40 Reasons Why I Write

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Relatively recently, Bryan Hutchinson issued a challenge on his blog, Positive Writer – list 40 reasons why you write. You can see his answers here. When it came about, I was in the throws of Camp NaNoWriMo. As that is now complete, and I’m taking a small break from the novel so I can attack it again in July’s edition of Nano, I needed this challenge. It’s been difficult to stay motivated, because the hits just keep coming in both my personal and professional life. So, I’m going to take some time to remind myself why I write. I hope you find my answers either interesting or inspirational. Also, I am so incredibly late to this challenge.

  1. Writing keeps my brain busy. With my ADHD, my brain is always spinning anyway, so this gives it something to work on in the background.
  2. Stories haunt me, and I have to get them out.
  3. I have had a lot of trauma and strange events in my life, and I need an outlet.
  4. Sometimes, I like to live vicariously through my characters.
  5. Sometimes, I like to bury myself in my characters so I can forget life.
  6. My son looks up to me for creating whole stories all by myself, and there’s no beating that.
  7. Writing is a strong bond I share with my husband, as he is also an author.
  8. Writing is a strong bond I share with my sister-in-law. She is also an author.
  9. Writing has helped me make amazing friendships, some that are sure to be lifelong.
  10. I like how writing makes me feel, like I am weaving worlds from my imagination.
  11. The sense of accomplishment I feel when I finally get something right is amazing.
  12. Rewriting has taught me all about perseverance. Frustration, but perseverance.
  13. I like to read things I love over and over again, so this was probably a fitting career choice.
  14. I love to paint with words.
  15. I love to listen to music, and music always inspires me to paint with my words.
  16. Clever dialogue is all around me. What would I do if I didn’t jot some of it down and use it for my own benefit?
  17. My best friend has yoga. I have writing.
  18. The creative people on my journey with me are the best people.
  19. My characters tend to be stronger than I am. Or at least, than I was. These days, I seem to be taking a page from my own book. Writing has encouraged me to be stronger.
  20. I’ve had a lot of people tell me I won’t get anywhere in this business, or something is wrong with the core of a particular story, etc. I intend to prove them very wrong.
  21. When my anxiety disorder, my depression, my PTSD rears up, writing helps me cope.
  22. Because, as a woman, and as a woman with physical and mental health issues, my voice and my individual experiences deserve to be heard.
  23. I love reading so much, and I know how it feels to really connect with a character. I would love to be able to provide that for someone else.
  24. I’ve always loved playing with voice and word choice, seeing how different an outcome I can create just by finding a more exact bit of syntax.
  25. Writing often helps me to put feelings I’m dealing with into words, to tell truths through my characters that I can’t articulate properly in reality.
  26. I honestly don’t know what I would do with all the spare time I’d get if I didn’t write or plan to write.
  27. When I’m writing I can temporarily put off other, more important chores. But not the most important ones, of course. 😉
  28. I still believe in magic, and sometimes, writing feels like magic. Like when something inexplicably comes together, and it feels like destiny, that feels like magic. That is the rare moment where I become a believer.
  29. How else can I justify talking to the people who live in my brain?
  30. I’m stubborn and I’ve said I’m going to do it, so damn it, I’m going to do it.
  31. Some of the most fascinating people I’ve ever met write, so I hope some of that rubs off on me.
  32. Sometimes, I’m not all that adventurous, so I need an excuse to try new and interesting things. Research gives me that excuse.
  33. I was already a fact hoarder. This gives me a reason to hoard facts.
  34. I hate waste, and I feel like I have a lot of knowledge and random experiences that just kind of sit around in my brain and go to waste. I want to give them some use. Like my two years working at an ice cream shop. I’m using that in my latest book.
  35. There are tons of stories that I want to read, that I don’t find out there. I’ve always been a bit of a control freak. They say, if you want something done, do it yourself, right?
  36. I’m getting to a point where rejections mean almost nothing to me. I’m numb to rejection.
  37. Unless, they come with constructive criticism, at which point I am disappointed, but I have learned to love constructive criticism and view it as encouragement and help, rather than an insult. I think writing has helped to improve my personality in that way.
  38. I have also become able to tell the difference between constructive knowledgeable criticism and insults, being led astray, and jealous attacks designed to keep a person below them. That lesson has helped me in all areas of my life.
  39. I have a side gig as an editor, and I’ve always believed that, if you are going to manage people, you should be willing to get your hands dirty. If I won’t get my hands dirty with words, why should I tell other people to do so?
  40. I love to geek out. It’s my life’s mission to make other people geek out as much as I do.

So, there are my 40 reasons! Do you need to remind yourself why you love something? Share your reasons in the comments, and thank you for being one of the people I’ve encountered on this journey, the people I write for. Thank you for being one of my reasons. ❤

Graduation Lessons

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This child and his silly faces

“We want to be a part of it! First Grade! First Grade!”

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Slide Show Picture

As I listened to my son and his classmates sing their graduation song, having just finished the adorable slideshow the school had put together to celebrate, I was surprised to find tears in my eyes. I’m not usually the kind of person that cries over happy things. Besides, it’s just a Kindergarten Graduation, right? His diploma has crayons on it!

But it’s about thinking back to where we were when we started Kindergarten.

Our entire lives have changed since September 2014. Seeing those pictures, taken on the first day of school, I could remember who we were when we dropped him off. I can remember still crossing my fingers, waiting to hear back regarding my manuscript. I can remember Ismael struggling to complete his. Our novels hadn’t been picked up for publication, then. We were just people chasing a dream. And Logan was a big part of that dream.

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This little heartbreaker.

Logan, himself, was different. He couldn’t read more than a few words. The other day, he casually picked up a book and read it to himself. It was a breeze. At his birthday party, just before school started, Logan cried about losing a game that cost him a trophy at his own birthday party (I never would have given it to him anyway! That was for the other kids!). CRIED. Hysterically. But I watched him lose a few rounds into the class spelling bee, last week, with little more than a short sniffle. He cried on the third day of school, after seemingly tricking us into believing he was going to be okay with going. By the last day, he was racing in without me, intent on hanging with his friends. He had a hard time leaving his stuffed bear behind on the first day, and though I snuck said bear into the graduation in my purse to make him laugh, it doesn’t take much work at all to convince him to leave the bear home when we’re heading out for the day.

We speak more. I’ve always spoken to Logan, but I can think of dozens of real, somewhat deep conversations we’ve had over the last school year. Perhaps, the most touching of those conversations was the one we had with him the day my Grandmother passed away. But there were others, about friendship, about family. About the bad things we don’t want to think about. About his favorite things and how to handle a bully. About siblings, and planning and all of the things he wants to be. About history, and how to be a good citizen. About keeping the Earth clean, and about guppies and earthworms and snails. About trees and flowers and how they grow. About what it’s like to start to see your dreams come true and how much hard work something like that takes. All on the walk to school.

Getting his crayon diploma.
Getting his crayon diploma.

Watching the slideshow, I stared at the pictures of him from his orientation, and remembered when he was clinging to me, eyeing the application paperwork over my shoulder and asking me what every word meant. But then, I saw my big boy getting his crayon diploma. My first grader, who had come out of his first year older and wiser. And I teared up a bit.

The next day, when Logan asked me how much school he had left, and I told him about college, and an advanced education, he sighed. “I’m going to be in school forever!”

So, I asked, “Logan, what do you want to be when you grow up?”

“I want to be a scientist. And a writer. And a doctor. And an engineer. And a fixer. And a superhero,” he said, with all of the trademark excitement I expect from him.

“And you know, the best way to be any of those things?” I asked, mostly ignoring the superhero part, although there is more than one way to be a superhero. “Learn. Learn everything you can. Never stop learning.”

And as I said it, and he agreed, I realized how much more I have to learn, how much more I have to teach him.

I can’t wait to see where we go.

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Planner

When I was trying to get pregnant, I spent all day on the internet searching out daycares, researching the school district.  As I agonized over childcare for my future daughter (or so I thought), I was tense and frustrated.  One day, my friend asked me, right in the middle of a bout of panic, if I was pregnant yet.  I wasn’t.  “So why are you driving yourself crazy now?!” He asked, in a tone that seriously implied I was taking him with me.

The answer?  Because I always live ten steps ahead of now.  That probably wasn’t a reasonable response, though.

My husband, Ismael, isn’t a planner.  I once asked him where he saw himself in five years and he shrugged.  SHRUGGED!  Who does that?!  That’s ridiculous!  Except, in some ways, I envy him, because it has often made him the smarter of the two of us.

There are some things you just can’t plan.

When my son, Logan, was born, it was after thirty-six hours of labor and an emergency C-section – that I never planned.  I never planned on Logan having colic.  I never planned on not being able to breastfeed.  I never planned on postpartum depression.

I planned on the opposite of all of those things and so, when it came time to face facts, my world was completely shaken up.  If there was anything Logan did when he arrived it was crash through every preconceived notion I had.  Motherhood, for me, came with more pain than my complicated labor. I didn’t take well to it at first and my life constantly felt like a car speeding along on the freeway with faulty brakes.

Ismael, the non-planner, took to fatherhood with grace and dignity.  He was able to handle every curveball with a tired shrug, after which he plowed forward and went about the business of being the best, most active and involved father I’ve ever met.  No surprise was too great and though he was very stressed, he didn’t fall apart the way I did.  Because he didn’t plan.  He knew that having a baby was going to be a crazy time for us.  He knew there was no road map.  So he didn’t try to pave his own path through the wilderness.  He just waited to see what the road would look like and walked it once he’d gotten there.

That isn’t to say you shouldn’t plan at all.  It wasn’t like Ismael would have left the child without a crib or a nursery.  We were ready for Logan’s arrival and not all of that preparation was me. It’s one thing to draw a map in pencil and it’s another to draw it in permanent marker.

Allow me to put my permanent marker into my pocket so we can talk about this some more.  Guess which I do?

This concept applies to anything and I’m still trying to figure out how to apply it to the other aspects of my life.  But I guess when I boil it down to the simplest form it would have to be, don’t expect much.  Make a plan, but don’t expect that plan to be perfect and true at all times.  Expect it to mess up.  Expect to have to make a contingency plan.  You may not get that first book published.  You may not get that job you want.  You may not graduate when you want to.  You may have to change up your road map a bit along the way.

So, try to put away the permanent marker.  Try to learn the lesson that I learned from raising Logan: pencil, even washable marker, but never, NEVER a Sharpie.  You may need to change something and you’ll never get those Sharpie marks out of his clothes.  I promise you that.

I Have A Publishing Contract: Week 1

You may have noticed that last week, I made a little announcement. Okay, not a little announcement. A FREAKIN’ BIG ANNOUNCEMENT. The Order of the Key, my literary BABY, has been contracted for publication. The below is a stream of consciousness whackadoo commentary of my first week post-announcement. Hey, I promised you all I’d chronicle my writing journey. So…here goes.

Note: I’m neurotic.

Day 1: I made my announcement. Everyone was super excited for me, and I am too!  I have grabbed the elusive brass ring. I spent my day on the phone and internet chatting with people who wanted to know all about it and what comes next and I’m super excited to share. If there’s anything I have on this journey, it is a damn good support system. One of the people I talked to is my content editor. She told me that book 1 should be out in August and that she’d be sending me my first round of edits soon. Then she said this: “In the meantime, start Book 2.” And reality struck. I have always written on my own schedule. Now I’ll have to write on someone else’s. WELP.

Day 2: The Distinguished Press family is incredible. They are fun and a little weird and we have all kinds of private conversations at our private clubhouse and there is a lot of fun and silly jokes. I have entered a world where I can share my weird writer thoughts with the entire room and nobody gets twitchy, which is true pretty much only when I have a precious few friends in my presence.

Day 3: Returning to my day job made me realize something. I have a lot to do. The below is an actual transcript excerpt of a Google Hangout with one of my best friends, Allegra.

 

Me: Currently, I am:

1) Writing Book 2 of the Series
2) Writing a romantic comedy
3) Maintaining my blog
4) Contributing to another blog
5) Participating in a reading challenge
6) Beta-reading Ismael’s book
7) Beta-reading Louis’ book
8) Being a mommy
9) Being a wife
10) Being a person

Allegra: Don’t forget your day job.

Me: Ha! I totally did! I am currently laughing at myself, but it’s that hysterical, maniacal laughter that comes right before you have a breakdown.

 

That’s right – I’m writing two books at once because I never finished my NaNoWriMo project and I don’t want to take a break from it, because I feel like somewhere in the process of EDIT-WRITE-EDIT-WRITE for Keys & Guardians, I will lose the romantic comedy and never get it back. So I’m holding onto it until it is done. I have about 5 chapters left. But…yikes.

Day 4: Snowed in for a blizzard that turned out not to be such a big deal after all. Spent all afternoon writing Book 2 and discovered this thing isn’t as hard as I thought it would be. With six months away from Order, I assumed getting back in would be difficult. It is not. Chapter 1 DOWN.

Day 5: I have realized that people are going to read my book. Seems silly, doesn’t it? But it’s weird! Strange, completely random thoughts have started passing through my head. That gruesome death scene…the sex talk…

You probably have to know me personally to get this one, but I’m a very…smiley/sunshiney person. I seem very innocent and sweet when you meet me. I don’t like to disrupt this image because, frankly, it’s a nice way to be viewed, and that is a significant and true part of who I am. But…not always. This part of me, the darker side, the things that come out in these stories – putting them out on the page makes me feel…vulnerable, I guess?

So, there are some people who say, “I can’t wait to read your book!” And I say, “Yes, I really want you to.” And what I’m really saying is, “Yes, I really want you to and please don’t see me differently once you do.”

Because it’s all just fiction. JUST fiction. At least mostly.

Day 6: I have discovered that I am NOT good at explaining my book when people ask me about it. Okay, let’s be real. I already knew that from the Writer’s Conference adventure. I thought I would be better at this once I knew I was getting published, but when asked by my very excited boss-at-my-day-job what my book was about, I clammed up so badly that when I got to my desk, my buddies at work ribbed me for ten minutes. Here’s a hint. Starting your description of your book with, “Hee hee, it’s weird.” is probably not good. Do better next time, Justine. I am going to have to come up with a pre-packaged answer for this.

Day 7: I got to participate in my first writing event with Distinguished Press. It was a day long online party celebrating the January release of Mirror Reformed, the conclusion of K.G. Stutts’ Mirror Series and containing games, music, contests, and author spotlights. I even got to host an hour and discuss Order and the rest of the Keys & Guardians series. It was a great time and definitely got me feeling even more like a welcome part of this family. To check out the release party and learn more about the spotlight authors, click here.

All in all, it has been an amazing first week on this new journey. I can’t say I’m going to have something to write every week of this. Chances are, I’ll just be battening down the hatches and getting work done. But I can say that I intend to share this journey with you all. After all, what good is a writer without her readers?

Happy Writing!

Thanksgiving

Note to my readers: This blog is a little late.  That would be because I was suffering my last month with a computer that quit on me.  But I’m back now, with a working model, and a blog that was more timely two weeks ago.  Ah well…consider it the obligatory holiday post.

It’s that time of year!  The time where families try to put aside petty grievances to eat dinner together (and usually fail), the time where we forget our diets, forget how long that drive to _________’s house is and do it anyway, the time where we kiss the behinds of everyone who’s behinds we should have been kissing all year, but forgot to in the shuffle of things (and the above-mentioned petty grievances, which usually are far outweighed by the good things).

So here I go, telling you the things I give thanks for.  Be prepared.  One day there will be an acknowledgements page in the back of a novel that looks something like this, but as that hasn’t happened yet, I figured I’d give it a whirl now.

There are plenty of people to thank, after all. So, to the following, I would like to say thank you:

– My husband, Ismael – I’m pretty regularly vocal about how awesome my husband is and that’s a pretty good place to start.  Ismael deserves a pat on the back simply for putting up with me at my worst, which he does with grace and strength, but also for being my co-writer.  I almost feel guilty signing off on anything as purely my work when every single idea goes through an Ismael screener session.  If life was a romantic comedy with me as the lead, you would be my perfectly imperfect love interest and hero.

– My son, Logan – I couldn’t have created a more perfect comedic foil if I had tried.  Though you are only four years old, you already have the makings of an amazingly frustrating teenager and an amazingly lovely human being.  My little smart alec – I’m gonna enjoy every minute of raising you.  Love you!

– My parents, in good times and in bad times, thank you for teaching me to laugh at life and for making me exactly who I am today.  I like me, so that is very important.

– Mel and Jon aka big sis and bro – I could not have asked for a better pair of partners-in-crazy  than you two.  Thank you for taking me to a movie and to get ice cream on the days I decided I was running away from home.  Thank you Mel for planning fight scenes with me in all their ridiculousness and Jon for being my first critic – important lessons were learned.

– D and Kristy for not only being great significant others for my siblings, but for being great friends to me.

– Manny and Helen, Miriam and Luis – Ismael’s screwball family.  I was blessed with you guys.  Every one of you provide your own particular brand of inspiration.  You have no idea.

– Jeannie and Genaro (my sister-in-law and my nephew) – Your strength, determination and your ability to reinvent yourselves at a moments notice makes me realize what people can truly be capable of.  Genaro, even at 14, your physical tenacity is a sight to behold.  You keep chasing your dream like that, I’ll keep learning from you.

– My protege (and Ismael’s), Megan (aka little sis) – That’s right.  I’m going to call you my protege.  Feel free to argue against that, but I like to be dramatic, so that’s what I’m going to call you.  And despite the fact that you can probably kick my ass, I’m gonna keep it up.  (Yes, that IS a challenge.)

– My best friends, Joy and Allegra, who, each in their own way, provide me with support for all of my ills, a shoulder to cry on, someone to celebrate with, and generally act as my saviors in my daily life.  Without you and the boys I would be more of a mess than you think.  Really.

– My online crew.  Though you may rotate in and out of my life, and some of you were once real time friends, but we don’t get much time together anymore (Sean, I’m talkin’ to you!) but one thing remains consistent.  If you are someone who I share more than idle conversation with online, if we have discussed deeper topics, shared more about our families, about our lives, than you have impacted me and my writing world in ways you can not even begin to imagine.  I wish I could teleport to each of your houses and smish you all.  You know who you are.

– My actual work crew.  To Ulana and Karen, Lee and Heather, Carol and Gina, Kathleen, Nicole, and Stephen, to all of my bosses, and all of the people around the office who share with me and provide me with support each and every day.  I know it’s not perfect, but I have been blessed with a workplace where people care, really genuinely care, and that’s tough to come by.

– The rest of the Minners and Manzano families.  Though you are more distant, you guys are always providing me and my husband with love, support, and the occasional character studies. 😉

– Annamarie and Rino, who provide us with the house we live in.  Thanks for seriously being the best homeowners ever.  We owe a lot to you and we know it, and you provide us with a roof over our heads so we can continue doing all of the other stuff we love doing. Plus, your kids are adorable and awesome and you make pretty great friends too!

– Dawn, for taking flawless care of my pride and joy when we can’t be home with him.  You spend so much time with him and play such an important role in raising our son.  We couldn’t have done it without you.  Thank you so much, again, for everything you do, especially as we get him ready for school (GASP!) next year!

– Harvey for giving me my first chance, my first ever fiction publication.  Thank you for seeing the strengths in my story.

– Hannah and the Sucker team, for coaching me as a writer and for welcoming me to join the staff of Sucker Literary.  I love working for the magazine and look forward to next year’s promotion of Issue 3 (and the search for more stories for Issue 4, if you’ll have me).

– And finally, my readers, be it here, the people who retweet and favorite my Work In Progress Quotes on Twitter, the people who follow me on Facebook, the people who post feedback on my fanfiction, or anybody who has looked at my writing online.  You guys keep me doing what I love doing.

It’s been a tremendous year, with lots to appreciate and more than enough joys to be had.

Please pop by again next week for my mid-month post, where I discuss Bad Guys…and how to make them as important to your story as your Hero.

Until then, Happy Holidays!!!

Mommy Guilt

As it stands at this current moment, I work a day job, raise a four year old boy, write fiction, and work as a reader for a literary magazine.  That doesn’t take into account the time I spend as a wife, a friend, a sister, a daughter, an in-law, or a cleaning and organizing machine.  My husband performs a similar juggling act on a daily basis, and we both have some health limitations that get in the way of things changing.  The money situation is a little tough.  We pinch pennies.  We scuttle by from check to check.  We save a pittance every month.

There are people in my life who worry about me.  Or more accurately, they worry about my son, Logan.  They feel like I need a bigger income source to support him and, because they have a ton of faith in me, they honestly believe I could do more with my life.  They say things like “You could be an executive/personal assistant and make more than you make now.” And they would be right.

It’s tempting.  It really is.  But there’s a problem.  I love my job.  Like, really love it.  Like, for the first time in a very long time, I don’t dread coming to work in the morning.  I like the people I work with.  I like the company I work for.  I enjoy the work I do.  I also happen to love the fact that I can do my job in the time between 9:30 and 5:30 with only occasional bursts of overtime.  I’ve done the personal/executive assistant thing.  I’ve done the ‘tied to your blackberry’ thing.  It ate up my life and my sanity.

It would mean no more writing.  Less time for my family.  As it is, I barely scrape together time for either now.  Those two things, especially for a person with a lifelong struggle with depression, are unacceptable losses. So, I stay at my (still nicely paying) job, and don’t push myself much further than that.  Because I think it’s more important for Logan to have a sane mother than a crazy, stressed to the breaking point, shrew.  I need those outlets to continue to be me.

There will probably be few big family vacations.  Logan will not go to a private school.  But he eats three square healthy meals a day and so do we.  All of our extra money is spent on cool little adventures getting him trinkets and things I know he’ll love.  He won’t live an extravagant life, but he has a loving family and he has grown up confident of that fact, knowing that he can count on Mommy and Daddy, his grandparents, his aunts and uncles and cousins – that they will be there for him no matter what.

More importantly, he is a happy boy.  Because his Mommy and Daddy are happy people, despite the struggle it took to get us there.

So, I refuse to feel guilty about my choices in raising my son…

…for at least the next fifteen minutes….

….at least.

Introduction AKA My Life as a Character

Me and my trusty computer
Me in my natural habitat – behind my laptop

There is alot about writing to be learned in everyday life.  My life teaches me quite a lot, but it is divided into several pieces and I’m never quite sure how those pieces are supposed to come together.  As an introduction, I’m going to rattle off a little summary of these pieces to you. I believe they will help you get to know me better.

1) Mother – I have a wonderful two-year-old son named Logan. Everything that involves him is sunshine and rainbows except when it’s not and then it’s stress and ‘oh my God, don’t do that!”  He brings out many qualities in me, but one of them is not the ability to be an adult.  While I can tell him not to climb something because he will hurt himself, I can’t seem to keep myself from laughing at his antics. Can you blame me for laughing when he calls “Look mommy!” and I find him with his fingers stuck up his nose? (Yes, you can.  And you probably should.)

2) Wife – I’m married to an incredible fellow writer, Ismael.  From him I’ve learned that love can transcend all sorts of difficulties, things can be seen from multiple sides, and patience and understanding can go along way.  I’ve also learned that I’m very funny, especially when I’m angry and that no matter what kind of fancy cup I buy to store the toothbrushes, they will always, ALWAYS be on the bathroom counter when I wake up in the morning.  (You didn’t expect it all to be nice, did you?  We’ve been married for ELEVEN YEARS!)  I also learned what true love is, so there’s that.

3) Friend/daughter/sister, etc. – From those around me I have learned that there are those that will do anything to help you and those that you will do anything for.  And there are the opposite. There are arguments that end in “Chat with you next week!” and those that end in slammed phones and facebook defriending. There are things a person can say that will stick with you forever, and there are times when you have no idea how much you’ve effected somebody else’s life with your own words or actions.  Also, there is clutziness, sarcasm, stupidity, shared interests, snorty laughs, spit takes, intellectual conversations, horrendous nicknames, stories that nobody will ever let you forget, and lots of love.

4) Writer – A hat I wear with trepidation. Is that what I am?  A writer?  I’ve never been published.  And yet, I eat, sleep and breathe fiction.  If you see me walking through the streets and my lips are moving, I’m working my way through some dialog I will write later. And if you stare at me, I will look at you like you’re the crazy one, just like a real New Yorker. I carry around a journal in my purse and my pen drive in case I happen upon a computer.  My outlines are saved on my phone in case I need to look something up quickly.  Yeah, I’m definitely a writer.

5) Editor – My husband and I serve this function for each other. We may never technically write a collaborative project, but every project we work on is somewhat collaborative.

6) Fangirl – This is an important part of my life!  This is where my interests lie, because for me, writing isn’t a hobby, it’s life’s blood.  So when I watch TV and squeal because I love an actor, or tweet endlessly about my favorite couple in a novel, quote things nobody should remember or laugh at jokes others would never get…fandom made me do it.  People I have met through fandom have made me cringe and others have become some of my closer friends without ever standing in the same room as me.  Fangirling with others involves important writerly discussions about character development, plot, themes and settings.

7) Worker – I have learned many useless things from jobs, like how to make a tub of ice cream and how to fix a VHS tape (likely the most useless thing I know). I’ve also learned many useful things like how to work tenaciously until a job is done and how to stay strong under pressure (sometimes I’m admittedly a little wobbly on that one, but I’m getting better).

These are pieces of me. Of course, I’m simplifying things.  There is plenty of other stuff.  I love Broadway musicals, I sing in the shower, I’ve lived through traumatic experiences, I’ve been in a couple of student films (if we’re lucky, nobody will ever find them).  I am a whole, complex person with many different facets.

If I can be so many different things that impact the core of who I am, than the characters we write need things like this to become three dimensional. They can’t exist in a plot-induced vacuum where all they do on a daily basis are the things the plot requires. They should have outside interests, other people they interact with, a past that takes place before the story starts, and all of these things should inform who they are and what they do.

Allow these things to make a character react more believably in a situation.  Let the impeccably calm romantic ingénue get angry for a questionable reason.  Let the soldier fall apart when he’s supposed to be a hero and hold it together when there’s nobody to save.  And give them a reason why.  Some snippet from their past.  Some association made.  Some facet of their personality that makes them a whole person.  Just be consistent, so the behavior doesn’t feel as though it is blindsiding the reader.

It will make your plotlines less obvious and your characters more interesting.  Sometimes less likable, but definitely more interesting.  And that’s a good part of what makes a story readable.

Wondering, “What does she know?”  Check out my bio page.  You may still feel that way, but at least you’ll know who you’re saying it about.

‘Till next time!