My 2019 Writing and Reading Goals

The beginning of a new year makes me reflect on the work I’ve done over the past twelve months and plan ahead for what I’d like to accomplish in the following year. So today I’d like to share my writing and reading goals for 2019.

Being a stay-at-home writer, I struggle with motivation. I have gone through many iterations of schedules and reward systems to try to figure out the best way for me to stay motivated and get work done. But the problem with doing this is that it became more about hitting the hours and achieving the reward than about doing the work God has called me to.

So now my goal list on my cork board only has one item—to write the book I’m working on. Because that’s all that matters

I’m not putting a timeline on it, because that system doesn’t work for me. I can’t rush this. I simply need to remind myself each day that I’m writing for God and that he’s called me to do this work. Motivation comes naturally when I realize I’m working for the Lord.

“Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.” (Colossians 3:23)

As far as reading goes, I crushed my 2018 goals. My goals were to read 35 fiction and 10 nonfiction books, totaling 45 books. I ended up reading 43 fiction and 17 nonfiction books, for a total of 60 books.

I’m going to up my goals, but keep them under the totals that I read this year so I don’t push myself too far. The only reason I read as many as I did is because of audiobooks, but I’m going through a phase right now in which I’m not really listening to them and I don’t know how long this phase will last.

So because of that, my goals for 2019 are to read 40 fiction and 15 nonfiction books, for a total of 55 books. I do hope to read more than that, but I don’t know if that’s realistic if I’m not listening to audiobooks as often.

2019 Writing Goals
What are your writing and reading goals for the year?

In 2019 I want to keep things simple and focus on the reason why I’m doing this work in the first place. God called me to be a writer. My purpose is to write stories for and about women finding hope despite pain. And that’s enough for me.


What are your writing and reading goals for this year?

One Word—My 2019 New Year’s Resolution

I love the hope that the beginning of a year brings. At the start of each year, I like to make new plans and goals for my life. But instead of making traditional New Year’s Resolutions, for the past several years I have chosen one word.

This word guides me through each year, in my goals and in my faith journey. You can check out my past words here and here. I think that choosing a word is better than making resolutions because people often go all out on their resolutions in January, only to give up by February. Instead, you can pick one word to guide you and be a gentle prompting throughout the whole year.

A few months ago, God gave me my word for 2019: ENOUGH


One of the main reasons I need to focus on “enough” this coming year is because I went through trials in 2018 that caused me to ask if God really is enough for me. The answer is—of course he is! But I had to learn this lesson the hard way through my dog’s illness. I’m going into 2019 knowing that God is enough and I will go to him with all of my problems.

Another reason I’ve chosen “enough” is because I’ve often felt like I was lacking, both when it comes to food and with stuff—I eat too much dessert to try to feel better. When the holidays come around, I can’t stop myself from eating every yummy thing in sight. When I see a sale, I have to take advantage of it. Yes, I need those new stickers or books or whatever—This thinking needs to stop. I have enough. God has provided me with enough to eat and enough things to survive and enjoy life. I just need to realize I already have enough.

Lastly, I think at some point we’ve all thought that we’re not enough. Not good enough. Not smart enough. Not thin enough. Not pretty enough. Not whatever enough. But that’s not true. We are who God says we are, and he thinks we’re pretty great. We’re made in his image, after all, and he chose to die in order to save us. If that doesn’t mean you and I are enough, I don’t know what does.


Once I’ve chosen my word each year, I make an inspiration board. I use scrapbook paper and stickers and washi tape and Bible verses and song lyrics that all relate to my word to decorate my board. Then I hang it next to my dresser so that I see it each morning and remind myself of my word. Because I love to craft, this is an easy way for me to keep myself inspired. Here’s my board for 2019:

1227blog2
My Inspiration Board for my 2019 Word of the Year: Enough

It’s important to focus on your word throughout the year, and one of the ways I do this is by reading books related to the word. This year I want to read Full by Asheritah Ciuciu and Made to Crave by Lysa TerKeurst, both of which are about satisfying your needs with God, not food. I also want to read Living Well, Spending Less by Ruth Soukup to help me spend less on stuff I don’t need. Lastly I want to read Enough by Sharon Jaynes to help me remember that who I am in God is enough. I can’t wait to dig into all of these books!

1227blog1
Full by Asheritah Ciuciu, Made to Crave by Lysa TerKeurst, Living Well, Spending Less by Ruth Soukup, and Enough by Sharon Jaynes are all on my reading list for 2019.

My goals this year are to learn that God is enough, to acknowledge that I have enough to do what I’m called to do, and to accept that I am enough in Christ. I can’t wait to see what God has in store for me in 2019 with “enough”!


Do you chose a word to guide your year? For the past two years, my friends and I have gathered together to discuss our words and make inspiration boards together. Pray about a word, get together with some friends, and make something that inspires you!

Writing/Work/Life Balance

Despite the importance of writing/work/life balance for writers, I haven’t written about this topic before because it had never been an issue for me.

I’m very blessed in that my husband earns enough at his job that I can stay home to write. I babysit as a way to bring in some extra money, but lately it has gone from a small part of my week to a half-time job. I love having all of these extra babysitting jobs. I get to hang out with so many wonderful kids each week and the extra money is helping me to pay off my student loans. But now I’m discovering just how hard it is to write when you have a job.

1220blog
How do you schedule your writing time?

When I first started these extra jobs this fall, I still tried to do my normal amount of writing work each week. All that did was make me feel like a failure when I simply didn’t have enough time to get all of my reading and writing done each week. Feeling discouraged, I’d try harder to get everything done the next week, only to feel worse when I once again couldn’t meet my goals.

Things got worse and worse over the months, even though I actually started writing my book. But in November—thanks to being around fifteen different kids each week and their germs, and in addition to all of the writing stress I had put on myself—I got back-to-back colds and had to force myself to stop and evaluate.

Once I stepped away for two weeks, I could see the answer clearly: I was simply trying to do too much. I talked through it with my husband about all the things that were important to me to keep doing (the babysitting, the actual writing, reading fiction, blogging) and things that maybe I could step back on (reading writing craft books (at least in their entirety), some social media).

So as this year ends and a new one begins, I’m definitely going to be trying some different things with my schedule. It’s important to always be evaluating and iterating your writing process so that you can make the most of your time and do your best work.

Making more adjustments to my writing schedule—and focusing more of my time on the actual writing as opposed to all of the extras—will help me to find more balance between my babysitting work, my writing, and my life in general.

For a great resource on work/writing/life balance, I would recommend you check out Sarah Werner’s The Write Now Podcast. I always feel refreshed after listening to her show and ready to get to work!


If you’re a writer, how do you go about scheduling your time? Have you found a writing/work/life balance that works for you?

Mars: My WIP Research

I’m keeping my work-in-progress (WIP) mostly secret at this point because I’ve barely begun to actually write it. But I will say that it is set in the future and it is about a Mars mission. Because of this, I’ve spent the last couple of months doing a lot of research on the red planet and space travel. I learned a ton of cool facts about the possibility of one day having a human colony on Mars, and today I wanted to share some of my research with you all.

My book will be about the people and reasoning behind a mission, rather than actually being set on Mars, so that it where my research was focused. I did learn some cool things about the planet itself—like how days are 40 minutes longer than on Earth and are called “sols,” and how the colors of a Martian sunset are reverse that of Earth—but mostly what I was interested in was why and how we could get there.

So here’s some of the most interesting concepts and facts that I will be including in my WIP:

IMG_2531
A rocket from the National Museum of the United States Air Force
  • It takes a lot of people.
    Every single book I read and movie I watched showed that so many people are involved with any kind of work in space. Scientists are needed for every specialty that you can think of, from engineers and mathematicians to dietitians and psychologists. People from all backgrounds and all areas of science will be needed for a Mars mission.
  • It’s going to happen a lot sooner than I thought.
    The idea of humans living on Mars seemed to be way off in the distant future to me, and so I first set my book towards the end of the century. However, I discovered in my research that getting a person on Mars is probably going to happen a lot sooner, maybe even in the next decade. Most people predict we will have an a colony by the 2030s. This changed the time period in which I will set my book.
  • Private space agencies will probably be how we get there.
    The main reason we haven’t already made it to Mars is because the money isn’t there. But private space agencies like SpaceX may be the answer to that. It costs a lot less to use one of SpaceX’s rockets than to for NASA to build one themselves, and so that may be the answer to getting to Mars sooner.
  • It’s only possible to get to Mars about every two years.
    Because of the way Earth and Mars orbit the son, the planets are the closest—and therefore the cheapest/easiest to travel between—only every 780 days. When I started to try to plot my book, I had to figure out what months of the year would be potential launch windows throughout the century so that I could make my book accurate. I had to ask my engineer husband to help me with this, and he used a spreadsheet to quickly give me potential launch windows.
  • The further away something is, the further back in time you’re seeing it.
    I don’t know why, but when I came across this piece of research it fascinated me. When you look at a star that is, say, 400 light years away, you’re seeing it as it was 400 years ago because that’s how long the light took to reach you. This concept took my breath away and I’m probably going to do something with it in my WIP.
  • It takes a certain kind of person to be an astronaut.
    The actual requirements to be an astronaut are relatively simple. According to NASA’s website, you have to have a bachelor’s degree in a science field, have professional experience or enough hours as a pilot, and pass their physical. But you have to be a certain kind of person to actually be an astronaut. Potential astronauts are tested many different ways to see if they’re physically and mentally up to the task. The most prominent feature of astronauts that I noticed while doing research was that they’re all resilient. You have to be resilient in the depths of space. You have to work the problem and do what it takes to survive. All that I learned about astronauts will go into how I craft my characters.
IMG_3544
A spacesuit model from the National Museum of the United States Air Force

The Nation Museum of the United States Air Force is a mere five minutes from my house, and when I first started on this WIP, I went by myself to the museum with a notebook and pen and sat in front of all the planes and rockets and thought about flight and space. I couldn’t believe how far we’ve come in the mere 116 years since the Wright Brothers first took flight. And I can’t even imagine how far we can go in the next 120 years. I’m really excited to write this book and explore.


What’s the most interesting fact or concept you’ve discovered while researching for your writing?

How to Name Characters

I can’t start working on a piece of writing until I have the right names for my main characters. Characters are, after all, like your children, and you need to take the time to find the perfect name. And once you do find the right name, the character becomes real.

I love scouring my baby name book when I start working on a project. These are the methods I use when trying to find that perfect name.

IMG_3500
This is the baby name book I use to find the perfect names for my characters.

Naming Dos and Don’ts

  • Don’t use names that look or sound the same.
    Nothing confuses readers (or me) more than having several character names in a story that look or sound the same. If you have a Jon, Don, and Ron all in the same story, readers are very likely to mix them up.
  • Don’t use too many names that start with the same letter
    Likewise, don’t have names that all start with the same letter to avoid confusion. When we read, our eyes move across the words quickly and our minds fill in the blanks. So if you have a John, a Jake, and a Jack all in the same story—three names all the same length and starting with the same letter—your reader is likely to ix them up as well.
  • Do use names a reader can actually pronounce and remember.
    This is mostly a problem in speculative fiction. To make their science fiction or fantasy stories interesting, writers will sometimes come up with names that look and sound really cool. But when readers encounter these made up names, they have no idea how to pronounce them and thus have trouble remembering them. The point of all of these first few tips are to make things as clear as possible to your readers.
  • Don’t use the names of people you know.
    It’s best when writing to just stay away from using the names of people you know well. Even if the character is portrayed in a nice way, it can still cause a lot of problems with you and the person the character is named after.

How to Choose

  • Name Meanings
    Using the meaning behind names is definitely my favorite way to choose the right name for a character. You can use the meaning behind a name to convey a certain trait about a character or to add irony by making the character the opposite of the meaning. You can play with name meanings in the story itself like I did in Somewhere Only We Know. Or you can not mention the meaning at all and leave it up to the reader to look up if they choose. However you use a name meaning, it can add another level of depth to your story.
  • Sounds
    Don’t only play with the meaning of names, but take into consideration how they sound. You don’t want to have a soft character with a harsh sounding name or vice versa. Or maybe you do. Sound is another way that you can play with your character names to find the perfect one.
  • Keep a List
    Finding names takes a long time, time that should be used for actually writing the story. To save time for when you start your next project, you can keep a running list of names you like. I’ve come across many names over the years that I’ve saved in my mind to use one day in a story, but it’d be nice to have an actual list. Then you can organize it by gender/genre/sound/etc to help you easily find the perfect name the next time you have a new character.
  • Time Period/Age/Setting Appropriate
    Lastly, keep in mind when writing historical fiction or older characters in contemporary fiction that names should be time and age appropriate and that characters from other places should have names appropriate for their settings. You can look up online where and when baby names where popular. That way you can make sure you don’t give your character in your story set in England in the nineteenth century a modern American name.

Resources

  • Baby Name Books
    There are so many baby name books out there that list names by meanings or other categories. I use the one in the picture above.
  • The Internet
    I prefer actual baby name books because when you go online you have to have an idea of what you’re looking for instead of just flipping through, but you can still find name meanings and time/places of popularity online.
  • Scrivener
    If you use the writing software Scrivener, they have a name generator! Just go to Tools->Writing Tools->Name Generator (for the Windows version) and you can search for names by gender, origin, meaning and letter. It comes up with first and/or last names and will generate any number of names. You can also save your favorites.

What tips/methods to do use when naming characters.

A Book I Turn to When…

Books can be friends and reminders. We turn to books to learn and sometimes to escape. Books can hold special memories and can be comfort to turn back to.

If you’re like me, these are your favorite books—the rereads you keep coming back to for different reasons. Today I wanted to share with you some of the titles I read over and over again, and why I turn to them.

IMG_3456
Some of my favorite rereads: Everlost by Neal Shusterman, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, The Selection by Kiera Cass, and Somewhere Only We Know by Bri Marino

A book I turn to when…

…I want to go on an adventureThe Skinjacker Trilogy by Neal Shusterman

The Skinjacker Trilogy—Everlost, Everwild, and Everfound—are incredible books about the world between life and death. The series follows Allie and Nick as they journey through Everlost, and it’s full of so much adventure and imagination that I love turning back to these books.

…I want to escapeThe Selection Series by Kiera Cass

I think I’ve read the original trilogy more times than any other books. I’ve written on here many times how much I love these books. The Selection is simply a fun, swoon-worthy, light read that still packs an emotional punch.

…I want to be inspiredSpeak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Speak is probably my favorite book ever. This is such a powerful story about rape and healing and finding your voice, and every time I read it I feel so inspired.

…I want to enjoy a classicFahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Fahrenheit 451 is my favorite classic novel, and one of only a few classics I actually like. I love turning back to this older book from time to time because it is science fiction at its best.

…I want to encourage myselfSomewhere Only We Know by Bri Marino

Writing can be discouraging work, and if I need inspiration to keep going, what better work to turn back to than my own? Rereading my published book reminds me that I’ve done it before and can do it again.


What are your favorite rereads and why do you keep turning back to them?

5 Tips on Starting a Writing Project

Writing a novel is a daunting task.

king quote
quote by Stephen King

Starting with nothing but an idea and a blank page, you have to come up with thousands of words to tell a story. Hours of brainstorming, world-building, drafting, and editing are before you, and it’s one of the scariest places to be.

I’m at the beginning right now. I’ve had my idea for a few months and have been researching. I feel like I’m getting very close to the point when I can actually start writing the novel. And I’m remembering just how scary the beginning can be.

So today I wanted to share with you my tips on starting a writing project. These tips are what seem to work for me at the beginning of the daunting task of writing a novel. I hope something in here resonates with you and can help you tackle the beginning of your own writing project

IMG_3387
I don’t think anything is scarier or more exciting than a blank notebook.

1. Let the idea simmer.

I don’t like to jump in right away once I have an idea. I always find that letting the idea sit in the back of my mind for a while helps it develop. It’s also important when you first think of a story idea to not talk about it to anyone. The story idea will never be as special and exciting to you as when it’s new and only yours, and talking about it with someone else can make it lose it’s specialness, thus making it less exciting to you.

2. Read/watch all of the comparable titles.

After thinking through my idea for a while, I make a list of every book and movie related to it. These comp titles help you see how other authors and filmmakers take on a similar topic, and these titles will also be used down the line when pitching your work to be published. I then spend a month or so watching all of the movies and reading all of the books to help me further develop my own story idea.

3. Immerse yourself in research.

The next crucial step is to immerse yourself in the necessary research for your project. A lot of the advice I see out there is to just start writing and make a note to come back to it later when you need to research something. That might work for some genres, but when you’re writing something more research-intensive like historical or science fiction, I find it best to do all of your research up front. Doing this will help you be better-informed about your topic and I’ve found it helps me come up with story and plot ideas as well.

4. Get to know your characters.

This is probably the most important step before starting a writing project. Stories are all about the characters. And if you don’t know your characters well before you start writing, you will feel lost and the story will lack direction. Of course, characters will surprise you and you’ll get to know them better through writing the story, but you still need to learn about them before you start.

5. Breathe.

Lastly, take a deep breath. You’re about to spend weeks/months/years with these characters and this story. So take a deep breath. Remind yourself that you can do this. And start writing.


What tips on starting a writing project would you add to this list?