You can hear it anywhere. On a Dove chocolate wrapper, or in a fortune cookie.
Don’t give up.
But it’s one of those things that is way easier said then done, right? Quitting would be so easy, but to keep pushing forward? That’s hard work. And after that hard work? Probably more hard work.
When you feel like quitting, it’s a good idea to go back to why you started in the beginning, or, an even better reason, is why you think this was God’s plan for you in the beginning. God doesn’t change His mind. So if you think, “Maybe I shouldn’t *insert whatever it is here*. Maybe I shouldn’t continue college. Maybe I shouldn’t write my book. Maybe I shouldn’t go for that new job.”
If you thought there was a reason from God to do that in the beginning, chances are it’s still there. Certainly God can use anything and things may not go how you thought they would. Maybe you thought for sure you were supposed to try for that new job, but just because you didn’t get doesn’t mean you failed– and it doesn’t mean God changed His mind.
I guess it goes back to how you define success. Following God should be the first thing we look for to decide whether or not we have been successful (I’m not saying I always do this, just ideally this is what we should look for).
So when things get tough ask yourself:
Am I still following God? (Or maybe, was I following God when I decided to pursue this?)
Are the reasons that make me want to quit petty or illogical? (Maybe you are tired, but getting a new job won’t necessarily change that. First of all, are you getting enough sleep?)
What has changed to make following God important when I started out but not important now?
There will be times ahead when we all get scared or nervous, we panic, or we’ll want to quit. Different things will make different people want to quit. When the urge to quit overwhelms you, though, turn back to the reason for doing what you started in the first place. Turn to God, pray about it, think on it, and ask trusted people their opinion. It might be true that you are supposed to change something– but sometimes we are supposed to just keep pushing through.
The last couple of years I’ve kept track of how many and what books I read in that year. I thought it would be fun to share some of the books I read (though some of them I’ve already mentioned/reviewed so that isn’t going to be a surprise) but I thought it might be a little boring if I was like “In January I read this book, this book, and this book. In February I read-” and so on. SO. I thought to switch it up a little I would create my own book tag! I will ask questions and answer them only using books I read (or maybe got) in 2020. Ready?
First off- how many books did you read this year?
I ended up reading 35 books this year! I think that is about 10 more than last year.
What is an author you tried for the first time this year? How many first time (for you) authors did you read? We all know second chances are important… but second chances are even more important. XD
I actually tried a few authors for the first time. Of the 35 books, 15 were by new (to me) authors!
What is an author you returned to this year?
Several books I read ended up being authors I’ve read before- actually at least two of them were rereading a series. Since I graduated college in the spring I reread 2 of the 3 Christy Miller College Years books by Robin Jones Gunn. I think I will forever love the Christy Miller series. ❤
Did you read a classic this year?Which one?
I did! I don’t usually, in my mind I always imagine them boring and long… but I read A Christmas Carol for the first time this year and it was really good! I would be interested in reading more books by Charles Dickens.
Did you start a new series? How many? What was one of them?
Wow. I started 9 different series. That seems like a lot. One of them was The Stolen Kingdom series by Bethany Atazadeh. The last book in that series comes out in March and I am excited! I want to go in depth about each series I started… maybe I will do a whole blog post on that.
Did you finish a series?
So for the Christy Miller college books, I only read 2 of the 3, but I did reread the Twilight series this year. Think what you want, but the series really isn’t as bad as people act like. (in my opinion.)
Did you buddy read a book this year?
I didn’t! But I think it would be fun. I was actually just reading a book and I thought “I think I would enjoy it more if I could buddy read it.”
What author did you read the most of this year?
I think that might be Robin Jones Gunn. And no one is surprised XD
What was the oldest book you read?
It was A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.
Did you buy a book that was published this year?
Six of the books I read this year were published in 2020! That doesn’t seem like that much considering how many books I actually read, but several of them were published in 2019- so they were still new (in my opinion.)
What is a book you go this year and haven’t read? (You could have gotten the book any time between January 2020-December 2020)
Okay, I may have a problem buying books and then not reading them right away. One book I am looking forward to reading is Dust by Kara Swanson.
A book you weren’t sure about but ended up loving?
The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis. It sounded really weird when my brother in law told me about it. “It’s about this demon who is in training…”
Um. Okay. That’s weird…
But I read it and I ended up loving it. I high recommend it. I don’t agree with everything that C. S. Lewis believes in, but I still think he is a great teacher, and the way he teaches truthes in fiction is so cool. I loved it. I should probably review it…
Top read/s of 2020?
Okay, it isn’t easy to pick out one favorite, so I’m going to list the top reads on 2020 and try to order them in ‘least favorite of my favorites to favorite of my favorites’. If that makes sense.
Coming in at no. 5 least favorite of my favorites….
5.Ashlords by Scott Reintgen
4. It’s hard to pick which one is next, probably 3 and 4 are actually tied… but I’m going to say The Stolen Kingdom by Bethany Atazadeh.
3. This book sucked me in and I did not expect it. I loved this book, and was so glad I read it just as the sequel was coming out so I didn’t have to wait! A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer.
2. This book also sucked me in, and I loved it! I loved arranged marriages and Beauty and the Beast kind of feel. Captive and Crowned by Elizabeth Newsom. I am definitely looking forward to reading the sequel, and I hope it is just as good or almost as good as this one!
1Seeing Voices by Olivia Smit.
Again, I’m talking about my favorite books I read this year so it will come as a big surprise when I, once again, say “I LOVED IT!” But I did. It dealt with hard family things, and it had some deaf representation, and a sweet friendships, and a nice small town, and a library. ❤ ❤ I am looking forward to reading the sequel- and anything else Olivia Smit writes. This book was like a hug.
Skylar Brady has a plan for her life…until a car accident changes everything.
Skylar knows exactly what she wants, and getting in a car accident the summer before twelfth grade isn’t supposed to be part of the plan. Although she escapes mostly unharmed, the accident has stolen more than just her hearing from her: she’s also lost the close bond she used to have with her brother.
When her parents decide to take a house-sitting job halfway across the province, it’s just one more thing that isn’t going according to plan. As the summer progresses, Skylar begins to gain confidence in herself, but as she tries to mend her relationship with her brother, she stumbles upon another hidden trauma. Suddenly, she’s keeping as many secrets as she’s struggling to uncover and creating more problems than she could ever hope to solve.
I don’t even know where to start withy my review- but I think one good place to start is: This is one of my favorite reads of 2020.
I took sign language in school, so I am interested in sign language, and deaf characters in books and movies and tv shows. So when I got this book I was looking forward to seeing what it would be like.
And it was so good! I loved the characters and how well she made each character a whole person and not just there to serve the main character, and it was obvious she did a lot of research to make sure she captured everything correctly. And there wasn’t any romance! Which, I do like a good romantic subplot, but sometimes it can seem a little weird in YA. But it seems like most YA books have romance in them, or at least the ones that I read, and it was kind of nice to have a friendship instead. (Though they should totally start dating one day. I’m just saying. XD)
This book was sweet, and captivating. It kept me interested in the whole book from start to finish and I am so looking forward to the sequel- and any other books Olivia will publish in the future.
A beautiful and distinguished family. A private island. A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy. A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive. A revolution. An accident. A secret. Lies upon lies. True love. The truth.
We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from New York Times bestselling author, National Book Award finalist, and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart. Read it. And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.
I had heard a lot about We Were Liars and I think all of it was positive so I was pretty excited about reading it. I had completely different expectations for what the book was going to be like (besides just plot, I had a different setting and genre in mind too) but that isn’t necessarily bad just kind of funny.
Anyway, We Were Liars was a fast read, but it was… different. It is told in first person, but it seemed very passive, like the main character wasn’t describing things that had happened to her in her life, but as if she was talking about something very distant from her personally. That could have been a conscious decision from the author, but it just seemed to distance me from the actual storyline.
The characters were… unique. The main character called her mom “Mummy”, and some other things they said and the way they spoke kind of through me off. I still understood what they were saying but it seemed like it was more British than US. (Which is great and all, but… it isn’t. The main character, her parents, her grandparents, etc., were born and raised in the US. I think she even said her ancestors came over on the Mayflower.) I even went so far to try to see if the author was British- but from what I saw she also lives in the US. It just seemed a like something that was there for no reason.
Characters. Well, not to be mean, but it was basically a story about a lot of self centered people. (which I think was supposed to happen) The characters just seemed extra annoying.
And lastly, when it’s all said and done the book was very dark. After I finished I kept thinking about the book, but not in a good way. It was like the more I thought about it the more it disturbed me.
That being said, if you like books that are a little twisted and disturbed you might really like this one! I can see why someone would if they like this type of book- it was an easy and quick read, but it was definitely for an older audience, and if you don’t like dark or disturbing things I wouldn’t recommend it for you.
Mostly this book just wasn’t for me. I would give it 2 out of 5 stars.
This year I read (and now reviewed) Bethany Atazadeh’s three newest books- The Stolen Kingdom, The Jinni Key, and The Cursed Hunter (just in case you want to check out the other two book reviews. 🙂 )
About the book:
Nesrin Ahmadi needs a dragon’s egg, no matter the cost.
The money from its sale could cancel her family’s enormous debt and keep them in the lavish lifestyle they’re accustomed to. Only one problem. A dragon’s egg is incredibly rare; and no one has ever found one fully intact before.
After years of searching, she’s about to give up, when creditors come to threaten her family. Climbing to heights she’s never dared to go before, Nes risks everything to find an egg…
…and finds a dragon instead.
The Cursed Hunter is a loose “Beauty and the Beast” retelling. Set in a world that humans share with mermaids, dragons, and the elusive Jinn, this is not the fairytale you remember…
I really enjoyed The Stolen Kingdom but was disappointed in The Jinni Key. Since were the first two books I had ever read from Bethany Atazadeh going into The Cursed Hunter– it could have gone either way…
I really liked it though. I think maybe I am a sucker for a Beauty and the Beast retellings, but I thought it was done well. I liked the characters and how Bethany changes the fairytales enough so that you can still recognize which one you are reading- you still don’t know exactly how it is going to happen.
One thing I also like about Bethany’s books are that they are manageable sizes. I know you are not supposed to judge a book by it’s cover- but sometimes I certainly judge books by the size. I appreciate that she can tell a good story, and a complete story, concisely because that isn’t something everyone does. I don’t finish feeling like I partially drowned in boring details or history.
And so far I have always come back for the next book in the series- and I certainly plan to finish out the series when the next book comes out in March!
Wow, it’s been a while since I’ve done one of these blog posts- or, okay any blog post at all. So just an update of what’s been going on: work. and I did NaNoWriMo- and won! And finished that draft. But this post isn’t on that story, or even NaNoWriMo (which stands for National Novel Writing Month, where in the month of November writers from all around the world try to write 50,000 words).
Anyways. But what else have I been up too?
Okay, so since it is December I am reading A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. I had never read before but I am very familiar with the story. The book is actually really good! I always expect classics so be boring (even though I a lot of the classics- if not all- that I’ve read have been good… I guess I need to read a few more and maybe my subconscious will be convince XD)
But just before I started reading A Christmas Carol I started reading Brand of Light by Ronie Kendig. I think it came out last year? And last year for NaNoWriMo I wrote a space story- which I still need to finish but I got really stuck. Anyways, not the point. I wrote a space story, and so when I heard about Brand of Light I really wanted to read it. I think I have only read first chapter or so as of right now so I can’t really give you a good summary on if I like it or not.
Recently I started rewatching Monk which I feel like is a good classic, one of my favorites. I feel like they should make a Monk 2020 movie… Monk vs. The Corona Virus Killer. And the killer kills people who don’t wear masks or who survived the corona virus or something? I don’t know, but Monk would still solve the murder.
Okay, so I just (literally just before I started writing this blog post) finished my NaNo project. And I am torn between writing another similar story or if I should go back and finish writing last years NaNo project- because I do love it I just got stuck.
But also I have this other project I have been trying to edit- and I took a break for NaNoWriMo. Maybe I should edit it some more and than start writing again…
Okay so this is kind of random but I also (occasionally) crochet things. And one time I went to Hobby Lobby with my mom and they had SO MUCH yarn on sale so I bought it like a crazy old woman (physically I may be young but… I kind of have old lady tendencies. Crocheting/knitting/sleeping/drinking tea, AND I’m thinking about getting a cat? I don’t mind though.)
Anyways. I keep getting distracted.
When I bought the yarn I got several of the same colors so I started making a crocheted poncho which I am excited to finish. All that build up for that. A poncho. I’m making a poncho. XD
Adventures in Odyssey.
It’s a classic. You can’t outgrow it. I love it.
Bernard Walton is a grumpy old man, and for some reason I think I get along well with grumpy old men? I used to work with someone I referred to as my ‘work grampa’ and he pretended to be a grumpy old man. But we got along great- he was one of my favorite coworkers. My dad pretends to be a grumpy old man, but we get along great. My brother in law pretends to be a grumpy (I guess he isn’t THAT old) man- and okay, we fight all the time but I think that that is how he shows he cares, so I’m taking it.
All that to say Bernard Walton is one of my favorite characters…
Today I’m happy to be hosting author Sara Francis (you may recognize her name- she also did a post for Inkling to Write last month). I’m excited to help her celebrate the release of the third book in her trilogy! (I think that is so cool, and definitely something to celebrate!
It was an accident. No joke. I actually started out as a songwriter and a poet until one day my friend and I were making up stories as kids. I fell in love with one that we were working on and I told her, “I’m going to write a book”. Part of me thought I wasn’t serious until I sat down with my laptop and did it. Now here I am, seven years later with a complete Sci-Fy/Dystopian trilogy, my own indie business, and more books on the way!
Which of your books was the most challenging to write?
The first one, definitely. When I was first starting out, I had NO IDEA what I was doing. I was all over the place, my descriptions were lengthy and weird, and you could trip and break something in all those plot holes. On top of it all, the book was initially a stand-alone until one character decided to mess everything up. His intervention gave birth to something new, and I couldn’t be more grateful! After 16 revisions and a lot of sleepless nights, book 1 “The Isles” of The Terra Testimonies trilogy was born!
What made you want to pursue self publishing?
My books’ messages. What each book stands for is the reason I had to self-publish. The main-stream media and publishing houses may warp the true intentions of the books. Each book has an important theme: book 1 (The Isles) is “Seek Truth”, book 2 (The Mainland) is “Have Hope”, and book 3 (The Underground) is “Stay Strong”. Believe it or not, these beautiful, encouraging, and truthful messages may be manipulated by a traditional publisher. So in order to protect the gripping story and its important themes, I chose to go the tough route and publish it on my own.
Do you have a number one tip you would recommend to someone who wants to self publish?
Be inspired, not intimidated. There are some self-published authors who are almost as successful as traditionally published while others are just scraping to get by. This can be unsettling, but never ever feel intimidated by others’ success. You should evaluate their work, admire it, and then be motivated to get yours to the best it can be. Make sure to do your research, build up a community, and stay strong in all your endeavors!
Do you have a favorite inspirational writing quote?
“You can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page!” – Jodi Picoult. This should drive you to just get words on the page and worry about the rest later! Write write write!
Do you have any tips specific to writing a series?
Make an outline, create a character list, and have a general idea of the ending as you write the beginning. Sometimes a series can be difficult to keep track of and tie back together. Be as organized as you can with your characters, plots, and how you want the story to unfold. If things change, that’s okay! That’s what happens with writing. But being as organized and together as possible makes the rest of the project much easier.
How do you stay inspired to stay with one project?
I listen to music and daydream. There is something about becoming engrossed in the story within my own mind that drives me to push forward. With my SciFi/Dystopian books, there are many intense and action filled scenes. As I listen to a rock song or something cinematic, I can envision the characters and the story in a more dramatic and engrossing way. We as writers have a wild imagination, and for me, music gets the creative juices flowing!
What is your favorite thing about being a writer?
Creating a universe is one of the many privileges of the writer. Think about it. How cool is it that an idea stuck in my head can be brought to life by simply putting symbols down on paper! If I write the sentence “Pressing the warm mug to his lips, Joshua breathed in the nutty aroma of his coffee” you can SEE JOSHUA DRINKING COFFEE. You can smell his delicious morning brew. How amazing is that? We humans are incredible creatures. The mind can create a universe out of 26 letters. As a writer, I am honored to share my universe with the world.
Which of your books was the most challenging to publish?
*chuckles nervously* All of them? So, this is a tricky question because each one had its pros and cons. However, definitely book 1 “The Isles” was the most difficult to publish. I had no idea what I was doing. Book2 “The Mainland” went a little more smoothly, but I still hit some bumps. However, these difficulties paved the way for “The Underground”’s publication! I learned from every mistake; from every hiccup. I took everything I learned and put it into practice. While book 3 “The Underground” had a few bumps in setup, the actual launch date went smoothly!
Can you share anything about your next project?
Ready for the secrets? I have not shared this with anyone online. I have many upcoming projects, but I will share about two (because I haven’t decided which to prioritize yet). While both are vastly different from each other and my completed Sci-Fi/Dystopian trilogy (The Terra Testimonies), they all will have ONE SECRET element that ties them together. And so, the reveal of the codenames for my next two books: PROJECT DEATH – a snowy dark fantasy focusing on the story of a certain someone (hint: he is in my Instagram stories frequently being sarcastic) PROJECT SHADOWS – a Supernatural Fantasy about a man who sees what the rest of the world cannot
Ooh, that was a fun interview- I especially love to hear about secret projects!
Sometimes you have a bit of time and want to work on your book, but you don’t have enough time to pull out your laptop. Or maybe you’ve lost inspiration and don’t know where your current draft is headed. Here are a few ideas for when you don’t have much time, are on the go, or have a case of writer’s block.
Read, read, read.
An easy and fun way to improve your writing is to read! Read books in your genre to get to know what readers like and what’s become cliche. Read books outside of your genre to broaden your horizons. Read books about writing (or blog posts).
The more places you go, the more things you do, and the more people you meet the more you’ll be inspired! How can you write a realistic book if you hide in your room all day with just your cup of coffee, and a cat? Socializing counts as ‘book research’. Just don’t tell your non-writer friends because that might creep them out.
Keep track of things that happen while living life. You can always look back for inspiration! While writing Dawn Chandler, I read my journal from when I was twelve years old. It helped me remember how twelve year olds think and what’s important to them.
Make a Pinterest Board.
I actually haven’t done a ton of this, but it’s always fun and inspiring to look for pictures that fit my stories. Just make sure you don’t get stuck on Pinterest and only make storyboards haha
Curate a playlist.
It’s always fun to find songs that remind you of your story in some way or another. You just might find inspiration from some new tunes!
I hope these were fun and helpful ideas! I wish you all the best on your writing journey ❤
Eliza Noel is a home school graduate with passion for Jesus, people, and literature. Growing up, her favorite books were always Nancy Drew, Anne of Green Gables, and Pride and Prejudice. Around age twelve she wanted to read something with positive values in a modern setting, but couldn’t find what she was looking for. So she wrote it. The result was a Christian middle grade book called Dawn Chandler. You can find it on Amazon and the sequel will be released in the next few months.
When Eliza’s not doing something book-related (reading, writing, blogging, bookstagramming), she works at her day job, spends time with her many younger siblings, longboards, has coffee with friends, eats chocolate, and listens to music. California is home, but she would like to travel more and feels she could learn to be content anywhere.
Follow @elizanoelauthor on social media or visit elizanoelauthor.blogspot.com for writing updates and more!
Dawn Chandler likes the way her life is— or was. She liked going to the mall with her best friend, excelling at middle school, and attending church with her family. Typical life for a twelve-year-old in the city of Fresno. When Dawn’s parents announced they were going to homeschool her, on her birthday no less, she felt like her world was falling apart. Normal kids are supposed to go to school, not read books at home. To make matters worse, they may be leaving the only home she’s ever known. What are her parents thinking? Before making the final moving decision, the Chandler family visits Lone Pine, a small town between Mt. Whitney and Death Valley. While there, Dawn and her siblings become acquainted with their eccentric great uncle, explore the new area, and meet a large homeschooling family. All of this makes the ‘vacation’ more bearable. Still, Dawn isn’t sure if she can make the move and leave everything she’s familiar with behind. Can Dawn learn the values of faith, family, and contentment?
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At long last, you’ve written those two glorious words at the end of your manuscript *cue Glee-inspired jazz hands*. You then went back through your already gorgeous prose and rewrote the majority of it, except for that one heavenly-inspired chapter. No sentence has been left unscathed by your Find and Replace tool and your ellipses are finally under control. Phew! You have read your story aloud, had alpha, beta and momma readers, and crafted the perfect query letter. #MSWL, Query shark, and Twitter have become your new best friends as you subtly cyber-stalked every possible agent and editor within your genre. And now, after years of productive movement forward, you enter into the so-called trenches. To lie stagnant. And wait?
Welcome to what could feel like the longest wait of your life. But not for you my Inkling friends.
Whether this is the first novel you’ve bravely set out to share with the world, or your fourteenth, there is no magical formula that can explain the how’s and why’s of the publishing waiting game. This industry just moves slowly. Like molasses-in-Canada slow. So, rather than falling into a slump (or trench) while you wait, I’ve got some better ways to avoid email-refresh-itis and wallowing over possible form letters of passing (I refuse to use the “R” word).
Here are five ways you can turn your query trench into a more positively situated query treehouse:
Fill your creative well: This is a great time to read, read and read some more, because the best writers are voracious readers, right? It’s part of your job! So, indulge in stories both from within your genre, particularly for books that may make great comparative titles (those with similar themes written within the last five years) and for books that inspire your own writing craft. I like to also include books that have been best-sellers in the past year, and those that have won literary awards
Look to the future: If your query letter is successful, agents and editors will request, in short order I might add, for a full proposal. What is that you might ask? Think of it as your summary and sales presentation for your book. You will need things like that dreaded synopsis, back cover copy, a marketing plan, comparative titles, and a tag line. Check out Jane Friedman’s (https://www.janefriedman.com/start-here-how-to-write-a-book-proposal/) or Steve Laube Agency’s blog (https://stevelaube.com/guidelines/) (for some excellent advice on how to write a proposal that will win over publication boards.
Find your Tribe: Scan the other treehouses in your genre for authors and readers who you would love to build relationships with. Writing is not a solitary pursuit, and if you haven’t already realized this, now is the time to open your eyes to the massive community that can’t wait to rally around you! Try looking under hashtags like #writingcommunity #yawriters #mgfantasy #bookstagram. Once you find your new bookish friends, support them with all your heart. Share their posts, participate in their cover reveals and launch parties and read and review their books! It will show that you’re not only interested in your genre, but that you are invested in your little corner of the bibliophile universe.
Climb even higher in that tree: While you’re waiting on this story to find it’s perfect home, practice and improve on your craft by attending writing conferences, picking up a craft book or two, and then yes, writing that next story! If diving right into another novel length project is too daunting, try crafting short stories that could act as a lead magnet on that website you’ll need to create once you get a contract.
Be okay with tumbles: Part of putting yourself out there, is knowing that this brave step will only lead to improvement. Take on a growth mindset. If you receive a no from an agent or publisher, take any feedback they give you and use it to make your query and writing stronger. If the no’s pile up, find other areas in your life that are yes’s. Make a practice of seeing your daily blessings. Get a pretty journal and write down one thing that you are grateful for each and every day.
Guys, I am currently putting these exact things into practice within my own treehouse. The wait is long and sometimes difficult, but no matter the outcome, I will be ready and revived. I’d love to connect across treehouses through virtual tin-can telephones @tara.k.ross on Instagram and @tara_k_ross on Twitter. I also just started a weekly gratitude challenge on Instagram using writing prompts, and I’d love for you to join me. We can wait with a fabulous view of today, tomorrow and the really not-so-distant future together.
Tara K. Ross lives with her husband, two daughters and rescued fur-baby in a field of cookie-cutter homes near Toronto, Canada. When Tara is not writing or reading all things young adult fiction, you can find her rock climbing the Ontario escarpment, planning her family’s next jungle trek or podcasting and blogging at www.tarakross.com. FADE TO WHITE is her debut novel.
Thea Fenton’s life looks picture-perfect, but inside, she is falling apart. Wracked by anxiety no one seems to understand or care about, she resorts to self-harm to deflect the pain inside.
When a local teen commits suicide, Thea’s anxiety skyrockets. Unexplainable things happen, leaving her feeling trapped within her own chaotic mind. The lines between reality and another world start to blur, and her previously mundane issues seem more daunting and insurmountable than ever.
Then she meets Khi, a mysterious new boy from the coffee shop who seems to know her better than she knows herself—and doesn’t think she’s crazy. His quiet confidence and unfounded familiarity draw her into an unconventional friendship.
Khi journeys with her through grief, fear, and confusion to arrive at compassion for the one person Thea never thought she could love.
A deeply transformational novel from an authentic new voice in Christian young adult fiction.
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As a freelance editor for the past few years, I’ve seen enough manuscripts to identify several key areas where most writers make some mistakes. By making you aware of them, my hope today is to empower you to avoid some of these from now on!
Things You Need to Get Right
These are the true rule-breaker issues that 99% of grammar-savvy people will agree can’t be changed up for personal taste. If these aren’t right in your final draft, chances are they’re wrong.
Comma splices – in short, a comma should never join two complete sentences.
Dialogue tags – when you insert any action or description into dialogue, watch out for where the periods, commas, quotation marks, and capitalization end up!
Plural possessives – this is knowing when to use Chandler’s (one person) vs Chandlers’ (multiple people) and “Abi and Madison’s house” (joint possession) vs “Abi’s and Madison’s houses” (distinct possession).
Things People Fight Over
Then there are the subjective things that people can’t agree on how they should be done. If you’re traditionally publishing, your publisher probably has a preference for you to follow. If you’re self-publishing, the key here is to decide what you prefer and then be consistent.
Punctuation spacing – particularly around ellipses (…) and em-dashes (—)
Optional spellings – all right vs alright; ’til vs til; book reader vs book-reader
British vs American standards – quotation mark punctuation (“”, vs “,”) and spelling of words like grey/gray and theatre/theater
Oxford comma – a comma before “and” in a series of items
Things Everyone Misses
There’s nothing more frustrating as a reader and satisfying as an editor than spotting an error in a final version of a traditionally published book. But, hey, errors happen to everyone. Here are a few I’ve spotted in the wild more than once.
Double spaces – do a “find and replace” search to replace all double spaces with single spaces and voila.
Quotation mark formatting – there’s the softer, curved quotation marks that change from font to font (“”) and the more rigid, straight quotation marks (“”) that are usually a result of no formatting whatsoever. Keep your eye peeled for those harsher, unformatted quotation marks (both single and double) and eliminate them if you can!
Separated em-dashes – these (–) should be joined as a single unit (—)
Separated ellipses – these (…) should be a single unit so they stay together and not three individual periods. Good luck getting your computer to help you with this!
Ending punctuation – watch out for missing punctuation at the end of a sentence as well as combos that shouldn’t exist like a comma and a period.
Apostrophe direction – I feel like no one knows this (including computers), but when you’re using a word like ’til or ’cause, the apostrophe should point toward the missing letters just like they do in the word can’t.
Things that Relate to the Craft
There’s comma placement and then there’s storytelling. As Jeff Gerke once said, “The avoidance of error is not the same as the achievement of art.” Do a little research on these topics to make sure you understand them. But because they eventually come down to personal preference, don’t just do them well—do them creatively.
Showing vs telling – there’s a time and place for both and you get to find your own balance, but the goal is to make sure the reader feels like they’re being shown things through the storytelling, not told things by the author.
Point of view (POV) – if the character doesn’t experience it or have knowledge of it, then neither should the reader. Change scenes before changing which character’s head you’re in.
Repetition – do be repetitive—consistent—in your formatting and spelling. Don’t be repetitive in your word choices and sentence length or else things can get disengaging.
Active voice vs passive voice – this comes down to your prose being as strong and decisive as possible.
Thought-speech – writing out characters’ thoughts is optional, but it adds so much if you find a way that you like to do it.
Things That’ll Help
Some resources I’ve found helpful in these areas (and way, way more) are the books The Elements of Style and Self-Editing for Fiction Writers. No matter what weak spots resonate with you, these will fill the gaps! And when you’re trying to better understand the nitty-gritty grammatical conundrums that make up the English language, try https://www.quickanddirtytips.com/grammar-girlfor great explanations with examples.
Let me know: what grammatical and/or storytelling resources do you recommend?
Abigayle has been a writer ever since her mother taught her how to hold a pencil. However, she devoted more time to reading words with her green eyes than penning them with her left hand. Inspired by a crazy dream at the age of sixteen, she set off on a journey to self-publish her first novel, Martin Hospitality.
Since then, Abigayle has devoted herself to sharing what she has learned through the mediums of freelance editing and her blog The Left-Handed Typist … when period drama films are not calling more loudly. Now she is committed to providing a community where real-world stories resound and prose has purpose.
None of her successes, including winning a 2017 Readers’ Favorite Award, would be possible without the support of her Savior, large family, and online community.
Gemma Ebworthy is a struggling single mother—but not for much longer. Engaged to a kind-hearted farmer boy, her turbulent life is looking more stable at last, but troubles are still on the horizon. It seems their efforts to build a legacy for their unique family are constantly under siege. Farris cherishes the only life he’s ever known, even though he feels more called to the mission field than his adoptive father’s fields. Growing up among extended family and in the Christian faith, he’s always had a firm foundation. Yet when the past Gemma is so ashamed of—the one Farris can’t even remember—comes calling again, the life they’ve built is put to the test. For it to remain standing, Gemma is going to have to silence her demons once and for all. But this time, she’s not alone.