We do it 4thewords (a new writing challenge)

Writing is hard. There is no way around this fact; the longer you work at it, the more tedious the tasks become. Writing is my passion, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t fall into the same ruts as everyone else. When you begin taking your work more seriously your investments become compounded and the flittering fingers on keyboards occasionally morph into plodding digits squeezing words from a stone. It is easy to fall into a familiar pattern- sometimes this is good, sometimes this is comforting, and sometimes the rut grows so deep that you begin to feel trapped by the very thing that you adore.

As I said, writing is hard. When the world is throwing as many distractions as it can at you, some days it is all too easy to throw in the towel and tell yourself that tomorrow you will make up for the ground you lost today. I have fallen into this trap many a time. And as a survivor of the pits of despairing inspirations, I have learned to combat them.

Nano was the first venture that taught me to view my work in a different light; it was exciting, exhilarating- playing off of my competitive nature to get me to sit down every night and string one word after another when all I wanted to do was curl up in bed with a movie. Fifty thousand words in one month, however, can become a bit daunting. And that is where the games come in. If you go to the forums you will find them- speed writing challenges, the fifty headed hydra, and my personal favorite- the word crawl. There are many games to keep you invested, to keep you plugging away at your work. And now, my friends, I have a new one to introduce you to.

I am a sucker for a good story, for a plot. Even in my fitness routines- my favorites are the apps that give you a distraction from the difficulty of what you are doing. There is the one that pretends you are a super hero or a space invader and you work out as you work your way through the story. Or the Zombies run app- an audio game that plays as you go for your daily jog, to keep you moving and excited to get back out there. And now we have a writerly version.

About a year ago I ‘won’ a beta subscription to a website called ‘4thewords,’ I believe it was something I wound up with through Nano, but that doesn’t particularly matter. It was a fun interactive website full of daily writing challenges that appear in the form of monsters you must battle (your timed word count is what determines whether you win or lose). You work your way through a storyline while battling creatures and collecting items- your success is dependent on your word count. The concept was something that I quickly fell in love with. However, technology can be a fickle friend, and , as they were still in beta, the site was fraught with technical bugs and glitches. It reached a point where my frustration grew too large and I stopped ‘playing.’ Opting to come back after a while when some of the issues might be a bit more ironed out. There was no blame to be hashed out- the idea was gold- but a bit more time would allow it to ripen.

Fast forward to now. Yesterday I was curious what happened to my old writing venture, so I came back. And behold- the beta clouds have passed, and we have taken the first bold steps into the early access mode. I have to say- I am so impressed with the huge strides the creative team has made in expanding and enriching the site. The visuals are bright and eye catching, the storyline is a bit more developed, the monsters are as cute and ferocious as ever, and the outcome is the same- it gets me writing again with a feverish determination that I haven’t felt in months. I will candidly admit that I have been struggling lately, and I have needed a boost. I have desperately been looking for that catalyst that will remind me why I do this every day. I have found it. I am on the adventure yet again.

The downside: there is now a subscription fee to the site, but at $4 a month, I think it’s worth it. Lucky for me, I got a few ‘crystals’ that I can use towards me fees for a couple of months- a thank you gift in exchange for being a part of the beta. For those of you who have never tried it- there is a free trial month if you are interested in giving it a whorl. I’m not trying to advertise, and I don’t get anything for sharing this site with anyone. But as fellow writers, it seemed like a fun thing to pass along. Perhaps I will meet you on the trail, my friends. I hope you are willing to take a leap and try something new. You might be surprised what you wind up with.


Rainy days and Stormy Nights

There is nothing that compares with the smell of the asphalt after the first rainfall. I have never encountered anything more comforting than the pitter patter of those tiny drops dancing on my window as I sit wrapped up in my sweater. I adore the rain. Which is probably a good thing, considering I live in the Pacific Northwest; the birthplace of Starbucks coffee and Voodoo doughnuts, the home of sasquatch and the rainy capitol of the United States. The rain makes me feel like I’m home, washing away all of the toxicity of the everyday and leaving me clean and fresh, prepared to take on the world once again.

This weekend we are expecting a storm full of howling wind and pounding rain- the news channels cant stop talkin about it. And who can really blame them- two tornadoes touched down today, one of which hit a town on the coast about a two hour drive from where I am. It even caused a bit of damage as it raged through main street. We get a lot of rain, tornadoes, however, are a bit more uncommon. They expect that tomorrow will be the rough day for the storm- but luckily, I don’t think any more tornadoes are anticipated. Just lots of rain and lots of wind.

Personally, I’m actually a bit excited. I love any excuse to stay in without feeling guilty. In spite of the fact that I have a mountain of Halloween things I want to do this month, sometimes what you really need is a cozy weekend playing around your house. I’m not planning on going out much- maybe to the store to pick up some stuff to make pot pies, pot roast and soup. I’m all over the easy comfort food this weekend. I’m going to be taking advantage of this rare excuse to stay in and be productive right here; lots of laundry (ugh, my true Sisyphean task), a dash of cleaning, a few movies perhaps, reading a handful of chapters in my latest book, and oodles of writing. Its going to be beautiful.

I adore cozy weekends in my house listening to the weather raging outside. There’s nothing quite like the raw beauty of nature in all of it’s frightening glory to remind you of your place in this world. So cheers, my friends, to a cozy weekend and a lot of words. Wherever you are, I hope you stay safe and warm, and have one hell of a good time while you do it.

A Bump in the Night: Nano Prep Season is Back!

Something wicked this way comes, my friends, a masterly challenge that will test the nerve and sinew of even the most accomplished of authors. That is right, the great word race is set to begin: Nano is well on its way, November 1st will ring in the beginnings of a daring adventure made special because in this solitary world of writing, we shall embark together. And yet, this trek is not for the faint of heart, there are plans to be plotted (or plots to be panned?), characters to be drawn, worlds to create; after all, even the great Gandalf had to prepare his wayward band of adventurers before they set their plodding feet to the trail.

For those of you who are wondering what the heck I am talking about, Nano (or NaNoWriMo) stands for National Novel Writing Month. This is a daring adventure that takes place the entire month of November. The goal: to write 50,000 words by the time the clock strikes midnight on the last day (and some years you are working right up to that point). You choose your own project; anything that your heart could desire. You track your own progress throughout the month, only verifying when you finally submit your work for a ‘win.’ If you are interested, go to http://www.nanowrimo.org to get more information or join us on this lovely quest. I promise, you wont be disappointed.

It seems that this year some new goodies will be awaiting us! The one I am most excited for? A brand new word-sprint tool! Considering that is one of my favorite ways to pile on my numbers, I am very excited to be trying this one out instead of timing myself with my phone. As usual, the message boards will still be up and running, and in most areas the local events will be kicking off. I’m still trying to work up the courage to go to one, but alas, it has not happened yet. I know I would be happy once I went, but it is terrifying when I don’t know a single person. I’m not exactly a social butterfly, so this could be an eventful adventure.

At this stage of the game I am typically pretty anxious to pick my project and get it registered. The sooner I do that, the sooner I can dive into my plotting (and delve into the slightly distracting world of the Nano message boards, a favorite way to lose myself when I need a break from the project itself). I am normally a big fan of starting a fresh project for Nano- because honestly, there is nothing better than the promise of a blank page at the beginning of a story, nothing can match the excitement of the unknown. And yet this time around, I think I am going to break my own rules. The past month I have been working on editing old projects and organizing my ideas and snippets for new ones. October is going to be much of the same. So I figured- while I am enmeshed in this world of polishing my words to make them truly shine- why don’t I follow that thread and pick up some older projects that were abandoned partway through? There is nothing more depressing than an unfinished story, broken promises just littering the pages, forever held in a state of suspended animation. They were good ideas that, for one reason or another, I got distracted from. And so this November is going to be the month of the Untold Ending, the Unfinished Story will finally find solace in it’s conclusion. And I will feel better knowing that I am one stop closer with them.

The main project will be my Vampire story that I was working on last Camp Nano- it seemed fitting, considering my prep month will be falling during the Halloween season. I love the story idea, but I changed a few key plot points halfway through the project- forcing me to change a lot of the beginning and re-frame the rest of the story. It was a necessary change, one I am happy that I made- but it put me behind. So now, it will be time to finish it. And, the best part- after all of the changes that I decided to make, I still have a ton of prepping to do through October.

So here’s to late-night writing with nothing but a bright laptop screen and a hot cup of spiced cider to keep you company. Here’s to long days at the office with a notepad off to the side so I can write in my spare moments. Here’s to message board bonding over our favorite writerly memes and long discussions about the inner psyche of the best villains, the inside jokes that only a fellow narrator will understand. Here’s to blank pages and common ground. Here’s to telling the stories my friend, to finally giving a voice to the thoughts that have been dancing through your dreams and distracting your from your daily life. It is going to be one beautiful trek, my friends.

Technological Love Spat meets Determination

I’m writing this post on my cell phone because my laptop and router seem to be having yet another lovers quarrel, and the router is refusing to let anyone connect to resolve the conflict. She has figuratively locked herself in the bathroom and until she decides to open the door and reconnect to the outside world, I am stuck typing on this teeny little touch pad. My fingers are far too large for this and autocorrect is getting much too clever for her own good tonight. But I am still here, writing away. 

This isn’t the first time that my two little technogoical love birds have found themselves in a spat- oh yes, I have bore witness to many a sudden disconnection- leaving me awkwardly hoping that the cute little quip I had finally concocted managed to save before the technogoical silent treatment ensued. Normally when this happens I go through a few stages of my own grief. First there is denial, where I repeatedly click the refresh button and hold my breath. Then there is anger (I will spare you the visual, but needless to say, it involves some very colorful swear words and threats- lots and lots of threats). After that I reach the bargaining stage: trying to make deals with my little cyber couple, using every episode of Friends I have ever seen to convince them that they do love each other and communication is the key to their happiness. From there I spiral into depression: I will never be the author that I hoped to be if I can’t depend on the tools at my disposal. I can’t exactly upload a post with my handy dandy notebook. And then I reach that blissful point of acceptance. This is where I resign myself to my fate, go find a tub of ice team, pick up the remote and begrudgingly embrace my writerless fate of The Big Bang Theory. Better luck next time, ole girl. 

But that was the old Katie, the pre-goal Katie, if you will. Today slinking away was not an option. Instead I got up, grabbed the leash and walked away my frustration with a very happy dog (simultaneously checking off another item on that ‘goals’ list I made). And when I got home, I was ready to give it my all- even if that meant delicately clicking these touch pad keys and scrutinizing every word to ensure that my chubby thumbs did not completely mangle it (providing autocorrect with creative license to turn it into anything her demonic little heart desired).

What’s the point to this odd little story, you may ask? It’s simple, really. It doesn’t matter what the goal is, there will always be something that decides to stand in your way. Life is good at givingus little tests of faith, trying to find how bad we really want what we are striving for. Sometimes we succeed and show our true grit, other times we fail and slink away to lick our wounds. The point is to get back up and keep on reaching, keeping on pushing yourself one step farther. Be creative if you have to, but don’t give up just because a roadblock tries to fall on you. Sometimes what you really need to do is stick out your tongue at the moody little router and remind her that you have a data plan you have been sparingly using this month for just such an occasion. 

You will only be defeated if you let yourself be. If you want an excuse, you’ll find one- the world is full of them. But if you want a solution, take a deep breath, find a new angle and look a little closer. There is always a work-around, if you are only willing to push yourself to find it. 

So tonight, I celebrate a small success. It’s just one little post, it’s not my best, it probably won’t be one that anyone finds particularly noteworthy- but it’s here. I set a goal, I promised myself one post every other day. And I kept it even though it was so easy to break, to back down and tell myself that I will simply write two days in a row next time to make up for it. Today I was determined, today I was tested, and today I passed. (Now if I could only find this kind of attitude for my alleged work-out routine. Baby steps, I guess).

The Writing Space (my little hobbit hole)

I’ve stared in envious jealousy when my favorite authors have posted pictures of their offices, these beautiful and spacious writing areas that are conducive to their own form of brilliance, usually complete with their very own wood-burning fireplace. And then I look at mine and wonder if it will ever be anything more than what it is. My writing space is my sanctuary, it is the place where I find my genuine self. My seat is worn, my desk is typically messy, and my book shelf has seen better days. But it is mine. It is the home of my favorite creations, the worlds that I bring to life on the page.

There is nothing more important to the creative process than finding a space that will nurture it. I spent many years (okay- virtually all of my life) without one, I worked wherever I happened to have space- usually on my bed with my back propped up against the wall- and full disclosure, I am actually doing that right now because there is a slight possibility that my desk is covered in pears that I got from work, and I’m too lazy tonight to find a reasonable place to store them while they ripen. The kitchen is out of the question, they will be eaten before I even get a taste. So, naturally, I am hoarding them on my desk and writing in my bed.

The writing space isn’t necessarily about the physical set-up: you don’t need a large oak desk and a fancy computer to get those creative juices flowing, you don’t need modern art to feel that rush of words slipping from your finger tips. No, the writing space is more about the way you feel when you are in it. It’s about surrounding yourself with what inspires you, the things that make you think, that remind you what you are working for. It could be something as simple as bringing your favorite Iron Man notebook out to the big oak tree at your nearest park- that could be the place where all of your fictional beings are born. Or perhaps you feel that vibe at your local coffee shop with a caramel macchiato. There is no right or wrong answer to the question of the perfect work space. And for that matter, it doesn’t even have to be the same space each time. Just because it is working for you one day, doesn’t mean it will be the ideal spot for you tomorrow. I rove around a lot when I work. During the summer I love sitting out at the picnic table on the back patio, throwing my dog’s favorite toy and listening to the rustling leaves while I type away. Other days I camp out on the couch with a fluffy blanket and a sweatshirt. You have to be in tune with yourself to know where you will be most likely to stay focused and inspired. It is not an easy task.

So today, I’m going to take you on a virtual tour of my own little area- and I will apologize now, the picture is just a little bit older, simply because you are probably not interested in seeing the mountain of pears, and I know I am not interested in cleaning it up. And there might be a coffee mug. And a water bottle. And maybe a bowl of Hershey kisses. But shh, you don’t have to know that. Here it is, my little comfort zone- it’s changed a little bit since this picture was taken, but not enough to make a big deal out of it.


I am going to preface this by saying that I live in small quarters, trust me, there is not a Pinterest trick on saving space that I have not read or tried at least once, and there is not a single organizational tool that I have not bought and (more often than not) promptly sent off to Goodwill. I have learned to be very creative with what I have. So my writing space is nothing lavish or fancy, it is not going to be getting me on the cover of Better Homes and Gardens, and I sure wont be featured on HGTV anytime soon. But I love it, and that’s all that matters in the end.

My fiancé and I both have our own little desks in the ‘office’- which also happens to double as our main living space. This usually doesn’t cause a ton of problems, although there are the occasional noise complaints from one to the other- luckily, that is why headphones were invented.

My desk is nothing fancy- it’s one we bought at Ikea a few months ago when we finally made the space for it. I was actually quite proud because I managed to put it together all on my own without any male assistance- and to top it off, they were Ikea directions with no words and very confusing pictures. I was feeling like one hell of an independent woman that night, She-Ra Warrior Princess in the flesh. There was only one board I put on backwards, but I caught it before irreparable harm could be done. That same night it was christened ‘Katie’s desk de independence (no boys required).’ When I bought it I fell in love with the fact that it had a built in whiteboard, although I have since learned that it’s not the best quality and the markers wont erase without special cleaners, so instead I cover it in sticky notes.

As I said, it is a small space. It’s pressed up against a bookshelf on one side, which holds our tv, and on the other is the wall that I like to stick current projects materials to. Above it are some wall shelves that hold a lot of my books- including all of my writing focused ones. It also carries my cherished binders, my ‘story bibles’ if you will- all of my prepping and plotting work that I’ve done for each of my projects (one of which you can see on the desk in the picture). I have sticky notes taped everywhere with my favotire inspirational quotes, a few stickers I got from a Nano donation a year or so ago, and odds and ends I got as gifts or on vacation. It’s an odd assortment of things I have surrounded myself with, but everything on it is no-shame, 100% me. The Chinese fortune sticks on the far left (behind the water bottle as shown), my favorite black elephant decoration is smiling right at me from his perch, there’s a small hour glass that holds a piece of coal taken from the Titanic, my Walking Dead and Disney figurines, there’s an empty flask my sister got me that looks like a Nintendo game, a little gold Buddha and some pictures from important moments in my life (there are a couple more now than there were when this was taken). My prized possession though would be the little orange book with the white tabby on the cover- written by the only person in my family I have ever known to be published.

It’s not a popular book by any means, but I did manage to find a few copies on Amazon and Ebay. It holds a place of prominence, a reminder of what I can do if I only try hard enough. It’s a children’s book called ‘Tuffy’s Travels,’ written by my mother’s favorite aunt, Marie Persson. Annie Ree- that’s what they used to call her. She passed away from cancer before I was born, I never met her. But she inspires me every day. I always keep her book where I can see it as a reminder that it’s not impossible, I can make it if I only work hard and keep trying to improve my craft. Getting published has always felt like such a distance dream that belonged in the realm of ‘someday.’ This book reminds me that ‘someday’ gets a little bit closer every single time I start stringing those words together.

I can only hope that someday I will be able to look back at my humble beginnings- all of those nights spent on my bed or couch with my laptop propped on my knees. My time in this little desk that I made all my own, crammed into a tiny room that we’ve have to refinaggle to fit into. Clicking and clacking away at the dream that has never left my soul from the moment I was able to tell my tall tales as a child.

The writing space is only important as long as it helps you be creative. Some people thrive in clutter, others practically need a ruler to line up their pencils. I am somewhere in between. It’s not always ideal, but it is mine. This is what I have, and I am so proud of it. Although if you have ever taken a peek at the office of James Rollins (one of my all-time favorite authors)- holy cow, I can ony dream of reaching that level someday. Go ahead, peek through his office window like a creeper and see the magic inside- I don’t think he’ll mind, this image came courtesy of his Twitter feed, after all.  (twitter.com/jamesrollins/media)- and while you’re at it, if you are looking for a new series to read, give the Sigma series a try, you wont regret it. Until then, the dream will live on.


Write What you Know – Misleading or Misunderstood?

We have all heard those words, the first cardinal rule told to any aspiring author: write what you know. Some say that this is the worst piece of advice that could ever be given in the history of the written world. But in true Tisy Typer form, I am going to  play a bit of the devil’s advocate with this one, mainly because I believe that it’s a bit of misunderstood advice.

Those who take the words at their face value find themselves at a loss; does this mean that to write a believable murder mystery you have to actually have the experience of killing someone? Or to write about an actor, do you need to jump out there and get your fifteen minutes of fame so that your frame of reference is authentic? By that same token, J.K Rowling should have personally attended Hogwarts, Suzanne Collins would have to participate in the Reaping for the annual Hunger Games, Douglas Adams should have dragged a towel through the universe and Tolkien should have annual birthday parties with the hobbitsies. And yet these are all still excellent books. So do these examples themselves refute the old quote?

No. You see, there is a very similar thread that runs through all of these stories, and it is a rather simple one. They were all written in such a way to make you feel something deep in your gut, something true, something genuine. These authors wrote about what they knew in terms of the emotions that they used. Have you ever been so scared that you felt your body move on pure instinct- you could run a thousand miles, pick up the baseball bat you have next to the door, scream bloody murder in the middle of the room? You have just discovered the animalistic fear that shades The Hunger Games. Have you ever felt like you didn’t belong, like there was something different about you that everyone else could see? Have you ever felt the desire to protect those that you love? Do some of those emotions remind you of Harry Potter at all? The truths that you need to write aren’t superficial events, they are the truths buried within your soul. They are your fears, your hopes, your dreams, your emotions. The thing that makes a book truly magical is the feeling that it can generate in another. The books that speak to me are the ones that seem to be reading my soul and reflecting it back to me. They say the words that I have never been able to utter. Those are the stories that change me, those are the things that make a good writer elevate to a great one.

It’s easy to get caught up in superficial thoughts and emotions of a scene, to plot and plan what you would expect a character to feel- which is right enough in its own way, but you can’t forget to add that prism of personal color. You need to tap into your own heart to convince your audience that the words you say are real. Use these lessons, these experiences, these deep emotions- and bring your work to life. If you wish to make an impact, you have to learn to bleed your soul into your writing. Otherwise you will be just another fluffy novel on the shelf, to be easily forgotten.

We want to see fiction that speaks to us because it is full of truths. We take inspiration from everything that we encounter in life; the books we read, the movies we watch, the magazines we scan, the news that assaults our ears, the coworkers in the breakroom- the world is full of nothing but literary fodder. We love the created realms that remind us of a part of our own lives. We are drawn to apocalyptic fiction because it feels like that is where our world is headed, it feels like the road we are traveling. We see a terrifying truth within those pages. We love Harry Potter because, in spite of the simmering cauldrons, incantations and wand waving, we remember what it was like growing up. We remember that girl in class who knew all of the answers, the boy that everyone wanted to know, we all had that funny best friend that made all of the difference. We remembered the friends of our own past that became family; fights and all. We also recognized the simple fact of a world divided. There were those that believed in keeping the wizarding bloodlines pure, and those that felt embracing diversity would be the answer to all of their problems. Doesn’t that sound like a familiar theme? We want to see something that we can recognize in a world full of wonders and adventures. We can look at the pain and problems of our own world through the prism of a story.

When I read a book I want to feel something. I want words that will resonate in my soul. I want to feel like I am not alone- because at least one other person out there has felt the way that I have felt. We all have such varied experiences to color our work. Some know the pain of losing a loved one, the deep struggle of dealing with addiction, the joys and frustrations of love, the fear and panic a midnight call can bring- we have more stories within us than we will ever know. Write what you know, be brave enough to remind your readers that they are not alone in this big scary world.

The Rough Draft: Building Sand Castles

Once upon a time in the land of the laptop, hidden in the obscure folders no one but the renowned author would ever dare visit, there lived the mysterious first draft. And what a horrendous creature he truly was. Stitched together with well-intentioned words and colored with a myriad of flourishing descriptions, he grew into something unrecognized by his creator. He face was pocked with plot holes, he was verbose with his descriptions, and minimal where it truly counted to make a point. His word choices were elementary and unrefined, he had more ‘buts’ than an ashtray and more ‘ands’ than this sentence. His grammar was tragically outdated, and his conclusory comments were rather anti-climactic. The average author would run in sudden fear at the sight of such a monster. But not this author, no. Much like Shrek, this author saw the potential buried under the grimy prose of the creature. This author was the Belle that would turn this beast into a beautiful prince.

Anyone who has tried to write a novel knows that the first draft is only the beginning, it is the tiny tip of the colossal iceberg. It’s not like in the movies where you sit down, you type and then in one fell swoop you have an instant best-seller with no need for revision. I tried to explain this once to someone who has been asking to read my work for a while now. I mentioned that I needed to do one more round of editing before the project would be ready. Their response, while well intentioned, was fairly misled. They believed that I had worked hard enough on the draft that someone should enjoy it. While it is true, I had put my blood, sweat and tears into the project- that was exactly why I didn’t want anyone to see it yet. When you work so hard on something, you want it to show, and often time the first draft does not reflect the work that went into it.

I have to constantly remind myself that the first draft is just the first stepping stone, the true heart of the work happens after the crude words are penned. I keep some quotes taped to my writing desk, right at eye level so that they are easily seen when I am ready to toss down the pen or close the laptop and walk away. They remind me to keep fighting for my goals, they propel me to give it just one more try. There are hundreds of quotes floating around out in the world that tell about the difficult struggle that is the first draft, leading me to believe that even the best writers feel the same pressures that the humble little no-name me feels too. These are just a few of my favorites:


No one is going to see the first draft unless you decide that you want them to. Think of it like the solo runs, preparing you for the big race. Don’t take yourself so seriously, and don’t expect your work to glitter and shine at this stage. There will be parts that you write that will make you beam with pride at your own genius, and there will be parts that make you cringe and seriously contemplate burning it all. But in the end, the first draft is only the groundwork.



This draft is for you, to flesh out the story and figure out what it really is that you want to say. Personally, I usually go into my first draft with a particular idea in mind, but by the end I am starting to see a glint of something new shining through. It isn’t until I begin my revisions that I start to see what it is that had been hidden under all of my other thoughts and bubbling words. I find the heart of my work and start brushing all of the clutter away to make it shine. Tell yourself the story that you want to hear so that you will be ready to speak it to the world when the time comes.


Then again, if you prefer to be blunt…


Oh Hemingway, never one to mince words. Perhaps you prefer the route of brutal honesty, if that is the case, then this is the quote for you. I have to say, to know that someone with such talent and success felt this way about his work- it gives me hope that perhaps I am not too far off the mark myself.

This next one is the one that I keep right in front of my eyes at my desk, it is my constant reminder of what I am actually doing…


Every time I write a first draft, I hate it- I can see the promise, but it is never the grad word I had hoped for it to become. I always have a vision in my head of what the story will look, sound and feel like. I begin my draft with the best of intentions, and yet my final product never matches what I had thought it would become. There is always a trace of it’s true potential underlying the mess I have made, a beautiful string that echoes the truth I had hoped to convey. That is the moment when it is time to wield the red pen with a vengeance, slicing through the muck and the grime to let the true promise shine through.

I can tell as I an writing that I am not doing my story justice. There are days when I feel like I should quit my current project, put in some more work practicing, and then come back when I feel like my skills are more on level with the caliber of story I want to write. Don’t fall into this trap. The first draft is not meant to be beautiful, it is not meant to be good. There may be people out there who think that writing is simply sitting at your keyboard, running through one draft and then shopping for a publisher- they have simply never bled over a keyboard the way that we do. Your work is like an iceberg. The first draft is just the tip that pops out of the water line; all of the editing is below the surface. A first draft is a warm up, the work out is in the editing. I could come up with a hundred other analogies, but I bet you get the picture.

Your first draft doesn’t have to be perfect- if that is what you are aiming for, you will never reach your goal. The first draft is meant to be ugly and messy. It is the bones of your story, to be molded and shaped later. It is simply a start. Don’t give up when the first draft is not what you envisioned. You are simply shoveling sand into a box so that later you can build castles. And what beautiful castles they will eventually be, if you are willing to take the time to sculpt them.

Small Successes are the Biggest Battles

Some days you have to celebrate the small successes, those little moments when you feel like you are simply treading water instead of going anywhere significant. Some days I feel like a rock star, taking giant leaps in the direction of my dreams, other days a tiny nudge is the closest I will get towards moving in the right direction. It’s okay to have these days. If all you have left in you is the ability to stand your ground when it feels like the current is threatening to pull you backwards- that is still a success. Some days, the best thing that you can do for yourself is hold still and let the storms pass.

Today was a day of small steps. After a long week, it feels good to just sit here with my laptop and a blanket. I don’t feel like I’m on my A-game right now, but I’m also not feeling too guilty about that either. Today I didn’t leap forward, there was no kicking ass or taking names. Today I simply scooted a bit closer to my goals. We put so much pressure on ourselves to be the best, to push the farthest, to work hard now so that we can play hard later. We fight so hard for our productive time that we never slow down and take a breath. Refresh yourself, take a break, you are only human after all.

So today I will celebrate writing a post. I will dance for joy because the laundry is finally in the dryer (now whether I get around to folding it will be another story. Spoiler- probably wont be happening before I go to bed). I will tout my success because I typed another page when it took everything I had inside to string one word after another. The fight doesn’t have to be large and earth-shattering to still be a struggle. I may be hanging on by my fingertips some days, but I am still hanging on. So for those of you out on this branch with me- cheers, my friends. We can do it.

Inspired Work: You Write What You Read

My advice to all writers: read voraciously. I know, it is hard to find the time when you are busy with your regular life as well as the actual act of writing- but the fastest way to hone your craft is to take in the art form of others. Don’t stop with one genre- read them all, dabble in them the way you would dabble in chocolates, leave no stone unturned. And don’t stop with just novels: there are newspapers, magazines, textbooks, blogs- so many things out in the world for us to enjoy, grab them with both hands and run with them. Find your voice by listening to the voices of others. Not only will you discover the style best suited to you, but the content of your work will be richer and more diverse for it. The ideas of others will feed your imagination. We are not islands unto ourselves, we are best when we are challenged by other beings.

Artist tend to view the world through a different lens than most, we want to pick it apart down to it’s elements in an attempt to understand it, and then piece it back together again without a crack. We watch people and events and allow our experiences to bleed over into our work giving the world a fresh perspective that only we can provide. We soak up the world; isn’t it only fitting that the words we absorb will also influence our constantly churning minds. Consciously or not, we tend to write what we read.

For example, if you immerse yourself in the world of old Victorian classics, there is a good possibility you will begin to see some flourishing descriptions wiggling into your work, with an eloquent style of speaking that could be considered slightly stiff to the modern pop culture novel. Or you may go in the opposite direction and find yourself entrenched in the most current paranormal romance, in which case you may find a touch more humor imbedded in your work, or a cruder dialect and detailed descriptions of physical activities. We tend to inadvertently use similar word choice or stylistic tendencies when we read specific types of literature over a long period of time.

When I decide to attempt working in a new genre, I like to immerse myself in it, to glean the style most suited to myself while still delving within the correct parameters for the work. Let’s take my current project for example: this is the first time I have ever tried my hand at an urban fantasy. I have read other books in this genre, and I knew the general style. But the last project I worked on was a sequel to a twisted fairy tale- which was distinctly different (that in itself found inspiration in several marathons of the tv show Once Upon a Time). So I started reading, watching and listening to everything I could get my hands on that would put me in the right frame of mind. A few of the prominent influences: the Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris, the Belador series by Sherrilyn Kenyon, The Blood Gospel by James Rollins and Rebecca Cantrell, American Gods by Niel Gaiman, Interview with a Vampire by Anne Rice, among others. And those are just the books: I tend to watch shows and movies that fall into the same category as well.

I am addicted to learning new things, and I love when I can carry that into my writing. I am constantly trying to push the boundaries of what I know. So I make a point to read new science articles and history books. I can’t tell you how many ideas started with a tiny spark from an article that I read or a historical connection that I made. It’s exciting when you learn to tie fiction with reality in a seamless manner. I’m subscribed to several science e-mail lists and magazines, I read opinions of current events, I follow other blogs of varying subjects, I have mountains of books falling in every genre. We live in a world where virtually everything you could possibly learn is at your finger tips- a lot of it for free. Why don’t we take more advantage? Don’t feel like reading? Watch a show, a documentary, a pod cast. Listen to an audiobook (Audibles was surprisingly life changing for me). Take the time to absorb the world. You wont regret it.

The written word is a gateways into other worlds, new realities to color our own experiences and our work. Delving into the imagination of another will help you make new connections in your own. Your work will be stronger through the work of others. Strong writing is usually a reflection of strong reading. You can twist your style, play with the words to find your own unique voice. You can dabble and play, have fun with the craft and revel in the hard work of others that carry within their hearts the same literary calling as yourself. Read voraciously, open your mind to the world and the ideas it carries within. You will be better for it, your work will be stronger. Never stop learning, never stop reading.


Camp Nano for the Win! (Time for the Happy Dace)


I did it, the deed is done! That is right, my friends, about two days ago I finished my 50,000 words for July and have validated my Nano project. Cue the parade! …oh, so I forgot to put one on back order? My mistake. Okay then, I guess a nice little victory dance will do.


And maybe just one more move to bust…


How do you celebrate an epic win, one where you snatched victory right out of the mouth of defeat at the last second? Do you pull up a chair on the edge of Mount Doom and warm your toes by the heat of the volcano? Or parade through the streets of Panem, delivering chaos to the Capital? How about walking into your happily ever after with the love interest of your choice, conveniently ignoring the banalities of the every day- like the dreaded laundry? No, I for one have a much better idea that does not follow in the footsteps of my literary heroes. You take a well deserved break (hence why I’m just now writing this post a few days later instead of proclaiming my victory the moment I hit validate). It was relaxing really, not having the word count hanging over my head. I took the dog for a walk without running through the plot lines I would be delving into later that night. I played with my Snapchat (I know, it’s silly, but its a mild obsession that I just can’t help- how else would I know what I would look like as a Dalmatian or with a can of gummy worms on my head? Besides- the cat eye filter inspired a whole new attempt at eyeliner- a failed attempt, but I tried and that is the point!)

Last night, to celebrate my only true day of complete freedom, I went out and had a tasty adult beverage with my dinner of crab wontons and pineapple fried rice. After that delicious treat, my fiancé had a terrible lapse in his judgment: as the aforementioned adult beverage was still swimming through my bloodstream (it was just one drink, so don’t worry- no issues of public intoxication here), he took me to Target to get the new bedding I have been talking about for weeks. As most women are well aware- alcohol and shopping, while ridiculously fun, usually results in a lot of stupid ‘gifts’ for yourself coupled a sad wallet. This is a lesson he learned after Cinetopia was built into our local mall (for those that do not have the theater franchise, it is a ‘luxury’ style movie theater that serves some alcohol in specified theaters- highly recommended if you are in the mood to splurge a little bit, as they can be a bit spendy). After one memorable double date in which the four of us shared a pitcher of Lost Coast Tangerine, my best friend and I dragged our men into a couple of our favorite stores that happened to all be on the walk out of the building. There is a slight possibility that I walked away with some fantastic Harry Potter memorabilia (which I still adore), and, for reasons still unknown to me, a conical straw hat. Lucky for him, I did have enough common sense not to buy the E.T doll that was half my height. Needless to say, he knows better than letting me go into a store after happy hour.

VLUU L100, M100  / Samsung L100, M100

After some serious contemplations over the need of a Hulk fist coffee mug and a vintage Iron Man poster- for my office at work of course, the walls have been bare since I ‘moved in’ to it. My fiancé claimed his own personal victory when he got me to walk out with only the bedding we had gone there for. In fact- he managed to do this twice, because we wound up going back an hour later to pick up the one thing our bedding didn’t come with. As it turns out, just because the bag says ‘eight piece set,’ there is a very good possibility that six of those pieces will be pillow cases and you will still be in desperate need of sheets. You live and you learn.

After that lively adventure I allowed myself to lay in bed and binge watch one of my ‘shame shows.’ So called because very few people ever get to hear what it actually is that I’m watching. Even I know when my viewing pleasures are a bit sub-par. It felt good to take a night off without feeling the stress and pressure that comes from knowing you should really be working on something else.

Now that the ‘vacation’ is over- what is going to happen next? After we roll up our virtual sleeping bags, sign one another’s yearbooks and hop onto the pretend bus that will take us back to our regular lives- what is the plan now that Camp is coming to a close? I bet you can guess the answer.

Drum roll please:


That’s right, it is time to get back into my regular writing groove. I am ready to hop back into the driver’s seat, re-energized and ready to go. My Nano story is still nowhere near completion. I need to do a bit more plot sketching after some changes I decided to make, and then I can move along with it. After that I will probably put this one up on the shelf to marinate for a little while as I begin editing an older project. It’s tough because I have a whole list of new ideas that I would love to get started on, but I need to finish up some of the older projects and get them ready for the terrifying step of beta reading.

And of course, there will be many more posts than there were this past month. I regretfully apologize for the sudden plummet in content this past month. It was the first time I have ever attempted a Nano while keeping up with a blog, and needless to say- it was a learning experience. I had hoped that I would be a natural, but there is a bit of a curve here. I think I will be much more prepared for when November rolls around. My dear friends will not be stuck with a once or twice a week post.

This Nano was a whole new world of learning that I didn’t realize I needed. I met some fantastic people in my little Cabin writing group, and I am so thrilled that many of them seem to be on board with continuing the group even after Camp has ended. I adore my writerly friends, they make me feel accepted in a way that is hard for me to find in my offline world. I also learned a valuable lesson in time management and balance, one that I know will probably still take a bit more time to completely figure out. I suspect you will be hearing more about this once I figure out the tricks to it. I also walked away with a ton of new ideas that I have to get down before I lose.

So cheers my friends, to another successful month, in spite of all of the little roadblocks and difficulties. The task is complete, I am ready to hit the re-set button and start over again. That’s the funny thing about writing- there really is no ending. The story continues, whether on the page or off. So may the words find you well. Don’t forget to take some time to stretch out, relax and enjoy. As for me, it’s time to get back to the work that I love. But first- let’s have one more victory dance before we start, shall we?