Why You Should Never Hit Delete

As writers, we tend to flit from one idea to the next. We fill notebook after notebook with all these wonderful ideas that hit us like a lightning bolt, but unless we live to be a hundred, rarely are all those ideas ever brought to life. Then, we start to second guess ourselves. We look back and see nothing but garbage, so we get rid of it. But I’m going to tell you something, and I want you to listen very closely when I do.

WRITERS SHOULD NEVER HIT DELETE!

Last week, I was flipping through old files and notebooks that I haven’t even thought about since I was a freshman in high school. They were filled with opening lines of dozens of different novels that I started randomly whenever an idea occurred to me. You see, when I was in school, I didn’t know how to focus on one project. I would work on two or three novels at a time and write in whichever one I was inspired to at the time. I carried multiple composition notebooks in my backpack at all times, and I would flit back and forth between novels constantly.

Now, do you have any idea how many of those notebooks contained full novels? Three. Yes, three out of more than ten composition notebooks held an actual novel. Those three included the first draft of my now published novel, Broken Halo, the first novel I ever wrote, titled An Unexpected Romance, and the first mystery thriller I ever attempted to write, called Love and Lies. The other notebooks ranged in length, from a few pages to a few sentences, and as I flipped through them, all of those ideas I had came flooding back to me.

That is what I want to teach you today: why you should never hit delete. It sounds trivial, and some of you may already abide by this, but it hit me that sometimes we overlook the treasure trove that rests in the past.

I will be the first to tell you that my first manuscript was utterly atrocious. Seriously, I won’t even let anyone read it anymore. Now, at the time that I wrote it, I thought it was phenomenal. I was so proud of it, and I would shove it at anyone who would take long enough to read through it. Luckily for me, no one told me it was terrible and discouraged me from pursuing my writing further; instead, they gave me feedback and helped me develop my skill. Now, when I read that first manuscript, I want to vomit, but that is only because I have improved in the near decade it has been since I wrote that novel. But that near decade has also given me more insight into the ideas I had back then.

Last week, while I was cleaning out my closet, I found my own treasure trove of ideas.

Now, you may be skeptical, wondering what on earth those terrible ideas could possibly offer to you now. But the human brain works in fascinating ways. When you put creative stimuli in front of it, like say, old unfinished plotlines you haven’t thought about in a decade, it starts cranking out ideas. As I sat there reading through the cringeworthy writing of a twelve-year-old Sheridan, I couldn’t stop coming up with ideas. I was back in those worlds I’d created in my adolescence, back with the friends I had forgotten about, and I was itching to pen their stories.

So, what’s next? If you keep all of your ideas, how on earth do you keep focused on one project at a time? Trust me, it is going to be tricky. (This is not to discount the method of working on multiple projects. If you can effectively do that, go for it and know that I bow to you, because your brain clearly functions much better than mine!) You are going to want to go back to those other ideas. So how do you stop yourself from doing that?

First, you must choose wisely. You need to take a minute and ask yourself which project you are most excited to pursue. You will stifle your creativity if you force yourself to work on another project. Then, remind yourself that it is okay to have multiple ideas at a time.

Buy yourself a notebook!! This is serious, guys, and again, some of you might already have one, but a notebook for ideas is a necessity. Jot down any idea that comes your way, along with as many details as you can, so that when you are ready to pursue that idea, you have plenty to go off of to get your juices flowing again. Buy multiple notebooks, if you would like, so that no matter where you are, you have somewhere to write down your ideas.

Finally, don’t ever get rid of those old manuscripts or notebooks. They may seem terrible now, but if you put enough work into them, you could make them phenomenal! If you’re a techie, organize them into a file on your desktop. If you’re old-school, buy a box to put them in and keep them somewhere easily accessible. Allow yourself to go back to them every once in awhile to find your creativity again and remind yourself that you are talented! Besides, you never know when an old idea might be exactly what you need for your current project. Take it from me, it tends to happen when you least expect it. Hitting delete could be terminal one day, so avoid it while you can and reap the rewards of decades-old ideas you gave up on. Sometimes, they age like fine wine.

8 Tips For the Unpaid Writer

I have a confession to make. I know you’re probably tired of hearing me say that, but this one is important: I haven’t been writing.

I feel like I need a shower after that…

It is true. Outside of the columns I have written for you lovely people, I haven’t written a word. I haven’t made any progress on my next e-book. It hit me the other day, and I almost wanted to cry, because I finally realized why I have been so unhappy lately. Because I haven’t been writing.

In my defense, it was not my first choice. Between working a full-time job, setting up this blog, going to school full-time, and still sleeping at some point, something was bound to fall through the cracks. Unfortunately, that something turned out to be what I love the most.

But these things happen, right? Tell me I am not the only one out in the universe who has fallen into a rut like this, because I can’t be. There is an end, though.

I have recommitted to this love of mine, and I won’t step out on him again. That I can promise you.

So, I am here to give you a few tips to work writing into your schedule before it gives you the ability to quit your day job.

  1. Buy a planner. Trust me on this, you will not regret it! I used to live for planners when I was in high school to keep track of assignments, but I stopped using them after graduation. Now that I am juggling so many different things at once, they are a necessity for me. In fact, I have two. One is a monthly planner that I use to plan my days. The other is a desktop pad that has weekly pages. I use that one for my to-do lists. They will help you stay on track and make sure you can get everything done that you need to in a day.
  2. Prioritize. What is more important to you: watching Netflix or writing a page or two in your novel? There will be sacrifices to make, but that does not mean that you can’t have your cake and eat it, too. If entertainment such as Netflix or satellite television is a major distraction for you, use it as a reward. Don’t allow yourself TV time until you have written X amount. You have to find a window that works for you. For me, that means getting up at 5 A.M. to write before work.
  3. Carry a notebook with you. If you hate notebooks, get a note app on your phone. Just make sure that you always have a way to record any inspiration that comes your way. On the bus, on your lunch break, grab as many minutes as you can throughout your day. By the time you get to your window, your creative juices are already flowing, and you’ll be ready to go when you sit down at your computer.
  4. Allow yourself time to get reacquainted with your world. Depending on how long it has been since you penned something, you may need some time just to review what you were working on. (This is also where step 3 comes in. If you are early on in the process, all you have to review is notes, but if you don’t have them recorded somewhere, how are you supposed to review. (Just imagine for a second if J.K. Rowling never had that first napkin. I don’t want to imagine a world without Harry Potter, do you?) Don’t beat yourself up if you have to. That gem is still in your mind somewhere; it just may take some digging to find.
  5. Find somewhere where you won’t be distracted. This is crucial. You have done the work up until this point, you have forced yourself out of bed at some awful hour, but if you are not somewhere secluded and private, you will not be as productive as you could be. Find a corner in your house or go to the local coffee shop, whatever helps you focus on your work like a laser.
  6. Don’t be afraid to steamroll right through it. Your first priority is to get the story on paper. Don’t worry about perfect spelling or grammar. Just plow right through your first draft. You can always go back and flesh it out later.
  7. Build yourself a network. Creative people are often lonely, but it doesn’t have to be the case. Find people who love to write just as much as you do, people who can act as your sounding board and give you feedback, people who will encourage you to keep doing what you love.
  8. Finally, the most important step. STOP BEATING YOURSELF UP, AND JUST DO IT! I wrote that it in capital letters because it is that important. You have to stop beating yourself up because you didn’t write one day. You are human, you are going to mess up. Accept that now, and when you do, you will be able to just let it go and move on. So what if you didn’t write one day? Sit down and make up for it the next day. Life is going to get in the way at times, but you can’t let it get in the way all the time. Make the choice, make it happen, because I promise you that once you put your mind to, nothing in heaven or earth could stop you from doing what you set out to do.

© SEPTEMBER  2018 ALL IMAGES MADE USING CANVA DESIGN

Gaines, Gaines, and More Gains: A Review of Capital Gaines

I have something to confess. It is a guilty pleasure of mine, except I don’t think “guilty” is the right term for it. I’m sure a lot of you have this same pleasure: HGTV reality shows. It is seriously a problem, guys. I am obsessed with the renovation shows on that channel. I used to hate them, but then my mother got me hooked on them. Thanks, Mom. In reality, though, she had help from two very charismatic renovators.

The Gaines.

Yes, you guessed it. Fixer Upper stars Chip and Joanna Gaines are the reason I fell in love with renovation shows and why restoring an old, brick colonial to its former glory is now on my bucket list. I mean, who doesn’t love them?! Weirdos, that’s who! As you could probably guess, I was pretty bummed out when they announced they were leaving the show, but I am also very happy for them and the cute new addition to their family. However, I then had to deal with a Chip-and-Jo-sized hole in my entertainment, so when the opportunity arose to read Chip’s new book, Capital Gaines, I jumped at it.

For those of you who have watched the show, you know exactly how much of straight-shooter Chip is, and it is no different in his latest novel. In this story, he shares the details of how they started Magnolia and reached the level of success they are at now. Of course, there are plenty of jokes and shenanigans along the way to keep you entertained if you are like me and get bored easily by nonfiction. (I’m not the only one, right???)

What made this book so special to me is the way Chip wrote it. He really writes from the heart, and you can feel it in the text, almost as if he is a friend sitting right next you, giving you the advice of a lifetime. In our day and age, a lot of people on television are not the same in real life. It is almost like there are two different people, but that is not the case with Chip. He is the same loveable goofball in this book as he is on the screen. I finished this book feeling like a better person because of what he taught me on those pages. I felt more prepared to face this world after Chip imparted a little knowledge to me.

I highly recommend this novel to people of all ages, people who are simply looking for a pick-me-up or a little advice. Chip Gaines does a masterful job of combining the two in a way that only Chip Gaines could. That hole in my life hasn’t gone away because now they have made another, entirely different impact on me by making me feel like a friend for 184 pages. But that’s okay because it has changed me and my views on life and the world in indescribable ways. Chip and Jo may not be on our screens anymore, but they are certainly still effecting change in the world in the most wonderful ways possible.

And if by some chance that they ever see this article, I want them to know how grateful I am for what they have taught me. Chip, your novel is part of how I found the courage to even begin this blog. Jo, you have opened my eyes to the wonderful world of design, and I love you for it! Thank you both from the bottom of my heart, and God bless that beautiful, little family of yours!

As for the rest of you, pick up Capital Gaines. Make a change in your life for the better. Choose today to be a little stronger at something, to choose what makes you happy first. You know I am all about that!!

 

© SEPTEMBER  2018 ALL IMAGES MADE USING CANVA DESIGN

Why You Shouldn’t Worry About Worrying: Put It To Use Instead

How many of you expect perfection? In yourself, in others? I know I do, way too often, actually. I always have a plan in mind, and when it doesn’t go accordingly (as life so often does), I tend to beat myself down. Looking back on  my life, I have realized that I have spent far too much time in those little pity parties when I should be getting back up and trying again.

That is all about to change.

I think I can speak for everyone when I say that we all have fears, worries, and worst-case scenarios. So, let’s have a little confession: what worries you the most?

For me, there is a broad side and narrow side to my biggest worry. I am worried that I will wake up twenty years from now and realize that I ended up in the kind of life I don’t want: stuck in a dead-end job I hate, unhappy and unfilled, having never seen anything outside of the same little town I grew up in. As I have mentioned in previous articles, Morgan is a wonderful place, but when you’re born with a seed of wanderlust in your heart and curiosity about the outside world like I was, it seems more like a cage. That is my biggest worry. I don’t want to live with a bunch of what-ifs. I don’t want to look back on my life and see nothing but missed opportunities and question marks. That’s what this blog is supposed to be: a record of all the things I have done to leave this cage.

But now, it’s time to be real, guys. There is another piece to this worry, a more imminent part. I am scared. I am scared that I have misread every feeling I have ever had about moving out of state, that I will never leave Utah. As most of you know, my goal is to move out of state for school. Well, it is application time, and, seeing as I picked the schools that have a 20%-30% acceptance rate, I am worried that I won’t get in. I am worried that am I wrong.

Now, the real question is: what do I do with that fear? I have some options. I could just accept defeat now and not even bother applying. After all, if my chances for acceptance are that low, why bother? That is a surefire way to turn myself into a liar and a fraud. I could apply without any real effort and just prepare for my rejection letters. Again, I would just become a liar. Finally, I could give every application every ounce of effort I have in me and wait for the acceptance letters, believing with every fiber of my being that they will come.

I know which option I choose. I must give it my all, or I can guarantee that I will wake up in twenty years with nothing but regret. So, I’m asking you: what option are you going to choose? We all have that one dream, that one idea that we want to execute more than anything in the world, but, as human nature tends to do, we’re all terrified of failing that dream. Yours may be vastly different from mine, but I know you have one. Even if you don’t know what that dream is, there is one there. Find that dream and give it your all, or regret will be your best friend, too.

Unfortunately, human nature dictates that that fear will not disappear once you decide to give your dream every effort. If anything, that fear will grow. The more you want something, the more you have to lose, the easier it is to let yourself down. So, how do you deal with it?

 

 

  1. You have to use it. Decide right now not to let that fear control you. Use it to fuel your pursuit of your ultimate dream. Think of that fear as your own personal antagonist. The more it says you can’t do something, the stronger you get in that area just to prove it wrong.
  2. Accept it. I know this one is going to be hard, but the sooner you accept that that fear isn’t going anywhere, the sooner you can take its power away.
  3. It’s okay to be human. It’s okay to feel those emotions every once and awhile. If you need to cry, then cry. You are human. You cannot hold it all in forever. Give yourself a break. Then wrap it up, dust yourself off, and get back to work.
  4. Find an outlet for those emotions. Some of you may only need ten minutes to yourself to clear your head. Some of you may need music or a movie. For me, it is a pen. I keep a journal and write in it every night before bed. I unload everything onto those pages, and when I wake up in the morning, I have a fresh start. Find whatever works for you and use it.
  5. Finally, you have to accept that you will let yourself down. You are going to fail, but when you do, you have a choice to make: let your failure be the end and decide your fate or take it as a learning lesson and try again.

You are human. So am I. But I am not going to let that fear stop me from doing what I love and creating the life of my dreams. Take it from me, living in fear is not living at all. I won’t do it anymore, and I don’t want you to, either. So, decide. Now. Take control of your life. Trust me, there is nothing more freeing.

 

© SEPTEMBER  2018 ALL IMAGES MADE USING CANVA DESIGN

Be A Star At The Movies: Why You Should Ignore the Haters and Go to the Movies Alone

Let’s talk about fear for a second. We all experience it. It is always there, peeking just around the corner ready to grab us at any moment. Most of us have some sort of fear that paralyzes us completely, prevents us from accomplishing what we so dearly want to accomplish. We all have a cushy, little comfort zone. I know I do, but what kind of adventure would it be if we never stepped out of that comfort zone occasionally? Not a very interesting one, let me tell you.

Some of you may be afraid to do some things on your own, afraid of what other people may think of you. Well, I’m here to tell you: IT DOESN’T MATTER!!!

But I am getting ahead of myself.

We all know there are certain tasks that just aren’t meant to be done alone: going to the movies, going to a restaurant, shopping, sleeping by yourself (if you’re into that sort of thing…or you could be like me, who knows no different…), going on vacation, etc. But why is it so terrifying for us? I honestly don’t know, but I do know that we can push past it.

I have always hated going to the movies alone. It just seemed so depressing, and I always worried that everybody there would think I was a loser or a freak. It turns out, it really isn’t that bad! Last Saturday, I went to a movie late at night by myself. It had been a rough day. There is a lot of unnecessary, ridiculous drama happening in my house right now. I had worked that morning, and everything that could possibly go wrong at work went wrong. Then I helped my brother move (and I am not good at that, believe me!). Finally, I spent two hours at the mall with my best friend. That was, by far, the best part of the day because I hadn’t seen her in so long, but by the end of the day, I just wanted some time to myself. Admittedly, I tried to get her to go with me at first, but when she decided not to, I thought I would just go by myself. I’d done it before, and it wasn’t too bad. It was awkward, but it wasn’t too bad.

I will be completely honest with you, I argued with myself the whole way there. I came up with every excuse in the book. I shouldn’t spend the money. It was going to be awkward. People were going to look at me funny, etc., etc. Literally every excuse in the book! But there was also a part of me that knew it would be fun and peaceful and relaxing.

It was hard, believe me, to force one foot in front of the other and not think about what the people behind the counter probably thought of me buying only one ticket. My stomach coiled up on me, and I couldn’t really look at anybody directly. I even sat in the very back corner of the theater, but that is nothing new (let’s be honest—that is the best seat in the house!). But then the movie started, and something changed.

I forgot.

I forgot that I was nervous. I forgot that I was uncomfortable. I forgot that everybody probably thought I was a weirdo for being at the movie theater by myself on a Saturday night. I just forgot, and I immersed myself completely in the movie. (For those wondering, I went to see Skyscraper. Of course, I loved it. Hello, Dwayne Johnson?) My initial thoughts were proven right by the end of the screening. It was relaxing, peaceful, and fun! After such a stressful day, it was nice to sit and enjoy a movie by myself. I didn’t have to worry about seeing someone I know, which made it a lot easier to not worry about what they thought of me. (It’s like dancing in Walmart. You’re never going to see those people again, so go for it! On the off chance that you do see one of them again, well, you certainly made an impression, didn’t you?) I could just let go of everything that had happened that day and relax. It was the most fun I had had at a movie in years. (The first time I did this, I didn’t quite reach this epiphany. It was awkward and uncomfortable.)

Now, my question to you is this: why are you afraid to do it? Some of you may find this article completely pointless because you already go to the movies on your own. Good for you! Others, however, might not see the appeal yet. I get that, I do. It is terrifying to step out of your comfort zone, but I promise you that it will be worth it. Besides, going to the movies on your own is a pretty small first step out of your comfort zone, as first steps go.

My point to all of this is that I hope you don’t let the fear control you. I have for a long time, and I don’t want to live that way anymore. I have this entire fantasy life in my head, and I am going to make it happen. Don’t be mistaken, I am terrified of a lot of things, a lot of risks that I will have to take to make that vision a reality, but I am not going to let that stop me from living the life of my dreams. I hope you don’t, either.

Just give it a try. It will be worth it, I promise.

 

© AUGUST  2018 ALL IMAGES MADE USING CANVA DESIGN

Wanderlust: A Big Dream’s Small Beginnings

I was raised in a small town in northern Utah. It is a beautiful little town surrounded by majestic mountains. Pine trees are everywhere. Everyone knows everyone, though it has grown significantly since my childhood. The kids I graduated with are the same kids I played with in kindergarten.

Don’t get me wrong, it is a wonderful place to live and raise a family. But I never felt like I belonged. Growing up, I didn’t have any friends. People were friendly to me, but we weren’t friends. Eventually, I made some friends, but that ended in disaster. (That is a story for another day.)

When I was in the seventh grade, I discovered my love for writing. J.K. Rowling was a big influence on that discovery, but there was one other person who had just as much, if not more, influence: Nicholas Sparks. (Yes, I was that sappy hopeless romantic who read The Notebook before I even started high school.) I lived for his books, so it was only natural that I pick North Carolina for the setting of my first (cringe-worthy) novel.

It was a teen romance novel (because what else would it be?) set in Wilmington. The heroine was a stubborn, guarded preacher’s daughter who finds it in herself to forgive the star football player for the pain he caused her. They were both seniors facing an uncertain future. (Yes, it is as cringe-worthy as it sounds.)

In my research, I came across the University of North Carolina. I’d never thought about where I wanted to go to college, (Give me a break, I was twelve.) but the idea of going out of state intrigued me.  It meant exploring a world outside of Utah, of finding myself and somewhere I belong.

I’d been bitten by the bug.

Discovering UNC was merely the spark that started a fire that has been growing in me ever since. My journey started with that one moment, and it hasn’t ended yet. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

When I started high school, North Carolina was my goal. When it was actually time to fill out applications, I knew I couldn’t just apply to one school. I applied to Western Carolina University (a cheaper alternative to UNC), University of Washington, University of Maine, Savannah College of Art and Design, University of Utah and Utah Valley University. (My father made me apply to the last two, citing safe bets. In all honesty, though, he was right. Somewhat. Don’t tell him; it will go to his head.) Western Carolina was my number one choice, and the day I got my acceptance letter, I screamed. Yes, I screamed. Scared my mother outright! It was the first of five acceptance letters; I did not get in to Washington. But that was okay. Washington was pretty far down on my list, anyway.

I must pause this story here to make a confession. I am LDS; my religion is very important to me. Don’t worry, I have no intention to use this site to force my religion down your throat. But to understand my story you need to understand what I believe in. Going out of state was not just some middle school fantasy I carried with me through high school; it was a spiritual prompting I felt.

I struggled with the decision to move out of state for a very long time. Everyone in my family was telling me I shouldn’t go, that it was going to be a major culture shock, that I was going to hate it and come back, so I might as well just stay. It was like I was at war with myself. One part of me knew what I was feeling, what I wanted, but another part of me questioned the validity of the spiritual promptings I thought I had. I agonized constantly over whether I really had a spiritual prompting or if I had confused my own desires for spiritual promptings. Not only that, I agonized over where to go. Was North Carolina where I needed to be? Or was it Maine? Or Georgia?

Finally, I decided that whichever school offered the most assistance (because out-of-state is ridiculously expensive) would be where I would go. This was not an easy decision to come to, but in the end, I knew it was the one that made the most sense.

Maine took the lead, offering me a thirteen-thousand-dollar scholarship. It was by no means a full ride, but it did cover about half of my tuition. It wasn’t what I had originally planned, but I was still excited. I was finally leaving Utah, and despite what my family said, I knew it was a good thing.

Then God intervened.

Throughout my senior year, I searched high and low for a job. I wasn’t naïve; I knew it wasn’t going to be cheap moving to Maine. I probably did thirty interviews before graduation. None of them panned out. I’d had one job before, one job interview. Clearly, I was inexperienced.

By the time July rolled around, I knew I couldn’t go to Maine in the fall. I had no job, no money. I didn’t even have a car yet! That broke my heart. I wanted so desperately to leave Utah, but I felt like I was being trapped in the very place I wanted to leave. It terrified me, too, to think that maybe I was wrong. Maybe I was never supposed to leave Utah. To never see the world, to never experience other cultures, to wake up in ten years and realize I never did all those things I wanted to—that was my greatest fear.

But it couldn’t be fixed. I couldn’t pull a few thousand dollars out of thin air (no matter how much I think all of us wish we could). There was no getting around it. I had to stay in Utah. But I still felt in my heart that that wasn’t right. I wasn’t meant to live and die here and never experience anything outside this bubble. So, I made a decision. First, I needed to find a job. Then, I would start my generals at Weber State the following year. I would finish my associate’s degree here in Utah and transfer when I was finished.

I didn’t find a job until August, five months after graduation. It paid very little, and the commute was atrocious, but it was a start.  A year flew by. I worked, and I worked, and I worked. The problem was that I was only working part-time, for minimum wage. Needless to say, I wasn’t saving very much.

Then, God intervened yet again. He gave me the perfect job. Two miles from my house (versus twenty-five), and two dollars more an hour! And, better yet, He led me to the exact choice I feel is right for me.

My dream is to attend American University in Washington, D.C.

Don’t ask me why. I have no idea. Heaven knows I have absolute no desire to be a politician. I don’t know what is waiting for me out there, or why I feel like this is something I need to do, but I do know that whatever it is will be more amazing than anything I can possibly imagine. It will be an adventure, one I’m hoping you’ll follow me on!

Now, you may be wondering why I am telling you this. The truth is that I feel like I am finally on the right path. God led me to that crappy job because it was the only way to get my dream job. He led me to the decision to start this very blog. I would like to think that, another year from now, I’ll look back on this article and be so grateful I went through everything I have because it led me to something better. I finally feel at peace with the choices I have made because I know that there is a reason for what I have been through.

I have never been more at peace with a decision. I don’t know what is waiting for me or there, either, but it is going to be one heck of a ride!

So, what do you say? Do you want to tag along for the ride?

© JULY 2018 ALL IMAGES MADE USING CANVA DESIGN

3 Plotting Methods For the Pantser In You

Plotting is tricky. Especially if you’re a pantser, like me. When I started writing, I would just sit at the computer and type whatever came to my mind. Of course, this resulted in an awful, disjointed first draft that still repulses me to this day. In my defense, I was only twelve and trying to write a romance novel, when I knew nothing about romance. There is nothing wrong with this method. I’m still guilty of using it on occasion, but there are some genres that require just a bit more planning.

I’ve spent the better part of a decade trying to figure out the best way to plot when I needed to. I’ve tried a few different methods I’ll lay out for you here. I may have found the perfect method for me, but you never know which one works best for you.

After I finished writing An Unexpected Romance, my first romance novel, I turned my attention to another genre: mystery/thriller. In a few months’ time, I cranked out a novel I called Love Lost. It was the story of two cops who fall in love while undercover as husband and wife assassins for the Russian Mob. Yes, it was terrible, but again, I was only twelve. However, with that book, I did discover my love for mysteries. I had always loved reading them, but I’d never really thought about writing them.

A few books later, I began work on a trilogy. I wanted to write a story about the dynamics of a partnership when they’re affected by a kidnapping. Basically, the initial story was about a woman who is held hostage for months. When she is released, she discovers that her old partner, the man she loved, hadn’t even been looking for her. He didn’t even realize she’d been missing. So, she comes back with a huge chip on her shoulder, but she must put it aside because they have to catch a bad guy. I called it Fatal Attraction. I am still working on it today. It no longer has anything do with the original storyline I came up with; it is no longer called Fatal Attraction. Now, it is about a woman investigating her father’s murder. Her father, the director of the CIA, left her a package with the instructions to give it to a man named Jack Logan, but when she discovers that Jack Logan died a week after her father, she teams up with his son, Jack, Jr., to investigate. Amid all of this, there is a frame-up, fake deaths, and many other twists that I will not give away because I would like you guys to read it at some point. As you can see, this sort of plotline requires a little more plotting than your average romance novel.

I began investigating. I knew I needed some sort of plan; at the very least, I needed to know the layout of the case my characters were investigating. I needed to know what clues they would find, and when and where they would find them.

The first method I tried was a simple bullet list. I pulled up a document on my computer, or sometimes used a notebook, and just started listing. The section was headed by the chapter number, and the main bullet points were the major points that were going to happen in that chapter. Any sub-bullets were the clues they found, awesome lines that popped into my head, etc.

This method worked great for a while, but I would always, inevitably, give up and just start writing. I’d type up a few chapters, until I hit a roadblock, and then I would go back to my bullet list. It was an endless cycle that just wasn’t accomplishing what I needed it to. So, I went back to the drawing board.

The next one I found was on Pinterest. It is called a plot board, and it was shared by Shaunta Grimes at A Novel Idea. For her blog post, click here. Here is the gist of it. I took a trifold cardboard display board and divided it into three acts. The first flap was act one. The middle of the board was act two. The last flap was act three. Then I wrote scene ideas on post-it notes and stuck them where I wanted them. What I loved about this method is how easy it is to change when you change your mind. All you have to do is move the post-it notes! However, I never really understood how to divide my story into acts. I worked much better with chapters. This would be a great tool for screen plays or theater, though. For me, it just didn’t work.

And now, the winner. The last idea I had came from my own mind. I was frustrated because I’d been working on this trilogy for so long, and I still had no idea what I wanted to happen in the story. I knew from the other methods I used that I wanted something visual because that is how I have always learned. I also wanted something simpler than a post-it note cardboard but also something I could still easily change when my ideas changed. So, I came up with my own version of a plot board.

I bought a large whiteboard on wheels that measures, I think, six-by-eight feet. It is also double-sided, so there is plenty of room to plan a whole series. Once I bought the board, it was as simple as creating a timeline. I just drew a line across the board and use tick marks for my scenes. I have different colored markers for various parts: blue for the flashbacks, green for time changes in present day (because what murder mystery is solved in one day?), and red for any edits I make to that specific timeline after everything is said and done. What I love about this is that it sits next to my desk, and I can see it every second I am writing. I don’t have to flip through notebook pages or set up a trifold, but it is still so easy to change and rearrange. Honestly, though I have never done this, if you wanted to make it even easier you could still use post-it notes. Another advantage is how much room it gives me. I don’t just have my plot lines on this board. This is also where I brainstorm names, places, titles, etc. I also keep notes on it, so I can keep track of the smaller details (like the identity of the killer and the evidence against them).

Every one of these methods is very helpful, but it took me a long time to figure out what worked for me. That, I believe, is the trick. There must be some trial and error on your part. Use your imagination. What works for you does not have to be traditional nor does it have to make sense to someone else. It just has to make sense to you. Then again, isn’t that why we’re all writers?

Until next time, I hope this helps!

© May 2018 ALL IMAGES EDITED USING CANVA DESIGN AND PHOTOSHOP

My Works

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It has been ten years since Alex Williams’s life changed forever. Six months following his ten-year-old brother’s suicide, Alex fled the city that never sleeps and attempted to start over in Los Angeles, haunted yet comforted by the fact that he can still see his little brother. When he arrived, he found something entirely unexpected: a girl by the name of Miranda Hall, a girl broken and beaten relentlessly by the monsters in their school. Amidst the pain and tears, these two found in each other the solace and love they’d always needed.

Now, ten years later, Alex’s life is changing yet again. Struggling to raise a four-year-old girl with an absentee wife he still loves dearly, Alex receives a phone call in the middle of the night. A dear friend has passed away. Her brother, Troy–also a dear friend, though in high school he was anything but, filled with guilt and regret over all the things he did in high school and all the things he did to drive his sister away, has vanished. Alex is the only one who can find him. But now he has a bigger responsibility: bring his friend back from the depths of despair. He has a plan, too. But will one decade-old story be enough to save Troy from himself?

10 Quirky Facts About A Quirky Girl

Hey, guys! In light of my new blog, I thought I should probably introduce myself to you a bit. I have pulled together a list of ten facts about me to set the tone for this new blog. Yes, I am quirky, but aren’t we all?

    1. I am an all-or-nothing k
    2. ind of girl. I either really like something, or I really don’t. There is no in-between. It may seem like it may cause problems (and i

  1. t has), but I think it is a blessing, too. It gives life more meaning, more color, I guess.
  2. I’m a movie girl. There are maybe two movies I actually don’t like. (The ending of Remember Me. Really?) I can quote a ton of them, too.
  3. I really like I mean, really. It is borderline obsessive. I have basically sold my soul to Dean Winchester. If you watch Supernatural, we’re practically family. If you don’t know what Supernatural is, read my article here. Give it a try! You just might fall in love with hit.
  4. I watched my first silent film a few months ago, and I loved it! It was the original The Phantom of the Opera with Lon Chaney. I loved it! It took a few minutes to get used to not hearing the music I know and love. Once I moved past that, I saw the beauty and elegance in it, and I fell in love. (Although I still prefer Gerard Butler, because who wouldn’t?) If you haven’t seen the silent film version, I highly recommend it
  5. . However, be warned. It is certainly an acquired taste.
  6. I am a Psych-o. I grew up on I have seen every episode multiple times, and I can quote a lot of lines. Shules all the way! And that movie revival? I was dying! Honestly, if it was any other show it probably would have sucked, but because Psych was already a silly, fantastical show, it worked! (This was before Supernatural. Although Psych still holds a special place in my heart, nothing beats Supernatural.)
  7. I love country music. It is almost all I listen to. I do listen to some other genres, but probably ninety-five percent of my playlist is country. I will probably recommend some country music, so if you don’t like country, you should probably skip over those articles.
  8. Brantley Gilbert all the way! He is my favorite singer. Some of you may not know who he is; some of you may. He is considered country, but he has a lot of rock in him, too. His music makes me happy. If you don’t know who he is, give him a try. Even if you don’t like country, you might find some songs you still like. Like I said, there is a lot of rock in him.
  9. I have the travel bug. Bad. I grew up in a small town where everybody knew everybody. That certainly didn’t help my case. I never felt like I belonged in that town, and all I want to do is travel to see the world. Much to my family’s chagrin, of course.
  10. I am terrified of escalators. I am incapable of riding them, unless absolutely necessary. I will take the stairs or the elevator. I know, it’s ridiculous, but I’m always scared my clothes will get stuck in them. On the occasions that I absolutely had to ride the escalator, my legs were jelly, and I hated it. So I will not ride them if I can avoid it. My best friend makes sure to make fun of me for it every time we go to the mall.
  11. I dream big. Maybe a little too big. I have all these things I want to do, and a few are a bit out of reach. But that is part of the excitement, isn’t it? That will make it much more satisfying when it happens because so many people told me it wouldn’t.

Well, that’s me. Now tell me about you!

© May 2018 ALL IMAGES MADE USING CANVA DESIGN

Unfiltered by Lily Collins

Recently, I began working on an essay for my English class. I chose the topic of body shaming. I had already written one of my papers on this subject, so I thought the jumpstart would help. I scoured books, magazines, and of course, the internet to find the information I needed for my argument. But one source took me by total surprise and may even change my life.

We all know Lily Collins. The daughter of famous musician Phil Collins, Lily is a talented actress herself and has starred in movies such as Mirror, Mirror; City of Bones; and more recently, To the Bone. Well, this past year she returned to her journalist/writing roots and released a poignant autobiography titled Unfiltered: No Shame, No Regrets, Just Me. In this novel, Lily tells all about her struggle with anorexia and bulimia, the rocky relationship with her father, and the dark exes of her past. In doing so, she reminds us all just what it takes to be strong and confident.

I have never been one of those women who can walk up to any guy she wants and flirt or look in the mirror and think of myself as sexy. In fact, as I’m writing this, the voice in the back of my head whispers that it is probably not good enough. Simply put, I have never had any confidence in anything I have ever done. I don’t think of myself as beautiful or desirable. I don’t think of myself as particularly talented, but this book has shown me that I am not the only one. It doesn’t matter what a woman looks like or acts like; society always convinces us that we are not good enough. But in following Lily’s journey to overcome this, I have learned that it is not a one-time battle. It is an everyday choice. I do not battle bulimia or anorexia, but I know all too well what it feels like to think you are not pretty enough or thin enough or smart enough to ever be good enough for someone. There are days when those thoughts consume me entirely. I cannot bring myself to smile, I cannot bring myself to drown them out. I just let them wash over me.

This book taught me that you must take it one day at a time. You must make the decision every single day. It is not a one-time choice, and it is taken care of. Every morning when you wake up, you must decide that you will not let those thoughts get to you. You must decide to believe in yourself. You are the only one who can say, “I am good enough”, because, as Lily points out, no one can truly love you until you love yourself.

It is the biggest struggle I have in my life. The voice in the back of my head is very loud, but I can drown it out. So, I am issuing all of you a challenge. First, read this book. It is my firm belief that every woman—whether she considers herself insecure or not, confident or not—must read this book.       Second, I challenge all of you to make the choice. Every. Single. Day. You are good enough, you are pretty enough, you are enough. Every day, decide not to let the voices get to you. Decide to believe in yourself. Trust in yourself. It may not happen overnight, but I promise you, your life will change.

I will be taking this challenge, too, because I want to be comfortable in my own skin. I want to feel beautiful. I don’t want to rely on someone else to do those things for me. And bless you, Lily Collins, for sharing your beautiful story. What began as research for a school paper has changed so much in me, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. Your story will impact the lives of so many women in unimaginably beautiful ways.

© May 2018 ALL IMAGES MADE USING CANVA DESIGN