Merse’s Lute

It has been a very long week. I’m sure we all have those days/weeks where everything is too much effort. So, in place of a regular blog post this week, have one of the Enorian myths I wrote during my thesis project:

Merse’s Lute

Long ago lived one of Merse’s Cherished Mersians. Zoh was as beautiful as any Mersian, blessed as they were to take after their goddess. Zoh lived near the coast of Merien with their parents and siblings in a town full of other Mersians. This town hosted the largest music festival in all of Enoralori every year, and people came all the way from the northeastern corner of Lirona and the northwestern corner of Ensori, to partake and enjoy in the music and frivolity.

Zoh had been to the festival every year since their birth, watching with joy and dancing along to their parents’ playing and singing. And one by one, their siblings joined in, growing their talent and becoming better and better at singing and playing their flutes and lutes and mandolins. One of Zoh’s sisters played the harp more beautifully than anyone else they’d ever heard. And Zoh wished to partake in their family’s music playing.

But somehow, despite their family’s talent, Zoh was a terrible musician. They didn’t understand why Merse had neglected to bless them with the ability to play or sing. And Zoh loved music. They loved music so much it tore at their soul to be unable to express the beauty they knew to be inside them. And so every year they continued to practice, hoping perhaps the talent filling their family was just late in appearing. Zoh worked harder than anyone they knew. Their parents, being some of the most well-known musicians in town, sent Zoh to all the best teachers, hoping their child just needed to find the right person to teach them, the right instrument to play. Zoh tried out every instrument their parents and teachers could think of. But nothing seemed to work. Zoh continued to be just as terrible as always.

Still, every year at the festival, Zoh tried to perform anyway, hoping maybe all this effort would show Merse how serious they were, hoping maybe she would bless them. And every year, Zoh was laughed off the stage.

One year, after a particularly rough rendition of an old bard’s song where Zoh had plucked all the wrong notes on the harp they’d attempted to learn over the last couple of years, and where they had sung in their usual off-key tone, someone from the crowd shouted at them to just give up already. It was a voice Zoh recognized, one they’d heard many times before. Zoh fled the stage in tears, running to the temple of Merse, where they threw themselves onto the stone floor in front of the towering statue. There, Zoh wept and begged Merse for understanding.

“It’s all right, love,” Zoh’s mother said, having followed them. She knelt beside her child and stroked their long, shining hair. “You have many other talents.”

“I just want to show people the beauty inside me.”

“There are other ways to show your beauty, my love. We’ll find a way.”

Zoh shook their head. It had to be music. They could feel it deep within. Music was the only way to bring out the song their soul cried out to share. But how when their body seemed unable or unwilling to play or sing in such a way that would allow that song to come out?

Zoh’s mother left them to continue their prayer. Barely leaving the temple, Zoh prayed day and night for near a week, begging Merse to grant them the ability to play or sing so they could share with the world that which they so desperately needed to.

And Merse, within her realm, surrounded by beautiful Mersians playing beautiful music, where the sky was always the color of a brilliant sunrise, heard Zoh’s pleas. She had seen how hard Zoh had worked all these years. She saw the purity of their intentions, knew they wanted to play and sing not for fame or glory or riches, but simply to share something wonderful. And Merse appreciated that desire. So she sent Zoh a lute she had blessed long ago. It gave any who held it the ability to play the most glorious music no matter their level of talent. Along with the lute, Merse sent Zoh a message. She appeared to them in their dreams and warned them that playing for prolonged periods could cause madness in the listeners.

When Zoh found the lute beside their bed the next morning, they couldn’t believe their eyes. They had been sure the dream was just that, a dream, but here lay the lute as Merse had promised. And it was the most beautiful instrument Zoh had ever seen. They picked it up gingerly and plucked at the strings, wincing in preparation for the usual mess of sounds. But instead, no matter where Zoh’s fingers moved to, a gentle melody drifted from the lute.

Grinning, Zoh spent the rest of the day playing. And that night they ran to their favorite pub, which always had live music, to test out their new song. When Zoh stepped onto the stage, they were met with a round of groans. Everyone, naturally, assumed they would play and sing just as terribly as they always had. But Zoh didn’t let their bad attitudes bother them. They sat on the stool, closed their eyes to block out the crowd, and started playing.

Everyone’s grumbling and groaning ceased nearly the moment the music started flowing from the lute. It was the most magnificent music anyone there had ever heard before. They listened with rapt attention, gazing in awe at the equally beautiful Mersian sitting on the stool on stage. Zoh swayed with the sound, smiling, lost in the wonder of it.

When the song ended, the pub erupted into cheers and applause and demands for Zoh to play more. Beaming with pride and elation, Zoh agreed. Just one more. And after they finished that song, the people begged for another, but Zoh remembered Merse’s warning, and so they smiled and bowed their head to the crowd and promised to come back in a week’s time to play again. Over the next week, Zoh made sure to be careful with the amount they played, waiting until there was no one in the house to practice more songs.

The next time Zoh came to the pub with the lute, the crowd was much bigger than it had been before. Equally thrilled and nervous, Zoh stepped onto the stage. The people in the pub clapped and cheered, ready for another round of splendid music. And Zoh gave it to them, the whoops and shouts and applause filling them with the greatest joy they’d ever known. For once, people loved them as much, if not more than, the rest of their family.

Week after week, Zoh came to the pub to play for the people of the town. And week after week, the crowd grew until the pub was so full of people that everyone was forced to go outside. People started coming up to Zoh in the streets, begging them to play, but they always left the lute at home. And so people started showing up at their house, outside their window, pleading, wanting to hear more of the beautiful music. Men and women threw themselves at Zoh, wanting to go to bed with them and have them play after. And Zoh loved all the attention.

It became easier and easier to forget Merse’s warning. The weekly performances became every few days, then every other, and then every night. And each time Zoh played longer and longer, reveling in the devotion of the people who so desperately loved their music.

And then one day, as Merse had warned, it all became too much. The crowd, now taking up the entire town square, was driven to madness with the love they felt for Zoh and their music. They wanted to crawl inside Zoh, to understand where such beauty came from, to get a little piece of that themselves. And in their frenzy, their desire to show their love and devotion, they tore Zoh apart, grabbing and shredding their clothes, snatching and tearing out their hair. Zoh screamed for help, for them to stop, but the rabid crowd were deaf to Zoh’s cries, even as the screams pitched, followed by the sickening sound of flesh tearing. By the time the chaos ended, the lute had vanished, sent back to Merse, who hoped the next player would hear of this tragedy and better heed her warning.

Meet Enorian Book Two Characters

Over the last month I’ve been revising Enorians book two. It’s been so great to dive back into the world and fill in the gaps, to make it just that much better than it already is. Thankfully this rewrite is significantly less intense than the two I did on the first book, so I should have it finished in a couple of months.

I thought it might be fun to introduce the main characters like I did with the first book a few months ago. For an explanation of the gods and races, see here. And away we go!

The Narrators

Vivian Darrow is the 20-year-old Veroxian x Aesan descendent of the Aesan king, Aldar of Aynsi. Vivian was brought up by her adoptive father, Enrik, on a small, secluded farm in the highlands of Scotland. Through her first twenty years, Vivian has never ventured farther than the woods surrounding their little farm, though she longs for something more adventurous than her simple, boring life of caring for crops and animals. But when her fate comes calling, Vivian will realize adventure and excitement comes at a cost.

Vivian held out her arm, and Aphra, the osprey, landed gently, flapping her wings to steady herself. She stuck out the leg that clutched her prey.

“Hello, my love. Is that for me?” Vivian grinned, stroking Aphra’s sleek head before taking the hare. “You’re too kind.”

The bird’s talons dug into Vivian’s arm as she balanced herself, her yellow eyes peering at Vivian is if waiting for something.

“Oh, I’m sorry.” Vivian slung the hare over her shoulder and dug in her pocket for a piece of dried venison, Aphra’s favorite treat. She held it out for the bird, who gently plucked it from her palm. “You deserve all the treats, my beautiful, vicious predator.”

The absolutely amazing drawing done by the incredibly talented Fran Matos. More drawings of the point of view characters to come!


Enrik Darrow is the 217-year-old Lorosian x Gorien former member of the council that once protected the mother of the prophesied savior. Enrik didn’t expect to love the daughter he adopted as much as he does. After determining the only way to keep Vivian safe was to keep her with him, Enrik took her in and spent the next twenty years doing everything in his power to keep her happy and protected. But when she learns the truth he’s been hiding from her, he’s finally forced to allow her to leave the safety of the farm to fulfill her destiny.

“Atta girl.” Her father, Enrik, stood in the doorway, grinning. A doorway that stretched far above Vivian’s six-foot height, a doorway that could’ve easily fit three of Vivian side by side to accommodate her father’s massive frame. In human years, Enrik looked to be in his early thirties, though no one could’ve ever mistaken him for human. In his true form he towered above her at just over eight feet.


Droken Ensori is the ancient Enosian leader of the Loyalists, those loyal to Enos, the god of war. Droken is one of the rare few alive who came through the portal from Enoralori. He has spent his life working toward creating a special marking that will allow him to return his long-lost children to him, a marking similar to the one that has kept him alive well beyond the point of his would-be death, though lately he’s been working on something special for his god, something that will finally allow Enos to take London and bring down their human foes, the Londoners.

He pulled a small journal out of the inner pocket of his long, fitted coat, taking a few minutes to write down the results of his work. Then, after slipping it, his pen, and his spectacles back inside, he put all his books, the ones he’d carefully collected and written over the years, the ones about markings, and how to create new ones, back into their trunk along with the papers he intended to keep. The ones on the floor he tossed into the empty fireplace. They could be dealt with later. Still holding the lantern with the metal fingers that had been grafted onto the bone joints of his right wing after he’d removed the useless bits, he locked the door behind him.


Important side characters:

Aphra – The osprey Vivian saved and raised is her only friend until she meets Mira.

Mira Fogore – The Mersian helper of Ulvan Zahr is Vivian’s first non-animal friend.

Ulvan Zahr – The Lorosian x Enosian holder of the god-blessed Martyr’s Plate, bestowed upon him by Enos before the enorians came to Earth.

Draea Sandoval & Akrin Ensori – Siblings and children of Droken Ensori.

Enos – God of War who has been trapped in the mortal body of the Aesan king, Aldar of Aynsi, for over 1500 years.


What I wrote over the last week

Enorians Book 2 – Draft 2 Chapters nineteen and twenty (it’s been a rough week)

What I read over the last week

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by JK Rowling

Lost in the Never Woods by Aiden Thomas

A Phoneix First Must Burn by Patricia Caldwell

Book Hangovers

Have you ever finished a book or series only to be left with a strange empty feeling? A kind of longing for more, but then there is no more. And sure, you could just reread, which you undoubtedly will, but it’s not the same. It’s been years since I had one. In fact, I didn’t remember how terrible they could be, until last Wednesday.

I finished reading the Six of Crows duology by Leigh Bardugo that day, and I literally haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since. It was just SO. GOOD. The heists, the banter between the Crows, and the characters in particular were all just phenomenal. Both as an avid reader and a writer, it amazed me. Talk about character goals. It took me a full week to get to a point where I wasn’t filled with an empty void. And even now, I’m looking at my to-be-read list and going, “but nothing will be like Six of Crows.” It doesn’t help that the Shadow and Bone show is coming out in just over a month, so getting away from that world is basically impossible.

One book that leaves me with a book hangover every time I reread it is The Scorpio Races by Maggie Steifvater. I’m so sad it’s a standalone. It’s another situation where I just love the characters so much. Plus, there’s horses, and carnivorous water horses. It’s just so cool. It’s one of those books where, as a writer, I always go “Damn, I wish I’d written this.” Now that I think about it, Sean, one of the protagonists, might have been a slight accidental inspiration for Rowan from the first Enorians book.

While Harry Potter doesn’t generally give me problems anymore, the first time I finished the series was rough. After so many years of loving something that hard and waiting for the last book to come out? And then finishing it in about a day and a half? Talk about a wicked book hangover. It’s the first book I remember leaving me feeling that way. Though starting a reread with my writing buddy has helped me fill the void left by Six of Crows, because it’s comfortable and familiar.


What I wrote over the last week

Enorians Book 2 – Draft 2 Chapters Eleven through Eighteen

What I read over the last week

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by JK Rowling

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by JK Rowling

A Phoenix First Must Burn by Patricia Caldwell

Books From My Childhood That Stuck With Me

Some books just stick with you, even 20 years after you read them. These are the books that stuck with me in some way, even if it’s just by a vague feeling.

The Unicorns of Balinor by Maggie Stanton – I loved this series so much when I was a kid. I loved Ari and Finn so much that I named the two main characters in my first story after them. And, of course, it’s about unicorns in a magical unicorn-run world. What’s not to love? I fully intend on giving this series to my god daughter when she’s old enough.

King of the Wind by Marguerite Henry – It will surprise no one that the first two on this list are all horse books. I loved a lot of Henry’s books, including Justine Morgan Had a Horse and Misty of Chincoteague, but King of the Wind stuck with me for so long that I actually bought another copy a few years ago. I don’t even remember what it was that made me love it so much, but there’s just that feeling, you know?

The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke – I only read this once, but I loved it so much. The only thing I remember about it, though, was a moment when the truth came out, and it destroyed my soul. Would it be strange to reread this as an almost 30-year-old adult? Because I kind of want to reread it.

The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton – Again, I only read this once, but I remember that it messed me up emotionally. I read the entire book during a trip to Holland, even though we were reading it for class, and by the time I came back, everyone else was still only about a third of the way through. Whoops! I was definitely mildly obsessed with this book for a while after I finished it.

Harry Potter – Given this is the series that started my love of reading, I couldn’t leave it out. It will always be dear to my heart, especially because my mom read the first three to me. It’s one I’ve continued to reread every couple of years, and probably will continue to do so no matter how old I get.


What I wrote over the last week

Enorians Book 2 – Draft 2 Chapters Four through Ten

What I read this week

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo (10/10 would 1000% recommend)

A Phoenix First Must Burn by Patrice Caldwell

The Artful Edit by Susan P. Bell

Book Adaptations

Most of the time I like the book better than the movie or TV show. In fact, nearly every time I prefer the book over the adaptation. Many a coworker has heard me go off about the movie adaptation of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, because it’s just so wrong on so many levels, and I could go on forever about why. But on rare occasions, I prefer the adaptation. Mind you, for all the following, I watched the adaptation before I read the book, so perhaps that has something to do with it.

Stardust by Neil Gaiman

Don’t get me wrong, I love Neil Gaiman. The Ocean at the End of the Lane is one of my favorite books, and I’ve enjoyed every other book of his that I’ve read. However, there was just something about Stardust that wasn’t great to me. I love the movie, and I’ve seen it a number of times, but the book just didn’t seem to have as much heart as the movie. It didn’t feel as magical. The narration felt so distant, which I’m not the biggest fan of, so it’s probably just a preference thing. But it made it so I couldn’t bring myself to care about the characters as much as I did while watching the movie.

The Magicians by Lev Grossman

Mostly I love the development of the side characters that you get in the show that doesn’t get to happen in the books. Since the books are more focused on Quentin, I missed my favorites: Elliot and Margo. I also particularly loved the way Quentin’s relationship with Elliot developed in the show. I know that they veered way off of the events of the trilogy in the show, but for once that didn’t bother me. It quickly became one of my favorite shows, and it’s one of the few I own on Blu-ray.

Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer

I think this one in particularly is a case of I-saw-the-movie-first. The movie was just so much…well, cooler. While the book was interesting and the mystery of the area was intriguing, I kept waiting for weird, messed up animals to come wandering by. I kept waiting for all the cool, bizarre things that showed up in the movie. And then they didn’t, and I was disappointed and wanted more weird plants and fungus taking over bodies and doubles of animals bounding along. Especially after reading Borne by VanderMeer, I was disappointed by the lack of weird, magical things.

Do you have adaptations you enjoy more than the books? If so, which ones?


What I wrote this week

Draft 2 of the second Enorians book – Prologue through Chapter Two

What I’m reading right now

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

A Phoenix First Must Burn by Patrice Caldwell

The Artful Edit by Susan P. Bell

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.

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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

Yes, Horses Do Show Up In Most Things I Write

There’s a video of me at the age of six where I proudly announce, in Dutch, that I want to take horseback riding lessons (or, I guess more accurately, “horse lessons”). Lucky for me, there was a small horse farm fifteen minutes from where we lived. When I was seven, I started taking lessons there. And my intense love of horses has never faded. All through school, including Undergrad, I rode at least once a week, usually more. I even started showing in sixth grade through 4-H, though I was never the biggest fan of it. The first show I went to wasn’t one I was in, but one I went to watch. I don’t recall most of it, but I strongly remember getting stepped on three times by various horses while wearing flipflops. Which insane parent let me wear flipflops to a horse show?

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From riding them to reading about them to playing with horse toys to collecting Breyer statues that I still own to this day, I fully immersed myself in being a crazy horse girl. I even wrote about them.

The first story I remember writing was started in an unlined journal while sitting in the airport, probably on the way to or from Holland, and to no one’s surprise, it was about a girl who had horses. Now, I can’t remember what it was about beyond that, but I’m almost certain it was inspired by The Unicorns of Balinor, because I’m pretty sure the characters were named Ari and Finn, both of whom are characters in that series. Either that or I just liked the names.

Horses have never stopped appearing in my stories since that first one, nor have I stopped reading about them. Once again, shocking to not a single person, one of my favorite books is The Scorpio Races, which is all about horses, both real and mythical. All throughout school I read horse books, many of which I still own (including the entire Unicorns of Balinor series), and even as an adult I still seek them out, though they’re surprisingly harder to find unless you want to read non-fiction, which is generally not something I’m searching for. This is even more true if you’re looking for fantasy. Don’t worry fellow horse lovers, I’m coming to your rescue 😉.

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Maybe that’s partially why horses play such a big role in most of my stories. That’s not to say I can’t write something without horses in it – The Children of Oher features exactly zero – but if there’s a place for them, I’ll make sure to fill it. There’s a quote by Toni Morrison that goes, “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it,” and I certainly seem to be doing that when it comes to including horses. So yes, I do fully intend to write Spirits of the Sea solely as an excuse to write about them, because I know some other crazy horse person out there will appreciate it as much as I do.

What’s something you love that you just can’t help putting into the things you create?


What I wrote over the last week

Chapters twenty-one through twenty-four of The Children of Oher

What I’m currently reading

Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas

In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado

The Last Revision by Sandra Scofield

Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman

Belinda McCauley

Writer. Reader. Creator.

Daan Katz, Author

Where Magic Meets Reality

A.M. Sӧtemann

Writer of Fantasy and Lover of Books and Horses