My friend Abby from Ups & Downs has launched an AMAZING new blog that you 100% do not want to miss. Here is some exclusive information about what’s going on at the new site! (All pictures and graphics in this post belong to Abby.)
As of last Saturday, June 2nd, we’ve had Sophie for exactly a year! And since everyone in the blogosphere loves her so much (you wouldn’t love her if you met her), I thought I’d do an update post and talk about the past year. (There are a lot of photos–I tried to make collages, but WordPress wasn’t cooperating, so most of them are individuals.)
To recap, Sophie is our year-and-a-half year old beagle/basset hound. My mom had said for years that we’d never get another dog, but on June 2, 2018, she very unexpectedly came home from work with a puppy! We adopted Sophie from a shelter, so we don’t know much about her life before us. But it quickly became evident she is terrified of men and children. (When people come to the door, she barks and growls at them, but she’s shaking like a leaf.) She was quiet and timid for a few weeks at our house–then she settled in and started to show her true colors. She also attached herself to Mom. Last summer she was so little; for a solid week after we got her, we did nothing but sit around and look at her. When she got the hiccups we would all squeal about how cute it was (well, maybe that was just me).
Sophie eats everything. She has huge separation anxiety and she’s an anxious chewer. The only toy she can have (she ingests pieces of everything else) is a deer antler, and she whittles it down to choke size within two weeks (her trainer had a black Lab and said it took his Lab three months to go through an antler of the same size). Sophie’s favorite thing to eat is paper. If I stick a Post-It note somewhere low, the next thing I know it’s in her mouth; if I’m bringing in the mail, she jumps up and grabs an envelope of out my hands; if we leave a bookmark sticking out of a book, she will eat the bookmark. In addition to paper, Sophie loves to dust; she will obsessively lick any surface she can reach that has dust on it. And her favorite people food (not that we feed her much) is cheese–she magically appears whenever Mom is grating cheese. Sometimes she eats ice cubes if she feels like it. I taught her how to climb up on the step stool and sit if she wants a treat.
Despite what my dad might think, Sophie knows a lot of words: Sophie, Mommy, Daddy, Joshua, bone, ball, eat, treat, come (well, she chooses not to know this sometimes–she looks at you and calculates whether it’s worth it), sit, outside, walk, up. She follows us around the house (so closely she’ll bump into the back of our legs if we stop walking). If I’m working on my laptop, she will nap on my bed; if I’m cleaning my room, she’ll go get her bone and entertain herself (until she hears paper rattling–then she’ll come “help”).
Sometimes we think she’s brilliant (for instance, when we ask her where her bone is and she runs to another room and returns with the antler), but most of the time we think she’s not the brightest bulb in the box. Sophie is constantly losing her Mommy and running around the house, panicked, looking for her; when Mom is gone, Sophie mopes around, doesn’t chew on her bone, and runs to the front door whenever a car door slams somewhere in the neighborhood. If we say anything at all in an excited tone, whether it’s a word that sounds like “Mommy” or not, Sophie will run to the front door and get excited. (As I was writing this blog post, I was watching a video where Sophie was running around the house frantically looking for Mom. On the video I say “Where’s Mommy?!”, and when Sophie heard that phrase she jumped up onto the couch and attacked me.)
Sophie is my work buddy! Sometimes she will nicely get on the couch under the blanket and snuggle with me; sometimes this involves her walking on my laptop keyboard and deleting whatever I’ve just written. In the mornings at 5 AM when my mom leaves for work, Sophie gets in bed with me and goes under the covers (for a small 17lb dog, she takes up the ENTIRE bed).
When my dad turns off the TV and it’s bedtime, Sophie jumps off the couch and rolls over on her back because she doesn’t want to go to bed. She also has all kinds of tricks up her sleeve for when I’m trying to put her in the crate so I can get out the door.
Sophie has a luxating patella in one leg, where her kneecap regularly dislocates itself. It doesn’t cause her pain right now, but she’ll need surgery eventually. We’re technically supposed to keep her still, but when she starts doing a zoomie–racing in a circle as fast as she can around the house or the yard–there’s nothing that can stop her.
When we come home and rescue Sophie from the crate (which she tears up while we’re gone because she is so frantic), she will jump on us as if she has springs in her legs. Sometimes she jumps so high, her teeth grab the sleeve of our short sleeve shirts. She does this at other times, too–sometimes she will randomly begin biting us and attacking us. It seems like she’s so excited, she just doesn’t know how to contain herself other than biting our face. We’re trying to redirect that energy…
Sophie snores very loudly. She also has a habit of heaving a big sigh whenever we scoot her over on the couch, just to let us know how put out she is.
We have a family of toads who live in the backyard, and Sophie likes to hunt them. (This is a funny video Joshua and I made about the toads.) She also hunts bugs. She’s like a cat–she will slap her paw down to trap the roly-poly or whatever it is. She also chases the laser light like a cat. It’s different having a hunting dog; she likes to “bury” her antler in the couch and then go digging for it. Sophie is a mess but we love her so much!!
Do you have a dog? Does your dog do funny or weird things?
May was very busy, and I very nearly burned out physically and emotionally until everything thankfully came to a stop at the end of the month. I wasn’t at my nonprofit at all, but I was crazy busy and stressed trying to finish up the softball season, and super relived when it was over. I also got a lot of new freelance writing clients, aka more stress.
But so much fun stuff happened too! I watched some friends win their high school softball state championship; had a picnic and shopping day with Madeleine; hung out with a former youth pastor and his wife; and spent multiple Saturdays and Sundays and weeknights at the ballpark with friends, watching games and playing around and then going out for ice cream or Ihop afterwards. I met NYT bestselling author Victoria Aveyard, went to lunch with friends, spent a fun evening at Brooke N’s house for dinner and a movie, and also went out for dinner and a movie with Brooke another night. I had a fun day road tripping for Hannah’s graduation from COLLEGE. I spoke to two 7th-grade English classes about writing. My family went to a cabin in the North Carolina mountains for four days, which involved lots of reading on the porch, eating ice cream sandwiches, and visiting cool places such as the Road to Nowhere. Sadly, we also spent the end of the month in Tennessee for my grandmother’s funeral.
This month I’m…
Reading: The Fates Divide, Veronica Roth. The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street, Karina Yan Glaser. Children of the Storm, Natasha Vins (reread). God’s Smuggler, John and Elizabeth Sherrill (reread). The Blood Race, K. A. Emmons (reread). Children of Blood and Bone, Tomi Adeyemi. Shadow and Bone, Siege and Storm, and Ruin and Rising, Leigh Bardugo (reread). Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour, Morgan Matson (reread). Let Me Be A Woman, Elisabeth Elliott. Pacifica, Kristen Simmons. 12 total.
Loving: Query letters and discouragement, the cwtch. Quantified Activity Tracking to Prevent Chronic Pain Flares, Life in Slow Motion. 5 Tips For More Authentic, Natural “Un-Posing,” Lindsey Roman. I blogged twice at THC–Mikayla Christiansen: Hardworking Creative and How to Support Other Creatives (when you’re broke).
Writing: I did a lot of work for a travel app through a UK media company (having a really fantastic and fun experience with them)–I wrote guides to 18 US cities, wrote four “Unique Dream Experience” articles (bucketlist-type vacations), and wrote four “Human Dream Stories” (interviewing people about cool things they’ve done). I also wrote eight 2,000-word reviews for RunnerClick and transitioned to something that’s more like being on staff instead of just freelancing. I accepted a LOT of new positions–IAPWE, Georgia Family Magazine (associate editor and proofreader), JenReviews (long-term fitness writer), Valnet (parenting website), and had to turn down several jobs because of money and time. I applied to 33 freelance jobs, pitched article ideas to four magazines, and submitted fiction to 9 publications. I had a devotional published here, another here, and wrote this blog post; I also wrote articles for Craft Your Content and the IMB. I did a quick edit of World on a String, sent it for critiquing, and dove back into edits on Angelica. I spoke to two 7th-grade English classes about being a professional writer.
Grateful for: Riding home at night with my friend after her softball games, eating Chick-fil-a and feeling the warm breeze through the open sunroof while my dad texts updates on our brothers’ game (for the benefit of my friend’s dad, my brother’s coach). Ice cream with family friends just like old times. Going for pizza downtown with our baby after getting passports. Playing tic-tac-toe on the kids’ menu at restaurants with friends’ little siblings. Working in the nursery at my new church for the first time and getting my baby fix.
What did you do in May? What are your summer plans?
April was busy–I use a different color pen for work, softball, church, etc. on my calendar, and every day looks like a rainbow! I focused on writing (new freelance jobs + Camp NaNo), coaching softball (we had two games per week–well, except for all the rain–and so did my brother’s baseball team), and closing out the school year with after-school tutoring at my nonprofit (I was there 1-3 afternoons a week, finishing the month with a fun meeting about summer camp). Also, I decided on a new church home (which I LOVE) and my family decided on a separate church.
As far as “fun stuff,” I was able to go to the park with friends; see Black Panther and go to dinner with Brooke N; see our friend Jesse play baseball a couple of times with various friends and family; see The Miracle Season with my dad; and see family friends in Les Miserables with my dad. AND, for Emma’s nineteenth birthday, Hannah and I drove up to her college and surprised her! We had a dorm room picnic, she opened gifts, and we walked around campus.
This month I’m…
Reading: Inner Lives of Deaf Children, Martha Sheridan. Thunderhead, Neal Shusterman. The Girl who could See, Kara Swanson. The Weight of Glory, C.S. Lewis. Do More Better, Tim Challies. All the Light we Cannot See, Anthony Doerr (reread). Lady Midnight (reread) and Lord of Shadows, Cassandra Clare. Disciplines of a Godly Woman, Barbara Hughes. Esperanza Rising, Pam Munoz Ryan. Ana’s Story, Jenna Hager Bush. Betsy Was a Junior and Betsy and Joe (both rereads), Maud Hart Lovelace. 13 total.
Music: Home, Morgxn. How Can It Be Time Already, Adeline Hill. What About Us, P!nk. Found Tonight, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Ben Platt. Riptide, Vance Joy. Johnnyswim’s Georgica Pond album. The Theory of Everything soundtrack. My WIP soundtrack, especially Warsaw Zoo 1939. Hillsong Y&F Youth Revival acoustic album, especially Where You Are. Do You Hear the People Sing, Les Mis.
Watching: Bruin Banter. Kidsmeet. Rise. Black Panther (for the second time). The Miracle Season. Dunkirk (my new FAVORITE movie ever). The Zookeeper’s Wife. The Book Thief (re-watch). We got a Netflix DVD subscription this month, and I’m excited to watch more movies.
Loving: 25 Unexpected Life-Transformative Secrets I Learned from 3 Days with Katie Davis Majors, Ann Voskamp. THEIR BLOOD BE LAID: PART 1, by Aimee. We Need Higher-Quality Christian Art, by Grace. Wanted: People to Lead Us in the Way of Wonder, The Gospel Coalition. 10 Reasons I Love Books About Siblings, by Cait.
I blogged twice this month: Meet My Camp NaNo Novel! and The Book Life Tag. I also blogged twice at THC: Jordan-Paige Sudduth: Hardworking Creative, and How to Advertise Yourself on Social Media (without being obnoxious).
Writing: I broke 30,000 words of my novel World on a String (exclusive snippet below), therefore winning Camp NaNo! The novel isn’t over yet, but I’m so proud of myself. (Also I killed a character on day 1, which I feel like is some kind of record.) I took Joan Dempsey’s dialogue class and had a great mentor session with Annie Twitchell. My publisher, Story Shares, sent me a Kindle with 6 months of Kindle Unlimited as a reward for being their bestseller. I had devotionals published on Reckless Abandon, The Life, and Love is Moving. I completed trial assignments for a couple of companies. I applied to 15 freelance jobs, pitched 6 magazines, and submitted fiction to 15 publications. And finally, I did some work for a marketing company and wrote 6 reviews (2,000 words each) for Runnerclick.
Grateful for: A random receptionist at my brother’s orthodontist who was just so happy and cheerful. Slow days at work when I sit in the main room organizing with our teacher, coloring with our kindergartner, and complaining about Common Core with tutors who come by. Friends I can unload on after doctor visits. My mom getting me a battery for my laptop so it no longer dies after twenty minutes (I thought that was a normal length of time for a battery…). Playing singing Catchphrase with my family (“the hurky turkey makes me turnt”). Friends who invite you into their dorm room on very short notice and make you peppermint tea, and friends who let me borrow their college campuses when I want to hang out on one! Talking on the phone about freelance writing to writing friends. Sunshine and music and mountains.
Tell me everything you did in April! And what’s your weather like?
No one tagged me in this, I just thought it looked fun. I’m busy and not doing well physically and I need more fun in my life–so this blog is going to begin transitioning over to things like this, and you can find my more professional posts on THC every other week. Let’s plan my perfect book life!
Who would your parents be?
(Not from a YA book–that’s for sure.) I have to go with Molly and Arthur Weasley on this one! I mean, who wouldn’t want them as parents? JUST READ THIS and then excuse me while I cry.
Who would be your sister?
Lila from V.E. Schwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic trilogy! Because she’s the best and she would stab anyone who wouldn’t let me have cake. (That sentence sounded suspiciously like something Cait would say.) Also because can you picture Molly and Arthur Weasley trying to parent Lila Bard?! Because I just did and now I’m dying.
Who would be your brother?
You guys have NO IDEA how many choices I had here. I’ve always wanted an older brother, I’m obsessed with sibling relationships in books, and this was so hard to narrow down. But I’m going to say Florian Beck from Salt to the Sea because he’s the best in every way. And I’ll take Peter Pevensie too because he’s the ultimate Older Brother™. OH–and Shade from the Red Queen series. Final answer is Peter Pevensie though.
Who would be your pet?
My first thought was Hedwig or Fang or Buckbeak, but I don’t want this whole post to be Harry Potter (actually, who am I kidding? I wouldn’t care), so I’ll come up with something a little more original and throw it back to Wilbur. Because Charlotte’s Web will always be such a nostalgic, true, beautiful book to me. And because I’ve highkey wanted a pet pig since I was eight or nine.
Where would you live?
Where would you go to school?
Hogwarts! Because Hogwarts is OBVIOUSLY in Narnia. #ravenclawpride
Who would be your best friend?
Nina Zenik from the Six of Crows duology! Mostly because I know she’d always have food with her and that is the kind of best friend I want to have. It’s basically a requirement if we’re going to hang out on a regular basis. Although I’d also be down to be best friends with Elsie Dinsmore because she would be a much better influence than Nina, tbh.
Who would be your significant other?
CHOICES CHOICES. Possibly Kilorn from the Red Queen series, but definitely Solomon from the Out of Time trilogy or Joe from the Betsy series. They’re both really sweet genuine guys (and good-looking).
Overall impressions from this post: 1) I kept thinking of characters from musicals to answer the questions and then reminding myself that it’s BOOKS. But maybe I’ll do it with musicals next because that would be so fun??? 2) I need to reread the Chronicles of Narnia because it has been too long. And 3) it is just REALLY messing with me to think about living in Narnia, and attending Hogwarts, and Lila Bard and Nina Zenik being there too. My fandoms are colliding but I’m kind of cool with it.
If this tag looks fun to you, feel free to do it on your blog! And answer your favorite question in the comments.
I don’t have words to express how much I love the novel I’m writing for camp, World on a String. Honestly, I’m obsessed with it. I came up with the basic premise for this two or three years ago; it’s part the Betsy series (Maud Hart Lovelace), part the Dark Artifices series (Cassandra Clare), part Bandstand the musical, and part something else entirely. It simmered in the back of my mind for a while, and now here we are. It’s full of long light evenings playing baseball in the corner lot, broken boys who light cigarettes on the porch with shaky hands, and girls who have spent their whole lives wanting something more and never realizing it was right in front of them all along. Here’s the synopsis and my playlist, plus a mini-aesthetic that I CAN’T STOP LOOKING AT:
Now that WWII is over, 18-year-old Julia thinks life will be perfect, just like the way it used to be. She has big plans for the summer of 1946: attending parties, getting a job, and going back to school. But when her friend Dan returns home from the battlefield changed forever—and when her father doesn’t return at all, forcing Julia to give up her dreams to care for her siblings, including a deaf little sister whom she’s never really known—she realizes that nothing will ever be the same again.
I’ve always been a pantser–which is entirely in contrast to my 100% left-brained self–but with this novel, I actually outlined EVERYTHING. Not a super detailed outline–it’s less than 2k–but certainly more than I’ve done for any other novel. And I think this outline is what’s going to catapult me to actually meet my goal this April (plus the fact my writing mentor + other writer friends are holding me to it). My goal is 25k-30k, and as of right now, I’m at 13k (I started a couple of weeks before camp began, though).
I thought it would be a problem to find time to work on this novel since I’m freelancing about 35 hours a week now, plus working at my nonprofit and coaching softball, but I think my outline is going to see me through. (Why didn’t I realize sooner that outlining is good for me?! *facepalm*) My minimum weekly word goal is 4,500, and by Monday morning of this week I was already at 4,200. So it’s going amazingly well so far (knock on wood!). Plus, my cabin is “super chill.” 😉
This novel has been SO FUN. If you know me, you know I’ve always been obsessed with WWII and the Holocaust (my debut novel is set during the Holocaust!); although I was bitten by the spec fiction bug a year or two ago, historical fiction was my first love, so it’s great to be back. And even though the Deaf character in my novel doesn’t speak ASL, I’ve gotten out my old DVD curriculum and started learning again, in addition to lots of other research–talking to my aunt who’s an audiologist, emailing with some people at Gallaudet, reading multiple fascinating books about Deaf children, watching Deaf vloggers on YouTube, etc.
I also feel like it’s important to note I killed a character on day one of NaNo, which has to be some kind of record. I literally made myself cry.
My long-term fiction plan right now is to finish draft 1 of World on a String by mid-May, if not the end of April; edit my dystopian novel Angelica in May/June; and then edit World on a String and begin looking for an agent.
I’ll be back later in April with snippets from World on a String. Stay tuned!
Are you doing camp? Tell me all about your project in the comments!
March was a happy and busy month characterized by so much writing success! I launched my new website, The Hardworking Creative; received my first ever royalty check for my book; had several great articles published, including a print article where I interviewed a world champion athlete; started writing a new novel; went to an amazing writer’s conference; got three big new long-term, steady writing jobs; and made lots of money. Wow!
That was the main focus of my month, but I also coached softball twice a week (LOVE), worked at my nonprofit 1-3 times a week (most interesting conversation: a fifth-grade Burmese refugee casually telling me about her arranged marriage), and my family began visiting a new church that we all really like.
My health was pretty bad this month, so don’t ask me how I managed to do all this fun stuff. But here it is: went to Hobby Lobby and lunch with Cari and Erin; went to lunch and boutiques with Andrea; Brooke N came over for lunch (lol my friends and I like food) after church; I made new friends and had the BEST day at the Atlanta Writer’s Workshop; we went to the farm with some old friends; Brooke N and I went out for lunch and Barnes & Noble; Mom and Joshua and I saw The Greatest Showman (third time) and got fro-yo; we went to a nursing home with our new church; Cari and I had dinner and went to PetSmart (always a good time); Dad and I saw Black Panther; we went to a party/Easter Egg hunt with our old church; and we went to a Stations of the Cross event at Adventures in Missions.
This month I’m…
Reading: Salt to the Sea, Ruta Sepetys (reread–the BEST). This Savage Song, V.E. Schwab. Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, Kate Douglas Wiggin (reread). A Cactus in the Valley, Olivia J. Bennett. I’ll Scream Later, Marlee Matlin. A Time to Die, A Time to Speak, and A Time to Rise, Nadine Brandes (MY NEW FAVORITE BOOKS IN THE HISTORY OF EVER). Sisters First, Jenna Bush Hager and Barbara Pierce Bush. Hello Universe, Erin Entrada Kelly. 10 total.
Watching: Building a Youpreneur Business Around a Personal Brand. Rise on NBC. The Greatest Showman (third time). Black Panther (loved it!). Bringing Up Bates. Lots of sign language vlogs as well as my old ASL curriculum DVDs (as research for my new novel).
Writing: Where do I start? Okay. I launched my new website/blog, The Hardworking Creative, on March 1st. I received a royalty check for Hope is the Thing with Feathers (so COOL) and sent my novel Angelica to be critiqued. I did lots of research for my new historical fiction novel World on a String and wrote 7k words of it. I wrote four short stories and submitted stories to 20 magazines; I also applied to 8 jobs and pitched article ideas to 5 publications. I got several fan emails from strangers, including a few people who literally begged me to be their freelance writing mentor. (?) I spent basically the whole month in phone meetings. I had a fantastic Skype mentoring session. I spent the BEST DAY OF MY LIFE at the Atlanta Writer’s Workshop. I began a new job writing for a running shoe website; a freelance job I started in Jan finally kicked in with some work; and I’m in the trial phase writing for two marketing companies. (Aka I have ZERO time to do any writing I want to do anymore–but, I’m making money.) Last but not least, here’s everything I had published: “Sports for Homeschoolers” (print–Practical Homeschooling magazine); “Next Generation Focus” (print–Up in Cumming magazine); “Freshman Year,” Sunlight Press; “The 5 Craziest Words in English and How to Use Them,” Craft Your Content; and “Declaring the Light,” The Life.
Loving: The Strength to be Still by Bethany. How to Study the Bible: The Verse Brainstorming Method by Grace. 5 Things You Should Be Doing EVERY DAY To Stay Creative + Focused! by Abbie. to my writer friends by Hanne. Chronic Pain and the Book of Philippians by Esther. Let’s Rethink Our Language of “Calling” by the IMB. YA Contemporaries NEED economic diversity! by Sherbet Lemon Reviews.
I blogged two times over here this month: Atlanta Writer’s Workshop: What I Learned and Get Your Hopes Up. I blogged four times over at THC, and you can check out those interviews and posts here. (I’ll be writing over there much more than over here now, so definitely go sub by email if you haven’t.)
Grateful for: Sunshine and flowers and coffee. Dealing with horrible people at work being made not so horrible by laughing hysterically about it with coworkers when the person left. Reading a book in Spanish to one of the cute little boys at work. Having a baby in the house on a regular basis. All my amazing writing opportunities!! Sitting around a table eating chicharrones with Hispanic and Indian kids. The fact that our new church is the CUTEST building in the middle of the CUTEST valley. Brownie pie for pi day. Coming home at 8 intending to go to bed, but staying up for two hours reading old journal entries with Mom and Joshua. Making Easter baskets for some kids in the foster system. My favorite four-year-old unexpectedly climbing into my lap when we praying. Sitting down on the bucket of balls to give my 8U team a pregame talk and half of them immediately trying to sit in my lap.
What did you do in March? Tell me in the comments!
I haven’t had steady freelancing work since last September. I’ve had lots of one-time jobs, but no steady clients–that is, until this past week. In the last seven days, I’ve gotten four steady freelance writing clients. I’ve spent the week trying to learn how to use three online platforms and sitting in phone meeting after phone meeting and taking notes on the invoice format that each client wants. It started out as exhilarating and descended into just overwhelmingly stressful. (The only reason I have a spare fifteen minutes to write this blog post is because one of the online platforms is having technical issues this morning, so I can’t upload my post.) I was still working hard every day and applying to tons of jobs during those six months, so what’s the difference between six months of not much and then this sudden explosion of steady clients that just keep calling me? At first I was baffled. But now I think I know.
I can’t tell you how many times I used to say the phrase “I don’t want to get my hopes up” every day. It was a lot. I was talking with a friend about faith a couple of weeks ago, and also thinking about another friend of mine who has so much faith. I wrote in my journal last week, “I never want to get my hopes up. But because of Who God is, am I free to get my hopes up? Hope will not put me to shame.” I wrote the specific name of a website that I had applied for a position with, but had heard absolutely nothing from them for two weeks, which seemed unusual. Right after writing that in my journal, I opened my email and I had an email from them. The next day I got that job.
Then things just kept flooding in. I began writing for the running website this week. I began writing about fitness for a content company (I technically got this job back in Dec/Jan, they just didn’t have any work for me until this week). I had a few meetings with a marketing company, and I’m in a trial phase working for them. Then last night–when I was already figuring out how many of my weekend plans I could cancel in order to stay home and work–I got a phone call from a company that helps musicians market themselves (something that I’m very passionate about–the whole reason I started The Hardworking Creative–and wanted to do, but didn’t know how to get started), and I’m in a trial phase writing for them.
Like I said, it started out really exciting this week–Wow! I’m going to be writing 40+ hours a week and making an adult salary!–and descended into insanely stressful–Wow, I’m going to be writing 40+ hours a week. I keep shortening my time at the nonprofit I work for (even though I love it there and I feel like I’m meant to be there) because I have so much writing work, and I haven’t worked on my new novel all week. This is what I wanted–to be a full-time freelance writer. The money is great, most of the work is fun, and it’s validation for my decision to skip the college degree (at least for now) and stay home and work this year. So I shouldn’t complain. But there’s definitely going to be a learning curve. The problem isn’t the writing itself–it’s figuring out how each company works (daily meetings? Oh. Okay), when invoices are due (introducing my three daily planners and my phone reminder app), and how to use the dang online platforms (all I have to say about this is ughhhhh).
Hopefully things will settle into a rhythm soon. (Unless any more clients call? I wouldn’t be surprised.) A few people have asked me lately what my day to day actually looks like. It’s always different, but I hope to get into more of a set schedule soon. Ideally, I’ll start waking up at 8 (it’s a struggle #chronicfatigueproblems); do freelance writing work from 9-11; work out/eat lunch/do chores or VO or something away the computer from 11-1; do freelance writing work from 1-4; hopefully still have the energy from 4-6 to work at my nonprofit or work on my own projects (like writing my novel); and then read or coach softball after dinner. If that’s even feasible? More and more clients keep getting added to my planners–definitely more than six hours’ worth of work per day. I work on Saturdays and I wanted to knock out some tasks from my new jobs today, but no one is around to help me out. So I’m off to watch my brother’s baseball game (my 8U team had their first game last night and lost 23-0…) and see Black Panther.
Anyway. This was just a stream of consciousness type thing to say that I’m officially a full-time freelance writer making big money, but it is not all rainbows and unicorns, and that I don’t think it’s a coincidence that all these clients came flooding in right after I got my hopes up, because hope won’t put me to shame.
Do you struggle with having faith and getting your hopes up?
Yesterday I went to a writing conference at a fancy hotel near Atlanta, and it was basically the best day ever! (Totally exhausting physically–but amazing in every other way.) I came away with two big impressions: one, although I’ve always wanted to make a living through being an author specifically, I would be happy to work in this industry in any capacity. And two–I have SO MUCH to learn about writing. Anyway, today I’m going to summarize my notes for all you fellow writers! This is going to be long (and probably not very cohesive), so feel free to skim through and just hit the seminars that are most applicable to you. (I also got my first royalty check in the mail Friday, so I’m feeling very much like a #professional #author this weekend.)
Block One: Wordbuilding in Fantasy and Science Fiction (Tips and Traps)
This was probably the session where I learned the most. I don’t technically write fantasy or sci-fi (I write dystopian and historical fiction), but I love reading them, and a lot of the advice was applicable to general writing as well. Here’s some of it.
The golden standard of worldbuilding is this: not a word left out, and not a word left in. Don’t omit anything essential; however, remember that the reader doesn’t need every detail. They need to visualize it, but no info-dumps. You will need to know a lot of things in your head about your world–history, economics, etc. You can even write this out if you want. But don’t use it. Just let it influence your story.
The weirder your world is, the more you need to anchor your reader at the beginning of the scene. Anchor it in time, place, and POV (the reader needs to know whose head you’re in). Provide concrete and sensory details.
If you need to give your readers information about your world–while avoiding info-dumps–a good way to do this is to have a character who’s clueless and needs to be explained to. (Lots of authors use this strategy; think about the first Harry Potter book, or when Lucy first stumbles into Narnia.) Another good vehicle for dispensing information (especially about politics) is to have people argue. (Plus, this is more entertaining!) Try throwing in a curmudgeon or a know-it-all to argue with; people like bickering. That’s why reality TV gets such high ratings. Arguing stems from goals and is a form of conflict. Tension on every page is what sells books, and arguing definitely adds tension.
Filler scenes are where books go to die. The kitchen table scene–where characters are sitting around and discussing either what just happened, or what’s about to happen–drives agents crazy. If possible, cut a scene like this.
In addition to the overarching conflict that’s the core of the novel, every chapter should: resolve current conflict (giving the reader immediate gratification), set up the conflict for the next chapter (making sure the reader keeps going), and hint at the conflict for the chapter after that.
Block Two: Voice and Craft–Tips on How to Write like the Pros
This session was mostly review for me, so I’ll just skim through my notes. Brian Klemes (former Writer’s Digest editor) recommended avoiding prologues whenever possible–especially prologues that happen out of time sequence. When starting your novel, open with conflict–not action. Have the main character face a challenge right away in order to help the readers get to know the character. Conflict drives readers’ emotions.
A “save the cat” moment is when you establish that your character is a good person (think about the firefighter rescuing the little old lady’s cat from the tree). Most books have this in the first 10 pages; think about Katniss volunteering in place of her sister. Alternatively, you could have a “kill the cat” moment.
Tighten your sentences; only use necessary words (not like this song). Keep dialogue short, too–in TV shows, characters never say goodbye when on the phone because it takes up unnecessary time.
Include hooks at the end of your chapter. A hook is different from a cliffhanger–cliffhangers are something big, whereas a hook can be smaller.
Pick up the pace of your novel; every five pages or so, give your MC something unexpected. JK Rowling does this well.
Develop your voice–the personality and style in which you write. This is like how every musician puts their own twist on the Star Spangled Banner. Be aware, though, that sometimes your character may have a different voice than your own.
I went to lunch with some new friends I met in the morning–one girl Lauren (plus her grandmother) whom I didn’t know previously, and another girl, Aleigha, whom I vaguely knew from the Young Writers Workshop Facebook page. We walked to the mall food court and had a great time talking. I also got to meet agent Tessa Emily Hall later in the day. Honestly, the best part of the workshop was interacting with other writers–when I walked in and saw the registration line, it hit me that all of these hundreds of people also wrote stories and also had big ambitions for their stories, and it was so cool.
Block Three: “Writers Got Talent”–A One Page Critique Fest
I slipped into this session at the last minute (literally) just because my friends were going–I didn’t submit the first page of my novel. But here are a bunch of random notes from the half-dozen agents that critiqued the first pages of several writers’ novels:
You only have a few seconds to grab agents. Don’t begin with lots of description or exposition–no one cares. We should know who your character is within the first paragraph. Never start off with someone dreaming or waking up. Be careful with the shape of the text (basically just how the words look on the page); again, avoid long info-dump paragraphs, and never include backstory at the beginning. Everything is about spacing out backstory. Agents like to see dialogue pretty soon on the page–have a good balance of narration, action, and dialogue. Make sure to establish your genre (history? No pop culture references. Fantasy? Add in fantasy elements on the first page). Avoid purple prose (lots of adjectives–a form of telling). If you make your reader be invested in something, follow through. And finally, never start an MG/YA book with a description of hair or clothes.
Block Four: How to Revise and Self-Edit Your Manuscript
Gather up feedback from betas, agents, and editors before jumping in. If you don’t agree with feedback but you’ve heard it more than once, think about it.
Character should be different, but consistent. They shouldn’t speak like the narrator–each one should be recognizable by the structure of their speech.
Really keep track of your days and times and make sure they flow, because people will nail you on that. And don’t let plot threads drop–even if it’s as small as mentioning that the characters started working a jigsaw puzzle, then they need to be shown finishing it at some point.
Do a search and kill all overused/weak words (really, very, pretty). Otherwise, you’re instantly marked as a newbie.
If people are saying they didn’t connect with your characters, think about POV. 3rd person is too far from the action and doesn’t cause connection; consider making it closer.
Some books call for a prologue, even though most people hate them. The person in the prologue should be the MC–or at least, the prologue should connect well to the rest of the story.
Rather than making an outline before you begin, try just making a list of things that need to happen at some point in the story. This might work for you if you float in-between being a plotter and a pantser (like me).
Commercial fiction–you see a movie in your head. It’s a page-turner. Literary fiction–beautiful words. The characters meander through. It doesn’t necessarily end well, but people love those beautiful words. Upmarket fiction–has a literary feel and a big hook. Something different. Girl on the Train, for example. It doesn’t translate to movies well. Mainstream fiction–not genre-driven. Appeals to a wide audience. If you’re not sure where your book fits, think about store bookshelves and how many words are in front of “fiction.”
Having a pro editor take a look at your manuscript before querying agents is a good idea. They’re typically $2-$4 a page. Never pay $10/page.
Block Five: 25 Questions You Need Answered Before you Seek an Agent or Self-Publish
Things that stuck out to me:
You don’t NEED an agent. Some publishers accept unaccented queries. However, you’ll have to handle the business stuff, and you may not have as many connections as an agent would.
If an agent charges you money to represent you, run.
#1 reason agents reject writers–writers query agents who don’t represent what they’re writing. Do your homework. Try the annual book “The Guide to Literary Agents.”
Query letters have four parts. Intro–the basics; book title/word count. Pitch–abbreviated version of your story (MC, their life, inciting incident, subplots, climax, and DON’T reveal the ending). Qualifications/credentials–don’t mention small awards, only big ones. Finally, end with why you picked that agent, or mention what books are comparable to yours. If an agent requests a synopsis, send 1-2 pages covering the plot points, challenges, and the ending.
Always keep 5 query letters in circulation. If there’s a point where you want to give up, query 20 more agents after that. For novels, 80-100 queries is a good benchmark.
When pitching agents, be helpful, kind, and make yourself visible/make friends before beginning the business stuff.
Always stay excited about writing. Enjoy every step in the process.
Wow! That was a lot. Which seminar would you have most liked to attend? Have you ever been to a writing conference? Did you learn anything from my messy notes? Did you/do you want to indie publish or go traditional?
Launch day is finally here.
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