Updated: Dec 30, 2021


I have no idea.

Gonna be honest, I think my sanity became a free agent once everyone started using “pandemic” in a conversational tone and started to read into baking recipes. It’s been a lot for everybody, and online chaos hasn’t helped.

But here are my best, educated guesses about how I

  • wrote a book I liked

  • knit a sweater I liked

  • and constructed a collaborative free online romance that I like (stay tuned to read Chapter 1 February 14 for free!! Updates on Instagram)

all in the span of a year-ish.


Support.

My family is amazing, but marrying Dedrick made me realize how important support really is. Maybe I'm just being sentimental, but the thought of spending the rest of my life with him makes almost any dream seem possible.

I know, I know, mushy-gushy romance, but it's true!!.


He listens. It’s that simple, but I am always free to share what I’m working on with him (and vice versa). Part of it is that our interests align, which I love. Creating paintings and writing books are, of course, entirely separate disciplines, but their histories intertwine and sometimes their reasonings align, which gives us both insights into our individual fields. I don’t know what you think about romance, but to me, it’s always going to involve a historical-philosophical debate about postmodern ideas.


School.

I’ve completed far too many eighteen-hour online semesters to not know how to cram. Now, I set deadlines and expectations for my books and strive to honor those dates just as seriously as I would an English paper. Of course, I’m free to give myself leeway, and writing time-consuming projects like this upcoming online romance always come second to Dedrick and our life together. And I’m never going to be perfect; there will always be days that I choose to watch SpongeBob and not read craft books. But setting deadlines for my books just like I did when I had to read a romance book a week in Young Adult Literature helps me organize my free time seriously.


Something to fight for.

With online overexposure to information that’s free to read, almost everyone’s life is constantly filled with some form of imported anxiety about the state of the world. It helps to read a relaxing book – even a cheesy online romance about a mind-reader and a concept artist – and let that anxiety slip away. That’s my mission: to write books that help people remember who people really are, instead of the caricatures of human nature blaring at them across online media.


I have a long way to go before accomplishing my goals, and yet in some ways, I’ve already accomplished everything I could want. I've found romance, a career, and a passion that can all coexist peacefully; few people are so lucky. Hopefully, this latest project – the romance book that I’m planning to publish online for free – will bring something beneficial to those who read it.

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Even though the holidays can be stressful for a lot of people, they don’t have to throw a wrench in your writing schedule. I’m currently working on a book proposal that I plan to have finished by December 31; naturally, most of my writing is going to occur during the holiday season. I’m not as stressed about this as I thought it would be, and I’m pretty sure I know why. This project is important enough to be worth working toward, even while navigating once-a-year family social engagement.

That’s about the only warning I have about writing during the holidays: make sure it’s something worth writing.

It’s not going to be easy to find the time, and there are going to be a thousand reasons to quit. For the projects that really matter, though, this can be a fantastic opportunity to prove your dedication to your craft and get some awesome work done.

So here are my top five tips for writing during the holidays:


Have a definite plan.


This means word count, chapter outlines, and pages per day for me. For you, it could be a time allotment: thirty minutes a day. My current project, the book proposal, involves a chapter-by-chapter outline of my book. I’ve split the chapters up by days and focus on only the assigned sections every day. On days that I have more time, I also work in the additional pieces of the proposal (the author intro, the market analysis, all the boring junk that’s not the story) so that by the time I hit December 31, I’ll have it all completed. My focus, though, is on the outline. While drafting my young adult novel, I worked with word count: 1,000 words a day on weekdays and 5,000 words a day on Saturdays. Pushing myself to achieve a pre-planned goal helped me feel accomplished and excited for the next day’s writing without overworking my muse’s muscles.


Prepare for the lost days.


Since I recently joined another family, the better part of Thanksgiving week is going to be spent traveling between family members’ houses and spending time with those we love. No matter what your holiday season looks like, it’s going to have lost days, where writing would only add to an already-stressful day. Instead of trying to follow your plan regardless of the day’s circumstances, plan around the lost days. Get in 2,000 words the day before your flight. Write an extra chapter outline or two in the days prior to your vacation. Plan for the lost days so that you can truly enjoy them because writing in a lost day usually does more harm than good.


Give yourself breaks.


As a Christian, these are built-in by my religion: Sunday is a day of rest. You’d be surprised how hard it is to rest when you have a plan that you want to pursue, but at the end of a day spent putting down projects and picking flowers, cleaning closets, watching TV or doing anything besides writing, your mind will be recharged and ready for the week ahead. So, pick a day and take a break (lost days don’t count! You’re spending those with family. You will be exhausted).


Work on different projects.


Similar to giving yourself a break, working on different projects protects you from burnout. If I feel myself getting unhappy or frustrated with my book proposal, I find something else to write. Essays, short stories, blog posts (yes, this one), and even poems can help my mind recover and prepare itself to return to the book proposal in a positive way. It’s kind of like gardening; in order to avoid stripping the soil of nutrients, you plant different crops that replenish the soil in their own ways. Having multiple projects replenishes your brain-soil and increases the chance that you’ll have a bountiful writing session.


Set aside time to read.


Inspiration comes from observation. Read good books, and you will find yourself itching to write. This is also a great activity for the holidays, because it’s a time of traveling. Read on the plane, listen to an audiobook on the car ride, bring a book for the days when you spend the night at a relative’s house. By ingesting well-written stories, you’re giving your brain the material it needs to creatively tackle your project’s individual challenges.


“Why are so many of these tips focused on doing things besides writing?” you may ask. I’m assuming you know your project better than I do. You want to write it as much as I want to write my projects. These tips are simply the structure I use to achieve results. I’m hopeful that they will be as helpful to others as they have been to me!

One last note: The holidays are a time when we share our lives and catch up with relatives and friends. This can be painful or difficult for many reasons, but one of the simpler struggles is that of a writer trying to share their work with people who might not be interested. I know, although I have incredibly supportive family members, it can be hard for them to find ways to support me when they’re used to sports events or visual competitions, not words on a page. If your family is willing, maybe share a piece or two with them this holiday season. If nothing else, trying to explain my work to my family has definitely helped me with my elevator pitches!

And know that, no matter how your holidays look this year, you have a community here that supports you, understands your efforts, and celebrates your writing journey with you.


 

Plus Writing Prompt


Write a 250-word piece that you’d be willing to share with a family member or close friend; if you’d rather, you can share it with us by posting it in the comments, sending it with the button below, or sharing on Twitter and tagging @ehillwrites!


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Updated: Nov 23, 2021


Snow pouring down into a forest of scant trees makes this whitewashed scene hard to see.
Once Upon A Time

I began this novel with anger. East Texas, for some reason, attracts a lot of cults, and one of them squats in the woods about fifteen minutes outside of my university. When the group would congregate in major walkways, dressed in holier-than-thou skirts and top hats and almost certainly fasting to the point of delirium, students would warn one another of their presence. “Watch out; the angry church people are there today.”

“I get so tired of these Christians.”

I hate that when people think of Christianity on campus, this is the Christianity they see. Sometimes I go on campus to start conversations with people about religion; I’m always conscious, during these meetings, of what I’m wearing. When I wear skirts, people are less likely to stop and talk to me because they know what the cults look like. If I wear shorts and a university t-shirt, which identifies me as a student, more people stop and are more open to a conversation. I wanted to shout at the top of my lungs something that would show the world the difference between false, dogmatic, rule-based cults and true religion that’s based on logic, trust, and love. Nothing really came to mind, though, so I left the thought alone.


Storms and Brews

While this dissatisfaction was incubating, I began my Young Adult Literature course. Theories behind structure, style, and form captivated me, and I realized there was a lot more to YA Lit than the cheesy romance I’d seen on the shelves.

Then it snowed in Texas.

A lot of snow.

People called it Snowmageddon; almost everyone lost power, and most people lost running water, too. We were trapped inside, with a world that had come to a halt, and I had a story to tell.

So, I started writing.

I don’t write dark things, or I haven’t in the past; this got dark, fast. I think it was because what I was writing was important. Olivia (my protagonist) had a lot more going on than just her “mild cult”. She faced a school system that failed her, a family that failed her, a first love that turned horribly complex and hurtful in a moment. Watching her hurt, struggle, heal, and persist broke and healed my own heart, and at the end of the snowstorm I had a rough draft that was no longer angry. It was overwhelmingly hopeful.


What Writers Do

It was also way too short. YA novels, my professor informed me, had to be at least 75,000 words to be competitive once they hit the shelves; this had to do with how consumers view books as worth their while. Publishers can't sell a 90-page book for near as much as they can sell a 300-page book, and the average reader likes to see there are some hefty chapters to keep them busy.

Olivia had to get bigger. This was a strange challenge for me; at first, I felt as if I’d said all I needed to say. I took a break from Olivia and started working on other projects, some of which turned into concepts as big as Olivia; others fizzed out after a week of excitement. When I returned to Olivia, I realized I’d been watching the world during that break through her eyes.


Would Olivia see a grocery store like this?

What does Olivia think about football?

Does Olivia just “move on” after what happens to her?


The first two questions could be answered with my own experience, but the third required a viewpoint outside of myself. I found an organization that specializes in the battles Olivia faced (no spoilers, but if the book ever gets published, I’ll be sure to promote the organization as much as possible because it deserves it) and scheduled an interview with a team member to ask the questions Olivia would ask. That helped my perspective tremendously, and with that interview, the novel officially left the space of a work written in anger, in response, and instead became a work that could help others.


Through Olivia’s reactions and the reactions of those around her, I was able to share a story that sadly won’t be unfamiliar to teenage girls across the country. Olivia allowed me to share that story and end it with hope, healing and love. I’m so excited to see where she will go next.


(Side note: I’ve started anthropomorphizing my projects. It’s a problem, but everyone close to me has adjusted to it and now understands when I refer to novels as friends or buttheads. I hope I’m not the only one with this quirk...)


 
Plus Writing Prompt:

Plus Writing Prompts is an initiative I’m starting to help writers break bad pandemic habits of working in an isolated environment. It is a community centered on collaboration and encouragement! I’m going to post a writing prompt with every blog post, and you, the writer, will have a blast and write great things. Then you’ll share your response, and I’ll pick my favorite four each month and read them on YouTube (with the author’s permission)! It’s not a lit journal or anything like that; Plus Writing Prompts is just a way for writers to connect and hype one another up. So, without further ado:

Write a 250-word piece about something that pisses you off. This can be fiction or nonfiction; you can even write a poem, if you want! The only rule is that you have to write EXACTLY 250 words. No more, no less.

Then take that 250-word piece and rewrite it with a positive ending.

If you’re comfortable, share it with us!


  • Post it in the comments

  • Send it to me with the button below

  • Share it on Twitter and tag @ehillwrites

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