Headed For Home

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I’m going to be honest with y’all.

I’m writing this while we drive.

I think we’re in Alabama right now. Somewhere near Birmingham, I think, although I am directionally challenged and it’s very possible that I’m wrong.

Guys. Alabama is hot. Like, ridiculously hot. Like, if it wasn’t so beautiful I would never come here again kind of hot.

But the trees have flowers and leaves instead of needles and the grass is lush and green, and everything is beautiful. Also, the dirt is red. And today is cloudy and misty. So I’m trying to ignore the heat.

We’re headed for Texas right now. Then, tomorrow, our wheels will be pointed toward Colorado and home.

I’m excited.

I miss my cat. And my family. And my house.

I can’t swear that anyone misses me, but I have a little—possibly vain—hope that my cat missed me. A tiny bit. A very tiny bit. Like, she went to sleep at night in my big empty bed all alone with no one to cuddle with and thought, “I wonder what happened to that one person who used to feed me and would whine back when I whined at her.”

I’ll admit, that’s a little bit of a stretch. But I can hope.

As much as I am excited to get back home, this has been a trip and a half. We’ve been through twelve states so far and have four more to go, and I have loved seeing the country change along the highway. We’ve crashed in hotel rooms, been hosted by wonderful friends, eaten way too much fast food, baked on beaches, swam in the ocean, in hotel pools, lakes, and backyard ponds. My brother made friends with a lizard, I found baby clams and ate my first Po’Boy sandwich, my dad drove us through the town where he grew up and showed us where his dad’s mechanic shop had been and the house he’d lived in. We saw flooded rivers, Florida swamps, the sea, and a telephone pole shaped like Mickey Mouse.

It was wild.

And now we’re headed for home. Tomorrow night, I will sleep in my own bed, and one week from today, I will start my first full-time office job and get paid to be a writer.

Life is crazy, y’all.

Anyone have any crazy road trip memories to share? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

Coffee Dates: Overwriter

Good Morning, Creatives!

Can I confess something to you guys? Like, heart-to-heart?

Good. Because I’m going to anyway.

I am a chronic overwriter.

Are you shocked? You should be. It’s true. I have a serious problem. My poor, poor editor is constantly having to cut things back and tell me to rein it in a little. (Hi, Beth! You’re my favorite!)

This week’s question is to soothe my own ego a bit. Or convince me to start a support group. Either way. Are you an underwriter or an overwriter? (If you’re not sure, judge it this way. When you finish a manuscript, do you have to add words or cut them out? Which do you have a harder time doing?)

I’m supposed to cut them out. I usually add them.

My Process

I love words. I love worlds. I love my worlds. So, because I love them so much, I love to spend a whole lot of time exploring them and showing all the little details, the cultures, the cities, the languages, and the people. I love to build cities and construct architecture and grow deep forests with lore that extends back to the beginnings of time.

One of my favorite authors is Victor Hugo. If that helps give you an idea of how bad I’ve gotten.

My Struggles Within That

Readers get bored! Stories need action, they need swift plots that plow through a lot of material and keep their readers engaged! As much as I enjoyed the chapter in Les Miserables about the Paris sewers, it didn’t move the plot forward.

Yes, I loved it.

Someday, I’ll write a book about those black labyrinths.

I’m strange that way.

But! Readers have to be engaged! And they don’t like pages and pages and pages of OVERWRITING! So I’m learning to cut back and do some of the exploring only in my mind. This issue is actually one of the reasons I started writing short stories. It taught me to say a lot in a very little amount of time.

Your Thoughts

What about you? Are you an underwriter, always struggling to flesh out your chapters and fill out your word count? Or are you constantly cutting sentences and struggling to get down to a certain point? Tell me about it in the comments!

Coffee Dates: Houses

Good Morning, Creatives!

Okay, all ya’ll are about to laugh at me. And not because I said all ya’ll. I’m allowed to say that because technically I was born in Texas and thus have the right to say ya’ll. And there are more than five of you, so it’s definitely all ya’ll.

I know these things.

Anyway, this week’s question is going to make you laugh at me. It’s silly and ridiculous and totally inconsequential, a question with no merit and no deep meaning.

I’m really excited.

Since we were talking about personality tests last week—specifically the Myers-Briggs test—this week, I wanted to ask about a different personality test. Specifically, Hogwarts houses.

My Process

I am pure Ravenclaw. I love books, I think too much, and I am not a biggest fan of having one ‘right way’ to do things.

Okay, ‘not a big fan’ is an understatement.

If there was one right answer to every question, no one would actually need to think.

My Struggles Within That

I have struggled deeply with this one. (Not really.) I wanted to be a Hufflepuff. I was so, so sure I was a Hufflepuff. My whole existence is a Hufflepuff kind of existence. They just seem like such warm-hearted, gentle, brilliant kind of people. The kind of brilliant that doesn’t quite make sense to most people.

But no. Knowledge is power. So I am a Ravenclaw.

Your Thoughts

Are there any Harry Potter fans out there? What is your house? Any other Ravenclaws around? Tell me in the comments!

A Writer’s Life: Determination

If you were to ask me what quality has gotten me through eight manuscripts, a thousand edits, and seven years of ups and downs, I would immediately tell you one thing.

Pure, cussed stubbornness.

Or, if you want to be elegant about it: determination. In my case, they’re pretty close to the same thing.

Determination

Writing when I’m inspired is my favorite thing. The words flow, ideas build and connect, and my characters cooperate and do what they’re told. It’s a beautiful thing.

I’ll be honest, though. I’m not very often ‘inspired’. Most of the time, I’m not. Instead, I’m faithful and I show up when I really, really don’t want to be there.

Determination will get you to the end of the journey, more so even than skill or talent.

A lot of people have great ideas when they start writing. They have good intentions, cool characters, and awesome plot ideas. But they never get past the first few chapters or even the first page. I see stories like this all the time, and it always breaks my heart because there is so much potential and not enough determination to make it happen.

How To Make It Happen

Determination—in my case—comes from a tendency towards stubbornness, but it’s something that I have cultivated too. I am determined to be the best I can be, I am determined to see my books in print, and I am determined to develop my skill set as a writer.

It’s a choice, and it’s a quality that I have developed over the years. I’ve done it with two truths, three tricks, and the next thing.

Truth #1

Determination is getting up in the morning to do what’s ahead of you—even if you don’t feel like it. No one feels like it every day. No one gets up every single morning and is inspired.

Muses are lazy. You have to be the one to get your muse out of bed and moving. You have to be the one who is rock hard and determined to get your stories finished and into the world.

Truth #2

Choosing determination is choosing your career above everything else—above that movie you wanted to watch, above the night out with your friends, above a day at the beach. I always encourage writers to take breaks, to live their lives, to spend time in nature and in the world to fuel their stories, but there is a line. A place where it’s time to shut the door, block the world out, and pursue your story instead. Without that, it will never happen.

Three Tricks

  1. Set a schedule. Have a routine. Know when you have time to write and show up for your sessions. If you write best in the morning, then show up in the mornings. If you need moonlight and starlight to fuel your stories, then set aside your evenings to write. Know your time and set your schedule.
  2. Know your limits—and your strengths. Some people write in bursts and floods. Some in a steady flow. Find your methods, find your strengths, and exploit them. 
  3. Decide what you want, and how badly you want it. Know your goals. Do you want to be an author? Do you want to finish this book, or write a series, or hit a bestseller list someday? Know what you want. More than that, know how much you are willing to sacrifice and how determined you are to see results.

The Next Thing

Do the next thing in front of you. I tell myself this all the time when I’m stuck, when I don’t know where to go next, and I need a direction for my week—or even my day. Instead of trying to plan three months or three years down the road, I am content with doing the next thing in front of me, the next chapter, the next blog post, the next graphic.

Your journey is your own, and the only way to tackle it is by taking it one step at a time.

So take a deep breath, and do the next thing in front of you.

Good luck, dearest writer! May your tea be hot and your dreams wild.

How do you cultivate determination in your writing journey? What does determination look like for you? Tell me about it in the comments, and stay tuned for next week, the last week of our twelve-week series, when we will be discussing expectations and how best to use them to your advantage.

Coffee Dates: Myers Briggs

Good Morning, Creatives!

Does anyone else need caffeine this morning? I do. Maybe not a straight cup of coffee or espresso, but I would not say no to a few cups of black tea with a little cream and honey. Just to get my brain moving in the right direction.

But! The weekend is near, O people of the pen, so take heart! We’re going to make it through!

Now, before I ask this week’s question, I want to clarify that I do not think any sort of test can put people in a box. We are created as beautiful, infinite beings with endless potential and ability to change. Our minds and our choices are our own, and what we decide to do with them shapes our brains.

However, sometimes the tests are fun. Personally, they make me laugh, and sometimes it really is fun to read through the descriptions and snicker over how close they came.

So, that said, today’s question is all about personality types! According to the Myers Briggs test, what is yours?

My Process

I am an INFJ, which stands for Introverted, Intuitive, Feeling, and Judgement. I have never been one to search too deeply into ‘societies definition’ of what that means, but for me, it means that I spend a great deal of time alone, I am incredibly empathetic and can almost always tell when someone is having an off-day—sometimes just by glancing across the room—and it takes me a very long time to connect with and trust someone.

I also have an enormous amount of patience for a long task, thus my writing career.

My Struggles Within That

I hate public events! Parties are the worst. Especially if I don’t have one person I can latch onto and dig into the deep parts of life with, instead of struggling through small talk. I hate talking about myself in job interviews and meet-and-greets, and I hate pitching my novels! But I do it. Because I am an adult, and I do things I don’t necessarily like to do.

Your Thoughts

What is your personality type? More than that, what do those four letters mean to you? Are you outgoing and the life of the party, but struggle to maintain lasting friendships? Do you write, but scream sometimes because you need human interaction? Do you, like me, HATE pitching your novel? Tell me about it in the comments!

Coffee Dates: Night Owl or Early Bird

Good Morning, Creatives!

Can we just have a round of applause for those of us who made it through this week? Like, seriously, congratulations! It’s the weekend! We get to rest and write and read books!

Hopefully. Sometimes weekends get booked solid and life gets in the way. But we do our best.

That’s one of the reasons that I love writing in the morning so much. I’ve found over the years that I do my best writing between five and eight in the morning when the world is quiet and the sun is still rising.

Which leads to today’s question! Are you a night owl or an early bird?

My Process

I am definitely an early writer. I like to get up while it’s still gray and misty outside, switch on my fairy lights, and sit down with my kitty to read my bible before the sun rises. Then I go straight to the computer, and most mornings I can fly through 500-1000 words before I even get up for breakfast. Such a good feeling!

My Struggles Within That

Early mornings don’t always happen! Sometimes I really am too tired to move, and that snooze button on my alarm starts looking very nice. Other days, I can’t sleep in to save my life. 5:30 rolls around, and ding, my brain is awake and ready to go, no matter how I happen to feel about it. Sometimes—especially on vacation—it really would be nice to sleep in a bit!

Your Thoughts

What about you? Are you a morning writer, typing with the sunrise and enjoying an early cup of tea to welcome the new dawn? Or do you haunt the deepest watches of the night and compose your words by starlight and moonlight? Tell me about it in the comments!

Coffee Dates: Favorites

Good Morning, Creatives!

How was the week? Anyone make it all the way through? I hope so, because I have such a fun question for you all this week, and it would be a shame to waste it on empty space because all of my friends got flattened by adult responsibilities.

So, here’s to hoping that didn’t happen.

This week’s question is about favorites! Writers have so many different caps they have to wear, but I personally would be lying if I didn’t have one or two that I favored above the rest.

My Process

Everyone has their own favorite part of the writing process! I personally love description and building new worlds out of pen and paper. I put on music, usually something from Two Steps From Hell, and give myself as much time as I need to explore the new surroundings and see everything I need to see before I try to put anything on paper. It’s an adventure every time, and it’s a huge part of what I love about writing. We writers get to visit such extraordinary places!

My Struggles Within That

I am a chronic overwriter! My editor is always despairing over it. I have to limit myself to only a few especially beautiful settings within a single book, when I would much rather explore every single room in the castles, every single dungeon, and every single deep wooded hollow I come across.

I’m learning to keep to the settings that really matter to the story, but sometimes I definitely run away with myself.

Your Thoughts

What is your favorite part of being a writer? Do you love your characters? Suspense? Stunning plot twists? Descriptions and intrigue? Tell me about it in the comments!