On Writing Schedules

Years ago, I read a book called The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes by Jack M. Bickham, and the first thing on the list is “Don’t Make Excuses.” The entire chapter is basically just saying you have to write every day and not make excuses for why you don’t want to. The thing that sticks out to me now is, “Writers write; everyone else makes excuses.” When I read this the first time, it apparently didn’t speak to me, because I didn’t actually stop making excuses until years later. 

Somewhere around the time I read that book, I went to a book signing for Cassandra Clare with some friends. This was during my undergrad years, and someone in the audience asked her what advice she had for aspiring authors. She told us to write every day. Even if it was just 100 words. To at least write something. And I did for a while that summer, but then the habit fell away again.

Then my mom gave me The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. I don’t remember exactly when that was, but I think that was finally the book that made me look at what I was doing. The author talks about being a professional when it comes to writing. He says: “The amateur plays part time, the professional full-time. The amateur is a weekend warrior. The professional is there seven days a week.”

He goes on a few pages later to say, “All of us are pros in one area: our jobs” and gives a list of ways in which that’s true, including: showing up every day, showing up no matter what, staying on the job even if we don’t want to, and a number of others.

This is the big difference between how I viewed writing up until two years ago and today. I always said I wanted to be an author, but I never put in the time and effort needed to get anywhere near that goal. I did basically everything except write. I drew and painted and played videogames for hours on end. I took up crocheting for something like a year, and while all of that was fun, it wasn’t getting me to where I wanted to be. It wasn’t helping me finish Rowan’s story.

It wasn’t until the end of 2018, when I decided if I wanted to be serious and actually get somewhere, that things started to change. I told myself that during 2019, I would sit down to write every day, whether I wanted to or not, even if I was tired or not in the mood or just over it that day. I made a goal of writing at least 500 words daily. And, of course, I didn’t write every day, because life happens. My mom was sick and then passed away. My sister got married. I was doing my Master’s program and working, which kept me busy. But I tried so hard to sit down every day and put at least something to paper.

And by the end of the year, I’d managed to finish the third rewrite of Rowan’s story. And sure, it was a mess, and I rewrote two-thirds of it last year again, but it helped me form a habit. There are still days where I don’t want to write. There are days when I’m tired and just want to take a nap. There are days where my motivation is in the toilet, but I sit down at my dining table or on the couch and put words down anyway, because writing anything is better than nothing. And if it’s terrible, I can always fix it in revision.

That seems to be the advice most authors give when asked that question. In his Masterclass, Neil Gaiman basically says the same. He keeps it simple, “You should write.” And “Finish things.” But the thing is, that’s the best advice there is. Just write. If you’re really serious about writing, sit down and put words on the page, whether that’s in a notebook or in a Word document or on a typewriter. You can always fix it later, but there’s nothing to fix if you don’t get anything written.


What I wrote this week

Revised a short story.

What I’m reading right now

Bloodsworn by Scott Reintgen

The Last Revision by Sandra Scofield

Why You Need a Writing Buddy

People think writing has to be a solitary affair. I thought so, too, for a long time. But you know what’s so much better than doing it alone? Having a writing buddy. Some people call them critique partners, but it’s so much more than that if you find the right person.

Writing buddies are a beautiful thing. You get a critique partner, but also someone who you can just talk to about your book or short stories or novellas or whatever it is you’re working on. It isn’t the same, trying to talk about your book with someone who might not actually be interested or who may not understand. And, of course, there’s the fear that you’ll annoy someone if you talk about it too much, but that’s not an issue with your writing buddy, because ideally, they’re as into the book as you are.

With a writing buddy you have someone you can bounce ideas off. You have someone who can give you unsolicited advice that you didn’t know you needed until she suggests it. You have someone rooting for your work and asking for more. It’s a great feeling to see “Ready for moreeeeee” at the ends of feedback emails. Even better is hearing that they’re having fun reading the 738-page book they’re beta-reading for you, because “it’s almost like a reread cuz I already know the story and the world, so it’s just comforting.” You have someone who not only looks forward to your work but whose work you look forward to reading in return. Maybe you can even buddy-read books with them because you’re basically the same person and so, of course, you enjoy the same books.

A writing buddy like that, who has also become a dear friend, is invaluable and a literal blessing. They’re someone who can urge you to write when you’re not feeling like it, someone who can help keep you accountable or also acknowledge that, no, sometimes it’s okay to take a break and take that nap you’re just really wanting to take. I know a lot of people say they write for themselves, and sure, I do, too. I wouldn’t be writing the stories I am if I wasn’t interested in reading them myself, but you know what else is nice? Having someone to share those stories with that’s excited about them. And they make you feel like, oh, maybe I don’t entirely suck, and maybe my work is worth the time and effort put into it.

I decided, partially, to get my Master’s because I wanted to surround myself with other writers, but I somehow never expected to actually find a friend that I would end up talking to literally daily. So, thank you a thousand times over to my writing buddy’s partner for pushing her to message me. I will be eternally grateful to you always.

Now go check out her website, because the trilogy she’s working on is amazing. And also, her post about writing buddies here, because naturally we organized posting these at the same time ;).


What I wrote over the last week

Inserted two more chapters into The Children of Oher, because apparently I just can’t stop expanding this book.

What I’m reading right now

Blood Sworn by Scott Reintgen

The Last Revision by Sandra Scofield

Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman

And finished Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer yesterday

But can we talk about those covers? And yes, I absolutely did buy Blood Sworn before I even started Ashlords, because that cover.

Love in Fiction

It’s Valentine’s Day weekend, so let’s talk about love in fiction.

I love me some subplot romance. It doesn’t need to be the whole plot, but please give me a background love story. The moment the love interest shows up, I’m automatically more invested (haha, is that terrible?). That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy books with no romance aspect, because I definitely do, but I’m never unhappy to see it show up.

But you know what drives me nuts? When the couple doesn’t get together until the very end. Even worse, making me wait until the end of the series. I’m looking at you Ember in the Ashes series and Witch King’s Crown trilogy. That’s not to say I don’t love both series, because I do, butI want to see the cuteness. Show me the love before the end of the story!

Anyone else feel that way? Or is that just me?

I mentioned this quote by Toni Morrison a few weeks ago when talked about horses – “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” – and I think this relates to how relationships shows up in my books, too. Or even that love shows up at all. While I did manage to write a book with no horses in it, I don’t know how often it’ll happen that I write something that doesn’t have at least the smallest bit of romance. At least, all my currently planned books have a love aspect.

And when it does comes to the stories that do have love in them, I am fully in the get-the-characters-together-early boat. In the first Enorians book, the couple gets together in the first third of the novel (and then have issues to work through). In the second, the couple gets together also in the first third of the novel (and then, again, have problems to work through). In the third, there will be two separate love interests for two separate POV characters, and one won’t get together until the end, but you better believe the other will get together before the halfway point, because I want to see the love! And with The Children of Oher, the relationship is already a thing when the book starts, which was even more fun, because I didn’t have to worry about them meeting and all of that buildup.

Anyway, point is: gimme some romance and don’t wait until the last 20 pages to get the couple together. And to any future readers who feel the same as I do about getting to see the couple get together early, you’re welcome 😉.

Also, check out my instagram this weekend for some love-related quotes from The Children of Oher and books one and two of the Enorians Saga.

Happy Valentine’s Day!


What I wrote over the last week

The two final chapters of The Children of Oher. I also rewrote parts of chapters 1 and 2 of The Children of Oher and beyond that reread the whole book now that it’s finished.

What I’m reading right now

Ashlords by Scott Reintgen

The Last Revision by Sandra Scofield

Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman

Plotting vs Pantsing

For those who don’t know, plotting and pantsing are terms we novelists use to describe how we work on a story. Pantsers typically just take an idea and run with it and see where it takes them with minimal planning. They fly by the seat of their pants, if you will. Or, at least, that’s how I understand it. A plotter, though, plans out their story ahead of time, makes an outline of some sort, and then follows it while they’re writing. Some people, of course, fall somewhere in between.

Back in the day, during my undergrad years, I was a pantser. I don’t think I even considered plotting out a story. And so, I pantsed my way through the very first version of Rowan’s (first Enorians book) story, mostly while sitting in my Ancient World on Screen class, in the dark auditorium, as movies likes Alexander and Clash of the Titans played on the giant screen.

I also attempted, multiple times, to pants my way through the first version of Vivian’s (second Enorians book) story and failed every time. I never managed to make it to the end.

I stuck with being a pantser for years after that. In fact, I continued to flounder my way through Rowan’s story up until just over a year ago. Over the years since that first version, I pantsed my way through not one, but two rewrites. The first, I don’t remember well, but the second I wrote during 2019, and it came in at an insane 300,000 words, mostly because I didn’t know where I was going with it, so I’d just throw in scenes that I thought would be useful.

Turns out I was wrong.

It wasn’t until my amazing and wonderful writing buddy (who has here own website dedicated to her work here) told me about Save the Cat Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody that I even considered changing the way I was doing things. Save the Cat quite literally changed my life. I realized that while pantsing may work for some people, I am not one of those.

Writing has gotten so much easier since I started plotting, it’s kind of ridiculous.

It took me something like eight years to actually finish the first rewrite of Rowan’s story, and then it took me another full year to do the second rewrite. Neither of which were good or planned out well and felt like disorganized messes. I mean, part of what took me so long in finishing Rowan’s story was just not giving it the attention and time it needed, but I think the lack of structure and planning didn’t help.

The third rewrite, after using Save the Cat to create beat sheets for all the POVs and actually planning out the book, took me like five months. And Vivian’s story, which I hadn’t actually finished up until last year, took me six months to write after I plotted it out. To be fair, part of it being finished so quickly was because I ended up having two months off due to COVID, but still. If I’d been trying to pants my way through that, I never would’ve finished in that amount of time, nor would it have been anywhere near as solid of a first draft as it is.

I’m now a and a half chapter away from finishing the unintended Children of Oher, which means I’ll have written that in two months. If someone had told me ten years ago I’d write a nearly 90,000 word book in two months, I would’ve laughed so hard, but I did it. And the reason I could finish it so quickly is because I knew exactly where I was going with it. I am 100% certain that if I hadn’t sat down and created beat sheets and plotted out this book chapter by chapter before starting it, I wouldn’t be anywhere near this close to the end. And it would likely be a mess.

Photo by Alina Vilchenko on Pexels.com

I’m not saying everyone should be a plotter. What works for one person, doesn’t work for others. I know some people see plotting as restrictive – though, it’s not like you have to stick with the plot you came up with. The Children of Oher started as a 24-chapter outline. I added chapters where I needed them and changed some along the way, but overall it stayed relatively the same – and others say it ruins their motivation to work on the book because the story’s already figured out. I haven’t personally had that issue, but I can see where that would be true.

I don’t know, maybe I was just pantsing wrong? Maybe there is a right way to do it and I was not doing it that way. Or maybe it’s just that certain people can’t be pantsers, which, yeah, I now fully believe I am meant to be a plotter. But if you’re a pantser and you’re struggling, I highly recommend Save the Cat Writes a Novel, though I’m sure there are tons of other books out there about plotting your novel. Just try it and see how it goes, and if it doesn’t work for you, well, that’s okay, too.


What I wrote this week

Chapters twenty-five through twenty-seven of The Children of Oher

What I’m reading right now

This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone

The Last Revision by Sandra Scofield

Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman