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Author: Brooke Stewart

Writing Takes Courage

Writing Takes Courage

This year I did something really crazy.  I published my first e-book.  It’s a short story titled “Expiration Date” you can find it here .  The first few hours after officially putting this story out there to the world I was excited.  I am officially a published author – self-publishing e-books is so simple – yay go me.

Then fear set in.

Why did I just do that?  What if the story wasn’t ready?  I know my story could have been better, I should have waited.  What will people think when they read this?  What if they think I’m weird?  What if they don’t want to read anything I write ever again?  What if they laugh at the typos I didn’t catch?  What if what if what if!

What’s funny is I’m not afraid of the criticism of strangers, we live in a judgemental world, and I know some people will hate my story and be mean enough to tell me about their dislike in a rude way.  I know I’ve done it before.  It’s easy to forget that behind every story good or bad there is an author who worked super hard and loves that story and feels heartbroken every time somebody insults it.  If I’m an author and forget this, how much easier is it for those that don’t write to forget this.

Much worse than a stranger’s criticism is the thought of having my close friends and family read my story.  These are people who know me, who I see on a regular basis.  I’m not worried about their insults, I’m worried about their hidden thoughts.  They may tell me my story is great while laughing at me on the inside.   What if they think I’m incredibly immature because of my ideas, or think my romance scenes are pathetic, or overall are just disappointed in me and think it’s cute that I’m interested in this writing thing but don’t think I’ll ever become a “real author”.

I know, a lot of those thoughts are a little dramatic, but I’m a writer, being dramatic is what I do.  

I wish I had a magic solution to this problem of fear.  I think all authors and all artists struggle with it.  Sadly, I don’t think we will ever get over our fear completely, but it never hurts to throw a little reason into the fear tornado either.

So next time you are afraid of what people will think of your writing, remember these things:

  1. Not everybody is a writer – They will be proud of you just for trying, and they won’t see all the flaws as clearly as you do, because it’s not how they are wired.  Just like if you don’t play sports you can’t tell an ok player from a great player, or if you don’t paint you can’t see the flaws in an artists technique the same goes for writing/reading.  Non-writers won’t notice the flaws in your story so don’t stress about it.
  2. You can learn a lot from failure – I published this book as an experiment, and in some ways, it’s good if I fail – because I can learn from it.  I intentionally didn’t spend an excessive amount of time on this story because I wanted to get it out there.  If you are going to fail, do it fast so you can get closer to success.
  3. Your friends and family love you – if the people in my life are going to secretly judge me behind my back then I haven’t picked very good people to share life with.  Knowing my friends and family they probably won’t have a single negative thought about anything because they love me and will be blinded to errors in my story by that love.
  4. This story doesn’t define you – This is my first published work!  If it stinks and gets terrible feedback that doesn’t say anything about me as a person or a writer.  I am always growing and changing, so what I send out into the world on one day cannot define me the next.  Just as the outcome of your first t-ball game doesn’t define what sort of baseball player you’ll be, neither does your first book.

I’ve been using these arguments to work up the courage to shout from the mountaintops that I’ve published an e-book and I’m charging money for people to read it because I take myself and my art seriously.  But the fear is still there.

That’s the thing about fear – it’ll always be there.  At some point, we have to have the courage to kick fear aside and do what needs to be done.

This whole post I’ve wanted to make excuses for my work in case it’s bad, but that’s not how you sell a story.  I loved writing this short, I think it is a fun and exciting tale that will leave you thinking. So I’m going to stand up for it.  This is an awesome story that I think you should read!  So feel free to buy it here, here and here 😉

Stay Amazing my Friends,

Love, Hate and Guilt

Love, Hate and Guilt

Summer has been crazy. You might have noticed Kayla and I have been a bit behind on our blog posts and for that we sincerely apologize. We do have some super exciting things coming up including a guest post and a “How To” on writing female characters! While getting these posts edited I was digging through my blog drafts and found this beauty that suffered the pitfalls of the editing spiral. I have rescued it from that dangerous whirlpool just for you all, feel free to applaud.

We’ve posted a lot of writer advice lately, which means it was high time for some fun, and what is more fun than talking about story elements that we love and story elements that we hate and story elements that we shouldn’t love but do. Not sure which is more fun to discuss, so here are my top three loves, hates and guilty pleasures when reading books.

Loves

1.) Romance: I love a good romance, where the characters are perfect for each other, when they pine after each other, help each other, rescue each other, and are better because of each other. There is a very fine line here where the romance gets too cheesy, or too unrealistic or just plain desperate, but when it is done right it is amazing and gets me every time.
2.) Fantasy: One of my favorite things about reading and writing is how it gives us all the ability to live lives we never will, or never could, live in the real world. When I read I want to be transported to a storyline that I couldn’t experience outside the pages of a book. Fantasy is the easiest way to do this, so I read a lot of it. But it’s not the only way. There are lots of good realistic fiction and even nonfiction books that can do the same. But the fantastic elements such as dragons and wizards and unicorns are always my favorite.
3.) Humor: I love unexpected humor in a book, those funny characters that brighten up a really serious scene, or books that don’t take themselves too seriously and allow their characters and worlds to be caricatures instead of real people. Fred and George Weasley from Harry Potter, The Martian, and pretty much every book I’ve read by Janet Evanovich are like this. With these books I’m not looking to gain some deeper knowledge about the world, I’m getting a quick and easy read that is an awesome adventure. This is also a good reminder to me as a writer to lighten up a bit. We don’t all have to write the next great American (or any other country) classic. Sometimes we can write purely for entertainment leaving behind all of the rules and just having fun!

Hates

1.) Love Triangles: These have not only been overdone, but they have been overdone poorly. Not only are love triangles unrealistic – what person in their right minds spends all of their efforts fighting over a person who can’t properly reciprocate their feelings of devotion – but they kind of make the feminist within me mad. It is almost always a girl in the middle of a love triangle with the males fighting over her like she is property. Newsflash, if you can’t pick one man, then probably neither of them is who you really want to be with and you can find someone better. Cut your losses and move on, you are better than this. Sorry, that got kind of ranty. I have read a few books that had done love triangles in a way I can tolerate, but in most cases I dislike them and have even stopped reading books because I saw a love triangle developing (I also hate these because the plot will revolve around the triangle and a love triangle does not a plot make). I know some people find love triangles romantic and wonderful and that is totally fine, they are just not for me.
2.) Descriptions that Don’t match Actions: This relates to characters in a book and how they are described. I really, really hate when a character is described as being super smart and thoughtful, but then spends the whole book making stupid choices. Or when characters are said to be confident, but then spend the whole book questioning their choices. I understand characters can change, but in the stories I’m talking about there is no progression. They are just described one way and then act another. I recently read this one book, that had this amazing plot and storyline and pretty much every element I love in a book, but the main character was described completely in contrast to how she acted. She was said to be a thoughtful, rational person who had been super sneaky and spent the past five years going full Mulan and posing as a soldier in the king’s army. But then, when her story began she immediately began making rash decisions and stupidly revealing herself as a girl to everyone she met. A character who had successfully lied about who she was for five years would not have made those choices! Grr, inconsistencies.
3.) Suspense Driven Plots- with no suspense: Ok, this is hard to summarize, but I went through a long streak this winter picking books that had this problem. It goes like this, a new boy moves into town he is mysterious and maybe a bit dangerous. The heroine is inexplicably (and I mean inexplicably) drawn to him he pushes her away at first but little by little she chips away at him. The whole time she is aware that something is off with him, he can do things regular people can’t do. And even though she knows he is bad news she continues to pursue him anyway. Then at the very end, when she finally gets a little self-esteem and demands to know what is going on, she discovers that her love interest is a werewolf or vampire or alien or fill in the blank. Now, I am aware this is a story trope, and on the surface it’s not too bad (besides the female character usually being a super obnoxious mary sue). My real hatred of this story is it takes the entire book for the heroine to figure out the male is a mythical character, but if the reader has done so much as look at the cover or, heaven forbid, read the back of the book they already know this. So, the reader is forced to endure endless pages of the female wondering what this male character is when they already know! It is supposed to be suspenseful and dramatic, but when the reader knows they are reading a vampire novel it is just boring and annoying. If the author had done this whole dance in the first three chapters of the book that would be fine, we could move on and enter into an interesting story right away instead of wasting an entire book just setting up the premise that a human and a fantasy being have fallen in love.

Guilty Pleasures

1.) Attractive Characters: I have probably been brainwashed by Hollywood, but I really enjoy reading about characters who are attractive. Even if a character is described as less than sexy, in my mind I always picture someone pleasant looking. I don’t love when everyone is described as perfection with super model builds, but I don’t mind when every character in a story is appealing with nice hair and a pretty smile. I know characters are supposed to be flawed, realistic and relatable and all that jazz, but I’m superficial and I like pretty things. Feel free to judge me.
2.) Happy Endings: I am a sap for a happy ending, even in a story that doesn’t need one. I also looove a good epilogue. I don’t want to be left hanging to imagine what happened to the characters after the book ends, I want to know how the author envisioned their happily ever after. I understand when books have sad or even neutral endings and I don’t hate it (unless the author does it literally for no reason besides shock value) and I can even enjoy a tragic ending when it really adds meaning to the story, but I almost always prefer a happy ending.
3.) Sequels, Sagas, and Series: These aren’t really bad things, they are just becoming a new norm, especially in YA fiction, which makes them sort of cliche and of course can get over done. But when authors write a good book, with great characters and keep coming up with different plot elements that work I love love love series. Once I am attached to a character I never want a story to end, and I would pretty much read about those characters mowing their lawns if that’s what the author wrote about.

What about you? What story elements do you love, hate, and hate to love? Tell us about them in the comments below.

Stay Amazing my Friends,

Boost Your Creativity

Boost Your Creativity

I love psychology.  The brain is the most fascinating thing, it encompasses our thoughts and emotions and has the capacity to think about itself, which is pretty cool.  In another dimension, I would be a psychologist.  In this one, I’d be too busy creating characters based on my therapy patients #youknowyoureawriterwhen

Recently, I have been listening to the audiobook “59 Seconds: Think a Little, Change A Lot” by Richard Wiseman (what a great name for a psychologist turned author).  It is all about easy things we can do to trick our brains into doing what we want them to do.  There are chapters on happiness, persuasion, romance and even creativity.    My Favorite nuggets of wisdom from Sir Wiseman were the tips for boosting creativity.  They were too good not to share on the internet.

So, next time you are in a writing rut, don’t know how to get your characters to do what you want them to do, or feel uninspired test out one of these tips.

  1. Find some trees:  Apparently, humanity as a species really likes trees and shrubs.  They make us feel relaxed because trees mean food.  When your brain is relaxed it feels free to be creative and take risks!  So, for optimum creativity write in a space where you can see some trees, or go stand by a tree for a few minutes before moving inside to write.  Fake trees or pictures of trees do not work.  See how smart you are?  Only the real deal for you and your brain.
  2. Look at some art: Looking at pictures like this,where there is a pattern, that eventually gets broken gets your brain thinking more creatively.  What is super cool about this, is if you hang this picture on your wall that is enough to get the creative boost.  You don’t even have to actively look at it, it just needs to be nearby.  Going to an art gallery is also great for creativity, but for those days when you don’t have time to take an extra 9 hours to fly to Paris, hanging an image like this on the wall of your writing space will have to do.
  3. Imagine a creative stereotype:  This one is super strange.  Imagine an artist – not a specific one – a generic one.  How do they dress?  What kind of art do they make? What do they like to eat?  What is their opinion on grass fed beef?  Congratulations, you have just boosted your creativity.  Apparently, thinking about a stereotype of a creative person (musicians, nonconformists, and dancers work too) convinces your brain that you are creative like them.  You should start to feel inspired and your ideas will suddenly be more creative.  
  4. Pull Something Towards You:  We learn, almost from birth, that we pull good things close to us and push bad things away – picture a baby pulling their favorite blankey to their face while pushing away a spoonful of pureed brussel sprouts.  This creates a positive association with the motion of pulling.  Again, positive associations make you more relaxed and that helps you be more creative!  So, if you are sitting at your desk writing, take one hand and attempt to pull the desk towards you (you don’t even have to move the desk, though you could if you wanted) even though you might be slowed having to type with just one hand, it’s a great creativity boosting strategy for plot mapping, brainstorming and rut breaking.
  5. Lay Down:  This rule is my favorite, and one I have been unknowingly applying for years.  I love laying down, I would never stand up if a sedentary lifestyle wouldn’t turn me into a beached whale.  My husband always laughs at me because even if I start out places in a seated position, usually after 15 minutes I’ve somehow managed to adjust my body into a horizontal angle.  When you are standing, or sitting upright, all of your blood would want to rush downwards because of gravity.  Again, you are a smart cookie, so your brain has a mechanism that keeps your blood flowing throughout your body instead of pooling at your feet.  This mechanism is running full speed when you are standing, but turns off when you lay down.  The benefits of shutting this mechanism off are twofold.  First, your brain isn’t working so hard so it can focus on being more creative, and second, when your brain isn’t working hard it is more relaxed and at this point you should know that your creative mind likes to be relaxed.
  6. Distract You Consciousness:  Though the conscious part of my brain is definitely what I want running the show when I am in the office or doing my taxes, my consciousness isn’t the most creative part of my brain.  In creativity, the subconscious is where it is at.  Problem is, we can’t just turn our consciousness off, unless we are sleeping, and I am not the best speller in my sleep.  Thankfully, psychologists have some tips on how we can learn to listen to our subconsciousness in our waking lives.  You’ve probably experienced this, getting a great story idea in the shower or solving a plot hole on your drive to work.  This doesn’t happen just because your shower and your car have good brainwave acoustics – it happens because getting all your parts clean, and keeping your car on the road distracts your consciousness.  With your conscious thoughts distracted, your subconscious can come out to play, coming up with creative solutions your consciousness would never think of.  A good way to do this without having to drive somewhere or shower is to first give your subconscious a problem to solve i.e. how can my character who is tied up to a log, floating down a river towards a death waterfall escape this situation.  Then, stop thinking about the problem and go do an activity that requires focus, but not necessarily creative problem solving.  Go organize your books in alphabetical order, play a game of pinball on your computer or reorganize your tupperware shelf so that it doesn’t all fall out when you open the door (that actually might take too much creativity if your tupperware is as unorganized as mine).  As you do these things your subconscious will be running on the creativity treadmill and when you go back to your writing your brain might have solved the problem for you, allowing your character to remember there is a knife in his pocket that will allow him to cut the ropes and swim to safety.
  7. Cross Your Arms:  This one isn’t actually a creativity booster, instead, it is a motivation booster.  Sometimes in the middle of a writing session I will suddenly run out of juice, and even though I have ideas to write down, I suddenly don’t feel like writing anymore.  If this happens to you, try folding your arms across your chest for thirty seconds.  This body language will trick your brain into thinking you are feeling stubborn/determined and will help you find new motivation to keep writing.

 

Obviously, none of these tips are going to turn you into a creative mastermind (but you probably already are one, you just don’t know it) but, they are fun little tricks to pull out when you need that extra boost.  I’ve been working them into my writing routine, and it could just be the placebo effect talking but so far they seem to work.  

What do you do when you feel creatively stuck? What are some of your #youknowyoureawriterwhen moments?  

Stay Amazing My Friends!

5 Lies Authors Need to Stop Believing

5 Lies Authors Need to Stop Believing

As writers we all doubt ourselves from time to time.  Writing stories is hard, messy, overwhelming and overall insane.  Imagine if pregnant moms had to piece their babies together by hand, every cell, every bone, every organ and get it all in the right place – that is essentially what we as authors do.  I would totally go for growing a book in my belly and having it come out perfectly formed 9 months later.  Hmmm….interesting alternative universe idea right there.

Anyways……

Because the writing process is so difficult we start to doubt ourselves.  Can we really do this?  Are we good enough?  And we begin to believe lies about ourselves and our writing.  I am here to tell you these lies need to stop!  You, dear author, are amazing.  Your story is amazing and you can do this.  

Here are the five doubts and lies you need to stop believing so you can start loving yourself and your writing.

1.) You’re Only a Real Author/Writer if You are Published:  This lie could not be farther from the truth.  Listen to me.  If you write (once a year or once an hour) then you are a writer.  You are an author if you write.  Even the dictionary says so.  

 Stop saying you are an “aspiring author”, stop putting down your stories.  Be proud of who you are, what you write, and where you are in the writing process.

 2.) To be a successful writer you need a degree:  This is a real insecurity for me.  I don’t have any formal education in writing, and sometimes that creates a lot of self-doubt.  After all, I’m competing against other authors who have master’s degrees in creative writing, and others who know all the grammar, structure, and styling rules inside and out.  I was educated on the taxonomy of invertebrates #lifeskills.    The only way to combat this self-doubt is with a serious reality check.  You do not need to be formally educated in something to be successful at it.  Were your parents formally educated in raising you?  No?  You turned out pretty okay (I mean I assume so since you are reading my blog).  Was Oprah formally educated in running a talk show?  Was George Washington formally educated about how to start a new country?  Was your cat formally educated on how to be the cutest thing in the whole wide world?  No, no, and no!  A formal education is great, but it doesn’t equal success.  Do you know how many writers have a formal degree but spend their days sitting at a desk job?  Me neither, but I bet it’s a lot.  More important than education is drive.  If you have the drive, determination, and grit you’ll make it.  The skills will come.  What matters more than your knowledge is your character. NOT the characters you create, but you.  Beautiful, wonderful, amazing you!  If you want this you won’t let anything stand in your way.  Still don’t believe me?  Check out these successful authors who all made it in the publishing world without writing degrees: Harper Lee, Michael Crichton, John Grisham, Danielle Steele, Mark Twain and Charles Dickens.

3.) You’ll Never Finish:  As I’ve mentioned before, writing books is a lot of work.  It can feel like an insurmountable hill.  There will always be edits to make, things to improve.  It can start to feel like you won’t ever be done with your story.  This isn’t a lie I permanently believe, but it is one that can really discourage me in moments of weariness.  The finish line can seem so far away that I can’t see the path that will lead me there.  The good news is we don’t need the whole path right now.  We just need our next step.  Not the big next step, the small one.  If I write this sentence, what sentence comes next.  That is it.  Word by word, line by line, page by page you will build your book and you will finish.  It might take 1 year, it might take a lifetime.  I promise it will be worth it, don’t give up.  You’re almost there.

4.) You can’t write because your writing isn’t good enough:  This lie is similar to the lie we tell ourselves about a degree, but can be so much more crippling.  That feeling of fear you get as you stare at the blank page, hating every word you try to put down, comes from this lie.  Every writer experiences this, and do you know what that means?  Every writer hates the way they write.  We are all in the same boat with this one and I have three notes of encouragement for you.  

  • The more you write the better you’ll get.  You might have a 6th-grade education and an idea to completely rip off your favorite novel.  Write that.  Write it terribly, write it shamefully, write it so awfully that it doesn’t even make sense when you reread it.  Then, keep writing, the next story you attempt will be better.  You will start at the bottom, but it will get better from there.  The only way to get better is to practice.
  • You don’t have to do this alone.  Do you ever read the acknowledgments section of books?  I always love reading that part, because it reminds me that every author needs a team.  No author writes, “I’d like to thank myself because I did all this on my own, oh and maybe my cat, she’s cute.”  No, often they have so many people to thank they can’t include all the names.  They have editors, beta readers, cheerleaders, mentors, publicists, and so much more.  You don’t have to bring your story to the finish line on your own.  Find your team.
  • You have a biased viewpoint about writing.  You can only read books written by other writers.  It is physically impossible to read something that wasn’t written by someone. That’s hard.  This means that we are only exposed to the champions of our field.  We read these completed works and think there is no way I can ever do that.  But, reading published books and thinking you are terrible in comparison is like these Olympic swimmers thinking they are awful compared to Katie Ledecky.swimming    We see that they are in the pool at the Olympics, they just see the bubbles from Katie’s feet. We need to remember that most of the people who read our books don’t also write.  They are just readers, on the sidelines.  As writers we are all in the Olympic pool, and that’s pretty darn amazing.

5.) My Story Doesn’t Matter:  Sometimes it can be hard to see how one story in a sea of books could actually be worth writing.  There is no book shortage, there aren’t even any truly original ideas for stories out there anymore.  Why spend so much time and effort just to add one more story to all the noise?  This lie and the following train of thought steals the joy you get from writing, and all the hope your story possesses.  Even in a world full of stories, yours matters.  You are a unique individual and even if you wrote the exact same plot as another thousand stories, you would tell it differently and your version would have value.  Your story might struggle to make it farther than your computer, it still has value.  You might be the next J.K. Rowling, that story matters too.  You might write a serious piece about the political climate of our world, that matters.  You might write werewolf romance novels full of bad puns and teen drama, that matters too.   Your story matters because you matter.  

Writing is hard, but it’s your passion and mine.  So, we soldier on, stop believing the lies, and write write write.

Do you have any lies about writing you are sick of hearing?  How do you boost your writer confidence?  This feels like a place to insert a sappy quote, but I think this post is sappy enough.

Stay amazing my friends,

Have you ever read a Deep Fried Oreo?

Have you ever read a Deep Fried Oreo?

At the start of 2016 I planned to give up desserts for one month.  After three days I was doing awesome, and feeling super confident in my dessert resisting abilities.  Sitting across the dinner table from my husband I looked to him and said “I could do this all year!”  He had enough wisdom not to respond with laughter, but his face still told me he thought I couldn’t do it.  I took his disbelief to be a direct challenge.  Hubby thinks I can’t give up desserts for a whole year, I will prove him wrong.  It’s now a couple of months later and here I am dessertless until 2018.  

Without sugary confections to fill my belly – I’ve been turning to books to add some sweetness to my life.  Have you ever read a story, or watched a television show, that you knew was terrible, like junk food for the brain, yet you absolutely loved it and could not stop yourself from reading or watching?  If not try giving up desserts for a year, your brain will seek out some desserty entertainment.

I recently read a book series that from page 1 I knew was not the most well crafted story.  The writing, and characters and ideas were all just…okay.  It wasn’t awful, but it shouldn’t have been something I enjoyed.  To my surprise, I did not just tolerate this book, I became OBSESSED with it.  

There were 3 books in the series and I gobbled them up like I’ll be gobbling desserts on 1/1/18.  Why did I love these stories?  The characters were frustratingly dim witted, the ending was predictable, and the plot twists weren’t really twists, but rather sharp turns that didn’t make sense.

Wondering if I was going insane, I turned to reading reviews on Goodreads to see if any other readers were experiencing the same phenomenon I was.   It turns out that many readers loved the books without question, while others simply hated the stories. I found one review that fit my emotions to a T.  This reader found the writing and style as lackluster as I had, and the more she read the more frustrating it became, but she could not stop reading.  In the end she compared the stories to deep fried Oreos.  Wonderful in the moment you are eating them, but quite regrettable in the digestion process.  These books were literally brain dessert.

 

Just like deep fried Oreos are lacking in nutritional value, sometimes stories lack substance and depth, but we still enjoy consuming them.  If I didn’t enjoy this book for the writing, then what was it that appealed to me so much?

The answer: these books had something special, something I wasn’t getting from other (more well written) books.  And the true magic of this series is I can’t even tell you what that something special was.  It could have been the lure of royalty, beautiful dresses, and great wealth. Or the drama of the back and forth romance.  Perhaps the joy of a rags to riches story?  The somewhat dull protagonist who allowed the reader to insert themselves into her place and picture themselves in the same situations?

I don’t know.  To be honest these books had many things I  usually hate reading about.  Love triangles, females who need to be saved by men, females who aren’t confident in themselves for no apparent reason, multiple love triangles, endings that don’t actually solve the problems going on in the world, and did I mention love triangles.  Yet, far from being turned off by these features, I looked past them because I was captivated by the story.

Along with making me question my judgement, these stories give me hope.  I know my writing is far from perfect, and there are some things I wish I could do with my story that no matter how many times I rewrite it I can’t seem to get right.  But, I still believe my writing has value, that someday it will be worth reading.  These books were proof that I’m right.

Were these books impeccably written?  No.  But they made sense, one of the key steps to being able to publish a book.  Was the plot layered, intricate and rich with symbolism and depth of meaning?  No, but it felt like all the elements the author wanted to include were there.  Were the characters well done and the plot without holes?  No, but there was something special about the way the characters interacted with each other and their world that made me unable to put these books down.  I craved these books and when I had to wait three days for the final book to come in from the library I thought I was going to die of impatience.  And I’m an adult, I should be able to wait for a deep fried Oreo.

So take hope, your stories will be beautifully flawed, but they will also be special and though there will be readers who hate them, there will be others who love them, even if they know they shouldn’t.  Don’t be afraid of writing a deep fried Oreo book, be afraid of inventing the deep fried Oreo and then never sharing it with anyone.

What are some of your guilty reading pleasures (don’t be shy I know you have them).  Or tell me about a book you thought you were going to hate, then ended up loving.  
Stay Amazing my Friends,

Why You Should Be Writing Short Stories

Why You Should Be Writing Short Stories

The vast majority of the reading I do is full length novels.  I don’t read magazine articles, novellas, short stories or even a lot of blog posts (yes I realize that’s pretty hypocritical of me).  Because of this I’ve always focused on writing full-length novels.  After all the saying goes – write what you want to read.

Only, full length novels are long, not to mention scary, overwhelming, intimidating and downright difficult.  As a no name author, with this blog as my only published work forward progress on my novel felt way too slow. I wanted to share my writing with others, wanted to learn about the self-publishing process and wanted to know what if feels like to finish a story.  The struggle felt much too real.

This year I encountered a solution to all the problems that come with full length novels.  Short Stories!  These magical little things have been the answer to all of my writing woes.

 

 

 

Here’s what I’ve learned in the six months since I started writing short stories.

  • Short Stories are Short:  I can quick draft a short story in just a few hours, and can move through the entire editing process in about ten.  Without increasing the amount of time I spend writing each day, I can get a short story ready to share in about two weeks.  That is lightning speed compared to novels.  This gives me a chance to experience the entirety of the writing process on a small scale.  I can see drafting, revising, editing, polishing and publishing through to the end, on a time frame that doesn’t require a boatload of patience.  This not only fills me with satisfaction as a writer, but it improves all of my writing skills.  Short stories are the practice course for your novel.  Do you want to revise, edit and publish that novel you’ve been working on for years without practicing those skills first?  Me neither.  It’s much better to gain experience on these short stories that are a smaller time commitment.  You might learn you are terrible at drafting, but an amazing editor.  Or maybe you’ll learn you can’t remember how to use commas appropriately to save your life and need to study up.  An added bonus is if you publish a short story and everyone hates it, oh well, you only spent a few hours on it, and now you have feedback about your writing and how to improve in the future.  I cannot emphasize enough all of the benefits of seeing the writing process on this tiny scale.  It has literally changed my life.
    • But Brooke – writing short stories takes me forever – I could spend six months on a single short story!  If that’s you then you need to take a step back and look at your writing process.  If it takes you six months worth of consistent writing to finish a short story you are most likely caught in the editing spiral.  Or you don’t have healthy drafting habits.  The good news, it’s better to discover this about yourself while writing a short story rather than a full length novel.  Short stories are the perfect venue for learning when to stop editing and reveal your work to the world!  Pluck up some courage and stop making excuses.
  • Short Stories get your name out:  Back in January I took one of the short stories I wrote and self published (buy it here yo).  This was mostly an experiment to learn about the self publishing process, marketing myself , and how to boldly stand behind my writing.  So far I have made a whole $2.00 on the book, that’s right, be jealous of me making a living off my writing.   Okay, so one short story isn’t exactly paying the bills, but what it has done is allowed me to get my name out there.  Now, when I talk about my writing I don’t have to fumble through some awkward statement about how my novel is a work in progress and won’t be published for a long time and it’s about dorky stuff you probably don’t want to read about anyways….awkward pause….change the subject.  Instead, I can just tell them to check out the short story I published.  Even cooler is some people who I wouldn’t have expected to buy my little e-book not only purchased it, but they loved it and have been begging me for more ever since.  There’s no better motivation to write than knowing you have fans (besides your mom) who are anxiously waiting to read more of your writing.
  • Short Stories Keep Your Creativity Fresh:  I don’t know about you, but the longer I revise, the more I dream of new stories.  Sometimes this pull to write something new can suck me into a writer’s block and suddenly I make zero progress despite spending every day revising.  This of course is incredibly frustrating and leaves me feeling discouraged and hopeless.  Short stories are my new super hero, swooping in to save my writing day.  When I don’t have the will to revise, short stories are there as a creative outlet allowing me to make progress in my writing, even if it’s not in my main novel.  I used to think any time not spent writing my novel was a waste of time, but now I’m learning how wrong I was.  Giving myself a few days break to write something new brings me back to my revisions feeling fresh and motivated.  I think I’ve actually started getting more revision done since I began writing short stories.  
  • Short Stories don’t have to be serious:  Before writing short stories I had an idea built up in my head that short stories had to be these serious, literary pieces in order to be considered a short story.  I’d never be able to get a short story published – or liked for that matter – if the writing was silly and casual and didn’t say some huge and thought provoking lesson.  Unsurprisingly, just like novels, short stories can be whatever we want them to be and there is literally a market for anything.  Never let other people’s opinions dictate what you write.
  • In a short story every word matters…not: Again before I started writing shorts I was really intimidated by them.  I’d heard over and over “In a short story every word has meaning.” Leading me to then assume writing short stories would take even more time than a novel because I would have to spend three months picking out each word.  I was so wrong.  Unless you are writing literary short stories (we bow down to your talent and patient attention to detail), the fate of your tale does not hang on every word.  Write freely, and write boldly because you can do what you want in short stories!

 

My absolute favorite part about short stories is sharing them.  Below is a short I wrote a while back, it came to me on my lunch break at work so I wrote it down.  It isn’t perfect, it isn’t even a complete story, more of an intro to a story, but I think it’s worth reading.  And don’t forget to join Kayla and I on May 7th at the Underground Cafe for an exclusive look into who we are, what we’re writing and why we do what we do!


 

Pain blossoms in my side, making my vision dim for a second as I crash to the sandy desert ground.  I’ve just been stabbed.  Awesome.  Grunting, I try to get up, try to move, but the pain is too intense.  It feels like – well I was going to say it feels like I’ve just been stabbed with a knife – but I literally have just been stabbed with a knife.  A bread knife.  In my side.  What organs are over there?  Pancreas? Spleen?  Maybe kidneys?

Blood seeps through my fingers as my hands presses my side.  A gunshot rings out and I know my assailant is dead, my partner is the vengeful type. 

“Jake, get up, we need to go.” She says trudging through the sand in my general direction.  Her eyes look up at some point beyond me.  Listening I start to hear the rumbling of a car engine.  Again, I try to move, but with my hands still compressing my side and the sand slipping around beneath my legs I don’t get far before I slump back in the sand with a pained hiss. I’m going to have sand everywhere after this.

Nikki stops when she comes level with me and twists her mouth to the side, “Helpful.” She remarks spotting the bright red blood now seeping onto the sand.

Hardly missing a beat Nikki stoops and in one quick motion throws me over her shoulder like a sack of potatoes.  I scream as the motion tugs at the edges of my wound, and struggle to get into a position that doesn’t make me wish for death to come quickly.

“Gentle please.” I huff out, panting from the intensity of the pain.  They simulated being stabbed, and shot and what not in my training of course, but the real thing is so much different.

“Sorry I can’t cradle you in my arms.” Again with the sarcasm.  She does have a point though, it’s impressive she can lift me at all.

The sound of the engine grows closer, I can’t see if it is friend or foe, and Nikki doesn’t give any indication that she thinks the fight is over.  She still holds her gun in one hand, though how she would shoot it while carrying me is a mystery.  Still, I have no doubt she would find a way.

I loose track of time and suddenly the vehicle is upon us, I can hear it’s tires slowing and the doors whooshing open.  Nikki sees something I don’t for she says, “He’s fine – knife in the side.”

Fine?  She doesn’t know what this feels like, it’s taking all of my strength to refrain from screaming or passing out.  

I’m suddenly chucked sideways.  Thankfully, I land only a short way down on a cushioned seat.  An embarrassing yelp of pain escapes me and I make a point of avoiding Nikki’s eye.

“What happened out there?” the familiar voice of Captain Michaels barks from the driver’s seat.  He doesn’t waste any time as he throws the car into drive and speeds off.  We are crammed in the back of the SUV with at least three other people, and I hope to god one of them is a medic.

“How should I know, it’s not my job to babysit him.” Nikki scoffs, as she’s shunted forward by  Jerry, the closest thing we have to a medic, who is emerging from the third row of seats like a giraffe from the womb.  Blessedly, he has a first aid kit.  I don’t see the exchange between Nikki and captain, but I can practically hear Nikki’s eye roll, “Alright so it was sort of my job, but seriously I turned my back for like two seconds.”

The vehicle goes over a particularly large bump and I gasp as fresh waves of agony race through my side.  I become vaguely aware that my focus is slipping.  I’m loosing a lot of blood.  I wonder if the stains will ever come out of the upholstery.  They really should have sprung for leather seats back here.

“Jake, you need to move your hands.” Jerry says, snapping me back to the present.  Reluctantly, I peel my fingers away.  Sticky with blood, they cling to my skin for a painful moment before I can fully get them out of the way.

Jerry whistles, “Sexy.” 

Nikki wrinkles her nose in disgust, Jerry has a very unique idea of the meaning of the word sexy.

“Did you get it at least?” Captain Michaels grunts as he jerks the wheel hard to the right narrowly missing a sand dune.

Nikki reaches into her cheek and pulls out the small computer chip we were sent to acquire, “Duh.” She says casually, but her eyes flick to my now fully exposed wound and I see worry there for the first time.

Captain grunts in approval and gestures for Nikki to give the chip to Clara our data wizard.  I hear the whine of a zipper and suddenly Jerry’s hand is directly in front of my face “Take this,” He says shoving a tiny purple pill into my mouth, “I need to stitch you up – and it’s going to hurt like a bitch.”

Even though the drug is tiny, I struggle to swallow it.  When I do, the effect is immediate.  My limbs go limp, my eyes droop and the last thing I remember before passing out is Nikki sliding her fingers between mine and saying “Captain, we have a tail.”

How to Get Stuff Done

How to Get Stuff Done

Last time I talked to you all about being intentional with your writing time.  How have things been going?  Good, great, terrible, all of the above?  After my extremely insensitive teaser, it’s time for the big reveal!  The most effective tool I know for stopping the editing spiral in its tracks and staying intentional in your writing time is…

– DEADLINES!

Whoa, sorry guys all caps is not the best look for any word that starts with “dead” but, far from killing you DEADLINES are what will save your story and keep you in the writing habit.

If you are a fan of any big name author (like James Patterson, Janet Evanovich or Stephen King) you might have noticed something kind of crazy incredible about them.  They publish books EVERY year!  Some of them even publish multiple books a year.  

Now, there are different strategies that help authors accomplish this feat such as ghost writers, or co-writing a novel, but still, how do they make awesome books so quickly?

You guessed it DEADLINES!  These authors have a whole crew of people holding them accountable to their DEADLINES (sorry, can’t stop won’t stop) and keeping them focused on getting their books published.

Wow, that would be amazing.  New life goal right there.  Sadly, for those of us on our first books, who still have full-time jobs and full-time lives this just isn’t our reality.  It can be hard to stay on track with writing because our desire to write is the only thing motivating us to push forward.

But what happens when we have a rough day at work, or when our kids will not go to bed, or when a new season of Fuller House comes out on Netflix, or when we just don’t feel like writing some days?  Yep, zero writing gets done.

DEADLINES are a source of external motivation that can help you push through those writing slumps, overcome the busyness of life and finally finish your novel! Ready to make some life changing goals with me?

To create good DEADLINES there are four types of goals you will need: Short-Term, Mid-Term, Long-Term and Ultimate

Short term:  These are goals that you want accomplished within a month’s time or less.  Maybe you have a daily goal of 15 minutes of writing time or a weekly goal of 2000 words.   Or maybe you have a short term goal of 50,000 words in one month (Camp NaNoWriMo is just around the corner guys).  Whatever the case these short term goals are the baby steps towards accomplishing your larger goals, or to mix metaphors, the individual bricks that are creating your pyramid.

Mid-Term:  These goals are the middle ground achievements, the big steps towards completing your ultimate and long-term goals.   Things like finish the first draft, or revise Chapter 6, fit into this category.  It might take you some more time to achieve these goals, but when combined with your short-term goals they don’t feel too overwhelming yet.

Long-Term:  Your long-term goals are the broader strokes of your story.  Finish your novel, build a successful blogging empire, publish some short stories, etc.  These are big things that without the more bite-sized steps of the short and mid-term goals would easily overwhelm you.  These are the things you are focusing to achieve when you set your smaller goals and the things that will feel SO GOOD when you can check them off of your to-do list.

Ultimate:  The Ultimate goal is your finish line.  It’s what you want to accomplish as a writer.  For me, this is get my novel published!  It could be something else for you.  Maybe your ultimate goal is just to write a complete story for yourself, or perhaps you want to make a living as a full-time writer.  Whatever the Ultimate goal, you use that to create your own set of DEADLINES

Woo, we have some goals now, but a goal does not a DEADLINE make.  To turn goals into DEADLINES, you have to take each goal and give it a “due date”.  Essentially, you’re putting all of your goals into one really big, crazy detailed timeline. Let’s break this down.

To start making your timeline, you start with your Ultimate goal.  Ask yourself “When do I want to achieve my Ultimate goal?” Now ask yourself “When can I realistically achieve my ultimate goal?”  Combine the two answers together, skewed towards the realistic end, and you have your ultimate DEADLINE!

 Example:  Ultimate Goal = Publish Novel  Deadline = 12/31/2019

Now that you’ve given your ultimate goal a DEADLINE, you need to plug in your long-term goals on the calendar.  Think of it in terms of “What do I have left to do before I can achieve my goal?”  Some of these goals can be assigned vague dates, as odds are they are still pretty far away.

Example:  To publish by Dec 31st 2019 you need:

  • Two more rounds of editing – 6/1/2019
  • Knowledge about the publishing process  – 8/1/2019
  • A Decision on self-publishing vs. traditional – 1/1/2019
  • A ready made audience of people waiting to read my book (optional) – 12/1/2019

 

The long-term goals are still far away, so there are lots of stopping points along the way to be filled in with your mid-term goals.  Again ask “What do I need to do to reach my long-term goal?

Example:

Goal= 2 Rounds of Editing

-First Round edits – 12/31/17

-Second Round edits – 12/31/18 (leaves 6 month buffer)

Goal = Learn about the publishing process

-Begin researching 2/1/2019

Continue down your list of long-term goals until you’ve given them all a start doing date, or broken them down into smaller jobs that you’ll start working towards right away.  Now you need to do the final step and make those short-term goal DEADLINES.  

I like to break these down by month, it’s enough time to get things done, but no so much that I can procrastinate and self-sabotage.  You might have to do some basic math to calculate good short-term goals

Example:  Finish first editing round

Total scenes = 72 Total Time =12 months

72 scenes divided by 12 months = 6 scenes per month

Deadlines

Revise scenes 1-6 by 1/31/17

7-12 by 2/28/17

13-18 by 3/31/17

…and so on and so forth.

The key to short-term DEADLINES is to make them concrete, and manageable.  With this strategy each month you’ll be crossing goals off your list!  Visually seeing that progress will keep you motivated and spur you on towards writing greatness!

The one caveat to all of this is DEADLINES only work if you stick to them.  My recommendation is to share your ultimate and short-term DEADLINES with everyone you can.  The more people you’ve told, the more reason you will have to stick to them.

Those are my tips and tricks to creating DEADLINES to get stuff done.  What are your ultimate goals, for writing, or just for life?  Do you have any life-hacks for how you turn your long term goals into bite sized pieces?  Let us know in the comments below!
Stay Amazing My Friends,

Sorry Kids, Mama’s Got a Hot Date with her Novel

Sorry Kids, Mama’s Got a Hot Date with her Novel

One of the hardest things I have to keep re-learning in life is that to get anything done you have to be intentional about it.  Things don’t just happen.  If I want to spend more time with my husband – I have to be intentional about setting up date nights.  If I want to have more money in my bank account I have to be intentional about budgeting each month.  And if I want to write a book, I have to be intentional about my writing.

Sigh…that all sounds like a lot of work.  

Sometimes goals that seem difficult can have simple solutions.  To spend more time with my husband I took my 2017 kitten a day calendar (I know awesome right) and I systematically scheduled one date night a month before anything else could vie for my time.  My husband is numero uno in my life so why not make him numero uno on my calendar.  

If only scheduling my writing time was that easy.

The problem with writing is before you are published, and sometimes even after, your writing doesn’t hold a value that is easy to define.  Right now, my writing does not bring income into our household, does not get shared with many (if any) people, cannot be given as a gift, and is over all not necessary to the general day to day function of my life.  All it really does is make me happy – which is awesome – but lots of other things also make me happy so…oops it’s been three days and I haven’t thought about writing.

Thankfully, I do not have to justify the time I spend writing to anybody but myself.  I am surrounded by amazing people who believe in me (probably more than I believe in myself) and help me to seek out my writing goals.

Despite that awesome advantage – often times I still struggle to justify my writing time to myself.  Oh, it’d be great to write today, but Lizzy is coming over at 6:00 and we usually eat around 5:15 and I have to walk the dog so I’ll only have like ten minutes and I’ll just write tomorrow because my story will still be there, Lizzy doesn’t come over every day.  Tomorrow I’m volunteering and that’s going to eat up most of my night, when I get home I could write, but I know I’ll be too worn out and I’ll choose watching television or maybe reading.  Wednesday looks promising but after being busy two nights in a row the house will be a disaster and it’ll stress me out too much to find my writing zen and then it’s suddenly Saturday and I haven’t written a single word all week.

The thought is always there – but with making time for writing the thought just isn’t enough.  I can’t only intend to spend time writing every day (or most days) I need to plan my day around my writing time.  

This sounds a little hard core.  Sorry mom, I can’t talk to you right now because I’m writing, I’ll call back later.  Kids make your own pb&J’s tonight because mama’s gotta hot date with her novel.  Thanks for understanding that the house is a mess Lizzy, I was focusing on writing instead of cleaning.

It feels strange, saying no to people – saying no to things that you enjoy to do your writing.  After all, your writing will always be there, but you only get so many opportunities to go out for lattes with Lizzy.  

That’s sort of the problem though – unless you get your butt in gear and finish your story your writing will ALWAYS be there.  You won’t ever finish because you keep putting other things that feel more important, more urgent or more fun ahead of it.

If you want to publish your book nothing is more important than your writing time.  It is sacred, it is holy, it is the only thing standing between a rough draft and a finished novel.  As much as I wish little writing elves would come and work on my book every night, that doesn’t happen.  I need to write it, revise it, edit it finish it.  And all that takes time.  Like a lot of time.

It takes so much time that it feels overwhelming, impossible even.  But you can do it, because if you remember my last post your writing only needs 3 things: To make sense, be complete and have something that’s special.  To get those three things you need to be intentional about creating space for your writing.  So here’s some tips to help you do that.

  1. Do it early:  I prefer to write around 7-8 at night, but that’s a terrible scheduling choice.  It’s easy for one little thing to take more time than I think and then bam it’s 9:00 and I haven’t written yet and I’ll decide to go to bed instead of write.  If I write earlier, like 5-6 before I start doing other things with my night I get it done!
  2. Schedule it: If you keep a day planner, block out your writing time.  If you like writing fewer days but bigger chunks put that time on your calendar, reserve it, be intentional about refusing to make plans during that time.  It will feel strange at first, telling your friends you can’t do something because of your “hobby” or calling a babysitter for your kids so you can stay home and write, but you’ll be so glad you made those choices once you have a published book on your hands
  3. Remind yourself why you write: If you are a writer then you need to write, you can’t deny the urge forever, put up frequent reminders everywhere that tell you why your story is more important than the new season of Project Runway Junior (But OMG have you watched it though?!?!)
  4. Don’t overschedule yourself:  the end of 2016 was really crazy for my, I overscheduled myself and was running on fumes for far too long.  Even though I wanted to write, I did not have the energy because the rest of my life was wearing me out.  To write well we need to be well first.  Make sure you are giving yourself time to relax along with write.  One thing I’m doing (which who knows if it will work) is reserving one weekend a month as off limits for making social plans.  This will give me a chance to have 2 days to reset my life and get back on track with things so I have the mental strength to write.
  5. Check out my next blog post:  This tip will be your biggest battle against procrastination, and slacking on intentionality about your writing time, but it needs a whole post to explain so you’ll have to be on the lookout for it in a few weeks (mwahahahaha – but trust me it’s worth it).

With the start of a new year (you know like two months ago) I love the opportunity to pause, and reset my priorities in life.  If writing is one of yours you owe it to yourself to start being intentional (or keep being intentional) with your writing time.  It’s going to take a lot of hours, some tears, some long days, some long nights and a whole lot of imagination but I fully believe that we will all get there!
Stay Amazing My Friends,

The Editing Spiral

The Editing Spiral

Today I woke up with a lot of determination to push forward on editing my novel.  I was fantasizing about sending my manuscript to a publisher, creating cover art, turning my series into a trio of Hollywood Blockbuster movies, appearing on morning talk shows, translating my books into Spanish and German and Mandarin, choosing a voice actor for the audiobook…then I remembered I’m not even halfway through editing my first draft.  Serious reality check.

Still, I got to work, determined to get a little closer to making my dreams a reality.  But I quickly became frustrated with how far I have to go.  My novel needs so many edits!  Will it ever be good enough?

You see, there is one thing standing between the current version of myself – 1.5 drafts in full of hope, fear, determination, confusion, ideas, courage, yearning, and doubt – and the dream version of myself – Successful author, happy and fulfilled, sharing my secrets of success to all of my adoring fans……..and that thing is the EDITING SPIRAL.

No not that!  Anything but that!

Alright, maybe you don’t usually have that strong of a reaction to editing, but you should.  Editing is what will keep you from becoming the author you’ve always dreamed of being.  This is not because you can’t edit, or are too lazy to edit or don’t edit well.  It is the exact opposite.  The editing spiral traps so many authors in its deathly slew of doubts and revisions because we don’t know when to stop.  And sometimes we get sucked in so deep that we literally can’t pull ourselves out.

It’s easy for us writers to fall into the never ending editing spiral of doom because we love our stories, and we want them to be perfect.  So, like an overprotective mother bear we hide our manuscripts from the world, telling ourselves it just isn’t ready yet, I need to work on my sentence structure, character development, plot twists, you name it.  Then before we know it we are on the 22nd draft ten years later and we’ve become sick of our story, the more we fuss with it the more we hate it so we eventually set it aside, and  try moving onto a new book where we fall into the same cycle and then suddenly we are 85 years old with half a dozen manuscripts and have never realized our dreams.

I know, I sound a little doomsday – I am only in my second draft after all – but this is real.  Editing exposes me to all of my writers insecurities on a daily basis.  My sentences feel forced, the characters are one note, I leave out important details, my word choice is uncreative, hey look at that a new story idea that sounds easier than slogging through this mess.  

I want my writing to be perfect, so I get carried away trying to fix everything, or I give up and move onto a new story.  Striving for perfection is overwhelming, makes me question if I will ever finish, if my story will ever be worthy.

I have a crazy newsflash for myself and all you other authors out there.  Your writing does not need to be perfect in order to publish your book.  It doesn’t even need to be great.  It doesn’t even have to be GOOD!  It only needs these three things

  1. To Make Sense
  2. To be complete
  3. To have something special

 

Your Story Needs to Make Sense:  On both the macro and micro level if you want to publish your novel it needs to make sense.  You can’t start out with a book about zombie mermaids taking over the planet and then suddenly switch to a poem about scratchy cat kisses (unless you can find a logical way to connect the two, please feel free to prove me wrong).  You also can’t have a story with gaping plot holes, disappearing characters, out of order events or distorted passages of time.  This can be stupid hard to accomplish.  I know halfway through my second draft, my story still probably wouldn’t make sense to a reader who hasn’t been debriefed on what to expect.  Though obvious, this is one of the hardest parts of storytelling, but a necessary goal, and something that should be a priority from the start.

Your Story Needs to Be Complete:  Yes, you know all stories have a beginning middle and end.  You learned this in preschool, that’s not what I mean (though please make sure your story does have these three things).  Only you know all of the elements you want to put into your story.  Maybe there’s a thread of symbolism you want to tie throughout the whole thing, maybe you need to include foreshadowing of events from your second book.  You can’t be done until those have been added to the manuscript.  Sometimes having a complete story can also involve having all the scenes written.  Do you have an awkward time gap that you know needs an additional scene?  Do you need a conclusion?  A fight scene?  A character that you can kill off in chapter 7?  There is a fine line between including all of your desired elements into your story, and getting so caught up in making your book complex and interesting that your story becomes too cluttered.  Always keep that balance in mind and always seek to complete your stories when editing, hold off on the embellishments to add later on if needed.  Or, as Kayla would put it “Get the meat in the stew before the herbs”

Your Story Needs to have Something Special:  You are not a perfect person, and therefore you are not going to write your story perfectly.  Instead you will write it adequately.  Sometimes, book readers get a little too demanding of us authors and they get irritated when we reveal that we are humans and have a story element that isn’t as strong as it could be.  Maybe you struggle with developing complex characters, maybe you didn’t pace your story correctly, maybe your plot is a little cliche, or your prose are less than eloquent.  That’s ok!  Readers will keep reading your story because you have a secret weapon up your sleeve.  Just as all of us have different writing weaknesses, we all have some writing strengths too, and those are how we are going to grab our readers, lock them in their bedrooms and not let them leave until they have finished reading every book we have ever written.  All you need is one strong, and interesting story element to keep the reader moving forward.  So your characters are one dimensional?  Who cares, because your plot is so fast paced and exciting, the reader doesn’t have time to notice the problems with the characters, let alone consider putting the book down, because they HAVE to know what happens next.  Or maybe your prose is a little boring- a little elementary sounding – but you pace your novel perfectly, and the reader finds themselves propelled onward without noticing you started five sentences in one paragraph with the word “She” and use adverbs like sprinkles on a donut. Rather than wallowing in your weaknesses focus on highlighting your strengths and your readers will do the same.

Now, I am not saying that editing is unimportant – Editing is THE MOST important part of story writing.  Rather, I am telling you that editing can go on forever, so you need to have a cut off.  Don’t waste your time seeking to perfect your story, hiding it from the people who would love it the way it is.  Get your story to the point of good enough, and then do something really scary.  Let others read it.  They will help you close the editing gap, and will help push you over the final hurdle to publishing.

You know what your story needs, perhaps it will need 37 drafts just to get to a point where it has my three essential elements – that’s ok.  Perhaps in three drafts and six months you are able to get a story beyond these basics – that’s ok too!  But if you are like me, and are feeling discouraged and depressed about the long arduous process of editing, then take heart, because we are so close.  Though we would love for our stories to be perfect, they don’t need to be.  Even in a flawed state they can be shared with and loved by many.  So go forth young author, take courage and strength from the fact that you can finish your novel, that it’s ok if some parts of your writing suck and that you will achieve your writing dreams!

 
Stay amazing my friends!

My Top Ten Books of 2016

My Top Ten Books of 2016

Can you believe it is almost 2017?!?!  I feel like the older I get the faster time seems to go – which is a bit alarming when I think about it.  2016 has been a great year though between the start up of Silverskypress, winning NaNoWriMo for the second year in a row, and making some serious headway on my novel who could ask for more?

Well lucky me, I got more because I also read some really amazing books during 2016 written by some amazing people.  Here are my top ten books/series that I read in 2016 (don’t worry there are no spoilers).  In no particular order because that would be hard yo:

  1. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte:  If you are not typically a fan of classical literature I would highly recommend this book (the audiobook version is really good too) I was incredibly surprised at how much I enjoyed the story, plot and gorgeous writing.  I’ll admit that I struggle to slog through some of the “Classics” but this was a joy to read.  Read if you like romance, well-rounded characters, and fancy british stuff.
  2. The Lunar Chronicles – Cinder, Scarlet, Cress and Winter by Marissa Meyer:  OMG you guys I came to this series a little late in the game – and I didn’t want to like it because I knew it was sort of popular – but I loved it!  The writing was solid, the characters funny, smart and relatable and the plot was action packed with many twists and turns.  Each book focuses on a different main character, while still keeping the same plot and cast from the preceding books.  Loved every second of it – one of those series I can’t wait to reread.  Read if you like adventure, humor, romance, and multiple perspectives.
  3. Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys:  I had no idea what I was getting into when I read this book but talk about powerful!  Based on a true but little known historical event I kept thinking about this story for weeks after I finished it.  Heartbreaking, yet uplifting, challenging but still beautiful.  Everybody needs to experience this for themselves.  Read if you like history, thinking, and boats.
  4. Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan:  The title perfectly explains what this book is all about.  Laugh at the outrageous characters, dream of extravagant lifestyles, cringe at awkward family gatherings, and gasp in shock at the scandal!  I loved the audiobook version.  There is also a sequel to this book “China Rich Girlfriend” that is worth an honorable mention – though the audiobook has a different narrator who I didn’t enjoy quite as much, but the book was still good.  Read if you like drama, humor, and money.
  5. Raptor Red by Robert T Bakker:  This is a book from the 80’s not sure how I found it, but it was so fun and different.  I am kind of a dinosaur nerd so a book about the dramas of a Utah Raptors life was oh so fun.  Read if you like dinosaurs, nature documentaries, and eating meat (jk, you can be a vegetarian and still like this book).
  6. The Best Yes by Lysa TerKeurst:  This book was inspiring.  If you ever feel like you are just too busy, overwhelmed by the pressures of life or torn while trying to make a big life decision this book is your answer.  Through witty anecdotes and sage wisdom Lysa will teach you how to say yes to the best things in life and how to say no to the things that aren’t worth your time.  Read if you are too busy to read, can’t make decisions, and need a nap.
  7. The Raven King By Maggie Stiefvater final book of the Raven Boys Series:  I have been in love with Maggie Stiefvater’s writing since 2014 and have been anxiously awaiting the final installment of the Raven boys series.  Magic, mystery, romance and beautiful prose make this book, and the whole series one of my all time favorites.  Read if you like amazing characters, romance that doesn’t drive the plot, and magic.
  8. Hammered, Hexed and Hounded (three separate books) by Kevin Hearne: There are a lot more books in this series, but these are the three that I have read.  Upbeat and packed with adventure these books are a great easy beach read, or something to lighten your heart after reading a more intense story.  I love the quirky characters, the adorable Irish wolfhound and the awesome humor in these books.  Read if you like mythology, druids, and laughing.
  9. The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey:  Another nonfiction book, this is a no nonsense read giving out no nonsense financial advice, challenging you to live life debt free.  My husband and I are taking up the challenge of scaling back so we can pay off all of our student loans as quick as possible (which will hopefully open up doors for my writing!!!).  Dave is blunt, honest and real about money and all the stupid things we do with it.  Gasp as Dave debunks common myths our culture teaches us and put on your boots when this book motivates you to get in the trenches and get your pocket book together.  Read if you have debts, want to be retire well, and are always up for a challenge.
  10. The Job by Janet Evanovich:  Part of her Fox and O’hare series I am convinced that disney stole this concept for the Movie Zootopia.  Seriously they have a fox named Nick…and Evanovich’s character is Nick Fox…come on Disney!  This book, along with the rest of the series is a classic feel good heist adventure where the good guys bend the rules to get the job done.  Read if you like wit, big guns, and suave male leads.

This year has been a bit of a slow reading year for me.  I focused a lot more time on writing (yay) and got a little addicted to television over the summer months (boo).  My biggest reading victories were discovering audiobooks and taking some books off my “to read” list that had been there for a looooong time.  I can’t wait to see what stories I’ll find in 2017!

Tell me about some of your favorite books, what should I add to my reading list (or bump to the front!) Let me know in the comments below.  This is my last post of 2016 so I’ll see you in the new year.
Stay amazing my friends!