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There is no right way to be a writer 

Well, it's the last day of November, which means lots of people are celebrating winning National Novel Writing Month - writing 50,000 words in 30 days. To all of those writers, I'd like to say congratulations!

I started out the month working on NaNoWriMo, but then I was so distracted by the election, I didn't get much done. I also committed to more freelance work than I actually should have and had to spend a lot of time doing that. And then I got to the point where I was desperately trying to finish my novel, Until the Night Falls, the sequel to Into the Shadows, my YA vampire paranormal romance. Revising everything I had already written became more important than writing and tracking new words, and I had the novel up for pre-order to be released on 12/29/2020. So I needed to send it to my editor, revise based on her feedback, and then have it proofread all by Christmas. So I ironically had to quit NaNoWriMo to finish my novel.

I spent most of the weekend trying to shape everything I had written into a somewhat cohesive novel, but at some point on Saturday, I realized it wasn't working, and I had to start completely over with a new document. (This isn't quite as dramatic as it sounds as I end up copy/pasting a lot of stuff I've already written but still.) I really wanted to avoid canceling my pre-order and postponing the release of the book as usually if you do that, Amazon won't let you use the pre-order feature for one year. It also felt like failing for me somehow. 

That got me thinking. Why did it feel like a failure? Was it because I had been comparing myself to indie writers who release five or ten or even twelve novels in a year? Was it because I was getting emails from writing coaches and successful authors talking about everything you HAVE to do to be a successful writer?

All throughout my studies of creative writing, I have heard so many "rules." Write every day. Don't start a novel with dialogue. Don't have a prologue. You have to create an outline first and plan everything out. But I have discovered that these rules are crap.    

Don't get me wrong, there are definitely rules for writing - the structure of storytelling, how to develop characters, how to show and not tell, etc. - just as there are for every art form. But every rule in writing can be broken. Sure, it means a lot more when you break the rules if you have a good understanding of them first, but when it comes to process, there are no rules. 

Maybe I'm just never going to be like those indie authors who write ten books a year. Maybe some years, I will write five books, and some years, I will write none. Maybe I go through phases where I write every day, and then I go weeks without writing. (Well, creative writing. I absolutely do write something every day - whether it's a journal entry or web content about metal roofing equipment or a blog post about writing process.) 

Maybe it's okay that I will have four or five different drafts before I even figure out the shape of the entire plot. Maybe it's okay that I always start with something that won't end up in the final version. Maybe that's just my process. 

As it turns out, Amazon has temporarily suspended the rules about canceling pre-orders so I won't even suffer any consequences for canceling my pre-order, except of course the refunds Amazon will give to the people who have already ordered the book. And it has been so long since the first book came out (February 2019) that a few more months won't make a difference I think. I still plan to do some promotions with Into the Shadows right before I release Until the Night Falls that will hopefully get readers excited, but I was going to do that anyway. 

So I just wanted to say to all the writers -- whether you won NaNoWriMo or didn't finish or didn't even do it at all this year -- whether you write every day or sometimes go entire months or even years without writing -- whether you are someone who flies by the seat of your pants and discovers the plot as you write or someone who meticulously plans and outlines beforehand -- whether you need silence to write or you have to write to music or the noise of crowds chattering (well, not during a pandemic, but in normal times) -- there is no right way to be a writer. Whatever works for you is what works for you.

Does that mean you should never try anything different or try to use a different writing process? No. Does that mean your process won't evolve and change? Of course not. But you also first need to accept where you are. Cut yourself some slack. Don't try to fit into someone else's box. Someone else's process is entirely theirs, and every writer is different. 

Sometimes, life is going to get in the way of writing, too. So have some self-compassion, and give yourself permission to be the kind of writer you are. 







How do you write like you're running out of time? 

I decided recently to go over to my parents’ house and deal with all of the stuff I’ve had there for YEARS that my mom has been telling me to deal with for YEARS.  

I knew I had a ton of journals I needed to get. I’ve been numbering my journals since I was 12, and I’m on #124 so… but I did not expect quite as much writing as I found. I found entire binders filled with handwritten poems I wrote when I was 12-14. (“I feel invisable” said one. With an “a”.) I found an entire (improperly formatted) screenplay I wrote when I was 19 or 20. I found several binders of handwritten stories between 60 and 100 pages written between ages 10 and 15. (One was called “Black Rose: The Return to Fernando.” Haha.) 

I found notebooks after notebooks with song lyrics and brainstorming for novels or plays. I found unfinished novels, unfinished plays. I found a binder with almost my entire livejournal printed out. I found notes for my album, Unsent Letters; I found notes from a rehearsal of Painted (“Everyone needs to learn their lines!”); and I found set lists from shows with Long Absent Friends or Novo Luna.  

A first draft of my play, The Spins

One of the aspects I’ve always loved about the show, Hamilton, is how prolific he was. “How do you write like you’re running out of time?” And I realized I have always done this. Which I have known obviously, but seeing the evidence of this was a little overwhelming. But overwhelming in a good way.  

And it made me feel kind of good about myself. Because maybe 90% of this stuff is not great and maybe no one will ever read the vast majority of it. And maybe I haven’t always made the best decisions. But there’s something to be said about writing it all down. I have documented everything I’ve ever felt, thought, experienced. I have told story after story. Stories for the stage, the screen, the page. I truly do live for the written word.  

Notes from a Painted rehearsal

What have you learned about yourself going through old things?

6 Ways to Pump Up Your Writing in 2017 

Happy New Year, everyone!

I don't make New Year's resolutions, but I do make goals for the year. One of my goals for 2017 is to resurrect the writing blog! Sure, I make writing videos on my YouTube channel pretty regularly, but I do miss the blog. I'm back today with some suggestions on how you might want to increase your writing in the new year.

1. Track your daily word count - The first time I participated in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), I discovered how satisfying it is after a productive session to look back at the number of words I had written. And even on days that weren't so productive, I could say, "well, at least I did write 200 words today", which made me feel better about writing every day, even if some days I could only write for 20 minutes. You can just use an Excel spreadsheet or you can get fancy and use one of the tracker tools on the internet.

2. Try a writing challenge - Speaking of NaNoWriMo, you should give it a shot this year. Or if you don't want to wait for November, check out Camp NaNoWriMo in April and July. If writing a novel in a month isn't your thing, try the 30-Day Poetry Challenge in April, or StoryADay in May. Or if you don't want to wait until April or May, you can try the 30-Day Writing Prompt Challenge or the Writer's Block Challenge at any time. (And you can always pick up my e-book, The 30-Day Writing Challenge: Begin or Enhance Your Daily Writing Habit.)

3.Try writing via voice recorder - Do you have a long commute to your job or to school? Do you like to think out loud? Try using a voice recorder to record ideas, dialogue, poetry, whatever. You can find a recorder on most phones or pick up an actual mp3 recorder. (Or go old school and get a tape recorder.)

4. Join a writing community - Go to and find writer's groups in your area. If there aren't any, join and online writing community like #writestuff, AuthorTube, or Critique Circle.

5. Find an accountability partner - This could be another writer like a critique partner, but it doesn't have to be. Find someone who will hold you accountable, and check in with each other once a week or even once a day to discuss your goals and the steps you plan to take to achieve them.

6. Give yourself monthly writing goals - Speaking of goals, you are more likely to achieve them if you have them. Start each month with a specific and defined writing goal. That way you can turn vague resolutions like "I want to write a book someday" into specific things like "I will write two short stories in July." Specific goals are more likely to be met.


5 Tips to Survive National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) 

Well, folks, it's that time of year again! National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) starts in November. This is the magical time where so many of us writers will try to achieve the lofty goal of writing 50,000 words in 30 days. I've got five tips for y'all that will help you survive.

1. Let yourself be creative. You are not going to get words written if you are constantly second guessing yourself. If you are a planner, don't be afraid to veer off course. If your story starts taking a turn you didn't expect, just go with it! Let your imagination run wild. This is a time to really revel in the joy that comes with the creative process. It's easy to get caught up in word counts and publishing goals, but don't forget why you love writing in the first place.

2. Turn off the voice of the critic. Everyone has an editor or critic voice in their head. This is the voice that constantly says things like "this is boring" or "all of your characters sound the same" or "is this too much like TWILIGHT?". NaNoWriMo is not the time for that voice. So tell her, "thank you for your input" but don't listen to her. Put her away in a little box and when November is over, put away your draft for a month or so, and then take her back out when it's time to start revising.

3. Find some inspiration. You want to keep yourself in the zone where you feel excited about your characters, your world, your story. Make a Pinterest board with images that remind you of your characters or your settings. Make a Spotify playlist of music that gets you in the mood to write. Watch movies with the same themes. Keep yourself inspired and in that creative mind frame.

4. Stay healthy. Don't skip out on sleep because you need to stay up to get that word count in. Don't skip meals or trips to the gym because you need to write. I promise you the writing will go a lot better if you are keeping yourself healthy. Even if you can't manage to get to the gym, make sure you take little walking breaks here and there or try using an extender that allows you to stand up when you write. Have healthy snacks handy like fruit, nuts, granola bars, yogurt, etc. And don't forget to drink lots of water!

5. Don't be too hard on yourself. If you get to the end of November and you've only written 30,000 words, you may feel like a failure. But you have still written 30,000 words!! 30,000 words you may not have otherwise written. Don't feel like a loser because you didn't "win" NaNoWriMo. Anyone who writes anything at all for NaNoWriMo is already a winner in my book. So celebrate every word you have managed to get down and keep writing!

For more tips on NaNoWriMo, check out the #ProjectWriteTube 2016 playlist. #ProjectWriteTube is a video series put together by Tamara Woods where a bunch of us WriteTubers create videos with tips about writing and NaNoWriMo to get everyone pumped up. I did a video last week about whether or not NaNoWriMo-ers are real writers. (Spoiler alert - they totally are.) Check that out, and check out the whole playlist! There are some really great videos on there. Speaking of WriteTube, I know it's been a while, but I recently updated my WriteTube list so check that out too!