Showing Up to the Page

I have a secret to admit: I haven’t written more than 15,000 words of fiction since I wrote Somewhere Only We Know. I wrote SOWK over a period of three months, but in the three years since I’ve only managed to write the equivalent of a quarter of that book.

I’ve been struggling a lot in my writing. No idea has felt quite right since SOWK. And I was so busy with so many different babysitting jobs that I felt like I never had long enough stretches in which to write.

So I decided to quit my job two months ago. My husband and I are blessed in that he earns enough to support us both, and I am doubly blessed that he wants me to stay home and write. I was sick of spending so much time and energy running around to five different babysitting jobs a week when what I want to do—what God has called me to do—is write.

However I was so exhausted by the time that I quit my jobs that I wasn’t ready to jump back into writing. Instead I’ve taken the last two months to rest and read a lot. I was hoping after doing so, and after going on our vacation to the Great Smoky Mountains, I’d feel inspired enough to jump back into writing.

One of the mornings on our vacation, I woke up before anyone else and decided to walk out on the deck to watch the sun rise. I took probably the most beautiful photograph I’ve ever taken that morning, but it’s not as inspiring as it seems.

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Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

That morning on the deck, I begged God to reach me, to show me how to do this, to change me, to show me how to write again.

But I felt nothing.

I took the photograph because I couldn’t believe the beauty before me, but I didn’t feel God speak to my heart that morning.

I had this blog post marked in my planner ever since I quit my job, figuring I’d get back to work by June and that I would be full of inspiration after resting and seeing the mountains. I was going to write about taking breaks and coming back to the page refreshed.

Instead I’m coming back almost as worn and weary as before, but with a new perspective. We can’t ask God for beautiful, inspiring sunrise moments on demand. We must simply show up to the work he’s called us to do, and do it.

I didn’t make a whole big schedule this time. I simplified my social media and blog planning to a minimum. I made a list of stories that I can work on. And I’m only trying to write 200 words each day. I’m just showing up to the page.

I’m trying.

I’m learning how to write again.

I’m focusing on nonfiction, because that seems to come a little easier right now.

I’m jumping into writing opportunities at my church.

And we’ll see how it goes and how God leads me. But I have to take the first step by putting my fingers to the keyboard again.

What I think is going to help me the most is that my husband and I are about to move into our first house. I will have my own library/office and my books will all be in the same place for the first time ever. I will finally have my own space in which to create, and I can’t wait to see what magic my new library will hold.

 

Favorite Author Feature: Kiera Cass

In 2017 I shared Favorite Book Features on my favorite books. This year I’d like to start a new series—features on my favorite authors! I’m going to return to my favorite books shelf and look into some of my favorite authors. I’ll share about their books I’ve read and why they’re an awesome author. First up is none other than Kiera Cass!

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My new blog series will look into some of my favorite authors!

Kiera Cass is the #1 New York Times Bestselling Author of the Selection Series. She graduated from Radford University and lives in Virginia with her husband and two kids. In addition to the Selection Series (The Selection, The Elite, The One, The Heir, The Crown, and two story collections set in the world of The Selection), she is the author of The Siren. She also has an untitled book coming out sometime this year.

The original trilogy of the Selection series are my favorite books behind Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. The books are about America Singer, a girl who was born low into the caste system of Illéa, the country that was created after the United States ended. But all of that changes when she is whisked away to participate in the Selection, a competition to win the prince’s hand in marriage. These books are romantic and suspenseful. Plus it is an amazing dystopian story, which is my favorite genre. I can’t recommend these books enough. You can read my Favorite Book Feature on The Selection here.

I did not enjoy The Siren as much as I did the Selection series, but this book is still full of Cass’s beautiful writing and is an interesting retelling. While the Selection series is based on Cinderella and the book of Esther in the Bible, The Siren is based on the Little Mermaid. It follows Kahlen, a siren who is forced to serve the Ocean and who falls in love with a human. Cass first self-published this book before the Selection series was published, and it was updated and republished in 2016. I met her when she came to Dayton on tour for this book.

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I met Kiera Cass in 2016 when she came to Dayton on tour for The Siren.

Kiera Cass is one of my favorite authors for several reasons. First of all, she just blew me away back when I first read The Selection with her twist on the dystopian genre. She made a beautiful romance novel, based on one of my favorite fairy tales and one of my favorite books of the Bible, and set it in a dystopian future. Dystopian books have always been my favorites, with the revolutions and the ordinary people stepping up to save the world. The Selection does not disappoint. Reading this series (which I’ve done five times) is like getting a hug from your best friend. I turn back to them over and over again.

The other main reason I love Cass is because of our conversation when I got the chance to meet her. I had recently become a Christian and was going through a period in which I wasn’t writing anything because I didn’t know how to anymore. I really admire how open Cass is on social media about her faith, and so during the Q&A I asked her how she handles being both a writer and a Christian. She told me to stay true to my faith and write what I’m most comfortable with. As a person, she is really nice and encouraging. She remembered me and my question when I went through the signing line and continued to talk to me. The very next week I started writing Somewhere Only We Know.

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Kiera Cass’s Books (minus Happily Ever After, because my sister-in-law is reading it!)

Kiera Cass will always be an important author to me. From this blog’s very first post to Somewhere Only We Know to starting a new book now, I will never forget her advice and her books. I can’t wait to see what she writes next!


Have you read any of Kiera Cass’s books? I’d love to know what you think!

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:

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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!

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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!

5 Tips on Starting a Writing Project

Writing a novel is a daunting task.

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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

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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?

Why I Love Writing, Sometimes

Today I had planned out in my blog calendar that I was going to write a post called “Why I Love Writing.” I tried writing a draft of this post, but, like everything I’ve tried to write lately, it just wasn’t working. And I had to stop myself because I wasn’t being honest.

I do love writing. When I know where a story is going, the words seem to flow out of my fingers and I can write stories quickly and easily. I’ve been a bookworm for as long as I can remember. Growing up, stories were where I found comfort and friends. Books helped me to see and understand the world. And since I am a creative person, writing stories of my own was the next step to reading them. I’ve also always found it easier to communicate in writing than in person, so writing is the best way for me to say what I have to say to the world.

But writing is really hard sometimes. And when I don’t know what’s next in a story or what story to write in the first place I just feel stuck. And I hate everything I try to write. And then I forget why I even like writing in the first place.

Winter is hard for me. I don’t like the cold and dark days. I’ve been dealing with health issues. And I’ve been stuck for months with my writing—wanting to write desperately, but not knowing how to get started on any of my ideas.

But it’s March now and today the sun is shining (even though it’s still cold outside). And so I’m taking a step back and reminding myself why I love writing. If you don’t remind yourself how amazing writing can be, then you could give up and let yourself stay stuck until you stop writing at all.

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Remind yourself how amazing writing can be so you don’t give up.

I have the best job in the world. Every day I feel grateful and blessed that I get to stay home and write. I get to hang out with my puppy, surround myself with books, and create stories. So even when I feel stuck and am having trouble getting going on a new book, I just have to remind myself how awesome writing is and how wonderful my job can be.

One Word—My 2018 New Year’s Resolution

Last year I wrote about what I do instead of making traditional new year’s resolutions. I choose one word to guide me for the year, and I make an inspiration board that I can look at each day to remind me of my word. For my boards, I decorate a 12in by 12in piece of scrapbook paper with quotes, images, Bible verses, and song lyrics that relate to the word. I’ve done this for three years now, and my previous words have been Change, Grow, and Joy.

Only choosing one word seems like a small resolution, but I’ve noticed such a difference in my life by focusing on these words each year. Every day I see my word board next to my mirror and read something off of it, and then I feel ready for the day with my goals fresh in my mind. Last year especially, as I worked on Joy, I definitely learned to rely a lot more on God and find my joy in him. This is a great tool to increase your faith.

For 2018, I’ve felt God speaking one word on my heart for a while now: Focus.

I have a hard time focusing some of the time. I think part of that is because I work from home so I’m surrounded by distractions: my dog, housework, and all of the books I have out from the library. Another reason is because I have a tendency to feel overwhelmed, and when I see the long list of things that have to be done, I often end up sitting and staring at the list rather than doing something on the list.

But another big reason I have trouble focusing is that I always feel lost between book projects. Over the last six years I’ve written three manuscripts, usually spending one year working on it and one year staring at my computer, hating everything, and getting nothing done. 2017 was one of the off years, and I’ll be honest and say that I wrote almost nothing last year.

So that’s why Focus has become my word for 2018. But it isn’t just for my writing work. Throughout 2017 my husband and I became more and more involved in our church, and I definitely feel called by God to do even more. But I need to focus on him if I’m going to do anything important.

So this year I’m gong to Focus on my writing work, on my kingdom work, and on God. Here’s my board for 2018:

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My inspiration board for my word of the year – FOCUS

When I’m Not Writing: Watching Musicals

In addition to making jewelry and coloring, one of my favorite things to do when I’m not writing is watch musicals. One of my first memories is when my mom took me to see my very first musical—a community theater production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Seeing this show when I was little launched a lifetime love of musicals.

I love musicals because I love music, and getting to see stories presented in other formats has always been fascinating to me as a book lover/writer. Using music is such an interesting way to tell a story. Plus it makes the stories easier to remember because songs are pretty easy to commit to memory. I can (badly) sing almost the entirety of Joseph and Les Misérables.

I also think that watching musicals can be helpful to writers. Along with watching movies and television, reading comics and poetry, and even acting, seeing stories presented in different formats than fiction writing can be beneficial.

Other forms of stories can infuse your fiction writing and make it richer. For example, I, like many teenagers, couldn’t understand a word Shakespeare wrote until I was cast in a high school play that modernized scenes from various Shakespeare plays. Getting the chance to act out what I was reading allowed me to truly understand it. I can still remember some of my lines from that play, and now I can read Shakespeare with ease. I love his poetry and some of his themes have an influence on my work.

My favorite musicals are Les Mis, Joseph, Cinderella, Shrek, and Phantom of the Opera. My new obsessions are Wicked and Newsies, which I’ve both recently seen for the first time. I’ve gotten to see all of these live except for Shrek and Newsies, but I hope to see them someday. There is nothing quite as powerful as seeing these amazing stories acted out live.

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My Playbills from the professional shows I’ve seen, including Les Mis and Cinderella on Broadway.