Growing As a Writer

Over the past few months, I’ve returned to a story world that I started a good ten years ago (maybe more). Several people thought I’d given up on those stories (not true, but I was flattered to know that they were excited enough about the idea to worry that I’d dropped it). You can’t publish a book that you never finish (well, with serial publishing, I guess you technically can)—but even though the art of finishing is very important to your growth as a writer, sometimes breaks are okay. 

Even though I knew that taking a break from a project was an okay thing to do, for some reason I started feeling bad about the length of time that I’d let this story sit. I was excited to get back to it, but also felt like a “bad writer” for having abandoned a story for so long. And some of the people who were excited to learn I was working on this project again also asked me why I’d paused and why it had taken me so long to get back to it. I know they meant well and were just genuinely curious, but being the sort of personality that I am, I felt guilty.

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Writing and Other Sundry Projects for 2019

So here we are, facing the new year again. If you’re anything like me, you’re looking back on the past year and seeing all the things you accomplished and all the things you didn’t.

2018 did not quite go as planned for me, although it was a good year and I’m thankful for everything that happened. My writing is what suffered the most last year, and I want 2019 to be different.

So here, in short, are some of my goals for this coming year: Continue reading

End of Summer Update – My Writing Projects

So here it is, the end of the summer, and what have I accomplished? Well, more than I thought I would, and less than I thought I would.

To be fair, let me explain – I have no kids, and I do not work in the education field. Therefore, summer is no different from the rest of the year as far as my schedule or time commitments. All that changes is that it’s hotter. And humid. I hate humidity. But that’s another topic….

So, back to the current status of my writing projects. Here’s what I’m finding myself doing:


The current millstone around my neck is book one of my fantasy trilogy The Light-Whisperers of Kalevala. As I (slowly) progress through this editing/rewriting/more editing phase, I’m discovering that I’m very much a first-draft lover. I love cranking out that fine new tale, in all its roughness and over-verbosity, getting to know the characters and their shiny new world.

Editing, revising, and rewriting is a lot like mowing the lawn – an apparently never-ending task, boring, unpleasant in every way. But I like the results. Mowing the lawn is necessary if you don’t want your yard to look like an abandoned property, and editing and revising your story is necessary if you don’t want it to look like it was written by a second-grader with no talent.

But I’m happy to report that I’m past (most) of the parts of book one that needed the heaviest re-writes (I hope). Right now I’m doing more editing and revising that full-out re-writing; it’s a lot more like weed-eating the edges rather than mowing the whole stupid yard.


This is the stuff I enjoy. I’m working on the first draft of the second Light-Whisperers book, albeit sporadically. I’m trying to focus my time and energies on the revising of book one for the next month or so. I’m also still working out some major plot points of book two, and since I’m a big-time plotter, I’m not in a huge hurry to get to that blank spot in my outline.

I’ve also started working on a short story for a contest. It’s fantasy, of course. The challenge here is to keep it short. I’m one of those odd people who can bang out 100,000 words with (relative) ease, but I struggle when it comes to keeping it under 5,000 words. My “short stories” in my college English classes were usually small novellas.

In the blogging realm, I am feeling very accomplished because as of the time of this writing, I have several future entries done (full or in part). This saves me from that last-minute panic of “ohmygosh I publish every Wednesday morning and it’s now 11pm Tuesday and I have nothing written.” So now I can relax and publish panic-free for the next few weeks until I use up my back-stock and have to start writing again.

More editing

I am now also marketing myself as a freelance copy editor and proof-reader. I figure why not put my inner grammar nazi to good use? I’ve put up a page outlining what I do. Contact me if you’re needing a second pair of eyes for that last-minute polish, and please help spread the word!

So that’s been my summer. Writing, editing, heat, and humidity. And mowing the lawn. How was your summer?


I did a blog hop about the Next Big Thing once before, but I thought it’d be fun to give it another go. I will be answering several questions about my WIP. In the first “interview” about the Next Big Thing, I talked about the second book of the trilogy I’m doing, because I’m currently writing the first draft of it. For this blog “interview,” I’ll talk about the first book, which is in the rewrite and first round of edits stage.

1: What is the working title of your book?  

The Vanished Reindeer. The trilogy is titled The Light-Whisperers of Kalevala.

2: Where did the idea come from for the book?

I wrote a blog post once specifically about that. The idea came from a thought about a herd of reindeer and a mystery—and to solve the mystery for myself, I turned to the realm of fantasy.

3. What genre does your book come under?

Fantasy. Specifically, cross-world fantasy (where the story takes place both on earth and in a fantasy world), with a dose of mythology-inspired fantasy.

4: Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Dunno. I’m still working on this one. Most of the actors would need to be Finnish, as the story is set in Finland and only one of the characters is American.

5: How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

About a year and half to finish the first draft.

6: What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Well, let’s see—are you a reader who likes fantasy that pulls elements from mythology and classic literature? Are you a reader who likes a good Scandinavian mystery? Are you a reader who likes mysterious monsters, immortal queens, magic, music, and just a dab of romance? My book has all of that—hopefully tied together in a nice cohesive package. That’s what this rewriting/editing phase is for.

Many thanks to Bonnie Watson for sending me this blog hop entry. Check out her books at!

Writing Exercise – Christmas with your Characters

For the month of December, my posts will all be Christmas-themed, just to be festive (or annoying, depending on your point of view). You can love it or hate it, celebrate it with joy or celebrate a different winter-time festival—but either way, Christmas is here and so is its impact on our culture. So I figured it would be appropriate if my blog reflected that.

I love Christmas (just in case my regular readers hadn’t picked up on that yet!) And every year starting about mid-November, I get a strong urge to write a Christmas story, or at least a Christmas scene, even if the current project I’m working on has nothing to do with Christmas.

I often do write at least a partial scene that involves Christmas, and it can be a fun and insightful writing exercise. Especially if your story does not involve Christmas, writing a Christmas scene with your main characters can be a way to learn something about your characters that you may not have known before.

For example, if your story takes place most anywhere on earth sometime during the past 2,000 years, it’s likely that at least one of the characters has at least heard of Christmas, right? So what might that character’s Christmas traditions be like? Take a moment and just imagine, and then write it down.

Does your character come from a dysfunctional family where no one gets along and holiday gathering consist of arguing and watching  TV? So what if that character was invited to a classy Christmas party with their new spouse’s happy, well-adjusted family? How does your character react?

What if your Native American character is just learning to trust the ranchers who moved into his territory, and they invite him to spend Christmas day with them on their new farm? Does he just watch through the window as they bring a tree into the house and sing songs around the old piano, or does he go inside?

Really, this writing exercise doesn’t even have to be about Christmas at all. Use a different holiday—any holiday. Or some other special event—a wedding, a football game, a concert, a family reunion.

This sort of writing exercise works best if it’s about an event that is not part of the plot of your story. It’s intended to get you to explore a side of your character that you hadn’t thought of before, to add depth to their personality and background.

So if your story is about a teenage boy who follows his two favorite bands all over the country in hopes of becoming a rock star one day, then writing a scene with him at a concert would be important for the story, but not a unique exercise.

But for a crime drama about a hardened cop who’s forgotten how to enjoy himself, writing a scene with him at a concert might be a way for you to discover what your character is like when he unwinds.

Or send the rock star boy or the hardened cop home to the grandparents house in the country for Christmas. Now what does the character do?

If you’re taking some writing time over the holidays, then try this exercise with one or more of your characters. It doesn’t have to be about Christmas, or any other winter-time festival. Just put your character in some setting that is logical for their life, but may not occur in the actual plot. And then write!

Spend some quality time this holiday with your characters, and get to know them a little bit better.

And have a merry Christmas!

Walk through the Door

Nike says “Just do it.”

James the brother of Jesus wrote, “Do you need to be shown that faith without actions has no value at all?” (emphasis mine)

Goethe said, “Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.”

In The Matrix, Morpheus tells Neo: “I told you I can only show you the door. You have to walk through it.”

What’s my point here? My point is that after you’ve learned, studied, believed, been guided, and prepared, it all still comes to nothing if you don’t do something.

While this applies to anything in life, I’m applying it specifically to writing here, since this is supposed to be a writing blog. If you want to be a writer, then you have to write something.

Preparation and training is by all means important. You can—and to one degree or another, probably should—read books and blogs about how to write well. You can plot out an outline for a book, you can do research, you can pore over a baby names website to find the perfect names for your characters. You can put together a playlist of inspiring songs, you can read interviews with all of your favorite authors.

But to be a writer, you actually have to write something.

Side note—I’m not talking about being a published author here (since I’m not one yet). I’m talking about being a writer (I am one of those, because I write).

Sit down and begin the story. Compose a scene, or a bit of dialogue, or the first part of a chapter of your non-fiction book. Your book (or poem or essay or song) will not write itself. And no amount of preparation will get it written, either.

I have been guilty of this more than a few times in the past, of confusing “preparation” with “doing.” I’m a plotter and proud of it, as opposed to a pantser—I painstakingly plot, outline, and make notes about every detail of the plot before I start to tell the story. (A pantser tends to be a bit more of a free spirit-type, and usually will sit down to write before having any idea what they’re going to write about). Neither method is better than the other one, but I think that plotters can fall prey more easily to the deception that “plotting” is the same as “writing.”

Now I am not advocating a lack of preparation. If you don’t have an excellent command of the English language (or whatever language you’re planning to write in), it might help you to take a class or study some grammar and writing books. If your story involves a place, time period, or other subject that you’re not already an expert in, then by all means do some research.

However, I have often gotten so involved in the plotting and research areas that days or weeks will go by without me actually writing anything. Yes, I’m doing important work for my book. But after six days of plotting, brainstorming, developing character backstories, studying maps, and doing other research, I finally take a good look at my manuscript, and discover it’s still blank.

To paraphrase Morpheus’ instructions, you have to walk through the door. Walk is an action, and it’s something that each person must do for themselves. Your English professor can teach you the elements of a good story, but she can’t write the story that’s in your head. Your favorite blogger can give you dialogue tips and point you to sites you can use for research, but he can’t compose your book for you. When Morpheus walked through the Oracle’s door for the first time, he walked through it for himself alone—and now it was Neo’s turn.

And in the world of being a writer, we have to keep walking through the door again and again. Research, study, read, outline…and then go write something. Then it’s back to more researching, reading, and plotting…and then go write something again.

Neo had to step through the Oracle’s door only once–but then he spends the rest of the movie acting on what he learned. It’s a continual process. So is writing. Consistency in writing can be surprisingly hard (and that, I think, is the subject of another blog post). Finding the perfect balance of preparation and action can be challenging, too, and it’s different for every person. But it’s necessary for everyone.

So go read, study, and prepare. And then go write something!