COVID-19. It came out of nowhere. One day, it was overseas and only as close as a newscast. The next, I was walking out of the elementary school I worked at for an impromptu four-week break, watching students pack up everything from their lockers. The next, those four weeks became five months.
Everything then was COVID, COVID, COVID. And I'd decided my newsletter wasn't going to be one of them. I was going to stay upbeat and positive and be like, "What COVID?"
Well, here it is.
It's impossible for something as earthshaking as a pandemic to leave such a big part of our lives as writing alone. Suddenly, I went from having two solid solitary hours (not counting my work breaks at school) devoted to writing to being constantly surrounded by people (albeit people I love) and chores vying for my attention.
A learning curve, to be sure.
But what did I learn? And what did I change?
When you're only scratching out thirty minutes in a corner with a notebook and headphones, you appreciate those writing sessions more. Things I took for granted--like quiet, headphones, and having time to write at all--became very precious. The help people gave me by taking on chores and other responsibilities so I could have that time became very valuable (more on this later).
As I head back into "business as usual", I hope I'll never forget this time and the gratitude it built in me.
With less time protected for writing, I had to learn to get more done in less time. I quickly discovered what was important and what could wait. This meant some days I didn't check email so I could write.
I made goals and figured out what I needed to do to meet them. I made a schedule of what I needed to work on each day and did all I could to stick to them. The days that I knew what I needed to do were so much more productive than those I didn't. Goals are nothing if I have no plan to get there.
I took the chances that came to me--whether it was short story contests or five free minutes to scribble a paragraph down. Never let yourself feel guilty for taking those chances.
As a result, I hope I've built some good habits that will last me my writing career.
Sometimes it's easy for us writers to forget we need other people in on this journey. People are not stumbling blocks. They want to help us get where we need to go.
I let my family in on my goals. After all, they were at home all the time just like I was. Once they knew what I was working toward, some of them began to help me protect that writing time. It's okay to ask for help! It's okay for that one basket of laundry to wait an hour so you can write! The world will not end because of a few socks that aren't folded yet! (I don't think so, anyway.)
I found a time to connect with other writers--to encourage and to be encouraged. I engaged with the content in my writing lessons and virtual conferences. I asked more questions than I thought I had in me, then figured out how to apply the answers. I learned to value an email to a writer friend just as much as editing thousands of words. But at the same time, I learned to not let those connections distract me when I really needed to be writing.
For the first time in my life, I had to go a day, sometimes more, without writing. Siblings, chores, and a new puppy that demanded attention conspired to keep me from my notebook. It was frustrating. It was stressful. It was MADDENING.
But I learned to still let my imagination work behind the scenes. To take that time to read and imagine. Just because I wasn't in front of a paper, didn't mean I wasn't still creating. To not punish others for a day that I couldn't write by having a poor attitude about it. To still use that wordless day to do good. To trust that those days still had infinite purpose. Writing isn't everything.
COVID-19 was a learning curve. A long one at that. But I hope I've learned things, started habits, and built relationships I'll never regret.
*I would also like to add a huge shout-out thank-you to my family for all they did to help me have time and energy to write during this crazy time! Any writing I didn't get done was not for your lack of effort to get me writing. I so appreciate it!*
*How has your writing been during this crazy thing called a pandemic? Has it been easier or harder? Share your adventures in the comments below!*
In other news, it's been pretty warm here . . .
Books That Impacted my Writing
A few weeks ago, I shared about some authors that impacted me. Today, I'm sharing about some books that did the same.
I'd never realized how character motivation impacts the stories we love the best. Then I read this book. Plotting became easier and my stories became stronger--because readers could feel with my characters.
This book has a little bit of everything! Better than that, her tips work. It's a great reference resource. (The Plot Skeleton is a fantastic little book that makes sure your plot has everything it needs as well!)
I was unable to find a picture of the fantastic little book Word by Word by Linda Taylor. Intimidated by editing? Say no more! This book de-mystifies editing and encourages writers along the way.
These young adult fiction books handle topics that real teens face in ways that real teens react to them. They take a unique, fresh touch on the themes, and inspired me to do the same.
*Which books impacted your writing? Share your adventures in the comments!*
Remember Those Indie Authors!
What is an indie author? (No, it has nothing to do with Indianapolis.)
I didn't know the answer for the longest time. People threw out the phrase "indie author" right and left and I just sat there in bewilderment. I later found out that indie is just short for independent. Independent (or indie) authors publish their books themselves. They may only independently publish, they may publish traditionally (with an established publishing house) and independently, or they may be publishing independently as a step to traditional publication. They're independent.
But indie authors get a bad rap. In fact, most people don't count them as "real" authors. General opinion is that indie authors:
---are authors who have simply been rejected by all other publishing companies
---not willing to put in the work to traditionally publish their book
None of this is actually true. But why do we believe it?
With the rise of resources like Amazon KDP, a lot of authors previously unable to do so are now able to show their work to the world. Anyone--literally anyone--can publish a book.
Unfortunately, most of these people are not authors. So we now have a ton of books floating around on Amazon that have poor formatting, poor covers, and ever poorer writing.
That means that the indie authors that did it right are getting lumped with those who didn't put in the work.
The truth is, most indie authors do even more work than traditionally published authors.
---write the book
---self-edit the book (and then pay professional editors to polish the manuscript)
---format the book so it's nice to read
---pay a professional cover designer
---market the book
---and take care of all the business things, too.
While traditionally published authors do the same, they have in-house editors, designers, and marketers to work with.
Indie authors have a lot to work against. And there's a good deal of them that are writing fantastic books. So today, let's remember those indie authors and let them know their skills and work are not unnoticed.
*Who are your favorite indie authors? Share your adventures in the comments!*
Today, I want to share with you three pieces of advice that impacted my writing. And by impact, I mean they blazed like a meteor out of the sky and left a giant crater in my writing. And there's nothing to do after a crater but rebuild. And I'm so glad that this advice helped rebuild my writing.
Some are things I wish I knew when I began writing. Some are things I've learned the hard way. Some are things other writers passed on to me. And now I want to pass them on to you. I hope they help and encourage you!
I was excellent at making goals. But I rarely met those goals. Why? Because I had no plan to get myself there. When I took the time to sit down and figure out how many words I needed to write to finish the novel by the end of the month, I felt freer and more able to meet them. I knew that no matter how bad a writing day I was having, all I had to do was edit this many words. It suddenly made bad writing days look very good, because I knew I could still reach my goals.
Onto a more technical note. I always thought adverbs--those little "ly" words like slowly, beautifully, or snarkily (not sure that last one is a word)--were so bright and sparkly. But the truth is, if I had to use a "ly" word to describe how my character said or did something, then I had a weak sentence on my hands. I hadn't made the best use of my action words. Eliminating adverbs from my edited drafts has led to so many brilliant sentences I never would have had with those "ly" words. As a result, my novels are so much stronger.
When I was working on Author of Peace, I remember someone told me they believed I would find a niche market, and that would just kind of be my thing. I was like, "Niche market, great!" I really didn’t mind the idea. But the idea that I couldn’t do any more than a niche market? I wasn’t so crazy about that. But then someone told me to write what God had given me to write. So many writers talk about having to write for the market. But the bottom line is if God has given you this book, then He will take it wherever it needs to go. So just be you and write the story that He has given you. Don’t doubt what He can do through the book you’ve written, no matter what that book is.
*What advice has impacted (or left a crater in) your writing? Share your adventures in the comments below!*
Hey there, everyone! This is my shout-out to the authors who have impacted both me and my writing!
I don't just list you because you're my friend (although your fantastic friendship is a very good reason). I list you because your books are always so full of thought and encourage me to do the same in mine. You've walked with me through this crazy thing called writing. Thanks for everything!
The creativity in your books always astounds me--as well as the way they make me think about my world in a whole new light. You have turned the fire of my passion for young adult fiction into a blaze, and opened my mind to so many possibilities. Thanks so much!
I found Roseanna M. White's books as I was developing my reading tastes. You showed me that historical fiction doesn't have to be a sluggish romance in a log cabin. It can be an adventure, too. And you showed me that faith doesn't have to skitter away from the novel page. It can be bold. Thank you!
*What writers have impacted you? Write your own shout-out or share your adventures in the comments!*
A couple months ago, I watched Disney’s 2019 remake of Aladdin (thanks to quarantine). For a few hours, I was dazzled by color, visual, a culture so unlike my own, and sheer story magic. (And I don’t like musicals, so that’s saying something.)
I must confess, I’ve always been a bit intrigued by the story of Aladdin. Which got me thinking about the fairy tales that intrigue me . . . and the ones that don’t.
One that doesn’t is Cinderella.
Don’t get me wrong. I had my fair share of Cinderella when I was younger. My sisters and I would snuggle on the floor with our stuffed animals and best friends and watch it at every sleepover we hosted.
But as I’ve gotten older, and I think about the stories a little more, it lost a bit of its allure.
I’m not the only one. In a poll put on a community for teens and young adults (specifically writers), eighty-eight percent said they’d rather read an Aladdin retelling than a Cinderella retelling.
Their reasons were (almost) all the same.
Cinderella is overdone and gets really old.
(Well, and that she falls in love for no reason, but that would be a whole ‘nother post, ladies and gents.)
Sure, this could just be because there’s a lot of Cinderella retelling books out there. (A lot.) But why did this story get tired out faster than Aladdin? Especially when they share the same general plot?
Because when I sat down and thought about it, Aladdin and Cinderella are basically the same stories. An underprivileged orphan rises to royalty due to magic—magic that can only last for a limited amount of time, in which they are left to themselves to rise to royalty again.
So what makes the difference between a tired-out character and a timeless one?
*Note: This post is based on the original fairy tales, not based on my opinions on the Disney remakes (of which I have not seen Cinderella) or original films (of which I've never seen Aladdin), although some details may reference them alongside other retellings.*
Let’s start with Cinderella herself, shall we? (Read the abridged original fairy tale here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cinderella) Cinderella is the favorite fairy tale princess of countless little girls. And she has a right to be. She has spunk and perseverance. She refuses to give up on her dreams and holds them as tight as she can. (After all, a dream is a wish your heart makes!) She is kind even in the face of her family’s rejection.
But take the magic out of her story. No fairy godmother. No pumpkin carriage. No glass slipper. Is there any sign that she would have gone to the ball? Is there any sign that she would have gone to the ball? Is there any sign that she would have met the prince? Is there any sign that anything would have changed?
No. In fact, even in the original Disney Cinderella, the mice are responsible for her first dress, and once her sisters tear it to shreds, she gives up and flees to the garden. She doesn’t set about developing a new plan. She doesn’t start a new life or find a way to chase her dreams. (And her animal friends have to free her later so she try on the glass slipper, too!)
Fair reaction. But without her animal friends or the fairy godmother, Cinderella would have been scrubbing floors to infinity.
Aladdin is similar to Cinderella in many ways. (Read the abridged original version of Aladdin here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aladdin) He has spunk and perseverance. At the opening of the original fairy tale, we find him taking care of his mother (it’s how he got in the lamp mess in the first place!). Even in the Disney version, where he is an orphan, he fights his way towards the change he dreams of. He works towards his dreams (although in rather misguided ways).
Does Aladdin never lose heart? Sure, he does. (One Jump Ahead Reprise, anyone?) In the original fairy tale, he is in despair when the genie appears (sound familiar?). But he doesn’t let himself stay there and wait for someone to come rescue him. Even when the genie disappears, he chooses to be himself and fight until he can’t fight anymore. He doesn’t wait for the bad guys to go away. He faces them down himself (fair, with the princess’ help). He refuses to be the victim of a society that labels him little better than a thief.
Here is where the fairy tale and the Disney versions go off, though: in the original, Aladdin did the same Cinderella did. He rode on the success of his magic. In this case, I like the Disney version where he loses it all and makes that choice anyway much better.
And there's the secret that Disney used to create a sparkling timeless character.
Both Cinderella and Aladdin had almost all the things they needed to do that. They had dreams. They had positive characteristics. But Disney took the final step in creating Aladdin into a character that we return to over and over again. He works towards his dreams. He acts, whether or not he always gets it right.
*Another note: Just an interesting aside--this secret works to create interesting protagonists and interesting villains. For instance, the excellently-written villain in Wayne Thomas Batson's Dreamtreaders worked towards her dreams just as much or more than the protagonists in that trilogy.*
Aladdin--and protagonists who fight for their dreams with him--inspires readers (and watchers, thanks to Disney) to be stronger—and reminds them they don’t need to wait for a glass slipper or magic lamp.
*Which is your preference—the Aladdin type or Cinderella type? What do you think makes a strong character? What retellings have changed up these stereotypes? Share your adventures below!*
The Bookish Blog Tag
So this is a little different than what I normally do, BUT . . . I was nominated for the Bookish Blog Tag by Naomi Johns, a fellow student from the Young Writers' Workshop! (Thanks so much, Naomi!) Check out her blog here: https://naomiloveswriting.blogspot.com.
Yeah, I didn't know what a blog tag is either.
It's actually really neat. Not only do you all get to read a fun interview, but you can also check out a whole bunch of other cool websites and interviews!
And all these questions are about books! Can it get better?
Now we cannot simply go crazy on the Internet and just talk randomly about books. (Wait . . . I do that all the time.) There are rules.
What are 1-3 of your favorite books of all time?
Only three? Oh, alright. Fawkes and Romanov by Nadine Brandes--most especially Fawkes. She created a very unique allegory to true historical events and made me think about it in a whole different light than before. Healer's Bane by Hope Ann--the world is so very vivid and I can tell a lot of thought went into it. Isle of Swords and Isle of Fire by Wayne Thomas Batson--I'm including those as one entry, because it's a continuing story. It's a fast-paced adventure in a creative setting and pirates and stuff. And my newest favorite is Dust by Kara Swanson--she addressed issues teens need to read about in a magical way with such unique character voices.
What are 1-3 of your favorite authors of all time?
As I mentioned above, Nadine Brandes. I've read all her books, and they've all been so creative and made me think about things in a new light. Hope Ann--when I read one of her books, I can tell how much thought has gone into it, and therefore I think as well. (I like books that make me think, can you tell?) And Roseanna White--while she's a historical fiction author, she doesn't do the slow historical romance that is so common. I love how she incorporates threads of mystery and suspense along with bold themes of faith.
Who is your favorite female character from a book?
Anne Ross from Isle of Swords/Isle of Fire. She really changed the way I wrote my female characters. She showed me it's possible to be a lady and be strong at the same time.
Who is your favorite male character from a book?
Thomas Fawkes from Fawkes. He's a little on the awkward side, but he's brave, determined, and always willing to sort out the truth. His voice is very realistic and I found myself relating a lot to him.
What's your favorite fictional world?
I'd have to say either the color magic world of Fawkes (although I wish there were a purple mask) or the pixie dust world of Dust (although I hate heights, it almost tricked me into forgetting that). Ironically, they're both in London.
Which book has your favorite book cover?
This actually goes to Dreamtreaders by Wayne Thomas Batson, a book I just read recently. While it's not what I normally read, I adore the cover. I like the concept and the bold colors.
Another favorite would have to go to a book I've never read before (but a family member of mine has), which is The Killing Tide by Dani Pettrey. The water tones are so gorgeous.
Last favorite, I promise, goes to a book on my to-be-read list, which is The Girl Who Could See by Kara Swanson. I love the watercolor look!
What's your favorite book-to-movie adaption?
Here's my problem with book-to-movie adaptions. Of all the ones I've seen, I've either read the book and not seen the movie, or seen the movie and not read the book. The only two that I've done both are The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and Nim's Island. I didn't understand when I was younger why they changed things from book to movie. But in the case of Narnia, I feel like they gave a lot more depth to the characters and the sibling relationships. (And, you know, we actually experience the battle instead of an uninvolved narration of the battle.)
If you could make any book into a movie, which would it be?
*gathers up all my favorites and sets them on a table*
What was your favorite childhood book?
For early reader, Spunky's Diary by Janette Oke. Because . . . puppies. When I got into middle grade fiction, I was a huge fan of the Millie Keith series, and still have the complete set. They are so good, a really rare find for girls' fiction these days.
Fantasy or Sci-fi (or neither)?
I am not a huge reader of either, but fantasy tends to be my one, if the concept grabs me.
There you have it! All my bookish secrets! Now to nominate some fantastic people!
Hope Ann (https://authorhopeann.com)
Allison Grace (https://allisongracewrites.com)
Laura Baloga (https://simplybeautiful311.wordpress.com)
*Even if you're not tagged, I'd love to hear your answers to the questions and your adventures in the comments!*
Hi, I'm Rachel! I'm the author of the posts here at ProseWorthy. Thanks for stopping by!