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.

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…and a Happy New Year!

Here it is: the obligatory New Year’s post about memories, lessons learned, and resolutions.

Nope. Nope, nope, nope, not doing any of that, thank you very much. Today, I am here to tell you about a little word that I have come to love. Today, I am going to tell you about the magic contained in this three-letter word and what the magic means.

And the word is: Eve.

No, not like the woman Eve. I mean New Year’s Eve (hint: it’s today). Why is the eve of things so much better than the actual things themselves? Like, New Year’s Eve is full of celebrations, fireworks, parties, and Times Square. New Year’s Day is… um… well? Everybody sleeps in?

It’s the same with Christmas Eve, which happens to be my favorite holiday. Christmas Eve is a magical day, and somehow, even in the rush of hyper-excited children and tired parents, the song “Silent Night” still feels perfect for that night. It’s in that moment when you’re lying in bed trying to fall asleep, and suddenly, everything gets still, and you wonder if the entire world is pausing to catch its breath in anticipation.

That’s the real word I want to focus on: anticipation. As a writer, I am hopelessly in love with words and their definitions. Anticipation means “to look forward to something excitedly,” which is probably obvious because you’ve probably used that word before. But there is another definition that I like even better, because it captures the exact thing I’ve been trying to describe to you this whole time:

the introduction in a composition of part of a chord which is about to follow in full

(Oxford English Dictionary)


This definition is only applicable to music theory, but go back and read it again. Anticipation, in this sense, is literally a taste of what is to come. A glimpse. A fleeting shadow of the true form.

That’s why I like New Year’s Eve. It’s the anticipation of the year to come. It’s the anticipation of all the new adventures I’ll have. And if there’s anything I’ve learned this year, it’s that my own plans are hardly ever the same as God’s plans. This year was one sweeping adventure for me as far as writing goes (and I’ll tell you about that later).

I don’t know why some people say “good riddance” to the old year. I’m sorry if 2018 was a bad year for you, but for me, it was an adventure. A very good adventure which I did not plan at all.

So that’s my take on New Year’s Eve. The anticipation of adventure. Don’t get caught up in all your intricate plans. And if you know me at all, you’d probably never expect me to sat that. Because I’m a planning planner who plans things. It’s great to have a goal (all adventures have an end goal, a place you’re trying to get), but the road along the way? That’s where all the story happens. And sometimes, God has a completely different ending in mind, and ultimately, that one’s even better.

So. There you have it. Happy New Year! And right now, I am definitely anticipating all the new adventures of 2019. 😉

What are you doing for New Year’s Eve? Do you have any resolutions?

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.

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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!

 

Another Year Gone By

Here I am again, another New Year’s Eve, sitting on my bed and wondering why time speeds up the older you get.

I am very much a sentimentalist, and I am also very milestone-oriented. I have certain traditions that I always do on New Year’s Eve. My family always gathers in the living room to watch all the home videos we took over the course of the past year. (That’s always fun, because my dad likes to have a running commentary during ever single video.) Then I settle down for an hour or so of journaling, and I reflect on all the things I’ve done this year, both big and small. I like to outline a list of a things I will accomplish next year, usually very small goals. At the end of my list I write down one big thing I want to do. And of course I stay up until midnight to watch the ball drop. Since there’s no school tomorrow, I’ll probably stay up even later and begin working on my next writing project.

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So what has this year held for me? One the one hand, I set out to publish this year. It didn’t happen. Instead, I’m only barely done with the second draft of the intended book. On the other hand, I’m officially a three-time novelist.

I’ve seen some people choose a word to live by at the beginning of a new year. I’ve never tried that before; instead, I like to look back and choose my word at the end of the year. This year, I think my word was Fire. I like putting fire into all my books as a theme, and it usually happens by accident. This year, God decided to show me what it’s like to lose sight of the fire He’d previously placed on my heart, and then He decided to show me that He is powerful enough to rekindle it again. The Gospel is a fire that burns our hearts, and the desire to share it is like a little flame that grows bigger and hotter the more we ignore the urge to do so.

I always get a little sad when the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve. (Not that the clock actually strikes, because we don’t have a grandfather clock. I sure wish we did, though.) In the moment where everyone is cheering and fireworks are going off and the huge numbers of the new year are filling the TV screen, I always just sit there sadly. It’s like I’m staring at a huge open space spread out before me. I liked the year we already had. No need to start a new one. If I think about it long enough, I get overwhelmed by the prospect of an entire blank year of calendar pages staring back at me. It’s so empty. Why can’t I keep living in the one I filled up?

Looking back, this year hasn’t been quite as successful writing-wise as I’d hoped. I wrote one new novel and rewrote another. It’s a far cry from publication, but it’s not failure either. Crafting a brand-new novel over the course of a month? I’d call that a success. Creating a cohesive plot out of the jumble of random events I’d piled together? That was definitely a success. I mean a half-success. I’m still not quite finished with it yet. So, it wasn’t as much as I’d hoped for, but it’s something at least.

So even if your previous resolutions look like failures, look for the ways you have been successful. It’s not called optimism, it’s called honesty. It’s never uplifting to dwell on your shortcomings and failures. It will only push you down farther.

You may be asking, do I have any New Year’s Resolutions? Yes. Yes, I do. My 2018 New Year’s Resolutions is: Don’t publish a book. Here’s the brilliancy of it: I’ll probably have no trouble keeping that resolution. Then I’ll consider myself successful for being able to stick with it. And, well, if I don’t manage to keep it, by that point I won’t care because I will have PUBLISHED A BOOK. This particular resolution will also (hopefully) remind me to slow down and take the time to enjoy writing, rather than making a mad dash to what I think is the finish line (and really, publication is NOT the finish line).

I’ll see you all in 2018! I hope you have a lovely New Year’s Eve celebration, whether you’re staying up by yourself, partying with friends, sleeping, or getting so lost in a good book that you don’t notice when midnight rolls around. Happy New Year!!

What did you accomplish in 2017?

What do you hope to accomplish in 2018?

The Last Hurrah

Hello, friends, and welcome to the Monthly Theme! You probably noticed that my blog looks different. I was bored, so I redesigned it. I think that now it echoes my personality more.

I know I haven’t done a Monthly Theme in quite a few months, so really it shouldn’t be called “monthly.” But I came up with a pretty good one for the month of August…

Adventure!!

This may seem like a strange one to choose. As you know, by the time August comes around, summer is winding down, and the month is full of hot, dreary days.  By the time August comes around, we look forward to the cool, crisp promise of fall and the start of the new school year (or not…). By the time August comes around, we’ve done all of our fun summer stuff. It doesn’t even have any holidays.

I hold a different view. August, to me, has always been sort of a last hurrah. It’s always an exciting month. A few Augusts ago, I started writing a story. That story led to another story, which in turn led to another… the story kept growing bigger in my mind, and now I have an entire saga waiting to be written. This August in particular, I’ve felt very productive in my writing. It’s definitely been an adventure… I’ve been working on a LOT of character development (I hope to do a related post soon), a bit of plot development, and the story has been generally sitting on my mind. Last August, I went to Camp Attitude, which always holds tons of new adventures. And there’s always a church-wide camping trip at the end of the month (which I just got back from a couple of days ago). Not to mention that epic solar eclipse we had last week.

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Aside from personal adventure, there is adventure to be found in lots of fictional works. It’s a fairly common theme, if you could call it a theme, and even stories that don’t focus on adventure as a main part of the story at least contain hints of it. Adventure is associated with taking risks, with excitement. It’s associated with new experiences and the rush of adrenaline. Now, if you are positively paranoid about anything that promises danger and have no desire to do anything out of the ordinary, then perhaps a life of adventure is not for you perhaps Gandalf will invite thirteen dwarves to your house and you will get roped into an epic quest.

I think everyone, though, (yes, even Bilbo) longs for some sort of adventure. Something bigger than their ordinary lives. Like Belle from Beauty and the Beast. Even if we don’t know it, we all know we were meant for more than this provincial life. (Hint: It’s because God made us that way. He designed us to live in a perfect world with him. We’re the ones who messed it all up.)

While our thirst for adventure can lead to moments of self-discovery, it can lead us into all sorts of other stuff too. Oftentimes, this is how characters start their journeys. The character wants an adventure, so he goes and finds one, and bam!, there’s a story. This isn’t the case all the time – sometimes a character is thrust into something without a choice. But consider the following questions:

Why was Lucy snooping in somebody else’s wardrobe?

Why did Harry trust a perfect stranger to take him to school?

Why did Christine agree to go with a creepy masked phantom?

Why did Neo choose the red pill?

Why did Roland stop fleeing his pursuers to help Mercy?

(That last question is from the first scene of my book. :D) There are answers to all of these questions, but the most simplistic answer is that they all wanted an adventure. They all believed that something bigger was out there. And that’s the key word here: belief. If Lucy didn’t have that child-like faith, she never would have been able to get into Narnia. If Harry didn’t believe what Hagrid told him, he never would have made it to Hogwarts. And so on.

So, while adventures presented in stories are somewhat romantic (meaning they are romanticized – that is, made out to be better or more illustrious than they actually are), adventures in real life are very different. Let’s face it: None of us will ever stumble upon Narnia. None of us will ever receive our Hogwarts letter. None of us will ever get roped into a magical quest. But all of us were made for more than this life we are currently living. And if we set out in pursuit of it, it will be an adventure.

Not the kind of adventure you read about in books, but the real kind of adventure.

One that lasts for eternity.

I’d love to hear about your summertime adventures! Also – do you have a favorite book where one of characters goes on an adventure?

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In Honor of Tolkien

Hi everyone, I’m really sorry I haven’t blogged in a while. Maybe I’ll tell you about my Camp NaNoWriMo adventures sometime, but today I have something special to write about. Apparently there’s this thing going around where lots of bloggers write Tolkien-related posts in honor of the release of The Fellowship of the Ring on July 29, 1954. (I missed the anniversary by a day, but who cares.) Therefore, as a huge fan of Tolkien, I will dedicate this entire post to talking about, and fangirling over, his books.

Favorite Character:

Samwise Gamgee.

If you asked me who my favorite character was, I would not hesitate, not in the least. Sam is my favorite character, hands down, no arguments.

Why?, you ask. Well, first off, I always love the sidekicks for some reason. Sam Gamgee, obviously. Ron Weasley from Harry Potter. John Watson from Sherlock. Even amongst my own characters, I love all the sidekicks the best.

I could give you an exhaustive list of all the reasons I love Sam, but that would just lead into…

Favorite Chapter in the Entire Trilogy:

“The Choices of Master Samwise,” from The Two Towers.

(WARNING: SPOILERS)

If you’ve never read the books, go read them the ending of The Two Towers is quite different from the way its respective movie ended. The book ends in Shelob’s lair, when Sam thinks Frodo is dead, so he takes the Ring with the intent to destroy it himself. (In the movies, we don’t see this part until The Return of the King.)

Anyway, in this chapter, we really get to see Sam’s character come out. He’s in quite the predicament: He’s just traveled across half of Middle-earth with his best friend Frodo, only to be attacked by a gigantic spider when they are so close to the end of their journey. He is devastated because he thinks Frodo is dead, and he is torn between his duty to his friend and his duty to Middle-earth. The last thing he wants to do is take the Ring and destroy it himself. He longs to go back home to the Shire. He can’t bear to leave his friend alone in this dark place. But he knows he can’t stay with Frodo; otherwise the enemy would find them both and take the Ring. His heart longs for vengeance against Gollum for deceiving them and bringing them here in the first place. But he knows that wouldn’t be worth it.

I love seeing Sam’s internal struggle here. Deep down, he knows the answer, but he has to wrestle with it first. Eventually he sees that the fate of Middle-earth rests in his hands and that it is his solemn duty to finish what Frodo started. This passage is the reason Sam is my favorite character in the first place.

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Things I Wish Were in the Movies:

(MORE SPOILERS)

-Tom Bombadil and that whole part about the Barrow-downs

I know Tom Bombadil was a pretty ridiculous character who added almost nothing to the plot, but I liked him. I think there were some things which he said and did that were important. And the Barrow-downs, which also added nothing to the plot, were pretty creepy. They were kind of a part of the whole Tom Bombadil subplot, too. I think it would have been fun to see.

-Éowyn and Faramir’s romance

The movies did mention it, but it was infinitely better in the books. The reader sees them get to know each other, and their love grows as the story goes on. It also offers more closure for both of the characters. It’s one of my favorite parts.

-Arwen

Um… Talia? Arwen is already in the movies… duh!

Exactly my point. She was much different in the books. Now don’t get me wrong; I have no problem with the movie’s version of Arwen. It’s just that she plays a lot bigger part than she did in the books. Like I said, I have no problem with it. It just bothers me a little bit.

Favorite Quotes:

I’m limiting this to book quotes. Otherwise we’ll all be here all day. Also, I’m only going to mention my personal favorite quotes, which does not include the really famous ones that everybody knows and loves.

“You can trust us to stick with you, through thick and thin – to the bitter end. And you can trust us to keep any secret of yours – closer than you keep it yourself. But you cannot trust us to let you face trouble alone, and go off without a word. We are your friends, Frodo.”

-Merry

“Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgment.”

-Gandalf

“I am Aragorn son of Arathorn; and if by life or death I can save you, I will.”

-Aragorn

“The Shadow that bred them [the orcs] can only mock, it cannot make: not real new things of its own. I don’t think it gave life to the orcs, it only ruined them and twisted them.”

-Frodo

That’s all I have for now, aside from the fact that Tolkien has been an inspiration to fantasy authors everywhere, including me. In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you in the comments about anything and everything Tolkien-related.

Do you have a favorite character? A favorite scene or chapter? Or any other Tolkien-related comments?

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Fear (and an exciting book announcement)

I must admit, I was a little scared to post this. Fear is almost always a part of the writing process. What-ifs are a very common form of writing-related fear: “What if I fail?” “What if no one likes it?” “What if I don’t meet my deadline?”

I’ve asked myself all of these questions before. I’m afraid of failure. I’m afraid I won’t ever finish this beautiful story I love. I’m afraid that when I finally do finish it, no one will like it. I’m afraid of letting myself down, but I am also afraid of letting everyone else down. I’m afraid they will compare me to so many better authors, like I compare myself to my favorite authors. I’m afraid I won’t meet my goal before my self-imposed deadline (especially during NaNoWriMo).

There are three main reasons why I am writing this post: 1) to (hopefully) give myself motivation to actually finish editing my book,  2) to attempt to push past some of my fears of rejection, and 3) because I am so very excited to finally and (in)formally announce this book. I wish I could say it is getting published, but I’m not quite there yet. I hope to publish it one day. That’s my goal, anyway. So now I’m going to tell you about it.

I’m secretly afraid no one will like it.

But here we go.

*deep breath*

The Title: Twelve

The Plot (I apologize, for I have not had much practice writing synopses): 

For years, Roland has been searching for the rest of the Artifacts. He already has one of them, ever since a strange old man gave it to him and told him to seek out the rest. But someone – Pravus is what he calls himself – is out to settle a personal grudge with Roland, and claim all the Artifacts for himself.

One night, while being pursued, Roland stumbles across a woman who has been attacked, only to discover that she shares his goals. They escape their pursuers together and then set out to locate the rest of the Artifacts.

As it turns out, there are in fact twelve Artifacts, each belonging to a separate person. Once they are together, the twelve set out on a quest that is as ancient as Time itself. All they have to guide them is one riddle, and the knowledge that Pravus will stop at nothing to find them. But every step they take seems to take them closer to Pravus. No one can be trusted, because Pravus is obviously getting his information from somewhere… and it very well could be one of them.

The Characters (I will not introduce all twelve; only my favorites):

I would share some pictures from my Pinterest boards (because each character has their own separate board), but I’m not sure how legal that is. I would have to download all the images from it that I wanted to use, and sometimes I just get really paranoid about copyright laws. Instead, I’ll give you the links to each character’s board. The things I’ve pinned will hopefully help you get an idea of the character’s personality. Please forgive any minor spoilers, but there won’t be any major ones.

Roland (main character):  Roland is… honestly, hard to describe. He’s a very complex character, as two sides of him are constantly dueling one another. He refuses to explain this to anyone else. Although he is the “leader” of the quest, he does not possess many leadership skills. Or social skills, really. Aside from these flaws, he is very adventurous. Here is a link to Roland’s Pinterest board.

Shea: Originally I had aimed to base Shea off of Sherlock Holmes. Somehow, in the writing process, this didn’t happen, and instead she is now somewhat based off of myself. She is quiet and observant, and always has something on her mind. She keeps many of her thoughts to herself, but likes to figure things out – solving riddles, translating unknown languages… you get the picture. Here is a link to Shea’s Pinterest board.

Kirk: Kirk is definitely one of my favorite characters I have ever written. He is an ESTP, which is about as opposite from me as you can get. (I’m not sure if it’s exactly opposite, but almost.) He is openly rebellious, sarcastic, and conceited. None of the other characters like him, but he serves as the comic relief for the reader. Here is a link to Kirk’s Pinterest board.

George: The last character I am going to share is George. I love him almost as much as I love Kirk. George is there to make sure everyone behaves themselves, and to ensure that logic is always being considered. He and Kirk are foils of each other. (If you don’t know what a foil is, it’s a character who possesses opposite traits of another character, in order to highlight the other character’s traits.) George is calm and diplomatic, and serves as a secondary leader next to Roland. Here is a link to George’s Pinterest board.

And finally, some excerpts:

(I made fancy graphics for these!)

“Fine,” he said, much more softly this time. “I suppose if your little secret is more important to yo

How about a memorable quote? I’ve always thought of this one as the “inspiring Gandalf quote” of my book. It doesn’t sound nearly as awesome out of the context of the story, though, so just keep that in mind.

Courage,

And here is the last excerpt I will share today:

another exerpt

 

Confession: I actually edited this one a bit before I posted it. And please excuse that run-on sentence at the end.

That’s it for today, folks! I hope you enjoyed everything I shared. Please note that anything I said is subject to change, because I am still in the revision process.

Are you working on a book or a story you would like to share? What do you do to combat writing-related fears?

A Year In Review

Hello everyone. As you will probably notice, I took a little break for the holidays and am just now getting back into writing blog posts. Today I’m going to look back at the year 2016, specifically from my writing POV. Of course, I only started blogging a couple of weeks ago, so I’ll have to fill you in on the rest of the year.

I wrote a couple of short stories – one of them is still sitting around somewhere waiting for me to go back and revise it. And the other one I hope never to see again.  You know how some stories are just simply horrific until you go back and reread them after a few months? But then you also have the stories that are still simply horrific even after you reread them. And yep, that was one of those stories.

There were also periods of time this year where I suffered from writer’s block. I had no ideas and thus nothing to write. It was terrible. But then I decided to do NaNoWriMo, so that sort of took care of that. NaNo was probably one of my two writing highlights of the year.

I was also able to edit a novel I’d written a while ago – the purpose being so that I could get it printed on this amazing machine called the Espresso Book Machine. That was really fun, and I consider it my other writing highlight of the year.

In addition to writing projects (and numerous ideas that only turned into a couple of scenes before I got bored – that’s what happens when writer’s block decides to linger for two months at a time), I also grew a lot closer to God this year. I think I can say that the overall thing I learned was that I need to trust him. I need to stop relying on myself for strength and instead place my trust in him. This year I learned that if I do that, he will always give me strength to face whatever is coming at me.

This makes me think of a verse from Proverbs: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” (ESV) (That verse is from Proverbs 3:5-6, if you want to know.)

Throughout the entire year, God has been teaching me this, but there was one time in particular that comes to mind. It was during the week where I volunteered at Camp Attitude, which is a summer camp for special-needs kids and teens and their families. I was assigned to one kid, and for the entire week, I was just her special friend. It was very hard, but it was so very rewarding! During that week I learned to rely on God every day. I learned to trust him.

So, this year, I learned at least two very important things: Trust God, and writer’s block doesn’t last. Although… I seem to forget that little fact whenever I actually get writer’s block. But hey, this brings me to another very important point: When you’re going through darker times or when you’re really struggling with something, it can be hard to remember to trust God. I’m pretty sure every Christian has experienced something like this at some point in their life. I’m still trying to learn it myself. God is still teaching me.

Oh, I guess I shouldn’t leave without saying something about new year’s resolutions. I’ve never really been big on resolutions. Mine have always been something along the lines of “write something amazing” (2016), “build a hoverboard” (2015, and I epically failed… sorry, Marty McFly), or… wait, I didn’t even have one in 2014. This  year, though, my resolution (I guess it’s more of a “goal”) is to GET A BOOK PUBLISHED. I’ll keep you posted on how I do, because it’s very ambitious, especially if I decide to write the last two books of a trilogy at the same time.

So, this year has been somewhat of an adventure, a journey… and I hope 2017 will bring all new adventures. All you writers, what was this year like for you? Do you have any resolutions? I’d love to hear from you!

Happy New Year! I’ll see you in 2017!

An Analysis of a Story

Today I’m going to talk about what makes a good story. No, I’m not going to discuss the roles of the protagonist/antagonist; I’m not going to talk about a good plot, setting the stakes, introducing conflict, or what makes a compelling character arc; I’m not going to talk about how to create a truly magical fantasy world. All of these things are valuable to a story and are worth knowing, but today I’m going to talk about something called… well, I don’t actually know what it’s called.

What makes a story stick with a reader?

(Don’t get this confused with what makes a reader stick with a story. Today we’re flipping that and looking at it the other way around.)

What is it about some stories that stick with us forever, while other stories we forget about within a week, even though it was wonderfully written and kept our attention? What common element can be found in all timeless stories, stories that will never be forgotten, ever?

Like The Lord of the Rings. It’s one of my personal favorites, and I think it is definitely classified as a timeless story. In fact, this example works out perfectly, because Sam Gamgee (who is the best character in the entire saga and no you may not argue with me) actually tells us about, in his opinion, what makes the best stories:

“It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something…. That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo. And it’s worth fighting for.”

He said this to Frodo in The Two Towers, and he is completely right on every point he made. And he stumbled across that element that should be in all stories if you want them to stick with the reader forever.

Readers want to see characters who fight until the end, even though it looks bleak and impossible. Even though evil will win for sure. Readers want to see characters fight for what they believe anyway. They want to see characters hold on to what little good is left. And of course, good wins in the end. Because these characters fought, even though they had lots of chances to turn back and give up, even if tragedy struck or the darkness ruled, the characters fought and they won.

Readers want to see the timeless truths that are written on their hearts. Everyone, regardless of their religion or worldview, knows instinctively about the constant battle between good and evil. Everyone, whether or not they have ever heard the good news of the Gospel, has an internal longing for redemption. Redemption from anything that holds them captive. And all the best stories illustrate this.

We are a fallen race. We know we are lost. We long to be redeemed. And because of this universal need that drives us, the great stories stay in our minds. If a story depicts an epic display of selfless love, or a dramatic rescue, it will affect us. If we are Christians, the story will especially resonate with us because we know about the saving grace of God. If we are not Christians, the story will leave us thinking about greater things, things that are beyond us, wonderful things we cannot even begin to imagine. And it will still resonate with us because we know that there must be some truth in it somewhere.

And we know that achieving redemption is never easy. There is always a struggle, always a fight. Usually there is a sacrifice. The Harry Potter series is another wonderful example. Regardless of whether or not it was intended, there are countless redemptive messages within that series. The darkness keeps pressing in, evil is overtaking everything, and yet there is a glimmer of hope. There is still the promise of redemption. And the characters had lots of chances to give up. But they never did. They kept fighting until the end, despite tragedy, death, and the general feeling of hopelessness. And they won.

See, all the good stories have that element! A fall from grace and perfection, the long fight against evil, and finally one savior who redeems them all and defeats the evil. This is the Gospel. Sometimes at the end of the story we even get a little glimpse of the end of the end – where everything will be made right again. In The Return of the King, in the very last chapter, we see this. Frodo sails away to the Grey Havens, which is a place where there is no evil and no pain. That part always makes me cry because it’s just so good.

Whether we realize it or not, the Gospel is written on the hearts of humanity. We know the struggle between good and evil is real, and we know we need a savior. Sadly, many of us do not have a personal relationship with the one true Savior: Jesus Christ. And yet, these stories still resonate with us. And maybe, one of them will strike a chord within us and leave us wanting more – and maybe we’ll be led to the Savior.

If you take any great story – any story that has stuck with you from the first time you’ve read it – and you analyze it, I guarantee you will find a story of redemption.

I’ve shared my favorite stories with you, but what are some of yours? Which stories have stuck with you? What was it about them that drew you in so much? I’d love to hear from you!

My Crazy Writing Life

Hello. My name is Talia Prewette, and this is my writing blog. That means: One, I’m a crazy author. (All you fellow crazy authors out there will understand, and the rest of you will just be like, “Huh?”) And two, this blog will mostly be about writing, not just everyday life.

So yeah, there you go. I’m a crazy author who writes crazy stories about crazy characters who live in crazy fantasy worlds and go on crazy time traveling adventures. Okay, I guess they could be described as something other than crazy… but for now that works. Occasionally I may post a short story or two and you can decide for yourself.

All writers, regardless of whether or not they are crazy, have a reason they write. Maybe they’re taking a writing class for school. Maybe they’re very interested in a certain subject – like high tea traditions of Great Britain, or the string theory – and so they write about them. For many writers, the reason they write is because they are driven to. They are driven by a deep passion inside of them to put words onto paper to create something beautiful.

This is why I write. God has given me a passion for it. A passion to put the words in my head onto paper and create something beautiful out of it. A passion to create stories. But God has given me another passion that runs even deeper than my passion to write. This passion, this desire, is burning inside of me like a fire. I am called to spread the Gospel.

At the end of Matthew 28, Jesus says, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (ESV) This is the Great Commission. (If you’ve never read the story, check it out. God is the ultimate Author, after all, and He has written – and is still writing – the greatest story of all time.)

So, because of this calling God has placed on my life, I write. All of my stories – whether they are just short stories or full novels – point to God. They are pictures of the Gospel. Take The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. It is an allegory. It gives us a picture of the Gospel. It shows us how God gave us salvation. So do my stories. I am called to spread the truth of the Gospel, and I do it through writing.

My purpose of this blog is to let people know about me and why I write. I’ll blog about the writing life and about God; maybe occasionally I’ll give my two cents of writing advice; I may share what God shows me through the things I write; and maybe, sometime in the future I’ll even post a few short stories. Or chapters of a novel. I hope to be able to post every few days, but I can’t say for sure whether that’s even possible yet.

Thanks so much for checking out my writing blog! All you writers out there: why do you write? What kinds of things do you write? I’d love to hear from you!