new blog on the block: an interview with Natasha Joy

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

You may remember that just a few weeks ago I posted an interview with my friend Mia about her new blog. Well, it seems to be new blog season, because I’m back with another one!

This time it’s my friend and mentee Tasha with her very own brand-new blog. She was kind enough to join me for an interview today, so let’s jump right in!

Natasha Joy is a 17 year old fantasy and dystopian writer with a passion for creating stories that are inspired by and bring glory to Yahweh. In her spare time, you can find Tasha reading, going for walks, experimenting with photography, and memorizing scripture for Bible quizzing. She loves the beauty of nature…from ladybugs to towering pine trees. Keep in touch with her and learn more about her writing at her blog and her Instagram @natashajoywriter.

introduce yourself–who is Tasha?

I’m a bookworm, coffee addict, photographer, introverted writer, and most importantly a Christian. I’m the second oldest of eight kids and spend a lot of my time procrastinating school, writing, photography, and everything else I love XP. You can usually find me taking walks or rereading my favourite books which include anything written by Sara Ella and Nadine Brandes as well as The Hunger Games, Vivid by Ashley Bustamante, and The Reflections by EK Seaver.

how long have you been writing? what do you usually write?

I’ve been writing since I was really little but I’ve only been writing seriously for about 2-3 years. I primarily write fantasy and fairytale retellings!

what’s your blog’s name? what is its mission statement?

My blog’s name is Joyfully Natasha. I never even thought about my mission statement before so this is gonna be rough XP. My goal is to have a blog that can be an encouragement to other creatives and Christians and give them a site they know they can read without worrying about inappropriate content. I want to serve my readers in everything I post, but most of all I want to bring glory to Yahweh.

what can your audience expect from Joyfully Natasha?

They can expect one post a week on writing, photography, Christian living, or anything else I want to post. 

what motivation or inspiration was behind starting this blog?

There were a couple things. First, I missed blogging. I’d been blogging for the past three years and I realized I didn’t want to stop. Second, as a writer, it’s important for me to have a growing platform. I guess my motivation would just kinda be what I said…my love of blogging and the need of a growing platform XP

how are you feeling about your new blog?

I’m really excited to start blogging but nervous that life is gonna get crazy and I’m not going to have time to post lol.

how can your audience best support Joyfully Natasha?

Well, there’s the obvious way of subscribing but then also commenting on posts. I’m not always the best at this but if you’re a blogger, you know there’s no better feeling than getting to interact with your followers in the comment section 🙂

where else can we find you on the Internet?

You can find me on Instagram at @natashajoywriter

That’s all for today! You can find Tasha’s blog here:

I’m excited for Tasha, and I hope you are too! And a great big thank you to her for joining me here this week.

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


why you should keep writing your book

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

This post went up earlier today, but WordPress glitched out and ended up erasing half of it. So here it is once again.

There is one question that always nags at the back of a writer’s mind. It’s the worst possible thing for a writer–a weed that kills motivations and ends stories before they’ve even started.

The question takes many forms, but it essentially boils down to:

“Why am I doing this?”

The time will come when you are writing your story, and the words are coming slowly and your brain feels like it’s slogging through molasses, and you just take back your hands from the keyboard and think, “What’s the point?”

At which point I will physically enter your house, force you to look at me, and tell you that what you are thinking is LIES ALL LIES and pump you up until you have to start clacking away again.

Okay, maybe I won’t actually come to your house. But consider this post your “grabbing by the shoulders” of the writing world. We’re going to go through some things you might be thinking to yourself and debunk them, one by one, until you have no choice but to write the awesomest story this world has ever seen.

no one will like my story

In 2020, I started writing and posting this Minecraft fanfiction on my writer’s workshop. It had no plot, awful dialogue, a confusing storyline–and more fans than any of my other writing has ever had.

I read part of it back recently to remind myself of how far I’ve come, and let me tell you, I cringed the entire time. It was probably the worst thing I’ve ever written. Yet people still love it (and recognize me as “the person who wrote that Minecraft fanfiction that one time”).

Everyone has their own personal likes and dislikes, and no two peoples’ are going to be exactly the same. There are seven billion people on this planet. You cannot tell me that there is no one who will like your story. Somewhere out there, there’s someone who is going to love your WIP so much that they are going to make fanart and write fanfiction and squeal about it on social media. The book that’s sitting in your drafts or in your head right now could be someone’s favorite book.

Someone will love it. I promise you.

I’m never going to finish it, so why bother?

I’m going to tell you a boiling hot take that I don’t see often enough in the writing community.

Your time spent enjoying the creative process is infinitely more valuable than anything you could ever create. I’ve made dozens of little cross-stitches and embroidery projects that I immediately shoved in a drawer and forgot about. The pleasure for me was not in the having, it was in the making.

This goes for anything creative–including writing. Especially writing, I might go so far as to say. Humans were made in the image of God, and what did God do? He created. Creation is one of the essentials of human life. It’s what we were made to do.

I don’t care how much you wrote of that new, exciting WIP. I don’t care if it was half the book or just one chapter. You still carried on that human tradition of just creating, and you took joy in it (I hope). Even if your story never gets finished, you still created. And that’s the important thing.

someone might have done it better than me

There’s something I found on Pinterest a little while ago that I found really inspiring. (I had to censor it a little bit to make it appropriate for my audience, but you’ll get the gist.)

This image pretty much sums it up. What you, as the artist, see as lesser compared to someone else’s art, the audience sees as an absolute win. For them, it’s another fun thing that they get to consume. It’s not better or worse to them, because they aren’t looking at the inside–they’re just happy that there’s more.

Even if someone does do it “better” than you, it won’t matter. Your audience will love it either way.

my writing is terrible

This one fills me with such rage that it’s going to be a struggle to write a few coherent paragraphs about it. Every time someone tells me “My writing is terrible,” I want to pick them up and slam-dunk them into a pit of positivity until they behave. I’m typing at insane speeds right now because of just how angry this phrase makes me.


Please. Please hear this. Your writing is not terrible. Your writing is not terrible. Your writing is not terrible.

This one, I feel like, stems from comparison. You look at talented writers and think, “Man, I could never write a metaphor like Markus Zusak. I could never weave together storylines like Jodi Picoult. I could never come up with a world that sticks with generations to come like J. K. Rowling.” And then, because you’re focused on the “can’t”s, you miss the “can”s.

When you say, “I can’t write metaphors,” you’re missing the way your dialogue flows so smoothly. When you say, “I can’t create coherent and seamless storylines,” you’re not focusing on the way your characters feel so human. When you say, “I can’t worldbuild well,” you’re ignoring how your action scenes grip your readers with suspense.

It all boils down to strengths and weaknesses. Maybe you feel like you can’t write a metaphor like Markus Zusak. But I bet Markus Zusak couldn’t come up with something that you have.

Every writer struggles with this. It’s natural, it’s normal. It’s just not good. Your writing is not terrible. I promise you.

And if you keep saying that? If you think there’s absolutely no way it can be good? Show me. Show me your writing. And I will confirm this for you: Your writing is beautiful.

Quit comparing and get to work.

final words

I hope that this virtual shaking by the shoulders has somehow encouraged you. And I hope that you’re ready to go out into the world, confident in your abilities as a writer, and slam out someone’s new favorite book.

Thank you so much for reading. I will see you next Wednesday.

the truth about plot and character

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

A long time ago–like, back when I was using capitals in my titles long ago–I wrote a post titled “Plot- or Character-Driven? Understanding the Difference.” In it, I outlined the differences between plot-driven stories and character-driven stories and how to tell the difference between them.

Now I want to go back to that and tell you to disregard that post. Crumple it up in your mental recall and toss it in the incinerator. Because I was wrong.

I’ve been watching a lot of Abbie Emmons videos recently, and one of the things she stresses a lot is internal conflict. Well, I say “stresses a lot,” but it’s really the main backbone of her channel. She talks about how you need internal conflict to drive the story, and how there’s no plot without characters.

So I have come back to that post nearly two years later to rescind almost everything I said.

I now realize that all stories are character-driven. If you have no characters, you have no story. You have to give the reader something to care about. And more often than not–in fact, almost all the time–that something is a somebody: the characters.

To have a plot, you need characters. The epic journey won’t go on itself. The lost idol won’t find itself. A plot depends on its characters to survive.

But here’s where I messed up last time. Not only do you need characters, you need to show your readers why the plot matters to the characters. It’s all about internal conflict–why should you care about these characters? What do they want, and why can’t they have it? What are they going to learn? And how does all this apply to you, as the reader?

Let’s use my story, Everything We Ever Wanted, as an example. The main characters, Cady and Tessa, are traveling across the country. They’re running away together. They’re encountering all sorts of troubles and running out of money and fighting in a library parking lot in the middle of nowhere. That’s a plot.

But you don’t have a story until you’ve shown the reader why it matters to them.

Cady is traveling because she wants to not be forced into running the family business. Her biggest fear is being stuck in the same place and never getting to follow her dreams. Tessa is traveling because otherwise she would be losing her freedom, which is her biggest fear. They are both acting on their fears and making decisions based off of them.

Do you see what I’m getting at here? The formula goes like this:

plot + internal conflict = story

The plot has to matter to the characters. Then, and only then, do you have a story. If you can pull one specific character out of the story and replace them with another random person without the plot changing drastically, you don’t have a story–you just have a plot.

All of this to say that no story is plot-driven. Every single story needs that internal conflict, the fears and motivations of the characters, behind it. You can have the greatest, most compelling plot ever, but without showing why it matters to your characters, it means nothing.

If you want more on this topic, I would highly recommend Abbie Emmons’ channel. Here’s a good video on misbeliefs to start with. I probably wouldn’t have been able to come to this realization and write this whole post without all of her videos.

Thank you so much for reading. Now go forth, and create strong plots and even stronger characters! I’ll see you next Wednesday.

how to show your readers you care

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

Not everybody likes to write, I know that. And some people who do like to write don’t quite understand the intricacies of spelling, punctuation, and similar concepts (it took me a long time to get the hang of parentheses, but now…here we are!).

But these things are so vitally important to the presentation of your story that I wanted to dedicate a whole post specifically to them. Today I am here to tell you about how crucial proofreading is in your story.

A quick note before we begin: This post is specifically targeted towards authors who intend to publish independently. Though proofreading is just as important for a traditionally published author, your publishing house will usually supply an editor for you that will take care of proofreading. Indie authors face much more pressure because they do much of the work themselves and may not always hire an editor. So if you want to publish independently, this post is for you!

Let’s jump right in.

errors can pull readers out of the story

I am not terribly detail-oriented, much to my parents’ chagrin. I often miss things that are right in front of my nose in favor of the bigger picture. But there is one exception to this rule, and that is in anything that I read.

Typos, punctuation errors, and especially egregious grammatical errors can pull me out of a book and break the spell faster than you can blink. I don’t know what it is that frustrates me so much about it, but my attention is drawn to the typo and it’s extremely hard to get back into the story afterwards. You could have the greatest, most captivating story in the world, but if each page is filled with errors, I’d put it down immediately.

(This could just be me, of course. You might not be the type to be distracted by errors—in which case, good for you. However, there are people like this out there, and it’s best to respect them by making your manuscript as clean as possible.)

You get fewer typos in traditionally published books because they typically go through rounds and rounds of professional proofreading, but in independently published books errors are far more frequent. I’ve read indie-published books (and I won’t say which ones) that have errors more often than not, and it frustrates me to no end.

Which brings me to my next point:

errors can diminish the readability of the story

It’s no fun to have to try to puzzle out what the author is saying. (Oxford commas are important, people!) By proofreading and making yourself familiar with both basic and advanced grammar rules, your story will be clearer and more readable.

I’m not just talking about line editing, either. There’s a difference between line editing and proofreading, though people often get them confused. Line editing is where you’re going through your manuscript, line by line, and fixing small-scale things to help your story flow better. It’s what beta readers often do. Proofreading is similar to line editing in that you’re going through and looking at the sentences instead of the whole story, but with proofreading you are focusing less on the content of the story and more on how it is presented.

Line editing is just as important as proofreading—both will eventually make your story clearer—but proofreading will make it clean as well as clear.

errors can show a lack of respect for the reader

These two factors—interrupting the flow of the story and making it less clear to read—reveal something serious: that you might not actually care for your reader.

What? you say, outraged. Liesl, of course I care for my reader! I wrote this whole book for them, didn’t I?!

Yes, you did. I think that’s great. But the value of the story is significantly diminished if the reader can’t actually understand it.

By proofreading, you are helping the reader through the story, allowing them to flow through it like a calm boat ride. If your story is full of typos and punctuation errors, or if it’s not formatted in a clean, clear way, it can feel less like a cruise and more like whitewater rafting.

Your job as an author is to give your reader something new, fiction or nonfiction. A new perspective, a new experience, a new concept, a new world—whatever it may be. And since human minds aren’t necessarily always receptive to new ideas, it is also your job to give it to them in a nice, shiny package. Proofreading helps with this. By making sure your writing is as uncluttered as possible, you can prepare your readers’ minds for the new thing you’re about to give them.

errors can make you appear less professional

Now let’s talk about you. So far we’ve discussed how your readers are impacted by errors in your story. How are you impacted by your readers?

Whether your reader realizes it consciously or not, if your book is full of typos, they will recognize that you are not making the best use of their time by forcing them to wade through the mush of unedited writing to get to the actual story. This can lead to them getting frustrated with you, the author, and likely deciding to put the book down.

Now, this already sounds bad—you worked so hard on your story, only to have a hopeful reader get discouraged. But it gets worse, because it can spread. Your reader might tell another potential reader, “The story was great, but the writing was bad, and there were too many typos”—and just like that, the potential reader might no longer be a potential reader.

This has happened with me more than once. I have had a friend, knowing how picky I was about grammar, tell me about a really good series that she loved but that had common grammatical errors and typos. I didn’t even have to try to read the book to know that it wasn’t going to work for me. That disappoints me because I know I’m missing out on a great story, but for whatever reason, the author, whether they knew it or not, didn’t respect their readers enough to package it up cleanly.

This is going to sound harsh, but ultimately it boils down to this: Your oversight/decision/whatever it may be to not make sure your story is grammatically correct reflects badly on you.

Also, this doesn’t just apply to stories. This applies to anything you write: articles, blog posts, essays, whatever it may be. Respect your reader and their time by proofreading and cleaning up your writing.

how can I avoid this?

I’m so glad you asked. The very best way is to familiarize yourself with grammar rules and use them. Internalize them. If you need to, find some middle school or high school exercises and practice using the grammar rules that trick you the most.

I highly recommend buying a copy of Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style at your local used bookstore—that book will walk you through most everything you need to know. And if you can’t find something that you’re looking for, there’s always a Google search—Purdue Online Writing Lab (or Purdue OWL) is my go-to site for things like this. Online programs like Grammarly can be good for proofreading, but they don’t catch everything, and they don’t read like a human would, so I would use it sparingly.

The next best way is to get someone else to read your writing, preferably someone who you know is good with grammar. This could even be your parents or grandparents, if they know what they’re doing. They can help you point out the small issues that you might have missed and teach you how to fix them. Better yet, if you have the money, hire a professional editor. They’ve been trained in this very thing.

If you don’t have someone else who can read your writing for you, you can do it yourself. Just follow the age-old rule of stepping back from your writing for at least a few days before attempting editing so you can look at it with fresh eyes, or put it in a different style of formatting to trick your brain into thinking it’s different.

I wanted to make one last thing clear: If you forget a comma now and then, or you don’t put an apostrophe where you’re supposed to, it’s really not a big deal. In this post, I’m mainly talking about writing where there’s a typo every other sentence. It’s rare, but it happens. Small grammar issues aren’t the problem here—lots of small grammar issues are.

Writer, if you have a hard time with grammar, don’t get discouraged. Lots of people struggle with it. It takes practice and patience to learn how to wrangle the English language. If you really want to learn—and if you’re reading this post, I assume you do—you’ll put the time and effort in and pick it up in no time.

So go forth with your new knowledge, but don’t use it to correct your friends when they make a tiny grammar mistake. You don’t want to be that person.

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

the ninety-seven percent

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

I’ve heard multiple statistics of people who want to be writers. One study from 2002 said that 88% of those polled reported that they wanted to write a book. I have also heard that 97% of people who start writing a book never finish it.

That means that 880 people out of every thousand want to write a book. And if all 880 people start writing their books, only 27 will actually finish writing it. Add that to the fact that only about 20% of authors actually publish their books, and that means that only five to six people out of eight hundred and eighty writers will get their books out into the world.

Now, I couldn’t actually find any of these polls, much less more recent ones, but the numbers seem accurate to me. In your life, how many times do you say “I want to do [insert thing here],” and how many times do you actually do it?

I think that this is a tragedy. One (or multiple!) of those 880 people could have the next great American novel inside of them. We are being deprived of great stories every single day.

If you’re one of those people, I have one thing to say (scream) to you:


Do you feel like you have a story inside of you? Then GET IT OUT! Don’t be one of the ninety-seven percent! Just write the book!

“But Liesl,” you might be saying, “I’m not a writer.”

Listen up.

Who is a writer? What does the very name imply? A writer is one who writes.

That’s it. That’s all there is to it. If you write, you’re a writer. Even if you only write emails. Have you written something in your life? Chances are, you have. Therefore, you are a writer.

And if I still haven’t convinced you, if you still need a permission slip, here. Here’s your permission slip. I just wrote it on the back of my philosophy notes. You’re a writer.

Go write. Don’t be one of the ninety-seven percent. If you have a story inside of you, get it out. I promise it will be one of the best things you ever do.

22 more beautiful words

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

I had a serious, thought-provoking post planned for this week, but I’m on vacation and I don’t really feel like thinking. So I’m going to give you a post that I have fun writing.

I present to you 22 more beautiful words, a follow up to my post “28 beautiful words”. I hope you enjoy!

  • vellichor: the strange wistfulness of used bookshops
  • kairosclerosis: the moment you realize you’re happy
  • nepenthe: something that can make you forget grief or suffering
  • nefelibata: one who lives in their own imaginations or dreams
  • quatervois: a critical decision or turning point in someone’s life
  • pluviophile: a lover of rain
  • abscond: to secretly depart and hide oneself
  • whelve: to bury something deep, to hide
  • solivagant: to wander alone
  • tacet: performed with the instrument silent
  • lachrymose: tearful or given to weeping
  • lucent: softly bright, radiant
  • orphic: mysterious, entrancing
  • seatherny: the serenity one feels while listening to birds
  • hiraeth: longing for a home that you cannot return to, perhaps one that never was
  • dwindle: to diminish gradually
  • mercurial: prone to sudden changes of mood or mind
  • elegy: a poem of serious reflection, lament for the dead
  • evanescent: soon passing out of sight, memory, or existence
  • onism: the awareness of how little of the world you’ll experience
  • morii: the desire to capture a fleeting experience
  • friscalating: shimmering on the horizon

Did you learn any new words from this list? What are some of your favorites?

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

the care and keeping of your writer

So you’ve adopted a writer. Congratulations! It may seem daunting at first, but writer ownership is really quite rewarding. With proper care, your writer will blossom and flourish. This guide outlines how to best care for writers so they may achieve this.


Writers often have a quite limited diet, usually consisting of canned or frozen convenience foods, due to their brains only focusing on their stories for long periods of times. They also may forget to eat entirely, often skipping meals, so gently encourage your writer to eat a healthy meal three times a day.

If your writer is under an immense amount of stress, such as being on deadline, an unhealthy and irregular diet will most likely become more common. In the event of this, it may be helpful to prepare a healthy, large meal with or for your writer and make sure they eat it at a reasonable time of day.

In addition to solid food, many writers require a liberal amount of tea. (Coffee-drinking writers, while rare, also exist.) Remind your writer every so often to drink water. Many forget to do so for hours at a time.


Due to writers’ secluded natures, they often spend days upon days indoors, despite the health benefits of being outside. If your writer is growing paler by the day, invite them out for a nice walk. Remind them that the outdoor world exists and encourage them to spend time outside. They may seem reluctant at first, but they will gradually begin to warm to the idea the more you expose them to it.

Writers are often known to engage in an activity known as “doom scrolling.” In an effort to support their fellow writers, they fill their social media feeds with other writers’ accounts. This is a good thing, but it can lead them down the rabbit trail of comparison, and they will eventually spend more time scrolling through social media and feeling bad about themselves than writing. If you see this happening to your writer, don’t fret. They may just need some confidence. Do your best to encourage them. In extreme cases, it may even be necessary to take away their social media so this does not happen again. Of course, consult your writer first.

Writers are also prone to periods of mental frustration commonly called “writer’s block.” This is where, no matter how hard they try, the ideas just won’t come. This is a period of great agony for a writer and may give them imposter syndrome and cause them stress. Be gentle with your writer in these trying times. Offer to brainstorm with them if they need it. They will be thankful.

Lastly, the sleep schedule of your average writer does not necessarily coincide with your own. They may be excessively nocturnal, working until late in the night (or early in the morning!). Gently encourage your writer to maintain a somewhat normal sleep schedule, as this will boost their creativity and productivity in the long run.


Most writers are introverts (though extroverted writers exist, they are much less common). While they value human interaction, it must be in moderation—too much will exhaust them, and they may withdraw.

Whether introverted or extroverted, however, all writers naturally go through periods of isolation. They may lock themselves away for hours or even days at a time. This is normal; don’t worry about them. Just make sure they are eating, drinking, and getting enough sleep, as previously mentioned.

Writers tend to fall into one of two categories: clamming up or spilling it all. Writers who clam up tend to be very closed about their stories. They may share a few bits here and there, but when pressed will retreat back into their shell. If this sounds like your writer, don’t push it. Engage with your writer, but don’t press them for more details, no matter how curious you are. They will tell you all the details eventually.

Writers who spill it all are generally very excited about their stories. They may eagerly share blurbs, character art, Pinterest boards, or even snippets of their work. If your writer is like this, encourage it. Don’t shut them down—listen attentively and engage. Ask questions, draw them out. Just be ready to gently tell them when you’ve had enough. They may be quite talkative.

Whether your writer clams up, spills it all, or falls somewhere delightfully in between, all writers are the same in that they have boundaries. Respect them; don’t push your writer to share more than they want to. Doing so may lessen their trust in you, which would be quite a shame. Instead, encourage them as best as you are able.

final thoughts

While this post is written in a humorous style, I would like to remind you that these are all legitimate tips and advice on how to interact with the writers in your life. In general, if you follow these guidelines, your writer friends will be amazed at how well you understand them. Remember to always encourage and uplift writers. They’re people just like you, after all.

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

my favorite writing resources

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

This week I thought I’d share with you a comprehensive list of my favorite resources for writers. If you’re wondering how to craft a character arc, outline your story, or how to edit, I have no doubt that at least one of these resources will help.

Without further ado, let’s jump in!


Story Genius by Lisa Cron—the psychology behind storytelling and hacking your readers’ brains

Structuring Your Novel by K. M. Weiland—how to structure your novel

Outlining Your Novel by K. M. Weiland—how to outline your novel

Sometimes the Magic Works by Terry Brooks—tips and lessons from a lifelong writer

Writer to Writer by Gail Carson Levine—meant for younger writers, but this is the book that made me a writer!

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert—all about creativity and how to harness it (CWs for swearing and some sexual innuendos)

websites, forums, and blogs

The Young Writer’s Workshop—a forum for young Christian writers with an excellent content library full of lessons from industry professionals ($47/month)

Helping Writers Become Authors—K. M. Weiland’s website with help on everything you can imagine

Story Embers—tips on how to craft compelling Christian stories

Kingdom Pen—another jack-of-all-trades website with tips on publishing and platform-building as well


Abbie Emmons—more story psychology, story breakdowns and how to apply it to your writing

Ana Neu—cozy writing talks and vlogs, also has a podcast

Sara A. Wynn—small channel with writing tips and talks

And there you are! Do you have any other writing resources that you love? I’d like to add them to this list!

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

autumn update + winter goals

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

Today is the first day of winter, which…I can’t say I’m happy about, honestly. I live in Michigan, so it gets gray and gross and dreary. Snow helps, but it’s still wet, and I much prefer to stay inside, thank you. But I did tell myself after visiting hot, humid Houston in July that I would never complain about the cold again, so I guess I have to stick to that promise.

Anyway, the winter solstice means a seasonal recap! Last time, I introduced a new system for making goals. I’m doing both goals and habits this time–habits are ongoing things, and goals are one-time things to accomplish. When I’m making new habits, they’re compounding on the old ones; I’m not getting rid of the old ones entirely, just not giving you a recap every time. Goals, however, are a one-time thing, so you won’t see those popping up again.

Without further ado, let’s hop right in!

autumn goals and habits


cut back on screentime

I did pretty well on this one for a little bit…and then November hit, and for whatever reason, my screen usage started to slowly get worse and worse. I think the real problem here was that I didn’t have enough boundaries in place. Going forward, I plan to start putting actual roadblocks in place–things like installing the Freedom app so I don’t get distracted by YouTube and Pinterest while I’m doing schoolwork and setting up Apple’s family monitoring settings so I don’t spend as much time on my phone every day.

start “touching” my writing daily

All through October and November, this was pretty much a necessity because of NaNo. I did really well with this one! I am taking a break for December because the holiday season is busy and I’m burned out after NaNo, but I plan to get back into it in January with a new idea for a novella.

work out & spend more time in nature

I did really well with this one until it started to get cold. For a while, I had a good fitness accountability group going on YDubs, but then the workout program ended and I didn’t start a new one. I was pretty good with using our Wii Fit for a little while there, but after Thanksgiving it fizzled out. I have a plan for exercising in the new year, however, which I plan to implement once the holidays are over.

utilize the YDubs content library

I’m proud of myself for keeping up with this one! I’ve made a serious dent in the library, which I’m super proud of. I want to have the entire library finished by the time I leave YDubs, which is going to take some work, but I think it’ll be worth it.


win NaNoWriMo

If you’ve been following my blog at all for the past few months, you know that I have accomplished this one! I’m so proud of myself for finishing. Third time’s the charm, I guess.

There’s not a lot I can say here that I haven’t already said, so I’m just going to move on.

come up with a new concept for “fun” writing

Check! I actually have a few ideas that I’d like to draft sometime during the new year.

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

I fell just short of this one–I only read two books–but the books I read, Atomic Habits and The Slight Edge, did help a lot. You’ll likely see more about these books in the beginning of the new year. Get ready!

write three or more original poems

Well, it wouldn’t be a goals update if I didn’t not get one of my goals, would it? I did not write any poetry, although that will change as I continue to study it in schoolwork. I did consume lots of great poetry, though.

advance my knowledge of SEO and other blogging techniques

I’ll give myself partial credit on this one. I did do some research and have been working to make my headlines as SEO-optimized as possible, but I didn’t do as much as I would have liked.

winter goals and habits


implement strategies to reduce screentime

This is the biggie. My phone and laptop tend to dominate my time recently. I love to play Minecraft and chat with my friends that live far away, but not at the expense of my other worthwhile, screen-less hobbies. Plus, the more time I spend on my screens, the worse my mental health gets. I can say I’m going to spend less time on my phone all I want, but until I actually put that into practice, it’s not going to do me any good.

read at least one book every week

I’ve been in a reading slump lately, and I really miss just reading for pleasure. I’ve been putting a lot of pressure on myself to read “more intellectual” things–nonfiction, classic fiction, the like. And you know what? I miss reading for fun. So I want to just read and not worry about reading “good” things. That can come later.

write blog posts ahead of time

Heh…so…I’m writing this post the day before it has to go out. I actually really hate doing this–I hate procrastinating in general–but I just can’t seem to stop. So I need to figure out some ways to force myself to do the work ahead of time.

make my pen pals a priority

I have a stack of letters sitting right next to me that I haven’t even opened…postmarked from October. (If we’re pen pals and you’re reading this, I’m really sorry.) I want to make meaningful connections through thoughtful, handwritten letters, but I often find myself pushing off writing back in favor of other ways of spending my time.


begin drafting a “fun” project

I just want to write. Without the pressure of NaNo, without stress or deadlines, just writing purely for fun. I also want to write something I can share with my friends, because they’re all clamoring to read my NaNo project, and I know that if I don’t give them something they’ll hack into my computer somehow and find my awful first draft. No thank you. Gotta give them shiny things to distract them.

work on making money

I am scarily close to being an actual adult with, like, actual responsibilities and bills and–ew–taxes, and it’s time that I start figuring out a way to financially support myself. I’m not going to go into details because I don’t exactly know what I’m doing yet, but I do know that it’s time that I figure out what I’m doing.

spend more quality time with my sister

My sister is going to private school next semester. For the first time in our lives, she and I won’t both be homeschooled. It’s going to be harder to see her because she’ll be at school all day and she’s already busy as heck, but I’d like to spend more time with her, going shopping or getting coffee or just doing fun stuff.

knit a sweater

No, I’m serious. Honestly, this goal goes hand-in-hand with the “spend less time on my screen” one. I like to knit and I need more things to make, plus I have an easy pattern for a sweater, so why not? I’ll do other things than watch YouTube all day, plus I’ll get a cool new sweater out of it in the process that I can point to and say “I made it myself.”

final thoughts

I haven’t made ambitious goals this season, because I know that second semester always sneaks up on you and nearly murders you. Mostly, I just want my goals to be attainable and fun to do. I want to better myself while also giving myself just a little bit of a break, and I think with the goals I have set, I’ll be able to accomplish that.

Thanks for listening to me ramble! Have you made any goals for the winter season? The new year is creeping up on us pretty fast. I feel like I need to get my life in order.

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

know the novel – part three: words written

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

Today I am gracing you with the third installment of Christine Smith’s NaNo linkup. This is all about how the actual story part of my National Novel Writing Month went. Last week I posted about my personal writing journey and the lessons I learned–if you’d like to check that out, you can right here.

Anyway, I’m excited to do this, so let’s hop right into the linkup!

1. how did writing this novel go all around?

Overall, I’d give the writing process an eight out of ten. I planned well enough to keep the momentum going throughout the whole month. Obviously, there were some rough patches, but it was surprisingly smooth sailing.

I did have a little bit of a setback when I got sick halfway through the month. I was stuck in bed for a few days and wasn’t able to write, and when I got better, my motivation levels dipped drastically and I got behind. But I was able to catch up near the end of the month by writing 2,000 words every day for five straight days and won on November 29!

I’m also proud to announce that Project Runaway has an actual title now: Everything We Ever Wanted. It came to me in a flash as I was trying to sleep on the day that I finished NaNo. I think it fits the book really well and has that nice poetic bent to it as well.

2. did it turn out as you expected or completely different? how do you feel about the outcome?

Because I plotted so well (which was a first for me), the story turned out how I expected. I followed my chapter outline more or less exactly how I planned it, although of course I deviated some from the outline–the book ended up having three more chapters than I originally planned.

3. what aspect of the story did you love writing about the most?

I loved writing about my characters’ discoveries. They experienced a lot of new things over the course of the story, and writing about their emotions as they experienced those things was super fun for me. The settings as well were super fun, because a lot of that played into the discoveries my characters made. Plus, I got to look at photos of beautiful places to be able to describe them, which was a bonus for me.

4. what was your least favorite part?

Honestly, the prose was my least favorite part. Usually I love writing beautiful prose, but this time I was just focusing on getting the wordcount down. I had to sacrifice quality for quantity, and my prose is pretty bad as a result. (I’m not fishing for compliments or trying to put myself down or anything! It legitimately is pretty bad right now, but I knew that was going to happen and I’m not too worried about it.)

5. what do you feel needs the most work?

I wish I had learned more about character arcs before NaNo. My characters change, but I feel like it’s not refined enough. I think I need to work on their character arcs and how they change throughout the story.

Also, I realized that the POV I had chosen (third person limited) wasn’t the best choice for the book. Since I was so deep into NaNo before I figured that out, I had no choice but to keep going with the one I had already been writing in. If I was going to rewrite it, I would probably change the POV from third to first person.

6. how do you feel about your characters now? who’s your favorite? least favorite? did anyone surprise you?

I mean…not a lot has changed. I have a pretty small cast of characters–only two make up the majority of the book. I feel the same now as I did when I was writing it. They’re both like my children, in the sense that I don’t condone the decisions they’re making and wish they would just settle down and chill just a little bit.

I don’t have favorites or least favorites, but they did both surprise me in how similar they are to each other. I intended Tessa to be the kind of emo, daredevil, let’s-do-stupid-stuff one and Cady to sort of balance her out with caution and soft vibes. But Tessa ended up being just as anxious as Cady and Cady ended up being a little bit more of a daredevil than I anticipated.

7. what’s your next plan of action with this novel?

I’m going to shove this thing in the proverbial desk drawer and leave it for the rest of my life. I do not expect to edit, rewrite, or finish it in any way. This one was just for practice, and I enjoyed writing it, but for now I don’t expect anything to come of it, and I’m fine with that.

8. if you could have your greatest dream realized for this novel, what would it be?

I think that I already have. This was the first draft of a full-length novel (over 50k) I’ve seen to completion in my entire writerly career. I’m so proud of myself for sticking to it all the way and actually winning NaNo.

9. share some of your favorite snippets!

Ugh. Do I have to?

Fine. Don’t judge.

This first one is from Chapter 11, told from Cady’s perspective:

The washing machine dinged, ruining the moment, and Cady jumped up to switch the laundry to the dryer. When she returned, Tessa was leafing through the book she had bought, wrinkling her nose. “What is this?” she asked.

Cady snatched it back from her. “It’s a rom-com. I’m going to force you to read it.”

“I’ll be driving forever, then,” Tessa said.

“Then I’ll read it out loud to you,” Cady shot back. “I think you’ll like it.”

Tessa groaned, tipping her head back dramatically. “Just shoot me. It would hurt less.”

Cady flapped her hand. “Oh, hush.”

Chapter 11 was my favorite chapter to write. It was completely unplanned, not in my outline at all, but I had so much fun writing it. It was just so vibey.

This next one is from the next chapter, where it all goes wrong, told from Tessa’s perspective.

“I have to go, Tessa,” Cady repeated, getting fired up now. “They’re my parents. I can’t believe that you don’t understand this. You wouldn’t go back even if you just found out that your parents were on death’s door?”

Tessa was silent. Of course she wouldn’t, not when they had come this far. Nothing could take her away at this point. Her life was her own.

Cady saw Tessa’s answer in her silence and her face. Cady’s own face grew cold and closed. “I can’t believe you. Are you really so heartless?”

“Are you really so spineless?” Tessa shot back. “You’d just throw this all away?”

This last snippet is from the very last chapter, also from Tessa’s perspective.

Tessa stepped back from the hug, holding Cady by the shoulder. The speech she had planned was gone from her mind. Instead, she choked out, “I’m so sorry.”

Cady’s eyes, brimming with tears, widened. “Tessa, you’re — ”

“I know,” Tessa said, feeling tears on her cheeks. “I know what I’m saying. And I’m sorry.”

“Oh, Tessa,” Cady said again, wrapping her best friend in another enormous hug. “I am too.”

“I needed you,” Tessa admitted. “And I didn’t want to need you. And I am so, so, so sorry.”

Cady said nothing, only squeezed her tighter. The two stood like that, crying and hugging each other, for what felt like the best eternity Tessa could think of. 

These are all unedited and will remain as such for probably the rest of eternity, so again, please don’t judge. It’s the process and not the product for me. But I hope you enjoyed getting a little glimpse of my characters.

10. did you glean any new writing and/or life lessons from writing this novel?

I did! And I wrote a whole post about it!

But if you didn’t see that post, I’ll summarize the main points for you:

  1. It’s more than okay to go for quantity over quality.
  2. Have something to work towards.
  3. Rest is important…
  4. …as is support.
  5. Have a physical way to see your progress.
  6. Visualize your story.
  7. Stretch yourself!

final thoughts

I think I needed this NaNo to really get me out of my comfort zone. It showed me just how hard writing can be. When I found myself hitting a slump, I would think, Is this really what I want to do for the rest of my life?

And then I thought, Yes. Yes, I do. I love writing, and I don’t care how hard it is. I was given this gift, and I’m going to use it to glorify God with everything in me.

Thanks again to Christine for hosting this linkup! I loved sharing my answers with you and I hope you enjoyed reading them just as much. (And if you didn’t get to check out the first few parts, you can find all of my posts about NaNo 2022 right here.)

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