Thoughts On Accepting Change

Do you easily accept change, or are you one of those folks who resist it until you absolutely have to accept it? Personally, I fall somewhere in between. When it comes to my work life, I’m not always fond of policy or procedural changes. When it comes to my writing or personal life, I can go either way. So, naturally, when I decided to put writing on hold, my brain wanted to give me all the new ideas. Isn’t that how it always happens? Just when I thought I’d accepted this change, and began implementing them here on this website, I began second guessing it all. That is something I’ve done my entire life: second guess. I have some inkling as to why I am the way I am, but that’s a blog post for another day.

For years I’ve tried to write. Any time a new idea came up, I’d throw myself into research, learning more about the process, and would follow more of those in the publishing industry. Then, as soon as I’d sit down to actually do work on the project itself, procrastination would take over. The thing is, I want to change. I’m just not certain if I’m disciplined enough to do so. I know exactly how I earned the reputation of “Leigh never finishes anything” in my family. I just want to break the cycle. I’m going on 36 years old. Why haven’t I broken my cycle yet?

It boils down to one word: fear. Fear of failing again. Fear of not living up to my own self-set expectations. Fear that no one would read what I write. Fear of failing before I even start. Fear of the knowledge that I’m not the only one who’s also trying to make it in the publishing industry. Fear.

I think that’s the biggest reason of all that I decided to put my pens and notebooks in a drawer. Not only that, but I’ve always had trouble getting past my initial story ideas. For me, the struggle is real. I absolutely adore the nitty gritty parts of the writing process. So much so that I often wonder if there’s a job like that out there somewhere. A writer’s assistant? Not in terms of answering phones or putting out press releases. But someone who loves the practical side of writing. Okay, so I know I’m not making much sense here. Or am I? I dunno.

In any case, I’m slowly coming to terms with the changes I’ve decided to make in my own life. “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” they say. What about a 35 year old looking to reset her involvement in the great big writing and publishing communities? Have you any thoughts on fear, publishing, and resetting life goals? I’d love to know your thoughts in the comments below.


Burnout // It’s Real, Y’all

Online content moves at a pace akin to Star Trek’s “warp speed,” and probably even faster than that. That’s what content posting was like on this website for several months. Until it stopped cold. Today’s post is all about why that happened.

Just as with any creative outlet, blogging is its own beast. Any content creator can experience burnout (or insert-here-whatever-adjective-you’d-like-to-use to describe such a thing here), and that’s precisely what hit me a few weeks ago.

I was utterly, completely, equivalently burnt out. I saw the return – you guys really liked my voice! – and that encouraged me to compose several posts a week. Not only that, but I could barely keep up with all the random topic ideas which would crop up in the middle of the night.

My heart, however, just wasn’t in it this month. Every time I sat down to write something, anything, for this site, I’d move it to the trash bin a day later. Was I done blogging for good? Don’t get me wrong – I still love creating content!

We humans love to see things happen in real time. And it’s super satisfying watching stats, seeing the clicks and knowing I’ve somehow contributed something of value to our writing and reading communities.

However, at what point does that become selfish motivation? That, my friends, is the biggest reason I took some time for reflection. There’s no way I’ll ever win accolades with the writing presented on this forum.

Sure, it would be exciting to be featured in a NYT post, or a magazine, or on someone else’s blog. Let’s face the facts: I’m not even published yet. And that’s the second reason I took time off. I’m never going to finish any novel if all I’m doing is pumping out three blog posts a week every week.

And finally, here’s the third reason I haven’t blogged this month: I’ve found myself changing on the inside. I’m not the same person I was six months ago. I no longer love Star Trek (so, while I’m proud of the ones I’ve written, I’ll not be adding any more to that topic), I’m no longer enamored with k-pop, and I’m exploring who I am as an adult.

What do I want? Is this really how I want to live the rest of my life? How do I live more like Jesus taught us? (and I’ve never, ever said something like that in a blog post before). How do I show that love to others? How can I live it both online and at my full time job?

I suppose it wasn’t exactly burn out with JUST the blog. I burned out with life. And how I’ve been living up to this point. What does this mean for the future of this site?

It means things will slow down.
It means things will be done in a (hopefully) more thoughtful manner.
It means I’m reassessing my own writing and what I want to accomplish.

As in actually accomplish.

Not just wishfully accomplishing in my mind.

YES – blogging will still happen! YES – writing will still happen! YES – author interviews will still happen! However different it may be, I hope you’ll stick around.

Have a fantastic upcoming weekend, everyone. Please don’t be afraid to leave a comment. I could really use the encouragement.


The Top TenS of 2020 // Stats Edition

It’s Monday, December 28th. Four days from the start of a New Year. Four days until I can start writing “2021” in the date line of my checkbook. I just aged myself with that checkbook line, didn’t I? And four days to wrap things up on this blog for 2020.

It’s the time of year I start looking at the analytics for my website far more closely than any other time. What pages and posts were the most popular? Where do my readers come from? Did the content intrigue anybody enough to leave a comment or two?

This year, instead of looking at just what my most popular posts were (like I did for last year’s version of this post) we’ll take a look at the Top Ten Countries, Top Ten Referrers and then the Top Ten Blog Posts and Pages.

Top Ten Countries

This list is always exciting to look at because it changes every year. Because of my geography, and the fact that my only language is English, visitors from the top four countries make the most sense. I am, however, always positively thrilled when someone visits my site from South Korea or Japan. Here are the country lists from 2020 and 2019:

2020
United States 🇺🇸
Canada 🇨🇦
United Kingdom 🇬🇧
Ireland 🇮🇪
Philippines 🇵🇭
China 🇨🇳
India 🇮🇳
Australia 🇦🇺
France 🇫🇷
Croatia 🇭🇷

2019
🇺🇸 United States
🇬🇧 United Kingdom
🇨🇦 Canada
🇮🇪 Ireland
🇦🇺 Australia
🇵🇭 Philippines
🇮🇳 India
🇫🇷 France
🇩🇪 Germany
🇿🇦 South Africa

As expected, the United States, Canada, the UK and Ireland take the top four spots – thank you all so much! And thank you to everyone kind enough to stop by my little corner of the internet. You’ve made this the best year yet for anotherhartmanauthor.com.

Top Ten Referrers

Now that we know what countries you all come from the most, let’s take a look at how you found me. These also varied greatly from 2019 to 2020, and it’s really making me think twice about completely abandoning Twitter; a decision I’d made in this recent blog post. Here are the top ten referrers for 2020 and 2019:

2020
Twitter
Google Search
Baidu
Bing
Facebook
WordPress Reader
Instagram
raedvdr.wordpress.com
ecosia
YouTube

2019
Twitter
Facebook
Google Search
Baidu
Yahoo
WordPress Reader
Instagram
en.gravatar.com
Juno webmail
linktree

Top Ten Posts & Pages

Here’s the fun part of today’s post – looking at what drew you guys here in the first place! I know this isn’t the most exciting blog post ever, but it just shows what of hard work and a little bit of patience can accomplish. If you’re just starting out in the blog-o-sphere, don’t fret! Give yourself time. Build an audience. Make friends. Learn what works best for your site, and run with it. Here’s what attracted you to anotherhartmanauthor.com in 2020 and 2019:

I think the data speaks for itself: looks like I’m doing the Five Question Interview series once again in 2021!

Do you want to blog but
you’re not sure how to get started?

Throughout 2019, along with a couple posts thereafter, I share my experiences with blogging and figuring out what worked and what didn’t. Here are five blog posts to help you get started in 2021!

  1. Why Now is A Great Time To Start A Blog
  2. Three Blog Ideas That Worked
  3. Three Blog Ideas That Failed
  4. A Beginner’s Guide to Creating Graphics in Seven Easy Steps
  5. How to Maintain a Writer’s Website
  6. Useful Tools and Tags

Think of blogging this way: if I can do it, anybody can do it. Even you! I was incredibly nervous the first few times I put up blog posts, but eventually it became second nature. Now, I can’t stop blogging! Find what works for you and, as mentioned earlier, run with it. Find your niche and what you love to write about it. And one day you’ll have your own top ten lists as well.


Three Blog Ideas That Worked

Last week I shared a companion post to this one, Three Blog Ideas that Failed. In it I stressed that blogging is subjective. What’s worked for one site may not have the same reception on another.

Don’t focus on having a great blog. Focus on producing a blog that’s great for your readers.

Brian Clark, source

In last week’s post I highlighted just three things I’ve tried over the past four years of blogging. Many more ideas, design elements, and collaboration attempts failed. However, I felt that the three I included are things many folks set up as well. Enough talk about failure! Let’s discuss three blog ideas that have worked for anotherhartmanauthor.com.


FIVE QUESTION INTERVIEWS
Introverts. We like our routines, our happy places, and our hobbies. The very idea of my participating in book release activities intimidates me, so who am I to disrupt someone else’s life by inviting them to take part in a web-based interview?

Then I thought: If I can’t be brave enough to take a chance on someone else, who, then, would be willing to do the same for me? Of course, I’m not expecting reciprocation. That would be completely presumptuous of me.

But readers want to hear from their favorite authors, and not just within the context of a social media environment. They want to know what makes fellow authors tick, what inspired the idea for a novel, or what tools they use to help them write. I am very grateful to everyone who participated in 2019’s interviews, and I’m looking forward to connecting with even more of you in 2020!

CONNECTING via SOCIAL MEDIA
After deactivating my Facebook account after eleven years of maintaining one, I didn’t think I’d ever want to get back into social media again. I kept my Twitter account, but I’d also deactivated my Instagram, Pinterest, MySpace, etc. We can compare all these social media accounts to the many, many streaming accounts now available for television viewership. With Netflix leading the Calvary, weren’t we supposed to save money by cancelling cable and moving to web based content. Consumerism is all about having options. The same goes for social media. While these services are free to set up and use, there comes a point when it’s just too much.

For me, I do all my interacting on Twitter. I use Pinterest to share #WIP aesthetics and build up inspiration boards for writing. And I very, very rarely use my newly established Instagram account. Bloggers know where their readers come from and adjust their online habits accordingly. I’ve also come to love TweetDeck. It’s made social media a much more enjoyable experience by providing streamlining tools to weed out all the things you don’t want to see. Or by showing you things you want to be a part of.

Find what works for YOU, and be consistent.

CONSISTENT BLOGGING
From 2016 to 2017, things weren’t consistent on anotherhartmanauthor.com. Even though I wanted to grow this site, my writing journey was just beginning. If I managed to post content, it was all a complete reiteration of someone else’s idea. Of course, there’s “nothing new under the sun,” as they say, but I hadn’t yet found my niche (does that word sound familiar?).

As 2018 and 2019 rolled around, discussing blog topics on early stages of writing and newly learned history felt more natural. People know when you’re not expert. They can tell by your words and sources you choose to quote. (Still, always reference your sources).

For four years I worked without a set blogging schedule. A few weeks ago I recognized my need for one in this post, and I’m slowly working on incorporating it into my life. Pre-scheduling blog posts also helps. That way, you can write it in advance and, if your web host offers it, you can set it to go live on a future date.


So, did you pick up on today’s theme? If you guessed consistency, then you’re right! Consistency is the key behind all these things working together.

Consistency brings us back to the original quote shared at the beginning of this post – Don’t focus on having a great blog. Focus on producing a blog that’s great for your readers.

In 2018 I realized I was blogging for myself, not others. A new game plan was needed, and incorporating these three things + consistency, has helped. I’m far from perfect, and everything’s still a work in progress.

Just make sure that, in whatever you decide to do with your blog, it brings you, and others, joy.


How Removing One Villain Solved Everything

I’m one of those people who learn lessons the hard way. It’s a stubborn streak I inherited from three of my grandparents. As much as I love them – thanks guys. Some cycles are harder to break than others. This can be applied to characters you create for stories as well. You fall in love with them, paint them in your mind, and think about them as you work your 9 to 5 job or cook dinner for the kids. But what happens when a character says goodbye? Not you. The character.

Work on THE FIREDAMP CHRONICLES began nearly four years ago. I thought this particular character was, well, brilliant. His storied, embattled past, who his ancestors were and mannerisms. Little did I know my most thought-about character held back the entire story. My own personal villain.

I cried. Literally, not figuratively. I’ve got the “receipts” to prove it. Please excuse the typos – I’m only human!

Emotion is something I don’t oft post online in any manner. However, November 19th, 2019 called for it. I didn’t realize, until today, just how much he was holding everything back. I suppose that’s the very definition of a villain, isn’t it? They’re nefarious, whisper self doubt in your ear, and can be quite ridiculous in the things they choose to latch on to. For years he had me wound so tightly ‘round his finger I couldn’t see potential in other’s stories. So I’ll end this post on a high note. Here’s an embed of the pros of leaving my original villain behind. And maybe, just maybe, he’ll make an appearance in future stories!


18 Links Any Writer Can Use

To be borderline cliche with this post’s opening statement, the Internet can be a vast, confusing place. With so many voices giving advice both good and bad, how do you even begin to choose what’s right for you? So, then, how can you trust anything I have to say?

I didn’t mean to go all philosophical with this post, but it went there. It’s been a while since I’ve blogged, my most recent being 62 Things I’ve Decluttered or Stopped Buying. And it’s not even about writing! I do a lot of tweaking on my website. Probably more than I should.

Earlier this evening I revisited the Quick Links page I put up many moons ago. Granted about half of them are regional in respect to where I live, but I still think they’re useful to anyone digging into history or research of any kind. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is a historical, informational hub, and I hope to one day add my stories to it. For now, here are 19 Links Any Writer Can Use.

1. 85 Hashtags Writers Need to Know | Amanda Patterson

Social Media. Niches. Hashtags. I’d like to think I’m a savvy enough individual to keep up with these things, but when you consider every type of platform out there, you realize that it’s physically impossible to keep up with all that plus your writing. I didn’t even know the #histfic tag that I now use from time to time. Here’s the thing. There are so many tags, communities and connections out there that it can get confusing very quickly. This post helped me narrow down my options and I still use those tags to this day.

2. 100 Best Websites for Writers in 2018

Okay, yes. I’m aware that it’s 2019. We’re 3/4 of the way through the year and soon it will be 2020. Regardless, Dana Sitar via The Writer Life covers a variety of topics in the list, giving everyone a chance to shine. From Nicole Bianchi and Re:Fiction to Comps & Calls and Enchanting Marketing, this is a great resource no matter the year. Take a look and maybe you’ll find some gems that’ll help your journey.

3. Allegheny County Library Association Card Catalog

While I can be quite nostalgic in that I miss the era of paper card catalogs – pulling tiny wooden drawers open, cards made up with typewriters, and “return by” inked on by a stamp – I do have to take a moment to show my appreciation for the ACLA Card Catalog system. During the initial research phase of Project Chronicles I used them a lot. And I mean a LOT. I reserved books, was able to request books from other counties, or from libraries within Allegheny I wouldn’t have had time to visit. I’d definitely suggest joining your local library system. They’re incredibly helpful and know how to dig up things you may not.

4. AskHerePa

This link banks off the ACLA one in that it’s another librarian based resource. I don’t know if this is a federally funded or state funded thing, or if it’s available in every state, but Pennsylvania has a fantastic resource that anyone can use. With options to chat online, access to e-resources and more, I used this several times when trying to find info on a Pittsburgh landmark which no longer exists. So it may be worth it seeing if there’s a system similar to AskHerePa in your area.

5. Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh Oliver Room

Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh holds many rare and unique collections of historical importance, especially those that illuminate the rich cultural heritage of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania. These historical collections are held at the Main Library in Oakland, as well as in neighborhood libraries throughout the City of Pittsburgh.

One of Andrew Carnegie’s goals was, through philanthropy, make resources available to the American public. The same American public who worked in his mills and places he had connections to. As a result Pittsburgh has its Oliver Room. They preserve historical documents and gives patrons an opportunity use them in a safe environment. The other thing I find really cool about them is that they have genealogy records, rare books and Pennsylvania topographical maps. One of these days I need to take a day and explore this great resource.

6. The Editor’s Blog: How to Format Your Manuscript

I confess. This one might be a titch out of date, as it was posted in 2011. Dear Lord, that’s eight years ago! I’m sure much more than a “titch” has changed. This is still a useful guide, but if you’re in the submission phase to agents or publishers, keep in mind that each one may have their own requirements for manuscript formatting.

7. Grammar Girl

Grammar Girl was also mentioned on the 100 Websites for Writers List 2018 (linked above). There’s a reason for this. She covers a variety of writing topics regarding words and punctuation. She covers things I wouldn’t even think of and I learn something each time I visit. Definitely check out Grammar Girl!

8. Heinz History Center

The Heinz History Center is more than just one building. Part of The Smithsonian network, its main focus is Southwestern Pennsylvania. There’s the Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum, Fort Pitt Museum the Meadowcroft Rockshelter and Historic Village…I think I’ll stop there. They are experts on knowledge of my region in the United States, and I’m grateful for the work they do. They also post a weekly blog centered around historical events most may not know happened.

9. Historic Pittsburgh

Tired of seeing Pittsburgh themed links? I promise, I’m nearly done highlighting my city! But Pittsburgh is one of the most historical cities on the Eastern seaboard. The fact that there’s so many organizations dedicated to preserving its history, and so many people interested in its history, should come of no surprise as to why my first novel series will include it. Historic Pittsburgh is supported by The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, the Chatham University Archives and many others to pool resources for research and preservation. Everyone sees history through different eyes, so it’s a good thing that there’s more than one organization preserving our past. Check with your local city to see if they have sources you may not have thought of.

10. Janice Hardy | Fiction University | Critique Groups

Now this is something I’ve yet to participate in because the introvert in me is still afraid to do so. It’s been several years since I first bookmarked her site and I forget who introduced it to me, but she has a series of novel writing books on structure, revising and understanding how things work together.

The point of this particular inclusion is to highlight the Critique Groups section. If you don’t want to share your MS with completely random strangers you’ve never interacted with through social media, this may be the place for you. Directly from Ms. Hardy herself, “This is for writers who are looking for critique partners or critique groups for more than just “I need some eyes on this before I submit it to an agent” type critiques.”

I’m far from any sort of critique stage (as I’m working on a rewrite of my novella), but I have this on standby for when the time is right!

11. Library of Congress Ask A Librarian

This one operates in a similar fashion to AskHerePa but on a larger scale. These librarians are highly trained professionals who can help you research any topic you approach them with. They are a bit slower to respond as they take their time, or if you message them on the weekend, but they are thorough in the types of resources they provide you with. One time I received not only web links but book titles my local library may be able to get for me. I highly recommend giving this free service a try!

12. LitRejections

This may seem like an odd one to include, but aren’t rejections a part of every writer’s query journey? Let’s face it – we offer ourselves up as tribute (lame Hunger Game reference there, I know) each time we send our work off to someone. Then the rejection comes in – hours, days, weeks or months later – and we find ourselves disappointed yet again.

LitRejections was founded with the sole purpose of encouraging writers as they go through the rigorous process of becoming a published author. They offer several types of critiques, links to agencies in particular countries, interviews with folks deep within the writing industry and encouragement through their social media.

13. The No. 1 Rule for Flashbacks in a Story Opening

Flashbacks. When done well they can provide important insight into a character’s motives or actions. They also run the risk of providing far more backstory than what the reader truly needs to know. It’s a tricky business, deciding to add a flashback, dream sequence or something equally vague at the beginning of a story. Contributor Peter Selgin takes us through several scenarios on what to include and what not to include. And when. A very useful post indeed.

14. Most Common Writing Mistakes: Characters Who Lack Solid Story Goals

Miss KM Weiland appears a lot on this site. No, I don’t know her personally. She is, however, one of the OG (original) folks I connected with when I first got involved in the online writing community. I don’t remember if I bought her books on writing first, or communicated through DMs first. However it happened, I’m glad to have found her site. Her posts, like the one above, are some of the most insightful I’ve found.

15. The Past Tense in English

Grammar. I love to hate it and hate to love it. The cold hard truth: I know I’m not the only one who struggles with my grammar. I’m constantly second guessing myself whenever I write something down, be it on this website, in email correspondence, in a notebook or a Tweet.

My trouble became quite evident to my early beta readers as I switch from tense to tense. At least I’ve yet to mix up which form of POV I’m using in a manuscript (knock on wood). I still have to refer to sites like No. 15 for a quick refresher course every now and then.

Remember: It’s okay to not know everything about writing. It’s a whole beast of a learning process on its own!

16. Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra Archives

Back in 2016 I was granted an amazing opportunity to tour one of my city’s most historic music halls. Home to the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Heinz Hall offers visitors a variety of shows and events throughout the year. A couple years ago I attended a Harry Potter night and everyone had a grand time.

Heinz Hall provides an opulent, rich setting any writer would love to include in a story. They have their own unique history as well as a curator who cares for it. Of course this is specific to the orchestra, but if you have a theatre scene in your story, consider checking out actual locals. They may have a curated, dedicated history center you can utilize.

17. QueryTracker

Why is QueryTracker frequently mentioned in online resource lists? Because of the type of resource that it is. Many established agents and agencies use it to connect with writers, and some use it exclusively for manuscript queries. Gone are the days of mailing giant stacks of paper in manila envelopes (though some still do). There’s still the Writer’s Market [insert year here], a printed guide book you can use. But QueryTracker is a faster method of searching for agents and what their MSWL (manuscript wish lists) are. And guess what? It’s free!

18. What Kind of Author Are You?

And here’s yet another article by KM Weiland. She’s just that good, okay? While this post doesn’t specifically use the word voice, as in a writer’s voice in their story, it did help me understand the concept a bit more. When I first worked with beta readers I was often complimented on my voice. But…what did that even mean?

Eventually, you’ll find what works for you. Do you need a certain technological tool to help you write? Or do you enjoy looking up obscure words and weaving them into your tales? Do you prefer writing in the mornings, afternoon or evenings? This post encourages you to find just that.

Whew! What a list! At one time I considered removing the section from my website and keeping them to myself, but why not share? I may have a resource you never even knew existed.

I suppose there aren’t as many Pittsburgh-themed links as I anticipated, but they’re still just as useful as the others. Expand your knowledge. Look in places you may never have thought to go, and you may be handsomely rewarded with knowledge you never had before.

I think today’s a good day for an adventure.


#YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen

When I began writing this post I was nearing the end of my first project. Key word: was. Then I tried writing the next book in the series and nothing was working; until I had a late night conversation with one of my beta readers (aren’t betas awesome?). What began life as a novella turned into a full, fledged novel. Worthy to be fully included in my debut series.

But now I just wanted to put up a different kind of post than I normally do on my blog. Something lighthearted and fun. Something to take my mind, even for a moment or two, off timelines, maps and inconsistencies in historical data.

If you’ve spent any time on the internet, I’m sure you’re familiar with the “amwriting” and “amediting” tags. I participate in a few of them for the writing community but I’m a simple person when it comes to all that. I streamline my interests and minimize the tags I use. This helps me (somewhat) curb the amount of time I find myself online. There’s one I really enjoy doing, the “YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen” tag. So below I’ve listed the ABCs of Writing, all with that tag front and center!

  1. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen you anticipated the time you’ll spend writing your story, and miscalculated it at the same time.
  2. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen you birthed the idea from a bubble bath/extra long shower or a dream in the middle of the night.
  3. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen you created a protagonist you know everyone will love, or love to hate.
  4. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen you decided to give that protagonist their own story.
  5. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen you edited the crap out of your manuscript, or crap into it.
  6. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen you figured out the climax only after staring at your screen like a drunken llama for five sleepless days straight.
  7. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen you greeted each character you create with open arms, even your antagonists and characters only there to annoy the protagonist.
  8. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen you hurt your fingers dropping your laptop on them.
  9. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen you imagined 20 spectacular locations, realizing halfway into it that you can only logically include five of them.
  10. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen you justified killing your favorite character. Or two. Then you realize you have to justify the choice to your readers.
  11. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen you killed the character. Because a story where absolutely nobody dies is illogical.
  12. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen you love writing in poetic justice as well as justice that isn’t poetic at all.
  13. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen you moved around an adverb 100 times until you realized you really shouldn’t use it anyway.
  14. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen you n
  15. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen you outlined your entire series when you swore you’d never use the method.
  16. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen you put your jar of peanut butter in the fridge instead of the pantry because you’re mentally plotting the climax of your series.
  17. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen you quit using a pen and paper, for the sake of the trees, only to remember you have five unused notebooks on your office shelf waiting and ready to go.
  18. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen you realize that writing a 280 character Tweet does not count towards your daily word count goal
  19. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhenYou s
  20. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen you tell people not to call you after a certain time because SHHHHH, you’re writing for goodness sake! They might incur the wrath of a Gollum-like creature holding their manuscript whispering, “My precioussssss” over and over again.
  21. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen you understand the characters in your head more than flesh and blood people.
  22. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen you view book reviews and “how to” guides on YouTube to help yourself step up your writing game.
  23. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen you w
  24. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen you x
  25. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen you y
  26. #YouKnowYouAreAWriterWhen you zip home from work so you don’t forget that new funny bit you really want to include in your story.

Now it’s your turn! I couldn’t think of any for “n,” “s,” “w,” “x,” or “y.” In the comments below or even on Twitter, @ my handle, “barefoot4life85,” feel free to add your additions to the list! I figured, since many of us are in the writing/querying/researching etc. stages, that it was time to have to have a little bit of writing fun.


Facing It | Author Envy

Have you been able to pinpoint exactly why your favorite authors are, in fact, your favorite? Is it their writing style? Their genre? How active they are on their social media? What they do looks easy when you’re reading it, doesn’t it? They can pump out a new book every year or two so you decide that you can do it too.

Then you find yourself sitting in front of a computer or a notebook, the blank page staring you directly in the face and you don’t even know where to begin. and you figure you should read for inspiration. As you read you begin to wonder, “Why didn’t I write that?” The paragraph is brilliantly built, the choice of words perfect, and the prose is spot on. So now you feel even less qualified and you realize it: you have a bad case of author envy.

In this post of Facing It, I’ll be sharing two things that have helped me keep away author envy; learning the craft and practicing the art of patience.

Facing It | Keeping  Away Author Envy
Be gone, you green eyed monster!

  1. Learning the craft
    I am not a seasoned author, so it’s only logical that I have a lot to learn about this industry. My favorite authors have been at it for years and a couple of them aren’t with us anymore. Yet their stories have stayed with me and I continually reread them.When you’re writing, you don’t really have time to sit there and be jealous of someone else’s writing style. You’re developing your own. Finding your own rhythms. Your own time period and your own story lines. You can’t bank off their name if you’re no relation but you can still be inspired by their work.

     

    You can’t bank off their name if you’re no relation but you can still be inspired by their work.

    Just so long as you’re not copying that work.

    You don’t have to learn to be a copywriter, or a publisher or an agent or an editor. There’s too many fields within the publishing world to worry about all that. Learn who you are as a writer first, especially if that’s what you really want to do. Write. If your life leads you in another direction, then you can focus on that.

    Write. If your life leads you in another direction, then you can focus on that.

    The publishing world isn’t as cut and dry as I thought it was, and I’m learning everything the hard way because that’s just how I roll. That also leads into my second topic:

  2. Practicing patience
    I’ve already touched on the topic of patience in a couple of posts on this blog, but patience really is imperative. Think about this. You’ve finally completed all the edits of your manuscript and, unless you’re going the self-publishing indie route, you are still going to have to wait. Wait for replies that may never come to your queries. Wait for your manuscript to come back from an editor. Wait for…Okay, I think I’ve driven that analogy into a grave.Sometimes I wish that the Star Trek world is reality, with avenues of publication like holodecks where writing literally comes to life. (They’re called holonovels). I think it’ll be easier if I just insert a clip here if you’re unfamiliar with Trek:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mNCybqmKugAThe difference between the 24th century and our century is that things don’t happen as instantly as that and maybe that’s a good thing. In order to perfect your craft, learn your craft, you need to have patience to accomplish it and finish it well.

     

    Sometimes I wish that the Star Trek world is reality, with avenues of publication like holodecks where writing literally comes to life.


Author envy may be ever present, but it’s what you do with with it that counts. You can either channel it into bettering yourself and your craft or you can quit and be disappointed that you never fully took the plunge.

I prefer channeling it and supporting my fellow authors. I may not be published yet but you can most certainly learn from the experiences of those around you. You’re only human and so are they. They’ve most certainly made mistakes on their way through the publishing world, and you and I will too. Just like in anything, be it family, politics, even stanning your favorite musical artist, keep it civil. Keep it real.

The truth is, you’re just starting to find your voice. They’ve also, probably, been at it a lot longer and have had the time to develop their patterns and rhythms. Love on each other, get to know them, and you’ll realize they’re merely on the same journey you are. So don’t be impatient with yourself. You’ll get there!

Don’t let fear or insecurity stop you from trying new things. Believe in yourself. Do what you love. And, most importantly, be kind to others. Even if you don’t like them.” ~Stacy London


Research It | Covered Bridges

Pennsylvania. The land of bridges. If you read my last post about the different kinds of maps, then you’ll know about topographical maps. If not, then the briefest definition of topography is the “detailed description or representation on a map of the natural and artificial features of an area” and is used mostly in the study of geography. But if you’re familiar with the commonwealth of Pennsylvania at all, you’ll know that it’s a vast region of varied land formations from the Poconos of mid state to the low levels near Philadelphia.

Pittsburgh, located in South Western PA, is known as the City of Bridges. While they’re mostly of steel construction (another nickname of the city being the Steel City…more on that at another time), most of the covered bridges were in rural areas, used for trains or normal walking paths and roads. These days, not many of them survive but there are many covered bridge festivals throughout the year, most of them taking place in our gorgeous fall season.

Can you tell that I am a Pennsylvanian?

Washington County. Green County. Columbia County. Montour County. These are just a few of the places in the Commonwealth that celebrate this important structure.

**These condensed histories brought to you by “Images of America: Pennsylvania’s Covered Bridges” by Fred J. Mollalong with other online sources that will be cited.**


The Covered Bridges of Pennsylvania
#allthebridges

A Condensed History
The first covered bridge in the New World was built in 1805 over the Schuylkill River along one of the main routes out of the city of Philadelphia. Many of them were built over such rivers and needed to be tall enough for barges and other water traffic to travel under. Larger covered bridges even required the traveler to pay a toll to cross it for general maintenance or to offset the cost of building the bridge. Often there would be a general store or post office built next to it.

brandywine.jpgSadly, this isn’t the Brandywine on the way to Hobbiton in “The Lord of the Rings.” Pennsylvania isn’t that special! To Brandywine: www.youtube.com/watch?v=QJUryaDzt9c

The earliest covered bridges were built in Philadelphia with the trend continuing westward, encouraging travel between rural communities and cities. Some were constructed out of stone and could support heavy loads of material goods. However, most were smaller, wooden structures used mostly for foot and vehicular traffic. Because of this aspect, many bridges also had advertisements from shops and companies showcasing services or products, and many were commissioned by companies or other entrepreneurs.

Sadly, not many survive today but those that have are celebrated for their contributions to the communities they serviced. These days, a bridge is seen as a common, basic thing. In America’s earliest centuries, if there wasn’t a bridge, you just didn’t go that way until one was built or you built it yourself.

1806 – King’s Covered Bridge, Middlecreek, Lancaster County
1812 – Colossus Covered Bridge in Philadelphia, PA
1872 – Risser’s Mill Covered Bridge in Mount Joy Township, Lancaster County

Covered Bridges in Modern PA…so to speak
As time moved forward covered bridge construction soon became a thing of the past, morphing into the more modern, steel trussed bridges we see today. Iron and steel were Pittsburgh’s main export for many years, so it was easy for engineers to use the materials throughout Pennsylvania for bridges of all sorts, railroads, ships, and tunnels through mountains. That doesn’t mean that by the 19th century, covered bridges fell into complete obscurity. In fact, their charm and usefulness encouraged many living near them to invest in their upkeep and future use.

Covered bridges were still being used well into the 1930s, such as the Wertz’s Mill Covered Bridge off Route 222 North of Reading, PA. The Davis Covered Bridge, built in 1875, has modern paving inside, as well as the Hollingshead Mill Covered Bridge near Catawissa in Columbia County and the Stillwater Covered Bridge, also in Columbia County. Many of the surviving bridges have either been modernized to accommodate 21st century vehicles or restored using similar materials that would’ve been used at the time of construction for historical preservation.

Train and Trolley Use
Unfortunately, none of these types of covered bridges survived the passage of time in Pennsylvania. Otherwise, as a child of a family fascinated by trains and trolleys, we would’ve most definitely have made a journey to visit at least one of them by now. My grandfather, Louis J. Redman of Pittsburgh, PA, played a role in starting the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum in 1949. He was also a founding member of the Train Collectors Association (TCA) a few years later in 1954. Being born in 1916, he most definitely would’ve seen and used these bridges.

There really isn’t much change between the history of these bridges versus what’s already been discussed, but of course they had to be constructed a bit differently to support the weight of steam engines, its cargo, and house the necessary wires for trolley traffic. On September 30th, 1896, the Columbia-Wrightsville Covered Bridge was destroyed by a category 1 hurricane. I mention this one because it was, uniquely, a rail and road traffic covered bridge. The Pennsylvania Railroad took the width of the river and bay into consideration when they constructed it, but it was later replaced, as many were, by an iron bridge.


Well, that wasn’t the most colorful of histories and maybe not the most interesting, but without bridges in general, we may not have seen as much engineering growth that the Industrial Revolution was built upon. Many working parts had to happen, and advancement in travel only pushed that Revolution in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to another level.

Because, let’s face it. Covered bridges are not only practical, but magical.


Facing It | Publishing Temptations

Patience is a virtue. Have your parents or grandparent or older figure in your life ever said that to you when you were younger and you threw a tantrum when you didn’t see immediate results? That’s what this Facing It post is going to be all about.

Let’s look at the very definition of patience. According to the great cliche, Webster’s dictionary, patience is “the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.” Patience is such important topic that it’s even in the Book of Galatians (yep, the Bible), chapter 5, verses 22 to 23a, “22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control.” Forbearance is just a fancy word for patience; we don’t need to get into the etymology of all that!

Have patience, and allow yourself time to properly plot, plan and write your story. If you write your book too sloppily, readers can tell. Last summer I purchased an ebook (Don’t ask me which one. I can’t remember the title now. I think I was so annoyed with it that I put it out of my mind!) and it clearly hadn’t been edited well. If I had a paper back or hard cover version, I would’ve taken a red pen to every error I found. It was so bad that I found it hard to concentrate on the story. You don’t want to discredit your story without going through the process first.

Trust me, I get it. You want to publish and publish now. Let me tell you flat out: it doesn’t work that way. It can, but it shouldn’t. So below I’ll be discussing:

Three Temptations that Stem from Impatience
and how I’m working to avoid them.

Temptation 1: Shooting the first few chapters of your novel to every publisher that accepts that kind of submission.

Don’t. Wait. When I had my first several chapters written, this has been my greatest temptation of all. My outline was half written and barely plotted out, only a third of my characters were named and all the conspiracies I wanted include were mere pipe dreams. So even if a publisher or an agent wanted further information about my project, I wouldn’t have been able to provide them with anything more.

My outline was half written and barely plotted out, only a third of my characters were named and all the conspiracies I wanted include were mere pipe dreams.

My impatience was clearly taking over. I asked my already-published uncle a question about that very kind of submission several weeks ago when he was visiting the States from the UK. The look on his face told me all I needed to know before he said it. “Write the story,” he said. “Write the story to tell yourself it first. Then edit. Then find an agent. A well written, edited, and supported manuscript is better than submitting the first draft of anything.”

I known it all along, but I just needed to actually hear it from someone else. Since I’m going the traditional route of publishing, finding an agent to believe in my story as much as I do is going to be a daunting but well-worth it task. And I hope that we’ll not only have a great working relationship, but that they’ll be honest enough to tell me when a manuscript is crap as well (ha!)

Temptation 2: Thinking that your first draft is the most amazing thing you’ve ever written.

That’s going to be the worst thing to listen to, that your first draft is crap. I can’t tell you how many times I tweaked my first chapter before I managed to start writing the second chapter of my current work in progress. I mean, there are countless memes out there jokingly stating how everyone’s first drafts completely, utterly suck.

Do you know how many times I’ve also wondered what the first draft of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone looked like? Or if JRR Tolkien thought his first draft of The Hobbit was glorious in every way? I highly doubt it. Then again, artists of all mediums have been known to be a little eccentric in one way or another!

I have several fellow writers who have amazingly agreed to critique what chapters I have of my first story ever intended for publication. What did I say after they agreed? “I crave criticism, but I haven’t edited it yet!” I was just being honest and they understood that they’re mostly looking at the flow of the story, not necessarily word choice and grammatical errors. I wouldn’t be surprised if they printed an extra copy just to do that though! (I would. Then again, I’m hyper critical of my own work in general).

Temptation 3: Wanting to go into self-publishing right away because you just want to start making money off your writing.

This Temptation isn’t going to talk about the right away portion because we’ve already touched upon that a bit with Temptation 1. Rather, the making money side of things. You’d think this would be the most common sensical (I made that word up) thing, but most artists don’t go into the field with delusions of getting rich off it. Maybe not right away.

Think about your favorite authors for a moment. Are they from the 1700s? 1800s? Or are they more modern? Did their work become recognized before or after their death? After twelve years of publisher submissions? After countless tossed manuscripts? I’m not trying to burst your bubble or douse your enthusiasm; I am trying to highlight the fact that they had to exhibit a great deal of patience in the brutal publishing world.

If you go the agent route, they’re there to negotiate terms for you. Once a manuscript is accepted by a publisher, it’s time to get into the legality of it all. Agents are there to make money themselves, yes, but if they believe in your story as much as you do, they’re going to fight long and hard to get it published so all you have to concentrate on is writing. If you go the self-publishing route, you have to do all the leg work. All the promoting. And you’ll probably dish out just as much $$ you make for good editing or book cover designing.

The point is this: don’t rush things. Writing isn’t a “get rich quick” scheme. It takes patience (surprise surprise), perseverance, and lots and lots of moxy. It may take a while to get noticed but when you do, if I ever personally do, I know I’ll be grateful someone even took the time to read the characters I’m coming to love so much.


All in all, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to seek advice from others in the biz. If they don’t have the answer you’re looking for, I can guarantee they’ll probably know at least the right direction to steer you.

Community is a funny word. When it works well, it works well. When it’s toxic, it’s toxic. Find that small group of confidants, regardless of if they have the time to critique your work, but who can encourage you because they’ve been there/done all that. And make sure you wholeheartedly trust each other. Patience with yourself and patience with others is still a valuable asset. Never forget that.

All in all, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to seek advice. […] Patience with yourself and patience in others is still a valuable asset. Never forget that.