It’s Time To Bare My Soul

Let’s begin this post with this: I haven’t written a single thing in weeks. Literal weeks. Can I even still call myself a writer at this point if that’s the case?

I don’t want to call it procrastination. I can’t call it burnout either.

I suppose the full purpose of this particular blog post is to ask: am I alone in this?

It’s not yet June and I’ve already read 83/100 books this year. Yay?
It’s not yet June and I haven’t even scratched the surface of my WIP.
It’s not yet June and I don’t know if any of my efforts from the last five years will ever amount to something.

Am I alone in this?

I see Twitter acquaintances come and go as they further, or give up on, their publication journeys. I don’t branch out – I’ve found Twitter to be an exceedingly toxic place as of late. And all that “noise” has turned me into someone I don’t know anymore.

So many arguments over “the best way to be published.”
So many disagreements and “calling outs” for seemingly mundane things.

I’m not sure if I can continue on this journey.

I normally wouldn’t make a post about this, preferring to be uplifting for other folks. But every time I open my WIP, it doesn’t happen. Every time I go to blog something I thought would be a great new addition to this site, I sit on it for days, or weeks, at a time.

Again I ask, am I alone in this?

Last year was the most productive I’ve ever been. I don’t know why I feel moreso under pressure than when I’m calm.

I know I’m probably reaching, asking for any input you may have, but if you’ve the time, I’d love to have a discussion on this in the comments below. There’s something keeping me from continuing on with whatever direction this writing thing will take me and I just don’t know what it is…


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!


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.


My Writing Goals for 2021

In 2019 I gave myself seven writing goals to accomplish by this time, this year. I completed every single one of them! Ha, no. That would be a lie *insert clip of Maury reading lie detector results in front of a live audience.*

The shutdowns in early 2020 really put a damper on my earliest planned goals. Let’s revisit My Seven Writing Goals for 2020 real quick before moving on to what I’ve got planned for 2021.

1. Finish Project Firedamp

Considering the fact that Project Firedamp is now shelved and saved onto my external hard drive, it’s safe to assume I didn’t accomplish this particular goal. While I’m sad that my original project – this idea began my writing journey and encouraged me to launch this site – is a bit beyond my reach right now, it’s always an ever-present thought in the back of my mind. So, who knows? Perhaps I’ll revisit Firedamp in the future.

2. Tour More Historical Sights

I finally managed to tour the industrial, historical city of Johnstown, Pennsylvania back in September. Before everything shut down, I had local coal mines, area farms, a blast furnace, and a local observatory on my “to tour” list in late Spring. Every Forth of July, my family and I also take a steam train trip either within Pennsylvania or somewhere close in the tri-state area. I count myself lucky that we were still able to visit Johnstown. I hope more historical sights are able to reopen in 2021.

3. Bring More Story-Themed Decor Into My Home

Shortly after writing the original post I realized something about myself. I prefer practical, vintage elegance over Victorian-esque objects that may not even work. What changes have I made this year? I no longer watch television, so my living room’s now a library. Yay!

4. Visit the Library of Congress for a Day

Okay. This one hurt more than all the others. It was to be the first trip I’d ever take by myself. I was going to get an AirBNB close to the Mall and work on a manuscript in the Library of Congress. And, perhaps, reenact that one scene from the first National Treasure film. Maybe I still can this time next year?

5. Build a Paper Organizer

I nixed this idea around June or July as I had the opposite problem with all the shut downs – I was working way too much due to my company’s status as an essential business. As a result, my DIY and crafting projects got pushed to the wayside. Instead, I now have plans to build a baking area. We’ll see how that goes…

6. Write in Tennessee (aka go on vacation)

This turned into the aforementioned Johnstown trip. I still need to go back to Tennessee

7. Hand Copy a Novel

Yeah – I didn’t complete this either. 2020 wasn’t a good year for me and I really lost momentum with my writing…

My Writing Goals for 2021

If I learned anything in 2020 it’s that life can throw us unrelenting curve balls. I spent much of these past twelve months disappointed in my sudden inability to write.

1. Work on my Self Doubt

For some reason I found myself in a state of denial for much of 2020. I thought, “Naw. I’m fiiiiiiiine. This covid thing isn’t affecting me. I’m just going about life all normal.” When August hit, and I still hadn’t written a thing, I became incredibly discouraged and almost deleted absolutely everything. While I did accidentally delete EVERY BACKUP FILE FOR THIS SITE from my hard drive with no hope of getting it back, I did safely store everything I had concerning Project Firedamp on Google Docs for future use.

In the meantime, two new ideas came to me in recent weeks. And each of them are polar opposites of them. I know many authors dabble in multiple genres; but I’ve yet to complete one project. So my first writing goal for 2021 is to tackle my self doubt head on.

2. Set Aside Actual Writing Time

This goal will be a tricky one to work out. Why? My work schedule follows the trends and rules of the retail business. It’s never consistent. I can close one night only to go back in eight hours later and do it all over again the next morning. How the heck is someone like me supposed to find a logical time to write?

Even though I pride myself on being a chameleon of sorts when it comes to varying schedules, I often wish I could become a creature of predictable habits. The other thing I need to learn to balance is how much time I spend blogging. Blog posts ≠ a completed manuscript. (Except, according to the Insights page, I’ve so far written 59,949 words for anotherhartmanauthor.com). That’s practically a novel right there!

So this goal is two fold: set aside time for novel writing, and time for blog writing.

3. Go On Those Historical Adventures

Of course this goal will all depend on what reopens in 2021, but I still want to write for a day in the Library of Congress, stare at the heavens from a local observatory’s telescope, and take that steam train trip again on the Forth of July. I still want to return to Tennessee, go spelunking in a Pennsylvanian coal mine, and tour a sight that plays an integral role in my very first novel concept.

4. Finish. That. Manuscript.


Everybody I’ve talked with recently has said they look forward to 2021. And the feeling is quite mutual. I think four writing goals is a manageable, attainable list, don’t you? Seven was definitely far too many, especially for a year like 2020.

This website’s first series will begin Wednesday, February 3rd. I love doing these writing community interviews because, not only do they give me something to look forward to during the slow crawl to Spring, but I get to meet many new faces. So while the Five Question Interview series isn’t exactly a goal, it definitely will help my ever-present self doubt. Will you try something new for yourself in 2021?

What is it?

You don’t have to tell anyone.

Just do it!


Here’s Why “The Siege of AR-558” is the Finest Episode in All Star Trek.

There’s one life long decision I’ll never apologize for cultivating: my life long obsession with Star Trek. Many episodes from The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager and Enterprise I’ve watched thrice over. I never could get into The Original Series, but that’s just personal taste. I did, however, give an entire speech in college on how Star Trek influenced not only my life, but the lives of countless other individuals, inventions and events. I wish I’d kept that speech. Heck, I even visited the John C. Hodges Library on the University of Tennessee’s campus to search their stacks for resources. (I attended a smaller college some fifteen to twenty minutes away near Knoxville).

So when I claim that The Siege of AR-558 is the finest episode in all Star Trek, I’m basing this off my knowledge and viewership of the primary plot line (if you’re a dork like me who enjoys things like this, have a read of this Wiki page on the Timeline of Star Trek). I prefer to not include the 2009 reboot films, as they are just that: films instead of episodes.

The Siege of AR-558 takes place during Deep Space Nine’s sixth season (1997-98). The Next Gen film, Insurrection, is released a year after in 1998. I mention this to help give Trek fans a starting point for this post, and to help blog readers unfamiliar with the franchise to get some background knowledge before what’s to come.

Speaking of Next Gen, I know many fellow fans will argue that The Inner Light is the best episode, Mirror; Mirror from TOS, or Tuvix from Voyager, or even still Damage from Enterprise. All those are well and good, and must watch episodes for any new Star Trek fan. But here’s why I firmly believe that The Siege of AR-558 is the finest episode in all Star Trek. For none of those have resonated with me more than this. Spoilers ahead, one quarter impulse.

The Plot.

At story’s open we are met with a war-torn, well oiled crew, going on yet another resupply mission to an outpost wanted by both the Federation and the Dominion for the communications array there. As the USS Defiant waits for Sisko and his team to finish, they’re attacked by Dominion ships covering their own troop reinforcements to the same moon. When Sisko is faced with a decision to leave a regiment worse off or stay, he chooses to stay and command.

Morale on the Federation front lines is at an all time low, but they know their orders and hold fast to them; “When we landed here there were one hundred and fifty of us. We’re down to forty-three.”

We also have the unique perspective of this episode to see Quark’s perspective of the war and those fighting it. He keeps attempting to dissuade his nephew, as their race isn’t even a member of the Federation; “Take a look around you, Nog. This isn’t the Starfleet you know.” In Quark’s defense, he’s tried to dissuade Nog from joining Starfleet since season three’s episode Heart of Stone. While this may not be a turning point battle for The Dominion War, it does become just that for Captain Benjamin Sisko and Starfleet’s only serving Ferengi officer.



At the fifteen minute mark we see just how nerve-wrecked the troops are as Doctor Bashir tends to their wounds; “One minute he’s tying this on my arm, talking my head off. And the next, he’s flung back with a hole in his chest.” This is some brilliant acting by Raymond Cruz as Vargas; the producers for this episode couldn’t have cast a better group of people for this particular story.

Doctor Julian Bashir recognizes the precarious nature of the individuals guarding the post. They’ve been there since the war began and were supposed to have been replaced months earlier. When Sisko is asked what their new orders are now that he’s the highest ranking officer, he says, “There’s only one order, lieutenant. We hold.” Chills, I tell you. I got literal chills.

Now faced with fighting insurmountable odds with this war-torn regiment, they immediately ready for battle. All the while, their nerves are further frayed by subspace mines, dwindling numbers and the pending battle. When a grave injury takes down one of their own, everything changes. Quark takes up arms defending his nephew and comes to blows with Captain Sisko. Sisko: “Now you listen here, and you listen good. I care about Nog, and every soldier under my command! Understood?”

Final thoughts.

Star Trek has never been a show to back down from humor, parties and all those “good times” episodes. It’s also never backed down from taking stands on social issues, showing the rawness humanity has to offer, or what anyone’s capable of in certain situations. The Siege of AR-558 is absolutely no exception. Friends were made, friends were lost, and viewers will feel like they’re right there with them on that God-forsaken moon.

This episode shows what a crew, working together as long as they have, is capable of accomplishing. By this point in the show, these characters have fought directly on the front lines since The Dominion War began (since the inception of the Bajoran Wormhole). And the main crew of actors have worked together for years as well. This episode would not have worked early on in DS9s run. Its sheer perfection and placement in Season Seven is where it truly belongs.

This is an episode with amazing writing, excellent acting, and a harsh look at what war can do to individuals after a long period of time. The fact that this episode still evokes such strong emotions years after its original air date speaks volumes to the brilliancy of it all, and is why The Siege of AR-558 is the best episode in all Star Trek. No show will ever have character arcs or character camaraderie quite like the ones of Star Trek Deep Space Nine.


What I Bought From the Kawaii Pen Shop.

A couple of months ago I put up a post titled Seven Online Stationary Shops I Need to Buy From ASAP.

The lessons learned during this particular experience were many, though it should’ve been a simpler process.

Before we get into all that, let’s take a look at what I purchased. I had a difficult time sifting through the site’s offerings, so I made a mental note: only buy a little, at first. $46 + some change later, here’s what I chose.

Kawaii Pendant Gel Ink Pen. The charm’s what drew me to this piece. It reminded me of the Japanese manga Sailor Moon. A loose reminder, but a reminder nonetheless. After owning this pen for two weeks it stopped writing. Not only that, it stopped writing and leaked a big puddle onto my desk. Price: $2.59 + one desk.

Kawaii Pendant Gel Ink Pen
Gel Ink Stain on my desk…

Sweet Pocky Pens

Sweet Pocky Pens. If you’re unfamiliar with this sweet, Pocky is a stick shaped biscuit treat first developed in 1971 Japan. Since its inception many versions of the chocolate covered treat have hit the market and can now be found in many popular North American retailers. So I really liked the look of these pens, and have to remind myself to not take a bite out of them! While they’re aesthetically pleasing, I’ve yet to find a good way to hold them. However, I do appreciate the fact the pens’ manufacturer flattened one side of it so the design would always face up. Price for two: $4.98.

My Neighbor Totoro Gel Ink Pen. As much as I adore Studio Ghibli, I did not like this pen. The Totoro top is a thin, rubbery piece of felt, and it stopped writing just like the pendant pen. I’m just grateful it didn’t also leak all over my desk. Price: $2.39.

Japanese Pattern Washi Tapes

KOKUYO Dot Liner Applicator + Bear Hug Correction Tape. When I’ve the time for it, I love crafting. Making cards, stationary pages and more. I really like how the dot liner is re-loadable. Most American versions of double-sided tape dispensers are one time use tools. This brings me to the correction tape applicator. Its adorable design made me buy it. I didn’t need it, but I wanted it. Dot Liner: $3.99. Bear Hug: $2.99.

Macaron Galaxy, Japanese Patterns, and Slim Washi Tapes. So far, these items are the only things to perform as they should. The Japanese Patterns tapes were a bit tricky to use as the sticky side is adhered to paper rather than just the other side of the roll. The stars tapes, both the gold and aqua silver rolls, are gorgeous. Price for all washi tapes: $17.47

Totoro Plastic “Stickers” and Thin Washi Tapes

Kawaii Totoro Plastic Stickers and Kanahei Bunny Stickers. As a kid I was a sucker for stickers. Even now, if I see cute stickers, I have to at least drool over them before convincing myself I really don’t need a sticker collection. I’m glad I picked up the bunny stickers – my seven year old niece will love them. But the Totoros? They’re not stickers at all. Plastic, yes. But there’s nothing sticky about them. They’re merely plastic cut outs of the characters, and I can still use the Dot Liner to apply them to my next letter. Price of Totoro “stickers:” $3.99. Price of bunny stickers: $3.59.


I placed my order on July 31st, they acknowledged it June 1st, and shipped it June 2nd. When did the package actually arrive? August 4th. It took two months to receive it. I’m most mad at myself because I knew, before deciding to place an order, that they’re based out of Hong Kong. The day it appeared in my mailbox I was going to file a dispute for the transaction to get my money back. Moral of the story: Never shop online during a pandemic unless what you’re shopping for is absolutely necessary.

Was this purchase worth the money? I’m sorry to say, but no. Some of it wasn’t worth the money nor the time it took to arrive. Just because something’s labeled “kawaii,” that doesn’t mean it’s reliable or practical. The experience only confirmed what I needed it to: online shopping isn’t everything. Do I trust the Kawaii Pen Shop? Nothing’s happened to my bank account since then, so I trust them for that. What I do not trust the quality of their products. Still, if you’d like to check them out for yourself, here are their links:


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


18 Links: Revisited // The Ones I Actually Use

Two years have passed since I first put up a post titled 18 Links Any Writer Can Use. Since then, I’ve streamlined my writing process, the links I actually use on a daily or weekly basis, and decided it was time to update that old list. To quote the original post:

With so many voices giving advice (both good and bad),
how do you even begin to choose what’s right for you?

In this 2020 update I’ll share what thoughts I remember from 2018 and why I included it. Keep reading to find out which links withstood the test of time.

85 Hashtags Writers Need to Know | Amanda Patterson

2018: Then I had no idea what social media hashtags were popular in the #writingcommunity. This list looked to be the less intimidating of what I found to share. I didn’t need a 250 point list. Or a 120. Or, or or or or. Eighty-five seemed like a great, low number with just the right variety to get started.

2020: Now I use only a select few. The world of hashtags is its own beast and, unless you’re willing to read through all those threads, those hours online could be better used outlining or working on your manuscript. Find the two or three or four – ones that fit your genre, or ones that truly connect you to others in your field – and stick with them. You can, of course, switch it up.

Do I still use this link? No.

100 Best Websites for Writers in 2018

2018: Then: a confession. I used this link a LOT to compare my site to those most popular. I used to agonize over design, usefulness, the quality of their short stories, and the fact they had published books. It took a while to realize: that’s not what this list is supposed to be used for.

2020: Now, I look at these lists for inspiration and connection to authors and writers I otherwise may have never known. Instead of measuring up my own self worth against those who’ve worked diligently and far longer than I on their writing careers, it’s now a dream. Let’s face it – I’ve got a long way to go!

Do I still use this link? Yes.
But the 2020 version.

Allegheny County Library Association Card Catalog

2018: Then: I used this website a LOT throughout my early research stage. As I didn’t truly know where to begin, it was in 2018 I discovered the term “research rabbit hole,” and my local librarians were more than happy to oblige.

2020: Nowadays I utilize the Library of Congress’ “Ask A Librarian” link. This is mostly due to issues with my car (I don’t trust it to get me that far) and the fact that my library was closed for four months due to the pandemic. While Northland does have an entire row dedicated to Southwest Pennsylvanian history, the information I needed later on in my research journey became increasingly specific.

I’m not saying your local online card catalog isn’t worth it. If you dig deep enough, other equally fantastic resources are most certainly out there.

Do I still use this link? No.

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.”

Source – CLP website

2018: One of Andrew Carnegie’s philanthropic goals was to make resources available to the American public. As a result, Pittsburgh has its Oliver Room. I had every intention to make an appointment to visit this special place.

2020: However, as life would have it, I completely forgot about the Oliver Room. I still think it’s a fantastic thing to have resources such as this. It’s always worth it taking a look into your own town’s or city’s historical archives. Do I still hope to visit for a future project? You bet!

Do I still use this link? No.

The Editor’s Blog: How to Format Your Manuscript

2018: Then, when I shared this in 2018, it was already out of date as it was posted in 2011. 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.

2020: Now, as I’m nowhere near that dreaded querying stage, I ignore everything but the basics for formatting.

Do I still use this link? No.
Instead, I use this link. I don’t know when it was put up,
but I have to believe it was within the last two years.

Grammar Girl

2018: Then, I thought I was going to use this site so, so much. As it turns out, I prefer physical books for my non-fiction over electronic resources. Ones I own. Ones I can highlight and put post it notes all over.

2020: Now, as I get easily overwhelmed when I read informational blogs, I don’t visit as much as I used to. Mignon Fogarty’s mind still fascinates me with how many useful podcasts and tweets she puts out. So go check her website out if you’ve got any grammar-related questions.

Do I still use this link? No.
I do still follow her Twitter account here.
And now I’m questioning the validity of my own grammar in this blog post….

Heinz History Center

“The Heinz History Center is more than just one building. Part of The Smithsonian network, its main focus is Southwestern Pennsylvania.”

2018: Then, all I had to say about this history center was what’s above. In actuality, I only included it because I hoped to utilize its resources. I never did.

2020: Now? I still haven’t used it. Including the link in the original post was part of a grand research project I wanted to do. That project no longer exists.

Do I still use this link? No.

Historic Pittsburgh

2018: Then, my exact words were “Tired of seeing Pittsburgh themed links? I promise, I’m nearly done highlighting my city! […] The fact that there’s so many organizations dedicated to preserving its history, with so many people interested in its history, should come of no surprise as to why my first novel series will include it.”

2020: Now, after many many many revisions, I don’t know how it would work. What I wrote following the aforementioned statement is still true: “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.”

Do I still use this link? No, but I wonder: would it be a great tool for my grandma’s ancestry research?

Janice Hardy | Fiction University | Critique Groups

2018: Then, my introverted self would never even have considered joining a critique group.

2020: My still introverted self has yet to join. I’m also still far from any sort of critique stage (and I shelved that 2018 novella), but I do peruse the articles from time to time. I also wonder if I’ll ever be brave enough to join up. 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.”

Do I still use this link? Yes.

Library of Congress Ask A Librarian

2018: In 2018 I’d no idea how valuable a resource this would become…

2020: …and now? I send them questions and topics I need assistance with several times a month! Their staff is fantastically thorough and I cannot recommend them enough.

Also, as I was unable to visit my local library earlier this year, I was still able to send Ask A Librarian questions save for a short period when they were closed as well.

Do I still use this link? Absolutely! One caveat: if the government’s shut down, this resource will be unavailable for the duration of that shut down.

LitRejections

2018: Back then I’d no idea how publishing works. I only knew of this phrase, “my query received another rejection,” and didn’t even know what a query was.

2020: Today I’m a bit more versed in *some* of publishing’s inner workings (the unagented, unpublished side of it), and learned it’s best to encourage other writers/authors than think of them as your competition. But that’s a blog post for another day.

“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.”

Do I still use this link? No, but most definitely will when I hop into the dreaded “query trenches!”

The No. 1 Rule for Flashbacks in a Story Opening

2018: Back in 2018 I wrote: “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.”

2020: Nowadays I barely write flashback scenes. It’s not that I find them completely unnecessary. It’s because flashback scenes scare me. What tense should they be written in? Should I introduce a new character within the flashback? Is the flashback actually necessary? Any time I find myself thinking about adding one, I revisit this link.

Do I still use this link? Yes, especially if I need a refresher.

Most Common Writing Mistakes: Characters Who Lack Solid Story Goals

2018: Back then Miss KM Weiland appeared a lot on this site. She was one of the first folks I connected with when I revamped my Twitter account.

2020: Now 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 best I’ve found. And it doesn’t matter if you’re brand new or if you’ve been “in the biz” for a long time. There’s certainly something there for everyone.

Do I still use this link? Yes.

The Past Tense in English

2018: It was in 2018 I realized I needed to go back to school. Back to my high school English classes and revisit my language’s confounding grammar rules. Here’s a cold hard truth: I’m not the only one who struggled with it. My troubles were quite evident to my beta readers who didn’t know what they were in for when they agreed to read early versions of FOR ONE NIGHT (my now-shelved novella).

2020: Two years later I’d like to think I’ve improved. No one’s seen my writing since then (save these blog posts). I guess I’ll find out when I begin a search for my next group of betas. Remember: It’s okay to not know everything about writing. It’s a whole beast on its own!

Do I still use this link? Yes.

Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra Archives
Query Tracker
What Kind of Author Are You?
All three of these are no’s.


Whew! What a list! As with anything subject to the passage of time, I think it’s safe to say I’ve outgrown this list.

Perhaps a future post will contain new, more current resources? Tip: Find that perfect combination of resources which fit your needs and run with them.


Writing Goals 2020 | Progress Report

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

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

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

That hasn’t happened.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fair point.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For the time being.


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

How are you with your writing goals?


Music That Drives My Writing | The SyFy Edition

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

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

1. “Passengers” composed by Thomas Newman

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

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

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

3. “Transformers” composed by Steve Jablonsky

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

4. “The Rocketeer” composed by James Horner

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

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

5. “Apollo 13” composed by James Horner

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

Honorable Mentions

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