What Makes a Scene Emotionally Gripping?

6:00 AM

"Make your readers care."

Have you heard that before? I know I have, loads of times. And it's good advice. But ... how are you supposed to do that? How do you make readers care about your story?

Let's say you start a book. Right off the bat, it's intense. There's a fierce fight scene, blades are flying. It's great action, fantastic writing. But the two fighters are ... faceless. This is the beginning, so readers don't know who these characters are, they don't understand what's at stake, and they have no investment. They don't know who they should be rooting for, and what outcome they want to see.

You see the problem here?




The reason there's no emotional attachment is because we're not invested in the story yet. We don't know what we want, because we haven't been given any options.

So how do you change that?

There are three integral concepts that are key to emotionally gripping your readers in a scene. There are no doubt tons of others, but I'm going to cover these three today.


1. ESTABLISH YOUR CHARACTERS

Those faceless people don't mean anything to us. Aside from being a decent person, we have no incentive to want them to remain uninjured. I don't know what the fighters are fighting over. Did one fighter kill the other's friend? Or did one of them steal the other's inheritance? Or their dinner? Or Oreos? Or, heaven forbid, their coffee? I know I would grab the nearest knife and go at it if someone stole my coffee, but I could get over dinner and Oreos. 

Maybe they're both to blame. Maybe one called the other's face a chicken, and the other called the person's soul an acorn. They both show astounding immaturity in this case, and neither would get my vote to win the fight. 

But let's focus on that last stealing option there. Character 1 steals character 2's coffee. How will he live without coffee? We'll deal with this more in point two, but right now we want to focus on the character whose coffee was stolen. 

We know this person (let's make it a girl named Shirley) is a smart, protective bean who likes coffee. Yes, that gives her a bunch of brownie points. But what if she steals coffee from other people? What if she steals little preschoolers' Oreos? We don't want to cheer for a coffee robbing, Oreo snatching thief, do we? 

We need to know a bit about these fighters. We need to know who is in this scene. We need someone to root for. Otherwise, we have no emotional investment. And that is not good. That's why readers put books down. Because they don't care.

Let's say Shirley is a barista. Character 2, let's make it a guy named Phill, comes into Shirley's coffee shop and steals a whole bag of coffee beans and races out of the store, knocking over Old Aunt Suzie on his way out and scattering her seventeen grandchildren, who stumble out the door and into the street where cars and scooters are whizzing by.

That instantly makes us dislike Phil. And Shirley gets some brownie points when she abadons her post behind the counter to help Old Aunt Suzie and races after the thief. 

CONCLUSION: Make sure we know who our players are.


2. SET THE STAKES

We have very high stakes in this scene. I mean, come on! Someone stole coffee. This is a very serious matter. We all must hate Phil. Although, he does show a sense of priority. But STILL. Stealing is a no-no.

Ehem.

So what are the stakes here? Shirley runs after Phil. But what is she risking? What's at stake for her? We care about her now, but just because we care about Shirley doesn't necessarily mean we'll care about what she's doing. And one way we'll care about what she's doing is if we understand the stakes. I love my characters, but if my little Wolf goes to get some cereal, I'm not going to care much because there's no risk. I'm invested in him, but I have no reason to care about the cereal.

Let's say Shirley is not supposed to leave the store while working. But she does here. What's at risk? Her job. And we see how much Shirley loves coffee. We don't want her to get fired from the coffee shop. WHAT TRAVESTY. 

Let's add on. Shirley can get over losing her job. But what if she saw a gun in Phil's belt when he came and stole the coffee? Now we have two big stakes to consider. Shirley's job and her life. We can be pretty confident, especially since this is the beginning of the story, that her life will not be taken. But her job sure might.

I don't know about you, but I'd keep reading.

*SMALL NOTE: it's a good idea to make at least one of the stakes you set something you could very easily take away. Her job can very easily be taken away. We'd still have a story. In fact, we'd probably have a better story because #CONFLICT. But we don't want her to lose her job. We can be pretty confident she's not going to die (yet)


Now, you might think once you've established your characters and set your stakes, everything will be covered. The readers will care about what's happening because, well, THE CHARACTERS. And sometimes that might be true. But I know when I'm reading, if the scene doesn't really belong there, if it feels shoved in or forced, I don't really care. You might say there are stakes, but they don't feel real to me. You have to paint them in the story. You have to make it so that, if I am to continue reading this book, I have to accept the stakes you've raised.

But how do you do that? 


3. MAKE SURE THE SCENE BELONGS

This could also be called streamlining the plot. Kind of like the chair scenario. If you write a fight scene in a room and a character hits someone over the head with a candle stick, show us the candle stick the moment we enter the room. Then when we read the nice thunk the stick makes on said character's skull, we'll understand that it belongs there. 

You know how when you're reading a book and the middle gets all crazy? And there's a bunch of stuff going on and it's all mayhem and madness. And then you reach this point where you think, "Oh no, I'm so scared because the characters are obviously in danger of DEATH." Only you don't really feel that way. You're kind of tired of the same old stakes. 

So what is going to keep us reading? Say Shirley chases down Phil. Let's say he gets away, but before he does he warns her that he is developing an anti-coffee serum that will transform all the coffee in the world into jet fuel. DUH DUH DUHHHHH! Shirley doesn't lose her job, since Old Aunt Suzie raved about what a wonderful employee she was for chasing down Phil and helping her with the kids. So the manager can't fire her or else he'll look bad, but now he doesn't like her and things at work start to get difficult. And she can't be the good model employee he wants her to be either, because Phil is still out there with a plan to take out all the coffee in the world, starting with her beloved coffee shop.

Now let's say in the midst of all this, Shirley takes a trip to Kroger and buys cleaning wipes. Just like with Wolf's cereal, we don't really care about the wipes because they have nothing to do with the plot. If you have a bunch of action whirling in your story, make sure it belongs there. Don't put a fight scene in just for the sake of having a fight scene. Don't kill a character for the sake of making someone die and crushing your readers' souls.

Make sure these scenes belong there. They need to have a place in your story. They need to keep the plot driving forward, and to keep things moving, stakes rising, characters developing. That's what makes readers care. They want to see things happening. To see the things they truly care about change, for better or worse. 

That's one reason readers will keep reading, even if they don't like what's currently happening. They can be assured that things will change soon, and hopefully they'll like the change. And if they don't, they'll desperately keep reading until they find a change they do like. And then your readers are finally satisfied.

Establish your characters, set your stakes, and make sure it belongs. And, through all of these, keep your story moving and changing and developing. Your readers are rooting for change. Give it to them!


I am on vacation currently, so that's why things are a bit slow here. But I hope you enjoyed and learned something from this post!

Do you struggle with making readers care? What do you think makes a scene emotionally gripping? 

<3

Remember to Be

6:00 AM

I drafted the beginnings of five posts before I finally decided what topic I was going to cover. And while I tried to take my struggle to find a topic and use it in this post, I couldn't really think of a way. My point telling you this is that it's 1:30 and I'm not even really sure what I'm going to talk about today. But I'm human, just like all of you. And sometimes, I'm just not put together.

You see, I've been feeling this a lot lately. I've had loads to do, loads to say, loads to think, loads to accomplish. And it's been drowning me. I don't know where to start, and I don't know how to prioritize. Just when I think I'm doing okay, that I'm getting part of this massive, endless to-do list done and can finally take a break and b r e a t h e, I remember something else I haven't done. Something someone else is waiting on me to accomplish.

It really sucks.

And I've been beating myself up about it. I can't think. I can't truly apply myself to any one task because I'm so focused on all the other things I need to be doing. While I'm studying for bible bowl, I remember that I need to critique my partner's chapter. And that novella a writing friend is waiting on me to get back to her on. Oh, and editing articles for Project Canvas. And figuring out how the last half of my own WIP is going to go, finishing draft two before nano so I can write the book I want to write in November, and hopefully get my WIP out to betas next year. Not to mention plotting out said nano book, which I've attempted to do three times already.

And those are just the writer things I have to do.

There's so much more, and it makes me want to rip my hair out. I'm about to start my senior year of school. I've got to do adulty stuff. I just got a job, which I'm super excited about. But there's more time, gone. I don't know how I'm going to handle it yet.

And let's not forget about my faith. I try to study God's word every morning and every night. That's my goal. That's my standard. Every time I fail to meet that standard, which is quite often, I'll have you know, I feel like a failure.

What's the point of all this? If you're still reading this, you deserve a round of applause. I'm pretty sure I'm rambling at this point.

But let me tell you something.

Life is a road. At different times, in different scenarios, I imagine those roads looking a little different. In this case, this road is a forest path. And it's so easy to keep plowing forward, focusing on where you need to go. Do, do, do.

Stepping forward is important. But don't let your eyes be glued to the path ahead so that you forget to look at what's around you. See those flowers, lining the path? See that deer grazing in the trees? Those birds, fluttering overhead?

"But I can't look at all that," you protest. "This path is full of roots. It's narrow. I'm going to trip and fall."

Sure. You might trip. You might fall. But God gave you the ability to get back up again. And don't forget--He's right by your side, and He's walking with you.

You are not on this road alone. Remember to let yourself be.


I love the way Anne Lamott puts it. "bird by bird." Life is a road, and that road you walk? It's full of steps. One step doesn't seem to carry you far, and sometimes it's a small, halting step. But that step is one of many, and without them, you'd be right in the same place you started.

Let yourself be while you do. Take life on step at a time, bird by bird, and remember in the meantime that you're a human being. So be.


This is your 895th installment of Hannah's Late Night Rambles. I hope you were able to make sense of my brain thoughts XP

Are you swamped with to-do's? Are you studying your road? Or are you charging ahead with your head down? Maybe it's time for you to try looking up.

<3

Live First

6:00 AM


The Minneapolis Young Writers Workshop was almost two months ago. I can't believe it's already been so long! It feels like just yesterday I was squealing with six of my online friends while writing, word warring, singing TOP, and learning from the masters that came to speak at the workshop.

This year, we focused a lot on the publication process. How to write that perfect pitch, the process of querying, what exactly an agent does and how you get one, etc.

At the author panel is where the heart of this years conference was expressed. (At least, the heart of what I took from it.) 

It wasn't quite what I was expecting, either.

One of the authors (I can't remember who) said, "If you are given the choice between going out and doing something neat and staying home and writing, go out and do the neat thing." 


The reason I can't remember who first said it is because once the author stated it, every single one of them adamantly agreed.

Think about this, guys. Four NYT bestselling authors on a panel, and they all agreed that living needs to come before writing. Why is that?

We are writers, after all. We live to write.

Right?

Let's imagine that scenario. Your friends say, "Hey, so-and-so! Do you want to come to this cool park with us and hike?"

There are two outcomes.

You could say no. Then all your friends go without you. You'll probably hear some stories when you're hanging out about this owl that they saw on the trail and how so-and-so tripped and almost fell off a steep slope into the woods. You'll feel a little lonely, but it's that familiar writer loneliness. You made a sacrifice, and you got that chapter edited.

Or you could say yes. You could go on the hike. You could mess around and laugh and explore with your friends. You could breathe fresh air and look at the trees and see that owl. You would experience life first-hand.

Yeah, writing is wonderful. But writing will always be there. Your friends, the chance to go on that hike ... that only happens once. Sure, there are other hikes in the future. But each day is different. That opportunity cannot be exactly replicated.

Often, using time I could spend writing doing something else feels like a waste to me. I have this nagging sensation in my throat that says, You need to be editing.

But at this conference, I had to rethink that. And as we were focusing so much on publication, I got to thinking ...

What's the rush?

Why do I need to edit as fast as possible? Yes, I want to get my book published. But my book will always be there, waiting for me. The opportunities that come your way won't. They come and go, and if you don't snatch them up, you'll miss a lot of amazing experiences. Experiences are what bring our writing to life. Doing and seeing amazing parts of this world will bring color and richness and life into your stories.

There is a balance to find between living and never writing at all. You do want to make time for writing. But don't sacrifice every opportunity you have to do something in the world for the sake of more writing time. There are other times you can get some words down without having to give up your life.

So step outside today. Take a deep breath, and look at the world around you. Why are you rushing to write your book? I know a lot of people are getting published, and blog tours are floating all around the blogging community. That's amazing! Don't get me wrong -- that's so wonderful. But just because other people are getting published does not mean you need to rush to do the same.

Enjoy life before contracts and agents and editors. Let yourself write what you love, and let yourself live.

And now I will spam you with a few pictures from the workshop. (you were waiting for them - admit it) XP

my first time flying commercially!

My cousin and I treated my bunny to his own seat and complimentary airline peanuts.
He was pleased.

Chilling with Aimee and Kristana and talking about bookish things.

It's a little blurry, but this picture cracks me up. On the right is Shannon Hale, then moving to the left we have Sabaa Tahir and Ally Condie. All at a table, talking. And then there's Max, Shannon's son (far left) eating food. He was so funny and his open mic reading was the BEST THING EVER. The whole auditorium was laughing. 

Shannon Hale was so amazing! And she didn't slap me when I came up to the table and plopped 8 books down for her to sign. (in my defense, I waited to go last)

We got to meet Jillian Manning, an acquisitions editor for Blink/HarperCollins. She was amazing and wonderful and loves Wonder Woman and cats. #priorities We've also adopted her. Or she's adopted us? Either way, we're all now happily related.
And a group picture of all the lovely humans. It was a great conference. 

There are so many more pictures to post, but I'll stop my rambling here. In all, this years MYWW was a wonderful experience. Till next year, Minneapolis!

Do you find yourself in a rush to finish your project? Why do you think you feel that way? What are some ways you combat that?

<3

Nano

Camp Nano, July 2017 /// YOU CAN DO IT

6:00 AM

So. You signed up for nano. You entered in your target word count. Then you smiled and settled back in your nice swivelly desk chair and, if you're like me, said, "Dude I got this."

Twenty-eight days later, you realize just how wrong you were.

I'm sure most of you are rocking it. And I'm also sure a good part of you are "not rocking it".

I'm in the later category. I'm "not rocking it".




But does that mean I'm failing nano? If you're in the "not rocking it" category like me, does that make us failures?

It's really easy to whine and say, "Ugh I'm so behind I'm such a failure. I'm failing this. Blah blah blah poor me ugh." But I challenge any of you who might be thinking this way to stop and ponder those words for a moment.

Are you really a failure? Are you really failing Nano?

In order to answer these questions, we need to go back to the beginning.

Why did you sign up for nano? 

Think about that question really hard. It might be as simple as, "Well, I always do." Or, "One of my friends wanted me to." Simple or complex, like, "I want to reach the part where so-and-so faces off with my antagonist."

My reason for signing up for this July's nano was fairly straightforward. "I want to write a short novel."

I tend to write really long, so writing short has been a challenge. But I have three days (two by the time you'll be reading this) to finish, and 15k left of my nano goal. I'm approaching the end, yes. But I'm not there, and I don't have long to catch up.

But at the same time, I don't feel like I'm failing. I feel like I'm going about slowly, because I am, but if I don't reach my nano goal, I'm actually going to be okay with that.

Why? Why am I okay with that? My stated goal above is "I want to write a short novel." That goal involves finishing it. But if I don't finish it, I'll still be okay?

There must be more to this.

I did nano because I wanted to write. I knew I'd be busy. I knew it would be really hard to make time for writing. I knew it was unlikely I'd be able to finish a novel anyway. But I still signed up because I knew that if I did, it would make me write. I would find times where otherwise I might not have.

I would make the time to do what I was capable of.

That's how you win nano. You do what you can, and you do it your best. 

I could have written 100k or three full novels, and I'd still feel satisfied like I do with an itty bitty 25k. Because no matter the word count, the heart of the goal is still the same.

Write what you can.

So if you're behind on your goal, relax. You're doing what you can. You've made the time you could, and you're writing. Do you realize how amazing that is? How amazing YOU are?

Well, you are amazing. You're writing this month, and that is fantastic. You're spending one month of your precious summer working towards something you love.

And that makes you a winner.


How is nano going for you? Have you "won" yet? Do you think you will? Why did you sign up for nano? If you're not doing nano, what are some goals you made this month, and have you met them?

<3

Writing

Fight the Filler!

6:00 AM

I've been doing a lot of critiquing lately, and there's something I've noticed.

You can't comment on everything. So when I comment, I comment on what sticks out to me. There's a lot of good in a book, but I can only highlight so much of it. So when I'm highlighting the good stuff, I pick what really sticks out. What makes me squeal. 

Not every book is going to be all good. We all know this. And not every book is going to be all bad. We know this, too.

Some books will be half and half. There's a bunch of good stuff, and there's also a bunch of bad stuff.

And then some books, the majority of books I've found, tend to be about 20% ABSOLUTELY AMAZING, 40% this needs to be fixed, and 40% eh.

What's the "eh"? What's the stuff that doesn't stick out. The stuff we kind of gloss over.

Let's explore, shall we?



I like car rides.

(Stay with me. I promise this relates.)

I've always liked car rides. But in my experience, there are a lot of people who don't. I've been tailgated so many times that it's not even funny. I've been passed on the road, and I've seen cars zoom off well above the posted speed limit.

Why is that? Why do people rush about everywhere? Why don't they sit down and just ... enjoy the car ride?

I use car rides to pray. I use car rides to listen to music and really think about the words and what the song is saying. I use car rides to brainstorm ideas (since it's finally quiet). I use it to sing at the top of my lungs along to my favorite songs.

Why doesn't everyone appreciate car rides?

Because it's just a "step". It's transportation. The car ride itself is not what you're aiming for. What you're aiming for is the destination. A lot of people have only that in mind: I want to get home. When I get home I'll do this this and this. Or, I want to get to the store. When I do, I'll get this, this, and this.

The car ride itself is almost a nuisance. Because, for a lot of people, a car ride is just a car ride. Let's call it "filler".

Now you see where I'm going, yes? MWAHAHA.

There are things your character has to do. There are places your character has to go, things they have to see, in order for the story to flow right. But often times, the only reason a given scene might be in a book is because it needs to be there for the sake of flow. It has the sole purpose of getting your character from step 1 to step 2. That's it. That's its purpose.

And as a result, it's boring and flat. It doesn't stick out. It's easy to skim past.

How do we avoid that? How do we make every scene in our stories really matter? Not just there to fulfill the purpose of transitioning.

Can we even make every scene matter?

I am a firm believer that yes, you can. Every scene has the potential to matter. Every word in your story is precious.

Last year at the MYWW, I sat in a workshop class taught by Jonathan Friesen. He talked about how a story is made of moments. He defined a moment as a instant in time where something changes. A belief, a desire, a plan. Something in the character's world (and it doesn't have to be the MC) changes, for better or for worse.

That concept has stuck with me ever since. It has made me view my story differently, and brought emotional depth to my writing and my reading. I notice things in books now that I didn't before.

Emotional depth is not easy. Every now and then, I'll be writing along and realize I'm writing somethign really important. I had one of those (my own little moment, if you will) yesterday, when my characters were arguing. Leni, my MC, wants to steal something from the person she thinks cast the curse on their neighborhood. But Gunther, her friend and companion in breaking the curse, doesn't think Leni's suspect did it. At least, that's what he said.


I'm not claiming to have crafted an expert work here (#firstdrafting) but I was aware of something important happening while typing this. I stopped and took a screenshot, but I've been thinking about it ever since.

Why did this scene stick out? Why is this so important?

It's important because something changes. (In my book, this statement is even a bigger deal hehe but we'll stick with generalities.)

What changes?

Gunther changes. He acknowledges that no one is going to swoop in and save the day. The work isn't magically going to get done while he sits back in safety and watches. Gunther does want the curse to end, and he knows he can make a difference ... but he doesn't want to change it.

Now, he can't play pretend anymore. He can't lie to himself or Leni any longer. He's admitted it to the both of them.

Now, Gunther has to make a choice. To be the one to stand up and make a change, or to run to safety and let the curse rage on.

Not every moment in your story is going to be huge and meaningful. Your story is full of big moments, but it's also full of little moments.

The important thing is that your story is full of change. Big changes, little changes. Think about your life. How many changes, big and small, do you experience every day?

If you have a dull scene, or something that just feels flat to you, take advantage of it. Make it into a moment. Have that character reflect on what's been happening in the story. Sometimes the moments when not much is happening are the most meaningful to your story. There where your character has time to reflect, and make more choices about future actions they take.

Make your scenes matter.


I was feeling this topic, so I posted it. XP Next week I'll try to give a nice Nano Pep talk, and then hopefully eventually sometime in the next blue moon I'll get to that Workshop post ;P

What about you? Do you struggle with story filler? Do you see how you could add some meaning to it to make it a moment?

<3

Life

Second Quarter of 2017 /// Wrap-Up

6:00 AM

HI GUYS!

I HAVE RETURNED! *hurls coffee beans and confetti and hops around happily* It's been ages. I've really missed spewing my brain thoughts into the void and chatting with the lovely writer peeps that hang out here. I appreciate all of you very much! 

And now I must ask -- how do you like Stan? He's gotten quite the makeover, eh? :P I'm very excited. 

Don't get me wrong! I loved the old design. Really, really loved it. But it wasn't really me anymore. It was, but it was the old me. I've changed a LOT in the past year. I needed something more crisp and snappy. And, after agonizing over dozens of templates for a ridiculous amount of time, I settled with this. Things are still being updated and changed, so bear with me if things are iffy for a bit. 

Now, for that wrap-up I've been promising ...


L I F E 

Oh goodness. Where to even begin?

I know I promised poems but guys it's 1:45 a. m. and I PROBABLY NEED SLEEP but that's okay hahahaha who needs sleep anyway and WOW THIS IS ACUTALLY THE STORY OF MY LIFE?

Motto for this quarter: SLEEP IS FOR THE WEAK.

(That's it. I'll give you guys Mottos for every section. LOOK AT ME, BEING A SPONTANEOUS CUPCAKE NOW YOU'LL NEVER KNOW WHAT TO EXPECT FROM ME MWAHAHAHA.)

I am also being hit with the realization that there's a reason most people don't blog at 1:45 in the morning.

Anyway. In all seriousness, the past three months have been C R A Z Y busy. So much has happened, I don't even know how to condense it! But I shall try, with the big highlights.

* I volunteered at my local library (which I've wanted to do for ages)

* I went to Minneapolis, Minnesota for a 3-day writing workshop and I got to be with ALL THE FRENS and it was wonderful. (A full-out blog post will be coming soon for that)

* I spent a week at my childhood bible camp as staff-in-training and was the official camp photographer, which was a fun experience.

* I am on the swim team for my fourth (or fifth?) year in a row (which might sound nice but it actually means getting up stupid early and going to the pool and trying not to drown for an hour and thirty minutes for four days out of the week. SO FUN.)

* I went on a mini mission trip to Kentucky (mentioned in previous post)

My summer still holds two more big trips for me, which I am excited to take. I'm also having to do collegey stuff, which is exciting and scary and nerve wracking.


W R I T I N G

MOTTO: Everything has their ups and downs.

Writing this past quarter was tricky. I felt like I was trying to pry the tusks off a walrus for half the time, and then the other half was a pleasant stroll through the meadow picking daisies. There was no in-between.

And yes, The Dream Walkers is my angel child. But, as my motto that I totally just made up on the spot at 1:56 in the morning which means it is abosulte gold and you should live by it for the rest of your life says, everything in life has its ups and its downs.

I've had some great moments with DW. I have an awesome new critique partner (*waves*) that has been super encouraging and helped me look at new angles. My lovely cousin read almost half the first draft and swarmed me with encouraging notes which were mostly just rabid fangirling. What more can a writer ask for?

And for the past 15 days, I've been writing on my nano project. You'll have to wait till next week to hear more about that though. Stay tuned!


R E A D I N G 

MOTTO: Sometimes, the brain doesn't go.

I thought about ignoring this section, but I opted against it.

To explain: I haven't been reading much at all. I really want a super good book that will sweep me off my feet, but either I just haven't found one yet (that I haven't read) or something's wrong with me. I am determined to get more reading done though. I WILL READ THE WORDS. I must. My heart longs for them.

I did get a bunch of books at the MYWW though, including a lovely book of poetry by the amazing Caroline Meek and her friend, Skylar Barnes. You should definitely check it out. It's so heart warming and touching.

I also read Book of a Thousand Days (*screams*) and Real Friends, both written (and signed!!!) by Shannon Hale. (I am totally abusing the liberty of parenthetical usage in this post and i am not even  really sorry) Both were absolutely stunning, and you can read my reviews for them on Goodreads and Instagram!

Speaking of which: I got a bookstagram! I am really enjoying it. It does take a good deal of time to snap artsy photos of books, but it's a nice break for me during the day to go to my room and make visual art with books and symbolic items. I really enjoy it, and it's so worth the 20-25 minutes it usually takes. Come check it out and say hi! (the photo graphic for this post is my latest insta photo, if you're wondering what kind of pictures I'm taking)


M U S I C

MOTTO: Quality music can be found in the must unexpected places.

Okay so I have BODYGUARD to thank for this quarter's new music discovery.

...are you ready for it?


...


...*drum roll*...



Animal documentary soundtracks. 

THINK ABOUT IT. DOESN'T IT MAKE SENSE? I'm still reeling from this discovery. The Planet Earth soundtrack? GORGEOUS. Racer Snakes vs Iguanas sounds like it's from Lord of the Rings. It specifically reminded me of when Frodo almost gets eaten by the giant spider in the third movie. BEAUTIFUL MUSIC. Chinstrap penguins is a great one too.

THANK YOU, BODYGUARD! *high fives*

As for regular music, I am currently listening to True Colors from the Trolls movie on repeat. It's such a beautiful sonngggggg. *flops* and the movie is SO GOOD. YOU NEED TO GO WATCH IT RIGHT NOW.


O N   S T A N 

MOTTO: Do not fear change.

Well, I mean ... I think this one's pretty obvious.

I learned several things about myself in updating Stan. One being that I stress way too much over small things, two being I am rarely pleased with anything, and three being when I am pleased with something, I get very giddy and hyper. Hence, the long rambly post because I AM ACTUALLY HAPPY WITH MY NEW UPDATE.

Also, I literally just realized that Stan reached 100 followers. *dances and hurls lots of coffee beans and M&M's* 70 google followers, and 36 email subscribers!

Thank you guys for making this happen! It's super cool and exciting and yeah I'm just a happy squid muffin right now *beams*


And now, for everyone's favorite ...


F U N   F A C T

MOTTO: Be on the lookout for what you wish to find.

I didn't learn as many fun facts as I'd like this quarter, BUT in an intense game of Skittles with my cousins, somehow the topic of Polish holidays came up. On further research, I learned that many Polish celebrate Epiphany, which takes place on January 6th. It's kind of like Christmas, in that they celebrate the three wise men that visited baby Jesus. So, reminiscent of Christmas, but ... not. (although Polish do celebrate Christmas.)

There are parades and lots of candy and small treats. Just another reason everyone should pack up right now and go to Poland. Actually you'd have to wait six months before the holiday wouldn't that be a shame to spend six months in Poland.


This has been quite lengthy, but I hope you enjoyed! I'll be back next week with a Nano-related post, and then I'll give you ALL THE STORIES from this years writing workshop.


Please, talk to me! Do you like Stan's new design? Has your summer been busy or relaxed? Have you gotten much writing done? Are you doing nano? If so, how are you doing so far? Do you have a fun fact to share? 

<3 

Just a Little Longer ...

6:00 AM

Hi guys! Whew. It's been ages. I've missed you all!

I regret to inform you that this is just a "Hello, I'm still alive" post. I'm alive and well and writing like crazy because #nano (which I haven't really talked on here about that? July Camp Nano, that is. I need to change that ...)

Believe it or not, I have not been completely blog sleeping the past month. On the chances I had (meaning, when I wasn't at camp or in Minneapolis writing with alllll the frens *cue the happy squealing*) I was actually slaving away with blogging stuff.

Stan is about to receive a huge makeover, and I'm pretty excited. But it's taking me a lot longer than I'd expected it to, and I am gone this weekend on a mini-mission trip with my church. Hence, the Hannah is super behind on just about everything.

SO. Long story short: you will have to wait just a little bit longer for that quarter wrap-up. (don't worry - it's going to be a special one, with wrap-up's and look-to's and probably some more improv poetry no don't run away) I'm going to try to have everything up and running by next week.

I hope all of you are still alive *pokes around* and doing well! Please, let me know how your summer is going! Have you done anything exciting? If you haven't, have your characters?

Talk to me, peeps! I miss you all! *throws coffee beans and chocolate*

Preparing for a Workshop // Part 3 // explaining your story

6:00 AM

And now it is time for everyone's favorite topic. Every writer's dream moment.

Explaining your story to the clueless. 

You meet someone who has never heard of you, or your story. But, since you're at a writing workshop they KNOW you're a writer. There's no hiding it. There's no avoiding the question. You have to be able to explain your story. I used to get out of explaining my story by saying, "Oh, I write fantasy novels in other worlds with adventure and magic and stuff." And that would satisfy. But not anymore.

Now, fellow writers, you must learn to coherently explain your plot.



There are several ways to do this. My advice would be to write a pitch for your story, which I wrote a post about here. A pitch is a one sentence hook, and my favorite version is the conversation pitch because you can give it to fellow writers in a casual setting and make a conversation.

I do have a few other tips to help you with sharing your story idea with someone!

STEP #1: be confident.

You know your story better than anyone. This person knows nothing (most likely). So be confident when you're telling the person about your book. Speak boldly and don't back down, don't play things off as if they're no biggie. Don't brag about your book, but don't discredit it either.

Be confident! You've spent so much time with your story. So OWN IT.

STEP #2: have something prepared, aside from just your pitch.

Be ready to give a brief description of your main character, your story world, and some of your themes. If you end up striking a full-on conversation with someone who is interested in your premise, you'll want to be able to give them more than just a one line summary. They'll likely want to know a little more plot stuff, and then some other aspects of it.

SO. Think over how you can briefly sum up your story world, your main character and the journey they go through (emotional and physical) in the course of the story, and why you started writing the book/some things you want to say with it.

It's important to mull over these because YOU WANT TO HAVE THOUGHT IT THROUGH. You don't want to get caught of guard because then you'll start blabbing. And you'll say a bunch of stuff that probably didn't need to be said, and you'll lose the listener's attention.

Also, you want the conversation to be double sided. You want to hear about the other person's story too. And if you spend the whole time trying to explain your Very Complicated Main Character, you likely won't get to hear much about their story.

Briefness is especially important when talking to professionals. You want it short and sweet ... and memorable. Those few words you get need to be big words that hook and grab. They need to matter.

At this point, I can hear your thoughts. 

"But HANNAH," you whine. "What is this thing you speak of? Briefness, you call it? What is this magic?"

I know, I know. I tend to write long. My MG novel (which those books are ideally in the 50k-70k range) was 94k words. *sighs* There's a LOT that goes on in that story. And don't even get me started on my YA novel, The Thief's Conspiracy. The first draft was only 85k words, but the second draft was a whopping 126k.

"Summing up" is synonymous with "brutal axe murder". With a cherry on top. (Yes, that's a pun. Yes, it is a good pun. Appreciate me.)

Point being: I GET IT. Summing stuff up is really hard. But a key thing to remember is: you don't have to tell them everything.

You just want to touch on the key points. The things that will pique their interest.

Let's start with summing up your main character.

"But I have five main characters," you might protest. "I can't sum them all up!"

I'm not sure what my opinion on this matter is, but I've heard it say by wise writers that you can only have one main character. I didn't believe it when I was planning The Dream Walkers, but I kind of do now, especially when I found out who my main character was in that book, and why. I saw how she effected the story and characters and carried the plot differently than the others.

I'd say give three to five interesting things about your character. For example, my main character's name is Chloe and she is the oldest of four siblings. She's a Dream Giver, which means she can give people dreams at night and send them to Dream World, where they play on the landscape she crafted. She can also open doors in Dream World that no one else can. But she's a very lonely child, and has to learn in the story that sometimes we might feel alone even when we're surrounded by people, but that doesn't mean we are alone.

See? That's like ... how many words is that? 86. That's an 86 word summary of my main character.

It's so much easier than you might think! Say what is interesting and important, and leave the rest for when the person reads the story.

The same goes for your setting. Be brief, and tell people about the cool and hooking parts.

I'll end with one more "official" step. (because it's centered and in bold and says step before it so it's obviously Very Important.)

STEP #3: listen.

Remember that the person you're speaking to (at least when you're at a workshop) is a writer too. Be sure to keep the conversation balanced. What's their story about? Who is their main character? Why are they writing this book?

When someone is genuinely interested in our book, it's really hard to stop talking. I know I could go on for AGES. It's my passion, after all. How could I not? But don't forget to offer the joy of being heard to someone else.

You both deserve to be listened to.

I won't be back till July, so I wish you all a happy summer! I'll be back with a wrap-up post and I will spam you with my fangirling and pictures let you guys know how my writing workshop goes!

Do you struggle explaining your book to people? Any tips that I missed?

<3

Preparing for a Workshop // Part 2 // critiquing

6:00 AM

This is part two of my Preparing for a Workshop mini series. If you missed the first post, you can read that here.

And now for today's post! CRITIQUING.

**WARNING: I might rant. Just a bit. Not 100% sure, but you should be warned, all the same.



There are several important things to remember when giving and receiving a critique. Let's start with giving someone a critique.

#1: ENACT THE SANDWICH RULE.

I think Jill talked about this once upon a time at Go Teen Writers (not 100% sure about that though). But basically the idea is when critiquing someone's work, if you find a problem, try to sandwich it by taking notes of things you like. If there's a sentence you don't understand and think needs clarification, or a weak description, mention how much you like the line of dialogue before it, and how creative the world building is after. That kind of thing.

It also reminds us to encourage. Because encouragement is very important in critiquing. We writers are dramatic, after all. Often times, we think our books are the ABSOLUTE WORST in the whole world. Getting a critique back that points out all flaws would only help that mindset along. Getting back a critique that was all fluff and fangirl would likely cause the person to not trust what you're saying and disregard the whole critique (unless it's a late draft and close to publication).

POINT BEING: you need a balance of the two. Then the writer will be encouraged to work on the problems, but take comfort in knowing that there were good things about their work and that it's not actually all horrible.

#2: BE HONEST AND HAVE GRACE.

I was at a church service a few weeks ago, and the preacher was talking about how we need to have two things in our conversation: honesty and grace.

You do NOT want to lie. If the book is really not good, don't rave about how amazing it is just to encourage them and make them feel better about it. That's not the truth, so they don't need to hear it. However, do not go on and on about how bad it is and all these issues they need to fix. They don't need to hear that, either.

What they need is the truth. But they need it with grace. If one of their characters is flat, find something good to say about them (sort of like the sandwich rule here) and gently advise on how to make them better.

A THOUGHT: don't ever say, "This is horrible. Do this instead, and then it'll be good." You are not the writer. You are giving advice. Let your comment sound more like, "This is okay, but I don't think it has quite what you were aiming for. Maybe if you added this or took out this bit, it would have more impact and be stronger."

Always, ALWAYS, no matter how bad the book is, be gentle, gracious, and kind. The point of all beta reading and critiquing is to help the author, both with their story and with their motivation.

#3: DO NOT FORGET WHAT YOU'RE AIMING FOR.

If you're doing this as more of an encouragement / pleasure read, do not search the work for problems. If you're doing this to help the writer get through some writing that's giving them trouble, don't just talk about the character issues you spotted, or how their pacing was poor. If they gave you an early draft and asked for big-picture advice, don't go line by line to correct grammar and point out weak descriptions.

If you notice something big that the writer didn't specifically ask for, it's okay to point that out if you think it needs it. But don't point out every little grammar mistake if they sent you a first/second draft.

Keep in mind what they asked for, and read it for the purpose of commenting on that. It will save your time, and give them the advice and encouragement they need.

Now that I've ranted about critiquing for others, here's some advice on how to receive a critique.


#1: COMMUNICATE WITH YOUR BETA ABOUT WHAT YOU'RE LOOKING FOR.

Right off the bat, let your beta know where you are with your story and what you need / want from them right now.

In order for them to give you a good, beneficial critique, they need to know what to look for. Otherwise they're just going to comment on whatever they see. It might help you, yes, but there will likely be some questions you had that they didn't answer, and some things they pointed out that you didn't want or need.

In just about every area of life, communication is very important.


#2: DON'T TAKE EVERYTHING AS LAW.

If your beta marks a line and says, "This is flat and doesn't work. Change it." don't go, "oh dear. I need to change this." At least, not immediately. If they didn't explain why they thought it was flat, try to find the reason for it. Take a step back from your work and consider. If you find the reason for their comment and agree with it, change it. If you don't agree, don't change it. It's not disrespectful to them. You're staying true to yourself and your story.

Also, don't take everything personally. If someone makes a blunt comment, take a step back and breathe before getting too upset about it. They're most likely just trying to help you. They don't mean to make you feel like your book is horrible, or your characters are all 2D. Try to sympathize with them. And most importantly ...


#3: BE OPEN. 

It's easy to send off something (especially something you feel good about) and expect the reader to be all praise and adoration over it. 

But 1) as hard as it is to accept, you're work is likely not perfect yet. Otherwise, you wouldn't need betas.

And 2) they are LOOKING for problems. That's they're job. So, even if it's not actually something you think of as a problem, they're going to find issues with your work.

So when you open their document, remember that they are giving their opinion. Be open to their suggestions, but if you feel the need, remember you can discard their entire critique. (not saying that you should, because everyone can teach you something, but remember that you are in charge and you have the final say in everything about your story right now.) You don't have to do anything. 

But you can. You can learn from what your beta has said. 

Take advantage of the comments they give you. Even if you don't agree, study their reasoning. You might find yourself changing something based on an issue they noticed, even if you don't fix it in the way they suggested.

Just be open and listen. That's soooo important. Take your time, and remember to be thankful. Critiquing someone's work takes time!

And lastly, 


#4: WAIT UNTIL YOU'RE READY.

There are deadlines that have to be met, yes. But for unpublished writers (generally speaking) you're not in a big hurry. There's not a big rush to get things to betas. 

So take your time. Make your work the best you can on your own so that you don't have other people pointing out problems you were already aware of and planning on fixing. 

Know yourself, too. I can't send first drafts to people for them to critique. About four years ago, I sent the first draft of a chapter to my cousin and she critiqued it for me. It was ... not pretty. There were so many issues with the work, and I hadn't even read over it on my own. After I got the critique, I couldn't write for about a week (which was a long time for me). I finally had to tell her I couldn't take first draft critiques anymore. I, personally, cannot handle it. And I know that now. And I stick to that. 

Know yourself. Push yourself, but don't strain yourself. Wait until you're ready, until you can't do much else on your own. Don't wait until it's the most beautiful work of art you've ever created (because that doesn't happen without help) but wait until you know you need the opinions and thoughts of other writers and readers you trust.


I'm 97.5% sure I severely ranted in this post. I'm also 81.06% sure I'm not sorry about it. I hope you learned something from this post! 

Have you ever critiqued or beta read someone's work? Have you ever had your work beta read or critiqued? What was your experience? 

Preparing for a Workshop // Part 1 // creating something that shines

6:00 AM

Today is the kick off of a mini series I'm doing this month before I go to my second workshop. I'm going to talk about the prep to do before for the next three Saturdays, and then I will disappear until July 6, when I'll give my second quarter wrap up.

So that's what will be happening here at Stan for the next month! Now, on with the post!



Up until the workshop last year, I had not crafted anything that truly shone. I had not prepared any piece of my writing to share with someone else.

I hadn't built confidence in anything.

And, as you can probably guess, I hadn't shared my work with anyone (except for my cousin). So when I realized I was going to have to edit something and show that something to a professional editor ... to sit across from her while she read it and then talk with her about it?

AHHHHHHHHHHH.

I only had to prepare the three opening pages of manuscript, and a four page excerpt for critique groups.

Not much, I know. But I wasn't prepared. So far, I'd only written for fun. I was serious about it, but I hadn't buckled down to craft words that really shone. Words that I could look at and be proud of.

Being proud of my writing was, to be frank, a foreign concept to me.

But it is possible. I did it, and you can too. Here are a few steps I took to get my three pages ready for a professional editor.

Step #1: I MADE IT THE BEST I COULD ON MY OWN. 

The first thing you need to do is sit down and look at your pages. Print them out if that helps you. Take a bright red pen to it. Grab a writing craft book (the GTW book is my go-to, and worth every penny to buy a copy).

Shred it to the best of your abilities. If you're new at micro editing, this will be a bit challenging to you. There's a fine line to walk between good writing and too much polishing. You don't want to lose your voice, but you also don't want to be filled with telling and poor descriptions.

Step #2: I GAVE IT TO SOMEONE ELSE.

I had several people look over it. My cousin was the main person, of course.

And we did not send it to each other just once.

We sent each other those first three pages at least four times. That might seem a bit overkill to you, but it was necessary. I could not have done it on my own, and after one round of edits, more problems would pop up.

Frustrating, I know. Especially for such a small amount of words.

I gave it to another writing friend too, and I actually won a draw on the Writers Helping Writers blog and got a free one page critique, which was incredible.

A small note on critique partners: when you send your writing to someone, you want it to be perfect. But you have to remember, you can't make it the best it can be all by yourself. You need some fresh eyes. You have to bite your lip and toughen up and send out that imperfect document. It's so hard because you KNOW it can be better. You just aren't sure how to get it there yet.

People can help you. Go to your writer friends. They are valuable and will help you make your pages as good as they can be.

But they can only do so much. You are the one that has to take their advice and apply it. Don't let their critiques get you down. They want to help you. And if something they say doesn't sit with you, don't apply it. Examine what they thought was an issue and try to think about it from a new perspective. But if you're happy with something the way it is, KEEP IT. That's another sign of art. Art isn't going to be cookie cutter perfect. It's not supposed to be.

If you're having trouble finding a critique partner, go check out the Go Teen Writers facebook group. There are probably other places, but that has been a huge source of community for me.

Also, when asking someone to critique your work, I would recommend an exchange. Especially if you are both going to a conference or workshop. You can message said person and say, "Hey, I've been trying to get these pages for the workshop ready. Would you like to have a critique exchange?" If they say yes, you'll not only get someone to provide feedback on your work, but you also have a chance to critique someone else's work. Looking at someone else's manuscript for micro issues might be just the thing to get you into the mindset of editing your own. Plus, you'll be helping out a friend.

Step #3: I LET IT GO.

Just like you need to let it go to send it to people for critiques, the day will come when you need to pack up your things for that workshop or conference. And at that point, you have to let it go. You can keep chipping away at those words for a lonnnng time. There will always be a different way to phrase something, a different route to take the story down.

Just take a deep breath and let it go. Let yourself be happy with what you've created, and get ready to show it to people.

That's it for this week. If you're not going to a workshop or conference this summer, I still highly recommend creating something you can show people. Three pages is a good amount. A lot of people want to read your writing. It's nice to have a few pages you can be proud of and say, "Here. Read this."

I'm going to devote a post next week to critiquing. In the meantime, happy writing!

Have you ever been to a workshop or conference? Have you ever gotten a piece of your writing ready for others to read?

<3

Life

Dare to Dream

6:00 AM

So it's 1:11 A. M. and I'm just now starting this post.

It's bound to be a bit rambley. Prepare yourselves.

I watched La La Land for the first time tonight. I know, I know, I'm late to the party. But I wasn't sure what to talk about today, and this gave me a lot of inspiration.

Hence, the post.

This movie gave me many mixed feelings. But I want to focus on the big thing it taught me.

It portrayed a very realistic view of following your dream.

It showed how stepping out into the void, taking a leap in order to do what you love ... it isn't easy. It's not romantic. It's not all going to fall together magically. The world is not going to halt in awe of your talents. People are not going to flock to you and swoon over your art.

But that doesn't mean you need to give up. That doesn't mean you shouldn't try.

Because that's not what it's about. Following your dreams is about finding your true purpose in life. It's about not settling for something that will keep you safe and secure. It's about taking a risk.



Dare to dream.

Take a deep breath and do it. Choose to follow your heart. Choose to do what you love. It doesn't mean abandoning college or "stable" jobs. What you love could very well fall under those categories.

But don't push yourself into categories just so you can have a "chance" or "be successful".

What does successful mean, anyway? In my eyes, being successful is finding your purpose in life. It's finding the path God wants you to walk, and going forth boldly.

I'll end with a verse I found the other day.

So we will boldly say:
"The LORD is my Helper;
I will not fear.
What can man do to me?"
Hebrews 13:6

If it's God's plan for you, no power on earth can stop it.

Follow your dreams, and make them real. It will be hard, and it's not going to be all romantic like in the movies. Life isn't butterflies and daisies.

But there are butterflies and daisies. So find them when you can.

If that made any sense. I probably just incoherently rambled.

This has been episode 34 of Late Night Chats with Hannah. Stay tuned!

Also, you should go check out the post Katie did on this a while back on her blog. It's really beautiful. <3

Have you seen La La Land? What did you think of it? What's your dream?

<3

Life

Hey You: it's okay

6:00 AM

This month was rough. Not gonna lie. Right now, I'm sitting at 20k words. I started the month with a goal of 40k.

HAaaaahaHAAA.

Yeah, that didn't happen. But it's okay! I'm happy with the progress I've made. The goal is 25k but ... we'll see.

As you might have guessed, I learned a lot this month. Granted, I learn a lot every month, but this month especially, I learned a lot about writing, about myself, and about the world. And I've learned that a lot of things we stress about really don't need to be stressed over.

In a word, I've learned that it's okay.



It's okay to not meet a goal.

Goals are there to encourage you. When you don't meet a goal, beating yourself up about it totally defeats the purpose. You likely got a lot accomplished anyway, or at least something. And chances are nothing would have gotten done if you hadn't set a bar for yourself. Hadn't raised a standard to reach for.

It's okay to not feel so great.

You can't really control how you feel. You can choose to think about certain things, and you can choose to change your mindset, which often impacts how you feel. But you can't control every little feeling you have.

And it's okay not to feel great. It's okay to be down. It's okay to be sad. It's okay to be discouraged and disheartened.

The important thing is to remember that you will make it through. We are warriors, and we will fight our way through this life. We will be champions together.

It's okay to not have it all down. 

With my writing, I'm not really sure on some details. I don't know exactly how the Climax of Act Two and Three are going to happen. I'm not sure where my Dark Night of the Soul is going to take place. I'm not sure what my Midpoint even is.

And that's okay.

Writing is about exploring and discovering. So write. Write, even if you're not sure what you're doing. Write, even though the words are rough and you're kind of lost. It's okay to be a little confused.

It's okay to give up.

I don't mean you should abandon everything right now. I mean it's okay to give up a goal. It's okay to give up a deadline if you need more time, or have to move on to another project.

"Give up" tends to carry bad connotations with it. In reality, it's much the same as "letting go" which is very important and very necessary to just about every part of life. You can't live clinging to everything around you. You have to detach yourself a bit sometimes. You have to put up a line and say, "I can't take on anymore." Don't stretch yourself too thin. Give yourself some grace.

If you haven't met your nano goal, take a deep breath.

It's okay. You'll get there eventually.

If you don't know what's going to happen next in your story, take a deep breath.

It's okay. You can brainstorm your way through it.

If you don't think you can take on another project, take a deep breath.

It's okay. You can say no to people. You need to say no to people. It's hard, but it's better to give a few people your all instead of giving a dozen people just an exhausted smidge.

Take a deep breath and give youself some grace.

It's okay. 

Did you survive this month of Camp Nano? Nano-er or not, how did writing go for you this month? Do you need to give yourself some grace?

<3

Life

Hey You: art is messy

6:00 AM

Hey you. Yeah, you.

If I had to venture a guess, I’d say you’re in the middle of a project right now. It might be a novel, a short story, or a poem. It might be for teens or adults or children. You might be in the heat of the first draft, or in the craze of edits.

Regardless of which of these you’re in at the moment though, I can almost guarantee one thing.

Your book is just a little bit messy.

If you’re in the sea of first drafting, you probably feel like you’re trying to make a sand castle in the bottom of the ocean. The water is quickly destroying any progress you make, tearing away your carefully constructed details and reducing your work of art to a big hunk of blob.

If you’re in the desert of edits, you probably feel like you’re stranded in the Sahara and struggling to make that sand castle—only now you have no water and the sand is too dry to form much of anything at all.

And maybe you’re not in an ocean or a desert. Maybe you’re sitting at your desk with a sheet of nice clean paper. But when you look around for a pen, all you can find is a box of crayons, most of them broken and none of them pointy. A nice, detailed picture or elegant poem is nearly impossible. 




Writing is hard stuff. It’s messy. Whatever stage you’re in, you can probably relate. It’s frustrating when that scene just won’t come together like you wanted, or when you just can’t get your antagonist’s motive down.

And you know what?

It’s okay.

Not just because it’s nano, the notorious month of mayhem and mess, but because it’s writing. Writing is tough stuff. You can’t get it perfect the first, second, or third time. In fact, you can’t ever get it perfect. Not really.

And you know what?

It’s okay.

You know why it’s okay?

Because this is art. And with art, there is not perfect way.

There is no perfect way because there is no set standard. Art is about being expressive and unique. It’s about touching people in ways nothing else can.

People are all very different. Why would there be some set standard of How To Impact a Human? We are all impacted and touched by different things. Thus, all art is beautiful and different.

You—yes you—have power. You have words. You have things to write, a story to tell.

So enjoy the mess. Messiness is its own kind of beautiful.


And there’s always another draft.


How are you faring in nano so far, or whatever writing projects you're currently handling? Are you embracing your mess? 

<3

Writing Encouragement

When You Hit a Wall

6:00 AM

Two weeks ago, camp nano began. While everyone around me was getting pumped for it, I was blocked from day one. I couldn't write. I had some big changes to make, but nothing wanted to come out.

I hit a huge wall. And it was not fun.



I think post-inciting incident is my sweet spot for disaster. The day nano started, I sat down at the keyboard and stared at the letters, at the waiting word document full of words that needed editing.

And I couldn't write a thing.

Three days in, I had a little over 1k.

That's not normal for me. I usually write quickly.

I was forced to admit the sad truth that I'd naively hoped wouldn't prove to be with my precious new baby, The Dream Walkers. It had been so nice to me so far.

But no. I'd hit a wall.

What to do? I've set a goal of 40k words to edit (now at 35k, possibly going down to 30k). I want to finish this draft before June. And, above all, I do NOT want to have another "TC" disaster. I will not spend a year on this draft. I can't. Not again.

I needed to break this wall. I needed to get a huge hammer and smash into it with all the power of a steam train. But how?

The first step was figuring out why I'd hit the wall. You can't really break something until you understand how it's built.

There are two main elements to what created my wall.


PROBLEM 1: FEAR

This book had been so good so far. But as nano started, so did all the major changes I had planned. And so the fear came. Fear of change. Fear I might mess everything up. Fear I wouldn't do it right.

On top of all that, I'm sending this draft to betas. Therefore, draft two must be perfect.

Right?

WRONG.

What do you think betas are there for? I know it can't be perfect yet, but that's the thing that was not allowing me to write at all. I needed to throw the words out. To force them onto the page.

And you can't do that and keep the quality high. You have to get in the dirt and heave.


PROBLEM 2:  AN UNCLEAR DESTINATION 

Yes, I had some big changes to make. But I also had some brainstorming to do. There was world building I hadn't done (I know, shocking) and some character motives and secrets I needed to nail down. I got my notebook and began the brainstorming, and when I got home that evening, the words began to come better than they had all month.

I knew what changes I needed to make, but I wasn't really sure how to make them. I didn't really know where I was going, and I was left wandering about and gazing at the clouds.


So from these two points, I think we can guess how to fight the block.


SOLUTION 1: KNOW WHERE YOU'RE GOING

Get your journal. Open the doc. Grab the restaurant napkin and pen. Whatever spurs your creative juices. Grab it and get to work. Be creative. Write down everything that comes to your mind. You'll find something. I know you will. I believe in you.


SOLUTION 2: BE BOLD, DARING, AND BRAVE.

*glances at betas* Yes. Yes I did just do that.

A good book can only become great after a lot of work. It's not going to happen in just a few days and two drafts. It takes more than that. It takes trying new things and ideas and failing a little. It means scrapping things that don't work and trying things to see what does.

And that requires a little bit of boldness. A dash of daring. And a whole lot of bravery. You have to remember that there is no "failing". There are just things that won't work and things that will. You can always try again. The important thing is to decide on something, and go for it with all you've got.

Please, please, don't be afraid to write new things. To make changes. Some part of you wanted to make those changes in the first place. Likelihood is, it's going to make your book better.


SOLUTION 3: PUSH THROUGH IT

And if all else fails, you just have to do it. You might have to lower your target goal or make some changes to what you'd wanted to get done, and that's okay. Give yourself some grace. Writing is hard, and editing is even harder. It's okay if you're not as fast as you'd like to be.

Just take a deep breath and let it go. In this moment, you are right where you need to be.


I hoped this might have encouraged some of you struggling to get the words down!

AND HERE'S A SNIPPET FOR YOU. It's small, don't worry ;P But I just have to let you in on my little reference I made up there. This becomes a theme throughout the book. It was totally pantsed in first draft, but I've kept it and it's become and integral part to pretty much all the characters. *snuggles my children*

*happy sigh* my little children

And now off you go! Go break the block!


How has nano been so far for you? Have you fared better than I have, or are you struggling with a block too? 

<3

Life

First Quarter of 2017 /// wrap-up

6:00 AM

Yup. You read that right. Me, doing a wrap-up post? WOW. What has happened? *pantomimes bombs exploding*

I decided that I liked the idea of monthly wrap-ups, but didn't really want to do them every month. And there are twelve months in a year, and twelve is just an all around cooperative number so FIRST THREE MONTHS, YAY! That works great! And I can call it a quarter and EVERYONE IS HAPPY.

Ehem. Anyway. Here goes my first ever wrap-up post! *WARNING: this is going to be a little different than your average wrap-up. Be prepared for much poetry (most of it not the best).


this is what the weather has looked like this year


L I F E

The days drag by
full of heat and fury
frustration and agony
stress and fear
so much fear
but there is no fear in love
for perfect love casts out fear
and so I pray
day after day
Lord, take this fear from me.

The days slip by
the stress has faded
but now there are questions
so
many
questions
rushing to replace
the anxiety
and I have no answers 
and so I wait 
and hope.

The days crawl by
and I want them to hurry
for this school year to be done
for the summer to arrive
with all the green and life
and light and happiness
of a time without so much of the future
digging its claws into my back.

The future.
That is what I fear.
The future.
That vast unknown
full of unmade decisions
uncertain words
and tentative roads.

But I do not walk alone
and so
I will not fear. 


Translation: there's been a lot of stress in life and I've been writhing in the agony of it. Really struggling to trust God and His omnipotent hand.

I took the ACT for the first time back in February. That was the main source of stress. I'm actually taking it again in about a week from now. *faint laugh* *falls over dead*

W R I T I N G

The words do not wish to come
but I sit down
and I force them out
I force them onto the page
tugging hair
gritting teeth
until at long last
it is done
and the year I spent slaving away
rewards me with those beautiful words:
the end.

The order is placed
and so I wait
what feels like an 
e t e r n i t y
but they finally come
and I hold them close
and I sigh and smile
at long last
I hold these pieces of my soul
that I've spent so long
and put so much
into.

Edits begin again
but this time
they are smoother
and the words flow
and the smile stays.
there is no
ripping of hair
but rather
laughter
and joy and 
grace
grace for those hard days
and grace for the good ones
and I smile because
it gets better.
There is hope.

Translation: I have been somewhat productive so far this year, even with life being crazy. I finished the second draft of The Thief's Conspiracy back in February and started edits on The Dream Walkers this month. It has been soooo so wonderful and rewarding and I am very optimistic about this year!

*whispers* I also order printed copies of my books! And I read the Prologue and first chapter of DW to my family and they liked it. (Went much better than the last reading aloud attempt haaaa)

R E A D I N G

The girl longs for the world
of paper and ink
that captivated so many 
of her childhood days.

But time is short
and she must make choices
and so the books sit by
untouched.

Translation: I've read ... 9 books this year. *winces and hides* I know, I know. It could be a looot better. But IT COULD ALSO BE WORSE. And I have been writing a lot so THERE'S THAT. I'm getting back into reading right now and trying to get faster at it so I can do it more. 

Favorite book: The Screwtape Letters. This was my first time reading a book like this and I really, really enjoyed it. It took me several months to read, but it was soooo good. It was a lot to process, and it really got me thinking about everything differently, especially temptations and sin. 

Least favorite book: Sadly, I wasn't a huuuuge fan of most of the books I read? But my least favorite would have to be ... *whispers* The Raven Boys. I'd heard so much hype over this book, and all my writing friends (like, all of them) gave it four to five stars. Even though it wasn't really in my genre and the back cover blurb didn't appeal to me, I thought I should at least give it a try.

And it was okay. It was intriguing. I actually read the first one hundred pages in the middle of November after I hit 50k. But I had a lot of issues with it, and I just ... didn't like it. Especially the end. I felt really dumb, but I was so confused by the last paragraph that I had to look up the blurb for the next book to see if it explained what was going on, which it did and I WAS SO MAD CAUSE WHY. 

Okay I'm done ranting. *braces self for the angry Stiefvater fans* (I did like her writing style though!)

M U S I C

I close my eyes and let
the sound wash over me.

My lips crack
but I cannot sing 
for the lump in my throat
and the tears slipping down my cheeks.

Oh, how music
can touch the soul. 

Music has been a life saver this year. During the stressful month leading up to the ACT, I had Called Me Higher on repeat. It is such a good message. That we grow most when we spread our wings and let ourselves be vulnerable. God will watch over us and help us through the pain, and He will draw us closer to Him if we only let Him.

And this month, I've really fallen in love with Wonder. My cousin showed this one to me, and I've had it on repeat all this month. I'm taking Human Anatomy this semester and the two go so well together. It's so easy to get used to the world around us, but this song reminds me to open my eyes and really see the incredible beauty and brilliance in creation. 

O N   S T A N

This blog has much word. 
Most of them do not make sense. 
But I still attempt.


(And so I move from free verse to very bad Haiku which are actually very fun to write.)

The most viewed posts on Stan have been ...





F U N   F A C T


Random facts are fun. 
They make me perk up and look. 
This world is so weird. 


I love random facts. I could throw so many at you right now.

I think my favorite one these last three months, though, has been about the first noted instance of biological warfare at the siege of Caffa (now Feodosija, Ukraine) in 1346. Some historians speculate that this event is what cause the spread of The Black Death into Europe, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of millions of people.

What happened?

Well, the Mongols besieged the city of Caffa. The Mongols decided to hurl the bodies of soldiers that had fallen to the Black Death over and into the city. In getting rid of the bodies, the defenders would likely have contracted the illness themselves. Caffa, being on the coast, had trade ships going in and out.

Lots of germs + citizens fleeing from dead bodies being hurled into their city = wild spread of deadly plague.

That, and the oldest goose ever reported to live was a gander named George that lived to a mighty 49 years and 8 months (according to the guiness book of world records).

And there are your fun facts for the day, brought to you by Hannah who surfed the very trustworthy and reliable internet for a stupid amount of time. #procrastinationboss


Thus ends my first Quarter wrap-up! Did you guys like this? Please let me know. If so, I'll make it a thing! :D

You will not be getting a post tomorrow (cause that would be too much Hannah for everyone) but I wish you all the best of luck for day one of Camp Nano! WRITE ALL THE WORDS! *showers you in confetti and coffee beans*

How has 2017 been for you so far? Any milestones reached, in life, writing, reading, or anything really? Any fun facts to share?

<3