What I Wish I’d Known Before I Started

#1 There is a lot of writing that isn’t writing.

Okay, so by “next week,” I apparently meant, “whenever I can get myself to actually write this.” Seriously, I’ve just completely lost my mind as of late.

I’m just having an existential crisis. It’s fine. Really.
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What seems like forever ago, I explained a bit about what I’ve been up to. My struggle to get a freakin grip has been great, but it has allowed me to understand this part of the writing process all the better. Hopefully I can help anyone out there who is struggling or even keep someone from struggling like I have by explaining exactly what I wish I understood before I started this new career path.

Let’s just do this

There is a lot of writing that isn’t writing

This sentence may not make a lot of sense right now, but hang on to your hat. 

My current WIP is a novel I started a loooooong time ago and then kept putting away. When I finally decided that it was time for me to finish something, I did a lot of writing. But it wasn’t really writing. It was planning and analyzing and worldbuilding and character creating. I summarized and outlined. Explored different options. Journaled. 

This isn’t inherently a bad thing, but I used all of this to avoid actually writing the damn story. I spent months on this, and not in a constructive way. I was afraid to try again, afraid I was gonna mess up what I had, or I didn’t really have it in me anymore. Every time I sat down to work, my inner critic kneecapped my ass. So I kept procrastinating by writing casual thoughts instead of actual prose.

I’ve gone back to refer to some of it, since not all of it was useless. It’s good to plan sometimes, it makes for a more organized story. But I was obsessing over getting it perfect, and “Perfect,” as the saying goes, “is the opposite of done.”

Because I spent so much time on prep, I felt everything I wrote should be exactly what I wanted it to be the very first time around, making it impossible to have an enjoyable writing session. Every word was painful, every sprint a slog, and my productivity and mental health completely tanked.

This brings me to the next thing I wish I knew:

Don’t worry about the “correct” way to write

Part of the problem I had with all this prep was that I kept worrying about how “real authors” wrote. I still do sometimes, and it’s (probably) literally killing me. Don’t. 

It doesn’t matter if you write your book in one language and then translate it. It doesn’t matter if you write it all in order or in pieces. It doesn’t matter if you only write dialogue and then add in tags and actions later. Want to write a scene but don’t know what the scenery looks like? Fuck descriptions. Don’t know your character’s name yet? Gary. Their name is Gary now.

If you want to write utter trash in some dialect of Dumfuk and then translate it into Writer later? Ask yourself: “Does this advance my actual story at all?” If the answer is yes, do that shit.

This sounds like it contradicts the previous point, but it really doesn’t. The previous point was more “prewriting”: planning and scheming and building. This one refers to whether or not the actual book text has been added to, whether you end up keeping that text or not. The prewriting will help you understand where your writing will go (for now), but you have literally nothing until the actual writing gets done.

Finish your shit


There is a certain amount of encouragement that comes from having finished something. Anything. Once you can say, “I made this,” instead of “I’m planning of making this,” or “I’m trying to make this,” there is a slightly different flavor of pride there.

This doesn’t mean that if you are still working on your first book or whatever you aren’t a “real writer.” It just means you have something solid you can hold in your hands and show off, and that’s farther than a lot of people get.

I am struggling hard with this right now. I keep sitting down to write and then chickening the hell out. Because of this, today I promised myself that I will write however many words I can manage, no matter how terrible or casual or cliched or whatever they may be (and they will, I’m sure of it), just to get them on paper. This includes this post, so that’s a thing I guess.

Bonus tip

If you used to be able to write all the time, then you decide to raise the stakes on and improve the quality of your writing and suddenly stop being able to write at all, go back to how you wrote before. 

I used to imagine ridiculous scenarios that seemed exciting or scary and then wrote it down, editing for realism later. Then I tried to write professionally and something happened where I completely forgot my whole process, killing my ability to write much of anything for very long. The process turned into sitting in front of computer and trying to will words out of my brain that paint a picture. Spoiler alert: it was very unsuccessful.

When I finally remembered my old (useful) process, I felt so stupid. Don’t be me. 


I feel like if I had known and understood all of these things from the beginning, I wouldn’t be in the state I am now. Maybe someone out there will read and internalize these ideas before they set out and have a much easier time, but more than likely you either already know these things or are already having a really hard go of it now.

Either way, unless you are literally depending on your writing to eat, it all comes down to: chill the f out and do what you gotta do. Which I am not very good at doing in the first place, so I have a long way to go. Luckily I have several writer friends who are helping me to remember this as I go, so we’ll see.


Oh, hello.

An update before I get back to business.

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It has been a little over three months since I last posted. I thought it had been six, so it’s not as bad as I feared. I also promised myself I wouldn’t have a bunch of “sorry I haven’t posted in so long”s on my blog, so I’m not really going to drag this out.

I started to write exactly what I wanted to say for this post, the reason I decided to make a new one, but it was too much. Everything is too wrapped up in what I’ve been up to, and I have been up to just enough I can’t add it all in one reasonably-sized article. So I’ve decided to split this up. This week I’ll talk about what’s been going on these past few months, and then next week I’ll actually talk about what I’ve learned from it all.

What have I been up to?

First and foremost, I got surgery! 


Since before this damned pandemic started, I’ve been trying to set things up to get it, but then…y’know…the world fucking ended. Everything opened up, I squeezed in an appointment, and now BAM. I’m a couple organs lighter. Feelsgood.jpg. 

This was last Wednesday and so I’m barred from lifting anything heavier than 10 lbs until August 25th. I’m starting to come off of the OTC painkillers, so I’m feeling pretty okay. I’d like to walk a little outside like I’m supposed to, but I don’t feel like melting, so I’ve been pacing in my house like a crazy person.

This has given me the excuse I need to read and write more consistently, too, so all kinds of wins came out of this one.

Gave up on writing

And then I didn’t. And then I did again. It’s been a cycle of “I think I know what I’m doing now!” to “how could I have deluded myself into thinking I could do this at all?” over and over again. The lows have been some major depressive episodes, barely able to get out of bed because I was so disappointed in myself (and having a history of depression doesn’t help much, either). 

Even though this is exactly the kind of writer’s life ‘thing’ I wanted to blog about, I couldn’t make myself do it. I felt if I tried to keep up my schedule of at least one post a week, it would be post after post of “I don’t know what I’m doing and this is haaaaard,” insulting to everyone who gets up every morning before work or kids or spouses to bang out as many words as they can.

But honestly, this is just how it is. I started this brand new career with no real training and no idea what I was doing, and, as my wonderful husband put it: figuring out what doesn’t work is also working. I’m essentially training myself which will take a lot of trial and error. I’m going to write more on this next week (this is what I originally wanted to talk about in this post), but that’s your preview, I guess. Which brings me to:

Figured some shit out

Not everything, mind you. But some shit.

I finally have a bit of a pattern to follow until I get to the end of my novel (the one I said I was going to try to finish this year, and…actually might get to the end of this draft by then???). I still don’t know for sure if this will be the answer to all my problems, but it’s been working enough I feel okay writing about it.

Either way, I haven’t broken down in tears in at least four days, so I got that going for me which is nice. No one said this job was going to be easy, especially not when you’re like me and put all of the pressure on yourself.

So what’s next?

I really, really want to get back to posting every week. I still don’t feel qualified to post a lot of “how to” articles, but I’ll sprinkle in some posts about what I’ve been learning. I’ve been doing more reading, so I will try to start writing more about that, and I’m sure there will be other things as well, both writing related and not. The next couple of weeks I’ll be doing some thinking about it, making it my job again, so hopefully I can go back to how it was. Albeit with some more fitting content.

We’ll see. ❤

Killing my Ego

The one where Charlie realizes they have no idea wtf they’re doing.

Photo by Vijay Putra on Pexels.com

Something I really wish I could do is skip forward to the point where I know what I’m doing at this job. Then I would have the answer for at least a few of these questions as it pertains to my style and process:

Is this bit of preparation something that will actually help make my book better? Will I have enough skill to make sure that this minor character’s story arc and psychological growth will appear to those who read this story without it being a moralistic spoonfeeding session? Is this a story I should even bother finishing or just count as a loss and move on to more exciting projects? 

Then of course, the big question: is this story ever going to be any good? 

I’ll never have the answers to these questions until it’s done. That’s the painful part of writing, I guess. It’s a lot of work to get your story planned, your characters breathing, your plot rolling along, and then you have to keep hammering away until it resembles something remotely okay. The whole time you just trust that eventually someone might want to read the nonsense you’ve been butchering.

This isn’t a new revelation: writers have been complaining about this part for ages. I’m only now getting to this point because I rarely get past a first draft, or I’ll write short stories which are easier to not think as hard about. 

First drafts are all the good feelings: “oh boy, this is amazing! There’s no way this could be flawed!” and then you can just put it away, whistling innocently. The subsequent drafts are you on your knees scrubbing, praying the bloodstains come out of the carpet. 

I guess the point I’m trying to make is that no matter how cocky you are right now (like I was before this), you will come to this point, too. The experts say don’t quit here, so I’m not going to, but dear god is it tempting. It hurts to finally open your eyes to the faults in your story. To see the supporting characters as flat or to realize a bit of world building you thought was compelling and unique doesn’t actually make any sense. 

But I’m trying to remember that every first draft has massive problems, and I can see mine because I have been paying attention. I have studied stories from the greats, I have picked apart trash, and I can see where my work falls short precisely because I’m not a lost cause. What I can see, I can fix. What I can’t see, I hope my beta readers will point out to me, and then I can fix those problems, too. Which will be another painful process in itself, but let’s take this one gut-punch at a time, yeah?

The Next Phase

Another update on the current novel. Sometimes you gotta raze your work to the ground to build something better.

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Life the past year has been…let’s just say “complicated.” For anyone out there who feels like they’ve been failing themselves, join the club. We’ve all struggled to do what we’ve wanted or needed to do consistently while the world has been, y’know, ending. But that doesn’t mean we should stop trying. It just means we should be easy on ourselves when we fail.

The good news is, I have gotten my first dose of the vaccine, and I have finally entered the next phase of this book.

As I said in a previous post, I started this beast November 2009. It’s been extremely slow-going, but it has been going (sometimes), and that’s the important part. So what’s this new phase?

REWRITING. I am officially to the point where I have a true beginning, middle, and end planned (adding in the new second half of the book since I decided not to make it the duology I thought it was going to be). Everything is set up and organized to make the next iteration of this story a little deeper and better overall. Now it’s time to put fingers to keyboard!


In starting this next phase, I am slowly starting to realize just how little I planned when I started writing approximately one million years ago. I am still on the very first chapter and I keep having to go back to worldbuilding and character decisions I made forever ago, and undo what I had. 

This isn’t a problem necessarily – I get a massive dopamine rush when I smooth out wrinkles – but it is wearing a little on my patience. I feel like I need to already have everything figured out and ready to go so that I can just sit in one spot and write for hours on end, but I keep finding problems or “that’s not quite right”s that I need to fix. But that’s what rewriting is for, isn’t it?

Plot holes are being plugged, character arcs and motivations are being better mapped out, and the weird ideas I had and never questioned are being removed. Or enhanced. Gotta have some weird, am I right?

What am I doing now?

I’m actually taking a look at what it will be like if I start from scratch entirely. Keep the basic plot points/beats of the main story, but start over with character creation, the way the story is told, the overall feel of the book. I just feel like something is missing from the originally ideas and I’m not 100% sure I can salvage what I have by just shuffling things around. 

Basically this would be returning to the “ooh, I have an idea for a book!” phase of it all. I was afraid when I first thought about doing this because I thought that maybe I was just finding a loophole so that I could feel like I’m writing something new, but talking with my other writer friends, this isn’t something that’s entirely uncommon. Sometimes you just gotta raze your shit to the ground to build something better.

But what are you doing writing this post, Charlie?

Jeez, way to call me out, y’all. 

Right now I’m trying to build momentum. I haven’t been writing very much the past, well…way too long and now I’m having trouble getting back into the swing of things. So now I’m writing this post to both update you all on how it’s going since I haven’t said much, and to stretch my fingers out a bit.

I’m hoping I can get my brain to focus on work in general and then I can focus more on this novel specifically. Hopefully. Pomos are helping too, but everything is incremental progress.

And that’s okay. Sometimes your progress will be agonizingly slow and take days or weeks to even make a dent, but just keep at it and eventually you will get there. Each step gets you closer, whether you’re walking or running. 

They say to themself, hoping for some motivation…

Talking About My Novel

small black girl sitting on floor with books in studio
I’m just gonna hide, it’s fine.
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For someone who wanted to write about how my writing life is going, I sure don’t talk a lot about what I’m actually writing…crippling self-consciousness will do that, I suppose. I’ve written this introduction about ten different times, adding and removing disclaimers, rewording sentences, nearly deleting this entire blog and setting fire to my computer to go back to living in the wild…you know: just writer things…

The truth is, this self-consciousness is getting embarrassing. Of course not everything I write will be perfect. Obviously not everyone is going to like even my greatest work. To pretend that it could be any other way is a ridiculous fantasy and is only hurting my ability to get this job done.

I need to figure out how to talk about my work without feeling like a child, for both future professional conversations and for allowing y’all to see what I’m working on. With this in mind, let’s do a rundown of what this novel is about, the process so far, and what I’ve been doing on it recently. 

What it’s about

closeup photo of black hilt and brown sword
Photo by Susanne Jutzeler on Pexels.com

This is the part I’m the worst at. Explaining the plot of the more complex stories I write feels like trying to slowly rip the skin off my bones while waiting to see if the other person laughs at me for it. 

Something I did a while ago was write some summaries/pitches/teasers for stories I’d been working on, so I could organize my thoughts better. This is the current (definitely not final) draft for this one:

A teenager attends her own funeral where her saviors are arrested. A Legionnaire is sent on a suicide mission as an incoherent babbler kidnaps a convenience store clerk. Fresh out of training, a Guardian Angel stumbles upon a well-kept secret. Their stories coalesce to upend the assumptions of Good versus Evil for the rest of time.

Still reading? Cool.

The beginning of, well, something

This novel was originally started alllll the way back in 2009 for NaNoWriMo. It was the first/only time I got to 50k words within the month, and wrote a beginning, middle, and end. I was mostly able to do this because I was alone the entire time except the 24 hours a week I worked.

The method I used was full on pantsing. I started with “girl trying to keep her past involvement with angels secret” and went from there. It was a process of “pace around and think of the next few steps,” write it down, then repeat until the end, occasionally with a glass or three of wine.

Like almost every novel idea I’ve had, it evolved into a series – a trilogy, in this case. After finishing the first draft, I decided to get the basics down for the next two books before I rewrote the first. I only got a little way into the second book before putting pause on my writing for nearly half a decade. 

Editing draft zero

macbook pro with sticky notes
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A few years ago, I read through my first draft and it was a mess. Notes and complaints dotted the draft and needed to be removed or acted on. Chapter dispersion was uneven – sometimes I switched between characters as one would expect and other times I stayed with a single character until I couldn’t think of what to do with them anymore. This led to a lot of plot inconsistencies and timeline problems. Scenes had been written and then rewritten, with both versions kept in. And of course I found plot holes you could drive a damn bus through. 

What I ended up doing was printing everything out and using scissors to cut up every scene. I sat on the floor to stack each piece into which character was the focus of the story at that point, and then made a new stack as I reordered what I had into a readable narrative. As I moved the text around in my document, I also added placeholder chapters. This is a mostly blank page that says “Chapter 23 [character y] does [x]” so that I could make sure the next chapter for that character made sense.

The method of writing was chaotic, and the editing process equally so. Especially because I ended up sick during the process and prescribed Vicodin. So at times I was editing while high on medication, what I wrote while drunk.

Pro tip: don’t do that.

Eventually, I could stop taking the drugs, and I rewrote many passages so they weren’t as messy. I deleted notes, cleaned up the prose a little, and ended up putting everything on hold all over again. Every time I tried to work on it after, I felt so disconnected from who I was when I wrote it, I gave up. Or so I thought.

Enter the year of finishing things

First, I started about four other novels I still haven’t gotten as far on. After the last one in NaNo of 2020, I decided to go back and actually finish what I’ve started. I thought this was going to be painful and cringey to see the mess I left myself but I surprised myself halfway through. I cared about the characters and even though I knew what happened, found myself tense during the more exciting scenes. 

Don’t get me wrong, there’s still a lot of work to be done on this beast. Not only that, I realized a trilogy would be stretching it too far, so I opted to make it one book. This means I need to add an entirely new half to the plot. But that’s okay! I know where I’m headed. 

What does this process look like now?

Since starting this new initiative, I’ve *deep breath* reread the book thrice, made notes on all of the ridiculous things I need to cut or change, made notes on all of the plot holes or worldbuilding I skimped out on, decided to make it all into one book, began to fill out the world better, and have started to consider combining or removing characters entirely.

It feels a lot like I’m not making progress because the book’s word count is unaffected by my efforts, but it will lay the groundwork for a much better rewrite later. 

Overall, my biggest goal is to finish the book. If I make it great, then I will be ecstatic, but I’m mostly going for decent and complete. At least, that’s what I’m telling myself so I don’t fuss over it so much it remains undone. So here I am, announcing that intention and sharing the premise. 

Here’s hoping I don’t regret it! 😀

Back on Track and the Lessons I’ve Learned While Astray

Terrible oil pastel drawing of that crushing, staticky feeling. Artist: me.

As you’ve probably noticed from my fluctuation between complaining and a lack of posts, I have had some issues writing after quitting my “day job.” I thought at first I just didn’t have the right story idea. Maybe the plot I had in mind (or the characters, or the setting, or the everything altogether) was bad and I wasn’t going to get it to work, so I abandoned the idea. This happened twice in a row. Then I thought that I was pushing myself to work too much or too often. So I took a break.

After my break, I felt much better – for about a day. Then I went straight back into feeling like shit and static filling my head. Maybe I was overwhelming myself with the steps to write something to completion. So I built a system to keep myself focused. This worked for about two weeks and then I fell right back into the pit. 

Maybe I was depressed again. So I decided to narrow down what I was doing, lighten my workload. But I still suffered this…blockage of sorts. What the hell was going on?

Finally I realized I felt the worst when something external reminded me about writing. Someone would ask how my book was coming along. Or they’d make a snarky comment about how I wasn’t working on a Saturday. Just taking a peek at Medium I’d get bombarded with all kinds of writing advice articles. 

The articles were, interestingly enough, the worst. Individually they aren’t bad, but I’d sit down and read a bunch in a row. Every single one of them basically saying the same thing: I should be writing content every single day. 

And the problem isn’t that producing content is bad. I’m writing content right now. The problem starts when you let this outside world into your private routine. When you allow others to tell you how to write or what to write or when to write. And this happens very easily when you feel that your process or your job isn’t valid.

So what changed? 

I can’t say for sure exactly where I unfucked myself. Most likely, it was a culmination of a few things. 

First, I stopped trying to make myself an “authority” on anything. I stopped writing the how-to posts here. This eased my impostor syndrome quite a bit, and being honest about it felt great, but had the unintended side effect of a minor, uh, existential crisis. 

What should I write now? What do I even have to say? Do I have something to say? Should I just stfu and shut down the blog? 

The adage is to write what you know, but what did I really know? Well…I knew a lot about my own experiences with depression and anxiety. So I drafted up a few Medium articles on that. And never posted them.

I’m still learning how to be more honest with myself about my emotions – broadcasting heavy thoughts like that with my name out there for everyone to see felt…wrong. I just couldn’t make myself do it. What I wrote was “authentic” I guess, but publishing it just didn’t feel like me. I kept asking myself, “if not that, then what?” I agonized over this for way too long until I finally asked myself the real questions:

What drew me to writing in the first place? What is it that I like to read?

scenic view of city during nighttime
A whole new wooooorld…
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I love books that are filled with characters who struggle. I love stepping into worlds that are rich and vibrant. Adventures that make me feel alive. Relationships that feel authentic and sweet, even if they start off a bit rocky. I want to open a book and see a massive universe I can set out and explore. Especially if it goes beyond what the author has written. 

Stories like Star Trek, Star Wars, Firefly, The Witcher, The Dark Tower series. Any world that allows you to imagine yourself living there is like catnip to me. I use literature to escape and I’d love to write the same for others. 

I have ideas for short stories, too. I’ve written several, and in the spirit of the year of finishing things, I will still try to finish the majority of ones I abandoned. But publishing shorts is not my calling. Worldbuilding is. 

This conclusion made me realize I’m incapable of following the route the internet has drawn up for writers. Though there’s more money to be had in publishing an article every day on Medium and in writing and submitting shorts (assuming they get accepted). Guest posts, cross posts, affiliate links, Pinterest infographics, Twitter quotes/screenshots…all of these things and more are great ways to monetize your writing and to gain an audience. I’ll have to do some of them eventually, too. None of this is bad. It’s just not what I should be doing right now.

I should be writing. I should be living in the worlds I’m crafting so that when I’m done, you can live there, too. 

Because of this realization, I was able to shed the imagined expectations weighing me down. I don’t need to write 40 hours a week. Sometimes writing means getting thoughts down on paper (or pixels) whether or not they are coherent. I am writing every day, and a lot of it is unusable crap. If I need to stop mid workday and play Bugsnax or (god help me) Detroit: Become Human in order to relax, I should. If I need to take a whole day or week off in order to “refill my creative bottle” (Thanks for the metaphor, Arbor!), then I absolutely do. If my workday consists of me walking around my office in circles, mumbling new storylines or dialogue to myself, then so be it! 

Stephen King says to write with the door closed, edit with the door open. He’s referring to writing a story exactly how you want to tell it, and then editing it so that it can appeal to other people as well. I feel like it should extend to your routine, too. Don’t let other people dictate how you work, just make sure you eventually do get to work. 

These steps together eventually got me back on track, and I really hope outlining them will help anyone else suffering from a constant burnt-out, static-brained, panic-stricken blockage of words. Basically I think it all boiled down to getting back to why I started writing in the first place. 

A caveat

This is the part where I reiterate that I am so, so privileged. I get a small retirement payment every month, so I can feel like I contribute a little to my household. Beyond that, everything gets covered by my husband. We saved for a long time, we finagled our finances, and eventually got to the point where me not having any other income was doable. I can rest easy while I make-believe and do other weird writer shit. My circumstances are not normal. 

If you want to only write novels, then do it! But keep a day job. Don’t force the pressure of finishing a novel on yourself – you will fail, and it will suck the whole way down. Establish a writing routine around your work. If your job leaves you exhausted at the end of the day, write at the beginning of your day. If you can’t concentrate on work when you write beforehand and it’s threatening your job, find a different job (while still working at your current one). 

If you want to write articles every single day and you think you know your niche, then try it while you still have a job. With either of these options, you want to be able to support yourself (or nearly be able to support yourself) on the money you’re making from your efforts working around your dictated schedule. If you find yourself making excuses, procrastinating, getting easily discouraged, doing or being or feeling anything that keeps you from producing regularly, do not quit your job. 

Anyway, the point is…

…enjoy the go! Oh wait, no, that’s something else. 

But seriously, have fun while you work. If you can’t figure out how to enjoy it, it’ll be more difficult. And if you’re anything like me, the pressure to work while miserable will make you crumble. Sure, I can bust my ass to meet the occasional deadline, but I would die as a journalist. Knowing your work style, your limits, and being honest about and honoring them both will make all the difference if you’re having issues writing like I did. 

And I almost guarantee I will forget this by the time NaNoWriMo rolls around again…

An Unplanned Update

A casual post gets a casual picture. Behold: Hucky boi…

Almost all of the posts on this blog so far have been carefully constructed: I figured out what to write, wrote a first draft – possibly from an outline – and then I edited it. I knew what I was going to say beforehand or at least knew what I wanted to say from the beginning.

Today I wanted to try something a little different. I’m still trying to figure out what I want out of this blog beyond the clearly stated mission already posted. Do I want this to continue being very orderly and neat and planned and polished? Is that even a realistic expectation as I go forward with my plan to finish as many stories I’ve started over the years as possible this year? I don’t really think it is. And that’s okay.

I don’t really want to stop posting here. That wouldn’t be true to the point of the whole thing. But I also need to let go of this fantasy of the truly polished blog. Of perfect entries that are instantly shareable with infographics and research. I’ve been putting so much pressure on myself to produce work in a way that is just so and it has started to eat me alive.

My time away from this blog and writing in general made me feel really fucking dumb writing all these “how to” articles when I still hadn’t published anything, and so I had decided not to do that anymore. But then I found a new problem: what the hell am I going to write instead?

…and Bumblebee!

Obviously I’m going to be writing fiction. I want to be a fiction author. I didn’t set out to be a blogger, not in the beginning. That wasn’t the thing I thought of when I considered my dreams. There’s nothing wrong with being that style of writing, either, but my point is that when I wanted to be a writer, “blogging” hadn’t been invented yet. I had never even heard of the internet at all before. I’m not here to write a textbook or whatever, so there’s not really a point to me trying to write a bunch of polished posts like I am.

So where does that leave me? With my original mission: I’m here to report on what this life is like for those who wanna know the more complete story. I think might end up sharing fiction I write here, but that’s for another day.

Either way, that’s where I’m at right now. I may or may not stick to a posting schedule. I think I will try, just so it’s both better for you to know when to come back and also better for SEO reasons (*~algorithms~*) but I might throw in the occasional random post depending on what’s going on.

It’s the day after typing this up – casual or not, I gotta edit – and I’m feeling much better about this. I’m going to work up to “diversifying my portfolio” and “income streams” or whatever, but I’m okay with keeping it simple for now. I’m still really new at this. I’m still learning. That’s okay.

The Year of Finishing Things

It is very late into January, and everyone has already written their posts focusing on what they’ll start this year. I would like to write about an end. Let me explain.

April 2020

woman in black shirt holding orange ceramic mug
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This is the time that I really started to understand that Covid-19 was a thing. I hadn’t been in the office since March 15th, but it was late April that I really started to feel like I could die from it.

Everyone around me, however, kept on working like nothing was happening. There were no “is everything okay?” check-ins, everyone kept to their timelines, work quality was about the same from everyone…else. Personally, I wasn’t doing so great. 

Anxiety kept me from sitting through even one full meeting since April. I regretted never having finished a single novel, never pursuing writing seriously, and here I was with the very real threat of dying everywhere around me. So (after spending way too much time panicking about this) I started a blog. I decided I was going to go all in as soon as I possibly could. 

The blog

I spent a lot of time at the beginning writing a backlog of posts. That way I could simply schedule them to go up each week while I went back to writing fiction. I kept holding onto this excuse for much longer than I should have, but I did manage to develop a writing habit and schedule. 

Even though I’ve been through writing classes and have written stories for most of my life, impostor syndrome demanded I stick to the basics if I ever wrote “how-to” posts. And since I was so busy writing those, I didn’t have a lot of time to do anything “writerly” to blog about like I wanted to.

Eventually I figured out how to fit writing fiction into my schedule. By that I mean I had a pretty deep backlog of posts to pick from and couldn’t realistically use that as my excuse anymore.

Because of my blog, I developed a massive self-consciousness about my fiction. Since I had the audacity to try to tell anyone how to write anything, I felt that all my writing needed to be perfect. All while telling others that “writing is rewriting” and “all first drafts are crap,” of course. This caused me to start and abandon a ludicrous amount of work.

Quittin’ time

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Late October we finally got everything together financially to allow me to take a year off. The idea was basically to see where this goes. Just in time to start NaNoWriMo! Because the NaNoGods demand a virgin sacrifice, I chose to start a brand new novel (discarding the idea I’d been toying with already earlier in the year). 

But now, I was no longer bringing in any money. Time was ticking. I had zero submissions accepted, no novels written, barely any views or followers, and almost no interaction on any content I wrote. This is where I started to crush myself under the pressure. 

I say “crush myself” because my husband has had no hand in putting pressure on me. He has done nothing but be supportive through all of this. So I just…pressured myself enough for the both of us. 

Y’know, like ya do.

Cue the depression

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This brought on the feelings of I can’t do this and I’m a total failure. I felt guilty for not making any money from this dream job and I felt stupid for trying to tell others anything about the craft. 

On top of all of that, I had physical illness creep into my life. So now I was sick, in pain, constantly tired, AND depressed while trying to keep working at a job that has yet to give me a payday. 

I know that no one should expect to start making a living wage off writing less than a year after taking it seriously. But I couldn’t help but keep reading all these articles about how this person wrote 100,000 words in a weekend or made 10,000 off their first month, and my stressed out brain just kept pointing back at itself saying, “why isn’t that you?”

Everything settled into a general feeling of burnout, so I just stopped for a week or so. I played a new game (Detroit: Become Human – I’m literally addicted to it), read a few books, played with my cats, tried to exercise a little…then came back ready to create a brand new (honestly ridiculous) writing routine to try to counter all the problems I had before.

I’ll write much more on it later, but know that it’s a work in progress.

A part of designing this new routine included the decision to go back to a novel I started in November 2009. Even after a decade, the general concept of this book and the world within it hadn’t completely left me. 

It was already outlined, mostly written, had characters and worldbuilding, and generally was okay. 

Just finish it, my rational mind urged. 


my super excited side exclaimed. 

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I have about 64 stories/poems/songs/rants just hanging out in my Drive folders. About 9 of these are unfinished novels. This isn’t even including all of the ideas I’ve jotted down but not started yet. I have enough to last me probably until I die, but I’ve decided to have a go at finishing as much of them as I can for at least a year.

The hope is that getting these pieces completed will be both satisfying and educational. If I also manage to sell a couple of them I wouldn’t complain.

In the process, I’m sure I’ll hit snags and roadblocks, find the occasionally piece of shit, or maybe even a few hidden gems. Any insights I gain or interesting tales I can tell you about this experiment I’ll happily share, since this’ll feel more authentic than posting writing tips every week. 

I understand that this kind of stems from impostor syndrome as well, but if it gets me back to writing and posting more consistently, I’ll take it.

Wish me luck.

When You’re Unable to Write

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Sometimes you’re not going to be able to write. You will wake up sick, injured, depressed, or in some other condition that prevents you from working. And if you’re anything like me, you will hate yourself for it. Let’s take a moment to examine this scenario.

What does this look like?

This is more than the obvious, “there are no words on the page.” When I talk about not being able to write, I don’t mean a surface-level “I don’t feel like it” or “I’m too busy.” I’m referring to the physically painful realization that you are incapable of putting letters down on the page to form words. Everything you have tried has failed and now your cursor blinks in time with its raucous laughter, taunting your ineptitude and the obvious forthcoming ruination of your writing career. You are doomed. Fade to black. Despacito plays.

Just kidding. But it feels this way, especially if you don’t have a lot of support behind your work.

What causes this?

Not being able to write has many different causes. Sometimes it’s a simple case of writer’s block or mental resistance. There have been so many articles written about this, including my own, so I won’t really go into detail about that here. What I wanted to talk about today is when you are struggling in some way that interferes with your ability to get thoughts from your brain to your fingers.

When you’re struggling with physical/mental illness, you’re under a lot of stress, or when you haven’t been sleeping, eating, or exercising like you need to, it can cause a thick fog to drift into your skull. It dulls your thoughts, slows you down, and makes everything feel a thousand times harder to do.

For me, it has been all of the above reasons all at once. The first day, I thought “oh sure, why not take a break? It’s alright.” The second day it started to turn into, “you should really be working, Charlie. Maybe try harder?” Then while sitting at the computer, feeling physically terrible, the thoughts of “if you don’t write anything right now, you’re taking advantage of your situation,” started to creep in. By day three and four, it was “wow, you’re really never going to amount to anything, are you?” and other nonsense.

And it is nonsense. A lot has been going on, and that’s okay. Even if I never wrote another word as long as I lived, it doesn’t mean that I never amounted to anything. That’s…a tad extreme, isn’t it? What does that mean, anyway? Amounting to what? For what? 

Either way, it doesn’t matter. Here I am, writing again (and there was much rejoicing). The important part to remember, is that unless you continue to berate yourself and tell yourself that you’re nothing, I feel like there’s actually only a slim chance of never writing again.

So what do I do about it?

Be kind to yourself and ride it out. Some people depend on writing a super huge amount of words every single day in order to survive, and I’m going to be honest: I unfortunately have no advice for you. You are far beyond where I am now or probably ever will be.

But for the rest of you who aren’t living the hustler life, here’s what I’ve learned over the past week or so (yes, it’s been way longer than I would like, but that’s okay):

  1. It happens to just about everyone. I think it actually happens to literally everyone, and those who say it doesn’t are lying, but I’ll let it be.
  2. Beating yourself up about it only makes it worse. 
  3. Denying care to yourself (such as medications you need or getting extra rest) will only make it worse. You cannot punish yourself out of this. You aren’t being lazy, you are being mortal. That’s okay.
  4. Don’t think that you can jump straight back into full days or pre-episode efforts right away. Take it easy when you get back. Maybe you can get right back on the horse, but I would recommend trying half or quarter efforts first. 
  5. I have realized this problem is recurring for me, so I’m going to build a backlog of posts, stories, etc. This means I’ll have something to fall back on when this happens again. At the very least I want to have blog posts I can schedule so I don’t miss a Saturday post. 

What does the future hold?

Unknown. I will continue to work on getting back to a normal, full-time schedule, and then I’m going to try to keep track of everything from here on out. Major events, hours worked, the way I feel after each day is over and throughout the day as well, to make sure I’m not doing this to myself through overwork. I’m also going to keep an eye on what I’m eating, how much I’m exercising, how often I see the sun (hiss), and the like. Maybe I’ll figure out some kind of formula for how I can minimize future episodes. For now I’m going to keep being kind to myself so I can continue even a little.

25 Things to Do While Your NaNo Novel Rests

You’ve finished your NaNoNovel? Congratulations! Or maybe you got all 50,000 words down, but those don’t include “The End” just yet. That’s still freaking awesome. Or is it that you know you’ll cross that finish line, just not in November of this year? That’s okay too!

If you’re in the last two groups, keep at it! Don’t burn yourself out, of course, but don’t quit just because an arbitrary deadline has passed. If you’re a part of the first group, though, you’re probably wondering, “what do I do now?”

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Let me say that again: PUT. THE NOVEL. DOWN. Don’t edit it, don’t read it, don’t think about it. Set it aside, covered, where you won’t be tempted to take a peek. I know everything in your being wants to get back to work (or burn it, even – I get that, too), but don’t. This is the resting period. 

Nearly every writer will tell you that after you write something, you need to let it rest before you edit it, and that’s because you need to give room for the fairies to sneak in at night and fix everything that’s wrong wit–I’m just kidding. But once you get some space between you and your writing, it will seem to change. Passages you thought were terrible when you wrote it will actually seem pretty amazing, sections you thought were great will somehow be awful. Problems and plot holes will become more obvious, but also fixable. Let it rest. Trust me. Editing now will only harm what you have.

So what do I do?

Firstly, secure your novel. You might also want to back it up somewhere in a second location – off-site if you’re thorough – and then give some of these activities a try! Some are serious, some are fun, some are both. But all are worth giving a shot to distract you from your novel just waiting for you to finish it.

Things to do:

  1. Plan how long you’ll let your novel rest. Stephen King says to wait at least six weeks before even thinking about it again. Other writers say anywhere from a day to a year. The longer you wait the better it’ll be, up until the point you lose interest in your book.
  2. Update your followers on your NaNoWriMo success! Don’t have followers? Well…
  3. Start working on your social media profiles, stat. I’m not an expert on social media just yet, but I’ll also work on this while I wait on my own NaNoNovel.  
  4. Flavia Young suggests that you plan your editing strategy for when it’s time to start editing. Figure out what your pace will be like, but be realistic: if you think you can only edit a page a day with your schedule or brain power, do that – a page a day for 365 days is better than doing 100 pages all at once and then never touching it again because you burned yourself out.
  5. Be on the lookout for the editing post I’ll put out soon.
  6. Suzannah Freeman suggests that you set new writing goals, and I agree. What are you going to write next? A suggestion I’ve seen before is to write the first draft of one book, set is aside and immediately start a new book. Finish that first draft, and only then start to edit the first one. Alternatively you can try your hand at writing short stories or your own blog about your NaNo experience. Or cats. Whatever – I’m not a cop.
  7. If you want to go the traditional publishing route, I would recommend you start looking into agents and such. Not querying yet, but looking at their reviews and what kinds of books they represent to get an idea of where your novel fits.
  8. For self-publishing, start looking into what you need to do this: editors, book cover designers, beta readers, sensitivity readers, etc. What platform are you going to publish on? Where does your novel fit in that realm?
  9. Keep working on your writing skills: 
    1. Online courses.
    2. YouTube videos.
    3. Practice with short stories and take them to workshops and meetups for critiquing.
    4. Learn new words.
    5. Read read read!
  10. Pick up a new hobby – getting hands on experience with the world can only be good for your writing. I started gardening in the summer, and soon I’ll be building a garden bed to get ready for Spring next year. I’ve also got a few other hobbies lined up for once that’s done, as I imagine this winter will be a long one. 
  11. Finish your research! Anything that you avoided looking up while trying to get your 1667/day is now open season. Go ahead and find the air speed velocity of a coconut-laden swallow, or whatever else you wanted in your story but used a placeholder instead. 
  12. Jo Gatford has a (great) list of things to do after your first draft as well, including some bits that involve your novel, if you can’t stand to completely step away. 
  13. Get back in touch with all the loved ones you alienated during November! If you were smart, you stayed at home during the holidays, but you probably should have called them once or twice. Or showed up to shove food in your face during your Thanksgiving zoom call. I don’t really know how that goes, honestly. Whatever leafs your family’s tree, I guess.
  14. Make up fun phrases, like I just did there. Make sure to write them down so you can shoehorn them into your next project.
  15. Do your laundry. No doubt you skimped on anything you could during this month, and laundry is one we’ve all been slacking on recently anyway. Who cares if your pajama pants smell a tad ripe? We’re in the apocalypse! Well, now is the time you can start thinking about how you appear to others, if only to rebuild your self-confidence after a month of doubt, pain, and disappointment. Or, if you actually got to 50 thousand words, use your excess energy to get cleaned up for all the rounds of bragging you’re going to do.
  16. Catch up on all the video games, TV, and movies you missed out on.
  17. Get some new pajama pants. I’m assuming, if you’re anything like me, you wore a hole in every single pair you own, since no one is wearing real pants nowadays. Spruce up your winter wardrobe with a whole new set of PJs and sweats.
  18. Feed your pets. You…you did have someone take care of that for November, right? Oh dear…well: 
  19. Regain the trust of your feral house animals. Since they were forced to go lord of the flies on your pantry while you pecked away at the keyboard, they no doubt have a little lingering mistrust toward you. Try to earn that back with treats and scritches.
  20. Go for a walk, or at least see the sun. 
  21. Practice your signature! While it’s too early to start to really dream about success, it might take some time to figure out the perfect way to sign your name on your new novel. And lord knows you don’t want to be caught off guard with a weird scribble.
  22. Find some new bloggers to follow.
  23. Eat a damn vegetable. If you’re anything like me, you eat like shit when you’re busy. Here’s your chance to try to off-set an entire month of pizza with a carrot or something.
  24. Journal about your month. Think about what could have gone better, or what ended up working really well. How did this month feel to you? Rushed? Exciting? Painful? Why?
  25. Breathe: you made it! Whether you actually got to 50k or not doesn’t matter. You gave it a shot and made it to the other side. If you’re reading this, it means that you still want to write, and that’s a win in my book. Again, if you didn’t quite get to the finish line yet, that’s okay. I didn’t either! What’s a problem is if you decide to quit altogether.

    Maybe you came to the conclusion that you just don’t like writing as much as you thought, and that’s okay. But if you do like writing, don’t beat yourself up because you didn’t get to a made up goal set by someone you’ve never met. And if you did make it, make sure to take a moment to celebrate how far you’ve come. Which is only part of the way, I hope you know.

    Editing and rewriting (yes, you get to do all of this again!) is a big part of the process and can be daunting. So catch your breath. Enjoy the view. You’ve earned it.