Be Boring

When I was first starting to really take myself seriously as a writer (as in writing every day and trying to actively get published), I remember thinking that I was way too boring to write anything exciting. I mean, I don't do drugs, or get black out drunk every night. I don't go wild and travel through dangerous areas in the dead of night. Hell, I think the most dangerous thing I do on a regular basis is walk into my bookshelf nearly every morning when I'm getting ready for work because despite nearly a year of it being in the same place, it's always a surprise!

I grew up with stories about the wild antics of writings, with the motto 'write drunk, edit sober' being thrown around by everyone I knew. I always thought I was too much of a bore to fit in, but what I've found over the last few years has been the opposite. Schedules actually help me keep at my writing more than any sort of wild life ever could. 

Knowing that I'm home by 4 every day and sticking to the schedule lets me prepare to write. It's become a habit now. I don't have to sit and wait to be inspired to write, it's simply 4:00 and time to write. Most of the writers I know who are successful do this. They write and take care of themselves. There are always exceptions to the rule, but by and large, the writers who are making it in the creative world work on schedules, not whims. 

Now clearly not every day works out in an ideal way, but having a steady life where I am not totally clueless about what's coming next helps keep me grounded. When I'm not stressing about what's going to happen tomorrow (or where I'm going to get my next fix) keeps me focused on the story at hand. I've fond that the only real way to get any writing accomplished is really simple: sit on your butt (or stand at your standing desk) and write. There's nothing else that puts the words into the world. Not talking about writing, not daydreaming, not reading. At the end of the day the only way to write is.... to write.

And a boring, stable life helps that happen.

Now, that doesn't mean you have to keep a boring life in all aspects. Try new things, travel to new places, eat weird food that you can't pronounce, and do things that scare you, but never feel like having a stable life is a disadvantage when it comes to being creative.

Source: Photo by Eutah Mizushima on Unsplash

Patient Zero- The first draft

I’ve been working away on my latest work in progress, and just crossed the 30,000 word mark last night. I’m hoping to finish it up before the end of this week.

At first I thought I was writing my first draft. And I suppose in a way I am, aside from my outline, this is the first time these characters have seen the light of the page and the first time I’ve told this story to anyone. But, about halfway through, the story veered in a direction I hadn’t seen. I realized I needed to change a major character and rework my main character and the plot in a big way.

For about a day I just stared at this mess of a draft and considered just starting it over again and making all the changes.

I’ve been down that road plenty of times before where I write the first 20,000 words over and over and over in a perpetual groundhog’s day loop of writing.

Instead of sending myself into that kind of hell, I decided to just make a note to myself (set aside with XXX) and keep going as if those changes had already been made.

What this means is that a minor character named Virgil became a main character at word 21,008, and that a main character named Darcy completely disappeared at 24,000 and I never backtracked to fix the words behind them. I’ve even gone back and rechanged the changes I made. So maybe for about 3000 words, Darcy existed again and then was erased for good.

This draft is going to be a mess when I finish, like a Frankenstein monster sewn together with hands on his head instead of ears, and eyes for a belly button. It’s ugly, and gross and going to have to be ripped to pieces to be put back together again. That’s why I’ve decided to call it a zero draft, and not a first draft.

But now that I’m nearing the end of this story, I feel more confident in the characters, in the voice and the story I’m telling. It’s changed drastically, and that’s okay. I’m sure it will change a dozen more times before it’s ready to be unleashed onto the world as a (mostly) right-side together Frankenstein.

The advice I most frequently people at any of the writing panels I’ve been on is to finish what you start, but I’m terrible at following my own advice. I want my first draft to be a perfect story and that just can’t happen (at least not with the way I write) so I make do with what I can make. I paint in the lines as best as I can, and then I go back and clean up.

So, draft zero I hope you’re ready to be finished off…and don’t worry, I’ll get your foot out of your eye socket soon.



Source: Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

A Day in the Life

Something that people frequently ask about is what do I in a day? I think a lot of creative people get asked about their processes and how they manage to 'find the time to do all that', at least a lot of the people I know get asked that question a whole lot. So I thought I'd give a peak behind the curtain of what a typical (if there really is such a thing) day looks like for me. Now note here, I have several advantages as far as time goes: I have no romantic partner; I have no kids; I live with two roommates to split chores with.  So with all that aside, let's get started! 

On the best of days I'm up at 5am to get some writing and/or staring into space contemplating life time. I tend to be a morning person so I try to make the most of it. Realistically, I roll out of bed about 5:20 and have some time to read. 

5:45 am
This is when I stop staring into space/working and actually start getting ready for the day. I brush my teeth and my hair (with different brushes of course), wash my face and go through a whole skincare routine, put on makeup or don't, get dressed, and throw my lunch into a bag. Most of the time I've packed pretty much everything I need the night before so it's just a matter of grabbing a bag and going. 

6:00 - 6:55 am
I commute in to work on the train so I spend my time reading or listening to podcasts. If I'm on a really tight deadline, I'll write on the train but I prefer writing at home. Not having to drive makes my life so much better, public transit is amazing y'all. 

7:00 - 11:00 am
Day job! 

11:00 am - 12:00 pm
I usually take lunch around this time. Generally, I go for a walk or workout during this time and eat at my desk (bad, I know!)

12:00 - 3:45 pm
Day job! 

4:00-5:00 pm
Commuting back home on the train. Usually I listen to podcasts more often in the afternoon. 

5:00 - 6:00 pm
Dinner! I walk in the door hungry most days so I pretty much walk in the door, change into my pjs, and start dinner. I tend to batch cook on Sunday so cooking consists of heating up leftovers which is awesome. I also watch some Netflix or Youtube while I'm eating (bad again, I know!) Sometimes I'll go play PokemonGo with my roommates when I get home too. We're awesome at the raid battles. (Go Team Instinct!)

6:00 - 8:00 pm
This is when I try to get the bulk of my writing or editing done. If I'm working on two projects, I'll split them to work on one in the morning and one in the evening. 

8:00 - 9:00 pm
Hang out time! Most of the time this is time I'll spend with my roommates watching Netflix or playing video games. It's really helpful for my mental health to do something fun like games. I try to do this most nights but some nights it doesn't happen. This is also when I pack my lunches and get together whatever I need for work the next day. I frequently lay out my clothes and things too.  

9:00-9:30 pm
Bed time! Seriously, I really, really struggle with sleep so I go to bed early. I have a whole bedtime routine that I've talked about before and that's all because I have a hard time getting more than 3 hours of sleep a night. I go to bed early to help me get the maximum number of hours possible. Sleep is important y'all.

Of course, this isn't every day and sometimes I get more done than other days, but I try to keep a consistent bedtime and get-up time even on the weekends and holidays. Sleep is my main struggle and this schedule has helped me get a handle on it. So there you have it, a day in the life. On a good day, I can clock in between 4000-5000 words on a project. On a bad day, it's a big 'ol goose egg word count. I am still tweaking what works and doesn't work for me, like writing on the train, it works in the morning but if I try in the afternoon I have a tendency to get motion sick and be out the rest of the day. Big lesson: Experiment with what works for you and learn about your process. 

Source: Photo by Eric Rothermel on Unsplash

Avoiding Research Quick Sand

Research can be a vital part of writing. Whether you're writing a historical novel or a science fiction dystopia, you'll need to do research to help make your writing the best it can be. But a big problem can be getting so sucked into doing research that you never actually get any writing done. So where's the line between researching enough and researching too much?
Well, as always, there's no perfect answer for everyone, but here's what helps me. 

1. Start broadly. 
If you only know vaguely what you'll need, start broadly. Writing about space? Start with a general book, a textbook for instance, and poke around. Take notes, see what sticks in your mind. You may find something that suddenly adds a whole new interesting elements to add in. Things you never even knew about! Take lots of notes, read the references and see if any of those sound great. 

2. Utilize your library. 
If you have access to a library, use it! Ask for help with your research. Librarians are made of magic and awesome and most would love to help you find the perfect book to answer all your weird little writerly questions.

3. Don't buy all the books. 
This is my biggest problem. I decide to research something and the next thing I know, I've got 15 new books sitting on the floor and no idea where to even start. Begin with books you can borrow, check them out and see what you need. 

4. Outline. 
An outline will help you see if you're going to have specific questions. Train fight? You're going to need to read about some trains, better know that now and get the research a-rolling. Prepare in advance and you'll save yourself a lot of effort in the future. Take care of your future self by preparing now. 

5. Set a research time limit. 
Give yourself a set amount of time to do your research: a week, a month, a day, whatever amounts feels right for you. Then stick to it. I know it'll be super tempting to research 'just one more thing' but stick to your goal or you might get stuck in the research forever zone and never write. 

6. Make notes as you write. 
Start writing and then keep notes about questions that pop up while you're writing. This can be in the document itself (I like to leave notes to myself with xxx to make them easy to find later), in a seperate notebook or word document, or on a whiteboard somewhere nearby. Just don't let the questions totally derail you. They will pop up and that's okay. The first draft doesn't have to be perfect or have all the history exactly right. 

And that's what helps me stay on track to actually write and not get stuck in a research loop. 


What Matters In A Creative Life

A lot of times people ask the question ‘where do you get your ideas?’ as a big question of writing. For a lot of people the ability to generate ideas seems like the most important part of writing and creating. And at the beginning, maybe it is. Learning what makes a good idea can be tough at the start but with time the ideas keep coming and the ability to focus on them becomes the most important thing.


So what are the most important traits for someone who wants to create? Well, in my humble opinion, these are the 5 that I’ve found most important.



1. Focus.


The ability to sit down and focus on one idea and see it through to the end is one of the most important traits to develop. When I first started writing I would start one story, get a new idea and abandon the story and start a new one. I ended up with a whole lot of half-finished pieces and nothing completed. Focusing on one all the way through to the end has made all the difference.


2. Patience.


Publishing and writing are slow beasts. Nothing moves super fast, even when you are self-publishing, you still need to take the time to write the project, get it edited, laid out, etc. Nothing moves as fast as you’d like it to and learning to not get so frustrated with that is a vital skill.


3. Love of Story.


You’ve got to love the art of telling stories to really get a firm understanding of how to tell one. Reading, playing games, watching movies, learning from other storytellers is so important. If you love a story you can see its good and bad side and learn from that.


4. Curiosity.


Creatives are curious about the world, about how things, about ‘what if’ questions and all the uncertainty that comes with it. We like learning about new things, wonder about why things are this way and want to be constantly learning and growing about new things. Ask why and learn as much you can.


5. Persistence.


This is one of the important traits to build up. Writing can be a tough pursuit. There are plenty of rejections and challenges along the way. It can be lonely, disheartening and down right painful at times. To keep at it requires stubbornness and a push to not give up.



Those are the five traits that I’ve felt like ave helped me the most in my writing journey. What would you add? 

Refilling the Well in the World of Busy

When I first came across the idea of 'refilling your well' I didn't really understand it. I stared at it for a while just thinking 'what does that even mean?' In the world of 'I'll sleep when I'm dead' the idea of stopping and taking a moment to refill is almost a foreign concept to a lot of people. The busy, busy, busy attitude is everywhere and it's so easy to get sucked in and suddenly feel like something is wrong with you if you sleep for more than 6 hours a night. 

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Give More Of A Damn

So on Monday I talked about the importance of not giving a damn. Today I'm jumping to the opposite side of that argument and telling you to give more of a damn. The truth of the matter is I've gotten lazy in a lot of things lately because I've gotten so caught up in not caring so much. The problem with that is that caring is important in putting out a good product (and I mean generally in life). I've made stupid typos, not reviewed work for errors, and generally not cared about the proper layout of the English language. (I still stand firm in my internet speech of deliberately mess-ups like 'It are me.')

So where does that leave me? Well, it leaves me embarassed when I get called out on careless errors, and regretting not reading over an essay before submitting it. No one will ever care about your work as much as you do. You are the champion of your work and if you don't care enough to read it 300 times until you can nearly recite it from memory, who will? 

One of the biggest wake up calls for me was when I got the finall layout proof for The Bone Queen versus The Pulptress. My first thought was 'Meh, I'm sure it's fine.' and I nearly just sent it back without even looking over it. I know, I know. I want to slap past me too for even thinking that. But, I forced myself to sit down and read over every damn page, and you know what I found? A section where the layout person's cat had walked across the keyboard and left a string of gibberish in the middle of the page. 

If I hadn't cared enough to read over the proofs, would that have been caught before print? The truth is I don't know. My publisher did an amazing job with edits, but a publisher is handling more than just your book. They're having to care about a lot of books. You only have to care about yours, and that means you care more than anyone else. It was a massive wakeup call for me. 

I'm still working on it. I want to write my first draft, do one round of edits and call it done. That doesn't fly for me. (I'm sure there is someone out there that does work for and good on you.) Now, I'm spending a lot of time on outlines then starting a first draft. I'm going to take my time, go at a speed that works for me, and edit, edit, edit before a second set of eyes even sees it. 

It's easy to get lazy. You wrote the words, why on earth do you then have to spend months staring at them more? Because you need to care enough to take that time to sculpt those words into the best shape they can be. You need to care about your project more than anyone else ever will because it's yours. At the end of the day it's your name, your reputation, and your words on the line, no one else's. 

So don't give a damn when you're getting started but you sure better slow down and care a whole lot once that end comes into sight. 

Writing Realities

When I was in high school, I would fantasize about what my life would be like when I became a real writer. I'd have a fancy house and a live in chef so I could just write all day. Everything would be great and I'd have tons of free time to do anything else I wanted to. It'd be perfect. Now I want to throttle high school me for ever even thinking that. 

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5 Ways to Not Be A Lonely Writer

Writing is known for being a solitary pursuit. While there are writer’s groups and ways to create a network around writing, the work itself has to be done alone. Chatting with friends cuts into writing time. It’s easy for a write to tumble into THE ANTI-SOCIAL BUBBLE aka the thunder dome where no one makes eye-contact or speaks. It’s even easier when the creative life takes a nosedive and depression crawls in.


You get wrapped into the world of writing and see relationships drift away until you look up to see you’re a thousand miles from where you started with no one there to help and little energy to even call for help.  There’s a reason that the classic image of a writer is someone alone with nothing but a bottle keeping them company.  Writers tend to be introverted but that doesn’t mean that you don’t need people, social contact and to remember how to say hello and have a conversation. Having a rich fantasy life won’t save you from having to still call the phone company, interact with readers/reviewers/editors/people or any number of other things. 


Not to mention that writing can be an emotionally draining and challenging roller coaster. I always fall into a heavy crash after I finish a project and even though I don’t want to be around people, it’s what I need to help get me out of my funk and into the next project. A support system can be a lifesaver.


Here are five ways that I try to get myself out of the bubble and back into being a somewhat functioning part of life.


1.     Make plans in advance

Know that you’re finishing a draft at the end of September and going to crash emotionally? Make plans with a friend to do something you’re excited about. It could be a big trip, or it could just be watching a TV show you’ve been meaning to catch up on.  Have those plans in place in advance.


2.     Reach out online/text/phone/video

Sometimes the people you most want to see aren’t able to physically be there. That’s okay. We live in the future and you have a device around where you can send someone a message. Email a friend and talk about what’s going on. Text a friend that you’re having a hard time. Skype with your sister. Send a silly cat video to your friend who lives in Korea.


3.     Celebrate.

I like throwing parties so planning a gathering almost always helps throw me out of a funk. There’s so much to do to get ready that I keep myself busy and excited about my friends coming over. Plan parties around times you think you’ll be feeling rough.


4.     Go to a class

Interested in Sky Yoga? What about marketing? Find a class, online or in person, and go check it out. You’ll learn a lot and meet interesting new people. Who knows, maybe you’re next story will spring from what you’re learning?


5.     Find help.

Sometimes you need more than just a friend to talk and you need to look to talk to a therapist or other type of professional. There are options online, there are help lines and ways to reach someone at little to no cost. Don’t be afraid to reach out for that lifeline.



The roller coaster of the creative life can be a challenge to manage, especially when you’re a new writer and still learning what patterns your work might trigger, or when you’re querying, going on submission, or through a rough edit for the first time.  There’s no shame in reaching out to the people around you for support.