NaNoWriMo Check-In + Ethandune Snippets

HAVE I BEEN ABLE to keep up with the daily wordcount?  Pfft, noooope.  Have I been writing?  Yes.  Am I content with that?  No, but I probably should be.  But you don't want to hear all my excuses because THAT'S BORING & probably you have excuses of your own which sound a lot better than mine (I'm still partial to mine, though).

You have twelve days until the end of Nano!  I want you to remember three important things & I am not making up their importance.

1.  if you finish nano with the 50,000 wordcount, you accomplished the goal of completing nano!

2.  if you don't finish nano with the 50,000 wordcount, YOU. STILL. WROTE. ON. YOUR. STORY. which means it's that much closer to being finished, & that is no small consideration.

3.  if you decide(d) to drop out of nano because it's just too much for a story which needs more time + care, you are exhibiting the mark of a mature individual in recognizing what you + your story need.  quickly-made trash is still trash.  do what's best for you! <3


I always manage to write my novels in the season opposite to the one I'm experiencing.  Take Ethandune, at the start of summer, while I'm prepping for the holidays & it's getting into winter (by "getting into winter" I mean today wants to be a high of 78 because the sc piedmont is bipolar).  However, many years of writing in this kind of wacky dichotomy has made me better at compartmentalizing them in my head, so hopefully summertime Ethandune will not wind up in the first draft to have suspicious overtones of Christmas...

snippets a wound which does not hurt until you notice it, the smell of the thing hit me two seconds after I realized what I was seeing. It was jumbled together at impossible angles; it took me another moment to see that it was no longer completely connected with itself.

All the rest of that day I had a grey, light-headed sense of being always on the verge of vomiting, but the vomit never came. Dammerung looked up as Goddgofang and I entered the sitting room; there was a sidelong glare of light over the chamber, muting everything, stinging my eyes. I heard Goddgofang’s voice coming from somewhere hollow. I saw the Overlord’s face, without moving, suddenly had a peculiar colour to it which felt like my stomach.

...with a sigh, he put down his book and hefted his lean frame out of the chair, eclipsing the glare into a cruciform shape and muting all his features into a halo grey. 

He seemed a good deal older then, coming away from the leper’s bedside, than he had even when we had approached. I wondered if he was truly always that age, that peculiar blackened weight which had little to do with the silvered hair at his temples, and if he had a kind of off-hand glamour at most times thrown over the dark to hide the drag of it from our eyes.
The lull came with us as we went down to the hall, broken by Goddgofang once, coming down behind me, with his father behind him.
“Do you ever get used to it?” he asked quietly.
And from above and behind on the stair, Dammerung’s voice in the dark: “No. You just get better at hiding it.”

Think Tank Followup: What Editors Have to Say About Editing

how do you edit?

I ASKED & YOU ANSWERED.  I'm a mental muddle when it comes to editing, so I was thrilled to get some awesome feedback on my think tank post for editing.  As promised, I'm going to showcase these answers & break them down as I've thought about them.

One thing I've found helpful when figuring out what to keep and what to cut, is to evaluate what the story would look like if you didn't have that scene. Would the story survive? Would it still make sense? If not, it's valuable enough to keep. If it's unnecessary, either cut it or alter the scene so it pulls it's own weight.

This is some of the best fundamental advice. Your story is made up of the scenes you collect + weave together, & people notice how odd it is when there is something extraneous included.  People save up the scene in their minds, waiting for the revelation of its importance...but the importance never comes - & that leaves a bad impression.

As Tracey pointed out, though, it isn't quite as simple as does this work or does this not work.  Oftentimes, scenes are obviously crucial to the plot; sometimes, scenes are obviously random & need to be hacked out.  But occasionally you'll write a scene which isn't quite what the story needs, but it could be, & you have to find a way to "alter the scene so it pulls it's own weight."  So your options are:

yes - it stays
no - it goes
renovate scene
ugly crying

I actually love the process of perfecting, and changing words, paragraphs and scenes/characterizations and details to build a richer world and picture. If you need to edit as in CUT scenes, get a third-party involved.
Also give your writing space and then coming back and reading it to oneself as if it was a novel from the library. The flaws pop up strongly at you and often one can see what should be changed.

A huge help in editing is to leave it alone for awhile. While you are writing a manuscript, you are geared into conquer-virgin-territory mode: you're ploughing ahead into the semi-unknown, often leaving a battered trail behind you.  When you are done writing, give it a rest: let your mind wind down from ex nihilo mode.  Once things have cooled, you'll have a chance to go back & look critically at what you've written.  You're in a separate frame of mind, this time for editing + refining, not blazing a trail.  Don't underestimate the importance of this break.  You need space from your first draft to be able to assess it fairly, & it's very hard to do that when you're still gung-ho for the writing stage.

...All the same, you're always going to be the writer of that first draft, & you're unlikely to completely forget what it was like writing it.  Despite your best intentions, this can cloud your judgment, so having another person look over your work, with no prior explanation, to see if the story communicates itself rationally, is SUPER helpful in getting a day-old colt of a draft on its legs.

My biggest tip is to read it aloud to myself. This helps me catch repetitive words/phrasing, and make sure it's flowing properly.

What you may or may not have caught on to yet is that I am an abysmal writer.  It's true.  When I am writing, I am 99.9% blind to "what I've done," & focused on "what comes next."  So when I happen to go back & look at my writing, I've been known to find the most outrageous mistakes in grammatical construction, & even have missed a word or supplemented an entirely wrong word in the fever of my scribbling.  And this is only with the occasional glance back: I dread to think what I'll discover when I really sit down to edit.

The problem is, your brain is really good at adjusting for mistakes when communicating to you.  Is a word missing, or a word duplicated?  Don't worry about it!  Brain's got it handled.  You won't even notice a thing.  But if you set yourself to reading out loud, you're much more forced to pay attention to the text & take care that the cadence is correct, you haven't used the same description more than once in the same page (*guilty*), your dialogue isn't as stupid as a drunk squirrel on a highway, etc.  This is definitely an embarrassing exercise, especially when you flub up as often as I do, but it's also really helpful so here's some humble pie to go with that Thanksgiving dinner I hope you scheduled time for in the midst of Nano.

thank you, ladies!  your advice is phenomenal.  <3

Think Tank || Your Editing Tips!

IT'S HALFWAY THROUGH NANO & who wants to think about editing?   ...Yeah, I didn't think so.  But rather than thinking about editing your work-in-progress, I want to think about editing as a whole - & particularly how you confront it.

personally, i hate editing

I feel no creative gush while editing as I do when I'm writing a first draft.  Parsing, examining, patching up holes, trying to add more story to a flow that was so organic at the outset...not a lot of fun for me!  But editing has to happen because none of us can write a perfect manuscript on the first try.  Sad, but true.  Since I've got one eye on the market for editing tips anyway, I thought I'd throw out a forum for my followers.

share your editing tips!

Yes, do!  So many people have such beneficial insight into editing which I // you // others might never have thought of before.  I want to compile all your advice & put it together in a followup post.  Do it for science!  Do it for your children!  Do it for the future of the human race!  Also do it for me because I hate editing & I need help.

Is Prayer Actually Ruining Your Character's Credibility?

IF YOU ARE FOLLOWING The Penslayer, there is a pretty good chance that a) you are a writer + b) you are a professing believer. This puts you/me/people like us at a high risk of including our faith in our novels (gasp! the nerve!). But say we decide to do the ghastly inexcusable & include tenants of our faith in our stories; our faith makes our lives phenomenally better, so it should do the same to our novels, right?

christ did not die to save your novel

Does this sound sacrilegious??  Because yes that sounds sacrilegious.  But let's actively (not just academically) take our faith seriously for a sec & put our faith + our art in such blunt terms.  Oh.  No.  Okay.  Jesus' atonement + the work of the Holy Spirit within me does not make me a miraculously better writer, & the inclusion of a character's relationship with God in my novel is not infallibly assured to be golden.

Christ's work of redemption?  Real.
Your character + faith?  Fiction.

Before we move on, I suggest a healthy awareness of the fundamental difference between a VERY REAL THING & a thing you totally made up in your head possibly during nano + should not be taken seriously because we are fallen sleep-deprived humans.

jenny.  dontchu ask me to tear my faith out of my art.  

FACT NUMBER ONE: humans are awesome & can entertain philosophies that they don't believe as if they actually believed them.  Being good at this trick makes you a) better able to process opposing views & b) better at writing.  Guess who has gone through the juvenile stages of writing in which basically every character was a cookie-cutter Christian?  Yeah...  Not a great move for stellar writing.

FACT NUMBER TWO: no you don't have to divorce your faith from your writing!  Your faith is what gives your soul life + substance, it's what roots it + makes it grow.  You don't want to deny this kind of aid to your art, right?

the blindside bible smack

Let's briefly outline the plot of a novel I may have written // may have read // may be aware exists in Christian fiction today.

  • INTRODUCE MC - everything seems normal, character isn't perfect but usually not too bad
  • SUDDEN DIRE DRAMA - our pretty vanilla character is now in peril (life-threatening is standard)
  • UNEXPECTED VERBIAGE OF HELP FROM GOD - universally thin on theology, substance is nonexistent, uncomfortably reminiscent of certain Galileans in a certain fishing boat in a certain storm
  • SECONDARY CAUSE SAVES THE DAY - danger &/or life-threatening peril is removed
  • MC BRUSHES SELF OFF - continues through the plot with no recognition that perhaps God heard that pitiable prayer
(following is optional)
  • MC + OTHER CHARACTERS indulge in an existential discussion which has no bearing on the plot, in which the mc quotes copious amounts of scripture which we had no reason to believe the mc knew or relied on - other characters are usually moved // impressed by these arguments
  • MC + OTHER CHARACTERS PROCEED THROUGH PLOT - including more dire peril, life-threatening situations, extreme exertion, & surprisingly no reference to faith again
  • THE END - God usually goes unmentioned

...Not only is this yucky, it's embarrassing; because you know you've read this or done it.  Yep.  Me too. But you can see from this angle how damaging it is.  It turns God into exactly the sort of person irreverent folk choose to view him: a cosmic sugar-daddy to whom we owe no constant obligation, & who is just there when life starts to spiral out of our control.

deus ex machina...without the deus

How do we avoid these embarrassing fox-hole prayers by which we mean well but which actually poison our entire novel?  Do not be alarmed, neither let your manuscripts be troubled - the answer is not that hard.

you'll need to adopt two concepts which seem mutually exclusive at first, but which work perfectly together

FAITH BEFORE CRISIS  ||  Let it be established before your character is in danger of his life that his faith is of universal importance to him, defining all he does - not a crutch he grabs when he starts falling.  God is not an outside handhold that we reach for when we stumble, but the life which lights us from within, focusing our vision, training our minds, governing our actions.  When God is recognized as such both in reality & in our fiction, both our lives & our art avoid the fox-hole stigma.  In short, let God being in everything, & nothing will seem sudden or crutch-like.

THE SPEAKING SILENCE  ||  Once your character' established for the reader + the rest of the cast, there is relatively little need to reiterate the character's stance.  This seems to directly contradict what I said above, but it does not.  A city on a hill does not move; when a man has taken his position, he gains more credibility by his immutability than by dashing headlong after every sign of trouble like a dog trying to catch fireflies.  Other characters know exactly where the mc stands on any given issue: arguments are unnecessary.

silence is more intimidating than discussion.  discussion can be fought, words can be wrangled, strawmen can be set up & knocked down.  but you can't grip silence.  fools are windbags, but a wise man holds his ground.  a comfortably determined silence will give your character more weight than a hundred petty arguments.

if christian fiction has lost its credibility, wherewith shall it be made creditable again?

Unfortunately, it is currently basically useless, & ought to be thrown out, trodden underfoot by men.  My advice is to remember that faith in fiction is not a crutch, it's a backbone; it is not a glass of water, it is the lifeblood.  However your plots unfold, avoid the unexpected deus ex machina prayers, the convenient moral discussions, & the subliminal message that God is only there because we feel like we have to mention him (as Christians), & then he is brushed aside as soon as we perceive we can stand on our own.  These are lies which do no one (including the novel) any good.

know where you stand + stay there
strength + honour ;D 

NaNoWriMo Check-In + Ethandune Snippets

AS I WARNED YOU AT THE OUTSET, I am only loosely doing NaNo - in fact, I only ever loosely do NaNo, in some way, shape, or form.  This year, not only am I not starting a new novel (I'm not sure I've ever done that for NaNo), I'm not even gunning for 50,000 words.

(jenny.  that's not nano.)

No, not strictly speaking, no - that's not NaNo at all.  However, while I don't have a chronic illness, growing a baby does reduce one to "spooning," & I have to eek out my energy sparingly, because I basically have none at all to give.

(jenny.  nano is just sitting + writing.  how energetic can that be?)

My exhaustion is as much mental as physical, so it really is crucial that I rest - old-fashioned, conked-out, eyes-closed rest.  Napping is an Olympic sport.  So the story is, if I have to go out of the house at all, for anything length of time, on a given day, that is a day I will not write.  I don't even try to push it.  I only write on the days that I will be home, quiet, + rested.  No one wants to deal with a boneless, exhausted, agonized maman who was too stupid to stop working when she should have & not overload herself with things-to-do.  There's benefit in the hustle, but wisdom in knowing one's limitations.

When I do write, I do not try to keep up with the projected wordcount of traditional NaNo.  TRANSLATION: I just aim to write the daily wordcount (1,667 words) during each writing session, rather than try to keep pace to write 50,000 words by the end of the month because I simply cannot & Ethandune would be a sorry mess if I tried.  I would be a sorry mess if I tried.

if you have "excuses" or limitations in conquering nano, & just use the opportunity to provide motivation to your work, i hope this makes you feel better! i'm right there with you. i am a slow, slow, SLOW writer, a pantser to boot (??), & i am HEXhausted.  but i'm still doing this.  yes.  because i care.

(**Oh, & my husband + I are starting an independent doughnut business.  Trying out flavour combinations, filing paperwork, networking, studying + taking food much time could that possibly take up?? Bah haaaa.)

snippets finally ye gads

“Do you suppose, on your own, you could handle the affairs of the place satisfactorily?” asked Ireton, politely.
The earrings jangled. “Me? The Lord save us! I can cut expenses with my horsewhip, but for the long-term management of Mondegreen I have no training and no natural art.” Suddenly she stopped, and her profile was darkened by an inward oppression. “I really believe,” she went on gently, “that we have come to the last days of the house of Blackthorn.” She forced a smile to cover the wound and looked directly in Youngblood’s face. “Maybe the right thing to do would be to let it lie in the dust and be dead, like an old dog, than to torment it to life any longer.”

Dammerung was longer-limbed, and reached it first. He went down on his knees with a ripping of breech-cloth and hefted the figure over so that I had an unexpected, ghastly shock of bloodied face and disarrayed hair.

She handed him the copper coffeepot, pausing to stare as he heedlessly took the smoking object without any apparent sensation of its heat. “I don’t remember the half of what we talked about,” she admitted. “I had a nasty stabbing headache. Your father kept Casparic on his toes, though—I remember that much. And I thought I had a sharp tongue!”
Goddgofang smiled. “Oh yes, I’ve seen him do that sort of thing. He likes to do that to people he’s not fond of.” 

I flew to get them and leave as soundlessly as possible—but not, as I passed back through the sitting room, without shooting a curious glance at the pages of Dammerung’s book. The lettering was too distant for me to decipher, and I got the impression, with only one hurried look, that they were not letters, but some form of hieroglyph. I bounded out the door with a cold chill, those indistinct images flickering like charms in the wind before my vision. 

“Come on back, sirrah,” Goddgofang said softly, so soft I hardly heard. “I’ll let you have first pick of spears next time, eh?”
Golightly smiled like one overcoming the throb of a wound.

Fantome Rex was first to the door’s threshold. Dammerung swung a leg up over his horse’s neck, but paused a moment looking down at our host, the meteors of the rain streaking through the lanternlight around him. “We regret Secy Coeur de Leon was unable to come, although he had his heart set on it,” the Overlord said blithely. Taking his off toe out of the stirrup, he slid to the ground like an otter slipping into water. “But don’t be too cast down!” I could hear the iron smile on his face. “I’ve brought along Ireton, who, materially, is just as good.”

Floating light in the mist caught the headstall of Jennalaide’s grey and winked out like the flick-flick-flick of a bird’s warning call.

how is your nano progress?

The Penslayer Blog Design Makeover Reveal!

This is it! HERE IT IS! Words cannot express how thrilled I am to unveil the new look of The Penslayer - at last!  To all of you who have borne with me during the past few months with my bleak, harsh, black + white template, you deserve a medal!

I can't say enough good about my experience with Hannah Rose Creative.  Her branding + design process is nothing if not thorough, Hannah herself is positive, communicative, passionate about design & about making your design say you.  For instance, I like to dress in black, but I prefer to be surrounded by white.  So you can imagine how my monochrome + minimalist heart just soars whenever I look at this sleek, shiny, "simple" design.


  • My social media icons at the bottom of the page are shiny gold & just waiting for you to check them out. ;D

  • New to The Penslayer & want to know who the author is?  My author bio page is no less sleek & easy to access above my (totally beautiful + shiny) header!

  • I'm a real blog!  I've purchased my own domain name: I'm no longer "," but now just ""

little tommy tadpole began to weep + wail
for little tommy tadpole has lost his little tail
his mother didn't know him as he wept upon a log
for he wasn't tommy tadpole, but mr. thomas frog

  • Visual happiness!  No matter the content of a blog, good or bad, your opinion is shaped by the visual appeal (or lack thereof).  So now you can read + enjoy The Penslayer as I've always wanted you to.

Welcome to a brand new chapter in The Penslayer blog's book!  Good things are coming.  I feel it in my bones.

The Contemporary Writer's Ultimate Guide to #BossGirl

You've decided to write a contemporary novel.  Your main character will be a girl (called from here on out the (F)emale (M)ain (C)haracter).  You know contemporary, you know girls, this should be a breeze.  But no!  Nothing worthwhile ever came easy, & the modern-day FMC is no exception.  There are a LOT of hurdles your FMC has to jump over to become the shining, standout protagonist you want her to be.  Let's get started!

Tumblr, Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, they have their purpose, but your FMC needs to be focused.  So does her phone's camera lens.  Consistent posting on Instagram & a firm branding style of photography will help your FMC standout not only in her novel, but will be a role model and inspiration to millions of girls across the globe.  Before you sit down to write your novel, make sure you know exactly what kind of aesthetic your FMC needs on her Instagram feed to promote the feel & plot of your book.

bonus tip!  ||  secondary characters viewing your FMC's "instagram stories" are a great way to break up the action while still showing the reader what is happening.

Your FMC is going to be saving the world, but every hero needs a home base.  For the sake of variety so readers don't get bored, I would recommend at least two firm environments in which to write your FMC's world-saving brainstorm sessions.

|| contemporary loft suite || this is best set up as an open floor plan, with original brick walls exposed & tasteful feminine decor placed around the room.  this takes your FMC from "ordinary girl" to "successful woman" in one simple but CRUCIAL leap.  gone are the days of writing FMCs in frilly bedrooms!  this is the day of the #bossgirl.

|| coffeeshop // starbucks || a delicate hand is necessary for this extremely vital aspect of your FMC's rise to #bossgirl status.  starbucks indubitably leads the way for social markers such as the pumpkin spice latte, & scenes in starbucks or with starbucks coffee instantly trigger a subliminal message in your reader's mind that "this girl is part of the 'in' crowd."  however, a well-rounded FMC will also be ethically conscious & will patronize a favourite independent coffee shop, cluing in your readers without stating the obvious that "this girl is concerned for her local economy & enjoys the socialization of the local community."

bonus tip!  ||  this coffee shop set is an ideal place to stoke up any romance you might feel led to include in your novel.  be sure to research the coffee industry & the types of men who run it to pick your best male main character.

Want to save the world?  It's really hard to do when you feel uncomfortable with your outfit or makeup.  FMCs, you may not feel like you have a lot of time to devote to your physical appearance (that's okay! #wokeuplikethis is also super attractive & will stand you in good stead), but some personal grooming tips are KEY to insuring your #bossgirl card is delivered.

|| that perfect messy hair || so tricky to achieve, yet so important - & saving the world just makes it look better! invest in some tried-&-true hair products designed to create that messy, beachy, lived-in look, which will appear so on point & yet so effortless, no one will know how long it took you to perfect it!

|| sunnies || you can never spend too much money on a good pair of sunglasses. these are classic, alluring, protect your eyes from harmful radiation, & can pull a "bleh!" look to "yeah!" look in the blink of an eye.

|| brows are boss || it is a must must must must MUST that you invest in good brow products & maintenance. nothing destroys a look so quickly as weak or frizzy brows.  take the time to fill those in with expert chiseled lines - it takes practice, but your career & storyline will thank you! when you can conquer the on-trend look of brows-on-point, you can conquer anything.

bonus tip!  ||  my favourite is the anastasia beverly hills pencil (with spoolie!), which comes in lots of shades for an ethnically diverse cast, but benefit also has a huge array of options for those of you who would like your FMCs to have more to work with.

Short, spunky girls have dominated the contemporary novel scene for a long time now, but society hasn't forgotten Barbie.  Who do we mentally envision as the #bossgirl?  That's right - the tall, sleek, tastefully athletic, fashionable girl.  Yes, it may be hard for your FMC to find pants the correct length, but you can always have them tailor-made by an ethically-sourced seamstress (bonus points!).

We are SO over the teenage drama of love triangles, freaking out about college, etc.  Sure, no one really knows what she's doing, but try this mindset on for size: confidence at Kanye-levels.  THAT'S attractive.  With a cup of coffee & some phenomenal confidence, your #bossgirl FMC will be a role model for countless readers around the world!  She won't be sidetracked by petty emotions, love-life woes, or Netflix binge-watching, she will be a woman of singular vision bent on saving the world, & subsequently will become a positive magnetic influence drawing in the perfect #bossgirl tribe // cast of characters to support her.


This is where we punt the '90s whiny teenage girls out of our lives & welcome in a brand new edition of heroine - bigger & better in so many ways!   This #bossgirl is the future.  Got what it takes to write her?  You go, girl!

* this post is satire, which means it's completely true & will hurt XD