New year, new writing, new intentions

You may have noticed that I took a hiatus on here in 2019. I chose to step back and focus on a couple other important things in my life. I’m back and hope you’ll join me for more fun and more writing!

Happy New Year! Are you excited for the new decade?? I am! Before I delve into why I’m so excited, you may have noticed that I took a hiatus on here in 2019. I chose to step back and focus on a couple other important things in my life. Including:

·         Traveling to Vancouver, BC and Los Angeles

·         Getting married to my best friend and celebrating with our loved ones

·         Reading and recording for Book & Bitch

·         Working on my novel, Ophelium

We often tell ourselves that we can have everything if we try hard enough. And that can lead to self-guilt and burn out. There were many moments in the past year where I felt FOMO or like I wasn’t trying hard enough. That if I was just better I could write blog posts and effectively do all of the above.

However, I chose to prioritize my sanity and my loved ones and focus on what mattered most in the moment. That doesn’t mean anything I stepped away from (including was less important or less interesting. It simply meant that it had to wait its turn. 

And you know what? When I focused in on a few things at a time I made great progress and was incredibly happy. Instead of feeling overwhelmed and guilty, I felt free and inspired to go all in on projects and to be present in the moment.

This year, I want to carry that feeling forward. My writing may ebb and flow as new priorities and projects come on board but the love I have for writing won’t.

I hope you’ll join me for more fun times and new writing advice. There are some exciting ideas in the works including downloadable worksheets; a new blog category; and bonus content for my novel and the Book & Bitch podcast.

So, to build off that commitment to focus in, here are some of my personal writing intentions for the new year:

·         Avoid adverbs as much as possible

·         Stop over-staging scenes! (People know how to open doors…)

·         Trust that “said” is all my characters need

·         Read with purpose

·         Finish DIY MFA

·         Become more active in the writing community

What writing intentions do you have for the new year? Are they concrete action items for your writing? Or multi-step larger ideas? Share in the comments below or drop me a line. I would love to hear from you!



Valuable Writing Lessons from Game of Thrones

As a GoT fan and a writer, I can’t resist jumping on the bandwagon and adding in my own commentary. Which leads us to this week’s post–valuable writing lessons from our favorite show to hate: Game of Thrones!

Photo by Kylo on Unsplash
Photo by Kylo on Unsplash

It’s difficult to be a timely publication and not talk about Game of Thrones. Whether it’s conspiracy theories or actor interviews or fashion commentary–everyone wants in on the game. As a fan and a writer, I can’t resist jumping on the wagon and adding in my own commentary. Which leads us to this week’s post–valuable writing lessons from our favorite show to hate: Game of Thrones!

The importance of flawed characters

Can you name one character in GoT that is completely honorable and unflawed? Even good ol’ Samwell Tarly has broken oaths and stolen books. That’s because George R. R. Martin and the writers at HBO have hit on an essential fact–stories with flawed characters are vastly more interesting and relatable.

We’re all in some way flawed and it’s much easier to identify with the character that spills coffee on herself vs. the character that prances through life saying and doing exactly the right things. So next time you’re developing a character, consider giving them a flaw. Whether a minor one like whistling at inappropriate moments or a major one like a compulsion to lie, flaws open up your characters to be authentic. Not to mention, a character flaw is the perfect opportunity to insert some conflict and context. That annoying whistling could reveal a character’s backstory or be the catalyst for their spouse to leave them…

No one likes a happy story

I can’t remember where I heard/read this, but someone at some point in my life advised that no one wants to read a story about someone else’s perfect life. #Preach. Think about it–no one likes inviting along that one friend who only talks about how perfect and great their life is. So why would you invite that one book to your bookshelf?

We enjoy stories about trials, sacrifices, and questions. We love these stories because they give us hope, encouragement, or maybe even real life warnings. And as writers, stories with hardships give our characters an opportunity and a reason to grow and change. Rather than staying static and perfect and boring for the remainder of the story.

So take a cue from Game of Thrones where almost everything goes wrong and some characters are literally pieces of their former selves–add some hardships. One good trick to introduce conflict is to identify your character’s greatest fear. Are they pinning all their hopes of socio-economic advancement on getting a promotion at work? Are they terrified of squirrels invading their house? Will they die of embarrassment if their crush finds out they don’t know how to correctly pronounce phớ? Once you have it, make that thing happen. Make it as dramatic or as subtle as you want and take us through how your character reacts and is molded by their worst fears.

There is such a thing as too much suspense

There’s no argument that suspension and tension are the motors that drive a story along. But let that motor run too long and you’ve driven your audience right off the story path. Take heed from George R. R. Martin, who is now 8 years behind the last Game of Thrones novel A Dance with Dragons. In fact, he’s left us in suspense for so long that HBO has commandeered the story.

Now I’m not saying that waiting too long to tell your story means someone else will tell it for you. But what I am saying is that if you keep your readers in suspense for too long, they’re going to drift away. Too much tension (with no climax) will leave your readers feeling unsatisfied and disappointed. Too little tension will leave your readers feeling bored.

So how do you find that perfect balance? Unfortunately there’s no magic formula. However you can try some of these techniques to help you pace the tension:

  • Add a time constraint (does this all happen in a week? A day? An hour?)
  • Up the ante by creating increasingly worse situations until the character is forced to deal with it
  • Create secondary sources of conflict that exacerbate the main source of conflict

So next Sunday, while you’re waiting to see how Dany and Jon take on Cersei, pay a little closer attention to the story. You might realize it’s a wealth of techniques you can use in your own work.

Interested in more tips for creating AND sustaining suspense in your story? Check out this great article from Writer’s Digest.

coffee for every writing mood

Besides being notoriously boozy, writers also tend to be the queens and kings of caffeine. Here’s a coffee or coffee-like beverage for every writing mood.

Photo by Matt Steele on Unsplash

Besides being notoriously boozy, writers also tend to be the queens and kings of caffeine. Obviously I’m biased (see header photo) but I cannot espresso how much I love coffee. I love it a latte. (Okay that’s out of my system.)

Whether it’s the jolt of energy you get from the caffeine molecules or the ritual of sitting-down-to-write-with-a-cup-of-coffee, this delicious bean juice can fuel your creativity and sharpen your writing. Today, I’ve curated some coffee recommendations to go along with any writing mood so you can write on.

encroaching deadline

There’s no way around it–the deadline is looming and your editor, employer, readers are waiting for your next installment. Instead of regretting not going to dental school like your cousin, (cavities have to be easier than split infinitives right?), head to your kitchen or nearest coffee shop and get yourself an espresso stat. The short, punchy taste will give you the motivation you need without any wasted time.

Coffee recommendation: Café Bustelo

Brew method: espresso machine, percolator, or these cool handheld espresso pumps

stuck on a sentence

You’ve been staring at it for twenty minutes and it’s getting uglier by the second. That one sentence glaring at you from inside your latest piece. Taunting you with it’s strange structure, wrong-sounding words, or confusing intent. Instead of staring at it longer, turn to your local coffee shop or refrigerator for inspiration and cold brew. This chilled coffee is steeped for a long time to give you a strong yet smooth taste. The trip to the coffee shop/refrigerator coupled with a switch from hot to cold could give you the fresh perspective you need to rewrite that sentence.

Coffee recommendation: Cold brew with sweet cream

Brew method: You can make your own following this recipe or order one from your nearest coffee shop

no idea what I’m doing

Imposter syndrome–we all get it from time to time. Instead of focusing on what you think you can’t do, focus on using challenges as opportunities to get creative. Can’t get your protagonist to reconcile with their love interest? Work backwards from the reconciliation! Can’t find the write [sic] way to communicate a complex topic? See what other people are saying and consult your thesaurus! Also, take 5-10 minutes to brew a pot of strong black coffee to help clarify and inspire your intent.

Coffee recommendation: *Deadman’s Reach® by Raven’s Brew

Brew method: pour over, coffee machine, french press

editing is hard

Editing, like adulting, is hard. Stephen King likened it to killing your darlings (eek!). So go easy on yourself and grab a latte or mocha. The steamed milk, chocolate, or whipped cream will help cut the acidity and strength of the espresso. Giving you something delicious and soft. Because why make editing harder than it is? I’m a huge fan (and consumer) of the flat white. Which is like a latte but with less foam.

Coffee recommendation: Flat white

Brew method: You can make your own following this recipe or order one from your nearest coffee shop

I need to go to sleep tonight

It’s 10 p.m. and you’re a responsible person with morning responsibilities. You’re getting close to wrapping up this chapter, line, post, etc. and just need a little liquid encouragement. Instead of firing up the coffee machine, pop on your kettle and brew yourself a cuppa. The caffeine content is usually half the amount of coffee, so you get a jolt now while being able to sleep later.

Tea recommendation: jasmine loose leaf tea

Brew method: tea wand and electric kettle

*Deadman’s Reach® is a registered trademark of Raven’s Brew Coffee, Inc.