11 Ways to Fearlessly Fuel Your Passion for Stories

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Okay, this may be no secret since I decided to dedicate an entire blog to it, BUT I love stories. I’m a storyteller and a story lover to the core. This passion is the essence of who I am, and I’m guessing it’s like the essence of who you are, too.

One of the most important things in life is finding out what you love and then holding on dearly to this thing. Fearless Pursuit of What Sets Your Soul on Fire & All That™.

I was typing stories on the computer before I even knew how to write. I was watching the Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast over and over and over again, and then imagining myself as a princess, writing my own tales.

“Find something you’re passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it.” ~Julia Child

In honor of Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d compile a list of  ways that you can keep tremendously interested in storytelling. So read on Fearless Storytellers.

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01. BE A KID AGAIN

In Kindergarden, when everyone else was learning to read, I typed Snow White fanfic on my family computer . In first grade, I wrote Lilo & Stitch and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic book-style fanfic. When I got my first computer in middle school, I sat down and wrote stories about my Jungle Exploring Alter Ego™, Jane. (which is my middle name! Jane … not Jungle Exploring Alter Ego …)

Chances are, stories were magical when you were a kid, too. Take a second to think back on your childhood. Remember how psyched you were to be reading and telling stories? Remember when you read for excitement and wrote because you had stories to tell?

Yeah. Get back to that childish magic.

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02. WRITING DATES

This may make me sound like the lamest person ever, but every Friday I take myself on a writer date. I grab a bagel and a dark roast coffee from Starbucks, put my phone on Do Not Disturb, bury into a seat, and indulge my storytelling self.

I read an online article about craft, take notes and intentionally process the information. I work on my Pinterest storyboard aesthetics. I write for an hour or two.

It’s one of the best parts of my week — even if I’m only there from like 2-4:30.

Take yourself somewhere and treat yourself to some time away from everything else but storytelling.

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03. RETURN TO THE ROOT OF WHAT INSPIRES YOU

When I started writing (like eons ago … okay, more like 9-ish years) I was INCREDIBLY inspired by music and art. I would hear a song and dream up a whole novel. I would look at a picture and write a whole poem.

Somewhere a long the way, I sort of stopped doing that.

The other day, though, I was reminded of what used to inspire my writing. I still get inspired by music and visual art, but I don’t keep myself rooted in those things. I drift around a bit, tell myself I don’t really “need” any new story ideas right now, turn my focus back to my current WIP.

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Inspiration is ESSENTIAL to creativity. Remember what makes your creativity wheels turn, and then go back there often.

It doesn’t matter if what inspires you doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t matter if you can spend three hours listening to music and completely lose yourself, only to resurface later with a bunch of story ideas and quotes and fun lines.

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04. CREATE IN A DIFFERENT WAY

Paint. Take photographs. Bake. Knit. DIY the crap out of your bedroom decor. Whittle soap.

Write something else, like a blog post. Nonfiction. Poetry.

Fill your creative cup as many ways as you can. Writing blog posts doesn’t drain me — in fact I love blogging. It doesn’t leave me drained. Rather, it re-energizes and re-vitalizes me. Find another creative outlet so you don’t always have to rely on writing to be both a creative release AND a productive endeavor.

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05. DIY WRITING RETREAT

Whenever I have a break in school (like Spring break which is coming up soon!!!) I love to plan a little writing retreat. I usually block out the first few hours of a handful of days and then guard that time. I snuggle up on the couch with my pets, brew endless pots of coffee, and write.

And it’s awesome! 10/10 would definitely recommend. Plus, I always look forward to these little writing retreats which makes the days leading up to them fun, too.

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06. DIY WRITING WORKSHOP

It’s the same idea as a DIY writing retreat — block out some time and have your own writing workshop. Make a list of things about writing craft you want to lean. Grab a few craft books. Bookmark some writing articles.

My favorite resources for learning more about writing:

  • Helping Writers Become Authors — I have learned SO much about writing (especially character arcs!!) from K.M. Weiland’s site.
  • Well-Storied — This is a great resource that I used a lot to help up my writing game. There are craft articles as well as articles about living your best writing life (which I am ALL about).
  • Pub(lishing) Crawl — A literal gold mine of knowledge from a ton of your fave authors like Leigh Bardugo, Susan Dennard, Stephanie Garber, Adam Silvera, Marie Lu, AND SARAH J MAAS.
  • Rachel Giesel — Lots of great printables and a focus on creating a writing life you LOVE.

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07. REREAD A 5-STAR BOOK

Pick up a book you rated 5-stars on Goodreads but just haven’t picked up since.

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I know it’s so hard to reread books when your TBR is threatening to eat you (no, seriously, I think it’s growing teeth and an appetite for smol writers) but it’s also so fun. It’s like falling in love all over again! (Happy Valentine’s Day to you and all your fave ships.) Plus, if you’re a writer, you can take a closer look at what makes the book tick.

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08. MAKE YOURSELF A PHYSICAL “HAPPY SPACE”

There’s something super romantic about the idea of a little story nook! Whether it’s a few pillows in the corner of your room under fairy lights or a whole office, get a place that’s yours. Make it off limits for all non-story things — no homework, no worrying, no Internet. To make it super sacred, make a no-phone rule too.

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09. ENGAGE IN ANOTHER FORM OF STORYTELLING

Yes — binge on Netflix! Play video games for 8 hours straight. Stories come in all sorts of different formats. While it’s amazing to hold a book in your hand and physically flip the pages, books are only the tip of the story iceberg.

Think outside the box (or, book):

  • TV shows
  • Docu-series
  • Video games
  • Comic books
  • Fan-fiction
  • Wattpad stories
  • Short films

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10. MAKE IT A PRIORITY

There’s power in making your passion a priority.

I’m not saying you have to put everything on hold until you get an hour of reading or writing in. I’m saying that it’s a good idea to have a chunk of time where your priority is storytelling.

Whatever you’re doing when this chunk of time comes around, drop it. Take this commitment seriously. Don’t give your passion scraps of your time.

Even if it’s one day a week where you set aside one hour, great.

Let me say that again: there’s power in making your passion a priority.

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11. FIND AUTHOR INTERVIEWS, SUCCESS STORIES, & WRITERS JUST FANGIRLING OVER WRITING

I LOVE reading about the journeys of other authors.

At the end of the day, that’s what writing is about: the journey. You don’t have to be a successful author, because being a writer is success in and of itself.

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I love hearing other writer’s gush about writing. Whether they’re published authors, authorpreneurs, or passionate writers, it’s amazing to listen to others who love storytelling as much as I do!

My favorite places to find authors and writers talking about writing:

  • 88 Cups of Tea podcast — Since I’m at college, I do a lot of walking to classes. I love to pop in my headphones on the way and listen to other people talk about my passion. I also love to listen to podcasts when I’m at the gym, especially when I go for runs. I had a long drive to my summer internship this year, and I binged this podcast like crazy. It was awesome.
  • First Draft Podcast — More author interviews! I recently learned about this podcast and UM, WHERE HAS IT BEEN ALL MY LIFE?
  • Authortube! — I particularly love Kristen Martin, Angela Anne, Brittany Wang, Kim Chance, and Abbie Emmons.
  • Paper Fury — Cait’s blog always gets me SO pumped about stories, whether it’s writing them or reading them. Her passion about fantasy is actually what made me branch out from YA contemporary in the first place! Her energy is really infectious.
  • K.M. Allan — I’m so happy to have found K.M.’s blog last year almost immediately after I started blogging. Her posts are so helpful and inspiring and she is SUCH a talented writer.
  • Uninspired Writers — Despite the name, M.L. Davis’ blog is incredibly inspiring and I love hearing what she has to say about writing.

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*BONUS. SHARE YOUR PASSION

Not only is it super fantastic to listen to others share their thoughts about your passion, it’s also super fantastic to stand on rooftops and join in on the chorus of squealing. Because that’s all writers and readers are, right? Storytelling Squealers™.(wow, I’m trademarking everything in this post.)

I started my blog to help out my “author platform,” but it turns out that I LOVE blogging. I also love sharing photos and stories over on Instagram. I love this little community of storytellers and story lovers, and adding my voice and take on things has been absolutely fan-freaking-tastically amazing.

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Let's Talk!

Happy Valentine’s Day! Did anyone do anything fun? I hope you celebrated by spending time celebrating with your One True Love (stories, duh). How do you fuel your passion for stories?

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How to Cut Adverbs for Stronger Writing // & When It’s Okay to Use Them

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Do you want to tighten up your writing in one easy step?

Find an adverb. Then cut it.

That may seem kind of harsh, right? Adverbs are great! They add color and description to writing! Why write when you can write beautifully?

Nope.

When I started writing, I knew writers frowned upon adverbs, but I didn’t know why. And here’s the thing about writing: you can break the rules only after you’ve mastered them.

Today I want to break down adverbs and hopefully give you a deeper understanding of why they’re not the greatest. They’re not always toxic to your writing — once you understand how to master adverbs, your writing gets tighter.

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A CRASH COURSE IN ADVERBS

Adverbs are words that change verbs. At first glance, it seems like they would be good.

Writing should be descriptive! Adverbs make verbs very descriptive!

  • The moon shines brightly
  • The man stares angrily
  • The woman drinks her coffee quickly

We’re not picturing a moon shining, we’re picturing a moon shining brightly. And that’s “descriptive.”

Well, actually … it’s not.

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Using adverbs results in writing that’s:

  • Clunky — It’s not tight. You can trim words. (Kill your darlings, and all that)
  • TELLING us how someone is doing something instead of SHOWING us how someone is doing something — Ah yes. The dreaded “show don’t tell.”

Not all adverbs are bad, but most of the time, you can tighten up your writing and make it more CONCISE. Adverbs signify sloppy and lazy writing.

There are three easy ways to get rid of adverbs:

  1. Delete them
  2. Replace the adverb and verb with a STRONGER verb
  3. Show us what someone is doing instead of telling us how someone is doing something

Check out the differences when we replace the adverb and verb with a STRONGER verb:

  • The moon shines brightly –> The moon sparkles
  • The man stares angrily –> The man glares
  • The woman quickly drinks her coffee –> The woman chugs her coffee

Now check out the difference when instead of telling the reader what’s happening, we show them:

  • The moon shines brightly –> The ocean glimmers with the reflection of moonlight
  • The man stares angrily –> The man’s brows furrow deeper and his lips press into a thin line.
  • The woman quickly drinks her coffee –> She knocks her coffee back, slamming the empty mug down on the kitchen counter.

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HOW REVISING ADVERBS CHANGE A PARAGRAPH

Okay I LOVE Harry Potter. *waves Hufflepuff banner around* but sometimes J.K. Rowling’s writing is … sloppy. Which is fine, because she wrote some of the best 7 books to ever grace humankind! But I also think it gave her some leeway to let adverbs pass as descriptive writing.

NOTE: If you don’t want to forever be editing J.K. Rowling’s writing in your head as you read, I’d suggest you tap out now. I now without fail read Harry Potter while muttering under my breath “I would have revised this differently.”

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Let’s look at an example:

“Well?” said Malfoy impatiently as Harry handed the clipping back to him. “Don’t you think it’s funny?”

“Ha, ha,” said Harry bleakly.

“Arthur Weasley loves Muggles so much he should snap his wand in half and go and join them,” said Malfoy scornfully. “You’d never know the Weasleys were pure-bloods, the way they behave.”

There’s no wrong or right way to rewrite this (which is the beauty of writing!) but this is how I’d fix this little snippet:

Well?” Malfoy drawled as Harry handed the clipping back to him. “Don’t you think it’s funny?”

“Ha, ha,” deadpanned Harry.

“Arthur Weasley loves Muggles so much he should snap his wand in half and go and join them.” Malfoy wrinkled his nose. “You’d never know the Weasleys were pure-bloods, the way they behave.”

Drafting is fun, but revision is where the real magic happens:

 

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EXCEPTION TO THE “RULES”

Rules are made to be broken.

This is ESPECIALLY true in creative fiction writing.

How do you chose which direction to go? How do you decide if you should delete the whole adverb together? Breaking the rules is where the “taste” part of art comes in.

Personally, I don’t mind adverbs if they’re in:

  • Dialogue — People don’t filter out their adverbs when they talk
  • Passages that show instead of tell — Like, maybe not much happens in a long period of time and the author is summing it up
  • Snippets meant to show character voice — Like internal monologues

This snippet below isn’t littered with adverbs, but it shows how adverbs aren’t always the Worst Thing Ever.

Harry dressed as quickly as he could and hurried off to Gryffindor Tower, desperate to tell Ron and Hermione about Colin and Dobby, but they weren’t there. Harry left to look for them wondering where they could have got to and feeling slightly hurt that they weren’t interested in whether he had his bones back or not.

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Okay, one quick thing before I wrap up this post. If you’ve been reading for a while you already can probably guess what I’m about to say … go on, I’ll give ya a second to guess. It has something to do with my blogging schedule ……

Right. It’s the great How Many Times a Week Should I Post on Caffeine & Writing Dreams Debate. I can totally write two posts a week. It’s a bit of effort, but I can do it, and I love it.

However, it doesn’t give me a lot of time to actually blog hop. AND it doesn’t give me a lot of time for the totality of my author platform, which I really want to grow. I want to create a community, not just a killer blog full of helpful resources. There are lots of platforms for helpful resources and I want to spread the love. SO! I’m going to be cutting back to blogging once a week and kind of re-structuring my weekly schedule and how I create content.

This doesn’t mean there will be less of me! (You can’t shake me off that easily, friends.) If anything, it means you’ll see more of me on all your lovely blogs! And if you want more writing advice and motivation, I’ll be on Instagram with hopefully a) helpful mini lessons on my story and b) inspiring and informative captions.

Let's Talk!

Are you Team Adverbs or Team Cut Them All? When do you personally forgive adverbs? Do you have a favorite adverb?

6 Elements of a Productive & Creative Month

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February: when we try to shove 31 days of productivity into a 28 day period.

I’m almost always tempted to not count February as a month. Like, it’s easier if I count it as an extension of January. All the work I didn’t do in the first week of the New Year? Yeah, I’ll get it done in February. February is the new first week of January.

There are a lot of reasons to discount an entire month. Maybe it’s too short. Maybe it’s your birthday month (happy birthday!!). Maybe midterms are coming up. Maybe it’s already 5 days into the month and you haven’t made any solid goals yet.

A month is a long time. It’s a long time for a lot of good things, and it’s a long time for a few not-so-good things. But, like most things in life, going into the month with a positive, productive, and creative headspace can be a game changer. After living through approximately 268 months, I like to think I kind of got the hang of this?

This is a continuation of my Elements of Productivity & Creativity series where I’m talking about how to basically conquer the world. Okay!  Ready to make the month awesome?

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01. THINK ABOUT THE WHOLE YEAR FIRST

How is this month going to get you closer to your goals at the end of the year? How is this month going to move you closer to your dreams?

This may seem kind of “duh if I’m accomplishing goals I’m moving closer to where I want to be” BUT … think about it.

If you haven’t already taken time to map out your whole year (or even if you have!) sometimes it’s hard to tell if you’re moving forward.

You may find out that your goals are taking you in a more circular motion than a forward motion. Aside from the whole two steps forward, one step back nature of things out of your control, you should be striving for progress here.

Is editing your book for the twelfth time really progress? Or is it another excuse to not send it to beta readers? (Feedback is terrifying, right??)

Is adding another 10 agents to your list of eighty billion really progress? Or is it another excuse to keep researching instead of querying?

Is redesigning your blog layout for the second time this year really progress? Or is it another excuse to not actually blog?

Be honest with yourself! Maybe your WIP really does need another pass, or you’re still looking for the perfect agent, or you’re not happy with your blog design. BUT stop letting your fears hold you back. Start moving forward. You’re ready for all the great things coming your way.

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02. FIND YOUR FOCUS OF THE MONTH

Like finding your focus for the whole year, finding your focus for the month grounds you when you’re feeling lost. Also, if it can be tied into your yearly focus, even better!

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I’d recommend taking some time to journal. How do you want to grow by the end of this month? What do you want to focus on to make yourself the person you want to be, as well as let your light shine for the rest of the world?

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03. WHAT ARE YOUR NON-NEGOTIABLES?

Kinda sounds like non-perishables, but a bit different. (Um, okay, a lot different???) To me, non-negotiable are things that you have to do. It doesn’t matter if you don’t really want to be doing these things; you can’t negotiate — like work, school, homework assignments, appointments.

NOTE: If you have a ton of non-negotiables you don’t jive with, it may be time to reconsider. (Like if you don’t dig going to soccer practice six times a week.) But if it’s something like school or a job … well, sometimes you have to do things you don’t want to do to get where you want to be. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

How I keep track of my monthly non-negotiable:

  • I look through all my syllabi for school — In my planner, I write everything down. Assignments, papers, quizzes, tests. I make sure to put little squiggles under big projects or exams so they don’t catch me by surprise.
  • I also include mandatory events for my extracurricular campus activities
  • I take into account anything else I can’t weasel my way out of

This step is important, because while you can say “this month at some point I want to do this…” it’s not gonna happen unless you make time for it. You can’t make time for anything unless you actually know how much time you have, yeah?

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04. BREAK EACH GOAL DOWN STEP BY STEP, THEN WEEK BY WEEK

This is when planning gets super fun for me! You have your goal which is going to get you closer to your dream. You’re now going to brainstorm action steps that will get you to your goal. It’s kind of like backwards-building a road map.

I like using the “domino” trick:

  • What happens at the end of this month right before you achieve your goal?
  • What happens before that?
  • And before that?
  • And before that?
  • You get the picture!

Let’s say you want to set up a blog. Before you publish your first blog post, you’d have to actually write a blog post. Before that you’d have to register a blog through WordPress or another platform. Before that you’d have to pick a blog name and theme. So, that’s where you start — picking a blog name and theme.

Other goals don’t need quite as many dominos, like, say, writing a novel. If you want to write a novel in a month, you have to divide your target word count by how many days you have to write.

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I take time at the start of the month to assign each step (domino) a specific week. There are usually four weeks in the year, so I like to break the steps up. For example, there’s four steps in setting up our imaginary blog. Week 1 would be picking a name and a theme. Week 2 would be registering for a blog. Week 3 would be writing a blog post. Week 4 would be publishing and promoting your first post.

Long story short: taking time to break my goals down STEP by STEP and WEEK by WEEK has been invaluable. It gives me bench marks to track my progress, direction, and purpose, and I’m here for all of these things.

More posts about planning:

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05. SCHEDULE TIME OFF

Even if it’s only one day, schedule time off. AND THEN (here’s the important part), protect that day. Because what’s the point of scheduling time off for yourself only to give it up to something else?

This may sound super antisocial, but hear me out. I’m an extrovert, but even I need some time completely to myself. I need to give myself space to be and be all by myself.

Don’t underestimate the power of finding peace with only yourself. Don’t underestimate the power of taking a day or even a few hours to do absolutely NOTHING but be. (Okay, like read a book or watch Netflix but actually be by yourself — no people, no goals, no pressure to hustle.)

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06. HONOR THESE COMMITMENTS TO YOURSELF & SHOW UP

Are you making promises you’ll actually be able to keep? Or are you throwing down goals and hoping that the act of writing them on paper will be enough?

If you’re starting to think that waking up at 5:30 a.m. every day is going to be difficult, then don’t.

If you’re waking up at 7:30 every day when you have to leave at 7:35, then stop for a second. It’s not bad to want to be the kind of person who wakes up at 5:30 every morning. It’s not bad if you can’t wake up at 5:30 every morning (at least not yet!).

You can set yourself up for success, not failure. Try for 7 instead. And next month after 7, try 6:30. Then 6.

If you’re deciding something is too difficult, it’s like saying “I know this is difficult, so it’ll be okay if I can’t do it.” You’re telling your subconscious “I know this is unrealistic so I won’t be bummed if I can’t achieve it.” Maybe a tiny part of you even knows that this is one of those goals you write down but only spend time with once or twice.

You can do so much when you promise to show up for yourself.

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Let's Talk!

What do you do to set yourself up for a productive and creative month? Is there one thing you try to do at least once a month? What are your big plans for February?

January Coffee Talk // Last semester of College & Disappointing Reads

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January has been a MONTH. Like, usually a month only feels like a few short weeks, but January feels like a lot of loooong weeks. I can’t tell if this is because January was actually almost 5 full weeks or because I’ve been trying to be more present and live in the moment. We’ll pretend it’s a little bit of both.

Anyways! I’ve got lots to talk about today (as always … I have so much to say, which is part of the reason I’m a writer) so let’s just skip the intro and get into it!

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COFFEE TALK

I usually like to keep my coffee talks a bit gentler because I think everyone needs to take a moment to sip some coffee and decompress, but I’ve been feeling a bit fired up this month. (Blame it on the New Year!)

I’ve been trying to NOT break promises I make to myself. Because, like, I wouldn’t break a promise to my best friend, so how come when I’m the one making the promises, I’m the also first one to break them?

As in, if I say I’m going to write for two hours or run three miles or complete three homework assignments and I put these tasks in my planner, it means I’m making a commitment.

One thing I’ve learned in the past few years is that, if you want to do something ALL YOU HAVE TO DO IS DO IT.

If it is reasonable and realistic and in your control, then what are you waiting for? Why are you wasting time not doing it?

I don’t want to keep giving up on myself. I don’t want to keep taking what I say NOT seriously. And, on the flip side, I don’t want to keep making promises that I DON’T keep — that I know I won’t keep.

I want to be more intentional with my goals, and then I want to follow through.

And one more thing I learned this month that might seem to contradict everything I just said: just because I can do everything doesn’t mean I should.

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This past week was SUPER busy with one of my college extracurricular activities taking up a ginormous part of my time and energy. At the beginning of last week I had meticulously scheduled and planned in order to get a normal weeks worth of work done. I could have completed it all, but I was already burning out as a person with a, you know, personal life, that I didn’t need to burn out as a creative go-getter, too.

That’s not to say I gave up. But that I recognized when it was time to slow down for a hot second during an unusually crazy week. THIS IS OKAY!

If you feel like you ALWAYS have to slow down for a hot second, I’d consider examining what you’re spending your time and energy on, and if it’s worth it. But if you’re like me and think you don’t need to slow down, reconsider. You can’t always keep up your breakneck pace when things get momentarily wild.

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WHAT I’M WRITING

In case you didn’t read the monstrous blog post that was an in-depth look at my color-coded 3-level revision system, as the name suggests, I am revising. In depth. With color-coding. And 3 levels of revision.

I already wrote like a bajillion words about this, so I’m going to keep it brief and just say: I really love this method. If you need revision tips, check it out!

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WHAT I’M READING

I have been on a really good reading streak the past few months — lots of lovely books that I’ve given 4 or 5 stars! But this month was just really disappointing. I honestly can’t think of a better word. 😞 Let’s just rant about books for a second, yeah?

lady midLADY MIDNIGHT by Cassandra Clare

What I liked:

  • Towards the last third of the book, I was really pulled into the story.
  • The plot, while way too long and drawn out lacking tension and conflict, was interesting in some points.

What I didn’t like:

  • Honestly? I think this was overrated. I personally just don’t jive with the shadow world. I’ve already tried City of Bones and it was a pass.
  • I have a hard time cheering for Emma. I just couldn’t connect with her, which made reading 600+ pages about her a bit difficult.
  • The writing was SUPER sloppy. So sloppy. Like, lots of filtering. (Saying “Emma could feel the cut of the sword’s blade on her skin” versus “The sword sliced her skin, stinging.”) Lots of repeated phrases/words and a lot of flowery prose. Some of it was good, but the rest of it just…I don’t know. Felt like the author could get away with sloppy writing because she was already published and people would read anything she wrote.
  • The random cameos of Jace and Clary felt like someone was writing Shadowhunter fan-fic? Like, I get they’re big in the Shadowhunter world and fans like reading about them, but their random appearances were just uncomfy to me for some reason. Like, J.K. Rowling is big in the writing world, but she doesn’t swoop in every time I need help or praise or whatever.
  • Sorry. I’ll stop being so salty right now.
  • But really, this book took like 670 pages of my life and I want it back.

FIRST & THEN by Emma Mills

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What I liked:

  • YAY WITH ALL MY HEART I loved everything.
  • The characters are amazing.
  • The dialogue is so so so so witty and GOOD.
  • I read this book in *deep breath* ONE SITTING. Not even one day — one sitting. I planted my butt on the couch and then literally did not get up until I finished and it was a JOURNEY. A wonderful beautiful journey.
  • Devon, the MC was soooo refreshing. Usually snarky, sassy, and cynical MCs are annoying and cliche, but Devon was just trying her best and trying to get by and I don’t know she just really spoke to me. Loved her!

What I didn’t like:

  • I mean, this wasn’t my FAVORITE Emma Mills book, which is really the only con I can think of?

TO KILL A KINGDOM by Alexandra Christo

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What I liked:

  • The world building was really rich for a rather short book. I enjoyed that aspect.

What I didn’t like:

  • Overall, I was disappointed.
  • The plot was predictable.
  • I expected the two main characters to be dancing around each other, and while each had their own plans, they didn’t really act on these plans?
  • The Sea Queen was like a caricature of a villain which sucked a lot of the tension out of the book.

GIRL, WASH YOUR FACE: STOP BELIEVING THE LIES ABOUT WHO YOU ARE SO YOU CAN BECOME WHO YOU WERE MEANT TO BE by Rachel Hollis

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What I liked:

  • I don’t usually read “self-help” books, but I got this one for Christmas and it was a really positive and lovely read! Lots of good energy.
  • There were some fantastic quotes in here that gave me goosebumps so if you’re looking for a little kick in the butt, I recommend this book!
  • While sometimes the author had some superficial goals (like, buy a really expensive purse), it seemed like the ultimate goal was to own a media empire that built women up and inspired them to be the best they could be and I AM SO ON BOARD WITH THAT.

What I didn’t like:

  • This book definitely was not 100% applicable to everyone. I’m not a wife or a mother so quite a few chapters weren’t relevant to me. But like, I don’t expect her to write a book catered to everyone and to make her story more universal, so I really appreciated the author’s honesty. I just skipped a few good chunks of this book.

HONOR AMONG THIEVES by Rachel Caine and Anne Aguirre

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What I liked:

  • THE PREMISE OMG. It’s about sentient space ships who accept humans on board and then travel around the Universe. YES 1,000,000x.

What I didn’t like:

  • UM the MCs only visited ONE PLANET???? I was promised a tour of the Universe (literally, it’s called the Tour) and I did not get one and I’m sooooo disappointed. Mad, almost? Definitely, most definitely salty because this is a long book and I got nothing from it.
  • The MC, Zara could have been a super awesome kickass character, but her teenage voice in the hands of two adult co-authors just fell flat.
  • Okay, so I’m guessing the goal was to go on a “Tour” of the Universe, but I’m not really sure? Really, almost absolutely nothing happened in this book and it was long. Too long.
  • Also, contrary to what the little subtitle on the cover (“100 were chosen. One will resists.”) suggests, there were not 100 characters. There were literally only 2 people on this ship most of the book.

WHAT IF IT’S US by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera

y648 What I liked: 

  • DYLAN!!!! He was one of the main character’s, Ben’s, best friend and he definitely stole the show for me. I honestly would have been fine if the book was told all from Ben’s perspective and involved more him and Dylan both growing through relationships.
  • In some parts the pacing was great! I’d read like 50 pages and get totally sucked into this cute little book world in an amazing not-so-little city.
  • I read the book in just 2 days (SNOW DAYS!!!) so that means it was a nice smooth read.
  • It was really relevant. Like all the characters talk like teenagers actually do right now. I think it may be dated in a few years from now but it was really refreshing too see friendships that thrived in group chats and social media.
  • The ending was refreshing! Definitely a super realistic portrayal of how real life relationship summer relationships probably actually work lol.

What I didn’t like: 

  • really wanted to like this book. I really did … but it just didn’t WOW me. There was no spark. It wasn’t bad, but I also think I’m going to forget about it in a few weeks. Like, yeah, the love story was cute and I liked a lot of the characters but I don’t know.
  • I had wasn’t a huge Arthur fan, and I feel bad saying this because WE NEED MORE DIVERSE CHARACTERS but Arthur was just too much too much. He came off as more of a caricature than a character, ya know?
  • Also sometimes Arthur’s reactions were totally unrealistic and like out of nowhere, which I think is maybe the result of having two authors. 
  • The chemistry felt forced but the fights also felt forced. Ben and Dylan’s friendship, now that I believed. But Ben and Arthur? It seemed forced. I really wanted to be squealing, but I just wasn’t.

WHAT I’M BLOGGING

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WHAT I’M MUGGLING

My winter break is over and I’m back at college … so that basically says it all right there.

I have a lot of conflicted feelings about being back:

  • I mean, it feels good to get into the routine and it feels good to learn.
  • On the other hand, I’m taking a lot of core classes that I just never got around to taking yet. They’re interesting but also kind of just … pointless? Still fun though.
  • And then, to top it all off, this is MY LAST SEMESTER OF SCHOOL LIKE, EVER. Because I am (hopefully!!!!) graduating in the May. Which is scary and exciting because I’ve never done anything else besides be in school. I’ve been in school for 20+ years just TRAINING for this moment: graduation. 
  • So I already want it to be spring break, but I know that I’m wishing away the last of my schooling experience.
  • And I also know that spring break will probably be the last big-ish break I’ll ever get before I have to go out into the real world and get a real job so I want it to be here, but I don’t want it to be OVER.
  • So………yeah.

Despite that whirlwind of emotions, I am really excited for 2019 and what it holds! I’m ready to build my author empire, take over the world, and adopt a cat.

Lots of exciting things!!!!

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Let's Talk!

How was your January? Are you keeping up with your resolutions? Anything fun planned for February? Any tips for a graduating soon-to-be real person??

How to Write Consistently & Follow Through With Your Writing Goals

how to write consistently & follow through with your writing goals

If you’ve been writing for a while, you’ve probably figured out that a book doesn’t just write itself, no matter how much you yell at it or try to bribe your story with chocolate. It just … doesn’t happen — it has to be written.

Sometimes, though, writing is really really hard. And it’s not just the writing that’s difficult. It’s getting your butt in the chair and your hands on the keyboard consistently and following through on your writing goals that’s the really hard part.

When your writing session rolls around, sometimes your butt would rather be anywhere in the entire world that’s not your chair.

Yet, putting your butt anywhere in the entire world that’s not your chair is NOT how stories get written. That’s NOT how author empires get built.

You write the book of your dreams when you show up consistently and write bit by bit. And, after writing for, like, almost a decade, I’ve got a few tips for following through on your writing goals.

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WAKE UP EARLY AND WRITE

I can’t stress this enough. I mean, this could be the end of the post right here. Getting up early to write absolutely REVOLUTIONIZED my writing life. For the first time ever, I was coming to my writing with energy.

That being said, if you’re a night owl and you love to write late, you do you!

BUT if you’re struggling to find the energy to write after you get home from school/work/internships/Hogwarts, then maybe it’s time to take a new approach. Don’t let the fact that you end your day with zero energy stop you from writing.

Becoming a morning writer 101 for non-morning people:

  • Start waking up just 10 minutes earlier than usual to write — It may be tempting to hit snooze and roll back into bed, but what good is an extra 10 minutes of sleep going to do? You won’t get a full REM cycle, you’ll be just as tired in 10 minutes as you were when you’re alarm went off.
  • Get out of bed and just write before you do ANY part of your morning routine.
  • Keep the rest of your writing routine the same (whether you write in the afternoon, evening, or night) — When you sit down to write again later, you’ll realize you already have some progress (like, 10 min of progress!). It’ll feel good, and it’ll be this good feeling that will get you more and more motivated to wake up earlier and earlier.

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Getting up early takes practice, but once you get into the habit of spending a few short minutes with your writing in the morning, you’ll realize how good it feels to make some progress before your day even starts. This good feeling is contagious, and before you know it, you’ll be hopping out of bed to write.

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SET A DEADLINE THAT MAKES SENSE

Books are fricking big. There are a lot of words. Like, thousands. Sometimes hundreds of thousands.

A lot of things happen in this span of thousands of words, but once you get a few thousand words in, it’s all the same. 10,000 or 20,000 or 30,000 — they’re just numbers and this book isn’t getting any closer to being all drafted, rewritten, revised, edited … you know the drill.

In the grand scheme of things, when you’re maybe only writing a thousand words at a time or editing a few chapters a week, it feels like you will never ever ever finish. And that’s discouraging.

When I revised my WIP this summer, I had a plan for how I was going to turn my first draft into a full second and partial third draft but I had NO clue how long it would take me. I thought I was being gentle with myself by not giving myself a deadline, but in reality it made things even more difficult (as if taking a lumpy lump of words and turning it into a more shapely lump up of words wasn’t hard enough).

I mean, how was I supposed to know how long it would take me to revise 80k? What if I hit a snag? What if I realized I had to rewrite? Besides, if I just pointed at my calendar and picked an arbitrary deadline, it would probably make me feel crappy if I missed it. I just thought that if I could finish by the end of 2018, I’d be happy — but when I had started, 2018 was six months away. That’s kind of a long time.

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It was mentally really exhausting to sit down day after day and chip away at this story — and that’s even considering the fact that I LOVE revision. I put in hard work every day, but the progress was really slow and that’s just a punch in the face for morale.

Okay, I’m gonna stop wallowing now and get to the point … because hopefully you understand what I’m saying. IT TAKES A LONG TIME TO WRITE A BOOK, yeah?

Instead of thinking I want to have this book written by March because that sounds like a reasonable deadline, work a little backwards.

How to set a self-imposed deadline that will actually encourage you instead of freak you out:

  • Figure out how much, on average, you can do on a week and make that your weekly goal — If you don’t already know how much you can write/rewrite/revise/edit a week, take a week and just see how far you can get. If it was a good week (you had lots of time to spend with your WIP) then think about lowering your goal a bit. If you had a bad week (like your cat ran away, you ran out of coffee, and you spent a total of 5 minutes with your WIP) then think about raising your goal a bit.
  • Once you have a weekly goal, figure out how long, doing this weekly goal, it will take you to finish your MS.
  • Break out the calendar, start counting, and figure out the number of weeks it will take you to finish your MS.
  • Set your deadline there!

Basing your deadline off what you ALREADY can produce, instead of what you WANT to produce means your deadline will be realistic. You will have a light at the end of the proverbial WIP tunnel.

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SCHEDULE IT IN YOUR PLANNER

Scheduling my writing sessions was another big game changer.

I’m sure you hear this all the time, right? You have to actually treat your writing like a date. Make an appointment with your writing. Treat this like it’s your job. Act like it’s a meeting you can’t miss … I mean, everyone says it, but does anyone actually do it?

Maybe they do and I’m just a lost little soul, but for the longest time I DIDN’T.

Even after I already had a planner and used it regularly to get stuff done, I still wasn’t scheduling my writing sessions. Sure, I had a set “time” I write every day — after I got home from the gym and showered in the morning, I used the rest of my spare time before class to write.

I knew my writing was important, but I wasn’t actually treating it like it was important. I was just giving it the left over scraps of my morning routine time.

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For a few years, I was fighting to squeeze out 20 or 30 minutes of writing. Now I write for about 2 hours every day.

How I nearly quadrupled my daily writing time:

  • I prioritized — I was doing other things in the morning (like going to the gym, showering, taking a long time to “get ready”) that just weren’t important.
  • Every week I scheduling allowed writing time into my mornings — When I know there’s nothing else that needs to be going on during these time slots, I a) can just write and b) am more likely to treat my writing seriously aka sit down and not blow it off because I’d rather sleep or go to the gym or whatever.

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REMEMBER THAT YOU DON’T LITERALLY HAVE TO WRITE EVERYDAY

I am 100% aware of the fact that I just big time contradicted myself, but wait! It’s true.

Contrary to the very popular piece of writing advice write everyday you don’t have to write everyday. I’d even argue that you SHOULDN’T write every day, because that’s how burnout starts.

If you have a hard time actually sitting down daily with your writing and you want to fix that, I’d recommend taking a whole month and doing your own little version of NaNoWriMo. You don’t need a word goal, but promise yourself that you will spend time writing every day. (If you like the support and community of NaNo but not the rigid 1,667 word count, consider Camp NaNo in April and July where you can set your OWN goals and still write along others.)

If you already write every day rather consistently, try to do the opposite: schedule in days where you don’t write.

This may sound counterproductive, but in the same way that writing is easier when the mind is fresh in the morning, writing is easier when the mind is fresh after a healthy break. This looks different for everyone — maybe a few handful of days every month when you start to feel burned out, maybe once a week, maybe weekends, maybe a few days in the row at the end of each month. For me, it looks like taking weekends off to enjoy life and refill my creative tank.

Either way, if you find writing every day hard, maybe it’s time you don’t. Give your mind space to be creative.

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Let's Talk!

How are your 2019 writing goals going so far? Are your a morning person or a night owl? Do you want to hear more about how I get up early to write or do I talk about it enough here? I hope you’re all having a fantastic end to your January!

3 Easy Steps to Creating Awesome Character Arcs That Hit Ya in the Feels

3 easy steps to creating awesome character arcs that hit ya in the feels

A debate that’s even older “what comes first, the chicken or the egg”: what comes first, character or plot?

Literally, it all depends on what kind of writer you are! But technically, neither character nor plot are more important. Sure, there may be character driven stories (my fave!) or plot driven stories, but that doesn’t mean characters can exist without plot or plot can exist without characters. I mean, they can but how boring would that story be?

Character and plot weave together to form the character arc. And there are very few things I enjoy more in a book than a character arc that hits me in the feels. That’s what good fiction does — it makes us feel.

So, how can you make sure your character arcs are “hit ya in the feels” worthy? I think the secret is…*leans in to whisper* working backwards from the end of the character arc. Because once you know the end of the character arc, you can properly set your character (and the reader!) on a book-long path from the beginning to the end of the arc.

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I’m currently reading the Anatomy of a Story by John Truby, and here’s a quote that jumped out at me. This is his advice for always writing strong character arcs:

“Always begin at the end of the change, with self-revelation; then go back and determine the starting point of the change, which is the hero’s need and desire; then figure out the steps of development in between” (84).

Does that sound a bit like gibberish to you? It kind of did the first time I read it. But that’s okay, because we’re going to unpack it!

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01. WHAT IS THE HERO’S “LIE” AND THE HERO’S “TRUTH”?

I’m using this terminology from K.M. Weiland’s character arc series, because I think I “lie” and “truth” are a bit easier to understand than Truby’s terminology of the character’s “desire” and “need.”

What your character wants  vs. what your character needs:

  • Your character wants something — This is usually going to be an external goal and the character’s main goal in the story.
  • Your character wants this goal because of a deep-rooted “lie” they believe — This lie is your character’s internal motivation. In order for there to be a character arc, this motivating belief needs to be a misconception. Your character can’t learn and change if they already know everything about themselves and the world.
  • Your character needs to learn the “truth”What they want (their external story goal, remember?) isn’t going to solve their internal conflict. What they need to solve all their problems (external AND internal) is the truth.


Character arc and plot seamlessly mesh together (to create an awesome story!!) when your character thinks getting what they externally want will fix their internal conflict. But really, they need to internally learn something first before they can externally fix their life and accomplish their story goal.

I’m going to break it down again, but this time with an example. I find that referring to other books isn’t the best way to illustrate points because sometimes people haven’t read these stories. So…

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pretend this is our MC in the example below — Daisy

Here’s a simple example I made up:

  • Your character wants something, which is usually in conflict with their need — Daisy (idk first name I thought of?) needs to realize that drinking twelve gallons of coffee is a) dangerous and b) pointless because the power to change her life doesn’t lie within the coffee, it lies within herself (awwwww right?)
  • The reason they want something is because of a “lie” — Daisy’s mother was a CEO, Oscar winning actress, Noble Peace awarded scientist, and first astronaut on Venus all before she turned 25. Daisy believes that if doesn’t work her butt off and follow her mother’s footsteps, she is a failure. More simply: she believes the lie that she should be hustling 24/7 and sacrificing anything (like her health) to get there.
  • And what they need is a manifestation of the “truth” — AKA realizing that drinking twelve gallons of coffee to give her energy to follow in her mother’s footsteps is a) dangerous and b) pointless because the power to change her life doesn’t lie within the coffee, it lies within herself. Also, who cares about what her mother did. This is DAISY’S life.

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02. WHAT IS THE EXACT MOMENT OF REVELATION?

Once you’ve figured out all the good stuff above, this step is pretty self-explanatory, right? The hard part is over. There needs to be an exact moment within your character’s arc where your hero realizes the previous way they’ve been doing things isn’t right — it’s a lie. They realize there’s a better way to do something. And once they realize what they need internally, they can finally achieve what they want externally, and (in a positive character arc where the character grows instead of sinks into the depths of evil or something) defeat their opponent.

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Even if you discovery write and pants, knowing this exact moment can be really valuable in the whole discovery process. You know where you need to get to, and you still have the freedom to discover how to get there.

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03. WHAT HAPPENS RIGHT BEFORE THE REVELATION?

It’s time to set up the dominos in your story. And honestly, once you have everything in step 01 figured out, this will be a piece of cheese (or cake…but I like cheese better). After you figure out what happens right before the revelation, the rest of the character arc becomes a bit clearer and it’s easier to bridge the distance between your beginning and your revelation.

In case you’re curious to learn more about filling in the blanks between the beginning and the character’s revelation, I HIGHLY recommend K.M. Weiland’s series on character arcs. It’s long and dense but SOOOO good. I can easily say this series took my understanding of craft to the next level. There’s a SIGNIFICANT difference in my writing after I understood how internal character arcs and external plot intertwine.

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I want to start writing a lot more craft posts for you guys! 🙂 I love learning about craft, and for a while I told myself that I couldn’t blog about it because I still haven’t learned enough. But honestly? I don’t have to be an expert to talk about craft. In fact, I believe there are very few people who know EVERYTHING about craft — we’re all figuring this out together.

Also, little housekeeping note: In case you’ve been following my career long Post Once or Twice a Week? dilemma, I’ve decided to try and post twice a week. It’s a bit more work, but it honestly just FEELS better to post twice a week here because I love sharing content with you all. And, almost 9 months into this blogging journey, I can for sure say that this is a platform I want to spend my energy on, thanks to all you lovely lovely readers.

Let's Talk!

Do you like to read character-driven or plot-driven fiction? Which do you prefer to write? Do you have a favorite character arc? (no spoilers!) And finally: how relatable is Daisy and her need to drink 12 coffees a day in order to get crap done?

5 Ways to Making the Most of Your Writing Sessions

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It can be really frustrating to set aside time to write, only to find that it takes you too long to get back into the flow of your story. By the time you hit your creative groove, your writing session is already over.

In the same way that books get written one word at a time, your WIP comes to life one minute at a time. Every minute you of work you put into your writing COUNTS — whether you make it awesome or just trudge through.

Either way, I think writing should leave your fulfilled. It’s awesome that you’re dedicating time to your dreams! You DESERVE to get the most out of your writing session. Here’s how to make your writing sessions more awesome and less trudge-y.

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01. DON’T THINK IT’S ALL OR NOTHING

This is a trap I fell into COUNTLESS (seriously, countless like googleplex kind of countless) times as a new writer. If I planned on writing for a half hour, like from 4-4:30, but for some reason didn’t get started until 4:15, I would just give up. I would give up and then tell myself that I would try again the next day, when maybe I would have the full 30 minutes to write. Instead of just 15.

That’s SO unfair, right?

You deserve more than treating your dreams as an all-or-nothing game. You deserve to ALWAYS give it your all, whether you had less time than you anticipated, less energy than you anticipated, less creativity than you anticipated.

Books get written when writers decide to show up consistently.

I think this is the first step in making the most of your writing session: set your intentions. Promise to give yourself all that you’ve got. Some days you’ve got more, some days you’ve got less, but commit to yourself and give it your all.

Once you decide that you are, in fact, going to make the most of your writing session instead of pushing it off until the next day, I have a few more tips for helping you ace your writing session.

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02. HAVE A ROUTINE THAT GETS YOU IN THE HEADSPACE QUICKLY

While I do have a long and mindful morning routine that morphs into my early morning writing ritual, I’ve learned to simplify in a pinch. The moment my coffee cup touches my desk, I KNOW it’s time to write.

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Quick ways to get in the writing mood:

  • Grab your favorite snack or drink
  • Set a timer for one minute and type up a quick brain dump
  • Take a minute and re-read what you worked on the previous day
  • Repeat your writing mantras (I am a #1 NYT bestselling author. I write bestsellers. I am a #1 NYT bestselling author. I write bestsellers.)
  • Imagine walking into Barnes & Noble and finding your book on the shelf
  • Who are you writing this book for? Picture your ideal reader and how much they need YOUR story

Sometimes, these things won’t get you pumped up, but that’s okay. You don’t need to be waving pom poms around every time you’re about to dive into your WIP. In the end, it’s going to be HABIT that gets you in the mood for writing; knowing that right after you do x, you write. You may not be ready, but instinct will kick over, and I promise that once you start writing, the words will flow. Remember: you just need to commit to yourself first.

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03. KNOW WHAT YOU’RE ABOUT TO WRITE

Okay before all the pantsers turn away: I don’t mean outlining.

What I mean is: setting aside a minute or two to make yourself a little bullet point list of what is going to happen in this scene.

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It’s a lot easier to say “in this scene, a will lead to b which will lead to c” than to plop yourself down at point a and then find your way through a few thousand words of plot. You know what I mean?

Seriously, a few bullet points will save you a lot of time. It’s easier to realize you made a wrong turn in your list of bullet points than it is to realize you made a wrong turn in your entire day’s worth of writing.

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04. COME TO YOUR STORY WITH A SENSE OF EXCITEMENT FOR WHATEVER YOU’RE ABOUT TO WRITE

I have two words for ya — VISION BOARDS.

But not JUST vision boards. Whatever gets you pumped up! Maybe you have a playlist for your WIP. Maybe you need to take an extra minute or two to just imagine what this awesome scene is going to look like. Maybe you have to think of a snippy bit of dialogue you can’t wait to hash out.

Whatever you do, get excited. And if you can’t? Honestly, if it’s not something you want to write and work on, then it’s not something someone will want to read.

If you realize that what you’re about to write is boring, either:

  • a) scrap it
  • b) up the stakes and conflict
  • c) brainstorm an entirely new way you can present the same information — There is more than one way to write a scene! Get creative, because you are a magically creative unicorn writer after all!

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05. GET RID OF DISTRACTIONS

This is a bit of a no brainer, right? But I’m going to go ahead and call myself out: I don’t usually get rid of distractions when it comes time to write. Like, I know in theory that I’m supposed to shut off my internet and turn off my phone, but I usually don’t because I believe that I can exercise enough self-discipline.

Aaaaand usually, that’s not the case.

Even with my phone on the “do not disturb” setting, I’ll go to check the time on my phone and inevitably end up seeing texts. I’ll bump onto the Internet for a second, just because I want to check out my Pinterest board for reference. If I do manage to exercise self-discipline and quickly pull myself away from these distractions, that’s still precious writing time lost. Not even that, but it’s a lot like taking my focus and flushing it down the toilet.

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If you’re like me (first off, hi, welcome to the club) then it’s easy to make excuses for not completely getting rid of distractions. What if there’s an emergency and someone needs to reach you on your phone? What if you need the wi-fi for research? What if you need wi-fi or your phone for accessing your writing playlist?

Lose the excuses so you can gain the results.

Don’t just accept your excuses as the way things are:

  • If you think you need your phone in case of emergency — Turn it on do not disturb mode, and then put it out of your reach. If you use the Pomodoro technique like I do (25 minutes of work, 5 min of rest) feel free to grab your phone during the 5 minute break time. Because really, when was the last time there was an immediate emergency and someone reached you on your phone? Hopefully never. Whoever is texting you, they can wait 25 minutes while your prioritize yourself and your writing.
  • If you think you need wi-fi for research — Unless you are in the researching or brainstorming phase of your novel, keeping your wi-fi on will probably end up hurting you more than helping you. Keep a sticky note next to you when you’re writing where you can write down what you need to research ONCE the internet is back on. And while I do check my phone during the 5 minute Pomodoro technique break, I try to keep my internet OFF because we all know how many rabbit holes exist on the Wild West of the internet.
  • If you think you need wi-fi for your playlist — You can save Spotify songs and playlists to play offline. Problem solved! Here’s some quick food for thought, though: I used to write with music — I told myself I needed to write with music — but I usually ended up constantly changing the song and trying to find something else to listen to. If this sounds like something you do, I would suggest trying to write without music. It turns out silence is easier and much less distracting to write to.

In the end, I think THIS is how you make the most of your writing sessions.

You give your writing EVERYTHING you’ve got:

  • You tell your WIP, “Hey, you’re more important than the twelve snapchats and six group messages waiting for me on my phone.”
  • You tell your WIP, “Hey, you’re more important than this random urge I have to check Twitter.”
  • You tell your WIP, “Hey, I know I don’t have a lot of time, but right now, you are my priority and I’m going to make the most of our time together.”

Because, really, if you’re not talking to your WIP, are you really even doing this whole writing thing right?

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Let's Talk!

Is this post relatable or am I the only one who struggles with trying to make my writing time count? Do you have any tips for getting the most out of your writing sessions?