Good Isn’t Good Enough

I’ve been telling stories since before I knew how to write. I taught myself how to type when I was five just so I could write out my stories. Writing is in my blood, and it probably is for a lot of you.

Then you’ve probably also been told many times throughout your life that you’re a good writer. It becomes a title almost synonymous with your name. Teachers, peers, relatives told me all through growing up that I was a good writer. Which at the time was great. It encouraged me to write more, to push myself further. 

And then somehow, it just stopped. I plateaued. I reached a point, around high school, where I was a really good writer. I’d written books, had my own style and voice, had a system. 

I was good. And that was enough. 

I stayed that way for years. It wasn’t until I finally ventured into the writing community that I got a rude awakening. Suddenly, I wasn’t the only good writer in the room, I was surrounded by them.


At first, I was intimidated, insecure, disheartened. What now? Surely I had no hope against countless other writers just as good as I was. 

It took me a while to learn and truly understand the answer, but I’m so glad I did. Over time, I stopped seeing the community as competition and started seeing it as just that–a community. A support group, a panel of advisors, a limitless encyclopedia, a family.

I learned more in a few months with the writing community than I learned in an entire lifetime of writing on my own. Good wasn’t good enough anymore. So I had to be better. 

Writers are a bit infamous for how hard we are on ourselves. But honestly, I think that’s what changes us from good to great. If you don’t ever think you’re good enough, you will constantly be working towards better.

If you want to be a successful writer, never stop learning. Have your writing critiqued as much as you can. Learn from those wiser and more experienced than you. Read. Write. Read again. Write more. Push yourself as much and as far as you can. Humble yourself. Learn. Grow.

Don’t ever be okay with being a good writer. Because good isn’t good enough. 

Writing as a Superpower

Superhero movies are everywhere right now. Spiderman, Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, you name it. I mean, who wouldn’t want to watch stories about often ordinary people becoming larger than life and saving the world? They capture our inner child, and the part in every one of us that wants to be a part of something bigger than ourselves.

Which superpower would you want to have? Flying, super strength, x-ray vision? I’ve always thought that flying would be the best superpower. I could go anywhere I wanted in the world, anytime. Not to mention I’d never have to deal with traffic again.

But while those are all great superpowers and would be so super cool to have, I think we have a pretty great superpower of our own.

Writing.

How could writing be a superpower? You couldn’t stand in Godzilla’s path of destruction, hold up your pen, and command him to stop. Well, you could but you’d just end up a little human bug squashed on the bottom of his foot. You couldn’t do much of anything in a big screen superhero world except be one of the many citizens running for their lives.

But off the big screen, in our real world, writing has a lot of power. A lot more than we realize, sometimes. I bet every one of us can name the book or author who sparked our love for words, or who inspired us to change in some other way. For me, it was Tamora Pierce. I’d always loved reading, but her books started a fire in me that I couldn’t put out, and haven’t been able to, to this day. Not only did she inspire me to write, but she taught me so much about myself and life at a time when I was so young and trying to figure everything out.

Writing has the power to change lives. Books can inspire a new generation of writers. They can shape or even redefine someone’s perception of themselves, or the world. Books can open eyes, and call people to action to change the wrong in our world.

I’ve heard countless stories and have friends who say that books saved their lives. I myself am one of them. You can read my full story here, but writing is what got me through my illness, and through the absolute darkest moments of my life. Writing was that one beam of light, when everything seemed hopeless. It has given me strength, motivation, and hope.

Sometimes I am just so amazed at the power books can have to truly change lives. Isn’t it beautiful, how words and stories are one of the few things that can affect us all, no matter age, race, country, or language? And by affecting all of us, they bring us together, unite us, in a way that nothing else can? Stories are the world’s most powerful tools.

By changing each of these lives, by affecting us and uniting us, writing has the power to change the world.

Just look at the Hunger Games series. While they are undeniably brilliant, I doubt that Suzanne Collins expected to create real-world impact when she wrote those books. Real-life protesters in Thailand adopted the three-finger salute to challenge a military coup in their country. I got chills seeing some of the images from those protests. And very recently, the Ferguson protests, which happened to be the same week as the Mockingjay release, I kept thinking of the movie when watching news coverage. Katniss’ words to Snow replayed in my mind: “If we burn, you burn with us.” And then, those exact words appeared tagged on a wall during the protests.

This is one of the many things I love about books. There really is nothing else that can have so much power. But this is also something we have to consider as writers, the same way superheroes have to consider how to use their powers. How will we use writing for good? How will we use it to change lives, or even the world?

Your writing doesn’t have to be epic or grand, with some sort of deep, lasting, philosophical message. Even if your writing is just a scary story for a thrill, or a love story, or just for fun, your writing will still influence someone. You have the power to change a life, even if it’s as seemingly simple as falling for a new genre, or learning about relationships and love, or finding a passion for writing. Because if every single one of us changes just one life, together we have changed the world.

So writers, assemble! The word signal is lit, our writing senses are tingling, and it’s time to save the world, one word at a time 🙂

TBAS Snapshot

Hey all! With the semester almost over and the holidays coming up, things have been a little crazy but I’ve still managed to get some editing in. If you hadn’t heard, I finished my WIP Nightfire! You can read my post all about that here. But I know that y’all have liked the snapshot posts, so I thought I would continue them as I dip my toe into the editing phase, and eventually get into major revisions where I’ll be picking apart my beautiful shiny MS completely.

I created To Build A Story to take you through the writing process and journey with me–which doesn’t stop when I’ve finished the first draft. I’ve changed up the snapshot a little bit so I can give you a better look into my editing process.

Title: Nightfire

Current word count: 67,505

Words written this week: 500

Words cut this week: about 100

What I’m working on: My first full read through of the story start to finish, with some light edits and tweaks. I’m actually surprised by how well it turned out. I expected I would have to destroy most of it since it is only the first draft. But I think that the beginning is very strong, though it does start to change around the middle, with the parts I wrote for CampNaNo. They’re not awful, but they’re not entirely working, though I need to figure out exactly where I want them to go before I try to fix them. I also finally divided (most of it) into chapters! So at least there is some sort of organization and logic now.

Favorite lines: 

In this ever-shifting world, only two things are sure. Tangible, unchanging.

The breath in my lungs, and the drumbeat in my chest.

I sit crouched in my vantage point, my muscles stiff with cold yet poised to strike, an arrow notched in my bow. My breath crystallizes as it meets the frigid night air, swirling clouds from my lips. Here in this austere silence, instinct pulses through my veins and my humanity falls away.

I am a predator, born to kill.

Goal for next week: I’m a little over halfway through, and I hope to have finished this read-through by then!

Crossing the Finish Line

I apologize for the lack of posts this week, but I have a good reason: my sister is having a baby! By the end of this weekend, I am going to be an aunt, and I couldn’t be happier 🙂 So life has been a little crazy in between classes, social life, and getting ready for the new addition to our family. But I have some big news for you all today!

Despite the craziness, I was struck with a few good sessions of manic inspiration, and I finally did it.

I finished Nightfire! 

It has officially gone from a WIP to an MS, with a final word count of 67,154. I can’t even begin to explain the feels I have right now. I was crying while writing the final scenes, which I hope is a good sign (or maybe just means I have issues). I feel very strongly about this manuscript. I think it has a lot of promise and could be my best yet. Though it is still very raw, I can’t wait to share it with y’all, and I am so looking forward to all of the plans I have for it and the rest of the series.

Writing Nightfire has been a whirlwind. I started in the end of June this year, wrote 20,000 in July for CampNaNo, then took three months to write the next 20,000, and by November, five months later, I’m finished. It has by no means been a smooth ride–which if you have been following me, you are well aware of. (If not, you can check out my posts tagged either To Build A Story or CampNaNo). But everything is so worth it in this moment. Because though it is still raw and imperfect, I have a shiny, new, beautiful manuscript.

I’ve been enjoying it as much as I can, as long as I can. I read almost half of it in one sitting, cozied up in a blanket fort with a cup of coffee and my dog curled up beside me. At this moment in time, no one else has read this story, known this world, fallen in love with these characters, but me. I love that. And I love everything about this story, even in all its imperfect glory.

Though it’s not the first time I’ve fallen in love with a story, I am still head over heels for this one, and I never want it to go away. I know it will, when I get deep into the edits and start picking it apart into pieces and have stared at it until I want to gouge my eyes out with a spoon. That day will come, but it is not this day. This day is for cuddling my fresh, pink little baby and shielding it from the world as long as I can.

Five months is by far the shortest time I have ever taken to complete a novel. I have learned so much about myself in this process, and grown so much as a writer. This is the first time I have written a novel while connected to the online writing community, and it is a completely different experience.

There are both positives and negatives to this. On one hand, I had to consider others’ opinions and the context of publishing, which I’ve never really had while writing before. On the other, I have never had such amazing support through both the highs and lows. I’ve had all the wisdom and advice of the entire blog and Twitter-verses combined, right at my fingertips. Needed a word? No problem. Advice on a scene? Got it. Without word sprints and words of encouragements from my fellow bloggers and Twitter peeps, Nightfire would not have happened. Well, it would have, but most certainly not in five months. With everything that has been going in my life lately, I doubt I would have finished in a year, or maybe even at all.

So as much as this is a moment for me to feel proud and accomplished, you all should too. Without you, I couldn’t have done this.

In a way, we all wrote Nightfire together. And one day, when it is on the shelves, you’ll be able to pick it up and say, “I helped make this.”

We did it.


I had planned to do another snapshot post for y’all, but I had most definitely not planned to finish before I could. So I thought I would leave y’all with a final snapshot in this post, and maybe do some more as I begin the editing process.

Title: Nightfire

Current word count: 67,154

Words written this week: 3935

What I’m working on: I finished that pesky battle scene, wrote a transitional romantic scene that was so perfect for these characters, and wrote the climax and resolution. I really surprised myself, and I love how everything turned out. I pushed Kera and the others to their brink, and farther. And I ended with a little bit of mystery that alludes to events in the next book, which I am so excited to explore.

Favorite lines: 

His words fall on the austere silence, with only me and the black stalks of the trees as witness. I look up, searching his face. The raw, unnamable pain rooted in my chest is mirrored in his features. “I am sorry,” I breathe.

“I promised him that I would find a way to bring him back. But every year I get older, and he gets older, just rotting in that tank, waiting. And I’m no closer to finding a cure than I was six years ago.” Torren’s voice catches and he clamps his jaw shut, his temple trembling.

“I know the feeling,” I say.

Our eyes meet, and something unspoken intertwines us, binding us through this shared, unnamable ache. We have both known joy and the desolation that comes with having it taken away. Grief deeper than words can touch, lodged beneath our hearts like parasites.

Words left to write: Zero! *throws confetti*

Why I Said No To Nano

NaNoWriMo is not for the faint of heart.

I had always heard stories, but finally got a taste of it myself when I participated in CampNaNo this July. Though I only had a goal of 20,000 instead of the standard 50,000, I learned a lot about the process–and myself.

CampNaNo was a great experience. My favorite part was by far the community. I made new connections, and became closer with some I already knew. The support was amazing from my fellow writers, both those participating and those not. I also challenged myself, and I made my goal even though I didn’t think I could.

So, if CampNaNo was great, why didn’t I join NaNoWriMo this year?

I’ve been telling people that November is too busy in the semester for me to possibly do it. Which is true, but it is not my only reason for not participating.

While CampNaNo was a great experience, and I learned about myself, I also learned that I do not work well in that setting. Yes, I met my goal, and yes I got the words out, but it was painful. And when they were out, they were awful. Those awful words sent me into a battle with my writing, that lasted three months after CampNaNo. After writing 20,000 words in one month, it took me three months to write the next 20,000. Not only was I burnt out, but I lost my way, and struggled because I didn’t know how to fix what I had written, or where to go from there.

I love the concept of NaNoWriMo. I love the community and the challenge. But even if it is possible to do it, should you? I learned that yes, it was possible for me to do–but maybe I shouldn’t, because in the long run, it hurt my writing more than it helped me.

NaNoWriMo is awesome, and I’m cheering on all of you crazy brave enough to do it this year. But just know that it’s not for everyone, and it’s okay if it’s not right for you. That doesn’t mean you’re chicken, or any less of a writer than people who do NaNo.

Some people can churn out 5k+ words a day, and write for hours on end. Not all of us are like that. If you’re like me, you can go days without writing, then write two chapters all at once. Or write a few days in a row, but only get a couple paragraphs down. You might not have the luxury of being able to write for hours a day in order to meet that word count, or maybe you just don’t want to. Maybe that’s not how you work as a writer, and that’s okay.

If you’re participating in NaNo, you should get a medal. But if you’re not, be proud of your choice. We Non-Nanos have to stick together, and cheer our friends who are running  the NaNo marathon on. Because at the end of the day, NaNo or not, we’re all writers, and we’re all on the same team.

Good luck, and keep writing!

Why You Shouldn’t Be Writing

We are constantly told: “You should be writing.” Especially from our fellow writer friends. It’s meant as a sort of tough love encouragement, a call to action, or push to get us going. Which is great, if the only thing stopping you is your own procrastination, or the ever-present self-doubt.

But sometimes, all this does is add to guilt us writers already struggle with every day. Every free moment we get, a little voice in our head is taunting, “You can’t relax. You’re being lazy. You should be writing.”

I’m here to tell you that little voice is wrong.

As far as little voices go, they’re usually wrong, and it’s a good idea not to listen to them anyways. But that one I am sure you are familiar with that constantly nags at the back of your mind with guilt the longer you go between words, is hard not to listen to. Especially when our fellow comrades in writing are saying the same thing.

Yes, sometimes we just need a little push. But sometimes, there is more than that going on. Maybe you’re a parent (a full-time job) or have a full-time job (maybe both). Maybe when you get home you’re just so exhausted you can’t stand, or mentally drained, and all you want to do is veg out on the couch and watch some brain-numbing TV. Or if you’re like me, a full-time student with so much going on, it feels like you’re just trying to keep your head above water most of the time.

When I’ve finished studying for hours, or come home from a four hour lecture, the last thing I want to do is sit down and force out some words with brain power that I don’t have left. I’d much rather binge watch Once Upon A Time until I pass out and have dreams of Captain Hook (it’s happened, no judgement), or spend some quality time with boyfriend, or have an old-fashioned girls night, or I don’t know, sleep for the first time in a week.

We are writers. The words are a part of us, and they always will be. That doesn’t mean that the longer we go without writing, we become lesser writers. Yes, we are writers, but we are also human beings. With lives, and families, and responsibilities, and memories to be made.

Let yourself off the hook.

I know this can be hard for us writers, but seriously. If you need me to give you permission: You shouldn’t be writing right now. You have absolutely nothing hanging over your head, pressing at the back of your mind. You shouldn’t feel guilty. Go outside, read a book, spend time with your family, go out, take a nap. There are a hundred other things you can and should be doing instead of feeling guilty for not writing.

Again, we are writers but we are also humans. You do not stop being a writer if you’re not writing, or if you don’t think of writing every hour every day. The words will always be there. Go out and live your life, enjoy it. Maybe you’ll even get inspiration out of it, or come up with the next great American novel.

Trust me, letting go of that guilt feels amazing. When I stopped listening to that little voice, it felt like being freed from shackles.

So the next time you feel that familiar, gnawing guilt in the pit of your stomach, and hear that voice in the back of your mind, saying “You should be writing”?

Kindly tell him to leave you the hell alone.

Breaking Writer’s Block

We’ve all been there. Staring at the blank page, that stupid blinking cursor, taunting us. We search for inspiration–from earlier scenes, from coffee, from the ceiling, but alas there are no words to be had. Writer’s block has set in like a guest who has decided to stay much past their welcome.

Writer’s block is something we’ve all dealt with, myself included. Lately, I’ve been struggling with a lack of words. Mostly, because I haven’t had time or energy to sit and write. But the few times I have, the words were nowhere to be found. Anything I did manage to eek out, was plain awful. Had I suddenly forgotten how to write? In the past couple weeks, had I somehow become a terrible writer?

Some people say writer’s block doesn’t exist. I think it absolutely does–but only in our own minds. We really are our own worst enemies when it comes to writing. I think writer’s block can come from all different places (busy lives, lack of energy, no motivation), but tends to stem from an unconscious fear that what we write won’t be good enough. The idea that writer’s block is a lack of inspiration is slightly ridiculous, because if we always waited to write until we were inspired, we wouldn’t get much of anything done at all.

But for me, writer’s block is absolutely real. It can happen to the best of us, and strike without warning. These are some things I’ve found to help with my own writer’s block:

1. Read. Read. Read.

Even when I don’t feel like writing, it still feels good to spend time among words. Reading doesn’t always make me want to write afterward, and it doesn’t always lead to words of my own, but reading is the fastest way to get me “in the mood”. Something about getting caught up in another world makes me want to be lost in my own. Even if it doesn’t, reading is always a great source for inspiration and learning as a writer.

2. Be Stubborn

This is something I’m good at, to a fault. If the words aren’t cooperating with me, I make them cooperate. I force them out, one by one, no matter how awful or boring they may be. Think of it as steering into the skid–face it head on, gun it, and the rest will right itself. For most times I’m stumped, this works. Usually it’s just a matter of getting past that stump, of breaking through the block. Once you break through, the words flow again. Sometimes, I find something beautiful by accident.

3. Get In The Mood

Bow-chicka-wow-ow. Whatever it is that gets you into that writing spot, do it. Light some candles. Play your favorite music. Make a really great cup of coffee. Sometimes it’s as easy as getting yourself in the “write” mentality (see what I did there?). Sit down, in your special writing place, with no distractions. Just you and the words. And wait for the magic to happen.

4. Quality Time

This can be one people forget about. The words may not be cooperating right now, but they were at some point (I hope so, at least). Go back to those and read through them. Spend time in your world, with your characters, and remember everything you love about your story. Maybe work on some edits, or something old will inspire you for something new. And even if I’m not writing anything new, spending time with my characters always makes my heart happy.

5. Let It Go

Really, writers need to do this more often. If I encounter writer’s block that I can’t overcome with any of my usual stubbornness, I let it go. That’s right, I let it go, let it goo (It’s stuck in your head now, isn’t it? Sorry not sorry). Don’t worry about it. The words will come. Sitting and stressing about it is only going to make it worse. Go do something else, set foot in the real world, enjoy this life. The words will be there when they are ready.