Writing Goals 2020 | Progress Report

Earlier this year I decided to follow that new goals tag and make a list of seven things I’d like to accomplish with my writing in 2020. Now that we’re nearly halfway through (crazy), I thought I’d take a look back and give a progress report on how things are going. Let’s take a look at the seven things I want to complete(ish) in 2020.

GOAL 1 – Finish Project Firedamp ⇝ Status: ??????

I can’t stress enough my embarrassment on how far behind I am on this particular goal. Being the slow writer that I am, I thought to write at least one chapter per month. Perhaps two if I finally get into the swing of things.

That hasn’t happened.

Just a few weeks ago I decided to finally set up a writing schedule. All my well-practiced procrastination instincts are having trouble conforming to a schedule I made myself. I can confirm that I’ve finally solidified how this series is going to work in the future. It took a while, but I’m thoroughly excited for everything that’s going to happen in The Firedamp Chronicles realm!

UPDATE: The writing schedule failed. I’m currently seeking editing/critique help for Project Firedamp, because I now recognize certain issues which need addressed sooner rather than later.

GOAL 2 – Tour more historical sites ⇝ Status: on hold.

For this particular goal, I purposefully put it off till the weather got warmer. This is also due to the fact that many of the sites I want to tour have very specific tour hours and time frames. I have a small list of sites around Pittsburgh I want to visit come Spring and Summer. Will I share that list? Perhaps. But those locations may give away too much of my story’s plot so, we’ll see!

UPDATE: Due to everything being closed until at least July, I cannot yet plan those visits.

GOAL 3 – Bring more story themed decor into the house ⇝ Status: changed.

Shabby chic decor is to Victorian as a grandchild is to their grandparents. True shabby chic equates to “cluttered,” “floral,” and “eclectic.” However, my biggest goal, when it comes to my home, is to maintain an organized, comfortable environment.

So I’m out to find more practical pieces – things I can use every day because I won’t dust fake flowers. Here’s my Pinterest board of DIY crafts I want to eventually put together. There’s still plenty of time left in 2020!

UPDATE: I’ve reorganized my office and decluttered a lot more things. The pile of donations for my church’s annual flea market has finally gone to church, and I’ve decided to just go practical in my decor.

GOAL 4 – Visit the Library of Congress ⇝ Status: on hold.

This visit is so very much in the works! No mind you, I began looking into this about a month before everything with COVID19 went down, so now I’ve got coworkers telling me to cancel cancel cancel. While I understand everything going on right now, the trip is for three months from now – in late June. I’m hoping that, not only will things have calmed down by then, but the library will be open to visitors again.

Because ever since that one scene in the first National Treasure film, I’ve wanted to go to the second level and look for secret books with codes to a treasure map’s key. The bus tickets have been purchased (a whole $6 – thank you Megabus!), arrangements to stay with my aunt’s family have been made. June trip to DC here I come!

UPDATE: Sadly my coworkers were correct. I held out hope for a long time, but the Library’s own closure until at least July has put this goal on hold. At least I only lost $6 in bus fare.

GOAL 5 – Build a Paper Organizer ⇝ Status: scratched.

This one’s tricky, because good wood costs a pretty penny. Budgeting is the name of today’s game, and I want whatever project I build to last. “But Leigh, why don’t you just go to Joann’s or Michael’s and buy an organizer?”

Fair point.

There are two benefits of building my own: 1- I can customize it to fit wherever it’s going to go and 2- I want it to have spaces for both paper and smaller cubicles for pens/colored pencils. It’s a tall order, and only something customized can fulfill both those requirements. This project’s planned for early Spring, when it’s a bit warmer.

UPDATE: As I’m now working a lot of overtime, I decided to table this goal. Instead, I’ve purchased a modern and sleek organizer to match the rest of my office’s decor. I can get overzealous at times. I also realized I didn’t want something big and chunky taking up space.

GOAL 6 – Write in Tennessee (aka go on vacation) ⇝ Status: On Hold.

The more I look at this particular goal, the more I don’t think it’s in the cards. Especially with the D.C. trip. It’ll most likely be combined with Goal 4 – Visit the Library of Congress. In fact – let’s change the title right now:

GOAL 6 – Write in Washington D.C. (aka go on vacation)

GOAL 7 – Hand copy a novel ⇝ Status: null and void.

And last but not least, let’s discuss hand copying a novel. This goal started off strong. I picked one of my favorite stories – INKHEART by Cornelia Funke. Hand copied a chapter a day – got up to chapter five. And then my hand had had enough. Kudos to all you who choose to hand write your stories before digitizing it.

Needless to say, I’ve given up on this goal.

For the time being.


So what have I actually accomplished? Blogging ahead, 2020s Five Question Interviews series, and buying more books than I can read right now. Three things not even on the list! At least I can say I’ve booked some critiquing help, so that’s progress.

How are you with your writing goals?

Music That Drives My Writing | The SyFy Edition

It’s no secret that music breathes life into my writing sessions. I am very much driven in my craft by a song’s flow. For those who know me, this shouldn’t come as a surprise, and this method has yet to steer me wrong. In today’s musically charged post, I’m sharing five “syfy” albums I can listen to from beginning to end.

I hope you’ll also check out other posts I have for this “Music That Drives My Writing” blog series – Part 1, Part 2, Part 3: the Kpop Edition, Part 4: The Film Score Edition, and Part 5: The 1940s Edition. This is Part 6. I hope you find some new music to love!

1. “Passengers” composed by Thomas Newman

If I’m being completely honest, I’d say Thomas Newman’s soundtrack MADE the film for me. Even with all of Passengers’ visuals and CGI, this album stuck itself in my head like flies on poo.

2. “Star Trek: Insurrection” composed by Jerry Goldsmith

Since I couldn’t find the full Star Trek: Insurrection film score on Spotify, here’s a compilation album to enjoy!

3. “Transformers” composed by Steve Jablonsky

Say what you will about the franchise; its film score is the best thing about it. I listened to this score nonstop while I was in China in 2008. That was 12 years ago. Autobots is an awesome song.

4. “The Rocketeer” composed by James Horner

Not every syfy film has to take place in space. I’ve adored The Rocketeer since childhood, and this score still gives me goosebumps.

Seriously – watch the film. It’s old school Disney at its finest. I promise you won’t regret it!

5. “Apollo 13” composed by James Horner

I’m a huge James Horner fan, what can I say? If you aren’t, what are you even doing with your life?

Honorable Mentions

  1. Jurassic Park
  2. Firefly
  3. Back to the Future
  4. The Host
  5. The X-Files

I Unplugged the Television For A Month. Here’s What Happened.

We humans make choices every day. Sometimes collectively, but mostly individually. We are creatures of habit and prefer sticking to our routines like flies on poo. Unless something dramatic happens and our simple pleasures suddenly disappear, we’ll follow that path indefinitely. I’m one of those creatures with a terrible case of procrastination.

Procrastination has truly had a profound impact on my writing (or lack thereof). Since this self-revelation, the one that showed me I proudly I wore that procrastination on my sleeve over the past few months, I’ve also come to realize how disappointed I am in myself. I’m writing, but blogging and working on other things. None of that work’s been directly connected to my manuscript.

Change. It’s such a short yet daunting word. One that us creatures of habit try to avoid as much as possible. I’ve worked retail and food service for fifteen years, so you’d think I’d have an easier time with it as change is so constant.

Then March 2020 came in the United States. A time when life changed life for us all. With everyone else indulging in Netflix, Disney+, and more social media than ever before, I wondered if it was time to finally conduct a no-television experiment. Let’s see what happened:

WEEK 1. April 1-11

You may wonder why this week is extra long. Honestly? Because I completely forgot about this experiment. But an organic change already happened during Week One, plus a few weeks before that, and I wouldn’t have noticed unless I hadn’t opened my Kindle. Apparently, less TV time equates to more book time. Imagine that!

It took a damp, drizzly March evening to get me to crack open a book for the first time in a while (one that wasn’t non-fiction), and my mouth dropped when I read its insights page. Of course it’s clear to you that I’ve never explored this function, and set a low reading goal for myself – to read twenty books in a year. 500 books in a year sounded like an absurd goal to start with. Better to set expectations low and work up!


WEEK 2. April 12-18

I used to have a huge “to be watched” list on my Netflix account. Now it’s down to two items – Merlin and a Korean drama called Mr. Sunshine. The only shows I have on repeat are old Star Trek series I can’t help but watch over and over again. It’s a simple thing, but they bring me joy.

I also used to religiously watch The Price is Right in the mornings, but even that annoys me now. Too many Type A personalities. So my TV remains turned off, and I’m slowly whittling down my “to be watched” on Netflix. But honestly? I’ve no desire to. Why? My focus has shifted completely back to books, writing, and learning more than ever before.


I’m also incredibly happy to report that I’ve updated the “On My Bookshelf” page here on my website, something I actually have to do yet again. Yay!

WEEK 3. April 19-25

Week three. Not only am I watching less television, even with the family, I’m watching less YouTube as well. Beauty community drama videos, kpop music videos, and old episodes of Judge Judy were constantly in my “Watch Later” list. Now it’s filled with more practical videos like organizing and new recipes to try.

Update 1: I’ve removed my subscription from several more channels. I’ve even removed many more shows from my Watch List on Netflix; I no longer have the desire to even start new ones.

Update 2: I’m also incredibly happy to report that I’ve updated the “On My Bookshelf” page here on my website, something I actually have to do yet again. Yay!


WEEK 4. April 26-30

By this week, I didn’t want to even turn on Netflix except for a few episodes of Star Trek here and there. You’d think, because I began my two weeks off work due to statewide pandemic mandates, that my viewership would increase. I’m pleased to report that it, in fact, went down. The majority of my entertainment now comes from, surprise surprise, actual books again. And I think that was the desired outcome of this experiment to begin with.

Whenever I find myself craving entertainment, my TBR (to be read) pile called my name. The only time I even look at a television now is after family dinner nights and The Masked Singer is on.

This last week is also the week I’ve worked more on my own novel series than I have in the past two months. “I don’t have time,” I’d say. When, in reality, I let my “procrastination” get in the way of real productivity.


There’s more to life than always airing your grievances on social media. There’s more to life than always being connected, on top of pop culture, or indulging in drama videos about people on YouTube you truly know nothing about.

Truth be told, this “experiment” began in late March. They say time changes habits, be they good or bad, and this past month certainly proved that to be true. Conclusion: television and media and other media outlets do not, should not, control your life. For the longest time I let it control mine, and I’m done complaining about political ads.

We all have it within us to write our own narratives. We don’t always have to keep to the status quo, especially if our life’s status quo doesn’t make us happy anymore. And I wasn’t happy. I thank God every day for my desire to write stories.

It’s time to use, and I mean truly use, this gift He’s given me.

The Proof is in the Reading Timeline!


We all have it within us to write our own narratives.

Music That Drives My Writing | 1940s Edition

It’s no secret that music breathes life into my writing sessions. I am very much driven in my craft by a song’s flow. For those who know me, this shouldn’t come as a surprise, and this method has yet to steer me wrong. For today’s musically charged post, I’m sharing ten songs from the 1940s that drive my writing. This is also a great playlist for 4th of July fireworks, or to play on a train (not even kidding about the train). My love for music of this era comes from my Grandma Redman. When I spent afternoons with her as a kid, she always had either these tunes or the Oldies on the radio.

I hope you’ll also check out other posts I have for this “Music That Drives My Writing” blog series – Part 1, Part 2, Part 3: the Kpop Edition, and Part 4: The Film Score Edition. This is Part 5. I hope some of the names look familiar!

1. “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” by The Andrews Sisters

2. “In the Mood” by Glenn Miller

3. “Sing, Sing, Sing” by Benny Goodman

4. “Begin the Beguine” by Artie Shaw

5. “Ain’t That A Kick In The Head” by Dean Martin

6. “Beyond the Sea” by Bobby Darin

7. “Come Fly With Me” by Frank Sinatra

8. “Oh Johnny, Oh Johnny Oh!” by The Andrews Sisters

9. “Lazy River” by Bobby Darin

10. “I’ve Got A Gal in Kalamazoo” by Glenn Miller

Music That Drives My Writing | Film Score Edition

It’s no secret that music breathes life into my writing sessions. I know many fellow authors who do better in silence. I, for one, am very much driven in my craft by a song’s flow. This method has yet to steer me wrong.

For those who know me, this list shouldn’t come as a surprise, as my five favorite composers are: Hans Zimmer, Michael Giacchino, Joe Hisaishi, John Williams and James Horner. Okay, so not all of these songs are instrumentals, but their flow together in my Spotify really gets my creative juices flowing.

For today’s musically charged post, I’m sharing eight instrumental songs that drive my writing. I hope you’ll also check out other posts I have for this “Music That Drives My Writing” blog series – Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3, the Kpop Edition. This is Part 4, unsurprisingly heavy on the Hans Zimmer.

1. “Cornfield Chase” by Hans Zimmer

2. “Star Trek Into Darkness Main Theme” by Michael Giacchino

3. “Cap’s Promise” by Henry Jackman

4. “Why Do We Fall” by Hans Zimmer

5. “Code of Conduct” by Hans Zimmer

6. “The Healing” by James Newton Howard

7. “Halo 2 Theme, Gungnir Mix” by Paul Lipson, Lennie Moore, Tom Salta, Brian Trifon, Brian Lee White, Steve Vai

8. “Jake’s First Flight” by James Horner

First Person Tweets vs. Third Person Stories

It amazes me that we are all on Twitter and Facebook. By “we” I mean adults. We’re adults, right? But emotionally we’re a culture of seven-year-olds. Have you ever had that moment when are you updating your status and you realize that every status update is just a variation on a single request: “Would someone please acknowledge me?”

― Marc Maron, Attempting Normal

Have you ever picked up a book you were super excited to crack open, only to discover you can’t quite connect with it? The cover, blurb and title- they all caught your eye. But as you turn to the next page, you realize there’s something different and you just can’t put your finger on what it could be.

Have you ever felt guilty because you couldn’t finish something after investing in the author’s hard work? Don’t. Everyone, even your favorite authors, has their own “DNF” pile (did not finish). I’ll admit I’m one of those “newbies” whose eyes glaze over once anyone drops grammar terminology in my lap. When other writers discuss what tense or POV (point of view) they like to write in, I sometimes have to read those threads two or three times for all the “technical” elements to click.

My mother has the same reaction when I try to explain modern day technology, so it all works out!

Those “technical” discussions, whether you like it or not, are still the basic building blocks to writing a concise paper for school, or indulging in an imaginary world you built from scratch for your characters to live in. If you want to be a writer, you absolutely have to understand how all those elements work together. Speaking of elements, let’s dive into the bread and butter of this post. We’re going to first take a look at the three main points of view characters can tell their stories through, and then take a look at some real life applications.

First Person – The story is told one person at a time using words like “I” or “we.”

TAPESTRY by Cady Elizabeth Arnold reminded me of one of the arcs from the CW television show, Reign. And that’s not a bad thing at all. I adored the cast, the history, and the fact that Megan Follows makes a fantastic queen.

You typically Tweet as yourself – unless you’re running a satirical or other type of artistic account. For the most part, you always use words and phrases like, “Today I-,” “I think that,” “We went down to the river to,” “I made this meal for dinner!”

TAPESTRY is written in first person and told using two points of views. The short chapters are meant to hasten the reader along at a quick pace, but I’m still reading it at a snail’s pace. Even with its arc and well thought out characters, first person narration throws me through a loop. But I’m carrying on with chapter twenty-nine tonight before bed, because I want to know what happens with Tristam and Grace.

Books written in the first person: HUCKLEBERRY FINN by Mark Twain, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD by Harper Lee, JANE EYRE by Charlotte Brontë, THE GREAT GATSBY by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Second Person – The narrator tells the story to another character using the word ‘you.’

In theatre and film, this is akin to breaking the “fourth wall,” when a character turns to the screen or audience and speaks directly to them. Home Alone (picture that famous “slap-the-cheeks-and-scream” scene) and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off come to mind. While not perfect examples of second person POV, it can be a very useful tool to bring you, the reader, directly into the story.

I’m staring at my books and I don’t think any of them are written in second person. At first I thought my favorite Frank Peretti series from childhood was, THE COOPER KIDS, but their adventures are told through either Jay or Lila. THE CITY OF EMBER series by Jeanne DuPrau? No- those are third person.

Since I got curious, I Googled “second person books” and this list from Goodreads popped up. Nothing on the list looks familiar. Do you know of any books written in the second person? Leave them in the comments below!

Third Person – In third person limited, the narrator shows us the thoughts and feelings of one character. In third person omniscient, the narrator is all-knowing and shows us the inner world of every character that appears.

During the first third of this year’s reading adventures, I’ve discovered I much prefer books written in third person limited. If the character already knows everything, well, I just don’t see how a character can change and grow with that kind of perspective.

Perhaps I just haven’t found any third person omniscient books with which to connect. Yet.

One could argue that Tweets are sometimes written in third person omniscient, as the poster assumes they know everything there is to know about their subject matter.

Source

However, for the most part, they’re written in first person. It makes sense, as your social media feeds are narrated by you and not a character. When Facebook first began, users could only make a post if it started with “is.” Example: “Leigh Hartman is _________________________________.”

Social media’s come a long way from that. Is the change is for the better? That’s still to be determined. Do we really need the ability to write such long posts on social media? “Insta fame” isn’t always a good thing. “Less is more,” they say. I, for one, am perfectly content with my website and TweetDeck. The world doesn’t really need any more “Leigh” in it then it already gets.

When we write our stories, little pieces of ourselves are strewn all throughout the prose. The dialogue. The characters. The plots. Our own truths, plus truths taught by life experiences and our surroundings, are in there as well.

Who’s to say which point of view is best?

What matters most is your voice and how you choose to use it.

Stories From My Past | Why I Write, Part 1

Rothenburg Town Hall, Germany, 1993

A few days ago an old classmate from middle school and I reconnected over Facebook. The irony of this is I didn’t even have a Facebook page for over a year and a half. But, due to quarantine and not seeing family going on a month, I’d decided it was time to have one again. As this classmate and I chatted, middle school came up, and he was amazed I remembered such vivid details about the building twenty-six years later.

The details come as fragmented blips of memory, pieced together from all the events, classes, and fairs we shared. I don’t know why I remember the tiny details, but that conversation made me think about the writing journey I’m now on.

Rothenburg, Germany, Dec. 29, 1993

At the tender age of eight, my family and I flew across the Atlantic to spend Christmas in Germany. Dad, an airman with the United States Air Force, had already been in the country for several weeks. So we joined him near the end of his deployment, and toured the usual towns.

There’s a public television show called Rick Steve’s Europe. I used to watch it religiously on my days off. Imagine my excitement when the travel guide’s episode about Germany aired. Finally! A place I’d visited as a child! Granted, he got to go when the snow melted away to reveal Spring, and when I was there the streets of an ancient town called Rothenburg were edged with slush.

Rothenburg’s ancient wall is still intact, and draws thousands of visitors every year. Germany in deep winter chills you to your core. It’s even colder than standing waiting for President George W. Bush’s second inauguration in Washington DC to begin and your toes freeze in your shoes because you weren’t fully prepared. From Rothenburg, in a country with a history deeper than my own, I remember a bakery.

Of course a scene like a bakery on an ancient street corner sear itself, in a fractured way, into my mind. The bakery was on the right side of the street near one of the old gates. A warm burst of air invited us in each time the door opened, inviting us in out of the slush-ridden cobblestone street. It sold all the usual baked good treats, and after Dad ordered in broken German, our family of four shared one giant danish.

Wasn’t 90’s fashion just, um, fantastic?

My family would joke and say, “Typical Leigh, remembering the food.” (I can’t argue with them – I also remember the giant “Peter Pan” weiner schnitzel we ate in a restaurant on a frigid December night in the Alps). I used to think of my long memory as a curse, though now I try to think of it as a blessing as well.

I wonder: is this why I choose to write historical adventure? I write about history so I don’t forget what came before, to learn from past mistakes and grand adventures, and tell the stories inspired by them.

How I’m Improving My Craft

Are you brand new to the wonderful world of writing? Then welcome! You’re in for a mighty wild ride. If you think you’re going to just be able to sit down and write the next great American novel in one sitting, then you’ve definitely been lied to.

I’m a doubter. I’ve always discredited my God-given talents, and that includes writing. However, self doubt is something every writer struggles with at one time or another. That little worm weaves its way into our thoughts, adding discouragement and fear into the rotation.

STOP! Don’t let that little worm ruin any writing aspirations you have! Take a breath. Think what’s missing from your routine. As such, I realized three things missing were missing from mine. So here are the three things (because everything, it seems, comes in threes or fives on this site) I’m doing to improve my writing.

1. Reading more fiction AND non-fiction.

Do. Not. Forget. To. READ. And not just fiction. Find some informative non-fiction pertinent to your content and run with it. To be completely honest, I didn’t read for nearly a year. What happened? I nearly lost interest entirely.

The combination of reading, writing, and learning brings out the perfect storm of productivity, and I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed that missing piece to the puzzle.

There was also a time when I didn’t want to read. I was afraid other stories would influence my own, and I’d somehow be accused of stealing someone else’s idea. Not only that, but I didn’t want to find my own story within another. As the saying goes, there’s “nothing new under the sun.” However, we can’t, as writers, be afraid to explore other stories, characters and worlds.

2. Writing longer blog posts.

If you maintain a website, you know how hard it can be sometimes to come up with content and keep things fresh. A website is also a very public extension of yourself, so it’s best to be as professional as possible when communicating with your readers and anyone else you may connect with. In 2016 I had very little to say. Let’s bring in some stats. For the past four years, my average word count per post was less than 900. I plan to change that for 2020.

“Why?” you ask.

Because I want to learn more, and hone this content creator skill that fell into my lap when I decided to share my journey with you. And yes, I am aware that longer posts don’t always equal great content. I’ve needed to push myself out of my comfort zone for a long time, and 2020 is the year of change, so why not?

3. Learning more about grammar.

American grammar is no laughing matter. My eyes still glaze over whenever I hear phrases like “past participles” and “perfect continuous,” and see warnings to not use too many adjectives, too many verbs, or too much of everything else. Did you know there are, technically, twelve tenses in the English language?

Even though my writing journey resurfaced in late 2016, I had admit to myself that I needed to learn the basics of grammar all over again. You wouldn’t believe this, but there’s also an ongoing debate over how commas should/shouldn’t be used online. I may be in the minority here, but both methods have merit. (Oxford comma vs. no Oxford comma).


Personally, I try my best to not get involved in such debates. It’s all part of the learning process, and you must learn for yourself what’s best for your own writing journey.

Did you catch on to a word used the most in this post? If you thought “learn,” then you’re correct. Writing is a learning process. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve worked on your own craft; there will always be something you don’t know right around the corner.

What are the things you’re doing to improve your craft? Leave them in the comments below!

Why Writing Fan Fiction Soothes the Soul and How it Teaches the Art of Writing

When I took my first dive into the online writing community, I discovered two grains of thought – those who love to write fan fiction (stories based on popular films, television shows or books), and those who look down on those who wrote them. I wrote fan fiction before I even knew that’s what it’s called. To be more specific, I wrote Star Trek shorts and scripts. When I started college in 2005, Supernatural became the object of my imagination. Cue swooning over Jensen Ackles, Jared Padalecki and Misha Collins. Writing make believe fell to the wayside, replaced with term papers and studying for final exams.

Writing fan fiction never left my mind. I used to post stories on several sites (their domain names no longer live in my brain), and I even joined the online Twitter fandom for Supernatural. Unfortunately, as with any fandom, things fell apart and people began to chastise one another for how they supported the show.

So I left. And, for a long time after that, I wrote hardly a thing. For four or five years after I graduated college, I didn’t want to. A story was never finished, a character never fully developed, and even reading lost its charm. The flame reignited in 2016, when my original idea for Project Firedamp hit me like a ton of bricks. I still don’t have a finished story or a fully developed character, but I’ve fallen back in love with reading. Why? Because, even though I’d lost faith in a fandom I’d invested so much time in, I realized that my love for writing as a child was still within me. And all those stories I wrote taught me lessons I didn’t figure out till just now.

Now. It’s time to share them.

Why Fan Fiction Soothes the Soul

Ever come across a show with an ending that didn’t satisfy you? Not in the least? One that comes to mind is Firefly. Granted, Firefly got its movie, Serenity. But if you’re a fan of that little ditty, I know you feel just as cheated as I do about it. If you’re a Star Trek fan, then what about all those loose ends in Star Trek Voyager? What happened to the crew after seven seasons? The Maquis? Those from the Equinox who were decommissioned into crewmen? Or-?

Writing fan fiction can help fill in those holes. It provides an outlet to let out frustrations over incomplete stories. Not only that, the characters are already there, and all you have to do is let your imagination run rampant.

And Why Fan Fiction Teaches the Art of Writing

Learning is subjective. Everyone discovers life in different ways. That’s why there’s really not a true curriculum out there on writing itself. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of “how to write” books, workbooks, and even semester college courses out there that explore different methods. Eventually, each writer has to find for themselves what works best. Here are three things writing fan fiction has taught me about the art of writing itself.

1. Start small, and have at least one or two main characters to help ground the plot.
Especially if you’re just dipping your toes into novel writing, you don’t need a cast as large as, say, Harry Potter or Percy Jackson or The Hunger Games. Some can jump right in and see plot lines way into the future. For others, it takes time to masterfully weave everything together. It’s better to slowly reveal everything than get it all out at once with long sections of backstory or full character descriptions. I suggest starting out with KM Weiland’s “character interviews” to get a feel for your story’s voice and tone. The great thing about this list is you can tailor it to fit the narrative.

Starting small keeps you thirsty for more. Remember that writing is a learning process. Which leads us into point two:

2. Take your time. You don’t need to crank out a novel in a month, especially if it’s your first time.
“But there’s that contest!” you interject. “I absolutely have to be query ready in TWO WEEKS!” Stop. Tap the breaks, because that’s a warning sign right there. Please, for your mental health, don’t think you have to enter every writing contest offered up on Twitter, or query every agent because they’ll not be accepting inquiries for two months.

Take the time to build your characters up even more. Did you remember a detail you forgot to add three weeks ago? Add, adjust, and revisit places where that detail might make or break the story.

They say it can take ten or more years to write your first book. Don’t let that scare you! It just means that, for first time attempts, there’s a lot to learn. Don’t let someone else’s writing journey grow a little green monster of jealousy inside you. Take your time. Go back to a fan fiction to free your mind for a while from a work in progress, or read. Don’t forget to read and hone your craft.

3. Have a plan. Or, if the opposite is true, write without one.
Why did I never finish a story in the past? I didn’t have a plan. As it turns out, I needed to learn about outlining, structure, and plot arcs once I got started. This circles back to the last statement from Tip 2: “Don’t forget to read and hone your craft.” I’ll admit that I was lost for a while. In 2018, even though I was writing every day, I didn’t understand how to connect scenes. Or how to subtly introduce a character that may have a huge impact in the climax. Or how to outline beforehand (or tweak the outline during).

Are you a visual learner? Many of my fellow writers have shared their processes online. Beware the research rabbit hole; don’t let that distract you from your goals (this comes from a historical adventure writer. Unfortunately, research rabbit holes create much ire, especially when all I wanted was a tidbit of info about a historical figure). But I digress.

Find a plan that works for you and stick with it. Write a little each day, and you’ll surely finish.

Or get an idea for yet another story.

Whichever comes first.


Remember. Everyone starts somewhere. And, if you’ve no publishing aspirations and just love writing fan fiction, these tips can help you, too. Because even fan fiction needs help once in a while.


A Three Blog Roundup | Part Two

A few weeks ago I shared part one of my blog roundup series. While Shady Characters, Grammar Girl, and Helping Writers Become Authors are all fantastic resources, it’s time to highlight three more blogs. This time I’ve decided to narrow my search parameters to sites put out by editors.

How Not To Write A Novel

On this site run by Howard Mittlemark and Sandra Newman, How To Write A Novel explores everything from hardboiled slang to writing scams. It’s a great one stop shop to find not only editing services, but interesting informational tidbits as well.

Here’s a blog post I wrote last year about a character who decided to walk away from me, not the other way around!

Query Shark

If you’re in the book pitch trenches, you may have already heart about Query Shark. Run by literary agent Janet Reid, she explores the tricky business that is crafting the perfect pitch for your book. On her blog, she dissects query letters and answers publishing questions. Although it hasn’t been updated since December 2019, there’s still over 300 posts to gain some wonderful knowledge.

The Subversive Copy Editor

On Ms. Carol Saller’s site, she covers everything from the significance of numbers in literature to when it’s appropriate to add technology to a story. It’s a clean, straightforward site with one goal: to help writers and editors on behalf of the reader.


Well, there you have it! Three blogs that deal with punctuation, technique and grammar. Do you have any go-to blogs for writing help or general writing amusement? Feel free to share their links in the comments below.

Do you like this type of post? Let me know if you’d like to see more Blog Roundups in the future.