truth: i don’t write every day

I’m sorry if my posts have been a little repetitive as of late. As I might have shared, there’s a lot going on ‘behind the scenes,’ and while my life as a writer is one I strive to share– sometimes it’s like only having one part of a certain song stuck in your head.

That’s either because you don’t know the whole song, or for some reason that part might have more meaning to you at the present time.

Whatever the case, the thing of it is: I haven’t been writing every day.

(Dear Agent, if you’re reading this, I promise I’m still productive!)

I have honestly never been one of those people who is disciplined to sit down every day and write. I have tried, in the past, to hit 250-500 words so that even if I’m not hashing out thousands, I could still say I wrote something. But lately, this hasn’t been happening. I get to the end of the day and look from my computer to my current read, and the book I’m reading tends to win.

My day is full of to-dos and adulting, as I know so many others days are, too– so sometimes even getting 250 words down seems impossible to me.

But as you might recall in finding the time to be a writer, not writing every day soon turns into a bad habit for many people. Soon your writing is no longer a priority, and you feel guilty whenever you try to rectify that.

At the end of those long days when you don’t have the energy or mental capacity to get the words down, and you promise yourself you’ll do it the next day– just do me a favor (and we can keep each other accountable):

Write down one sentence. One idea. One pitch. One string of words that will make something that goes toward your life as an author.

That’s what I’ve been doing lately. It seems my head is swimming with all these ideas, none of which have been concrete enough t put into the process past the first spark. And that’s OK. It’s OK because my mind is still working, still producing, still working in writerly-fashion.

The truth of the matter is, that unless you go to work and are given written assignments as your job or you get to lock yourself away to write your books for a living– odds are you will reach a point where you won’t be writing every day, or can’t, or have to change your plans. And that IS ok.

Say it with me:

IT IS OK.

Life will throw boulders in your path and sometimes you have to sit down and reflect what your best option is to get rid of them, or go around them, or use them. Those are the moments to not feel guilty about putting your writing on the back-burner– because you know it’s still there. As long as you are persistent in always thinking about it, and doing little things to work on it, and promise yourself that you’re not giving up– it’s going to be OK.

Your writing is a gift. Don’t squander it.

 

This post is as much for you as it is for me. A constant reminder that we don’t need to feel guilty to live our lives outside of our writing careers, as long as we continue to polish those careers in the long-run. 

 

trackback thursday: nathan hale’s execution

nathan-hale-statueOn September 22, 1776, Nathan Hale was executed without a trial after he was caught spying on British troops on Long Island during the Revolutionary War. He was only 21 years old.

Hale was an American soldier and spy for the Continental Army. He volunteered for intelligence but was captured. Hale is most famous for his last word before he hanged:

“I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.”

He has long been considered a hero in the US of A, and in 1985 was officially designated as the “state hero of Connecticut.”

Yes, that’s a real thing. I didn’t know, either, until I did some research.

Fun fact: Nathan was sent to Yale at the age of 14, graduated with honors at the age of 18 and became a teacher. He first joined a local militia in 1775 once the war began. Just a few days after July 4, 1775, Hale accepted a commission as first lieutenant in the 7th Connecticut Regiment.

Though many only know Hale for his famous last words, upon further investigation it seems Hale had quite a bit of brains behind them.

But what would you expect?

 

What would your last words be if you had been caught spying and were about to be hanged? Share in the comments!

when you have to write & you’re not at your best

imageLife is hectic.

My life is very hectic right now.

In my personal and professional life, I have quite a bit going on. And to me, that’s putting it lightly, but I’m trying so hard not to make this completely about me…ish.

When life is doing its thing, sometimes your writing schedule gets shifted around. Sure, you can schedule time all you like for certain times of day to make sure you get your editing and word counts in, but you are not guaranteed that time is going to fall when you’re at your “best.”

If you recall, I posted previously about writing during your best time of day. Morning, afternoon, evening, middle of the night– everyone is wired differently. And, if you remember, I told you I was a morning person.

However, lately, I haven’t been able to write at my designated “best” time.

I used to be able to rise at the crack of dawn, make a cup of coffee, and sit down ready to face the world of my creation before dealing with the real one.

That’s not my reality right now, though. And that happens. Life happens.

So what do you do?

Just. Keep. Writing.

This past week I’ve been working on edits, which is incredibly exciting, intimidating, and exhausting. After my day has finally come to a close and I sit down to start my writer’s life routine, I stare at the beverage of my choice and debate if I should bite the bullet and make it caffeinated.

I have such an old soul that if I drink caffeine late, I’m up all night– and I’m not a “spring chicken” who can do that anymore because I have other little lives to take care of during the day. But I also know that if I don’t have something, I’m not going to hit my goals for the day.

Fine a new strategy.

Caffeine isn’t always the answer (although it does usually help). But finding a new way to look at things, or work, can be very useful. For example, if I’m writing in the morning my favorite spot in the house is the nursery/guest room. It gets the most light, and I can get comfy on the guest bed with the sunlight streaming in and feel so inspired.

My writing lately, though, is at night. So if I were to cozy up in the bed, odds are I’d fall asleep. So I sit at our kitchen table in our straight-back chairs and try to tone out the white noise coming over the baby monitor as my fingers move. I’ll walk around often, to keep the blood flowing and my eyelids open, and I do my very best to keep the lights nice and bright so I’m alert.

Know when to keep going and when to stop.

There comes a point with writing and editing where you know if you’re doing poorly. Whether it’s because you’re tired or hopelessly distracted, if you find that you’re mind is constantly being pulled from what you’re making yourself do, take a breather. Pushing through might seem like a good plan, but if you don’t stop you might be making extra work for yourself in the end– and you could be losing some valuable sleep, play, cleaning– whatever– time.

I’m not trying to contradict myself.

Yes, you need to keep writing. Just because you have a schedule shift does not mean you should forego writing until it’s back the way you want it. BUT if you’re pushing the words to come out unnaturally, better to take a breath, find a distraction, and get back to it in a few minutes, or an hour, or the next day. Whatever is going to work best for you.

As authors, we deal with timelines. Our writing, editing, querying, publishing– they’re all going to involve times when we have to buckle down and DO IT, and it’s not always going to be ideal.

But when has being a writer ever been EASY?

 

 

having an open mind to big changes

You’ve done it. You’ve finished writing your book.

Whether that book is 500 words or over 100k, you deserve to celebrate. So do just that.

Celebrate. Now. Go. DO IT.

After that first celebration, don’t start sending that baby to everyone just yet. As you know, revisions are necessary. I’m not sure of the statistics of authors who got published o their first draft, but I’m guessing the stats don’t work in our favor. You see, you have to get into a new mindset.

Because, what comes after writing?

Editing. Revising. Editing. Revising. And editing some more.

Yes, I realize that was repetitive.

As you may remember, I shared how working with an editor changed the way I write. I also shared with you how you should face changes in your book: whether to do them or not. But now I felt like it was important to mention something else.

The big ones.

imageThe big changes, that is.

What happens when there’s a plot hole, or what happens when characters are confusing, or what happens when there’s, well, nothing going on?

You’re going to have to use that ‘delete’ button. It’s going to take a lot more typing. But above all else:

You’re going to have to have an open mind.

The first book I wrote was incredibly personal. (By ‘first book’, I mean the first book I really finished that felt like it could go the distance.) So I hired an editor, and was pacing and biting my nails as I prepared to see what she had to say. And, as you may remember, I wasn’t exactly ready or open to the possibilities of big changes.

Instead of blabbing some more, here’s the deal:

 

Changes are going to happen

Even if your book is absolutely amazing, there is going to be a change. Maybe it’s just some words, or chapters, or cuts, oorrrr additions. But the thing is, it’s going to happen. So instead of swearing up and down you won’t change your book, pick the parts you really don’t think you’re willing to sacrifice. Those are the parts that will get you through your changes.

Big changes are usually amazing changes

The beginning of my first book was, admittedly, slow. For someone who didn’t know the story, and obviously wouldn’t really know my characters, they’d be lucky to get through it. But I didn’t see that. I saw this beautiful story that was a part of my life that I thought everyone would love. But when I got some feedback suggest I twist things from my true story, it took me a while to realize that was the way to do it. Now the book, so different from that first draft, can definitely stand on its own two feet instead of needing some crutches (or more backstory).

If you just can’t do it, get another opinion

Before you whip out that red marker or get in a fight with the DELETE button, make sure you really think it through. You want to have an open mind to changes, but you also don’t want to start making a ton of changes off of one person’s suggestion.

Granted, if that one person is your editor/agent/publisher, you should obviously listen. That’s the exception.

But the RULE is to always have more than one person read it. Have a few critique partners or beta readers handy so you can get more than one opinion. After all, this is your baby. You wouldn’t take it to the doctor unless it was TRULY sick.

Proceed with caution, but not too much caution. You want to have an open mind so you can make that book the best it’s meant to be.

trackback thursday: the mountain meadows massacre

mountain meadows massacreIn September of 1857, a wagon train that originated of families mostly from Arkansas, was held under siege for four days until they were lead to their deaths.

These emigrants were headed to California, and consisted of a few wealthy cattle and horse herders, as well as others looking for a better life out West.

When they traveled through Utah, at the time under the “theocratic” ruling, if you will, of Brigham Young and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (commonly known as LDS or Mormons), they were refused supplies in Salt Lake City and Cedar City due to the Mormons suspecting them or taking part in the murders of some of their church members back East, including their late leader/prophet Joseph Smith.

On the first day, the settlers were attacked at Mountain Meadows, Utah by the local Indians, but when they were lead to their deaths it was under the direction of the local Mormon Militia.

The Mormons rode in under a white flag, offered the settlers help to escape the siege of the Native Americans, and had them march on as though leading them back to Cedar City. The settlers were then attacked by Mormons disguised as the Native Americans, so as to skirt away from blame. Around 120 settlers were killed, leaving only children under the age of seven alive.

There were around 17 survivors.

This massacre has been under debate since it happened. The LDS of the time first claimed innocence. Brigham Young did an “investigation,” which was then blamed on the local Native Americans. But upon further investigation and pushing from the national government, Brigham Young and the Saints sought to blame it on Major John Lee, the one who supposedly lead the attack under no orders from anyone higher ranked.

This post could be incredibly long, for this massacre is the setting for my YA historical fiction novel. So, I’ll just sum it up. But you can visit the Mountain Meadows Association site as well as read witness reports from all those years ago if you are interested.

After completing my novel and preparing to query, I got to visit the massacre site in December 2014. I was mixed with emotions of excitement and heartbreak. For somewhere so beautiful to be ever tainted by these innocent Westward travelers was haunting.

mountain meadows selfie

The massacre itself happened on September 11, 1857.

what i’m learning from re-reading Harry Potter

imageIf you follow me on Instagram or Twitter you may have caught on to my rereading the Harry Potter series for the last month. It started around Harry’s birthday (July 31st) and it’s been hard to slow me down since. In fact, I thought I was overdoing it when I posted that I wanted to read Chamber of Secrets and Prisoner of Azkaban by the end of September, but somehow I managed to squeeze in Goblet of Fire as well.

I don’t say that to brag at all. I say that to show how much I love this series, and how distracting it is– even when reading it for the umpteenth time.

But as I reread these books as an adult, I thought it would be incredibly different. I did this about three years ago as well, and that was when my oldest was near/around two. But now I have two boys, my youngest having just turned one, and I wondered if it would change the way I read these books somehow.

If anything, though, it’s only excited me more for when I can share this series with the two of them.

Not looking for booing or hisses, I will admit that this time I find them as an easier read. I’m not sure my reading skills have gotten better, or if it’s because I’ve read them before, but I find that the language is much simpler than I remember it being. There’s nothing wrong with that at all– it’s just a new observation.

My other observation, however, is one of astonishment. Rereading these books, I’m always amazed at the little slips of information that Rowling had in them at the very beginning. Mention of Sirius, Dumbledore’s fleeting looks of happiness or surprise, things that the narration or a character might mention that make my eyes want to pop out of my head.

She knew. Rowling knew the entire time.

I know she had to, writing a series like that, but I have to admit I’m amazed. My books don’t fall into place like that, and while I’m sure she hit her struggles and went through the feelings that every writer does at one point– I still bow down to her. She wrote seven amazing books, set in a completely different realm of sorts, and people are still enjoying and learning and exploring it today.

So, what am I learning from all of this?

I’m learning that great books don’t ever become “ungreat.” I’m learning that not every writer is created equal, and that’s OK. But most of all, I’m learning that even reading these books as an adult– I’m still learning from them.

Yes, I’m learning that I’m still learning.

These books offer hope, and courage, and adventure, and friendship, and love, and deceit, and hate, and fear– so much of our own world is wrapped into these books, even if it doesn’t seem blatantly recognizable. And I think that’s why we all love them so much. Not just for the magic and the idea of going to Hogwarts for a school year or learning magic or having Hagrid as a friend and Dumbledore as a mentor: but the reality that they’re not just a place to escape to when our “real world” is getting overwhelming or crazy, they’re ‘home.’

It’s been said before, I know. But I don’t mean it in the traditional sense.

I mean they’re home because Hermione could be my best friend. Or Harry could be the dorky cool kid I’d want to be friends with. Or Dumbledore could be the principal that goes the extra mile to keep his students up to par, and does’t treat them like children but the young adults they wish to be. The books are so close to our reality (besides that little part about the wizarding world).

This has to be one of the reasons we all love them so. Or, at least, it is for me.

 

 

Want the recipe for the Treacle Tarts pictured? Head over to The Newfangled Housewife!