Enjoying the Craft

I thoroughly believe you should enjoy your writing (or any craft that suits your fancy). Just like those who enjoy mathematics. Personally, I hate math. Gets too complicated for me, and I end up frustrated and feeling stupid. Now, show me a study guide for Latin, and I’m all over it. Foreign language classes were my favorite classes in school, and I took every language my high school offered: Latin, Spanish, and French. Do I remember anything other than “Quelle heure est-il? Il est huit heure et un”? Nope, I can barely speak a lick of French, but I enjoyed learning about the grammatical rules of the language. Latin was probably my favorite language to study, as we didn’t study it conversationally but rather learned about the grammatical building blocks that made up the dead language. That has helped me a great deal in my own writing. (Not to mention we also studied ancient Roman culture, and that is a fascinating subject.) Spanish has been most useful, and I still remember enough that I can read and write some Spanish.

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I suppose what I’m getting at is that you should enjoy what you do. Not necessarily your work—sometimes you have to do what’s necessary in order to get by. But your hobbies? I’ve tried a lot of hobbies that I thought I enjoyed, and even dropped some money on—yoga, crochet, video games…the list goes on. The one hobby I’ve maintained over the years? Writing.

Writing isn’t a craft that can be forced, I feel. Don’t get me wrong—there are times I hate my own writing, and I get so exquisitely frustrated with it and want to hurl my laptop out the window. But for the most part, I love it. I love rereading some of my older works and critiquing what I could have written better.

I suppose what I’m trying to say is that you should love your work. Yes, you should want to grow as a writer and improve over time, but you should also love what you write, even if you dislike certain aspects of your writing. In fact, disliking certain aspects of your writing is even a good thing — it means you recognize your weaknesses and areas where you can learn and grow. But if you don’t love your work, what reasons are there to want to make it the best that it can be?

If you enjoy the craft of writing, you’ll actually want to make time to sit down and write. That’s why I believe writing cannot be forced. Write because it’s a way to express yourself. Write because you have a story to tell. Write because there are worlds you want to visit, people you want to meet, experiences you want to explore. Write because you have something you want to say, and the only way to express every single emotion inside of you is through words.

Write because you love it. Write because you love the craft, because you love the beautiful structure of a sentence, because only words can come close to expressing what’s inside of you.

Writing Realistic Friendships

I wanted to talk today specifically about friendships — not romantic relationships. Like any relationship, a friendship has dynamics to it. It is a many layered thing, ever evolving, ever changing. There are ups and downs, good times and bad. Most real friendships are not shallow. It’s about give and take, a two-way street.

Look at your own friendships in life. You probably share the good and the ugly with them, and they support you through it all. But you give back in return, supporting them through good and bad times, through the ups and downs. My best friends had a small trophy made for me on the anniversary of my first suicide attempt, and it reads “For Making Bipolar Her Bitch”, followed by a quote from Carrie Fisher.

You also probably share a lot of the same views, whether socio-economic or political, but that doesn’t necessarily mean your characters have to share the same views on everything. In fact, varying views on different issues can create conflict in your story. For example, in Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire, Harry’s best friend, Ron, believed Harry put his name in the Goblet of Fire for the TriWizard Tournament, even though it wasn’t true, leading to the two best friends not to talk to each other for some time.

So, here are some tips for writing realistic friendships:

  1. They need something in common.
    Whether it’s a common interest, a shared trait, or a common belief, your characters should have something that draws them together. Ron and Harry both love quidditch, hate doing homework, and both are Gryffindors. There should be at least one thing, one rallying point for your friends to agree upon.
  2. It can’t always be happy-go-lucky and stars and rainbows.
    People fight, and while it’s not a fun thing, it can be a natural part of relationships. People don’t always get along 24/7 with loving stars in their eyes. In my novel, The Days Without You, Cat tries to force Kylie to cheer up after the loss of her mother, and when Cat learns that Kylie is throwing away her relationship with Adam, she walks out of Kylie’s life, telling her, “I’m done trying to make you open your eyes. Call me when you do.”
  3. Make sure you’ve fleshed out your protagonist’s bestie.
    While you’ve probably done extensive research for your story’s protagonist, it’s important to also build up your protagonist’s best friend into a real person — someone your readers will care for or relate to in some way. The best friend shouldn’t be just a best friend; they shouldn’t serve the sole purpose of being the best friend. They should have their own wants and goals, their own faults and flaws. In essence, they should be a well-rounded person.
  4. Give them backstory (if their friendship started before the beginning of your novel).
    In The Days Without You, we learn that Kylie and Cat have been friends since kindergarten, from the first day of school when Cat asked her to play with her at recess. But they’ve had their ups and downs, such as the time when Kylie lost her father in tenth grade, grew depressed, and stopped talking to Cat for a few months while she learned to accept her loss.
  5. Give them meaningful differences.
    While, yes, they should have some things in common, your best friends shouldn’t be the exact same person. Everyone has their differences, and this can be a source of conflict for your story. Where Harry can be firm and — frankly — sassy (“There’s no need to call me sir, professor” remains one of the greatest examples of Harry’s sassiness), Ron can be more timid and laid back.

What are your thoughts on best friends in books or film? There are always great examples out there of best friends! Han Solo and Chewbacca, Frodo and Sam, Harry, Ron and Hermione. What are your favorite friendships in literature and film, and for what reasons?

Writing Software: A Review

There are a lot of writing programs available for use, and it can be overwhelming to figure out which one will work best for you and your writing habits. From cloud-based programs to your basic word processors, which one do you choose? Are you one for frills? Or do you prefer your basic blank page?

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Whatever your preferences are, there’s a program out there for everyone. I’ve tried several of them, and here are my thoughts on a few of them.

  1. Scrivener
    My favorite writing application to date, and it remains one of the most popular writing programs out there today. While I’ve attempted to use other programs, I continually drift back to Scrivener. It has settings and features to organize my research and notes, organize my chapters and scenes, and even has functions to export to PDF, .docx, .epub, .mobi, and more. It offers templates to start you out, with editable inputs for when you export the file. The downfall to all these features? There’s definitely a learning curve to it all. On the upside, it’s a one-time purchase of $49; no recurring subscription fee required.

    You can purchase Scrivener at LiteratureandLatte.com.
  2. Dabble
    Dabble is a cloud-based writing program that aims to be like Scrivener, but fails to do so. I found it clunky to use, hard to organize your notes and research, and overall lacking. The only upside was that I could seamlessly move from my tablet to my phone to my laptop, picking up right where I left off. There’s also a regular subscription fee involved with Dabble, although it is fairly low, but again — recurring.

    You can find out more about Dabble at DabbleWriter.com.
  3. Novlr
    Similar to Dabble, Novlr is a cloud-based, online writing program. It offers a cleaner look than Dabble, and is aimed at increasing focus so you can get those words out. There are Day, Evening, and Night modes, with varying color schemes to reflect the time of day. Overall, however, there aren’t many features, but that can offer a more distraction-free environment for those who are prone to wandering minds. Novlr offers two recurring pay plans: monthly and yearly.

    You can find Novlr at Novlr.org.
  4. Outlining Your Novel by K.M. Weiland
    I feel like the premise of this software from Weiland was tight and streamlined, and when I learned that Weiland was putting out this program, I was excited. She has a great series on outlining your novel and the three-act structure. If you like lots of questions and in-depth, thought-provoking prompts to really build your novel, this program is for you. Personally, I found it a tad overwhelming with so many questions, leading me to be let down by the program itself. It has a one-time fee of $40 USD.

    You can find Outlining Your Novel at HelpingWritersBecomeAuthors.com.
  5. Google Docs
    I’ve used Google Docs a lot in previous employment, and it’s quite fluent in seamless transitions between users. As an internet/cloud-based software, you’ll need an internet connection to access your work. (Although, I think Google Docs has a “work offline” mode? If it does, it’s not one I’ve used.) Users can leave comments, which is great for getting feedback from beta readers or editors. And if your computer ever crashes, you can rest assured your work isn’t lost. Overall, Google Docs is a seamless, clean, easy-to-use word processor.

    You can find Google Docs at Google.com.
  6. Microsoft Word
    The holy grail of clean, simple, easy-to-use word processors. There’s very little learning curve with Word, and you can export to a variety of file types. There is a recurring fee with Microsoft Office 365, but that subscription provides you with cloud-based storage for your files. There’s also an option for a one-time fee, but that limits you to one device. Be sure to save often in case of a crash, however, or you’ll lose all your work.

    You can find Microsoft Word at Microsoft.com.

There are a ton of other writing tools and programs you can utilize, such as ProWritingAid. Sometimes, however, I find good ol’ fashioned pen and paper are my best tools for writing, especially when I’m stuck on a particular scene.

What are you favorite writing programs to use for your craft? Let me know in the comments!

Story Ideas: Where to Get Them

Sometimes, it feels as though the ideas just won’t come. Your brain is dry of all inspiration. You stare blankly at a blank screen, attempting to will yourself to think of something, anything, to write. Maybe you’ve already written one manuscript and are attempting to write a second one. Maybe you’re worried you only had one good idea in you. I am here to tell you that there’s hope!

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Coming up with a story idea is just the first step in novel writing. Without an idea, there’s nothing to write about. Fortunately, inspiration can come from anywhere. I personally enjoy prompts, and currently have six or seven novel ideas written down in my notebook, thanks to various prompts I’ve found on the web. The current first-draft manuscript I’m working on, End of Days (working title), was inspired by an episode of Gotham. A lot of elements of my stories are derived from real-life situations from my own experiences.

So, yes, you can find inspiration from all around you, whether it’s a snippet of conversation you happen to overhear, or someone you see in public for a character idea. The world around you is rife with story ideas; you just have to reach out and snatch them up.

Here are a few places you can look for inspiration:

  1. Story/Dialogue/Character Prompts
    You’ll find tons of these on the internet on various writing websites. You can even find them sorted by genre. They’re little one- or two-line bits of text, usually with a premise of some sort of setting, situation, dialogue, or person. Personally, I find these very helpful for coming up with at least a premise of a novel, even if I haven’t come up with an entire plot yet.
  2. The Classics
    There’s no denying that Little Shop of Horrors is a work of pure musical and story-telling mastery. (Okay, I admit it — it’s my favorite musical, and I’m dying to see the current off-Broadway cast.) I was interested to learn that the stage version (not the movie version!) is based on the Greek tragedy of greed — the idea that greed kills anything and everything around you. The lyrics of Little Shop of Horrors also draw from the 18th century German literary movement, Sturm and Drang, to add to the feel of the play. (“Feel the Sturm and Drang in the air, yeah.”) So, my whole point? The classics, including Roman and Greek mythology, can be great for inspiration.
  3. Ask Yourself: What if?
    Real life is great for finding story inspiration. Whether it’s an interaction you had with a friend, someone you saw in public who was intriguing, or that time you were in the hospital, you can draw from the world around you. Take that one little snippet and ask yourself, “What if?” Some of the greatest story ideas start with a simple question: What if?
  4. Fairy Tales, Fables, or Legends
    Similar to looking to the classics for inspiration, you can find great ideas by taking a peek at fairy tales or old folk tales. Wicked was inspired by The Wizard of Oz and tells the tales of the great witches of Oz.
  5. Analyze the Elements of Fiction
    Consider the important elements that make up fiction: character, plot, setting, style, point-of-view, theme. Pick one and really think about what you would like to read in a work that has that element, whether it’s a certain strong character, a particular setting, a theme that’s personal to you.

There are a lot of places to find inspiration for a story idea; you just have to look around! Of course, coming up with a spark of an idea is just the beginning — you then have to build the story around the elements of fiction.

Where do you get your story ideas?

The Crutch of Show, Don’t Tell

We hear it all the time: show, don’t tell. It’s repeated over and over and drilled into us as writers. But, I don’t believe in “showing” instead of “telling” in every single instance in your writing. Plenty of blogs give advice on how to show instead of tell, so I’m not going to do that here. Instead, I believe in the importance of both showing and telling in your writing, because if you show all the time, in every sentence of your story, your manuscript will end up ten million words long, and who wants to read a book that’s ten million words long? (Okay, maybe there are some people…)

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Some of the greats included telling/exposition in their work. As I’m currently rereading the Harry Potter series, I’ve been enjoying the explicit amount of exposition in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. But it’s placed so well, so artfully, that you barely notice it. Rowling had three books-worth of information to catch you up on, but she leaves the exposition and telling to the important stuff, like explaining why Harry’s godfather, Sirius Black, isn’t in his life.

Don’t get the wrong idea. I’m not saying you shouldn’t show at all. I’m all for showing. Showing emotionally charged moments can help draw your reader in. There’s a big difference between “Her eyes stung with tears, but she blinked them away and swallowed the lump rising in her throat.” and “She was sad but tried to hide it.”

Description is important… in the right amount.

For example, there’s no need to give every little detail of a character turning on a light switch, unless, of course, that light switch has significant meaning to your story. No need to describe in detail a character getting changed out of their day clothes. You don’t want to overwhelm your readers with description.

Save your highly detailed descriptions for the story-significant parts. Save showing for the emotional moments, the moments that will draw your reader in and leave them feeling raw. If you’re writing in first person POV, really think about the details your character notices as they move about your story and setting. Think about your own POV, in your own life—you wouldn’t notice details about every little motion you make or about every little thing in your setting. If we tried to describe on paper every single thing in a room, we’d have twenty pages of paper filled with insignificant minutiae that nobody cares about.

So, where exactly does “telling” fall in all of this? Think of it as a continuum. On one end is showing, on the other end is telling. Exposition would fall towards the telling end, while a particular moment that is significant to the plot and emotionally charged (and, therefore, full of detail) would fall towards the showing end.

Ultimately, the amount of description you put into your work is your choice. But finding the right balance between showing and exposition—that’s the real challenge.

Grammar vs. Syntax

As a writer (or even if you’re just an English nerd), you’ve probably heard the terms grammar and syntax thrown about. But what are they, exactly? Ultimately, grammar is a defined set of rules for how a sentence should be structured. Subject verb object. (Unless, of course, you’re Yoda: Object, subject verb.) But what about syntax? Essentially, syntax is one of the building blocks of grammar, relating to the way a sentence can or should be structured. Both are quite intertwined. So, then, what’s the difference if both relate to the structure of a sentence?

The truth is that there is more to grammar than just, well, grammar and syntax. Think of grammar as the umbrella for the parts that make it up, which include morphology, phonology, semantics and syntax.

Morphology is the building blocks of words, made up of morphemes. Morphemes can be part of a word, such as the -ing in a gerund. To give an example: walking is made up of walk and -ing. These would be considered the morphemes that make up walking.

Phonology is the sound of words.

Semantics is made up of the meaning of words and their relationships to each other.

Syntax is the structure of words in a sentence. This is made up of parts of a sentence, including independent and dependent clauses, the parts of a sentence (including subject, predicate, object, direct object), clauses (a group of words including a subject and a verb), and sentence structure (simple, compound, complex-compound clauses).

These four building blocks are the essentials that make up grammar. Ultimately, grammar is a defined set of rules we follow to create a sentence, while syntax governs the way we structure that sentence to create a clear, concise thought. Think of grammar as the rule book and syntax as your allowance for the freedom of clarification. Syntax is your ability to construct a beautifully crafted sentence (while still adhering to the rules of grammar: agreeing subject-verb pairs, object placement, etc.) by utilizing compound and complex-compound clauses.

To give you an example:

Grammar: John (subject) eats (verb) apples (direct object).

Syntax: Although John eats apples, his favorite fruit is strawberries.

We can break down the syntax example into two separate clauses: the subordinate clause and the main clause. Subordinate: “Although John eats apples,” and main: “his favorite fruit is strawberries.”

While we can think of syntax as giving us the freedom to construct sentences, there are still guidelines we must follow, such as parallel structure. For example:

Incorrect: I enjoy writing, editing, and to read.

Correct: I enjoy writing, editing, and reading.

Syntax also dictates what is considered a complete “thought,” whereas grammar only dictates the form of a sentence (meaning the subject-verb-object structure) and things such as object-verb agreement.

Language is a complex, funny, and intricate thing. As I was writing this, I said to my dad, “How do you break down and explain something that is so intrinsic and inherent? That’s what I love about the English language.” (Pretty sure he was looking at golf-related stuff on his computer while he listened to me ramble, so I don’t think he was paying attention.) What are your thoughts on the building blocks of grammar?

Which Publishing Path Should You Take?

So, you’ve written a novel. It’s been cleaned up, scrubbed until its skin is raw, edited, and polished until it gleams. There’s not a single ounce of typos in your manuscript, and the plot has been torn apart and rebuilt until every plot point, every plot device, is perfect. You’re ready to move on to the next step: publishing. You swallow hard at the very thought of putting your work out there, but it’s what you want to do. It’s what you need to do with this manuscript. But you’re not quite sure what your next step is.

Well, there are three paths you can take (and a fourth that you should be very wary of). They are: Traditional Publishing, Indie Publishing, and Self-Publishing. The one you want to watch out for? Vanity publishers. They’ll charge you for the rights to publish your book while making all these big claims and blowing smoke about what they can do with your book, like getting it turned into a film and whatnot. Watch out for these scammers!

Traditional Publishing
This is the route most people immediately think of when they think of getting published. Typically, one of the “Big 5” publishing companies (Random House, Hachette Book Group, Harper Collins, Simon and Schuster, and Macmillan) agree that your book is worth their time and effort—not to mention they think it will be profitable. They do all the work for you, including cover design, editing, marketing, etc. However, they don’t typically take unsolicited manuscripts; you generally need to have a literary agent in order to be considered. If you’re considering the traditional route, your first step is to put together a query letter, have a damn good synopsis/hook of your manuscript, and start querying agents in your genre. If an agent is interested in your work, they’ll request the entire manuscript. If they think your manuscript is worth something, they’ll agree to represent you, and they’ll negotiate a contract with a traditional publishing house for you.

Indie Publishing
This route in the publishing world deals with small-time publishing companies, otherwise known as “independent” publishers. In many cases, they will take unsolicited manuscripts. If you decide to go this route, this is when you may get tangled up with vanity publishers, as previously mentioned. This is when you need to tread carefully, and make sure the publishing house isn’t trying to take advantage of you while blowing smoke up your ass with huge claims of selling millions of copies of your book. A true, honest publishing house won’t charge you to publish your book.

Self-Publishing
Self-publishing is the path I took with The Days Without You. It took some cash out of my own pocket, but I had total control over every aspect of my book. Very few are seriously successful when taking the self-publishing path, as it takes a lot of hard work when it comes to marketing and getting your book seen. It takes a lot of know-how in regards to what makes a good, industry-quality book. Many authors attempt to perform the interior design themselves with pre-made templates, or they try to design the cover on their own without any knowledge of graphic design in order to save themselves some cash. While not impossible, it’s a difficult task to make it look professional, especially if you don’t know what you’re doing. Self-publishing tends to get a bad reputation because so many authors don’t take the time to ensure their book is of professional quality.

No single path is right or wrong. (Except for vanity publishers. Those scammers can go screw themselves.) The course you choose just depends on a few factors, including how much time and effort you plan on putting into the actual publishing. Keep in mind that there’s also a lot of stigma surrounding self-publishing, as many folks consider it the “rejected” or “unwanted” path—a path only for books that weren’t good enough to be accepted by a major publishing house.

What are your plans for publication?

Self-Care while Writing

Self-care is important on a personal level. Everyone needs different types of self-care, including writers. But when you hear the word, do you think bubble baths, face masks, a glass of wine and a soppy movie? Sure, that can be it if that’s what you need. But self-care is so much more than pampering yourself, especially if you have a mental illness — anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, etc. Self-care is learning coping mechanisms. Self-care not cancelling your next therapy appointment because you had an episode with hallucinations again and you’re ashamed of it. Self-care is forcing yourself to get up and shower when you’re too depressed to do anything.

Ultimately, self-care is so much more than what most people think. With May being Mental Health Awareness Month, it’s something I wanted to talk about, because mental health and self-care are for everyone. Everyone has mental health. And, as a writer living with severe mental illness, I find it’s important to take care of yourself during the writing process, especially if you’re writing a novel. They can take months, even years, to finish. And I find they can be quite consuming (especially when I’m manic and writing over 5,000 words in a day for several days in a row).

Even when I’m not manic, I find that when I slog over a manuscript for days on end without doing anything else other than sleep, I start to lose focus and clarity. But over the years, as I’ve learned to refine my writing process, I’ve also learned to care for myself and my mental health so I can continue to knock out word after word, sentence after sentence. Here are a few tips to help you do the same if you find you need to care for yourself:

  1. Learn to step away from your manuscript if you feel drained.
    Hyperfocusing on your manuscript will only burn you out and drain you of your creativity. You might end up getting stuck with writer’s block, feeling nothing but frustration. Step away for a few days to help you clear your head. Sometimes, when you narrow in on one thing (practically obsessing over it), frustration and depression can quickly take over.
  2. Make sure to take small breaks to eat, rest, take care of other chores, etc.
    Sometimes, we get so “in the groove” that we forget about what’s going on around us. Whether it’s to eat a meal or snack, to walk the dog, or to simply clean up your home a bit, be sure to get up and move around if you’ve been working on your manuscript for hours at a time.
  3. Don’t forget about other hobbies.
    Having other hobbies is another way to help you step away from your work, as well as help you destress when you’re frustrated with your own writing. Whether you’re into knitting, doodling in a planner, or any other pastime, enjoying a hobby for a few hours per week has actually been said to reduce the risk of depression.
  4. Take a walk.
    And not in a “Get outta my sight!” kind of way. Exercise is great for reducing stress and clearing your head, even if it’s a quick 10-minute walk. You can even do a short, 7-minute workout routine according to WebMD.
  5. Focus on the positive.
    Feeling down about your work, like you’re no good at it or your manuscript is a pile of garbage? Stop and find the good things. Find a passage that you feel is written well and read it a few times, or find other parts of your work that you enjoy. Recharge your outlook to a more positive view, and don’t be so hard on yourself.

Remember that everyone is different, and everyone has different needs for their mental well-being. These are simply things I’ve learned over the years as a writer. Do what you need in order to take care of yourself, and don’t forget: Mental health matters.

When Enough Is Enough for Your Novel

At what point is your novel is done? Completed? Finished? How many revisions and edits are enough? Basically, when is enough, enough?

I recently reread my own self-pubbed novel, The Days Without You, and damnit if I didn’t find another error—a missing word. Even though it was a teeny, tiny preposition that my eyes almost glossed right over, all I could think was, “Well, damn.” Fortunately, I didn’t find any others. But there are still things I consider changing. Long to change. It’s not that I didn’t pour over revisions and edits, round after round, to make my manuscript perfect. I put my heart and soul into revisions, trying to make every scene perfect and meaningful, adding something to the story, taking parts out. I never truly felt like my story was complete. Grueling, it was. But it does beg the question: How do you know when you’re done with revisions?

There are writers out there who will revise a novel for years. I, myself, spent years on The Days Without You. Let me just tell you this: You’ll probably never be fully satisfied with your manuscript, especially if you’re looking into self-publishing. At some point, you have to put it down for good and tell yourself it’s finished, even if you’re concerned about one thing or another. And let me tell you something else: That it’s perfectly fine. That was a hard lesson for me to learn. Perfection is an unattainable goal. Let me tell you something else: You thought that at some point you’d reach that ultimate dream that is a manuscript without needing a single change? You were wrong. A comma here, a semicolon there. You might think, “Maybe I should have changed this or that.”

Like previously mentioned, you need to make the decision to stop making those minute edits and changes. Here are some questions to ask yourself when it comes to making edits or revisions to your story:

Is this edit/revision adding anything to my story’s characterization, plot, etc.?
If the changes you are making alter the manuscript’s plot, characters, character goals, or other major pieces of your story (especially in a major way), you’re probably not done yet with revisions. Work through your characterization, any plot holes or any parts that drag or don’t add anything to the overall story.

Am I looking at my manuscript with fresh eyes?
I believe it’s important to put a manuscript to the side, leaving it untouched, for some time. Whether that’s just a week or several months for you, it’s crucial to be fresh and new again when rereading a story. You’ll be better prepared to find the parts of your novel that need revising or—as much as we hate to admit it sometimes—major rewrites or removal, in some cases. Once you’ve written the first draft, take time to work on other things or hobbies and set your manuscript aside for some time.

Am I simply tinkering or fiddling with my manuscript?
If you’re at the point when you find that you’re only making tiny changes or alterations, it’s probably time to say, “I’m DONE, mother{insert callous, crude, derogatory word that I won’t put here}!” and start looking for professional editors or proofreaders if you’re going the self-pub route, or start researching agents if you’re going the traditional route.

The time comes when you’re not making your book better; you’re only making it different. Still doubting yourself? Find some beta readers and get feedback.

Art is never finished, only abandoned.

Leonardo da Vinci

Why Write?

This is a bit of a rambling post, so fair warning. When I was early in my writing career, back in my teenager days when I was writing bad Harry Potter fan fiction with my best friend at the time, I barely knew a thing about the craft of writing. (And no, I’m not knocking those who write fan fiction. There are some incredible fan fiction writers out there who even garner the attention of publishers. I was simply not-so-good when I was writing it.) But, I wrote because I loved to write and because it gave me joy. If you’re going to write, do it because you love the craft, because you love to learn and grow as a writer. I believe that as we grow, we become much more critical of our work as we realize the mistakes we’re making.

However, I had several years that I lost my love of writing. My college/late teen/early twenties era when I was quite sick due to my illness, and I even had to drop out of college after my junior year. I was so focused on recovery that I forgot about writing. Around my mid-twenties, I rediscovered my passion for the craft and really began to write my own original work. I wrote passionately and non-stop. I wrote about things I loved, topics that were dear to me. I managed to finish my first manuscript, but it sits in the archives now. That’s when I decided to read everything I could about the craft of writing. I learned quite a bit on structuring plot, creating characters, writing dialogue, and so much more. I wrote a second manuscript, which has grown to be what is now The Days Without You. After that was when I decided to go back to school for my degree.

I’ve learned a lot since those bad fan fiction days, but I look back on those days with fondness. Mind you, I’m about to turn 34 this month, so I’ve got some years under my belt. (I’m—partly—kidding. There are days I feel old when I make jokes about older movies and have to explain my jokes to those who are younger than I. Or, maybe I’m just bad at jokes.) I learned a lot while studying the craft of writing, earning my degree in English and Creative Writing with a concentration in fiction. I even discovered my favorite short story, thanks to one of my professor’s assignments, “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman.

I suppose what I’m trying to say is that you should write if you love it, no matter what skill level you’re at. I believe anyone can learn to write, especially those who are truly passionate about it. Those who find pleasure in the unique structure of a sentence. Those who enjoy a book for its world building or a movie for its rigid plot structure and strong character motivations. I recently read a cute little piece of advice on Instagram that if you don’t find joy in writing for others, write for yourself.

Write because you love to write. Because you love the way words fit together. The way different punctuation can give different meanings to a sentence. Just write.