6 Expert Questions to Improve the Quality of Your Scenes


I hate editing.  HATE IT SO MUCH.  I'm not going to sugar-coat it, folks.  Editing is not NEARLY as fun as writing the first draft for me.  Editing means I have to be a responsible adult + face all the mistakes I made in that first draft!

If you hate editing...this post will probably not make you stop hating it.  I still hate it.  But HOPEFULLY IT WILL HELP THE PROCESS.  Because all of us who hate editing are secretly looking for a lackey to foist this task off on.


Credit goes to Go Teen Writers.  |  I came across an excellent post by author Stephanie Morrill breaking down the six questions to ask while editing scenes.  It was so helpful that I

  • wrote down the list
  • the list survived my massive konmari house purge

Yeah.  That helpful.  And in case you never saw that post (from November 2014), I'm going to reproduce it here for you so that you, too, can feel a glimmer of hope in the darkness.

1.  "How does this scene impact the plot? (Also: if I cut it, would it matter?)"
My comment  |  Rule number one!  DOES THIS SCENE EVEN NEED TO BE HERE or is it just pure fluff.  I care...but at the same time I don't care if your heart-strings are tied to it + removing the scene will tear your heart out because I HAVE DONE THE SAME THING + THIS IS FOR THE GOOD OF THE NOVEL.  Think about it.  Think about it CRITICALLY.

(i'm looking at you, bombadill)

2.  "Can I make this scene work harder for me?"
My comment  |  Foreshadowing?  Character development?  Strengthening the reader's emotional attachment to all involved?  Can this scene beef up + look butch?  OFTENTIMES PROBABLY YES MAYBE LET'S BE HONEST.

3.  "Am I telling it from the right point of view?"
My comment  |  Poooooooop.  There is nothing worse than getting well into a story + realizing THIS IS ALL WRONG I NEED TO WRITE A DIFFERENT CHARACTER.  Believe me, I know.  I KNOW.  But if the novel is fighting you, this is a legitimate question to ask.  It is a prickly, bitter pill to swallow (has that phrase been commandeered to be suggestive?  i hope not.  sorry.) but you have to do it.

(i'm looking at you, cruxgang)

4.  "Did I arrive late (enough)?"
My comment  |  One of the bedrock rules of modern storytelling is to drop the reader in with a bang.  Just like Gandalf basically hurls Bilbo out the door before Bilbo can muster a good excuse NOT to go, throw your reader into the novel running, and they won't have time to look back.  Never start static.

(this doesn't always mean PHYSICAL action, but there should be at least MENTAL...momentum.  momentum is key.  that's the take-away.)

5.  "Do I help provide context for my readers?"
My comment  |  Does the scene do one or more of these things?

  • exhibit WHO IS THERE

Basically, help provide the setting for the reader's mind to anchour in.  As readers, we're pretty good at Inception-izing the scenes we're in, but a good writer is one who helps along the way.  Otherwise it's just endless dialogue.

(i'm sorry but i'm look at you, dorothy sayers)

6.  "Do I leave early + give my readers incentive to come back?"
My comment  |  Have you ever been so bored by the time you elbow-crawled to the end of a chapter you're reading that you decide you don't even care anymore, it's not worth your time?  NOT WHAT THE WRITER WANTS TO DO.  The scene needs to leave the reader


Wrangle those positive emotions!  Keep the reader coming back for more!  No, this is not an abusive relationship!  (All my genuine sympathy goes out to people who have been in such, not joking.)  Basically, you want the reader to care.  You want the scene to matter.  You want the scene to evolve the story in such a way that the reader can't wait to see what's coming next.

These are Stephanie's 6 questions to guide you through the (hateful) process of editing your scenes.  Please, if you have even more tips, share! share! share!  And thank you so much!

image via pinterest  |  original go teen writers post here

Ethandune [Etc.] Excerpts | The Setup Phase

I'm going on 13,000 words in the Ethandune rewrite, and for the most part I'm pretty encouraged!  I felt pretty rocky at the start - you know how that goes.  But once I hit my stride I was swinging strong.  I'm still in that avalanche stage of setting up the questions, and I may be the story's first casualty before I crawl out from underneath them to answer them all...

VERY SMALL PERSONAL UPDATE: thank you - THANK YOU, EVERYONE - for all your super encouraging, banding-together-ness comments on my last (first??) Ethandune update post when I mentioned my yucky sleep/headaches/depression.  I have a brilliant, super-chill, wonderful doctor + she
  • gave me a muscle relaxer which helps me sleep WITHOUT BEING FULL OF PAIN + TENSION ALL NIGHT
  • gave me a semi-caffeinated painkiller which ACTUALLY MAKES ME FEEL LIKE A REAL HUMAN BEING
  • and, in the main, my depression has ebbed to a much more manageable level - not gone, but not "regular" + crippling as it had been
 So thank you SO MUCH for caring for me.  It really means a lot.

{because that's why you're really here + i need to think of a better term than "snippets"}

We waited what seemed a full ten minutes—mayhap only five, it seemed long, and the sunlight was growing hotter on my neck the while—when at last there came a backflung report of bootsteps on wood flooring within, a bolt drew back at hand, and the door was opened.
I jumped—even Golightly, beside me, made a small gesture of surprise. Goddgofang’s brows kicked up in a way that made his ears move, like a horse’s when it catches wind of something interesting.
Dammerung himself made no motion.
The figure in the doorway was built like a wrestler: hugely shouldered, lean at the waist, and thickly muscled. The man was clad, like Dammerung himself, in a gentleman’s clean shirt with a light buckskin jacket overtop, skimming his knees where he wore breeches and a pair of brass-capped paddock boots. But there all semblance of a Maresman ended. He had a wrap of linen round the crown of his head, swung down in a coin-plated sheath which obscured his face and left only his eyes to sight; his left arm held the door, but his right arm, at right angles with his body, was cast in steel to the fingertips and attached by a stamped pauldron to the shoulder.
“Ah,” said Dammerung lightly. “That would explain the illegibility.”
“Lord Dammerung.” The hawkish, green-grey eyes flickered from the Overlord to the rest of us, and back again. His voice was one which made you want to cough, somehow to clear the speaker’s throat. “It is my Lord Dammerung? I did not know if you would come.”
“I would have come in any event,” said Dammerung coolly. “You needn’t mind about that.” 

“Is there anything more I can get my lords?” asked Youngblood Ireton, hands in his breech-pockets, head cocked back to eye Dammerung, who was leaning through the open doorway of his little bedroom to look round at the view.
Dammerung pulled back and swung round. There was a curious light in his eye, as though he and the butler had shared a joke which neither had needed to speak. “Oh, I don’t think so. We’ll see you in a trice at dinner.”
“Very good,” said Ireton. He gave a passive, satisfied nod, and strolled out, pulling the door shut in his wake.
“Was that—” began Goddgofang.
“It was,” finished Dammerung. 

Youngblood reached behind Coeur de Leon’s head, slipped his fingers beneath the coil of linen, and, wholesale, lifted the headgear off with a tinselly jink of coins. The mask was set aside, and I had a blood-curdling view of the man’s face.

“He hasn’t any of the charm in his blood,” he went on presently; “not Golightly—he’s loam-and-bone to the core of him. But he’s like that one old dog you’ve got that won’t make a noise, so that a prick of the ears is no cry wolf, and it’s best to heed him.”

We came upon the workers at last, in what must have been the oldest tract of the orchard. Here the light was greenest, the trees thickest, tallest, mingling in a mare’s-nest of branches within each other, overhead, all around—like walking in Pan’s antechamber. 

Little boy blue
Come flash your spur
The nightingale’s calling
From the stoop o’ death’s door
Where is the boy
Whom grim comes to reap?
Under the opium,
Fast asleep.

He whirled the winnowing flail in his hand, with a whoop and whistle of the dream-coloured air; and with his off hand pointed at the ring of them, saying with a shine-toss tone of halfway formality, “Come ye, any one of you, who will abuse the feyless white-haired chit—for I’ll stand proxy for her, and let ye see, who dares of you, whether the teeth of the Blue Lord Duke have been trimmed!”
Round the back of him, in a pulsing, fretfully semi-opaque mass, the Good Dog swelled and faded and swelled in view, eyes hot coals and teeth, completely solid, grinning like insanity over his shoulder.

“I was delivered to ye by a devil, and ye made of me a slave, without home, without clothing, and without name. Now, lo!—it is for this I am come, for such a crisis as ye face, to be what ye cannot be, to do what ye cannot do. Now shut up your mouths and stand aside, else, if ye bar my way, your destruction will be on your own heads.”

Like a lion you came down
From the nighttime sky,
With stars in your mane,
And sparks in your eyes,
And light at the tips of your teeth.
Like a lion you came down,
Like a wolf, like a fox;
Like a lamb, like newfallen snow;
I caught you on the ends of my lashes,
And you star-teeth I kissed with my lips.

4 Little Ways to Make the Mental Shift to Confidence

Here on the internet, where EVERYONE seems to have it together, and you just know that you DON'T, it's really hard to be confident.  I mean, genuinely confident, not just faking it.  Let me level with you: I feel like I am ALWAYS faking it.  Always making the appearance that I've got it together, that I know what I'm doing, that I'm pretty, that I'm smart.  You know.

Add to that the fact that I'm a woman, and I chronically beat myself down, assume everything wrong is my fault, feel like a deadweight and a burden and a nuisance.

Add to that my depression, which tangles my mind up into a morass of knots composed of worry, sorrow, the belief that I'm going to lose everything.


I recently did a survey just to see who follows The Penslayer, why, and what I can do to improve.  Looking at those responses was nerve-wracking.  I was literally feeling sick to my stomach and shaking all over just opening up the results page on my computer.  It was that hard.  So before I even looked at the page, I turned to my notebook and wrote:

"it's just nervousness. nothing to be afraid of.  'not everyone will like you - most people don't even like themselves.' "

It didn't help much, but it helped a little.  It's true that I'm doing the best I can with The Penslayer, and always pursuing new avenues to improve.  It's not easy to ask for feedback, it's not easy to get it, but there is no rational reason to be afraid of it.  That's what I tell myself.

The downside of Pinterest.  |  While I do believe Pinterest is an excellent tool for discovering oneself, I also believe it is full of lies + contradictions. One half of Pinterest is all -

"be the boss girl!"
"be independent!"
"#*@!% what people think of you!"

and then the other half is all -

"it's okay to be imperfect!"
"nobody has it all together!"
"bed hair don't care!"

And I'M left thinking, what the HELL, PEOPLE.  CHOOSE ONE.  So basically I've come to do the RATIONAL thing and have thrown just about everything Pinterest says out the window over my shoulder with a grain of salt.  Because sometimes Pinterest is really good at giving you a shake to get yourself in order.  But also...not.


It's not always as flashy + fun + full of pretty pictures you can save.  It doesn't care about being fun.  It talks a lot about down-to-earth junk that's not even slightly flashy at all ever.  You have to conjure the pictures in your head.  Whaaaat.  Yes, it's old-school.  But it's so much better.  It's GOD'S WORD.

Struggling with depression, especially hormonal depression, is like trying to manually push a dead elephant up Mount Everest.  It's HARD.  You get filthy + tired-sick + the elephant usually ends up crushing you.  Personally, not only do I shove myself head-first into my own mental grave, I get impatient + angry with everything.  Fortunately, Pinterest was one of those things.

I got tired of how stupid and contradictory everything is.  How am I supposed to be a "boss girl" + "hustle" but also "imperfect" + "totally cool with that" at the same time?  I CAN'T.  So I burrowed into bed with my Bible.  It was a relief.  It was a comfort.  It didn't magically take away my hormonal problems, but the comfort of the soul was there.


Facing the prospect of looking at my survey results + swallowing the knowledge that I amount to literally nothing on the internet, I turned aside and wrote 4 things on my sheet of notebook paper:

it's hormones

your God cares

he knows you are dust

the Spirit of the living God who intercedes for you in the blood of Jesus Christ

EVERYTHING I FEEL MAY BE TRUE, but then there is my God.  Why/when/how would I ever find anything worthy enough in myself to cobble together and make something "boss girl" + "independent"?  I am a physically spiritual human being struggling with the effects of the fall in a body wracked by hormonal imbalances, trapped by the finite constraints of ignorance, and too turned about to see my own way out of the fog.

So to whom else would I go?  He has the words of eternal life.

image via pinterest

Why Every Novel You Love is About You

One of the hallmarks of the amateur writer is the self-insert.  Hey, it's fun!  We've all been there/are there/wonder if it's so bad to go back there.(..?)  My very first story was a portal-fiction self-insert (I also abducted real members of my life without their consent I'm sorry I will never do that again) and it was LOADS OF FUN.  And also terrible.  But that's just because I was a terrible writer, not because the story was a self-insert.


Stick it to the man!  I grew up(ish) and learned more ABOUT writing, and I developed a disdain for self-insert fiction.  Pfft.  Amateur writers.  Can't distance themselves from their writing.  PFFT.  How pedestrian.  All their characters must be flat reproductions of themselves and their own opinions.  PFFFFFT.  I can do better than that.  I can create unique, stand-alone characters and numerous different story-arcs that have no connection to my own life experiences because I AM A GOOD WRITER.


And then I grew up some more.  You know that awful adolescent stage when you think you know everything but in reality you know zilch about anything?  Yeah...  Recently the common sense of storytelling struck me and I realized,  EVERY STORY YOU LOVE IS ABOUT YOU.

It's true!  If you are emotionally invested in your story, if you have a creative connection with the characters and the plot, YOU ARE THERE.  This is YOU.  Perhaps the early days of ACTUALLY being a character in the story are gone (and that's a good thing), but if you care, if you are writing this from your heart, you are the ghost-character within the novel.  Shh!  Don't speak of them too loudly or they will get shy, but EVERY author of EVERY story they have ever written with love and investment is within that story, through and through.


Don't be afraid of the concept of self-insert fiction.  In its mature form, it strengthens the story immensely.  Every novel is haunted.  The ghost of every author is taking you through their story, unspoken and unseen, like the ghosts of Christmas.  So be YOU.  Write your stories.  Get in the muck.  Dig deep.  Open your heart.  This is your time to grow something beautiful from your soul.  Be there.  It's the best thing you can do for your story.

Welcome to The Penslayer! I'm Jenny Freitag.  Sorry for the mess. Order will be forthcoming. Meanwhile, add me to your list of blogs you love for more short + sweet, writing-related posts to help you on your way! Follow me on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest + Twitter. <3

image via pinterest (shocker)

Glorious Freedom + The Truth About Magic in Your Fiction

"men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up & hurry off as if nothing had happened"


The better part of a decade er so has seen a wildfire debate surrounding anything magical in fiction within the Christian community.  Sound familiar?  If you have never heard of this, you are the OPPOSITE of sheltered, because only the mainstreamest of mainstreamers would be in waters too deep for this debate to rock.  Nope, chances are, you've been in the midst of this debate many a'time, and I'm going to lay down some ground rules for my little post here before cutting to my signature chase.

  • i'm not going to tell you which books i think you should read + which i think you should not
  • i'm not going to debate magic
  • i'm not going to talk about narnia, middle earth, harry potter, percy jackson, i don't even know, world without end, amen


because she posted a really nice, short + sweet article on the subject of magic in "Christian" fiction.  I highly recommend reading it.  I'm going to expound upon it.  She quoted Spurgeon (always a good idea) -

"the word of God is like a lion. you don't have to defend a lion.  all you have to do is let the lion loose, + the lion will defend itself."

The embarrassingly loud, blog-empowered, what-seems-like-often-homeschooled community of very well-meaning Christians consistently, markedly, unconsciously, forget this fact: THE WORD OF GOD IS LIVING + ACTIVE, SHARPER THAN A TWO-EDGED SWORD (and considering the majority of these blogging girls seem to have a penchant for ren fairs + all things medieval, they should get this fact, eh wot!)


What you do + do not choose to read, that is not my concern, nor is it the real issue.  The real problem is that this community is a quaking, trembling, knee-jerk body of people who - I believe very sincerely - profess to adhere to the guardianship of an almighty, benevolent, ever-present God.  It's hard to see your own faults, and it usually takes someone shaking us up to get us to notice where we go wrong, so that's understandable.

but here i am shaking you up

No one exhibits Christ-like behaviour by being too afraid (AFRAID - don't kid yourself, that's what it is, believe me, I know) to read or view a piece of modern magical fantasy.  This kind of behaviour doesn't belie a firm anchour in an immutable + indelible Spirit.  This behaviour says,

"behold! a sower went out to sow, + as he sowed...[some seeds] fell on rocky places where they did not have much soil, + immediately they sprang up, because they had no depth of soil. but when the sun had risen, they were scorched; + because they had no root, they withered away."

Is that it?  Are we all, unconsciously, terrified in our heart of hearts that we have no soil + are going to wither at the first expelliarmus?  LIGHT OF THE SUN, HOW ABSURD.  Is that the kind of faith we have in our beautiful + completely perfect God?  Is that the behaviour the sons of God are exhibiting to the scoffing, disbelieving world?  THIS IS GUTTINGLY EMBARRASSING, FOLKS.

Again, I do not care what you read or why.  Let every book blogger be convinced in her own mind regarding the content of the books she reads.  WHAT I AM SAYING IS stop. being. afraid.  Be wise.  Be circumspect.  Test the spirits.  Search the Scriptures.  But for the sake of the dignity of the people of God,

remember you are free.  you are full of the spirit of the living God.  no one can take you from his grasp.  there is nothing to fear.  shake it off.  let the word of God fight your battles.  

These books are not chemical cults which have no choice but to magically react with your subconscious and fizzle your faith away.  No.  Stop being afraid.  That's all I ask.  Stop being afraid.  Our God is an AWESOME God.  What better bulwark could we have for our souls?

image via pinterest

What You Need to Know About Your Next Plenilunar Obsession

This is the post where I finally reveal which Plenilunar novel I'm working on! Ready?  Set?  First of all, you're going to need this -

Not because the book is boring (PFFT), but because it will be EXTREMELY PERTINENT and who doesn't like living their book out as they read it?  I ASK YOU.  

Rich clothing, expensive jewels, masquerades?  I mean, what kind of writer would I be without indulging in these things when I can?  AGAIN, I ASK YOU.

The killer might of the big cat.  I'm not sure if the answer is "Yes, please!" or "Oh no."  Look at this beauty: raw, majestic, carnivorous power.  My reader is this cat's next meal.

Were you worried?  Everyone's favourite crush makes a comeback in this next novel.  Yes, it's him, the one and only - DAMMERUNG.  THIS IS THE BEST NEWS YOU'RE GOING TO GET ALL DAY.

Hint #1: this story is a rewrite, because I am a super picky perfectionist who won't give you anything but her best.  Hint #2: nooope, this is not "Adamantine," because that novel isn't Plenilunar.  Okay.  Okay.  You ready?  It's


BOOM.  The very large cat is out of the equally large bag.  I'm just getting into the rewrite - like, FROM SCRATCH rewrite, because I'm THAT picky and I want to completely overhaul this plot and make it awesome.  Stay tuned!  No doubt there will be snippets in the future.

missed my inspiration collages? check them out here because they are gorgeous.

VERY SMALL PERSONAL UPDATE.  I am dealing with some physical issues - debilitating headaches, exhaustion, poor sleep, acute + chronic depression, yuckiness type stuff - so my progress is slow, but I'm making strides to beat the monster (please let's pray God shows me a) how to work through this, or b) how to work with this), so that I can pursue this newest manuscript with all the grit I have.

thank you so much for reading!  are you excited? i am so. excited.

I ducked in, blushing profusely, and set the coffee tray down in place of the tea. As I made myself busy preparing their cups, they revolved on around my head, like the stacked circles of the ever-looping heavens whirling round, regardless of a sparrow on the ground. For a moment my hands worked blindly, for I was in confusion. They were always kind to me—too kind, as was their way; I found they were uncommonly beneficent to people whom they chose to like, and had more than once seen the surprise and discomfiture it had brought to other people as they struggled to find their footing. But never before had I felt the dizzy confusion myself. I was suddenly abashed, unaccountably shy, when before there had been nothing but a child’s patient ease to serve. Here I was on the brink of manhood, and they were beginning to see me as such, but I had not yet arrived, and the between-place had of a sudden turned a moment to sour which I thought should have been sweet.

You seem to have your tongue hinged at the middle.”
“Sooth?” mused Dammerung. He leaned down and handed his empty cup back to Fairfax. “You’re not the first to mention.”

When we left Marenov√© House the next morning, it was well before sunrise and the land was a shroud of deep blue mist and the ominous dark shapes of the woodland around us. Through the days we climbed, for the road northeast to Ethandune was of a gradually ascent, dipped once into a corner of Capys, and came out again into the Mares. A misshapen, sprawling Honour, the Mares. I came of gypsy background, and though I came into Dammerung’s service early in my life, I had then been old enough to recall some recollection of long, overshadowed tracks that smoked with dust and smelled of bees and hay and rockrose on the pasture walls. The summer-colour of my childhood was not unlike the days through which I rode in Dammerung’s little train, but it was touched with the early faint frost of manhood stealing over me, and the foreboding which haunted me and buried, sometimes, at the corner of the Overlord’s mouth when he had his thoughts to himself.

The sheriff bared his teeth to answer, but in the same moment, with his the first two fingers of his rein-hand, Dammerung put back the long flap of his riding jacket to bare the hilt of his sword.
Not a great gesture—only a little thing. Not a beautiful sword—only a battered, serviceable piece. And yet the sight of it sent a visible jolt through the alpha-dog sheriff; under the high-trained sunlight of the coastal town, his face turned deathly white.
“It is not every day that the Overlord asks a favour of you.” Dammerung’s voice had become gentle again, and yet not at all kind. His eyes flashed an upward, mocking laugh-light. “Best be gracious.”

{ethandune pinterest board}

all images via pinterest. yep. that disclaimer again.

Here Is How to Achieve the Perfect Blog Experience

I want The Penslayer to be

  • a platform to help writers with their work
  • a stage to showcase my writing
  • an engaging community
  • basically enjoyable
  • totally magical

That's where YOU come in, because without YOU, I wouldn't be here.  Close Pinterest for a sec and please take this survey.  (It has nothing to do with politics.)  I want to know what you need + how to better improve your experience here.  It's super fast and buckets of fun.  Ready?  Thank you!

super brief edit / update: Lord willing i will be contracting with a blog designer + branding agent to overhaul my blog, so IT WILL NOT ALWAYS LOOK A MESS. thank you for sticking with me! <3

image via that site you just closed, pinterest

How to Never Lack for Profitable Blog Topics. Ever.


Me, about a month ago.  

THE BURNING QUESTION: WHAT TO BLOG ABOUT?  I see countless bloggers of high repute churning out helpful content with a loyal following, and I stared at them wondering, "HOW YOU DO DAT."  I've got MAYBE a snippets post per month, assuming I've been diligent / had adequate inspiration on my novel during that time.  MAYBE an update post, assuming anything remotely interesting has happened to me in 30 days besides, "Hey, guys.  Yeah, haven't been writing much.  Please don't leave me."


There are multiple ways to go about getting profitable blog topics to spin on your site.  Some I found more helpful than others, but I've used all these methods.  Now you can too!  Here are four blogs that I found two different ways.

1.  You, Me, & That Other Guy
The first thing I did was NOT the most productive, but it DID lead me to some very helpful sites that I am now following!  Look up your favourite bloggers and figure out who THEY follow.  It takes a little bit of sorting, but it's definitely worth it.  Find blogs that help fuel your topic imagination and FOLLOW THEM TOO!

Paper Fury by Cait Drews: Australian cake/book-blogger extraordinaire - she's literally everywhere & her posts are a barrel of laughs / frequently hugely helpful.  Even though I'm not a book-blogger.  (p.s. her site is so pretty!)

Nellie & Co. by Amanda (Nellie is an elephant??):  Frequently INSIGHTFULLY helpful into the world of blogging, Instagramming, marketing, etc.  I definitely recommend following this purple blogger.

2.  Googling is a Legit Verb
Le me: log onto Pinterest.
Le me:  google "writing blog writers." (fingers crossed - which makes it difficult to type)
Le me: instantly overwhelmed by the sheer amount of search results.

EVERYBODY WHO IS ANYBODY SHARES THEIR ARTICLES ON PINTEREST.  (Except me because I'm lazy + haven't got around to that yet.)  I found this search method to be MUCH more productive.  10 out of 10, would recommend.

  • this is where you get blog posts with 100+ links to resourceful articles
  • this is where you can pin/save/reference later, things you want to use
  • this is where the corporate hivemind inspiration is at
Modern Mrs. Darcy by Anne: This blog is basically about ANYTHING, but I've already located numerous helpful/inspirational post material that have jump-started my creative blogging juices.  Win!

Designer Blogs Studio by too many people to list here: Yuss, this is technically a design/branding site, but its blog is hella helpful + they aspire to not only give you a beautiful blog/brand, but give you content inspiration FOR THAT BLOG.  //THANK YOU, NUMEROUS STAFF MEMBERS THEREOF.//

There must be a BILLION + ONE sites that can be hunted down via Pinterest, and I recommend this method because you can

  • find lots of content
  • pin for later if you don't have time to read
  • chose which sites to follow at your leisure 

I mean, does it get any better than that?


Now that you have no excuse for an empty blog, go forth + conquer!  Share this blog post with your friends!  Coerce them into following The Penslayer because obviously I have all the answers / know where to find them!

(what even did we do before the internet i am such a 21st century person)

3.  And ONE MORE Thing
IF you are a blogger, you probably already follow blogs so PLEASE SHARE YOUR FAVOURITE RESOURCE BLOGS WITH ME / EVERYONE HERE.  You da bomb!  Also your resource bloggers will thank you because word-of-mouth marketing is pretty much the best.


Welcome to The Penslayer! Sorry for the mess. Order will be forthcoming. Meanwhile, add me to your list of blogs you love for more short + sweet, writing-related posts to help you on your way! Follow me on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest (!!) + Twitter. <3

half of these images via pinterest, the other half are obviously from their own blog sites

7 Mistakes Writers Make With Pregnancy + How to Easily Avoid Them


Are you tired of the pregnant-woman trope in media? Because YES I AM.  You get two indications that a woman is pregnant and they are always

  • enormous baby-belly
  • sudden + excruciating contractions out of nowhere / the most inconvenient moment possible

That's it, people.  That's all you get.  Never fear, I am here!  As a legit mother, I am 100% qualified to bring you this material.  Buckle up.

1.  The Truth About the Timeline
GUESS WHAT.  There is more to pregnancy than a painfully obvious baby-belly, folks.  THAT doesn't show up until later in the game.  Pregnancy is divided into THREE TRIMESTERS, each consisting of THREE MONTHS.  The ginormous belly doesn't really become ginormous until the latter half of the second trimester.  Don't make the mistake of subconsciously thinking a huge belly is part + parcel of the whole nine yards months.

2.  There's No Other Way to Tell a Woman is Pregnant Besides Her Enormous Belly??
Au contraire!  A pregnant woman is NOT. NORMAL.  It is sometimes/often a fight to act like a normal, functioning, INDIVIDUAL human being WHILE GROWING ANOTHER HUMAN BEING INSIDE YOU.  Lettame break it down.

  • the first trimester is excruciatingly exhausting because you are building a baby + the baby's supporting environment. i mean SUPER TIRED. like, YOU HAVE NEVER EXPERIENCED THIS LEVEL OF TIRED BEFORE.
  • the second trimester is (almost) normal; you regain functional levels of energy, your belly isn't too large to move yet.
  • the third trimester hits you like a wall. your belly is a) enormous, b) heavy; YOU ARE SICK + TIRED OF BEING PREGNANT CAN WE GET THIS OVER WITH WHY DID I AGREE TO THIS.

3.  Think GOOSE.
Despite having been pregnant, I DID NOT REALIZE THIS UNTIL I WATCHED THE SHOW "BONES".  There is more to walking as a pregnant woman than putting up with that heavy baby-belly, and the telltale signs show up LONG BEFORE THE BUMP.  The pelvic area starts to loosen so it can allow for a tiny human to exit the baby-hole, and that loosening is actually VERY noticeable, once you realize it.  I saw a woman in her early pregnancy days, and knew she was pregnant not because of a bump, but because I could tell by the way she was walking.  DUDE.  THANK YOU, BONES.

4.  The Pamphlets Are Lying, Your Stomach is Not.
Everybody knows about "morning sickness."  But GUESS WHAT.  Morning sickness is NOT relegated to morning.  Huh uh.  I hate that.  Morning sickness

  • starts (usually) between 4-6 weeks
  • peters off (hopefully) between 14-16 weeks
  • does not switch off at 12:00 pm
  • exacerbated by stress + hunger

5.  0 to 60 in Two Seconds...is Not Realistic.
You all know that IF there is a pregnant woman in a story, she WILL go into labour at the most climactic/inconvenient moment.  THIS IS NOT REALISTIC.

  • labour begins SLOWLY
  • you might not even be sure you're IN labour for the first several hours
  • you do NOT suddenly clutch your belly + wail as if your pelvic area were being torn off your body
  • labour can take hours/days to take its course

NOTE: I can't tell you what it's like to have your water break because I was under epidural/well into labour when the doctor broke my water for me.  Couldn't feel it at all.  If you HAVE experienced your water break, please describe it in the comments for others!

6.  It Isn't Over When the Fat Baby Sings.
Emotionally, you're definitely overwhelmingly joyful when the baby is born.  PHYSICALLY, you're in more pain than you ever were in the entire pregnancy.

  • you ache
  • you hurt
  • walking is stiff and slow
  • sitting down is incredibly uncomfortable
  • using the bathroom is EXTREMELY PAINFUL (thank God for stool-softeners, I'm not even kidding)

7.  The Baby Brings a Black Dog as a Pet.
Despite what the media is telling you, the joy of motherhood is not always unalloyed.  With the cataclysm of hormones and MORE physical adjustments (oh hey! milk!), you can experience depression.  This is COMMON.  So common that I find the sunshine-and-happiness shots of motherhood in films to be suspicious.

These are 7 things you need to know NOT TO DO when writing a pregnant or post-pregnancy character.  I'm sure I've missed some tropes: add them in the comments below!

Welcome to The Penslayer! Sorry for the mess. Order will be forthcoming. Meanwhile, add me to your list of blogs you love for more short + sweet, writing-related posts to help you on your way! Follow me on Instagram, Facebook, + Twitter.<3

image via...yeah, pinterest

How To Know When to Include Menstruation in Your Stories

Welcome to The Penslayer! Sorry for the mess.  Order will be forthcoming.   Meanwhile, add me to your list of blogs you love for more short + sweet, writing-related posts to help you on your way!  Follow me on Instagram, Facebook, + Twitter. <3

MENSTRUATION, i.e., the act of a woman's uterus shedding a month's worth of unused blood-lining, is not typically written about in novels.  Kind of strange, considering there are a BATOOKUS-TON of young adult female protagonists on the market these days.  Maybe they're all on the same cycle?  I don't know.  Could be.


First of all, ew!  |  Periods have never been taboo-talk in my family, so years ago I casually mentioned something about my period to an acquaintance.  My bad.  Judging from her shock, it is not such a free topic in her home.  This surprised me, because a) we're both young women, and b) therefore have periods.  Maybe I was wrong and she's a robot still trying to successfully integrate into society.  Oops.

This is super shocking, you guys.  |  Okay, yes, maybe if I went into detail - this is not your normal blood, guys: this is like, goopy, bomb-went-off, half-coagulated junk here - YEAH, that could be a real turn-off if I was reading this book.

We don't write people using the toilet, do we...?  |  So, you might ask, why write about a woman's period?


This is not the same as using the toilet.  |  A woman's period is more than just discharged blood.  It has a major physical and psychological impact on a woman, and both of those aspects heavily impact your character in a novel.  The monthly cycle is part of who we all are as women, something we bear, deal with, and overcome on a MONTHLY BASIS.  That makes us pretty awesome, considering.  Why deny that to your characters?  This is a human trait that has both oppressed and empowered women all across the world and through history.  WE CONQUER THIS.  SO SHOULD YOUR CHARACTERS.


Let's not get carried away!  |  Maybe - MAYBE - there is a legitimate reason to have a character use the bathroom.  Otherwise, we just assume that they go between chapter breaks, you know?  It doesn't need press.  Likewise for periods.  Don't hurl them at your women for the mere sake of authenticity.

Periods need to improve/work with the plot.  |  If there is no point to having your character experience a period, DON'T PUT IT IN.  Personal anecdote: I chose to include menstruation in one of my manuscripts because it was a pivotal point to the plot.  (Still squeamish?  Look, I've already done it.  You're welcome!)


Emotional connection.  |  When appropriate, the addition of a character's menstrual cycle lends depth and authenticity to the plot.  We become more acquainted with her.  We share her struggles.  We appreciate what she overcomes.  We grapple with her when this handicap becomes a physical barrier to her progress.

Understanding.  |  For those who are not women (hi, guys!), and aren't acquainted with this monthly monster that we deal with, this is us.  Yes, we are the weaker vessel, but being weaker doesn't equal WEAK.  Millions of women across the globe shoulder this burden every. single. month.  We want you to know this so that you can better understand the inscrutable creature - woman.

The champion.  |  In your novels, as in my manuscript, this becomes a personal demon which pays no allegiance to time, weather, circumstance, and convenience.  The girl has to take the punch when it comes - there is no ducking.  But the act of getting up after a blow is what we ALL love to see in our characters.

have you ever included menstruation in a novel? do you think you ever would?

image via *drumroll* pinterest

TL;DR | How To Focus Your Content + Win!

Those of you who have followed the Penslayer for AGES know that I CAN GET REALLY WORDY.  But on the internet, that is NOT a skill.  It's an almost sure-fire turn-off for readers.  So how do you cut to the chase and get readers to stick around?  Glad you asked!


If you have backstory, KEEP. IT. SHORT.  Do not repeat yourself unnecessarily, do not go into minute detail.  People WILL get to know you!  Especially if you keep things short + sweet and don't drive them away by a HUGE WALL OF TEXT OH MY LANDS RUN AWAY AIN'T NOBODY GOT TIME FO' DAT.  Your personality and history will evolve and grow on the readership as you blog.  Don't scare them off with text!

break it up + keep paragraphs short

Reading on the computer is GRUELING for the eyes.  Keep blocks of text to a minimum length without sacrificing content, so your readers will stick with you.  Break the post up into nice paragraphs - with headings!  We love headings.

do not. post. millions of pictures. of the same thing.

You've got a camera.  I get it.  It's cool.  But I do not want to scroll through over-large images of essentially the same damn image.  Not cool!  Show me one AWESOME picture that you took and I'm going to be coming back to your blog to see more awesome pictures (of different things).

don't hog the conversation

Chances are, if you (read: myself) do all the talking, no one is going to feel like that have room to chime in!  Uh, no thanks!  I know I want to hear what you have to say, so I'm gonna cut to the chase and have done and leave you time to chat!  That's what blogs are for!

are you guilty of this? yeah, I know I am. here's to better things! and shorter posts... 

image via pinterest. you saw that coming.

6 Reasons This is the Only Book You'll Need

Summer is NEARLY ON TOP OF US which means -

a) blazing temperatures
b) inability to go outside
c) blazing temperatures
d) lots of time to read books

In light thereof, allow me to introduce you to THE NEWEST PUBLISHED WORK by author MIRRIAM NEAL.


{Ginger has lived in seclusion, with only her aunt Malgarel and her blue cat, Halcyon, to keep her company. Her sheltered, idyllic life is turned upside-down when her home is attacked by messengers from the world of fae. Accompanied by Halcyon (who may or may not be more than just a cat), an irascible wysling named Azrael, and a loyal fire elemental named Salazar, Ginger ventures into the world of fae to bring a ruthless Queen to justice.}

If your summer weather is anything like mine, you're looking at lots of thundery summer storms crowding in on you, with plenty of opportunity to crack open this bad boy (girl??) and devour its 192 pages!  What does this book have to offer you?  Let's list the following:

faes? check.
portal fiction? check.
ruined idyllic life? check.
mirriam's trademark sarcastic wit? also check.
gorgeous cover art to grace your bookshelf? uh, check!
the name "halcyon"? BOOM. check.

Now that you realize your life is basically a void without this, allow me to direct you to WHERE YOU CAN BUY IT.  Also, general informations about it and its author.  And what the author has done.  //WHAT HAVE YOU DONE.//

MIRRIAM NEAL  is a twenty-two-year-old northwestern hipster living in atlanta, ga.  she writes hard-to-describe books in hard-to-describe genres, & illustrates things whenever she finds the time.  she aspires to live as faithfully & creatively as she can, & she hopes you do, too!

images owned by mirriam neal

Can You Unlock Your Novel With One Breakthrough Key?

Are you, like me, trying to plot a new novel, and feeling uninspired and stymied at each turn?  
Where are the characters going?  
What are they going to do?  
How will they interact?  
What even is the POINT?

9 times out of 10, this is the story of every plot we've ever tried to course.  I know, right?  UGH.  Nothing makes you feel so competent as staring blankly at the empty plot you know you're meant to write.  But there's actually a remarkably easy way to get that ball rolling.  It's a super important catalyst for the plot - and most of us forget about it!

plot from the antagonist's point of view!

You want to know WHY your protagonists are struggling, WHAT they are up against, HOW the novel is going to pan out?  FIGURE OUT WHAT THE ANTAGONIST WANTS.  If everything were hunky-dory, there would be no plot!  If the antagonist didn't have a goal and drive, which the protagonists have to thwart, then what's the point?

You're probably not going to write the actually story from the antagonist's point of view, but get the ball rolling with a preliminary outline (mental or physical) from the driver's seat of the antagonist's brain.  Ye Olde Antagonist is the one who is going to inject purpose into the story - otherwise we could just all go to Maresgate and splash about on the seashore like Margaret WANTED to do...

why didn't I think of that sooner

I know, right?  You hear it and you think, "DUH.  That totally makes sense.  Why didn't I think of that before?"  I don't even remember where I got this idea, but I forgot it and then it came back to me in the middle of the night.  I legit got up and wrote it down for you guys because otherwise I WOULD HAVE FORGOTTEN AGAIN.  PHEW.  Okay.  Hopefully that will make my upcoming work a little easier to plot.

is your work giving you fits?  hack at it with this dead herring and see if it budges the plot!

image via pinterest. bet you didn't see that coming.