Sometimes I wish I loved math. Loved solving equations. Where, if I got the problem wrong, I could jump back to the beginning to get it right. The journey might take a few minutes, even hours. But it would be solved within a short period of time. To me, that sounds like a quick resolution. Going from a no to a yes in a matter of minutes? Yes, please! (Math peeps, you'll probably tell me differently, but for the sake of my post, let me have this one, k?)
When it comes to writing novels, there is never a quick resolution. Especially when you hear NO to a book you've worked months, even years on. Am I right, writers? After submitting two of my books for months to literary agents, I heard nothing but, "No, thank you." The no's hurt. The no's dig up every insecurity you've ever had. But it also sets you back to the very beginning of your journey. Game over. Start again.
With each no, I've started again. Started from the beginning. I've waited for the right idea to hit. Then planned the outline; developed the characters; conceptualized the story. Wrote the first draft. Edited the first draft. Perfected the second and third draft. Until, months and months (and months) later, I have a completed manuscript. And then? I try again. This time, hoping for a yes.
Of course, with each book I write, I grow. I become a stronger writer. A better story teller. No journey is wasted if you desire to grow. But it's long. It's hard. There is no quick resolution. There is months and years from beginning to end. And it can feel overwhelming at times. Especially at the beginning. Wondering if the journey--the long, lengthy, painful journey--is worth it.
But, while I haven't heard my "yes" yet, I am 100% committed to the journey. It's hard. But it sharpens my skills and feeds my soul. It's not a quick resolution, but it allows for creativity to bloom. It's long, yes. But I'll write and write and write until I can't write any more. Because the ending is always worth it. A finished book. A new story. Characters to love. That, in itself, is one big yes.
I've been hit with the jealousy monster lately. Know that feeling? You're doing your thing, content with the steps you've been making, when all of a sudden BAM--someone else's success knocks you down. Causes you to rethink everything you've ever done and everything you're currently doing. And wonder--why aren't I there yet?
That's where I am. That's where I've been. And man, is it hard to quell those feelings. Because I want to rejoice in others' successes! WANT to. But STRUGGLE to. For some reason, when I'm hit with others' successes, I suddenly fear there's now less of "it" to achieve. That they've got a portion of "it," making it harder for me to get "it" too.
But that's silly, isn't it? Success doesn't look like that. There's no limit to success. There's no elite that can only achieve it. There's no "some for you" and "none for others." Instead, there is hard work. Determination. Perseverance. And timing.
Timing can get you down. Timing is elusive and confusing. Timing is something you can't buy. Something you can't take a class in. Timing is mysterious. And I'm having to remind myself over and over again that even if it's not my time, that doesn't define my gifts. If it's someone else' time, that doesn't belittle my journey. Or my work. Or my talent. It just means it's their time. And I want to rejoice in that.
Anyone else struggle with this? I'd love to hear how we can lift each other up!
I love this idea of #writershelpingwriters. Especially in a field that is often lonely and quiet. (Though, I think most writers prefer it that way. Ironic, I suppose!) We are on such different journeys as writers. We have received varied advice; write with varying styles; work in various ways. So why not share with each other?
I'm working on a monthly guest series, where other writers will share whatever it is they want to share--about the journey, about the craft, about the writer's life. If this interests you as a writer, I'd love to feature you!
I'm thinking of launching it on the last Friday of every month. What say you? Let me know if you're interested!
How many of you are glad January is over? I wasn't too overwhelmed with the month (thankfully), but I loved the tweets that talked about how long January felt. ("We're now in the third month of January" and "30 days has September, April, June, and November, all the rest have 31, except for...January which has about seven...hundred when will this...awful month end" being two of my favorites.)
Figured it was the perfect time to check-in with my goals for the year. While I've shared with you my practical goals for 2018, I haven't yet shared my word of the year with you! (For the past few years, I've picked a word--a theme, per say--that I hope to live by.) This year?
How I arrived at this word had much to do with my three major goals for 2018--finish my first draft; grow healthy habits; and make some medical/health changes. Together with a newfound grief from losing my Dad, I needed a word that helped me focus on small victories. Looking at these goals big picture--all under the heaviness of grief--seemed daunting. I was almost setting myself up to fail.
But. If I could look at each goal I wanted to accomplish, and approach it with a one-day-at-a-time mindset, each seemed manageable. Enjoyable, even. If I mess up one day, that's OK. Tomorrow is a new day. A new day to succeed. To grow. To write. To love. To grieve.
And I truly believe that's how God calls us to live. I saw it in my parents, as my Dad was suffering from Pancreatic Cancer. He and my Mom chose to live each day as it came. To enjoy the good days. To not project their fears but to trust in God's goodness. Because he promises to give us what we need. Each. Day. He gave them joy through the suffering. He gave them peace through the pain. If he can do that in the last days of someone's life, he can sure do it in mine.
So, daily. How have I been doing with my goals then?
All right. Not perfect, but that's OK.
I joined a gym and have worked out at least 2-3 times per week so far. Chosen healthy eating habits (most days). I've gone rogue a few weekends--and could sit and beat myself up over it--but I'm choosing to focus on DAILY victories. Not overwhelming (or unrealistic) goals.
I'm into ACT TWO of my draft. Have I written every day? No. But I've been loving it extra these past few weeks. My joy and passion of writing has flourished, and I don't take that lightly.
I'm making changes in medications. And while I won't go into that too much, I will say that my body has been going through severe withdrawal symptoms. It's been rough. Tough for me. Tough for my husband. God is truly breaking me down this year--and I'm finally understanding there is good in that.
There you have it. I'd love to know some of your 2018 goals--or your yearly word! The more encouragement we have, the more successful we can be, yeah? Thanks for reading, as always.
As I was sitting here, thinking up topics to write about, the idea of desert island came to mind. And not your average choice of book or movie, but a writer’s version. Such as if I could be stranded with five fictional characters, who would they be and why. Care to join me on my adventure?
First character to come to mind is Katniss Everdeen. Having a badass chic who can hunt on my desert island seems as logical as they come. I am a girly girl. I don’t like camping. I can barely handle a hike for longer than an hour. I do best, let’s say, in the city; walking, shopping, sipping coffee, reading, writing. I know nothing about survival. Which means, I’ll need an immediate lesson on all things do-it-yourself. Hunting? Check. Cleaning meat? Check. Finding water? Check. With Katniss’ help, I’ll become a Hunger Games survivor in no time.
Second character? Gandalf. Yes. Of all the wizards out there, I'm choosing Gandalf. Mostly because he holds a special place in my heart. Lord of the Rings, after all, is my favorite story of all time. And having a strong, powerful, yet gentle guide on my island seems smart. Plus, he speaks wisdom as easily as breathing. Let’s not forget: “So do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us. There are other forces at work in this world Frodo, besides the will of evil. Bilbo was meant to find the Ring. In which case, you were also meant to have it. And that is an encouraging thought.”
I must say, this might be a bit of a bore, but my third character is one of the most loyal characters (IMHO) in all of fiction. Samwise Gamgee. I know, I know. Two characters from one story? Please. But come on. It’s Samwise! He stuck by Frodo through the worst of it, even when his best friend turned on him. Loyal; trustworthy; desert island must-have.
Humor is a must in any situation, am I right? Which means, my fourth character has to be Barney Stinson. Yes, he’s crude. Yes, I cringe at a handful of the things he says but laugh at the other 90% of what comes out of his mouth. He. Is. Hilarious. “Ted, we can't go to prison! People get shivved in the joint! Plus the meals are really starchy.” Case in point.
And lastly? Toothless. It’s an odd one, I give you that. But a dog-like dragon? Who can protect me? Love me? And be my best bud? Heck. Yes.
How about you? Who would your five fictional characters be? Leave ‘em in the comments section below!
Photo credit: Heidi Ryder Photography
Ever interested in the writing process of authors? Or in the rejection letters they receive? How they develop their characters? Who inspires them? Well, I'm here to explain it all. I was looking through my file folders (man, that sounds like an ancient phrase) and found questions I had answered for an interview that never got published.
Reading about other's successes is always inspiring--but reading about other's failures? Often times can inspire me the most. It helps me persevere; helps me know I'm not alone; helps me realize failure is apart of success. So, if this can inspire anyone, anyone at all, I'm happy to share. Hope you enjoy!
Were you ever turned down by publishers? If so, how did that affect you?
YES — For a year, I queried The Missing Crimoire to agents and publishing houses and received several rejections. All very nice—but all said no. I then queried The Naming of Colton Black to over 40 literary agents. Once again, I received rejection after rejection — this time, however, agents were more encouraging in their responses—“This is such a subjective field”; “Keep querying”; etc. One agent asked to see my entire manuscript, she liked it so much. But in the end, decided to pass.
Each no is ALWAYS hard to hear. Your work is such a personal representation of you, so any kind of rejection of your work feels like a rejection of you. But, I knew this was part of the journey. I knew that every writer has heard a no. And that all it takes is one yes. I think rejections also help you develop tough skin, which is most definitely needed in this industry.
While I decided to go the self-publishing route, I am still interested in and curious about traditional publishing.
Which authors inspired, and influenced, you the most?
Like many, J.K.Rowling has been a huge influence on my writing — how she created such a fantastical story with such depth and detail blows my mind. Not to mention her adoring characters. When I create new worlds, I’m always thinking about Rowling’s depth.
Orson Scott Card, hands down, has forever changed how I view and write internal character monologues / emotions etc. One of my favorite characters in literature is Ender; I never thought I’d feel such emotion for a young genius boy who fights battles in space. But. The way Scott reveals Ender’s character, desires, wants, I can’t help but fall in love with him.
And lastly, F. Scott Fitzgerald. I admire his poetic prose so much and aim to write not only interesting stories but to write them in a beautiful, melodic way. I am always trying to find the right cadence to my sentences; the right flow; the right sound—even if it’s a kid’s book.
How would your writing be different, if you hadn’t read their works?
Interesting question! I want to say my writing wouldn’t differ too much, but that’s probably a lie. These three authors helped me find my style; my voice. It was reading their works that lead me to know how exactly I wanted to write stories. Without them? I think that process would have taken much longer. I might not have discovered my style as quickly—or at all, for that matter.
How old were you when you started writing?
I was *old* in the “I want to be a writer” world—I was 18. I always loved drawing and spent my childhood creating characters through art. Not until I was a senior in high school did I start to enjoy writing. Then, when I began college (as an undeclared freshman), I received such praise for my writing from peers and professors. The amazing support gave me the confidence I needed to start my journey as a writer.
Do you have a favorite time of day to write?
I used to think night time, since I’m a night owl. But honestly? Any time of day works. Afternoons are a little tricky, since I’m usually most sluggish then. For me, it’s more about the ambiance. The space. Set me up in a coffee house in a big city with a mug of coffee, and I could write for days.
When you have an idea for a story, what is your first step in writing it?
When an idea hits me, I grab the nearest writing instrument and write everything down that’s flowing through my mind. I want to get as much of the original thoughts on paper/screen as possible. No time for editing. No time for anything but putting words down.
Was there ever a time when you felt like quitting writing at all? If so, what motivated you to keep going?
Yes! But I think knowing that who I am is a writer and if I quit, what then? I look at those times now — those “I can’t do this” times — and seem them as I need a break from whatever project I’m working on. Then, once that passes (and it always does), I feel recharged and motivated again. I don’t think I could ever stop writing. It’s as necessary as breathing.
What do you do to combat writers block?
Write through it! Often times I set either a page limit, a word limit, or a time limit on my writing days. And no matter what, no matter how I’m feeling; no matter if I’m inspired or not; not matter if the words come or they don’t, I force myself to reach that goal for the day. True, this doesn’t always happen. But there have been plenty of times I sat down to a 4-hour writing session and the writing didn’t happen until hour three. But had I let “writer’s block” determine my day, I would have missed out on some amazing prose!
Is there a certain person you turn to when you lack inspiration, or just want to brainstorm?
My husband. He has been the most fun and helpful person to brainstorm with! He’s not a writer, but he is a jazz musician so a lot of our processes and vocabularies cross over. He has such a great imagination and can see a story from a new perspective. His ideas are fresh; his words encouraging; and he’s easy on the eyes, which doesn’t hurt!
Can you remember any specific milestones in your life as a writer?
Every time I finish a first draft, I cry. There’s something so exhausting, so rewarding, so overwhelming when that moment comes. Along with those moments, I’d have to say the first time I saw my published book in my favorite bookstore. This blew my mind. I worked at that bookstore; met my husband there; and now have my books on its shelves. What??
To wrap it up, can you tell us your advice for your fellow writers, new or otherwise?
One of the greatest pieces of advice I received from an amazing professor of mine (who oversaw the Creative Writing department at Pepperdine University) was if you want to be a writer, write. I had contemplated on getting my MFA; he asked me what I wanted to do with my writing. “Write books,” was my answer. His reply? Then, just write.
I knew that it would take practice; that I wouldn’t get it right away; that I wouldn’t even know what I was doing. But if I kept at it, kept writing, I would get there. I would write books.
My other piece of advice is to always show up. No matter how little time you have, show up. If you schedule writing time, make sure you’re there. And stay there until your time is over. Like I said before, often times my best writing comes just minutes before my writing hour is up. Had I left? I never would have discovered some of the best plots/characters/dialogue that I’ve written.
So, it's that time again. Setting goals and such. I've got a few doozies planned for this year but am going to do my best to take things slowly. Trust God with these goals. And work steadily throughout the year to see that they're reached.
I always always make a writing goal. It's most likely the first and foremost goal I make. It's also the one I seem to be able to stick to. Something about creative goals get me motivated and seem much more achievable than any health goals. (Sad but true :)) This year? I plan on finishing my dystopian novel. All the drafts. Ready for submitting.
My next goal? Is of course, health. My husband and I plan on joining a gym this year. FINALLY. I have lost my motivation to work out at home. And when I truly ask myself what would I enjoy doing to stay in shape, the answer is dance. So! Classes at the gym it is! Excited to jump into all the dancing classes I can get my hands on.
The doozie that I won't go into ultimately is trust the Lord with my future. Take life ONE. DAY. AT. A. TIME. Because that's truly the only way I can face what might come in the new year. It was a lesson God taught me when my Dad was sick. Looking to the future was grim. I couldn't process what might happen. So He reminded me--live in the now. Live in today. Don't worry about tomorrow. It's such a hard one to process, especially for the planner in me. But. It truly helped when walking alongside my Dad each day last/this year. So, I'm trusting it'll help in these days, weeks, and months to come.
Top three goals aside, here are a few more "fun" goals I"m hoping to achieve this year:
1. Whiten my teeth. I know. Silly, huh? But geesh--all that coffee and wine can really hurt a girl's smile! Gonna take some steps to freshen these pearly whites up!
2. Read more. I'm embarrassed to say that I don't read. I used to. But somehow, Netflix has been my bed time ritual as of late. I'd like to change that--or rather, reinsert reading into my life . Starting with? Allegiant and Fever Code, two endings of series that I have yet to finish.
3. Make smoothies all day every day. I love smoothies. I was making them for awhile there and then--poof! I stopped. I love starting the day with one, and it's the perfect way for me to get in as much leafy greens as possible.
4. Possibly--possibly--get into essential oils. There's something dreamy about this idea. Something relaxing and nice. And with doozies that may come up in the future, relaxing and nice could very well be needed.
What are yours? I'd love to hear!
Hi, again. It's been a bit, huh? This past year has been the hardest in my life--watching my Dad suffer and finally pass from pancreatic cancer. But through the bad, through the ugly, through the pain, God showed up, time and time again. His mercies were new every morning. His blessings were so very personal. And while the bad was bad, the good was oh so good. Here's what life has looked like lately:
My mom and I took a much needed getaway after my Dad's service. Went down to Newport, a family destination spot of ours, and relived all of the memories. Remembered Dad; cried; ordered room service; watched movies; laughed; shopped; and just enjoyed being together.
My best friend since birth spent the weekend leading to my Dad's service with me. Her presence was such a calming and precious gift. And what better way to celebrate friendship than with a trip to Disneyland? We've never been just the two of us, so this was extra special. And extra memorable, especially since it ended with a dead battery, a ride in a toe-truck, and a pick-up from my husband, all well after bedtime.
My Dad passed on September 1st at 11:58pm. My Mom and I were actually there, beside him when it happened. It was the most surreal moment in my life. One moment he was here. The next, he stood before Jesus, whole, healthy, and happy.
My brother and sister-in-law welcomed their baby girl Lucie into the world! She is the sweetest little bundle. She came about a week before my Dad died. And it was one of God's greatest gifts to the family. New life came in just as one was leaving.
Dear friends visited from near and afar. I can't tell you how sweet their presence was. Nothing can substitute showing up during terrible times. It's something I've learned and hope to carry out with those I know who may suffer from something in the future. We didn't talk much about my Dad--but we laughed; we hugged; we just were.
And my husband. My greatest supporter and comforter. He just knew how to take care of me during this time--loved on me, laughed with me, listened to me. We had some sweet adventures together--an anniversary celebration up in Santa Barbara; date nights; Disneyland trips; new restaurant outings in LA; Netflix binging; and lots of snuggling.
Like I said, there was pain. There was pain like I'd never known. But because of that, the good was sweeter than ever. And that's God's goodness right there.
Anyone care what the day in a life of a writer looks like?
Most of the time, it's rather boring. I think people have this idea that writers wake up, filled with creative ideas and spend the next several hours typing furiously away on a laptop, in a cafe, marveling at how brilliant we are. A draft is produced, perfectly, of course. And then we spend the rest of the afternoon lallygagging through a park.
I won't lie. Sometimes. SOMETIMES, it's like that. On the rarest occasion, this is what my day looks like. And it's amazing.
Here's what a typical day looks like.
I wake up, a mess. I'm NOT a morning person (and those who have lived with me can verify this) so no matter how much sleep I've gotten the night before, tearing myself out of bed is an ordeal. I will say, having a dog has helped me get up at a normal hour--after all, no one wants the dog's bladder to explode.
Once I'm up and have taken the dog out, I'll make the breakfast (it's been smoothies lately) and the coffee (always Starbucks) and spend a bit of time with the Lord. If I'm to create, and he created me, I need his guidance, his help.
Next, I'll hop on my laptop; check email; check self-pub book stats; and do some social media "shtuff"; this includes everything from posting on Instagram to writing a new blog post to connecting with followers to responding to emails (I don't get many). I can quickly fall into the black hole of the Internet if I don't stop myself.
So I try. And fail. And try again to ready myself for the writing. I typically pour my second (or third) cup of coffee and start. Since I'm going through the 90 Day Novel again (PRAISE THIS BOOK IN ALL ITS WRITING GOODNESS), I set aside two solid hours of working on my new story.
Now, don't get fooled. This is an ugly process. It looks rather boring. And lonely. And lame at times. I sit, pen in hand, journal beneath it, and write stream-of-conscious exercises for the next two hours. All the while sipping coffee, peeking at emails, slipping onto social media. Basically wasting time when I should be writing. Getting distracted is my (and probably every writer's) biggest enemy.
Somedays I get in a solid two hours. Sometimes I get distracted. I'm not proud of it. But that's the truth. Because, like I said, the distractions begin. The dog. (Play with me.) The laundry. (Fold me.) The dishes. (Clean me.) The beds. (Make me.) The groceries. (Buy me.) Being a homemaker is part of my "job" (I love it), so I can often put those responsibilities above writing.
When I do manage to power through, shutting the door on those distractions, I feel pretty pleased. I'm in the beginning stages of creating my story--which means, the excitement is high. The love of the unknown is thrilling. There's a bit of extra magic in this stage of novel creating. Less self-doubt. More imagining.
I know this part won't last. That the magic will fade. And the work aspect will kick in hard. Which is what isn't talked about much. There is boring work in writing. There is fog and muck in there too.
But if I can remind myself of how good it feels to finish a first draft, to hold that story in my hands, I push past the junk and write.
The rest of the day? Freelance, when I have it. Work-out, when I do it. And Meal prep, when I'm completely on top of my game. Then, when the husband comes home, the laptop turns off. And relaxing begins.
I've been discouraged lately. With writing, creating, blogging. That jealousy monster is creeping in again and I don't like it. Not only does it rob me of my own happiness, but it also kicks me down and keeps me from creating.
Anyone else deal with this?
I'm trying to come up with ways to combat this. Besides stuffing my face with cake, that is. (Though, that is an excellent temporary fix.) I've got a few in my back pocket that I always go to, that I'll share in a minute. But what honestly is the hardest for me is actually doing them. I can let discouragement rule. Start to mope. Drown myself in self pity. But when I actually apply my list of "Discouragement Fighters," I come out a different person. Stronger. Ready. Excited.
So, here's my list. I'd love to know what yours are!
1. MUSIC -- my first go-to to shed discouragement is always music. Putting on a playlist or album that takes my mind away from the noise helps me refocus. Currently, I'm loving Sarah Bareilles' "Waitress" album. Odd? Maybe. But Bareilles wrote all the music and lyrics to this musical about a woman rediscovering herself. As I listen to the songs, I almost feel as if I am this woman she sings of. Soon, I'm more excited about creative possibilities than swimming in my own discouragement.
2. DRINK -- stepping away from my laptop to make a cup of coffee or tea is one of my favorite things to do. There is something entirely comforting about filling the kettle / coffee maker; waiting for the waiter to boil / the coffee to drip; taking that first, delicious sip. I find if I can step away and take part in a small tea/coffee ritual, I become lost in the comfort of creating and shed the discouragement I was feeling minutes before.
3. READ -- I think when discouragement hits, it's mostly due to others' success. At least, for me it is. (Which sounds so selfish. But, I am human.) And it instantly makes me doubt my skills. If I take a step back and reread some of my pieces, I find myself reminded that I am talented. That I am a writer. That I am worthy of this craft. I get lost in my characters, in my prose and am excited to return to whatever project I was working on instead of dwelling in discouragement.
Share some of your discouragement fighters below!
photo credit: Heidi Ryder Photography