Writing Lifehacks #2: 5 Tips to Writing your Best Fight Scene Ever

Fun story: a long time ago, I decided to start a series called Writing Lifehacks. I wrote one post in May about antiheros, but then my summer got busy and I never picked it back up. Good news, though–I’m back! And today we’re going to talk about something super fun: writing effective fight scenes.

For a long time, fight scenes were my nemesis. They were hard. They were ugly. I didn’t write that many, but when I did, they basically looked like this:

peter.gif
same Peter, same

But lately, I’ve realized that shoddy fight scenes are something that can 100% peg you as an amateur lazy writer who doesn’t want to do the research. I’ve been reading up on sword techniques, and where to hit in a fistfight, and types of knives. I’ve been studying fight scenes written by well-established authors whom I admire. I’ve even been applying everything I know from other parts of my life (writing for a CrossFit company, reading about exercise science, working out every day) to the creative writing part of my life (writing novels) because it’s just fascinating to me. AND YES I KNOW I’M A NERD, THANK YOU. But because of all of this, I like to think that my fight scenes have considerably improved (not that I was setting the bar very high to begin with). Anyway, today I bring you #2 in my Writing Lifehacks series: fight scenes. Let’s get started.

Lifehack #1: Recovery time from injuries should be realistic.

This drives me nuts. UNLESS the characters in your story have magical powers that allow them to heal quickly, then you need to remember that they’re going to be in pain and stiff and sore for at least some period of time afterwards (depending on the degree of the injury) and adjust the following scenes accordingly. For instance, I mention in passing that a secondary character in Angelica (my WIP–a dystopian novella) hurts his finger. It’s not a huge part of the plot or anything–I just need to show that my little band of kids is outnumbered by the rebel army. Since I mention that his finger is injured, I make sure to say that he has trouble putting up the tent that night–and, a few days later, he’s still flexing it and grimacing in between some key bits of dialogue.

Lifehack #2: Training, both physical and psychological, takes time (for you and your character).

This drives me nuts too: if you have a character who’s new to your world/new to fighting, they WILL NOT be perfect with just a few days of training. Are there weapons involved? To use those weapons correctly and effectively, years of training would probably be required. Are fists involved? Same thing–lots of training is necessary. There’s a right way and a wrong way to hit people. (not that I would know from personal experience ha) Another thing to consider is the psychological effect that fighting has on your character–typically, people don’t enjoy hurting other people, even if they’re mad at them. This is especially true for people who are new to combat. And if your character faints at the sight of their own blood, what will they do when they see someone else’s? In addition to considering how much knowledge your character realistically has, think about how much you have. I’ve found through my fitness writing ventures that hands-on experience is important in order to be able to write about physical movements effectively, so just go punch all the people who annoy you. Take an archery class or something. Which brings up another sub-point: if you’re writing about weapons, research them. Research them lots. Not only do you need to know how they work, but you need to be able to describe them–no need for long detailed paragraphs about your antagonist’s dagger (unless the fact that it’s bright red is super important to the plot or something), but just get familiar enough with the weapons that you can casually throw in an accurate line or two about their appearance and then just keep right on going.

Lifehack #3: Cut the dialogue.

Unless you’re Voldemort (see below), people don’t have time to hold a conversation in the middle of a battle. Physically, they’re working hard; they’re probably short of breath, and maybe in pain. All of your energy is focused on staying alive. If your characters just really need to talk right then, you can have them gasp out a few words as they run by each other wielding their swords (but don’t run with swords bc that’s not safe k thanks). As a general rule, though, keep it focused on the fight.

tru
why is this so true

Lifehack #4: Keep your prose short and sweet.

In the same vein, your writing should consist of short and choppy sentences, mimicking the fast-paced intensity of the fight. There’s no time for long paragraphs of dialogue or emotions or philosophizing–just focus on simple but powerful language, strong and interesting verbs, and using all five senses. This will make the reader feel as if they’re really there.

Lifehack #5: Adrenaline works against you.

A lot of writers seem to think that adrenaline helps you during a fight, but adrenaline actually has more negative effects than it does positive ones. Adrenaline is secreted into the bloodstream when people are exposed to something that could be dangerous; it increases your heart rate and blood pressure, preparing you to do one of two things–run away or fight. Other symptoms include shakiness, weakness, a decrease in coordination, and not thinking clearly. Besides those conditions, an adrenaline surge is unfamiliar; it reminds people of the way fear feels, and can make them freeze. So don’t assume that adrenaline will always help your character fight harder and better–it might do just the opposite. Also, keep in mind that hand-to-hand fights don’t last long unless everyone involved is in very good shape and has lots of endurance.

What’s the most difficult thing about writing fight scenes for you? Do you have any lifehacks you’d add to my list? Let’s chat!

Rooted (Tips for Leading a Girls’ Outreach Event)

This past Friday, I launched a ministry called Rooted. Thirty little girls came over to my house for crafts, ice cream, and a Bible study, and it was so so fun and special! Since a few people have asked me how I structured this event, thinking that they’d like to hold one of their own–and since I want to remember what worked and what didn’t so that I can plan accordingly in the future–I thought I’d put up a quick blog post about the night.

IMG_5038.jpg

Two weeks ahead of time, I put ads for Rooted on my Instagram, my Facebook, our neighborhood Facebook page, and our homeschool e-loop. I said that first grade all the way up through college girls were invited, because I’m a big believer in big girls loving on the little girls and vice versa; I billed the event as a “craft night” primarily, but I made sure to mention that a Bible study would be happening as well. As I was researching ways to advertise, I read a quote that really stuck with me:

You can’t communicate intimacy through mass media distribution.

I decided to order postcards from Vistaprint.com, and I passed these postcards out at church. I also gave several postcards each to four families in our neighborhood, asking them to pass the postcards on to their friends–which they all did! The rsvp’s began to come, and then they kept coming, and kept coming, and kept coming. I watched in awe (and with a little bit of panic, tbh). I had been thinking that if ten girls came, I’d consider the event a huge success, but I doubted that a whole ten girls would show up–and then I ended up with almost thirty! God blew my little plan out of the water and far exceeded my expectations. Over half of the little girls who came were from my neighborhood. A few friends who are closer to my age were there, as well as a few middle schoolers from our homeschool group, and a handful of girls from my church (which is thirty minutes away from my house, so I knew that not many people would be able to make the drive). I knew seventeen of the girls already, and I met ten of them for the first time Friday night, which was great! The only thing I didn’t like about the event being so large was that I didn’t have time to sit down and have a conversation with each girl who attended.

 

I’m not a super crafty person, but I was very excited to decorate for Rooted (I love flowers), and I spent the whole summer poring over Pinterest for ideas. I used lots of streamers, lots of pink, and lots of flowers–both fake and real!

IMG_5022

 

 

Rooted took place from 7-8:30 PM this past Friday evening. When the girls arrived, I had a simple sign-in sheet for the parents to fill out (except I forgot to ask most of them to fill it out haha) with simple contact information, allergies, and asking if it was okay for pictures of their child to be posted on the Internet. The girls began by doing crafts in the garage using the paper, rocks, and (scissors–just kidding) neon paint that I had set out.

 

Then they went inside for an ice cream sundae bar. (My brother Joshua wants everyone to know that he made the brownies.)

 

 

Next, everyone gathered in the living room and I spoke, giving about a twenty-minute devotional. I had been praying about a theme Bible verse for a while this summer; I liked the idea of a flower theme, and I liked the name Rooted, so I finally landed on Ephesians 3:17-19:

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power together with all the saints to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know that this love surpasses understanding–that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Since I knew that some of the girls didn’t attend church, the first thing I did was to share a bit of my testimony and how I came to know Jesus, and I briefly laid out the basics of salvation and left an open invitation for anyone to talk to me about having a relationship with Jesus anytime they wanted to. Then I talked about our theme verse, using cups of water to illustrate the concept that if we are a cup and God’s love is water, we need to be overflowing His love onto others. Love is not something that just exists–love is something that does things. I ran through some points about loving others during the school year–encouraging people, being kind, being intentional, and recognizing that we CAN make a difference even if we’re young and even if our life might not always seem very exciting. The two things I wanted the girls to take away were as follows:

1. God calls you beloved and wants a relationship with you.

2. We are set free to love others, and love does things.

 

Our final activity was another craft–we made flower crowns, like Snapchat filters come to life! This was a little chaotic as the wire got tangled and the tape kept getting lost, but the crowns came out super cute (one little girl said that she was going to wear hers every day, and sure enough, she wore it to church this morning).

 

IMG_5112
My next door neighbor is cuter than yours.

So many people helped me put this event together. I spoke to several ladies who work in women’s ministry, running my plans by them, and they had great advice. My mom and brother dog-sat our puppy who hates people; my brother made brownies, my parents contributed financially even though they didn’t have to, and my dad read over my talk. A sweet lady gave me two huge bags full of fake flowers, which saved the day (or at least, my wallet) as I used those flowers for both decorations and the flower crowns. Mrs. Misty and Mrs. Mary were so sweet to come and help out; Cari answered my emergency texts and came over to teach me how to make flower crowns, because my first attempt was a laughable Pinterest vs. reality; and Cari, Anna, and Lydia were a huge help with crowd control at the event.

Several moms told me that Rooted was all their daughters had talked about since they received the invitation. When one mom was dropping her daughter off, she commented on how many people were there, and I told her how surprised I was. She said, “That’s because this is what our neighborhood needed.” I think an important concept of Rooted is that it happens at my house–people who don’t go to church are much more likely to come to your house. I’ve been learning and thinking a lot about the Biblical concept of hospitality this summer, and I’m so glad I could put it into practice. There were several teenagers that I looked up to when I was younger, and I would’ve been over the moon if they had invited me over for something like this–now, I’m over the moon that I can do this for other little girls. This kind of stuff makes me feel so fulfilled and just confirms that I want to spend my life doing missions work with kids here in the States.

I’m planning to have five more Rooted events this school year: a fall theme in early October, a cookie decorating day at the beginning of December, a Valentine’s Day event in February, a spring theme, and then a big celebration at the beginning of next summer with popsicles and tie-dying T-shirts and water balloons. If you live near me and you’re a first grade through college age girl, or you know a first grade through college age girl, please come to Rooted/get them to come to Rooted! If you don’t live close to me, I would absolutely encourage you to pray about how God might use you in your own community to mentor the little girls around you. He confirmed over and over that this event was His, and I can’t wait to see what He does through the many other Rooted events that I plan to hold!

Big Sister Camp 2017 (Cheap, Fun Summer Outings)

This year was Joshua’s and my tenth annual Big Sister Camp (commonly known around our house as BSC). We’ve done this several different ways throughout the years; at first we’d take one week out of the summer and fill every day with fun activities (stuffed into an extremely detailed schedule–as in, “8:55-9:00: walk to the backyard for the next activity” kind of detailed–that I would labor over for weeks beforehand). Last year, we did one activity every day. This year, BSC was one day each week. If you’re looking for fun ideas of things to do with siblings or friends that won’t break the bank, keep reading, because I’m very happy with how both the fun factor and the $$ of our summer turned out!

BSC Day 1: June 2nd

It was National Donut Day, so we kicked things off by going to Dunkin Donuts for breakfast. Then we came home and played Yahtzee. Total cost: $5.

Processed with VSCO with c1 preset

BSC Day 2: June 8th

We made KitKat cookies and then laid on Joshua’s bed with the puppy (whom we actually got on day 1 of BSC!) and watched an I Love Lucy on YouTube. Total cost: free.

BSC Day 3: June 15th

Water day! We played with water balloons in the yard, sprayed each other with the hose, and then went to the pool. Total cost: free.

Processed with VSCO with c1 preset Processed with VSCO with c1 preset

BSC Day 4: June 30th

We went to Panera with just the two of us on the way home from somewhere, but because Joshua hates Panera (how could anyone hate Panera?), this probably doesn’t count because BSC activities have to be something that we’ll both enjoy. Anyway, we then watched a Destination Truth, blew bubbles for the dog to chase, did Pop-Its, and made pan cookies. We were going to go outside and stargaze, but it was too cloudy. Total cost: $3 (I had a gift card to Panera).

Processed with VSCO with c1 preset Processed with VSCO with c1 preset

BSC Day 5: July 6th

A carnival randomly appeared in the parking lot of the outlet mall near our house, so obviously, we went to it! We only rode one ride because it was so expensive, and also because Joshua was looking pretty green near the end of it. He was like a walking Nike ad that day (he is every day, honestly), so we went in the UnderArmour store just to spite them. Then we went to Culver’s and got custard. Total cost: $13.

Processed with VSCO with c1 preset

BSC Day 6: July 15th

Around this time I found out about the new worldwide trend: people paint rocks (often with an inspiring or encouraging message) and then hide them out in public for others to find. When you find a rock, you can post a picture to my county’s Facebook page; then you can either keep the rock or re-hide it. Joshua and I painted several rocks and then drove around hiding them–we even found a rock while we were out. I love this project so much that I’ve painted and hidden many rocks since then. Total cost: $15.

 

BSC Day 7: July 18th

A restaurant near us had recently been voted to have the best cinnamon rolls in our county, so we went to try them out. Then we went swimming, although it wasn’t very successful because I swear that cinnamon roll weighed three pounds and I couldn’t float if I tried. (I really regretted breakfast–I spent the afternoon sleeping off a huge headache.) Total cost: $15.

Processed with VSCO with c1 preset

BSC Day 8: July 27th-28th

This was spread over two days: I bought us fro-yo on the way back from somewhere, and then the next morning we went to the batting cages (which is something we do multiple times a week, but whatever). Total cost: $7.

BSC Day 9: August 9th

The grand finale: one of our favorite-ever musicals, Newsies, was in theaters again (click here for a post I wrote about Newsies back in February), so obviously we HAD to go see it. We stopped by Great American Cookie, hid some rocks, and then obsessively fangirled over Ben Cook’s dancing and Kara Lindsay’s general flawlessness and Jeremy Jordan’s adorkable-ness and complete lack of dancing skills. (But who needs to dance when you can sing like him??) Total cost: $20 (for me–we each paid for our own ticket).

maybe2
Today’s headline: bagel puppy is the new King of New York.

An entire summer of fun for just $80? Um, yes please! I’m all about saving money, and I accomplished that this summer (wellll… at least in the way of BSC, haha) and we still had a ton of fun. Win-win. Hopefully this post inspired you to go do something fun with your siblings!

What are your favorite cheap and fun summer activities?

July: Month in Review

At the beginning of this month, I said it was going to be a month of insanely hard workouts and lots and lots of writing–and it did not disappoint! (Well, at least not until the middle of the month, when my health took a huge nosedive. But after returning to a strict diet, things got a little better.) Let’s recap!

The month kicked off with lots of Independence Day festivities: a party at my friend Laura’s house, an evening at the fairgrounds to see fireworks with all of our church friends, and my dad and I visited a Hindu temple near our house on the 4th (that’s a whole separate blog post). We went to a state park with our friends Mrs. Donna and Leah and then hung out at their house; I spontaneously went to Dahlonega one afternoon and had a photoshoot with my friends Brooke and Cari; and I went to Cleveland for the day with my friends Anna and Lydia. I hung out at the batting cages with some friends who play baseball, we had a church picnic + softball game, our friends Mrs. Misty and Thomas came over to swim, and I had lunch at Panera with my friend Andrea (whom I haven’t seen in a year because she went to college in Texas!). We went to a wildlife preserve and to the aquatic center with the kids my mom keeps. I met my friend Brooke N at Panera to work on our NaNo novels, and my friends Cari and Jesse and I went to a Hillsong Young & Free concert (I way overestimated my physical abilities here, but HILLSONG UNITED RANDOMLY SHOWED UP TOO I WAS THIRTY FEET FROM TAYA SMITH so who cares) and then Cari slept over. That looks like a lot, but it was interspersed with lazy mornings in bed with the puppy and long light evenings reading on the couch and laughing with my family. I was also so SO excited to get a new camera this month; I took photography classes in middle school and loved it, but I didn’t have time to pursue photography during high school, so I’m looking forward to doing so this year with my beautiful Canon Rebel T6. (Seriously, I’m in love with it.)

 

 

 

This month I’m…

Reading: Eight Cousins, Louisa May Alcott. The Stranger in the Woods, Michael Finkel. The Moonflower Vine, Jetta Carleton. Jack and Jill, Louisa May Alcott. When Nobody Was Watching: My Hard-Fought Journey to the Top of the Soccer World, Carli Lloyd. Taking Flight, Michaela DePrince. Running for my Life, Lopez Lomong (reread). Game Seven, Paul Volponi. Love Does, Bob Goff (so good). Sports Psychology for Youth Coaches, Ronald E. Smith. The Boy on the Wooden Box, Leon Leyson.

Listening to (I’M VERY VERY PROUD OF MY SUMMER PLAYLIST SO YOU SHOULD ABSOLUTELY LOOK UP ALL OF THESE SONGS, especially the first three because they’re absolute gold): Young Forever, High Valley. Celeste, Ezra Vine. Live While we’re Young, Johnnyswim. Thank God for the Summertime, Ben Rector. Call Me Maybe, Carly Rae Jepsen (no shame). Dumb, Sean Kingston (Disney throwback tunes for the win amirite). Every Little Thing, Louisa Wendorff. American Beauty, Drew Holcomb. Falling for You, Johnnyswim. Dancing in the Dawn, Tossing Copper. Band of Gold, The Gray Havens. Fireflies, Colin and Caroline. Good Company, Jake Owen. Flowers in Your Hair, the Lumineers. Ends of the Earth, Lord Huron. Never Come Back Again, Austin Plaine. Saints out of Sailors, Flannel Graph. I Like You, Ben Rector. SO MANY GOOD TUNES. This was an A+++ month for music.

Watching: Bringing up Bates. A message to my fellow college age friends by Sadie Robertson (I procrastinated watching this forever, but WOW it changed my life go watch it). U.S. Classic.

Writing: I OFFICIALLY BECAME AN AUTHOR THIS MONTH AT THE RIPE OLD AGE OF EIGHTEEN. WHAT EVEN IS LIFE. Go here to buy my debut children’s novel! Apart from applying for a lot of blogging jobs, I didn’t do much writing this month–just focused on the CrossFit company I work for (I have SO much fun writing those articles), and on Florida Market, my NaNo novel (I ended up with 16k, way short of my goal. Oops). I had a devotional published here, and I’m working on several interviews/collabs (some regarding my book) that I’ll post soon. I also just did a lot of thinking about how this is a season of dreams coming true. For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to be a writer. Now–much sooner in life than I had expected–I’m a blogger, an AUTHOR, and a professional freelance writer. How cool is that?! I can’t believe it, honestly, but I’m so grateful.

 

Loving: WHY IN THE WORLD AREN’T BOOKS RATED LIKE MOVIES ARE?????!!! // encouragement + neat t-shirts [Day 6 of NaNo] by Julia (The Barefoot Gal). On Coming out of Depression & Experiencing the Faithfulness of God by Amanda (Scattered Journal Pages). Lost Girl by Sean (Sean of the South). Is It Possible For Introverts To Be Confident? by Abbie (Abbiee). {DREAMS AND CALLINGS} the best is yet to come by Audrey (Audrey Caylin). God Can Resurrect Dreams (When long-term illness makes them die) by Sara (R5:3-5). (Don’t) talk to strangers? by Sam (Sam’s Grand Adventure).

I blogged four times this month: Abbie’s Early Writings Tag!, I’M OFFICIALLY AN AUTHOR WHAT + buy my book and join my launch team!, Camp NaNo Survival Guide: July 2017, and July: Joy (Fruit of the Spirit Project, Month #2)

Grateful for: Someone in my town asked on Facebook for birthday cards to be sent to her autistic son, who was checking the mail and coming away disappointed every day; hundreds of people responded, even some of you lovely blog readers, and we ended up in my town’s paper! Redoing my bulletin board. Painting, hiding, and finding rocks (the new worldwide trend). Friends who go grocery shopping with you. All the laughter I got from convincing my dad I thought Josh Dobbs (a former UT football player) was a Russian hockey player. Planning Rooted (I am SO excited for this: if you live near me, check my social media for details about this Bible study/craft night, happening August 11!). Making carpool karaoke videos to old Disney songs. My sweet friend Kat and the Truth-filled letters she sent me this month. Planning the upcoming year.

What did you do this month?

July: Joy (Fruit of the Spirit project, Month #2)

(Click here if you’re unfamiliar with this project.) When I began this month, I naively thought it was almost like cheating to have the month of joy occur when it was summertime and the living was easy! Fast forward thirty-one days, and I’m sitting here laughing at that thought. Frustrating friend drama, my health suddenly becoming much worse than it had been, financial worries about my future, a puppy that is seemingly incorrigible and bites me several times a day–overall, July was a very frustrating month, and to be honest I hardly ever exhibited joy. Hopefully I’ve learned a few things though.

Journal excerpts:

The joy of the Lord is our strength–rejoice! (Charles Spurgeon sermon on Nehemiah) When the soul has been saturated with the rain of penitence, the clear shining love makes the flowers of gladness blossom all around. Tears —> JOY (blessed are they that mourn). A divine joy–of the Lord–open to all who partake of it. God has given us appetites which carnal things cannot satisfy, but He has also given us satisfaction. We rejoice because there is a God, and because of His attributes of grace and faithfulness.

IMG_4770

I’ve had a Post-It note on the back of my bedroom door for years that said 1. God 2. Others 3. You. However, it wasn’t pointed out to me until this month that if you substitute the word Jesus for God, it becomes an acronym that spells joy: Jesus, Others, You. The only way to have fullness of joy is through Jesus. If your joy is based on anything else, then it’s not really joy–it’s happiness, and happiness depends on outward circumstances which you cannot control. But if your joy springs from Jesus, it will be full and everlasting, because He is the same yesterday, today, and forever–He is innately faithful and good and calls you His beloved. Joy is still something that we have to choose (I always have the picture in my head of our friend telling her little daughter when the frustration or whining began, “Choose joy”) and then work for, but if we keep our minds on Jesus and His goodness it will be so much easier than if we let our current situation dictate our mood.

 

Here’s one more quick tip for my fellow introverted blogger types: joy manifests itself in different ways in different personalities. Having joy doesn’t always mean that you’re running around with a huge grin on your face acting super over-enthusiastic. It’s a condition of your heart. Yes, it should be able to be seen outwardly too, but don’t feel like you have to go overboard and be something you’re not.

What did you learn through our month of joy? Next up is August: peace.

Camp NaNo Survival Guide: July 2017

Camp NaNo. It’s July 24th, and the initial rush and excitement (outlining! Meeting your cabin mates! Transforming a blank document into something magical!) has died down. The honeymoon phase is definitely over, and we’re down to the nitty-gritty–the hard work that reminds us of all the other things we’d rather be doing than slogging through this horrible first draft. But I’m here to tell you something important and something oh-so-true: you CAN finish your project. You CAN win NaNo. You ARE capable of completing your first draft, no matter how awful it may be (and let’s be honest, mine is looking pretty bad right now). However, I understand you might need a couple of tips to get through, so that’s what I’m here for. Minimize your novel document, wipe away your sweat and tears, and settle in to hear how you’re going to kick this thing.

nanowrimo-is-coming
*is here. But I really wanted to use this meme, so let’s not quibble over technicalities. 

1. If you’re tired, go to sleep.

First, let’s define “tired.” I don’t mean “tired” as in, “I wrote for ten minutes and now I’m stuck; plus, it’s eight PM, so I deserve some Netflix before bed.” No. I mean “tired” as in, “I worked an eight-hour shift today, I have a cold, it’s 10 PM and I can literally barely keep my eyes open.” Be honest with yourself about when you just don’t really wanna write, and when you do physically feel bad. Since I know that I get too sleepy to function around eight PM, I try to write several thousand words earlier in the day. If I’m doing okay in the evening, surprise! Maybe I’ll get in a bonus thousand. But if not, I know I’m good, and I can just rest.

sleepy

2. Keep it simple.

After a long month of writing, words start to swim on the screen (if they haven’t yet, they will soon–believe me). You’ll probably get sick of your own voice, notice that you keep using the same three phrases over and over and OVER, and find yourself typing “fifty other ways to say ‘said'” into the Pinterest search bar. This is a bad idea on more than one level. First, we ALL know that Pinterest is #1 on the list of all-time worst distractions. But also, sometimes people just need to say stuff. They don’t need to murmur it, or this it, or that it–they just need to say it. Simple can be powerful; fancy language can distract from your story, especially if there’s so much of it that it seems unnecessary. But if you really feel like you need a word other than “said,” you can stick it in later. The first draft isn’t about perfect grammar or sentences that flow well or going back to set up that plot twist that you didn’t know you were going to do–the first draft is about locating the spirit and the magic of your work. The first draft is about making the story come alive. Keep your language simple, and you’ll thank yourself later.

3. When it’s going well, stop.

Some famous author (at the moment, I can’t remember who) once said that if the words are really flowing, then stop writing. It may seem counterintuitive, but it actually makes a whole lot of sense: if you know where you’re going, then the next time you can sit down and pick right back up. But if you write until all your words are used up, they’ll still be used up the next time you go to write.

stop

4. As much as possible, eliminate other writing.

I understand that this tip might not work for everyone, but it’s been invaluable to me: this month, the only writing I’m doing is a) content for the CrossFit company I work for, and b) my NaNo project. I typically mess around with flash fiction pieces, and apply for a bunch of freelance jobs, and enter about ten writing contests–but this month, I’m not. (well except I have applied for a bunch of blogging jobs but I haven’t gotten any of them so yanno) For me, I feel like it’s best to be solely focused on my NaNo project. I need to be able to live in one world at a time in order to bring that world to life in the most vibrant way that I can.

5. Find a real-life writing buddy.

If you’re a hermit an introvert and you see no point whatsoever in having a writing buddy–like Michelle here–that’s fine. I get it.

michelle

But I’d definitely recommend that, if possible, you at least try having a writing buddy before you completely nix it! A friend who lives in my town is doing NaNo as well, so we met at Panera today to have lunch and then write. It’s fun and productive. If you can’t think of anyone, at least try to find an online friend to do word wars with. Word wars–where you and your buddy both write for a set amount of time and then compare how many words you each got done–really get me laser-focused because I’m so competitive (lol). Try joining the Young Writers Workshop Facebook group, or the Go Teen Writers group–people on there are always asking for word wars. And if you don’t have Facebook, email me! I’ll word war you any day, because I really want to win. 

How’s your NaNo project coming?  

I’M OFFICIALLY AN AUTHOR WHAT + buy my book and join my launch team!

So… I can’t believe this day is actually here. Y’all: I just published my debut children’s novel. My story was chosen from thousands of other manuscripts and published by a PUBLISHING COMPANY. Excuse me while I just !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Processed with VSCO with c1 preset

Here’s a little backstory to catch everyone up. I enter multiple writing contests a month, and last December, I entered a contest being held by Story Shares (a great organization that provides great stories for kids who are struggling readers). I found out about the contest right before the deadline and entered something on a whim, without even reading it over–a short story called Hope is the Thing with Feathers that I wrote during the fall of my junior year of high school for my composition class at Toccoa Falls College. I was selected as a top-ten finalist out of thousands of stories, and the folks in charge of the contest told me that one day in the future, they hoped to publish those ten stories as paperbacks. I doubted that would ever actually happen–until Memorial Day this year, when my lifelong dream was casually and unexpectedly dropped into my lap. I was at my grandparents’ house in Mississippi and had spent the day at my aunt and uncle’s house; when I got back to my grandparents’ house late that night, I was checking email before I went to bed. I saw the email from Story Shares saying that the project was a go and proceeded to jump up and down around the living room while my mom and grandpa laughed at me–I don’t think I slept much that night. From there, it was a whirl of signing the royalties agreement and choosing my author headshot and then obsessively tracking the package until MY book arrived on my doorstep today!!!!

 

Hope is the Thing with Feathers, a play on Emily Dickinson’s poem, is the story of a young girl looking for hope in the darkest of times. Amalie lives in Prague, but is taken to Terezin during the Holocaust, and participates in the famous children’s opera Brundibar that is shown to the Danish Red Cross. This isn’t one of my full-length novels; it’s a short story that’s on the longer side, and it’s geared for tweens (appropriate for children ages 12+). It will be distributed to kids who are struggling readers, and I hope that they’ll be inspired to write a story of their own when they reach the end of the book and see that I’m only eighteen. I’m so proud of this story–it represents my longtime fascination with the Holocaust, it’s meticulously researched, and I fell in love with the characters. If you want the full effect, listen to O Come, O Come, Emmanuel by the Piano Guys as you read it, because that’s what I listened to as I wrote it and I feel like the music is part of the story.

Go here to purchase my book! I didn’t think far enough in advance to plan a full-fledged blog tour, but if you order my book and you’re a blogger, I’m offering a small prize package for anyone who’d like to join my launch team by writing a review of my book and/or interviewing me on your blog. Just email me at hhudson412@yahoo.com when you have your book and we’ll work out the details. Now I’m going to go scream and celebrate and look at MY BOOK because I’M ACTUALLY AN AUTHOR!

If you order my book, I’ll love you forever!

Abbie’s Early Writings Tag!

Today is a noteworthy day: the one and only Abbie (waffle queen, blogging queen, life queen) made up her OWN tag, and I’m doing it!!! The idea of the tag is simple yet genius: to make fun of the horrible “books” we writerly types wrote when we were little (because, let’s be real, we all have some truly awful ones–especially me), but also to appreciate them. Those stories, no matter how cringe-worthy they seem now, served as the springboard to launch us into the illustrious writing careers that we all lead today. Right? Right. Except most of the time, I still feel like the little nine-year-old pounding away on her old Dell laptop who basically was like #WUT R WORDS 24/7. Anyway. It’s all good. Let’s dive in!

abbies tag.png

1. 15 Kids… And Another on the Way!

I don’t even know where to start here. Okay. First of all, this whole book was basically an exact copy of 19 Kids and Counting–ninety pages of the Duggars, pretty much, except none of the names started with J because COME ON, then it would be WAY too obvious that I was copying. I think this was the first novel I ever finished, and I know for sure it was the most boring one I’ve ever written. Probably the biggest thing I learned from this book is that you have to have a plot and a conflict, or no one is going to read your book. (At some point during the writing of this book, when I was 11-ish, a girl my age who lived in my town had a book published and it was being sold in Barnes and Noble. I can distinctly remember jumping up and down, screaming, and telling my mom, “’15 Kids… And Another on the Way!’ is going to be in Barnes and Noble!'” Um, no. No, it’s not.) Also, don’t have fifteen main characters in one story. Just don’t. If the author herself can’t even keep track of all fifteen characters’ names and ages and preferences, how is the reader supposed to do it? Yeah. Enough said. In all seriousness, though, since this was the first full-length book I ever finished, it was kind of the bug that bit me to keep doing more.

2. Children of the Elements

This was basically a Percy Jackson fanfic, except I tried to tell myself it was a completely separate thing. C’mon, though: it’s a group of teenagers who live at this camp in the woods, they’re all cousins, and they each have a power related to the elements (some can control water, some can control air, some can control fire). If that’s not a blatant parallel of Percy Jackson, I don’t know what is. Something good did come out of this book, however: I learned how to let my favorite books and concepts inspire me and fire up my imagination instead of just completely copying them.

3. Eight Friends

This series was basically my life when I was nine, ten, and eleven. I think I ended up writing thirteen of these “books” (each one was about ten pages). The series was about a group of girls (I bet you can’t guess how many) who were friends, and it focused on their various adventures and misadventures at school (interspersed with plenty of long descriptions of their food and their clothes). I learned two big things from this series: one, how much fun it is to live in the world of your characters and to know each of them (even if there are eight of them) so intimately. And two: long descriptions of food are always acceptable. ALWAYS.

ron food.gif

turkish.gif
again I couldn’t choose between Ron and Edmund

Sadly, all of my old stories are saved in a weird file type that I can’t open on this computer. I’ve tried and tried and tried, and it just won’t happen. I can see the titles of more stories, but I’m left to the little that I can remember about them off the top of my head. These stories include The Journey (basically a Narnia copy, lol), Trochenbrod (a weird but fun story about these people under siege in a walled city?), and many more stories about big families. Then we get into the books I wrote when I was a little older–twelve, thirteen, fourteen–which I remember as being much more sophisticated (?). Miracle on Avonshire Lane, Miriam of the Mountain, The Last of the Indians–stuff like that. As much as I want to reread these, on second thought, it might be better that they’re all locked on my external hard drive. One day when my really sophisticated novels are published (such as my current NaNo novel, that I’m supposed to be writing right now instead of blogging?) and people write biographies of me, I don’t want the whole world reading samples of my early writings. HA! Let’s be real, though: like that would ever actually happen…

I tag:

Hannah @The Relentless Daydreamer

Katie Grace @A Writer’s Faith

Megan @Pen and Ink

Audrey Caylin @Audrey Caylin

Laura @FlowersInMyBasket

If you’ve already been tagged or NaNo is absolutely killing you (bc same) or something, feel free to disregard this!

Which of my early stories would you most want to read–or, most NOT want to read?! Fellow writers, what are some of your craziest early stories?

June: Month in Review

This month revolved around three major things: a new puppy, freelance writing, and VBS! First of all, my parents surprised my brother and I on June 2nd by coming home with a puppy: Sophie, a seven-month-old beagle/basset hound mix. Even though she’s not housebroken, she bites a lot, and she’s super antisocial with anyone outside the family, it’s been SO GREAT having a dog again. I love being woken up at 6:30 every morning with puppy kisses, and having a furry little shadow wherever I go (unless my mom is home–Sophie loves Mom the best), and laughing hysterically when Sophie chases the laser pointer or falls over her own feet–both of which happen a lot (she’s not the brightest bulb in the box). I tried to narrow down the pictures:

 

The second thing that made up a big part of my month was freelance writing. It was my first month working for the CrossFit company that I now write for, and it was a really great month! I also identified and reached out to 40+ locally-owned businesses that might be potential clients, and I spent a lot of time educating myself more about freelance writing. All in all, this month was like drinking through a fire hose, but I loved it.

Third, we had VBS at our church–the best week of the year! I always teach music with Meghan, a friend from out of town. This year, we’d dance onstage for the opening Worship Rally; hang out/eat/talk/plan the day for forty-five minutes; teach four twenty-minute choreography classes to varying age groups; and then I’d go help in the nursery for forty-five minutes. We had 70-80 kids every day, which is a really fantastic number for our church, and five kids accepted Christ. Physically I felt pretty awful the whole week, but it was still so fun and rewarding!

 

Other fun things I did this month: bought a bunch of new clothes, went to a VBS promo event at church, had a Panera picnic at the Roswell Mill with my dad, went to lunch (at Panera) and shopping with my friend Madeleine, went to a local church’s college church service and then to Dunkin Donuts with my friend Cari, went to the splash pad with the kids my mom keeps, went to an outdoor mall with several friends, had lunch (at Panera) with my friend Brooke N, saw an outdoor movie (Fantastic Beasts) and got fro-yo with my best friend Hannah and then had a sleepover involving Harry Potter and lunch (at Panera), went to the birthday party of a little girl at church, went to dinner at–you guessed it–Panera with my friend Cari, met our friends’ new baby that was born this month!!, went to a fun museum with the kids my mom nannies and then to to Panera with my brother, and went to Lake Winnie (a theme park/waterpark in Tennessee) for a day with our friends to celebrate Joshua’s birthday. (Oh yeah, my brother turned 12 this month, so give him a shout-out in the comments!)

 

This month I’m…

Reading: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, Jenny Han (ew). The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern (brilliant). The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society, Mary Ann Shaffer. When Dimple met Rishi, Sandhya Menon (ew). Strange the Dreamer, Laini Taylor. Through Gates of Splendor, Elisabeth Elliott. Under the Lilacs, Louisa May Alcott (SO CHARMING AND PERFECT). 7 total (I KNOW, I’M A FAILURE. In my defense, I learned this month that puppies drastically decrease productivity).

Writing: In addition to all the freelance writing I already mentioned, I submitted to ten contests/magazines/websites, five of which required writing something new. Also I was supposed to be outlining my NaNo novel, but I didn’t really lol so YAY JULY.

Listening to: Messengers, Jared and the Mill. Summertime Romance, JohnnySwim. First Try, JohnnySwim. (Honestly, just the entire Georgica Pond album by JohnnySwim, over and over and over.) Glorious Day, Passion. Yorktown (The World Turned Upside Down), Hamilton. Elohim, Hillsong Worship. Beautiful Day, Joshua Radin.

Watching: Chili Shi’s vlogs. Kate Cunningham’s videos. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (actually for the first time). The Making of Harry Potter, 1 & 2. Jordan Taylor’s vlogs. Alex Puccio: The Comeback Episode #1. The Season: Ole Miss Softball – Leaving a Legacy (Part One).

Loving: Is Writing a Real Job? by Tessa (guest post, Notebooks and Novels). what now by Elizabeth (chasing moonlight). dear people who have heard of this living, breathing human called a teen girl by Emma (Emma Grace Carter). What Millennials Need in the Church More Than Anything by Amanda (Scattered Journal Pages). eyes by Clara (The Zephyr). number six. by Lynden (-love lynden.). Having Compassion on Other People’s Petty Complaints When You Have a Chronic Illness by Sara (Romans 5:3-5). excerpts of life by Olivia (summer of 1999).

I blogged five times this month: You Can Do This (Book Review), Writing Tag!, Hailey Rants About Entitlement (or, Get Over It), How I #liveBANGS! (which won third place in the Bangs blog contest!), and June: Love (Fruits of the Spirit project, Month #1!)

Grateful for: Lying on Joshua’s bed with him and Sophie, watching I Love Lucy on the laptop. Taking a free online college astronomy course. Seeing a full rainbow on a few different days. Everything about Sophie (okay–almost everything). Lying on the floor on the stage at church, laughing hysterically with Meghan and almost choking on my Jolly Rancher. Sitting on the floor in the hallway with the two toddlers at church, feeding them ice cream and having conversations (in full sentences). Planning a trip to Savannah this fall! Many consecutive nights of long texting conversations with a friend, discussing how much we want another one of our friends to be saved–like, YES, this is the kind of deep friendship I’ve always wanted. Also, big things are coming, starting in early August–stay tuned for more details (if you live near me) about ROOTED! Overall June was a fantastic month and could not have been better!

What did you do in June? Do you have a dog? Can you believe it’s Independence Day weekend already? Cuz I sure can’t.

June: Love (Fruits of the Spirit project, Month #1!)

If you missed this post, I recently embarked on a Fruits of the Spirit project, deciding to focus on one of the Fruits of the Spirit each month beginning this summer. June was the month of love, and it was SUCH a good month! Let’s dive in to what I learned, and recap some highlights.

light
and I want to love everyone–because that’s what He does. (x)

Love is listed first because it is the most important. Jesus Himself said that the most important commandment is to love God above anything, and love your neighbor as yourself: the Christian life is based around love. All of the other fruits of the spirit are WAYS to love. Loving others is hard sometimes–as C.S. Lewis said, God loves us not because we are lovable, but because He is love.

During the month, I listened to this sermon. Something that really hit me: in Jesus’s time, everyone knew who His disciples were because they (the disciples) would physically follow Him from place to place. But suddenly, Jesus was leaving, and that was no longer possible. So how would the world know who Jesus’s disciples were? By their love. (Side note–if you want love, just read 1 John. The word “love” is used thirty-five times in that short little book, and it’s SO good.)

This is something else that I read this month that stuck with me:

“Fruit is a direct result of the root… What I produce on the outside is a direct byproduct of what’s going on deep inside the soil of my soul. If it is not love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control that oozes from every fiber of my being, I need to check in with the pursuit of my soul and what I’m feeding it. Notice, though, how the fruit of the Spirit doesn’t say PERFECTION, it says patience… Perhaps in some twisted way, we are resisting the Holy Spirit in favor of pursuing perfection.” (via SoulScripts)

I was listening to a song by Hillsong Worship in my car this month that took the Love Chapter (1 Corinthians 13) and inserted God’s name for the word “love.” “God is patient, God is kind; He does not envy, He does not boast.” Could the same be said if I inserted my name? Nope–definitely not. That’s certainly something to strive for. I spent a ton of time in 1 Corinthians 13 this month–go read it! I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the Love Chapter also talks about putting away childish things; growing up really requires embodying the characteristics of love towards others, more than ever before.

The great thing about loving others is that it doesn’t have to fit into a mold! You may have heard of the five love languages: words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time, and physical touch. The idea is that everyone has a way in which they prefer to show love to others, plus a way in which love being shown to them is most meaningful. Personally, I love giving others gifts. Some homeschool + church friends of ours had a baby this month, and I went to the store and bought a bunch of fun stuff (craft kits, jump ropes, water guns) for their five older kids. Taking it to them yesterday was SO fun! We also had VBS at my church this month. That was a great opportunity to love others, whether through carting toddlers around in the nursery or leading Worship Rally/Family Night or just lying on the stage talking with some younger teenagers.

Honestly, this was such a great month focusing on loving others that I want to do it every month! I’m really excited for the month of joy in July, though. If you’re just learning about this project, please jump in! If you did June with me, let me know in the comments what you learned about loving others this month.