4 Life-Altering, Easy Ways to Show Bloggers Love


Sometimes I get REALLY BUMMED when I'm blogging.  Don't tell me you don't experience this too!  It's like I'm talking to thin air.  I research, I make a graphic, I schedule the optimal time to post, I write that post with my best spicy talk - and then...nothing.  Sometimes I get a comment, maybe two, but in general I think, "IS ANYONE EVEN LISTENING TO ME?"

I was sobbing (internally) about this to my husband, and he said, "Yeah, but think about all the blogs you read and never comment on.  They don't know you read their posts, but you did, and you liked them.  Probably people do the same for you.  You don't KNOW they're there, but they are."

Ouch.  Guilty as charged.  I read blog posts and never say a word.  I feel like my comment won't matter.  But on MY blog, comments DO matter to me - so I'll bet my comments matter to other bloggers.  So here is what //I// am going to do about it - and I HIGHLY RECOMMEND YOU DO THE SAME!  Because everyone deserves love, community, support, + encouragement!

#1: leave a comment!

DUH.  Even if you're not sure what to say, something as simple as, "Hey, I loved this post!  Thank you for taking the time to write it for us," means THE WORLD to the blogger.  Take me: I could be spending time doing something tangibly useful, like washing dishes.  But no, I decided to spend time writing a post for you guys in the hopes that a) you'll like it, + b) it will be useful to you.  Was it?  Say so!  And not just to me - to all the blogs you read!

#2: "like" the links!

Did you come to the blog post through Facebook or Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram?  "Like" it!  IT TAKES ALMOST NO TIME AT ALL PERIOD.  What a simple, awesome way to let the blogger know, "Hey yo, I saw this and I liked it!"  Without that, the blogger has no idea!

#3: share the link on your favourite social media platforms!

Did you know that WORD OF MOUTH marketing is the BEST FORM?  YUSS!  Do you love your bloggers?  Share the posts you like!  Spread that love!  Throw it like confetti!  I can tell you right here + right now, there is nothing that leaves me so peachy as to see that someone liked my post SO MUCH, they went ahead and SHARED IT WITH THEIR FRIENDS.  Angelic singing!  Praise the Lord!  Hallelujah!

#4:  rate their work on amazon + goodreads!

Are you a reader following an author-blogger?  Maybe you're not good at writing reviews (pick me! here in the front row!), but that's okay!  It's really important for their work to be rated, so just jump into Amazon or Goodreads and leave a rating.  That's all it takes!  Blam - you're done!

those are my top-four tips for encouraging bloggers + letting them know they're loved. got anymore suggestions?  i refer you back to #1: leave them in a comment! <3


image via oh i don't know pinterest

Confidence | How Pinterest Can Help + It's Free!


When I started out blogging, I was in my late teens and I had no idea who I was.  I didn't even realize I had no idea who I was.  I just started blogging about my writing and general topics that interested me.  I was stiff and starched and spoke from what I thought was an ivory tower (it was kind of a mole hill).  Ugh!  Who wants to be friends with THAT?

Fast forward to the last six months.  In that space of time I've a) discovered my ideal makeup look, b) discovered my wardrobe look, c) shaken off some of the erudite dust of my blog and become a lot more open and confident with the whole kit and caboodle.  AND I NEVER THOUGHT I EVER WOULD.  But here I am.

"Okay, that's nice, Jenny, but HOW YOU DO DAT."  Oh, I'm glad you asked.  


listen to your preferences!

I recently started an exercise on Pinterest in which I pin JUST the items that really say "JENNY."  Then I look over them and ask myself, "What are the unifying threads here?"  Turns out, they tend to be BLACK + WHITE + GOLD + CHAMPAGNE colours; also, minimalism with clean lines and tasteful pops of elegance.  That's me.  I've finally begun to discover ME!  DO YOU KNOW HOW FREEING THAT IS?  It's the bee's knees!

"OKAY.  We hear you, Jenny, but I like a LOT of stuff.  What if they're all mismatched and DON'T have a unifying thread?"  I've got the answer to that, too.


 edit! edit! edit!

You have to learn to edit yourself.  Like you, I like lots of things!  But when it comes to style and aesthetic, I've learned to be CRITICAL and edit out what DOESN'T match.  No shade thrown on anything else, I'm just here to be a holistic, unified entity - especially online!

here's how pinterest can help!

Start a new board.  This board is YOU.  Hunt down only the images which really speak to YOU.  Cosy bookshop settings?  Vintage lace?  Steaming cups of coffee?  Muted, neutral colours?  And edit! edit! edit!  Pretty soon you're going to see a similarity in the variety of the images you pin.  Pretty soon you're going to know just what to look for.  Pretty soon, you're going to have a clearer image of who YOU are!

drown out the noise

A lot of self-doubt comes from the constant buffeting we take from other people and their images of themselves.  We're tossed about, trying to be one of them, and ourselves, all at the same time - and we just end up not knowing who we really are!  So shut off the noise.  Focus on yourself.  Once you know who YOU are, you're not going to feel that pressure nearly so badly.  You get your self-confidence, you get your own voice, you become a stronger person.  You become you.

Okay, got it?  Now go forth and start your boards!  SHARE YOUR BOARDS!  I want to learn who you are!  I want to see you discover yourselves because YOU ARE AMAZING!

all images via pinterest because where else

Less Zen More Will | The Remarkable Ease of Efficiency


For those of us who have the opportunity, and can't function in high-volume settings like Starbucks, we get to work from home.  Avoiding the daily grind? Yuss!  Being your own boss?  Huzzah!  But it's not all fun and games because you STILL HAVE TO GET YOUR WORK DONE.  I'm sure a lot of people look at those of us who work from home and either see us schlubbing in our pajamas, or glitzy in pristine white settings and tiny zen water features burbling on our desks.  Well, okay, that's some of us, but hopefully that's not MOST of us.  Pristine white setting, yeah, I'd go in for that.  Probably some of you would prefer the pajamas.  But let's aim somewhere in the middle and figure out

how to effectively work from home

1. Setting is important but NOT AS IMPORTANT AS YOU MIGHT THINK.
Yes, but no.  Put down your iPhone and walk away from the expertly arranged flat-lay you want to make.  Your job right now is writing.  Do you know how photogenic writing is?  It isn't.  Stop.  Sit down.  Open up your document.  Write.

It's definitely nice to be comfortable when you're working; it helps focus your mind on the craft, especially not having to worry about being hungry/thirsty/cold/hot/tired/ugly/greasy/bleh.  Pick a place that fits the criteria best.  Don't go into it hungry.  Grab something to drink.  Get ready - and write.

2. Admit your weaknesses and make allowances for them.
Watching a Carly Cristman video the other day (because I do "waste" time on Youtube), she mentioned that she's going to want to check Facebook/Instagram/Twitter/Pinterest.  WE LIKE TO CHECK OUR SITES.  And it can be a huge time-waster if we let it.  She recommended allowing yourself a small amount of time every large chunk of time to check one of your sites.  IT DOESN'T TAKE LONG TO CHECK YOUR SITE, PEOPLE; TRUST ME, THE REST OF THE TIME YOU'RE JUST DAWDLING.  Take a five-minute break every hour (maybe, doesn't have to be even as long as five minutes because YOU PROLLY DON'T EVEN NEED THAT LONG, but whatever), then get back to work.

3. Doing research?  Make progress.
This is my biggest struggle, honest to goodness.  Although I love reading, it makes me sleepy.  Looking down or up at a book for any length of time is painful.  I don't like sitting still. I DON'T MAKE A LOT OF PROGRESS.  But I still have to buckle down and work.  I have to go read that book for research, even if I fall asleep while doing so and drop it on my head.  (My favourite time to read is in the evening when I'm going to bed and I've got a sheet mask on my face, because you can't really sit up or the mask will fall off, you have to lie down and hold the book on your chest/knees/belly-button area...long story short, I'm stuck there for at least half an hour and I get some reading done.)

4. As much as you can, don't schlub.
If you feel like crap, if you look like crap, your work is going to be crap too.  Have a nice date with your work and look the part.  Put on your nice (comfortable) clothes.  If you wear makeup, go ahead and put it on.  Rise to the occasion!  Look great!  Feel great!  Make great art!

5. Never underestimate the seductive power of caffeine.
"Maybe I'll cut back on my caffeine and just have one cup of tea - " NO.  Unless you are seriously abusing caffeine and need an intervention, don't play with your synapses while you are trying to get writing done.  Drink that tea.  Brew that coffee.  Be hipster.  (But don't waste your time taking pictures of it.)

Bonus tip: The only way to get the thing done is to do it.
This may seem obvious, but it's not that easy.  There will be days when everything in you says, "NO.  I do NOT want to do it.  I want to go to BED."  Pick me, right here in the front row.  And there are days when I have to sit down, open up my document, and just MAKE MYSELF DO IT.  It's not comfortable, it's not nice, but the only way to get the thing done is to do it.  Maybe that means not even opening up the internet.  Maybe that means not even touching my phone.  Whatever it is, I recognize that, sometimes, I just have to push-push-PUSH and do it.

those are my top-five (+ one) tips for getting work done from home. lots of people have TONS of great advice out there, so please share yours! what do you do to get stuff DONE?


image via pinterest because i am not a photographer

Strong Female Characters | The Truth


Everyone. EVERYONE. is going on about strong female characters in fiction.  Dude.  Should we have them?  Shouldn't we have them?  If not - why even read this?  If so - then they should be like THIS and they should be like THAT, and they shouldn't be like THIS (or, at least, only in moderation), and THAT is overdone and unnecessary - STRONG FEMALE CHARACTERS GET A LOT OF PRESS.  Mostly people are genuinely in favour of the strong female character, a lot of people struggle with the balance between the strong female characters and in the inevitable male characters (who should also be strong and not milquetoast, please).

I'm not here with the answer to that balance.  Personally, I really love strong female characters (oh hey, hashtag MY NOVEL PLENILUNE), but we're forgetting one teensy-weensy but ever so crucial little tiny detail.

WE'RE ALL STRONG IN SOME WAY

STOP THE PRESSES.  True beans, folks!  Are you surviving?  Are you alive?  Are you pulling through?  Do you wake up each day and keep going?  Do you not murder annoying coworkers?  Do you smile cheerfully at the irrational clients?  Do you wash your laundry?  Do you take your dirty dishes to the sink/dishwasher/actually get them clean again in some way?  I've got news for you.

YOU ARE STRONG

Life. is. rough. okay?  Whether you're living in middle class America where the socio-economic dance is some bizarre footwork, or ethnically tense Europe, or poverty-stricken Third World countries - YOU ARE STRONG.  You are alive.  You get up each day.  You work.  You put your life in some kind of order.  You are strong.  You are amazing.  You could give up.  You could descend into a morass of self-inflicted depression (I have post-partum, folks; I get to talk about depression), you could just live a life that's hollow and dark and terrible because you're too tired and depressed to get up and change your situation and make the best of it.  NO.  YOU ARE STRONG.

So YO all you writing bloggers grappling with the topic of the strong female character and what she looks like?  She's gonna look like she's surviving.  She's gonna look like she's going from day to day with purpose.  She will look tired.  She will look worn.  She will depend on others (delegating is a strength - trust me), but she will get things done.  She will meet her obligations.  She will live.

IF THAT ISN'T GRIT, I DON'T KNOW WHAT IS.

image via pinterest. thanks, pinterest.

Collages of Inspiration


I love reading books that fire my imagination, and are written so well that I can see what is happening.  But sometimes I just love to get an actual picture, you know? Since I'm in between novels and I'm doing some looking-stuff-up and researching and getting-a-feel-for, I thought I'd share some pictures of the things which are helping me gear up for my next work.




Oooh, Plenilune.  Can you almost taste it?  I get the spine-tingles just looking at these pictures of thinking of the story that's coming. <3


Are you excited to go back?  Hop on.  It's not far.  It's only to the moon and forever.


all images gleaned from pinterest because i am not a photographer & who even uses google images any more??

Masculinity & Femininity | Where They Overlap


I read Mirriam's response, and then the original Open Letter to Rey.  Out of order, but that's how this topic flashed across my dash.  Odd thing was, I'd already been meaning to tackle this topic in some manner.  I guess now is as good a time as any.  And I'll tell you what, at first I had NO IDEA how to handle this subject.  It's a massive topic split in two ways with lots of cracks that formed from the split.  But as I was making and uploading my post image, it came to me.

the problem is the split

There is a huge-big kick-up about how men and women ought to behave.  The author of the Open Letter to Rey was one-part despairing because Hollywood/hardcore feminism makes women too manly; he also did point out that men have too often abdicated their role as MEN QUA MEN (yes, I used "qua" XD ), and, in my words, are basically emasculated in this society.  Neither position is correct.  BUT IT'S SO HARD TO FIGURE OUT WHAT THE BALANCE IS.

And I think a major problem is that it ISN'T cut and dry.  It's not black and white.  It's not BOOM, man, you stand over here in the glittering corner office and BAM, woman, you put your pearls on and work in the kitchen.  Woman, don't you start wishing you had an outlet for your creativity besides baking apple pies.  Uh uh, man; don't you start hankering after a quiet day at home puttering on your own turf away from the daily grind.  The natures of men and women are CUT and D - okay, I can't keep this up.  This is ridiculous and a total strawman.

The natures of man and woman are mingled from BEFORE the beginning.  They both have their origin from the same God, whose nature is itself perfectly combined masculinity and femininity.  God reveals himself as the powerful king, the ruler of mankind, the judge, the redeemer, the champion - masculine.  But all through the grain of those qualities there are immense and shining strains of the shepherd, the caretaker, the provider, the one jealous for his own glory and dignity and splendour, the boundless, tender heart, the ineffable love - feminine.  Created from that, men and women, living as much as they can to their full potential within their times and spheres, are going to exhibit BOTH aspects of their divine maker.

the balance will not be in the middle

EVERYONE is in some way different.  Some men are naturally more tender-hearted than others; some women are naturally more tough-skinned than their compatriots.  This is not a case of measuring out exact portions of masculinity and femininity and doling them out to everyone so that we're all cookie-cutter impressions of an infinite God.  NO.  Our souls and our lives are uniquely our own.  We will find the balance in Christ.

For those men who are strong and bluff, remember how Jesus wept for Jerusalem and LONGED to gather her under his wings as a hen broods lovingly over her chicks.  For the women who are meek and poor in spirit, remember that wisdom is portrayed as a woman clothed in strength and dignity and a pillar in the household of mankind.  REMEMBER THE ROCK FROM WHICH YOU WERE HEWN.  You bear the mark of God on you.  You will be both strong and tender.  You will be both meek and zealous.  You will be both masculine and feminine.  The balance will not be in the middle.  That is as it should be.

I know there is so much more that can be said on this topic.  The floor is open.  Please chime in!  In both life and writing, how do you find these two aspects of man's nature playing out?

image via pinterest

The Bad News Is, You're On Your Own


Oh, that little rash of encouragement here on The Penslayer?  
It's gone.

Okay, but hold up.  Stay with me a second.  Because you want to know why I think you don't know how to write a novel.  Is it because Jenny has finally unlocked THE SECRET to writing THE PERFECT NOVEL, and you all are ignoramuses? (Considering I couldn't spell "ignoramus" without help, I doubt that's the reason.)  Spoiler alert -

i don't know how to write novels either

Okay.  What's going on here.  When am I going to jostle you in the ribs and say, "Just kidding! You're actually doing just fine and you've totally got this"?  Well, probably never.  Maybe.  THE THING IS - I keep working so hard at my craft, always second-guessing myself and struggling and tweaking and wrestling to get my scenes and my plots and my stories and my life JUST EXACTLY PERFECT.  I look at other authors and I think, "They've arrived.  They've got this.  I've just got to get where they are."  And I keep struggling.

Struggling, pushing yourself, I'm 100% for that.  But the lie is in that mentality of, "I've got to just get where THAT PERSON IS and then I'll have made it" because 

none of us knows what we're doing 
and
you never actually learn how to write "a novel"

Yeah, sorry.  It's true.  But here's the good news!  (Aren't you glad you stuck around this long?)  None of us knows what we're doing, but we get better at interpreting the forecast of our lives and making what adjustments we can.  You never learn how to write a novel, you just get better at recognizing problems and how to fix them.  {{EVERY NOVEL IS DIFFERENT (or bloody well should be), and you are always learning anew how to write the one you're on.}}  There is no secret formula to writing a novel.  Obviously there are key components that make for a good story - engaging characters, connection with the characters' plight, their goals, actually caring if the characters get what they want in the end - but you can't just unlock the secret to the novel-universe and walk away with the one-size-fits-all formula.  Because there isn't one.  Every. single. novel. will be a totally new deal. With no mistakes in it.  No mistakes in it YET.

Take that idea that one day you're going to have this all figured out, and throw that idea out the window.  Boom.  It's gone.  Now that you've cleared a path from the door to the window, you can start organizing the rest of the mess.   View each novel as new, fresh, with the humility of knowing that you don't know how to write it.  You won't know how to write it until you've written it.  That's the weird paradoxical fact of writing, folks.  Stop thinking that one day you'll "arrive."  You won't.  Each novel will be a brand new relationship, a brand new struggle, a whole new world, just waiting for you to hurl yourself in free-fall style and hope that maybe you'll remember where the catch is on your parachute.  

and maybe one day i'll learn how to keep my analogies from running all over the place. one day. maybe.

In Which I Give Away a Secret For Free

Has Jenny found it at last?


No, actually, I found it years ago.  

Learning how to write, honing one's craft, is going to look different for everyone.  There are numerous - numerous - different ways to go about it.  But I think this one secret is kind of the cornerstone for really good, successful writing.

Story time.  Years ago I had the opportunity to meet one of my husband's much-younger cousins.  (Second cousin, actually.)  He was a nice little boy - nicest little boy I've met; to be honest, little boys are kind of horrific, and this one was super polite and had great manners and I was kind of shy of him because he was so nice, even though he was, like, half my age.  But he liked writing, so his mother was eager to introduce us (oh no), and then she asked me the dreaded question.
did i have any advice for him?
Yeah...  For a second I just stood there like an idiot, my brain a reeling void.  Writing?  Words?  What are those?  I do that thing?  Since when.  Then - glory be - a single thought shot to the surface and I found myself saying,
"Just enjoy it.  Whatever you do, just enjoy it.  That's how you become good at it."
His mother was (thankfully) impressed and told her son that was great advice.  I'm over there in a flood of relief and I just wanted to get down on my knees like a drama-queen soccer player and go "YUSS."  I didn't do that.  But I was thinking that.  So this is my life advice for you, my one-stop, foundation advice.  ENJOY IT.  If you enjoy it, regardless of whatever genre you write in, you will be successful.  You will pursue excellence.  You will push yourself to become better.  The nit and the grit and the worry and the stress needn't reach you.  Just love it.  I remember being a young writer.  My writing was terrible, duh, but I loved writing, and that blind passion sailed me through to where I am today.  

Looking at that boy, probably twice as shy of me as I was of him, I didn't want him to be squelched by the pressure of writing to become published and squeezing himself into the mold of successful adulthood that everyone is trying to crush us into.  I wanted him to just love the craft.  I wanted him to go blindly forward into the exercise with the light of passion guiding him.  I wanted him to be a little boy writing stories he loved.  If he wanted to, that was how he would become great at it.
and now that i've told you my secret, i guess i should stop blogging. oops.

Sometimes, Wait

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Imma tell you a thing.  When my father was in the hospital back in 2014, I couldn't write.  My sister, she tore through words.  Words and words and words.  It was how she coped.  I remember her sitting in my living room (back when we lived in the rental, back before Clickitting), hunched over her laptop, writing furiously.  She could write.  It was how she dealt with the trauma.  I couldn't.

In December of 2014, I had my baby.  (Hey, this story sounds familiar...)  I was neck-deep in Talldogs and my world came to a crashing halt.  Whaaaat is this new little creature?  How do I care for it?  Why is it screaming inconsolably? (Hint: dairy allergy.)  I am tired.  Literally dog. dead. tired. because I'm up in the night breastfeeding.  What is creativity.  What is my story.  What are words.  What am I.

These times were times of emotional upheaval and situational change.  Everyone has these times.  And sometimes, for writers, we can't write.  Everything shuts off.  Everything goes quiet.  If our creativity is there somewhere, it's running silent and deep - too deep to reach, too silent to detect.  And for those of us for whom writing is our life-blood, it's scary.  We suddenly have no compass.  The thing we love, we can't access it any more.  The thing which made us ourselves is no longer a viable identifying factor.  It's gone, and it seems gone for good.

It's not.  Spoiler alert: it's not.  I crawled out of my stupor, through post-partum depression and the reeling shock of trying to figure out who had I become as a mother now, on top of being a wife and a writer.  Slowly, I began to write again.  Slowly, I ticked through the plot of Talldogs.  I found its genius again and I finished the first draft.

I learned something in that emotionally harrowing experience which are the early months of being a new mother.  I learned that sometimes you just have to live through the valleys, and the sooner you stop fretting, the better.  


I learned that the writing comes back.  
It really does.  
And stressing about it doesn't bring it faster.

I learned that I can get back up.  

I learned that I am a writer, always will be.

When you have nothing in your head, when you once had a monsoon of story ideas and you were once on fire, don't despair.  One-trick ponies don't trot here.  There are times to push, push, push ahead; there are times when you just need to lie low.  Those times may be long, they may be short.  They may be a month, they may even be years.  But it's okay.  It really is. 

I'm between stories right now.  I just wrapped up the first draft of Drakeshelm, and I'm researching for my next work.  I'm not really doing any writing.  And you know what?  For the first time (in forever), I'm not worried.  I know the light will strike when it's time.  I know the story will accumulate in due time.  Before I know it, I'll be back in the traces.  All I have to do is wait.

3 Things NOT to Say to a Writer

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...or just me, maybe.

 I think, if I were not a writer, and I were trying to talk to me, I would find it baffling.  Exactly what is this person doing who does not appear to be doing anything?  Is she happy?  Is she frustrated?  Does she like what she does?  (She never even talks about it.)  Talking to a writer about writing can be hard if you're not a writer yourself - I totally get that.  I often get some (extremely) well-meaning questions that leave me up a creek with no paddle, and just take an awkward situation from bad to worse.  SO - here are three things NOT to say to a writer, so hopefully you can avoid making your already precarious social situation more precarious still.  You completely care about the writers in your life, but you don't always know what to say.  Hopefully I can help.

"Are you writing anything?"  
I know this seems like a harmless question, right?  This person is a writer - of course she (let's pretend it's a she) is writing something!  HURN.  Wrong.  This question has the same result as kicking a full bucket of Legos across a dark room.  Not only does the writer start thinking about ALL the stories in her head, and feel dizzy trying to find her balance, there is always the chance that the writer is not working on something at that moment, and this brings up a flood of guilt.
Instead, try "How is writing treating you lately?"
This gives the opportunity for excitement (ha HA, writing is being amazing for me! I'm on a roll!), or casual commiseration (boo hoo, I am so. stuck. you wouldn't believe).  Everybody has ups and downs in her sphere of work: this is something we can all relate to.

"What's it about?"
This is a terrible question.  Let me repeat - a terrible, terrible question.  Yes. I know.  This is how you want to show interest in the writer's work.  Duh!  You care, you want to be invested in the writer.  But don't do it this way, please.  If, like me, the person you are talking to is a highly organic writer, she is probably building the plot as she goes and won't know exactly what the whole thing is about until the very end - it's always subject to tweaks and changes as she goes!  She'll have basic markers along the way to guide her, themes or ideas that she will incorporate, or which are inspiring her, but if she were to give them to you jumbled up, all at once, it's going to sound stupid and she is going to feel like an idiot, and you are going to think she's nuts.
Instead, try "Do you have a Pinterest board for the story that I can look at?"
Because Pinterest boards are the bomb.com, you know?  They give visual inspiration and subtle information about the story without pretending to be THE WHOLE STORY ITSELF.  (Psst, writers: if you're picky about the images you pin, you're going to be showing your audience great shots of things that reflect your work, rather than blabbing a bunch of indistinct nonsense about a story that you secretly think is pretty good.)

"But I thought it was good."
This always comes right after the writer expresses discontent.  What it is meant to convey is, "No way! You're an awesome writer and I enjoyed what I read."  What is heard is, "You're being stupid.  Your conflicting emotions about this piece are ludicrous and you should just feel 100% happy with what you wrote."  WHOA.  So not what you meant to imply, right?  But let's just look at it this way: the writer, who has been doing this for awhile (we'll assume), has a gut instinct that something isn't right here.  Instead of brushing these emotions aside and trying to cheer the writer up (cheering up your friends is legit and I'm not against that at all), look at the situation from the writer's perspective of trying to create something as absolutely perfect as can be managed.
Instead, try "What were you going for, and how can you get your current piece from HERE to THERE?"
What is the difference between where the work is currently and where she perceives the work to need to be?  Where is the gap that needs that little extra lift to get it across the finish line?  Maybe you won't be able to hash out the nitty-gritty with the writer (writing is a very intimate business, and needs to be done in private), but you can get the writer thinking along the right lines, and perhaps alleviate some of that mental fog by setting her on the right path.  You never know! 
What are YOUR stumper questions, and what would you recommend be asked instead?

Put Victory Like Fire Behind My Shining Eyes

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YES, I DID IT.  I finished the first draft of Drakeshelm.  It feels unreal.  I mean, I just finished it.  The words are barely dry on the page.  I'm pummeling my ears with music because I need to feel something.

you could raise me like a banner in the battle
put victory like fire behind my shining eyes
and I would drift like falling snow over the embers
but for now just let me lie

A part of me is, understandably, incredibly excited because I've wrapped up the first draft of yet another Plenilunar novel!  That's three novels - count them: Plenilune, Talldogs, Drakeshelm.  (Can't count Ethandune yet because it needs so much work.  Sorry.)  It's unbelievably exciting and rewarding and I'm so proud of myself.  

Aaaaand another part of me is pretty much downright terrified.  This is the part I don't like.  This is the part where I'm adrift for a spell, knowing there are still gobs of stuff I need to work on (Ethandune...), feeling shell-shocked about finishing Drakeshelm, and also the terror of "What if the ending isn't as good as it should be?  What if I failed this one?  What if my story falls flat?"
i guess that's why we have editing
Don't you worry, I'll pick myself back up in a day or two.  Right now I'm going to focus on the victory and start brainstorming for...what I have to do next.  But I figured others have probably finished first drafts before and possibly even felt that mingled excitement and terror, so I thought I'd let you know - I am 100% right there right now.   

i finished a novel! that feeling is not getting old, you guys. not. getting. old.

& Then I Looked Around & Realized

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- I'm seriously coming up on the end of Drakeshelm.  It's crazy.  How did that happen.  I started it, what, a year ago?  Maybe less?  I can't recall if I went from Talldogs to Drakeshelm, or if I made a brief pass at the rewrite for Adamantine first before realizing it wasn't ready to be written, and that I needed to tackle Drakeshelm first.  Currently I'm at two coats of red nail polish and 73,420 words.  It's just a little baby book!  Yes, but after the MASSIVE INTRODUCTION THAT IS PLENILUNE, I don't need to spend an age showing you my whole new world.  

It's so encouraging to have almost another novel under my belt.  True, I've only got the one published (none of the others are ready and self-publishing is exPENSive), but after so many stories, I keep gaining confidence.  I think you're really going to love this one and I'm really excited about wrapping it up and tackling more stories for you!  Let this be a lesson to you: you CAN do it, and it's so encouraging as you finish more and more stories.  Mission - writing awesome stories for you to thrill over?  Got it in a bag.

penslayer girl - mic drop

Drakeshelm + Adamantine

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Oh, hey, guess what!  Yes, I'm writing again.  "Ah ooooh ah oh oh, it's always a good time!" - okay, not true, it's like pulling teeth right now.  I feel like I'm writing maaaaybe a paragraph each sitting.  (Why do action scenes take so long?)

But now I feel like I actually have snippet fodder for you, so you can get a peek at what I've been up to.

(Also, this weather is such a toddler. It was blazing hot, and then the first day of spring came up and Greenville was like, "What! I didn't get a chance to be bitterly cold yet!  Waaaah!"  And of course I've packed away my winter clothes...)
 snippets
The work was beautifully precise. Filigree kept an eye on each man as they fell into the rhythm of the thing, singling out the cows one by one, wrapping their legs and hurling them onto their chins in the sleet, the upward haul and downward slam of Touchlight’s hammer—the confused cry, the fountain of blood, the mingled grim and cheerful voices of the men amidst the constant wolfish voice of the wind in the storm. It was oddly pleasant to her, and of a sudden she felt a new feeling lick up small and warm within her, a feeling more than the simple drive to make shift of a bad job and do the right thing—it was more like loyalty. It was more like love.
drakeshelm

They shared one quick glance around before nodding to him and breaking apart to their tasks; but Drakeshelm, he noticed, stood with one boot pressed against the lip of the well-wall, her shoulders hunched, her arms tucked across her chest, and she was looking, not into the well, but sidelong at the river-bird lying in the snow. She was momentarily unaware of his gaze, so for a minute he saw her face unguarded, severe in profile, and thinner at the chin than he remembered it being, as though care had worn it gaunt. A noble, harsh, unyielding face, of the stock which made something great of Plenilune when it had once been wild and unruled.
She turned her head to looked up at him, and smiled then, with the smile of a vixen peering out at him from under a safe run, as though she knew.
drakeshelm

No one looked her way, but Alwin felt every mind shift to the consul. He made to say something—he was not sure what—but the lazy voice of the golden demon herself cut across the gloom to them.
“I think I am hearing Krichirin of the Higu laugh like the star of the morning if he knew how weak were the hearts of Honour men.”
The candlelight betrayed an angry flush on Ferring’s brow. The captain of the Reserve jerked up his head and growled, “Wherefore art thou of such cheerful aspect, when we do not mince how dire are our straits?”
drakeshelm

He trusted her no more than she trusted him, but he went, in the end, slowly, easing through the doorway and swinging the door shut behind him. Filigree stared down at the place where he had stood, where the prints of his boots had left wet marks on the stone—dark, welling marks that shone obsidian-red in the light—while the sound of him faded down the hallway. It was not until the building was quiet that she stirred, reaching up to brush something like a feather from her throat, and she went out the door into the night, following the dim pockmarks of footprints through the snow.
drakeshelm

The look which broke across his face was one for which there are no words in any language. The link which had momentarily bound us shattered, and I was once more looking across an arctic gulf, an alien to an alien. Staring at him in horror, his own eyes cold with the sudden distaste and distrust of one who bore me no kinship, it was like feeling the sharp blade of the executioner resting on the groove of my tongue. But, for a moment, I had got a mouthful of belonging, and my belly was hungry for more. I swallowed, and said tentatively,
“Adamantine.”
At first he made no move, eyes fixed on my face. In the windy quiet, I heard the clinking of the good-luck tags, the whisper of the chaff, the living, angry hum of the Good Dog who had risen at my side. I became inexplicably aware of the sky overtop us, clouds moving counter to me so that I suddenly felt as though I were being dragged away from the fairy.
Ambrette, I realized. He smells of ambrette. That is why I think of home.
The wind which was in the clouds came down to us at that moment and the Lord Duke’s wings furled forward like a multicoloured cape, their long, ragged, tendril-ends purling across the threshing floor toward me. The movement seemed to unlock something in him, and that accustomed languid nature came over his momentarily frozen frame. “Adamantine,” he said—with more grace than I spoke his language. Then, with a tiny flicker of laughter, “Tatter-catskins.”
I smiled and bent my head, returned to my place as exile and slave. But I thought perhaps the gulf was not so wide as before. 
adamantine rewrite