I haven’t done a blog post yet this year. I’ve thought of a couple ideas. I even wrote a short one a couple weeks back about my current reading habits, but then I thought it was pointless and didn’t post it. And that’s kind of the thing with me right now, I’m second guessing my ideas. I’m second guessing everything that I write and if anyone would be at all interested in reading it, whether it’s a blog post, a tweet, a Facebook update, or a novel.
This is going to be a tie between What If It’s Us and Dear Evan Hansen. I listened to them back to back, and they had a similar feel and style to them, but I loved them both dearly. Dear Evan Hansen even had a little tiny bit of singing in it from the musical just to make it extra special. These are both great, solid YA contemporary fiction stories read by exceptional actors.
Well, I only read one whole series this year, and it was good but not what I would consider a favorite. I read a couple final books of series this year, though, so I’ll count Finale by Stephanie Garber as the amazing, magical ending to the gorgeous Caraval trilogy.
And hey, take some time to scroll through my website and see if you want to add one of my books to your 2020 TBR list.
Nearly every lecture I attended had something to do with how people perceive the actions or words of other people. Generally, our instincts are to judge harshly, to assume less of a person. “That co-worker didn’t help me because they’re lazy or doesn’t like me.” “That parent brought their sick kid to school because they love their job more than their kid.” “That student is acting up because they just want attention.” “That person thinks what I do for a living is beneath them.” It goes on and on until we have strong feelings that build a wall of frustration and anger.
What we need to do instead is assume ‘positive intent’. Everyone has a story that they are going through, right? In nearly every case, I could argue that people aren’t intentionally being mean. When people are angry or hurtful, they are usually struggling with something themselves. Someone has to rise above. Someone needs to see the bigger picture. Take a breath. Calm the urge to fight or flee. Then see if you can figure out how to address and hopefully solve the problem.
What surprised me was the intense focus on this concept throughout this massive conference. Clearly, how to choose how to fully comprehend a behavior before reacting to it is something people are hungry to understand.
Another example is from my novel Whisper of the Woods. Juniper’s uncle comes across as the villain for wanting to chop down the 1,000-year-old Red Cedar tree, but we learn that he has genuine fear of the tree based on a tragedy that happened there when he was young.
Yes, I spent four days at a conference about the care and welfare of small children, and I walked away with ways to apply what I learned not only to my day job, but to my writing and personal life. Some messages are like that – universal. I challenge you now to think about how you can apply the concept of ‘positive intent’ or ‘benefit of the doubt’ to your life. Think of how it can change the nature of your relationships with your family, friends, co-workers, etc. If you’re a writer, think how it can enhance your stories.
If you follow me on social media, you probably already know that All the Love You Write is a full-length YA paranormal romance novel based on my previously published novella Passing Notes. Passing Notes received great reviews, and several reviewers and readers urged me to continue the story. What happens next to Mark and Bethany? Do we ever learn more about the ghosts? I appreciated the comments, but I liked the story ending where it did. I felt that stretching it out with extra scenes would weaken it. I left it alone.
Passing Notes is a sweet story about a boy who is finally dating the girl he’s had a crush on for years, but he’s pitiful at being romantic. That is, until he starts receiving mysterious notes that teach him how to write the perfect love letter. We soon find out that the notes come from a ghost that is haunting him. Why is the ghost helping him? Will the ghost’s advice work?
I was so excited. I thought I’d have the rest of the book finished within a month or so.
Then I was on to Part 3, and this was where my struggles began.
Bethany is having a hard time with this new relationship. It’s the final semester of high school, and she’s not sure how much she wants to invest herself. They don't have much in common or a lot of time to spend together. Mark will be joining the army right after graduation, and she’ll be going to college. Is it worth it? Sometimes I worried that the reader wouldn’t like Bethany not readily accepting Mark after all he’d done to win her over. I’d stop writing when I felt like she was being too hard on him or making a choice that would hurt his feelings. Was this going to be okay? I didn’t want the reader to hate her.
Then there was the haunting to consider. This got me stuck a few times, too. I had Mark haunted by a helpful ghost in Part 1. There was barely any paranormal activity in Part 2. I needed to keep the ghostly aspect of the story going in Part 3 to stay true to the genre of book I was writing. I decided Bethany would be haunted by a different ghost. This ghost wouldn’t be helpful at all. In fact, she’d be pretty angry and spiteful about how Bethany was treating Mark. This ghost is very protective of the boy. (I’d like to tell you why, but spoilers, you know.) As I wrote, I’d get stuck because there didn’t seem like enough interaction with the ghost to match Part 1. I revised my outline multiple times to come up with how and why this ghost was bothering Bethany. Like I had with Bethany’s choices, I also worried too much what readers would think about this ghost being so aggressive.
See, Part One, takes place over a week. Part Two is mostly one day of reading letters. Part Three takes place over half a year. That’s a lot of time to fit into a short space. The words took me way past 60 pages and then past 100 pages, and I knew I wasn’t even close to being done. My writing came to a halt. I was afraid to keep going. I mentioned it on my Facebook author page, posting that I’d hit writer’s block because I was worried I was over-writing. A friend teased me, responding that he wished he had that problem. And I know it sounds strange to say that my ability to write froze because I thought I was writing too much, but that’s what happened. I stopped right in the middle of a chapter and let a couple weeks pass. Then a couple months. I worked on other projects. I directed a play. I wasn’t sure if I would come back to it.
Then I had to go all the way back to Part 1, my original story. Details had to be changed: character descriptions, names of people, jobs, and a bunch of other details. Also, as to be expected, I had more revision to do once my editor from Fire & Ice YA Books gave me her notes.
If you’d like to learn more about All the Love You Write, visit the page on my website. You’ll find an excerpt, some review quotes, and links to all the online booksellers.
I’d love to hear from you. If you’re a writer, have you ever struggled with writer’s block? What caused it? How did you get past it? If you’re a reader, do you ever wonder about what was going through an author’s mind when they wrote a book or scene you loved or hated? Please leave a comment below.
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