Stuck On Your Story? Here Are Fifty Things to do That Have Nothing To Do With Writing

If you’ve spent any time in the blog-o-sphere, or even in any of the online writing communities of Twitter and Reddit, then you’ll know you’re not alone in being in a “writing rut.” The majority of us can’t travel for inspiration. Or do that once planned visit to research in the largest library in the country (my derailed plans from last year – thanks ‘rona).

Here’s the cold hard truth: you have ambitions, yes. But perhaps it’s time to step away from that computer/writing space/etc. and get out of your head. Do something mindless. Do something you used to love and try doing it again. Don’t know what to do? Here’s a list of Fifty Things To Do That Have absolutely Nothing To Do With Writing:

  1. Ride a bike
  2. Go ice skating
  3. Walk the dog (or cat?)
  4. Redo that troublesome closet
  5. Buy yourself flowers
  6. Plan this year’s garden
  7. Learn a new skill
  8. Cook a favorite meal
  9. Take a hot shower/bath (seriously)
  10. Declutter your workspace
  11. Visit a local home improvement store for project inspo
  12. Fix that thing that’s needed fixing for a long time
  13. Zoom with family or friends
  14. Start a blog
  15. Go through your old stories
  16. Watch soap-making videos on YouTube
  17. Get lost in social media (but not too lost. Save your sanity!)
  18. Reread a favorite novel series
  19. Try outlining your own work-in-progress for the first time
  20. Conduct interviews for your characters
  21. Offer to edit a paper or two for students you know
  22. Support small businesses in your area
  23. Find a local charity and see what they’re volunteer needs are
  24. Try your hand at freelance writing
  25. Learn how to use a graphics design program
  26. Build “mood boards” for your characters, or theme boards for inspo
  27. Have a “binge” day – eat the food you want, watch the shows you want
  28. Snuggle with your snuggle buddy
  29. Splurge on all those teas you’ve had your eyes on
  30. Find a new genre of music to listen to
  31. Learn calligraphy
  32. Consider caring for fish. Or plants?
  33. Make a #WIPAesthetic to visualize a character’s emotions
  34. Have a movie night where the film’s themes match your own WIP
  35. Pick a random topic and research research research
  36. Learn needlepoint or knitting
  37. Join a local writer’s group
  38. Plan your spring farmers’ market trips
  39. Clean out the basement or attic (or both)
  40. If you can, offer to shop for a neighbor
  41. Redesign a space in your home
  42. Power wash your drive/walk/siding
  43. Clean out the gutters (you know it’s probably time)
  44. Make a purchase from that shop you’ve been eyeing for a long time
  45. Donate to a food pantry
  46. Pick back up an old family tradition
  47. Create a playlist for your work-in-progress
  48. Go for a run/walk
  49. Find all those things you know relax you and just RELAX
  50. Write letters (yes, old school snail mail)

Looks like SOME of the suggestions have something to do with writing. Writing doesn’t always have to be a chore: constantly drafting, especially when stuck. I used to do needlepoint but often got frustrated and never completed them. Thus, wasting money. A few weeks ago, however, I decided to try again. This time, I bought a pattern where I don’t have to count my stitches. Why do I still enjoy it? It’s really freed up my mind, doing something mindless. You don’t always have to write at warp speed. Slow down. Give yourself a break. And perhaps, perhaps, you’ll find some story inspiration along the way!


Two Introverts Walk Into a Conference

I am an introvert and creature of habit. Everything in my home has purpose and a place to go, a structured schedule gives me life, and I’m in my element when alone.

“I have to be alone very often. I’d be quite happy if I spent from Saturday night until Monday morning alone in my apartment. That’s how I refuel.”

Audrey Hepburn – source

Let’s face it. The title of this blog post sounds like the opening of a pretty bad joke. However, that’s really what my mother and I are like among a crowd of people. I get my introversion from her. You wouldn’t believe it if you knew everything we’re involved in. Volunteering, working in retail, and coordinating projects are just a few examples. I’d call us “high functioning introverts.”

Two weeks ago mom mentioned she had to go to Delaware through a non-profit we both volunteer with and I went as her travel buddy. “I’ve never been to Delaware,” I said. “Let’s go!” The event was the Christian Product Expo, and my mom helps out with ordering and making connections for the non-profit.

Ironic, right?

I mainly wanted to go to interact with the publishers – Harper Collins, Barbour Publishing and DaySpring, just to name a few – and see what books they showcase at this kind of event. However, as soon as we stepped into that conference hall both our hearts dropped.

There were so. Many. People.

Okay, I may be exaggerating a bit here, but with five rows of vendors and publishers, we knew we needed to regroup and make a game plan for the day.

“I think a lot, but I don’t say much.”

Anne Frank – source

Mom and I manage to get through two rows before we’re mentally exhausted. Cue information overload. I can’t imagine traveling around with any conference or expo for a living. So we took a break and spent the rest of the afternoon chilling in the lobby. She went over booklets, contacts and the like while I worked on this blog post.

I must say that I’m proud of myself for gathering the courage to talk with the reps from the publishers that really interested me. I got just three business cards, but I discovered who carries the books of one of my favorite authors of fairy tale retellings – Melanie Dickerson! That made it easier to connect over books and hopefully opened the door for future contact. I’m getting ahead of myself here….

The Lessons Learned

Neither my mom nor I knew what to expect going into an event like this. That’s what daunted us the most about the experience. Here’s what I learned.

  1. Do Your Research – find out what publishers are looking for, who they represent, and read those books before going to an event. It’ll help conversation flow and show them you know the market. This is something I need to start working on!
  2. You Are Not Alone – you’re wrong if you think you’re the only introvert walking into that expo or conference. Don’t sell yourself short either – you’ve got props for just showing up! Yes, there are folks who’ve done things like this far longer, but most are extremely helpful.

Two introverts walked into a conference and came out feeling a bit more confident in themselves. “We did it!” Mom and I both said. We didn’t cover all the booths, but it was, overall, a really good learning experience. I don’t know if we’ll attend again in the future, but now I know at least some of the etiquette that comes along with it. Don’t pressure yourselves into thinking you must do it all and meet all the people.

Just let you shine through.


Confessions of a Chronic Underwriter

Be honest with me: How many of you thought I put the word “underwear” instead of “underwriter” in the title? I won’t blame you one bit! But the title is completely, utterly, unequivocally true. About two years ago my uncle, who’s a published children’s author, picked up on it when he read through one of my very early drafts for a shelved projected titled For One Night at the Winter Garden. “Your sentences are too long,” he said. “Does that detail really need to be in there?”

He didn’t use the words “you’re an underwriter,” but he recognized the signs that I was trying too hard.

When you try too hard, you put more detail (whether by choice or subconsciously) into a scene where it’s not needed. It often shows up in the form of sharing too much backstory or sharing, say, historical details out of context (if you’re writing historical fiction, that is!). Personally, it was overcompensation because I hadn’t fully developed any of my characters. For One Night was all scene and setting driven rather than main character centered.

I’m grateful for For One Night. Not only did it teach me when and where to include details, the project also showed me two years ago that I wasn’t ready to take on Project Firedamp. I needed to be patient with myself. So I blogged, researched my novel’s era and read UP on craft. My chronic underwriting is still there, but I’m more aware of the choices a writer’s mind needs to make because I focused on what needed to be fixed within myself.

WRITE TIP: Is there something keeping you from being the best writer you can be? What is it? Is it something your beta readers have pointed out in their notes for you? Don’t be afraid to take a hard look inside and the TIME to fix it. Life is a never ending learning journey. Be patient with yourself and don’t be tempted by shortcuts.

Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish.

John Quincy Adams

Five Booktube Channels I Recommend

To be completely candid here, I’ve been less excited about books lately than in years past. Inspiration comes in many forms, and some bookish inspiration was needed. So I headed to YouTube and looked for a few channels to get started.

As a long time viewer of beauty community drama (it’s my guilty pleasure), it’s only logical to assume that other YouTube communities aren’t immune to the “spilling the tea” phenom. I don’t know anyone save for two channels mentioned in this post, so that gave me an unbiased look into this new realm.

It’s funny; during my time on Twitter I’ve stayed out of as much writing drama as possible, save for a few opinions and problematic accounts. It’s impossible to ignore bad advice when it’s given. Below are six booktube and authortube channels I recommend (in no particular order).

Natalia Leigh

Sub Count: 10.4 k
Links: Twitter | Goodreads | Facebook | Instagram | Website

From what I’ve seen so far, Natalia is a well grounded author who takes the time to look into what kind of writer and content creator she wants to be. My first video of hers was actually in reference to some Twitter drama that happened in early 2019, and I appreciate her kind of honesty. We may believe in different things, but writing is one of the things we’ve got in common. That transparency is why I recommend Natalia. It also doesn’t hurt that “Leigh’s” in her name as well!

bytheBrooke

Sub Count: 4.96 k
Links: Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Website

New Adult author Brooke Passmore also hooked me with her honesty (you’ll find this to be a common thread with these channels). I’ll admit that my first video of hers also came on the heels of online writing drama (surprise surprise), but her demeanor is what kept me watching. As a thirty-four year old viewer of entertainment, I don’t need over-the-top personalities and crazy editing many 2019 content creators seemed so fond of. Simplicity is the best medicine, and, well, her background’s PURPLE! I love purple…

Peter Likes Books

Sub Count: 21.7 k
Links: Twitter | Goodreads | Instagram

I’ve known about this channel for quite a while due to Peter’s beauty community drama channel. His honesty on subjects other than books is what convinced me to give his booktube a chance, and why I am thinking about beginning a history themed booktube channel myself. If you’re looking for someone to tell you like it is, I’d give Peter’s videos a shot! Variety is the spice of life, and Peter certainly lives up to that 🙂

Kate Cavanaugh

Sub Count: 29.8 k
Links: Twitter | Instagram | Website | Patreon

Kate’s channel was one of the first I stumbled upon in my quest to find booktubes, and the first video of hers I viewed was “I Tried Writing Like JK Rowling for Two Days.” While entertaining, it really drove the point home that every writer needs to find their own methodology. What’ll work for one individual may not for the next. Take a look at some of Kate’s videos below!

Sara Lubratt

Sub Count: 95
Links: none

In YouTube talk, a small channel like Sara’s would be called a “micro channel” as she only has 95 subs. Even with little over a dozen videos to her name, I can see returning to this channel time and time again. We all have to start somewhere, right? Sara’s story is just beginning. As far as I can tell, she has no other social media links to share. And that’s okay!


One of my goals for this post was to find a group book lovers and authors at varying stages in their careers and ages. While I don’t know yet if watching booktube will become part of my daily writing routine, it’s good to engage with other writers and opinions. That’s what makes the book community such a rich one, and it’s vain to think you don’t need anyone else to accomplish your own goals. So no matter your routine, beliefs or demographic, I hope you’ll explore the channels above with an open mind and who knows, maybe you’ll find a kindred spirit or two!

Happy writing/reading, friends!


When a Character Says Goodbye

I always thought writers were crazy when they Tweeted about their characters “speaking” to them. For the first time since my novel’s conception, I experienced a “sayōnara” moment with my original villain. Now I know what all those “crazy writers” were talking about. And you know what? I’m now one of them. Yay!

The downside to saying goodbye to a villain is, who do I put in his place? An entire plot line is now poof, gone. Destroyed during a ten minute research session on a chilly November Saturday morning. He’s gone after my mind’s played with his family history for three years.

I looked at my villain in the eyes; he looked back. Then he gathered up his crown and jauntily walked out of the story.

Fighting with him, I called him back, reaching for his cape as it billowed behind him in the wind. “NO! Did these past three years mean nothing to you?!” Just like the villain he is, he ignored my pleas, blood, sweat and tears, and disappeared into the morning sun. He left me in the dust. In a pile of words, scenes, plot lines and intrigue only he can solve.

Sometimes characters will do that to you. You’ll discover that they’re just not right for the current story that needs telling. I was going to pull my own form of villainy and out him for his treacherous, turncoat nature but you know what? I think I’ll just lock him in the story vault and feed him with facts of what he hates the most – news that the Union Army won the Civil War.


All The Tropes I Want to Use But Won’t

When I first looked up writing tips, the word “trope” popped up everywhere – on YouTube, on Twitter and Facebook and Pinterest. Enter in a whole new world of terms to sift through. Let’s begin discussing tropes.

To be unequivocally cliche here, Webster’s Dictionary defines a TROPE as: “a word or expression used in a figurative sense,” and “a common or overused theme or device.”

Storytelling is an art form that’s been around for centuries. Ever open a new book, get four chapters in, and wonder why it seemed familiar? Every genre has its own kind of formula and character traits to go with them – the love triangle in a Rom Com, the wizard who uses a wand to aid him in his spell casting, faeries who are based off Disney’s Tinkerbell from Neverland.

Are they completely untouchable?

What if the author wants to use them in some form or another? Since putting my #histfict series on hold to get this fantasy concept out, I’ve been revisiting the following tropes.

Different genre, different tropes, right?

Here are five tropes I really want to use but won’t

“Girls who disguise themselves as boys in order to adventure” via silverblade.net

“The main character’s parents die in an accident/in war/murdered” via HobbyLark

“The races/species are uniform” via Fantasy-Faction

“Characters with no experience are better than the experts” via mythcreants

“Going back to their small town to get away from something/rekindling old romances” via The Writing Cooperative

Pick a trope typically used in a genre completely different from what you write and rework it to fit your own genre.

An ever constant challenge: creating a story that isn’t completely trope-y!