Why I Don’t Write (All That Much) On Sundays

“Sunday is the golden clasp that binds together the volume of the week.”

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, source

“Sometimes I have loved the peacefulness of an ordinary Sunday. It is like standing in a newly planted garden after a warm rain. You can feel the silent and invisible life.”

Marilynne Robinson, source

“Happiness is a hot bath on a Sunday afternoon.”

A.D. Posey, source

“Sunday is a time when you sit back and reflect on all the blessings that you have received. Smile at all the good things that you are enjoying.”

Sera Train, source

An aesthetic I created for my WIP, Project Star and Sea

Sundays. Love ’em or hate ’em, we get them once a week. Like clockwork. Sundays have never been days off for me. Throughout childhood and into adulthood, my family and I have attended church and many a family event on Sundays. I tried having half day availability for work to include Sundays, but it became just too much to handle. So I know, for sure, that I’ll always always have Sundays off work.

Even though I mentioned family events and church, Sundays truly are the one day I have to myself for whatever I want to do. Yard work? Housework? Laundry? Yes, please, to all that and more! The one thing I’ve decided, however, is that I don’t really want to write on Sundays.

Does that sound weird to you? It kind of does to me. Let me explain my logic.

While I have been known to whip out a notebook or even my laptop in the sound booth at church (I run the sound board, and there’s not much to do while the minister’s speaking), I’ve found that I really can’t form a coherent thought when it comes to my manuscript. So Sundays are now reserved for everything BUT writing.

Honestly? I’m really happy with this decision. In many more ways than one, writing is work. Don’t deny it. You know that’s true. When I’m at work, I’m pulled in twenty different directions, and my brain is constantly thinking about my WIP. The mind itself needs a day of rest, not just one’s body. What do I do on Sundays, now that I don’t work on my WIPs?

1. Clean (trash day in my neighborhood is on Tuesday)
2. Laundry (I often wash my fabric masks this day)
3. Cook/Dishes (mass prep for meals for work)
4. Research (gotta continue learning stuffs for science fantasy)
5. Spend time with family
6. Organize (declutter declutter declutter!)

And so much more!

You know how there are all these popular blogs on how to schedule your writing time, or how to prioritize your work space to prevent procrastination, etc.? Well, this is one of my ways to keep my mind productive on a “writing day off.” If I can do it, so can you.

TL;DR – It’s perfectly okay to take a “writing day off.” Trust me – your brain will thank you for it!


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!


A Comparative Review of CRAFT COMPLEX CHARACTERS for Golden May Editing

We don’t read action scenes for the action. We read to see how hard a character will fight for what they desire most.”

FOLLOW THE LINKS BELOW TO PAY THEM A VISIT

If you’ve never been to AnotherHartmanAuthor before, then hi! My name is Leigh Hartman. I’m in the fourth year of my writing journey with an intense interest in Pennsylvania history. I realize the title for this post reads as though I’m part of Golden May. I am not. But I am honored they trust me enough to review their workbook, CRAFT COMPLEX CHARACTERS.

Reviews. Whether they’re posted up on Amazon, Goodreads or here on my blog, a funny feeling washes over me each and every time. Did I say the right things? Who is this review really for – the writer? The reader? The publisher? In truth, reviews are for everyone. And that is a terrifying thought.

Why? Because reviews are incredibly public opinions concerning another’s work. Not only that, these days, opinions are picked apart and, if the individual on the receiving end doesn’t like what you have to say, the very real possibility of your review magically disappearing isn’t all that far fetched.

Why, then, am I reviewing CRAFT COMPLEX CHARACTERS for Golden May? The answer is simple: I love non-fiction. Okay, I love non-fiction and fiction. In my never-ending quest to find new resource materials, you better believe I jumped at the chance to review and see if another method of creating believable characters could work just as well, or better, than my current one.

In today’s blog post, I’m going to compare this guide with that of author KM Weiland’s character interviews to see which better matches my style. Because, in the end, you’ll never know what works best unless you try it out.

CRAFT COMPLEX CHARACTERS can be broken down into three key parts:

01


Advice

02


Activities

03


Completion

Plot twist!

When Emily Golden and I connected over this opportunity, I told her initially that I would be using this to work on my WIP’s antagonist. However, upon further reflection, I realized I didn’t want to give anything away anything for Project Firedamp, especially anything about my story’s baddie. I will touch upon all four of the above points as this post progresses, working with my newest character named Lady Irene. She will appear in a new web story series I’m writing for this very site.

PART 1. The Advice

“All stories make a point, beginning on page one. Which means that as a writer you need to know what that point is, long before you get to page one.”

-Lisa Cron, Story Genius via workbook pages

Have you ever read a self-help book and thought, “Okay, get to the point. This is too much information”? Another thing a reader needs to consider is how they’ll receive what’s presented. What I first appreciate about this guide is its straightforwardness. There’s no beating-around-the-bush or anecdotes. The second thing I like about CRAFT COMPLEX CHARACTERS is it was created by two editors with years of experience in the biz. Not only that, Emily confirmed the status of my grammar. I’ll gladly take that advice any day of the week!

PART 2. The Activities

Call me stubborn if you’d like, but I sometimes have a difficult time accepting change. After working with the character interview pages for Project Firedamp for so long, it was hard to switch gears. But did I liked the idea of activities over a list. Let’s begin.

The First Activity

Draft your story point. Consider why you’re writing this story, and who you’re writing it for. […] You’re aiming for a one-line statement: the message you want to share about how the world works.

Lady Irene’s heart is in turmoil. Her life, turned upside down the previous year, still affects her daily life. Stuck in a rut, she believes she’ll never go back to normal. Okay. This isn’t a single statement. Let me give it a real whirl:

Hope always follows fear.

Hmm – I think that’s actually pretty good! It matches the story’s overall arc which will, hopefully, be pertinent to 2020’s conditions.

It’s also at this point I’ll begin world-building. The opening scenes will play a very important later on in the story.

The Second Activity

Let’s take a look at the seven (or five, whichever you prefer) stages of grief. They are:

Shock
Denial
Anger
Bargaining
Depression
Testing
Acceptance

Lady Irene, in deep grief, absolutely refuses to acknowledge she’s passed any of these stages. She’s alone in her journey – though perhaps not as alone as she thinks. Irene’s setting herself up for a spinster existence, one no one else wants her to experience. She believes she’ll never escape this, nor the expectations placed upon a Victorian woman in 1853.

What beliefs can you think of that are in direct contrast to your story point? List them out and consider which which one is the most succinct, holds the greatest emotional impact and stakes, and will provide your character with the most intriguing struggle.

The Third Activity

What internal and external goals can you give your character that are incompatible with their inner obstacle?

Internal Goal: Our lady wants to get out but hasn’t realized just how desperately she needs to figure herself out before it’s too late.

External Goal: She wants the strange happenings and her tears to end, and things back to what they were.

The Fourth Activity

Lady Irene feels her time slipping away. Everyone abandoned her… including her Julian.

If Lady Irene cannot solve the mystery behind things which never happened before in her home, she fears she’ll go insane before her twenty-fifth year. She must discover whatever the messages left behind for her mean, lest she remain in her grief stricken state forever.

Okay , this needs some work!

What dire thing does your character fear will happen (whether real or imagined) if they don’t achieve their internal and external goals? Are they serious stakes? […]

The Fifth Activity

Now this is where I’ll end things because
No writer wants to reveal too much!


PART 3. Completion

Within the last pages of the guide there are charts you can work from to build your own. It shows how each of the previous parts works together to clearly showcase your character’s main motives.

While I may have done these pages differently from the intended results, the guide did force me to look past the interview style of building up a character.

Now you’re probably asking yourself, “Where’s this duel? Where’s the comparison part she promised us?”

So how does CRAFT COMPLEX CHARACTERS
differ from KM Weiland’s character interviews?

Craft Complex Characters

1. Looks at motives from the smallest to overall
2. Focuses more on the protagonist’s obstacles
3. Guides the writer to zero in on why they’re writing the story

Character Interview Method

  1. Details character’s mannerisms, demographics, personality, etc
  2. Can be used for protagonists, antagonists and secondaries
  3. Easily modifiable to fit your characters’ needs

Do I think they’d make great companion resources for creating well-rounded characters?
Absolutely!

As it turns out, both guides were created with very separate goals, but still the same overall one in mind: to help you finish your story and finish it well.

With all that being said, keep your eyes peeled for a Victorian ghostly tale coming next month to this site –
THE GILDED CONSPIRACY, featuring our Lady Irene.

And don’t forget to check out CRAFT COMPLEX CHARACTERS by Golden May Editing, available for purchase this weekend. Be sure to vote in the poll below, and feel free to let us know in the comments below what tools you use to create your characters


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?


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.


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 grammar.

American grammar is no laughing matter. My eyes still glaze over whenever I read 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!


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

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.


How To Maintain a Writer’s Website

After building up anotherhartmanauthor.com since 2016, there’s a few things I’d like to share about what’s worked for my site’s style, or even “brand.” That’s exactly what your website is – a visual representation of who you are as a writer.

The only prior experience I had with such things is my church’s website. For two years I built it up, made sure the public knew about upcoming events, and let them know what we were all about. While I still attend services there, I couldn’t do three sites (I also help with a local nonprofit website). Each one takes loads of time, and not everyone has it to maintain a site.

The truth is, a lot of agents and publishers are looking to see if you have an online presence. And, while it absolutely isn’t a necessity, they do want to see if you have an outlet to, eventually (if you haven’t already) market your work. That’s exactly why I referred to your site as being your brand. It all comes full circle.

I’ve maintained this site for three whole years. I tried to be clever enough to name this article “Three Tips On Maintaining a Writer’s Website,” but I thought of a few more items as things progressed. So here are, ahem, four tips on how to maintain a writer’s website:

Look for a Platform YOU Understand and WANT to Use
You don’t have to understand how things work right away. You know about “author envy,” right? Where you get jealous of folks who’re already further along in their publishing journey than you are? The same can be said for “website envy” as well.

I’ve tried MySpace, Blogger (fair warning, Blogger makes it INCREDIBLY difficult to delete one’s account), and several others. WordPress works the best for my current needs, with ample opportunities and outlets to expand later on. That’s a key – being willing to grow as you grow. Your website grows as you add more content.

Be willing to learn. Be willing to grow.

Let’s face facts, shall we? You can spend an entire day on one social media site and not get any actual work done. All those cute cat gifs can wait. They’ll always be there. You also don’t need to have an account with every single outlet either. If you like Twitter, Pinterest and Goodreads, use that combo. If Facebook and NetGalley and Wattpad are your thing, run with them.

Here’s the first take away: The great thing with *most* of the aforementioned sites is they offer ways of connecting you from one platform to the next. Some keep up with the “trends” more than others, but at least they give users the opportunity to showcase their chosen networks.

Read Other Blogs
Creating content, building an online presence, and doing any of the following tips isn’t everyone’s forte. Much of it I learned through trial and error – what works and what doesn’t, what takes up TOO much time and what’s just right. Okay, that last sentence sounds like I paraphrased Goldilocks and the Three Bears. But trust me, you’ll know when you’ve discovered your niche, and that it’ll be just right for you.

Admission: I’m not as good with this as I’d like to be. Just as I’m terrible in not keeping up with my NetGalley book review list. One way I’m attempting to remedy this is including a Blog Round Up section in my new monthly eNewsletter called The Bulletin. Five seemed like a good choice, and coincides with the Five Question Interview series. The similarity being with the number five.

The take away is my next point:

Be Consistent and Follow Through
Updates, short stories, blog posts, online series…the list of content you can include on your site goes on and on. and the like, readers appreciate at least some consistency

Don’t bite off more than you can chew.

I tried writing oodles of short stories just so I’d have some content. What did I find? That my focus was torn between concepts, worlds and characters that had nothing to do with each other. It drove my OCD crazy, so I stopped. I may post something here and there, but short stories really aren’t necessary.

Honesty. I think most folks appreciate it. Those who don’t usually have ulterior motives. This past Spring I hosted The Five Question Interview series. To be completely transparent, I almost quit halfway through. Did I bite off more than I could chew? Perhaps. Am I glad that I followed through? You betcha.

Here’s the next take away: If you start a series or a project, and you know folks are following your progress, let them know if you decide to scrap it. Or if you’re taking a break to reset.

Stick with an aesthetic
This logically follows the previous tip in consistency. You know those image collages folks make for their works in progress? I think one of the more popular ones is called #WedWIPAesthetic, or something along those lines. Here’s a tip-within-a-tip:

Think of your website as a template for how you want your future book covers to look. What era are your stories set in? Are they modern or more historical? Are they light in theme or urban and gritty?

The great thing about photo editing sites like PicMonkey, BeFunky, Ribbet and Pixlr (just to name a few), is their versatility. Many of them offer a free version you can practice on. Can you layer things? Add filters, text and specify dimensions (many sites have different graphic requirements).

Make friends with your web host’s tech team (if they have one), because they KNOW things (or should know things) like CSS coding, widgets, and tweaks you might not think of.

Make friends with your web host’s tech team (if they have one)

Here’s the last take away: You don’t have to use the same graphics everyone else is, or pay someone else to develop a website for you. The great thing about having control is that you can grow it at your own pace, without depending on anyone else to do the legwork for you.

After all that was said here, I’ll leave you with one final tip: you don’t need a fancy SEO, a team of developers or even a paid account with a web host. What matters most is how comfortable you feel putting yourself out there so visibly through a website. And give yourself time to learn, develop and gain a sense of identity in this online world.

I’m not gonna lie. I had loads of help with this thing that you see before you. Don’t forget, however, the most important thing – your writing.

Everything else is secondary.

Even a website.


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!