down on paper, a process that would take months under normal circumstances. It’s more motivating, too! Imagine trying to run a marathon by yourself instead of with a bunch of other people.

So there it is. No matter where your story takes you next month, no matter how much your characters hate you, don’t give up. I’ll be honest with you. It’s hard. Exhausting. You will ask yourself why you ever signed up for it. But the reward of seeing yourself finish is so worth it. And when it’s over, you’ll realize that the impossible wasn’t so impossible after all.

Are you doing NaNoWriMo this year?

How do you overcome mental obstacles for writing?

#NaNoPrep: A Writing Survival Kit

Ah, it’s October now, isn’t it? You know what that means. Fall weather, pumpkins, and Halloween. Oh and also NaNoWriMo is less than a month away. Which means it’s NaNoPrep Month!!!

I did a NaNoPrep series last year, and everyone seemed to like it, so I thought I’d bring it back this year. I love the thrill of NaNoWriMo. The anticipation just gets bigger every year! For the past two years, I’ve kind of gotten anxious toward the end of October, because I never have any idea what I’m going to be writing until a week or so before it starts. For some reason, this year is different. I’ve been planning this project for months, and if all goes as planned, it’s gonna be a sequel to Inferno’s Melody (last year’s project).

Today I have a little survival kit for you. If you plan on participating, these tips might be helpful.

a writing survival kit

  • HealthThis is a big one. Let’s start with physical health. It may seem obvious, but writing is easier when you take care of yourself. Try to avoid staring at a screen for four hours at a time. It makes your eyes tired. Get up and exercise once in a while. Drink water. You know, the obvious stuff.

Mental health is important too. Take breaks and do stuff that’s completely unrelated to the story. Otherwise, your family might think you’ve gone insane. “Who is that you’re talking to?” they might ask, having just overheard you murmuring condolences to some invisible being. “Oh, nobody,” you respond. “I’m just apologizing to poor Kirk for what I’m about to do to him.” 

Your spiritual health is even more important than the other two. Don’t neglect your Bible reading just because you’re writing a new novel. Seriously. This is important. Spend time with the Lord.

  • Chocolate. I said this last year, I’ll say it again: chocolate, chocolate, chocolate. Best noveling snack there is. Dark chocolate has health benefits, too, so you don’t have to feel guilty about eating too much. Just wrote yourself into a corner? Your characters decided they don’t like you anymore? Take some advice from Professor Lupin and eat the chocolate. You’ll feel better.
  • Goals. My friend once gave me this advice. NaNoWriMo is structured in such a way so that it breaks down into manageable daily goals. To reach 50,000 words by the end of the month, you have to write approximately 1667 words per day. This is manageable, but may seem overwhelming at times. Instead of daily goals, try aiming for weekly goals. I like to have a number in the back of my head that I know I need to reach by the end of the week. That way, if I don’t quite make my daily goal, it won’t feel like I’m behind too much.
  • Focus. You know when your brain works best for writing. If at all possible, write at the same time every day. That way, you’ll get into a rhythm and be able to focus more easily. Also, that leaves you the rest of the day to do normal stuff and not worry about when you’ll get your writing done. Personally, I write my best stuff late at night, but I’ve met other writers who like to get up early, or write over lunch or a mid-afternoon snack.
  • Tools. I’m talking about your favorite pens (hey, it’s important! I can’t write without my dark blue ballpoint pen!), a special notebook (I like to decorate the cover of mine with scrapbook paper), a computer and your favorite word processing program, and of course your favorite book series to read when you get blocked and need a burst of inspiration.

So, if you’re embarking on an epic writing journey this November, best of luck!  May the creative force be with you. May the words be ever in your favor. I plan on doing several more posts for the #NaNoPrep series, so check back in a few days! (And yes, there must be a hashtag in front of it. It makes it look cool and official.)

Are you doing NaNoWriMo this year?

If you have any other survival tips, let me know in the comments!

A Proper Fangirl’s Guide to The 49th Mystic

I am SO VERY EXCITED FOR THIS POST. Seriously. I would say Ted Dekker was my favorite author, except I’ve already given that title to J.R.R. Tolkien.

But, if you’re a huge Ted Dekker fan like I am, I’m willing to bet you’ve read his latest book and LOVED it. Dekker did a lot of interviews/video series about it, and in almost every one of them, he claimed that The 49th Mystic is the culmination of his entire career. As an author, I kind of brushed his statement off… because every book I’ve ever written has felt like the culmination of my career.

20180517_210247

But he was right. The 49th Mystic is truly something special. It’s not like his other books. But then again, it is. It reminds me of some of his older stuff, like the Circle Trilogy. It’s part epic fantasy, part thriller, part theological disquisition. And plus, the villain is pretty sweet. Like Marsuvees. ❤ ❤ ❤

(Why on earth did I put a bunch of little hearts next to Marsuvees’s name?!)

For the sake of everyone who has not yet read the book, this is going to be a spoiler-free post. However, I highly encourage you to stop reading this post right now and go read the book first. But in case you need a little extra encouragement, I’m going to give you 6,781 reasons that you should read it:

  • It’s reminiscent of the Paradise Trilogy. Without spoiling anything, I can tell you that it takes place in a small, sequestered town. We get glimpses of another world… there’s some magical books somewhere… and did I mention the super-fancy, super-evil, super-good-looking, super-amazing villain who shows up out of nowhere and starts taking over everything?
  • The way it ties into everything else. Dekker is a master of weaving different series together. You can read them independently, but it’s so much more fun if you read them all, because then you get the full picture! Also, The 49th Mystic made some connections that I wasn’t expecting. If you’d like, it might be interesting to read The 49th Mystic, Green, and Immanuel’s Veins all at the same time. No spoilers. Just sayin’, it’s a good idea.
  • It’s the long-awaited continuation of the Circle Series. Okay, kind of. The subtitle is “Beyond the Circle.” And let me tell you, it is EPIC.
  • The villain. Oh wait, I’ve already mentioned him. Moving on…
  • The characters. The main character is nice and all, but I like the side characters the best. I usually do, actually. Not to mention the villain. And there were some pretty awesome side characters here. No spoilers, so I’ll leave it at that.
  • The sheer epic-ness of it all. Dude, it’s a seriously amazing book! And the theme… the way the theme plays out, all the deep theological points, definitely awesome.

Yes, that was in fact 6,781 reasons. I counted them myself.

About the only thing I didn’t like about the book was that you have to wait until October 2 for the sequel. Two. More. Long. Months. To go. (And The 49th Mystic came out in May, so back then it was even longer.)

You know, I think it’d be fun to start an official fandom for Ted Dekker. There used to be one. They used to have an annual Gathering (no joke). But now? There are no memes, no fanart, no fanfiction, no cool merchandise. If you can find any of it, it’s a very rare treasure indeed.

But you know what? None of that matters. Great books don’t exist to have the loyal following of avid (and frankly obsessive) fans. No, great books exist to change you, and the truly greatest books point you back to God, to display His glory.

And I can say with confidence that The 49th Mystic will do that.

Have you read The 49th Mystic? What did you think?

10 Things I Wish I’d Known When I Started Writing

Hello, everyone! Today, I will share ten super-secret, insiders-edition-only, banned-by-federal-government tips about starting out as a writer. Because, let’s face it: You can go to any author’s website and get awesome advice, because published authors clearly know what they’re doing. Or, you can approach any writer who’s had more experience than you, and they can give you advice. Right?

Right. But not all the time. See, there’s this misconception going around that aspiring authors start out clueless, but as they gain more experience, they become more confident and learn how to make the right writing choices.

*cricket noises*

10things1Maybe I’m just different than everyone else, but I was the opposite. When I decided I wanted to be an author, I knew EXACTLY what I was doing. And now, three and a half books later, I have absolutely no idea what the heck I’m doing. Sure, I’ve definitely LEARNED  lot… but that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m saying that there are things that aspiring authors need to hear. And sometimes, people are so eager to dole out their prestigious advice, they forget to say some of the most important things.

Looking back, there are several things I wish I’d known when I started writing. Here they are, in no particular order:

1. The experts know what they’re talking about. Most of the time. They’ve traveled this road ahead of you; they themselves learned the same things. When they give you advice, their goal is to save you the pain of learning the hard way. I remember getting annoyed at experts, because I already knew how to write, so how dare they try to tell me any differently? It turns out that they were right all along. Go figure.

2. You will cry. You will have bad days when nothing works, and you will cry because of how miserable you are. You will have good days when everything is glorious, and you will cry because of how beautiful it all is. You will cry for your poor characters whom you torment so relentlessly. You will become emotionally attached to your story. And this is a good and necessary thing, because you want your readers to become emotionally involved too, don’t you?

3. Every writer is different. Best method for writing a book? There isn’t one. And this is one example of when you should take professional advice with a grain of salt. Lots of people will tell you that you need to outline your book before you even start writing it. If that sounds lovely, go for it. But if, in middle school, being forced to write an outline for an essay was worse than being dragged off to Mordor and tortured, then for heaven’s sake, DON’T OUTLINE!!! Many people will tell you that you need to do some planning before you start writing, that you need to figure out your characters, the plot structure, and the theme. Try it if you like, but if it makes your creativity dry up (as it does for me), then don’t do it.

4. Just be yourself. You know that author you look up to? The one whose books you devour? That author you want to be just like? I wrote a post about this a while back, which you can read here. My advice to you is this: be yourself. The best authors weren’t concerned with trying to be someone else.

the end5. “The End” is not the finish line. Oh my, this is a big one. I used to think that if I could just finish writing the book, I will have accomplished something big. This is true, but in reality, hitting “The End” is just like climbing the first 100 feet of Mount Everest. After that, you’ve got editing and publishing and marketing (oh my!). I actually don’t know if there’s a finish line at all.

6. It’s not all fun and games. Sure, it might start out that way, but I can guarantee it will get harder. Your characters won’t listen to you. The muses won’t show up. Your carefully-planned-out plot will spontaneously decide to wear a hole in itself.

7. It shouldn’t become your identity. It shouldn’t overtake your mind to the point that you think about nothing else. You shouldn’t lose sight of the real world because your are living in the one you made up. It’s not healthy, and it doesn’t glorify God.

8. Persistence is key. You will be tempted to give up time and time again. But if you keep going, you will grow. If you don’t give up, amazing things will happen. Writers are known for doing the impossible.

9. Writing is a highly unique learning process. You don’t learn from a textbook; you learn by doing. Every author embarks on a journey – a journey to learn, to create things no one has ever created before. How can anyone teach you how to do that?

10. God will use you for things you never imagined. I wanted to shake the world. I wanted my stories to ignite a spark in the hearts of many. But that’s not what God wants for me right now. Instead, he showed me a much smaller idea: to show the love of God to one person. One. God will use you – and your writing, if that’s what he has called you to do – to accomplish things your wild imagination could never dream up.

That’s all I have for now, but I hope these tips helped you! Feel free to share any of your own tips in the comments!

What’s something you wish you knew before you started writing?

The Stories of Our Hearts

Once upon a time, there lived an author, who, more than anything, lived his life in dedication to the noble art of storytelling. One day, he began a new project. He was quite used to the routine, for he had begun many stories in his lifetime. But this time it was different. This time, he wanted to write something very special. And not just special – he wanted this story to be the pinnacle of his existence. But try as he might, the words wouldn’t come. He wrote chapter after chapter after chapter, and he threw them all away, because none of them told the story he was trying to tell. Now desperate, the author set out on a journey across the world, thinking that surely somewhere he’d find his story. Surely something in his travels would strike him. But no matter where he looked, his story was nowhere to be found. Giving up, he returned home and decided to try one last time to write. And to his great surprise, he found that his story had been inside him all along, in the one place he hadn’t searched: his heart.

Cheesy story? Maybe. Don’t judge; I wrote it in the car, cramped in the backseat with my earbuds not quite blocking out the radio, the sun glaring in my eyes, and the rest of my family trying to carry on a conversation over the noise of the unusually loud freeway. Such is the life of a writer. I love it.

The little story above is very much based on my own experiences. I have learned that usually, stories are already inside you, just waiting to come out. If I ever find myself trying too hard to write, I know I’m not listening to my heart. Not that writers don’t struggle – they do; it’s part of the job description, and it sometimes takes a lot of tries to get the story just right. But sometimes, I find that I’ve embarked on a metaphorical journey to try to “find” my story. I always return tired and ready to give up, but all along, I had the whole story within me already.

book-1760998_640

But this isn’t the case all of the time. Sometimes, the story isn’t already in your heart. Sometimes, you do have to search for it. Last month, my family and I went on vacation, and usually I like to use vacations to try to get inspiration for writing. Usually I don’t find any. At the time, the story I was trying to write wasn’t exactly working out. So I set out on my vacation with a goal in mind: to find my story. I honestly didn’t think it would work, but I knew if I got that “searching” out of my system, I’d be all set to continue working on the story when I got back. Right?

Nope. Honestly, does writing ever work the way you want it to?

But something happened to me that week. I set out to find my story, and I found it. It wasn’t in my heart, like it usually is, and that’s why it wasn’t working in the first place. I was trying to write something that I wasn’t really passionate about. (This has happened to me more times than not, actually.) But something happened. I found my story in something outside of myself. That hasn’t happened to me in a long time, or ever, really.

I think God sometimes lets writers experience that for a reason. Maybe it’s not just writers; maybe it’s everyone. But in my case, I’ve always been able to tell – and quickly – if a story is going to work out or not. If you’re a writer, you’re probably very familiar with the promise of a new story idea, and the slight disappointment you face when you sit down to write and it doesn’t turn into anything. But you get over it quickly, because you have a thousand other ideas to turn to. Usually, if I can get several chapters into a story, I know there’s a 99.99% chance I’ll finish it.

But God has been doing something lately. (Isn’t He always?) For some reason, He really wanted me to write this story, because He kept bringing me back to it. I couldn’t get it out of my head, even when nothing was working. And, slowly but surely, He has been showing me something that’s bigger than myself. Usually my stories just come from my brain, and it’s all a bunch of fantasy-science-fiction-adventure type stuff. But this? For the first time in my life, I am writing something that doesn’t come entirely from my own heart.

I don’t know how to end this, because I honestly don’t know how it ends. I am still working on this story, this story that God put on my heart. I don’t know how it will turn out. But I can say this: Write stories from your heart. Don’t waste your time writing empty, meaningless stories. If you ask Him, God will show you the story He wants you to write.

If you’re a writer, is there a certain story you feel like you just HAVE to tell?

If you’re comfortable with it, tell me about a time God put something on your heart – it doesn’t have to be a story!

 

A Year of Blogging and a Critique Giveaway!

Happy Saturday, everyone! Today marks a milestone for me: I started blogging exactly one year ago! (And yet, WordPress still likes to put a squiggly red line under the word “blog”. I don’t understand it.)

In honor of this milestone, I am hosting my very first giveaway! I will be giving away one (1) free critique of the first five hundred words of whatever you’re writing. I’ve seen so many critique giveaways lately, it’s like everyone’s in on it or something. So I thought I’d join in. You can find more details on how to enter at the bottom of this post. But first…

one year of blogging

After one year of blogging, my three most popular posts are…

My Crazy Writing Life (which, coincidentally, was my very first post)

#NaNoPrep: Overcoming Impostor Syndrome + Giveaway!! (the giveaway has long been over, unfortunately, but you can still read the post!)

Introducing: Inferno’s Melody (which is probably one of my favorite things I’ve ever posted)

And just for fun, I’ll also share my fourth most popular post, because it happens to be one of my personal favorites:

An Analysis of a Story. (I love writing about stuff like this.)

Man, I have learned so much by blogging. You’d think it’s just a fun way to be able to write and share my thoughts with the world, but no. It’s hard. I’m the type of person who doesn’t eagerly share my thoughts with anyone (unless these thoughts involve conspiracy theories about Sherlock or facts about quantum physics).

By blogging, I have gotten way more comfortable with letting other people read my writing and hear my thoughts. I have learned that perfection is an illusion (unless it’s God we’re talking about), and that realization is primarily what made me decide to (finally) let people read that book I wrote over a year ago. Although it may not seem like it, that was a big step for me. In fact, getting to that point was harder than getting to the end of NaNoWriMo, which is saying something if you’ve ever attempted NaNo.

Blogging is also very freeing for me. Writing is the primary way I express myself, but since stories take so long to craft, all of my thoughts build up inside, and blogging is a way to get them out. Here, I can tell you what I’m learning about God. Here, I can tell you about the reason why I write the stories that I do.

The last thing I want to mention is how amazing it feels to be able to inspire others. I’ve had multiple people tell me that certain things I’ve blogged about have inspired them. I can remember so many times when I’ve read other people’s blogs and felt greatly inspired, and I think it’s awesome that I’m able to be that person to somebody else.

And without further ado…

critique giveaway

The entry form for the critique giveaway can be found below! The form you’re filling out is technically a contact form, which was the easiest way for me to do it, so after you hit the “Submit” button, you will see a little notice that the “message has been sent.” This just means that I’ve received an email notification of your entry. Nothing you submit will be published or visible to anyone but me, with the exception of the winner’s name. 

If you win, you get to send me the first 500 words of whatever you’re writing… it can be fiction, nonfiction, poetry, whatever you want. It can even be an essay or something like that. The only limitation is that it must be completely clean and PG- (or better-) rated. If you win and your work doesn’t meet those requirements, I may have to choose another winner.

If your work is less than five hundred words, I’ll critique the whole thing. If it’s ridiculously close to 500 (like 502), that’s fine too. It wouldn’t make sense to leave a couple of words out.

You have until midnight on December 23 to enter. I would appreciate it if some of you spread the word through social media (it’s no fun if only a few people enter), but it’s not required.

The winner will be announced Saturday, December 23.

Good luck!

 

What’s something new you’ve tried this year? What has it taught you?