my blog’s second birthday (plus free books for you!)

Hello, everyone, and welcome back to Quote, Unquote!

I’ve been saying that for a long time. In fact, October 1 marks the two-year anniversary since this website–yes, this one you’re reading right now!–was launched.

I originally started this blog on October 1, 2020, because I felt like I needed to be building my platform for when I was an author. I felt behind, and so many people my age and even younger than me were starting blogs and email lists and posting with various frequencies. In a way, I felt pressured to be just like them.

I had already read several books on website coding–I was the ultimate geek when I was younger. Armed with the knowledge that WordPress was for professionals and thus notorious for being difficult to navigate, I set to work selecting the perfect theme, trying to figure out what my tagline would be, and thinking about what I wanted to post.

I still remember sitting on the schoolroom floor, growing increasingly frustrated with this gosh darn website–why wasn’t it working?! But eventually I wrangled my way through it and came up with the name “Quote, Unquote.”

And boy, am I glad I did.

This blog was born out of comparison. It was born out of envy and jealousy and a sense of urgency to get my life started. Quote, Unquote didn’t have the most positive of beginnings. There were several times when I felt like I would never be able to pull just the launch off, much less maintain it.

But here I am. It’s been two years. I’ve never missed a weekly post–and I pride myself on that.

Let’s take a look at how much this little website has changed, shall we?

Quote, Unquote: then and now

This blog launched with a theme primarily using a bold red, cool grays, and the curly font Niconne I found on Canva.

It proclaimed the tagline “Living Intentionally through Wordplay,” which I still cringe about, because I never ever tied that in to any of my posts. I just kinda thought I had to have a tagline to have a website. Not sure why.

Then, around last year, I changed my theme while I was in my light academia phase to a mostly brown and white palette, also dropping lots of capitals in an attempt to make it aesthetic. I also let go of the tagline, because by then I knew enough about blogging to know that I didn’t really need it.

Now it appears as what it is now–a special second anniversary sunflower theme! I loved the red and the brown themes, but I really wanted to make it more upbeat and bright, a little more happy and welcoming, with kind of a vintage vibe. And I love how it turned out.

My content has also changed a lot over time. When I launched, I was planning on posting a lot of writing-, faith-, and book-related posts. I’ve come to realize since then that my niche has changed, and from now on I will be changing it to still include a lot of posts about authorship and books, but also posts about productivity, time management, and personal improvement. I’m passionate about these things and teaching authors, especially young authors in their formative years, to use what they have well and be good stewards of it.

Quote, Unquote by the numbers

One of my favorite things about WordPress is how it gives you all of your stats for everything. Of course I will be sharing those, because I love stats. Here are my stats for two years of blogging:

163 followers | 110 posts | 582 comments | 7,605 views | 2,856 visitors | 82,527 words | 1,847 likes | 742 average words per post | 5.6 average comments per post | 10.1 average likes per post

Those…are big numbers. I never dreamed I would get this far. Holy cow.

a survey + giveaway

It’s time for another blogging survey! *jazz hands* I’ve done one once before, but I want to do a simpler one now.

Besides, this survey provides an exciting opportunity–you might win a $15 USD Barnes and Noble gift card by filling it out!

Here’s how it works: You fill out the survey.

That’s it. You’re automatically entered to win the gift card, and thus, free books. (Also, you’ll be added to my email list if you weren’t already on it, which is another plus for you.)

But here’s the catch. Send it to a friend, too, and they’ll be able to fill it out and enter the giveaway as well. But if they put your email in, you both get an extra entry. So if you send it to five friends and they all fill it out, you’ll get five extra chances at free books!

The best part: You’re allowed to send it to as many friends as you like. (Limit one survey answer per person, though.)

Disclaimer: You need to be 18 or over OR have a parent or guardian’s permission to give out your email in this survey!

This giveaway will close on October 12, 2022, a week from the day this is posted, so hurry!

Here’s the survey–have at it. I’ll wait while you fill it out.

You’re back? Good. Now I can tell you why I’m deciding to do a giveaway.

You see, two years is a long time. 163 people is a lot of people. (Well, it’s only a tiny, tiny portion of the world’s population, but to have that many people reading your work every week? That’s scary.)

I couldn’t have done any of this without you guys. I really, truly mean that. So I wanted to thank you in some little way, and I decided that free books was the way to do that. Because, I mean, if you’re here, you probably like books, and you probably like it even better when they’re free.

So if you haven’t filled out the survey yet, here it is now.

You done? Cool.

Thank you all so, so, so much for making my dreams come true. When I say that writing my posts is one of my favorite things to do every week (or most weeks, anyway), I mean it. I really enjoy writing these posts, and I really enjoy that you enjoy it.

So thank you, thank you, thank you.

Until next Wednesday,

keep writing: an interview with Kayla Wong

Hello, everybody, and welcome back to Quote, Unquote!

This week I have a special interview from Kayla Wong. I met Kayla on the Young Writer’s Workshop when she was looking for interviews with other young writers. I love to talk about myself, so of course I jumped at the chance.

In this interview, Kayla will share about time management, overcoming hard seasons, and following Jesus and His call for your writing. Take it away, Kayla!

Kayla Naomi Wong is an author and has been writing ever since she can remember. A lover of words, Kayla writes fantasy, sci-fi, and occasionally historical fiction. Her favorite genre to read is fantasy. In her books, you can expect to find adventure and battle, controversy and courage, heartbreak and triumph. To find out more about her life and WIPs, visit www.knwbooks.com.

when did you start writing?

I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. I’ve always loved stories and books, but I was 12 when I actually realized writing was something I wanted to pursue seriously.

why do you love writing?

I love creating worlds and characters. I love “experiencing” things through the lens of another (imaginary) person. Writing for me used to be an escape from reality, but now it is something I love using for God’s glory. He has given me this gift, and I am so excited to be able to use it for him. Life is an adventure. I can’t wait to see what my heavenly father has in store for me!

what’s your biggest writing struggle? 

Man! There are so many things I struggle with. If I had to pick one, I guess the biggest thing is being overwhelmed and fearing I won’t do what I do well enough. I tend to overthink things. Thus, it is easy for me to get too far into my head and pick at everything in my writing. I see the mistakes and zoom in on them, too afraid to move on because it’s “not good enough.” 

describe a time when you encountered a particularly difficult writing season. how did you overcome it?

This goes back to the previous question. At one point, I’d given up on writing. I thought I’d never be able to get good enough to publish professionally, and I had no idea what to write or in which direction I was headed. God is the one who really brought me out of this season. He used it to teach me my purpose in writing. After that, however, he planted an idea in my head, and that idea slowly developed into the series I am currently working on. I will talk more about this in an upcoming post on my blog. It’s actually a miraculous story.

how do your characters reflect you?

My characters either reflect the struggles I have recently faced or am currently facing. I think I use writing to process my emotions and thoughts, and I do this through my characters. I actually based the main character in my trilogy off of me. On the other hand, side characters may reflect things I’ve seen others face.

what’s something big you’ve learned from being a writer?

Time management, productivity, empathy, energy management…where do I even begin? I can’t pick one exact thing, so I’m going to sum it up. Writing has made me a better person. It has taught me how to deal with others in kindness and love, how to be a hard worker who can work independently and finish things on deadlines, and in general, it has taught me a lot about who I am as a person. God has used writing so much in my life. I don’t know who I’d be without it.

how do you manage your time as a writer?

Time is a precious resource. I think my biggest help is scheduling. That way, I can do things even when I don’t immediately feel like doing it. I schedule things somewhere around the beginning of the week, and then whatever is on my list, I force myself to do. Sometimes I may not feel like doing something on my schedule, but if it’s there, I need to complete it before erasing it from my tasks. Also, it helps me schedule things in a way that I am not being burned out every day. I combine tasks based on their mental energy consumptions.

what is one thing you want to tell other young writers?

Keep writing. If you follow Jesus, and you think this is what he wants you to do, keep going and don’t give up. It will be difficult. It may even feel impossible half the time, but don’t let that put you down. If God has given you a gift, go ahead and use it for his glory. Remember that it is his opinion that ultimately matters. If it seems like your writing is terrible, take advice from others with a pinch of salt, and know that your best is your best. Strive to honor God, and he will bring results.

As Kayla said while we were exchanging emails, that’s a wrap! I hope you enjoyed her answers, and I really hope you go check out her website, knwbooks.com.

Speaking of her website, Kayla interviewed me as well! Her interview of me is up right now on her website, so if you weren’t already motivated to read her posts, now you are, because…I asked you to. So you have to.

That’s all for now. Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you next Wednesday!

summer recap + autumn goals

And so my favorite season rolls around again…I love summer so much, but I’m ready for sweatshirt weather and colored leaves.

You know what else comes up in autumn?

NaNoWriMo. *shudders*

I’m (mostly) joking. I’ve attempted NaNo twice in the past and failed both times, but I’m getting ready early and figuring out what I’ve done wrong and what I need to do this time.

But I’m getting ahead of myself! I need to go over last season’s goals before I jump into this one’s.

goals from summer

1. write for fun

This happened! I fell back in love with writing this summer after the YDubs Conference (which was amazing, by the way. I learned so much). I met some really great friends that I hadn’t previously connected with, and they brought me back to the YWW Community, which, in turn, brought me back to writing.

It felt good to finally write again. I hadn’t realized just how wrong it had felt to not be writing. The only things I’d really been writing consistently all spring and summer were blog posts, and I missed fiction immensely.

2. write two short stories

Done and done! I submitted one to my library’s short story contest and got an honorable mention. The other one I wrote for my best friend Mia’s birthday based on a concept we tried to coauthor a few years ago that failed miserably. Maybe I’ll post the finished product sometime.

3. finish the next edit of Shadows of Dreams

This one did not get done. However! I have decided to put Shadows of Dreams on the backburner for now until after NaNo. I know I always say that and then end up not working on it, but it needs a serious overhaul and that’s just not something I can give my attention to right now. I’m planning on reverse-outlining it and making it a little longer, but you’ll see more on that in December.

goals for autumn

This season, I’m doing something a little different with my goals.

I was reading Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport (an excellent book, by the way, if you’re looking to reform your relationship with technology), and one of the things he touched on briefly was the fact that a good seasonal goal should have both things you want to achieve and habits you want to form. So I’ll be including both of those things in my goals from here on out.

I define habits as “things you do consistently that produce ongoing results” and goals as “things you work towards that will produce a singular result.” There’s a small distinction, but it’s a distinction nonetheless.

I’m also going to start listing some goals that aren’t related to writing. I think that it will help me feel more connected to you, my dear readers, and also give me a little more accountability in my personal life.

So let’s jump into my goals for the fall!

habits to form

cut back on screentime

Digital Minimalism, the book I referenced above, showed me the dangers of spending too much time on my phone and computer. I’ve started to do a digital cleanout–I deactivated all of my social media, deleted the games off of my phone, and am working on a detailed action plan to lower my screentime. There may be a post on this in the future!

start “touching” my writing daily

I want to write every single day (except maybe Sundays), and to do this, I need to form a habit. I don’t really care what I write as long as I write something, but it would be nice to have a novel to work on. More on that later.

work out & spend more time in nature

I’m terribly out of shape. Horribly, awfully out of shape. I plan to use Chloe Ting’s free workouts to build this habit, and I’m putting together a group of girls on the YWWC that also want to do this so we can keep each other accountable.

As for the “spend more time in nature” thing, I’m realizing that being outside improves my mood by, like, a bajillion percent. I have got to get out more. I plan to take long walks, walk to the library instead of driving (thank goodness it’s so close to my house), and open my window whenever possible to let the fresh air in. I can’t believe I didn’t start taking walks earlier this summer, but at least the weather is perfect up here right now, even if we are in a bit of a drought.

utilize the YDubs content library

I’ve been on YWW for over two years, and until just recently, I hadn’t been using the amazing resources at all. I’m delving into it more now, and I can’t believe I didn’t do this earlier. I’m taking lots of notes, and they’re already helping so much. I hope to do at least one lesson every day and build a streak.

goals to achieve

win NaNoWriMo!

That’s right. Third time’s the charm, I say. This will be my third NaNo, and I’m actually kind of scared, considering my track record (in case you don’t know…it’s pretty bad). But I will push past that fear! I have an awesome project in the works, and I’m sure Christine Smith will be hosting another linkup, so you’ll hear more about it next month.

come up with a new concept for “fun” writing

As I mentioned above, I’d like to come up with a new story that I can work on whenever. I have no idea what it could be right now, but I’d like to have something in the works.

read three or more new nonfiction books and apply them to my life

Digital Minimalism is changing my life. I would like to read more nonfiction, self-help-type books and figure out strategies and plans to help me use them and not just consume them. The strategies will depend on the books, obviously.

write three or more original poems

I’m writing a lot of poetry right now. Mostly because we’re studying it in school and I have to, but also because I’m finding that it’s a great way to express myself. Sometimes prose just doesn’t capture what poetry can.

advance my knowledge of SEO and other blogging techniques

I haven’t been noticing a ton of growth on my blog lately, and I want to fix that. I want to draw readers in and help them! My blog is turning 2 in two weeks, and I might be putting out a reader survey then. Keep an eye out for that!

Whew…I haven’t made that many goals in a long time. I’m trying to reform my goal-setting as well as my digital use, and I’m discovering a lot of things that work well for me. Maybe I’ll have to write a post about that, too!

Well, until next Wednesday!

please be a nerd

I’ve identified as a nerd for many, many years.

You know those labels that somehow you’re stuck with forever? Like, to your family you’ll always be their clumsy baby, or maybe you were just creative from the womb.

Well, “nerd” is one of mine.

My nerdiness has ebbed and flowed over time. I think that so far its peak has been in middle school…which is just as bad as it sounds. I would spend hours on my computer coding, much to my parents’ chagrin. I knew just about everything about any Greek deity you could name. I also knew every Pokémon from the Kanto region to the Alola region, which is something that is still etched in my brain to this day.

I was, like, the ultimate uncool middle school nerd. (And for years I had braces and glasses, which really sealed the deal.)

Fortunately, I was lucky enough to be surrounded by other nerds on a near-constant basis. I never got shoved into a locker–in fact, it was impossible to be shoved into a locker, considering we didn’t even have lockers. I distinctly remember one of my friends showing me his Minecraft castle while sitting under a table at school. (Why were we sitting under a table? That’s a great question.) We were all nerds. It was great.

You know why it was (and still is) great to be a nerd?

Because I had something that I cared about.

Having something that you care deeply about, a cause, is, I believe, very, very important for your mental and emotional health. Your identity can be very closely tied to it, giving you a sense of security (as long as your identity doesn’t become it–more on that later). You may even be able to find community in that thing and connect with people in a new way.

I was a nerd, but I was happy in my nerdiness, because I cared about things, even things that didn’t seem necessary or helpful to other people. I cared about which Pokémon evolved into which. I cared about the latest Minecraft update. Did either of those things contribute to my academic or social success at that time, things that were important by society’s standards? No way. Did they contribute to my happiness? Absolutely.

You see, I am still a nerd. I will always be a nerd.

I am a nerd for writing and reading, a nerd for the Hogwarts houses, a nerd for personality theory, a nerd for this really good quesadilla I’m currently eating. These things give me joy. Maybe they’re not considered helpful.

But they help me.

So, my dear reader, I encourage you:

Please be a nerd.

Your soul will thank you.

an introduction to my full bookshelf

I’m a writer and a reader. And what is a writer and a reader to do without a bookshelf absolutely stuffed with books?

Recently, I went through the bookshelves in my room and entered them all into a database I made. When I tell you that was a feat…phew. I found out that I have one hundred and eighty (180) books in my room! I didn’t even know I could fit that many!

But since I love statistics and organizing things, I decided to share a few pie charts about all the books on my bookshelves. Let’s dive right in.

(Also, my bookshelves are organized by rainbow colors like the trendy basic bookstagram girl I am.)

breakdown by genre

Out of my 180 books, 141 are fiction and only 39 are nonfiction. That actually surprised me. I have quite a few books about authorship and faith on my bookshelf, and I thought I would end up with more. Though alongside the smart person books about faith and authorship is a Pokémon handbook and multiple Minecraft guides (I never got rid of the old ones. Those are going to be worth a crazy amount of money someday).

Here’s a breakdown of the more specific genres. I have a total of eight distinct genres in my database. Here they are in numbers:

GenreNumber of books
Contemporary40
Dystopian17
Historical fiction26
Fantasy52
Magical realism2
Memoir8
Science fiction (sci-fi)4
Uncategorized31

Magical realism is the small slice without a number in between fantasy and memoir.

I’m surprised by this too. I’m not a huge fantasy reader, but I guess I have a lot of fantasy books in my shelves. I thought contemporary would be more up there, as I’m amassing more and more contemporary books lately, but I guess not.

“Uncategorized” refers to nonfiction books that don’t have a set genre, like the many books on writing that I own or my ancient Minecraft guides.

breakdown by target audience

“Uncategorized” here refers to classics like Harry Potter and Jane Austen. I figured that they had a target audience when they were published, but that has since been abandoned as they’ve grown in popularity.

Since most of my books were purchased when I primarily read middle-grade, that’s what I own the most of. I read much more young adult now, but I’m expected to buy them for myself, and since I’m broke, I don’t own that many. There are 51 MG books, 41 YA books, 10 adult books, and 78 uncategorized books.

breakdown by “classic” status

42 of the books on my shelves are considered classics by my standards. Timeless books, things like Jane Austen, Little Women, Walden and Civil Disobedience, and even the Harry Potter series went into this category. I’m kind of impressed that almost a quarter of the books I own are classics.

breakdown by cover type

This one was just for fun. I was interested in how many of my books were hardcover versus paperback. Turns out 137 of them were paperback and only 43 were hardcover, which makes sense.

And just for fun, here’s a picture of my bookshelves!

I did my best with the quality, but the lighting wasn’t so great. Forgive me.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this! What kinds of books do your bookshelves have on them?

never have I ever: writer edition tag

It’s time to take a break from all the serious, writery stuff I’ve been posting lately. Today I’m doing something, well, still writery, I guess, but much lighter.

My bestie Mia over at Windows tagged me for two tags, and because I’ve already done one here on this blog, I figured I’d give the other one a go. So this is the Never Have I Ever: Writer Edition tag! Let’s jump right in.

the rules:

  1. Link and thank the blogger who tagged you. (Thanks, Mia! Here’s her post for anyone who wants to read it.)
  2. Include the graphic somewhere in the post (or make your own!) 
  3. Answer the questions truthfully and honestly.  
  4. Tag 3 bloggers. 

never have I ever…

started a novel I didn’t finish

Uh, yeah. All the time. The problem is middles. I get excited about the beginning of the story, and then when it comes time to write the middle of it, I fizzle out. It’s because I never outline, which is bad. I’m working on that, though.

written a story completely by hand

Actually, fun fact, Shadows of Dream‘s first draft was entirely handwritten! It was super short, though, and it caused a lot of trouble with lengthening. I also write a lot of short stories by hand in my various notebooks.

changed tenses midway through a story

I’ve never done this with a full-length novel, but–story time–I was on a FaceTime call once with my friend Lena and we were writing short stories together. I meant to write the story in past tense but kept slipping into present tense without even realizing it. Lena could tell you that there were a lot of agonized yells on my end when I figured it out.

not researched anything before starting a story

This goes back to the first question. I rarely research. I just kinda…jump straight in.

Technically, I did a lot of research for Shadows of Dreams about the Titanic, but I didn’t know that I was going to use it for a story. I was writing a research paper about the Titanic anyway for a school project, and I took a huge interest in the events and the overall story. When the research paper was done, I still wanted to spend time in that world, so I decided to write a story set on the ship. So, technically speaking, I didn’t do research for the story, but I did do research. I don’t know if that counts.

changed my protagonist’s name halfway through a draft

I don’t think I’ve ever done this. I’ve changed minor characters’ names, but since I’m a character-driven writer, I tend to have my MC fully fleshed out before I write, and that includes their name.

written a story in a month or less

I’ve written plenty of short stories in a month or less, but never anything above 10K words, I don’t think. I’ve attempted NaNoWriMo twice now but never finished it. Hopefully I fix that this year!

fallen asleep while writing

Who even does this?! Certainly not me.

corrected someone’s grammar irl/online

Oh, constantly. All my friends hate me for it. I try not to do it except when we’re already joking around and I know that they’ll take it as a joke and not as an insult, but there’s always that little part of me that cringes inside when someone uses the wrong their/there.

yelled in all-caps at myself in the middle of my novel

Hm…I don’t think so. I just yell at myself in real life. Because that’s healthy.

used “I’m writing” as an excuse

My mom reads my blog. I plead the Fifth.

In all seriousness, probably. Though my family is pretty good about not bothering me when I tell them that I’m writing, so I don’t have to use it very often.

killed a character that was based on someone I know in real life

I have one friend that always jokes with me that I’m going to make a character based off of him and then kill them off, but I’ve never done this. I don’t generally kill people, though, because I’m a contemporary writer, so reasons to kill characters don’t pop up as often in my writing.

used pop culture references in a story

I love doing this. Again, I write contemporary, so casually mentioning iPhones or Taylor Swift makes the world feel more like real life to me. One of my favorite contemporary authors, Emma Lord, does this a lot, and I really like it.

written between the hours of 1:00 am and 6:00 am

No????? I have a normal sleep schedule??????????????

drank an entire pot of coffee while writing

I’m not a coffee drinker, so no. Plus, caffeine messes with me. I have been known to down a few mugs of tea during a writing session, though.

written down dreams to use in a potential novel

Hm, not really. My dreams are usually wayyyyy too weird to use in a story, and I often forget them before I get the chance to write them down.

published an unedited story on the internet/blog/wattpad

Confession time: I actually do this a lot. Generally, with small snippets or short stories, I don’t edit them before I post them on YDubs or my blog. I don’t really know why.

procrastinated schoolwork because I wanted to write

Again, my mom reads my blog, and I don’t really feel like self-incriminating today.

But sometimes that PERFECT scene pops into your head and you just HAVE to write it down and then later your mom comes to you and tells you to hold off on the writing until you’re done with your schoolwork. *sigh*

typed so long my wrists hurt

I’m way too easily distracted for this. Next question.

spilled a drink on my laptop while writing

Not yet, but it’s only a matter of time. I write with tea too often for this to not be in my near future. Though I’m terrified of it happening, so I’m super careful.

forgotten to save my work/draft

Never happened to me. Praise God for auto-save on Google Docs.

finished a novel

I’ve never finished anything above 20K words, although I’ve finished a full-length story before. Again, I will be attempting NaNo this year, and I promise that this will be the year that I finish a novel in a month.

laughed like an evil villain while writing a scene

I’ve probably done this a few times when I was writing and sharing my cringey Minecraft fanfiction and wrote something I knew my readers would yell at me for, but I don’t explicitly remember.

cried while writing a scene

No, but I’ve wanted to.

created maps of my fictional world

I did this back when I still wrote fantasy. I’ve even got one still on my bulletin board in my room, ready and waiting for if I ever go back to the story. I also like to make maps just for no reason, or maybe just because I like using my brush pens.

researched something shady for a novel

My parents are probably really concerned about me because I’ve been researching a lot of stuff on Pinterest about running away. Mom and Dad, if you’re reading this, I promise that I don’t plan on running away. It’s for a potential story concept. I swear.

tags

I’m tagging you! If you’ve never done this tag and you want to, feel free to steal it from me. (I guess I’m breaking the fourth rule…but whatever.)

Here are the categories to copy and paste:

Never have I ever:
started a novel I didn’t finish
written a story completely by hand
changed tenses midway through a story
not researched anything before starting a story
changed my protagonist’s name halfway through a draft
written a story in a month or less
fallen asleep while writing
corrected someone’s grammar irl/online
yelled in all-caps at myself in the middle of my novel
used “I’m writing” as an excuse
killed a character that was based on someone I know in real life
used pop culture references in a story
written between the hours of 1:00 am and 6:00 am
drank an entire pot of coffee while writing
written down dreams to use in a potential novel
published an unedited story on the internet/blog/wattpad
procrastinated schoolwork because I wanted to write
typed so long my wrists hurt
spilled a drink on my laptop while writing
forgotten to save my work/draft
finished a novel
laughed like an evil villain while writing a scene
cried while writing a scene
created maps of my fictional world
researched something shady for a novel

Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you next Wednesday!

how to fit writing into an overwhelming school schedule

I’m a junior in high school now. An upperclass…woman. Today is my first day of community. I’m freaking out slightly because I know that it looks easy now, but by second semester, my schoolwork is going to come crashing down around me.

I’m a student, but I also want to be a writer. How do I deal with that?

Frankly, last year, I didn’t do a good job of managing my time and the responsibilities I had. Part of that was because we were going through a lot and it wasn’t a fun time, but another part of it was completely and totally my fault. I was struggling, and I wasn’t managing it well.

So, personally, I don’t have much experience with this, but talk to any writer who does and they’ll tell you one thing:

You’ve got to make time for it.

Long story short, you make time for what’s important to you. If anything is important to you, you’ll do it. If you like sewing, you’ll take time out of your day to sew. If you like building things, you’ll take time out of your day to build things, right?

This goes for everything, by the way, not just productive things. If watching YouTube or scrolling social media for hours on end is important to you, whether or not you know it consciously, you’ll do it. You’ll take time out of your day to do it, and you may or may not regret it afterwards.

“So,” you may be asking, “how exactly can I make time for writing?”

That’s a great question. The answer is, same as you make time for anything else.

Use a schedule or a planner. Some people that I know have hourly planners where they block out time to do the things they need to do, like writing.

I’ve used an academic planner since seventh grade, and it really helps me. The way my schooling works is I go to community day once a week, and then I do my at-home work the rest of the week. I always take time on community day to plan out my week, decide what exactly I’m going to do, and write out what I’m doing and when I’m doing it in my planner.

This year, I plan to put my writing in my academic planner as part of my schoolwork. It’s not technically schoolwork, but it’s what I want to do for my career, so I’m considering it my job and treating it as such.

There’s one other important thing:

Don’t be vague.

Whenever you set goals–in anything, not just in writing–it helps to have a specific action plan.

This is something that commonly happens in New Year’s resolutions. “I want to work out more!” people say in January, and come February, they still haven’t managed to get into a workout routine.

That’s because “I want to work out more” is way too general. Instead of “I want to write more,” try “I want to write two pages every day.” Instead of “I want to post on my blog more,” try “I want to post on my blog twice a week.”

The same thing goes for planning your day. I wouldn’t just put “Write” down on my planner, because just “Write” could mean anything. It could mean writing two words or two thousand. Instead, I would put, say, “Plot chapter 1” or “Finish editing chapter 17” on my list. Having a specific, actionable plan makes it much easier to accomplish what you need to.

So, if you’re a busy student–or even if you’re not a student and still just busy–here’s how you fit writing into your schedule:

Make time for it and have a plan.

I hope that this helps you and that you’re able to make time for whatever is important to you in these next few months!

A signature reading "liesl."

my favorite fictional heroes

A while back, I posted a list of my favorite fictional heroines. In that post, I promised a list of my favorite fictional heroes soon. Apparently “soon” to me means almost six months later…but here I am, with the foretold list. Let’s jump right in!

5. Nick Wilde

photo from Zootopia (2016)

I’m absolutely obsessed with this guy. Zootopia is one of my favorite movies, and if I’m honest, part of the reason is Nick Wilde. He’s witty and wily, just like your average fox, but later in the movie you find out that he has a soft side. Though he doesn’t get as much screentime as Judy Hopps, the main character, he still has a tremendous character arc, in which he learns to trust people and put aside his pride.

4. Eli Stock

photo from Along for the Ride (2022)

Honestly, part of the reason Eli made it on this list is because I love his and Auden’s (the main character’s) relationship. In the book, he’s reeling with guilt from his best friend’s death in a car crash where he was driving. Auden helps him over it, and he helps her through her troubles with her parents. He’s a very sensitive person, and I like how he has the ability to feel things, which a lot of male characters suppress.

3. Harry Potter

photo from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001)

Everyone knows and loves Harry Potter. He gets a lot of flak–everybody calls him “unobservant” or “dumb”, and I don’t think I’ve ever heard the question “Who’s your favorite character from Harry Potter?” answered with “Harry Potter.” True, maybe he didn’t recognize his own teacher’s handwriting in The Half-Blood Prince, but I think that he makes up for his lack of external sensing with his internal intuition. He has a strict moral code and follows it every step of the way, and in true Gryffindor fashion, he is courageous, almost to a fault.

2. Gilbert Blythe

photo from Anne with an E

We all know and love Gilbert. Honestly, what can I say? I love his charm and his optimism, and how, when they’re children, he tries so hard to redeem himself with the endlessly spicy Anne. Plus, I mean, look at that face. He’s so earnest. Kinda reminds me of a puppy. (I’m running out of intelligent things to say.)

1. Weston Ludovico

(Sadly, I could not find any photos, fanart or otherwise, of Weston. Go read 100 Days of Sunlight by Abbie Emmons.)

When I was making this list, I only came up with four at first. I knew I needed a fifth one, and I went to go peruse my bookshelves when it hit me–Weston! I can’t believe I didn’t think of Weston first, honestly.

In 100 Days of Sunlight by Abbie Emmons, Weston Ludovico is an amputee, and it’s hard on him, but he stays endlessly optimistic. His catchphrase is “Never been better,” even when he’s not doing so well. He’s a staunch people person and everybody likes him–he knows how to make even the grumpiest person strike up a conversation. Overall, he’s just a really likeable character and probably my top favorite male protagonist.

Well, there you have it! My top five favorite heroes. Who’s your favorite? I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time,

3 reasons why young writers need powerful community

Recently, I had the opportunity of attending a writer’s conference.

But this wasn’t any old conference–it was the YDubs conference.

If you’ve never heard of YDubs, you’re probably in the minority of my readers. YDubs is short for YWW, which is short for the Young Writer’s Workshop. When I’m talking to people about YDubs, I usually describe it as “Facebook for Christian young writers.”

Essentially, that’s what it is. There’s a massive community and an even larger content library full to bursting with expert opinions and writing advice you won’t find anywhere else. There are also lots of people who probably make the general population wonder what’s wrong with them–but it’s okay, they’re just writers, and brilliant ones at that.

Anyway, YDubs has been a part of my life for a little over two years now, and I have needed it so desperately for most of those two years. Let me tell you why young writers need like-minded community.

1. to encourage and support

Writers, regardless of age, need encouragement. Community can give this. On YDubs, we have a whole space for encouragement and motivation, and sometimes just going through a few posts in that space is a huge pick-me-up. If you have a couple of friends who really care about you and want to read what you write, they can cheer you on when you’re feeling down about your book.

2. to answer questions

This is where it helps for young writers to have older community. I’ve met lots of published authors, some who have very successful books, on the YDubs community. They’ve helped me grow in my craft by answering the (many) questions that I have.

And you don’t even need experienced writers to answer questions! Sometimes you just need someone’s opinion, and anybody can do that. Lots of YDubbers like to post polls on the Community for character names, worldbuilding, title ideas, and the like. One thing I like about polls on YDubs is the large sample size–there are almost 800 people on the Community, and while not everybody will respond, you’ll still get a decent number of responses.

3. to stretch you

I’m not talking literally here. No torture devices involved (yet). I’m talking in the mental and emotional sense.

Your comfort zone is only so big, but it can grow. The more you do things outside of your comfort zone, the more it’ll stretch and expand to fit the new things you’re doing. And I guarantee you that 90% of the factors that will help push you out of that relatively tiny circle is your community.

Starting this blog way back in October of 2020 was way out of my own comfort zone–and it was a direct result of YDubs and my new community. I realized that I needed a way to grow my platform, but I wasn’t sure how, and as soon as I asked about it a bunch of people told me to start a blog. I was skeptical and kind of scared at first, but I quickly learned the ins and outs of WordPress and blogging and decided to give it a go. So here I am now!

Community is absolutely vital to all writers, but especially young ones, because we’re still learning and growing. These are our formative years, and we need people around us to balance it out.

I realize that this entire post has basically just been an advertisement for YDubs, but if you’ve never heard of it and you’re a young writer needing to grow in a community, I can’t recommend it enough. You can check it out at theyoungwriter.com. I’ve met some of my best friends on there, and I’ve loved every second.

Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you next Wednesday!

setbacks.

One time, in youth group, we were talking about symbolism and meaning. One person brought up a tattoo that he had seen once: a picture of a bow drawn back with an arrow locked and loaded, ready to fly. He told us that the symbolism behind it was “when life pulls you back, it’s because it’s about to shoot you forward.”

You know what the youth group thought about that? We were all like, “Nah.”

Personally, I agree with that lovely sentiment. I think that that particular piece of symbolism is not true whatsoever.

I’ve seen a lot of setbacks recently. Not just little ones, but big ones also. There were a few days this week where I have just been bombarded with bad news after bad news, each new piece a little worse than the last, somehow. It has been awful, and sometimes I just feel like crumpling to the floor and crying under the weight of it all.

Is “life” about to “shoot me forward”? I don’t know. I’m thinking probably not, if I’m honest.

But I do know that God has a plan for all of these setbacks. And in each one, there’s something good, even if it’s impossible to see right now.

For example. One of the setbacks we’ve experienced recently is my pastor deciding to accept a call to a church in Frankenmuth, an hour and a half away from where we live now. We’ve grown very close to our pastor in the eight years he’s been here, and his family with their seven children are some of our best friends. We’ve grown accustomed to seeing them every Sunday at church and every Wednesday at youth group and being able to catch up with them and share jokes and memes and stories. The fact that their family is leaving and we won’t be able to see them as often stings.

But there’s a silver lining. In moving, my pastor and his family will be able to spread out a little more. They’ll have more space in their house for their nine people and three cats, and they’ll be out of the misery that is living in suburbia. Pastor will be able to do great things with his new congregation, and maybe our own little congregation will learn to adapt to change a little more easily.

Beyond that, are there more silver linings that I don’t know about? Well, duh. I’m only human, after all. I don’t know anything compared to what God knows.

All of the setbacks, all of the bad news that I’m experiencing right now are horrible to live through. I don’t know how I’m managing it all (if I’m honest, probably not as healthily as I could, haha).

But here I am, and there God is, and He has a plan.

In all things,