This Writing Program Cured My Writer's Block

Honesty is great, except when you're trying to look professional / like you're in control of what you're doing - then you really need to act like your ducks are in a row even if they've completely flown the coop.

that's me



I loathe opening my Word document.  Oh, I love writing - when writing comes easily + isn't a chore.  I've never enjoyed the struggle; that's why it's a struggle, otherwise it'd be called fun.  & for honest reals, this is the major reason I've made so little progress on Ethandune in the past six months.  My brain has been too tired to want to engage in the struggle.

The internet is deucedly clever at figuring out which ads will lure me in.  They know, you know.  The all-seeing eye...sees all...?  I saw a random graphic about a writing program that I semi-reluctantly bit.  You have to understand, this is me while looking at most everything online:

-__-

I can't find the graphic again, which is really annoying, so I'll just have to pitch this as well as the graphic pitched to me. 






INTRODUCING: ZENWRITER

When you're in the program, your document is literally all that you see.  No options, no tool bar: just your text.  If you move your mouse, it will show options (written pretty small + unobtrusive) to the far side of the screen, but otherwise it's just you + your writing.


// text with options // when you're writing, the options disappear //

I FIND THIS SO HELPFUL, YOU DON'T EVEN KNOW.  I never realized the extra "chatter" of the screen was so distracting, but it is!  With this full-screen option, it's like reading a book while you're writing it.  So cool!




If you look at my screenshot, you can see a "music" option.  I think you can upload your own music to the program, but the preset options are soothing instrumentals, which is kind of the idea.  It's perfect for creating that little bubble of sound that I need to hone in on my writing.

like, if enya was a novelist, she'd probably use this, i'm guessing



I think you can upload your own images, too, but I really like the preset images ZenWriter offers.  You have choices between
  • a beach (currently using, as Ethandune is by the sea)
  • a forest
  • clouds
  • several winter scenes
  • two lakes
They all appear with a muted overtone (see screenshot), & you can even switch between "day" (white-muted image with black text) + "night" (black-muted image with white text).  How cool is that, you guys?? HOW. COOL.


Last but NOT least.  Let me refer back to my previous confession of hating to open my Word document.  Like, I think it gives me acne just thinking about it.  Well.  WELL.  When I casually transferred my document to ZenWriter + got to looking at it...I couldn't stop writing.  (tim had to throw me to the ground + stand on me, while filigree ran over + unplugged the laptop)*  It was seriously addictive!  & this is coming from a brain-dead maman of two little ones.  I meant to just close the program + go lie down for awhile to rest, but noooo, the next thing I knew, I was writing.  The nerve!

* abigail, this reference is for you. if anyone else has seen "picture perfect" (1995), congratulations, you have witnessed the world's best film ever

So tHERE YOU HAVE IT.  My new favourite writing-related thingummy ever.  I went ahead + bought the full version (only $17.50), so it's aLL MINE.

** this is not a sponsored post. i don't get paid for any of the malarkey i put on here, sadly. **


check out zenwriter here if you're interested! 
p.s. yOU'RE WELCOME

thanks so much for reading, guys!
xoxo, jenny

10 Character Aspects You've Never Used Before


OF ALL THE CHARACTER ASPECTS OUT THERE, you've probably not considered the following.  I've curated some realistically awkward realistic gems for your literary jewel-boxes.  

10 CHARACTER ASPECTS HERETOFORE UNUSED/PREOWNED


HICCUPS  ||  SO. ANNOYING.  Hiccups never respect what you're trying to say; they just barge in + ruin everything.  Even worse: people think it's hilarious that you poor schmuck are being sabotaged by your own diaphragm.  Oh yeah, real funny.  Life: 1. Character: 0.

BREAKOUTS  ||  YOU CAN'T TELL ME THESE PEOPLE RETAIN PERFECT COMPLEXIONS, GIVEN THE AMOUNT OF STRESS WE WRITERS THROW AT THEM.  NUH UH, GIRL FRIEND.  ACNE GONNA ACNE.

FORGET THE WORD THEY WANT  ||  For some reason, people think I've got an excellent handle on the English language just because I'm a writer.  This is very much not true.  I'm (exceptionally?) bad at losing words, bad at integrating new words, + in general just a terrible orator due to a:: lack of practice & b:: a deep + abiding embarrassment of my own voice.  Again, I can't be alone in this, right??



WHAT WHAT WHAT  ||  Someone says something to you.  You weren't paying attention.  "What?"  They say it again.  Still garbledeegook.  "Excuse me - what?"  They repeat themselves again.  Good Lord have mercy, you still have no idea what they're on about so just NOD + AGREE.  NOD + AGREE.

& hope you didn't commit to anything serious

FORGET WHY THEY WALKED INTO A ROOM  ||  or really how they got into a room in the first place, am I right?

FORGET PEOPLE'S NAMES  ||  You know that thing, when you're introduced to someone, & you 100% don't remember the person's name within 0.05 seconds of being told?  Yeah...



EYELASH IN THE EYE  ||  I wear contacts, which means my eyes are used to being bludgeoned by my fingers twice a day.  ALL THE SAME, getting an eyelash in them is NO. JOKE.  EXCUSE ME.  I NEED TO BORROW A SERVICE DOG TO GET ME TO THE BATHROOM.

"does anyone have any saline??"

SOME RANDOM BODY PART FALLS OFF  ||  Anyone out of their teens has probably experienced the unpremeditated betrayal of some limb/core body part that just randomly chooses to throw itself excruciatingly out of whack at the worst. possible. moment.

GETTING DROP-DEAD SICK AFTER INTENSE STRESS  ||  I think Tolkien is the only writer I've seen to get this right: you don't travel all the way to Mount Doom & then frolic off for a round of drinks with the guys to celebrate.  No.  You're bloody well laid up for an eon because your body is dead.

EVERYONE YAWNS  ||   People in books yawn.  That's realistic.  What I find completely unbelievable is that no one else yawns afterward.


Here are your 10 neatly curated aspects of being a people that you've probably not considered including in your novel.  Go forth + be a great writer!

thanks for reading, peeps!
xoxo, jenny

Cake Book Tag || What's My Dessert?



allergy bulletin: the following baked goods are certified gluten-free but they have most definitely been written + processed with nuts

It is an undeniable fact* that books are delicious, so what better waste of your time thing to do than to assign types of cake to books you've read? Answer: THERE ISN'T A BETTER. 

*citation what citation i don't need a citation



WATERSHIP DOWN

Yup yup.  I grew up on the Warner Bros. film (also a fav), so when I was old enough strong enough to lift the book, I devoured it.  You could try seeing how long you can coherently mumble "fluffy bunnies" while you shovel in mouthfuls of this book, but that would be an inaccurate description of the novel.  Not fluffy.  Not bunnies.  Awesome book.

* but i'm super annoyed because bigwig never finishes the story of el-ahrairah + the black rabbit of inle, & i know it's supposed to reflect on his impending infiltration of efrafa, but i'm too stupid to get it

jenny :: recommends


 

PRIDE + PREJUDICE

I don't even know how many times I've reread this book, it's just such a brilliant, whimsical, witty, excruciating, delightful book.  Thank the Lord for Jane Austen. <3

jenny :: highly recommends



I CAPTURE THE CASTLE

I can't think of any way this book could have ended otherwise; its plot necessitated an unsatisfactory ending (**spoiler**).  It was a good book, I really enjoyed it, but my morals & the protagonist's were often at variance.  

(I always think red velvet cake is going to taste like a fancy gala on my tastebuds, but then it just turns out to be...cake.  Not bad cake, but it looked like it was promising a whole lot more.)

 jenny :: recommends



THE TENANT OF WILDFELL HALL

ANNE BRONTE (bless her heart) DOES NOT GET NEARLY ENOUGH LOVE.  This novel is vivid, captivating, gritty - if you took the wise eyes of Charlotte combined with the passion of Emily, that's Anne + this book.

jenny :: highly recommends



THE NAME OF THE ROSE

It's dumb, I know, but I have an allergic reaction to big books??  The writing in this novel is lovely, it's so intensely-researched that you can tell Umberto Eco simply breathes this time (I also hate Umberto Eco because he comes up with things like "The Island of the Day Before" & isn't that just a perfect turn of phrase? BAH).  And yet I haven't finished the book.  Double bah.

jenny :: recommends you not follow her dumb example


A YEAR IN PROVENCE

Such a hilarious foodie book.  It's like a wine that goes down so smooth, you don't realize how much you've actually imbibed.  I went on to read Encore Provence as well.

jenny :: recommends, but don't read on an empty stomach / tight grocery budget


THE EAGLE OF THE NINTH SERIES

Dur.  It was this series that really got me going on writing in the first place.

the eagle of the ninth (love)
the silver branch (very much love)
frontier wolf (embarrassed to not remember)
the lantern bearers (not a fav)
dawn wind (enjoyed, but don't really remember??)
the shield ring (totes cool

jenny :: i like them but i guess they're not for everyone??


REBECCA

I loved this book but I was NOT expecting it to be the traumatic emotional roller-coaster that it turned out to be for me. (i also turned out to like fruitcake, which prolly explains a lot about me) NO SPOILERS HERE but personally I was reading it in early marriage / I think I was pregnant with my first child + subsequently a little crazy, so I was NOT EMOTIONALLY STABLE ha ha Lord help us.

jenny :: recommends this book it is amazing but feel free to take your xanax first


* you see what i did there

BEN-HUR

So it's a really, really heavy shortcake...  I honestly haven't read a lot of American writers, but this one...takes...the...

yeah

OKAY.  For plot, pacing, descriptive narrative, character development - basically all the marks of a good novel, this novel has them.  Literature classes should just study Lew Wallace, basically.

jenny :: highly recommends eVEN THOUGH IT'S A BIG BOOK


I saw this tag on Elijah David's blog Inexhaustible Inspiration, so feel free to

a :: check out his blog
+
b :: fill out this tag!

CHOCOLATE CAKE
(a dark book you loved)
VANILLA CAKE
(a light read)
RED VELVET
(mixed emotions)
CHEESECAKE
(recommend to anyone)
COFFEE CAKE
(started but never finished)
TIRAMISU
(left you wanting more)
CUPCAKES
(4+ book series)
FRUITCAKE
(not what you expected)
STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE
(fav american novel)

thanks for reading! bet you're hungry.
xoxo, jenny


{images via pinterest, graphics made by moi}

Via PaperFury || 4 Writer Struggles We All Have (But Don't Admit)



 disclaimer: all four points are literally just yoinked off of cait drews // paperfury, but i had to share because they are #legit. enjoy.

We all have massive struggles with the writing gig.  It's hard.  Face it.  We love it, but yeah, it can be grueling to drag decent prose, stimulating plots, + great characters out of our heads.  Yet FOR ALL THAT, there are some aspects of writing that we all share & yet don't get talked about but NEVER FEAR, Cait Drews did & I'm following suit.  Because.  It's real.



THE FOUR HORSEMAN OF THE WRITERPOCALYPSE

1.  THE MY-PROJECT-IS-FINISHED DEPRESSIVE SLUMP
Thankfully, yeah, I have basically a whole lifetime's worth of work ahead of me, but it wasn't always this way & I am NO stranger to this colossal fear.  You finally slog through your magnum opus.  Boom.  Last page.  The end.  Phew.

...now what.

NOW WHAT.  This was your LIFE.  You live + breathe your writing.  & it's DONE.  WAH.  Stages of grief one two three go! What do you do with yourself?  Will you ever write again?? Are you left to stumble about in a battered daze of literary Stockholm syndrome??
 
2.  YOU FEEL LIKE YOU'RE WRITING THINGS THAT ARE TOO SIMILAR
HELLO, YOU OLD FRIEND OF A MIDNIGHT TERROR, YOU.  What if, years from now, people look back over my stories & say, "Eeyep, she was a hack.  Same ol' characters with different names.  Same ol' stories.  Her tone never changes.  Never shifts to accommodate the new plot.  She's a one-trick pony, that's for sure."

i don't wanna be a one-trick pony-y-y-y-y-y!  

3. READING AN ALREADY-PUBLISHED WORK THAT IS ALARMINGLY SIMILAR TO YOUR OWN NOT-PUBLISHED WORK
I really, really, really, REALLY hate this, you guys.  R E A L L Y.  Let me just go on record + say

i read almost NO contemporary fiction, okay??

so how am I supposed to know what's trending these days??  Spoiler: I DON'T.  So it's a real suckerpunch in the chatterbox when I've been doolallying along for awhile with a story, only to discover that someone has ALREADY PUBLISHED A NOVEL WITH A MARKED ASPECT JUST LIKE MINE.

I'M LOOKING AT YOU, DAENERYS

Yes, okay, there are lots of cool things that we can all share (dragons, sarcasm, archaic description), sure.  But this kind of thing makes it look like I'm a hack (see note above) & that I stole another author's idea, which is a thing that happens but I DON'T DO IT.  IT'S NOT OKAY.*

I'M HERE TO TELL YOU THAT I'M NOT A BOOK THIEF

wait that's also a book

*this post doesn't count because i tell you who came up with the idea, right...?



4.  WRITING OUTSIDE YOUR PERSONAL EXPERIENCE
I think I must be living proof that you can write outside your experience & possibly should write outside your experience, because I have tried writing contemporary fiction & it sTINKS.  So in light of that fact, I really do have to write stuff I've never experienced.

especially since i'm not a reenactor + i really love modern amenities

THINGS I AM NOT QUALIFIED TO WRITE ABOUT, BUT DO ANYWAY SO HELP ME
  • wearing armour // using weapons (which are heavy + require a lot of strength to use)
  • loss of loved ones (waaaah)
  • england (i've only been to scotland)
  • the medieval era (my time-travel machine is broken)
  • magic (still can't do this for some reason??)
  • coffee (i've never been to central/south america + coffee makes me bloat)
  • crinoline (i have petticoats! does that count??)
  • strategy in warfare (use dynamite. saves time.)
  • being tall (>_<)
  • humour (#dadjokes)

There you have it: four basic software worries that come complementary with the whole writer package.  Did you get anything else with your order?  Please share! 

special thanks to cait, who has no idea i've yoinked her post but i'm telling you so it's not stealing XD

thanks for reading! until next time!
xoxo, jenny



Beautiful People || Writing Process Edition

Beautiful People is technically about characters, but if ever there was a character in my novels...it would be me.  

This month's Beautiful People installment is all about the author + the individual writing process.  "Process."  It's such a cute notion.


how do you decide which project to work on?
I consult my horoscope, the collective horoscopes of my favourite authors, divide the equation by 12 (props if 12 is the only number in the formula), ruminate feverishly on my churning plots, ignore all responsibilities to other stories, & begin writing.

how long does it usually take you to finish a project?
It takes me a third as much time to write a project as it does to finish it, so whatever that number is (maybe 12?? no units mentioned), add it twice more & then ignore that number completely.  Et voila!
  
do you have any routines to put you in the writing mood?
I use the time-honoured process of tapping summer sunsets & processing the hues + atmospheres, mixed to perfection with the sounds of cicadas, the scent of mown grass, the cool buttery feel of a breeze, + an unspecified amount of cumulus clouds, english breakfast tea, warm bricks, candles, minimalism, + solitude.

at what time of day do you write best?
I do my best writing around 10:30-11:00 at night, when I'm nearly asleep & my brain is spinning the most wonderful pieces of prose...that I will forget completely.

are there any authors you think you have a similar style to?
There is an amateur author that published a gob-stoppingly enormous work about three years ago; I've read over her work extensively & it bears some resemblance to mine.  I like my writing better, though.



why did you start writing, & why do you keep writing?
It's been too long since I started for me to know why I began.  For all I know, I was born writing.  Probably I looked at a bunch of blurry lens flares (my birth was a michael bay movie??), & my mother's face, & some truly pompous baby-babble prose began forming in my head.  I'm afraid it's a hopeless case; I doubt I'll stop now.  It's just me.

what’s the hardest thing you’ve written?
My Social Security number; I can never remember it & I'm always terrified that I've left it somewhere & it isn't on hand so I'll be forced to turn in incomplete paperwork for some doctor or some such.  #adultlife

I can't tell you which work has been the hardest for me.  They're all the hardest for me while I'm writing them.   Nobody knows how to write; it's just that some of us are in the habit of thinking stories, & some of us are more practiced at wrestling the idea into a story-format.  But it's always hard, ya know??



is there a project you want to tackle someday but you don’t feel ready yet?
let's see :: ethandune, lamblight, maresgate, cruxgang, ampersand, adamantine...

what writing goals did you make for 2017 & how are they going?
I have stayed on track with my determination to continue working on Ethandune & have not sidetracked to another novel, which I think takes a lot of maturity.

describe your writing process in three words 


"my process is thinking, thinking, + thinking - thinking about my stories for a long time"
hayao miyazaki

That's my writing process in all it's systematic glory. #relatable  Is there anyone else as dysfunctional about their writing as I am?? I can't be alone in a:: really, really loving to write, & b:: having a totally slapdash approach to the whole thing.


how do you decide which project to work on?
how long does it usually take you to finish a project?
do you have any routines to put you in the writing mood?
what time of day do you write best?
are there any authors you think you have a similar style to?
why did you start writing, & why do you keep writing?
what’s the hardest thing you’ve written?
is there a project you want to tackle someday but you don’t feel ready yet?
what writing goals did you make for 2017 & how are they going?
describe your writing process in 3 words or a gif!

as always, thanks for reading! cheerio!
xoxo. jenny

How to Avoid Melodrama (& Have Fun Doing So)

I've been gone a long time, I know!  I have almost no creative juice for my blog at present, simply because life is so draining.  Ethandune is being difficult - or I'm being difficult with Ethandune, which is probably more accurate to say.  WELL.  But here I am; & I've got something fun for you.



Ye olde Pinterest is chockablock with images of medieval import, & given that I also fall thoughtlessly under that cadre of writers who delve into medieval-themed worlds, I see a lot of those images.  The majority of them aren't to my picky taste, but some of them are truly a barrel of laughs just because of the melodramatic captions that pinners have given them.  What makes them doubly hilarious is that the pinners are dead serious

Rather than pass them by this time, I rounded up a few to share so that you can laugh + avoid them +/or fix your prose if you accidentally fell into a melodrama.  (Bee tee dubs, I am extremely melodramatic.  Not, like, Sir Walter Scott melodramatic, but shoo-ee, surely I've pitched headlong into every melodramatic trap there is.)



All of these captions are completely anonymous.  I have no idea who wrote them, nor do I wish to pin the tail on the donkey.  Read, laugh, learn.  En avant!

the only kind of dancing or needlework they could get her to do was the kind involving bruises + steel.

I completely understand that being in a society that "confines" women to almost no profitable pursuits is a real drag.  Being allowed only to dance, sew, become fluent in all the romantic languages + German, it gets pretty tedious - especially if your natural inclination is to do something else.  HOWEVER.  I am very. very. tired. of the tomboy trope, the denigration of "gentle" activities, & the worship of anything painful/violent that I'm finding in most amateur fiction today.  Wanting to hurt people is not cool, you guys.  It doesn't make you an awesome role model.  

Props: I have to own that this line has decent cadence.

dame sylris valen riding her white steed, asfaloth, in the highlands.

 & I quote from my text to Abigail about this, "Dame Trying-too-hard riding her cliche horse Tolkien-knockoff, in a foggy place we know nothing about but we think is romantic because of 'Outlander.' "  I don't know why the pinner bothered to caption such an image, as he/she was not even putting in the effort to construct an original idea.

Props: none.

first thing i did, steal a horse & ride away as fast as i could.

Because stealing a horse is so easy + not punishable by serious seriousness / possibly even death. 

Fun fact #1: horses are really big animals & they have enormous nails on the ends of their legs called hooves where are hard + make lots of noise on the ground.

Fun fact #2: tack is constructed of squeaky leather + metal rings/buckles that make melodious noise to anyone who loves horses / isn't committing a crime.

Fun fact #3: horses are expensive, & are used by a:: wealthy folk who have people to look after them / keep tabs on them, & b:: people who use them for their livelihood.  Either way, the horses would be missed.  You can't just yoink a horse & gallop off into the wild blue yonder.

Props: you don't get any props. You're stupid + you're going to get caught.



medirval warrioress, armour princess
[sic]

I just had to share this one because of the derp factor.  

as gawain spoke, annwyn caught a flash of something out of the corner of her eye. a young man, dark + brilliant green eyes met her gaze & raised an eyebrow at her. annwyn's heart skipped in her chest. she'd seen him before, she was sure of it.

Ah, swooon.  Sorry, Gawain, we have 100% zero memory of what you just said because Mr. Myserious just walked by.  My only question is, how are his eyes both dark + brilliant?? But other than that, this is totally reflective of the proper interactions between men + women of the post- archaic western world / sixth century Europe, yeah.

Wait, second question: what flashed?? Because human eyes don't have tapetum lucidium behind them so they're not going to glow at you.

his knuckles had that weird webbing of scars that can only be gotten from hitting them against other people over + over until they bled.

Double swoon!  How brave + strong + masculine of this person!  Never mind that fist abrasions produce bruises & would look more like he caught his hand on the back of a big cheese grater before healing (probably without noticeable scarring), rather than "webs" of scars.

Props: okay, I like the word "webbing."  Points for that.

"fight me." "but you're a girl." "i know, it's unfair of me to outmatch you, but i really need the practice."

Oh puh-LEEZ.  For once, can I have a story with a physically-capable female character whom the men respect & who respects the men in turn??  Is that too much to ask??  




"surely, i could tell you," he smiled roguishly, with his playful eyebrows raised, "but would you really believe me, lass?"

Gaaag.  Any female who falls for this is either desperate or stupid.  Or both.  This fellow sounds like a grade A s.o.b., & the inclusion of "lass" (is this what "Outlander" has done?? i don't know, i don't watch it) is not doing anything for you.

Props: "for to everyone who has, more shall be given, & he will have abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what little he has shall be taken away." your moves. you have none, & what you do have needs to be surgically removed at once.

"i knew it. you're the thief." the man spoke harshy as he lifted the hood. maria glared but said nothing. the man grinned. "now would you kindly restore what you stole?" maria also smiled & simply said, "no."

I always suspected her appearance of goodness.  We've got some great bad-boy vibe going on here: note the "harshly" + the "grinned."  Obviously this dude has the rough edge + the swoon-worthy charisma that young females are susceptible to - but WAIT. our heroine is (melo)dramatically holding out!  So self-possessed.  So brave.  So much in need of an editor because her reply is clunky.  Also she probably needs a good slap on the face.

Props: pare this down & then we'll talk about giving you props.

but on her, he liked the fangs. on her, they were sexy.

Except when you get cold sores inside your lips, you know?  Then the fangs catch on them & it's so annoying.  But yeah, if you compare Jane Doe with fangs to her Aunt Agatha with fangs, I would call that sexy.  Not gonna deny that.

Props: the construction of the sentences is decent.

her ring glimmered in the moonlight. what was that symbol? it looked like the one he had seen on the evil lord mac de diube's ring... could it be? could she really be a boarlonian? "azara, you wouldn't know anyone by the name of mac de diube, would you?" her face registered surprise + then sadness. "how do you know of him?" "then you do? azara, i'm shocked." "so am i." "he is my greatest enemy." "derik...you must go. i didn't tell you cause i thought you didn't know anything about him..."

w  o  w.  We've got some major stuff going on here.  First of all, it must be a beautiful night with a massive full moon & no light pollution for him to be able to make out the insignia of this girl's bling.  Don't get me wrong, a full moon on a clear night in a pre-electric world is a pretty spectacular thing.  But they also didn't have super effective ocular aid & eyes weren't so good either.  Remember that.

The evil Lord Mac de Diube.  Use of bland villainy gets 0 props.  Don't tell me he's evil; show me that he's trying to force his only daughter to marry a disreputable person merely in order to form an alliance, or some such.  & maybe don't name him something that I'm going to mentally translate as "Mac de Dweeb."

i also read "boarlonian" as "baloneyian."  truth.

This guy is definitely not smooth, so casually asking Azara (why does she have a Persian name when this feels Scottish at best?) if she happens to know the man who shares her household symbol.  Nice going, there. I want to know why "Derik" has to go now.  Are we leaving Azara all by herself?  Is she a dead albatross or something?  What's with the melodrama??

Props: her face registering surprise + sadness isn't bad.  

The last excerpt has enough to go on, I'm going to rewrite it real quick to give you an idea of what I might do instead.  This is just me, though; there are probably a billion + one different ways to write this better.


The firelight created a halo around Azara's head as she bent to her embroidery.  In the long, unlit hall, the little pool of crocus-glow around the fireplace seemed to stand out in relief.  As her hands drew + tugged at the threads, Derik noted a flick-flick-flick of flamelight refecting back off her needle, & a second little glimmer blinking off a heavy band on her signet-finger.  She was leaning too far forward to notice him watching in wrapt suspension.  On one side of his face, the fire warmed to a prickling heat; on the other, a cold dread blanched the blood out of his veins.

"A heavy piece for you, that ring - don't you think?"  He reached for his mead-cup as if it were an idle thing.

Azara's hands hesitated, trembling, before performing two more uneven stitches.  The hand with the signet-ring slipped out of sight under the fabric.  "It is...not my favourite piece."  Her voice was strained.

A dozen red warnings flashed through his mind.  She had got him wrapped around her finger like that hideous ring, and he was afraid she had done it of a purpose, afraid that it was now too late.  He got stiffly to his feet.  There seemed to be no warmth at all in his body now.  "I will bid you good-night."

She looked up quickly, biting her lip as if to hold back something desperate.  He had a horror of whatever it might be, of confession or regret, so he turned away at once before she could speak.  He heard her silence reaching after him as he walked from the circle of firelight into the lonesome dark; in his mind's eye he was haunted by the vision of her gaunt, frightened face and the tiny depression on her signet ring of a boar and a broken crown.

There, I'm biased but I like that a sight better - though they do need different names. Now you can

a:: tear apart my writing
b:: tell me what you think about all the excerpts
c:  make your own rewrites

thank you for reading!
xoxo, jenny

#TheWritersTag (Oh No Please Save Me)

BAD NEWS BEARS.  I've stopped writing Ethandune forever.  Ba ha, just kidding.  (you hate me now) THE ACTUAL BAD NEWS: what in the world is energy? or motivation?  Because I have neither.  Time?  Yes, technically I have time to write.  But when "have time to write," I really need to spend that time looking at Instagram resting so that I can make it through each day.  Why is energy so hard to find??  Why do other people have more stamina than me??  I REALLY HATE THIS, YOU GUYS.  I REALLY, REALLY DO.



What?  Oh.  Writers' tag.  I justify taking the time to do this with the following reasons:

a:: i actually did do a smidgeon of writing on ethandune
b:: i got my what-i've-written-of-ethandune-so-far manuscript back from my alpha reader + i need to think about what she said*
c:: i was proactive + wrote a list of questions that need answering in the plot
d:: i just want to be on my computer, okay??

*her comments were almost entirely positive + raving, which is really encouraging because that tells me my manuscript is not a dung-heap of which i am sole chanticleer, so hurray for me us!

#THEWRITERSTAG

what genres/styles/topics do you write

GENRES || "I recognize that the council has made a decision; but, seeing as it's a stupid-ass decision, I've elected to ignore it!" O_x  Okay, I get why we have to have genres, but I've always been in the habit of mixing my genres up into a confetti cake batter rather than dividing them off into separate sections.  Planetary science-fantasy?  Why not!  Mental illness, coming of age, psycho-thriller murder mystery?  Sign me up!

  • genres i don't like to write: contemporary, biography, anything requiring insane amounts of research + a decent understanding of government structure

STYLES || ("put the chicken back, styles." I AM NOT A VERY HUMOROUS WRITER.  I take myself so stupid seriously.  But I am not immune to recognizing + inadvertently creating humorous scenarios, so my works are not without their lights of levity to brighten the way.
  • third person (usually)
  • first person (occasionally)
  • melodramatic (unfortunately)
& then I just write with lots of intense description + growling + snarling + colours that are best defined in medieval French.

TOPICS || I am, oddly*, not a topical writer, but I have noticed that I have an interest in pursuing plots that contain depression (like, clinical depression, not depressing stories), not really because I think that I can somehow educate the world on this topic, but because I haven't seen it often in strictly "fantasy" stories, & it's definitely a common, long-standing, relateable topic.

*i like reading topical books, but not writing them

adamantine


how long have you been writing

For about ten minutes.

oH, OVER ALL.  Right.   Let's see...I think my sister was born when my memory of writing a "story" first crops up, so I was older than five.  (the story was of a black alicorn with numerous miniscule varicoloured freckles + it's name was twilight, & it went to the pool with me) I've been writing ever since, so I'm gonna say where is my phone + the calculator feature what do you think i am a homeschool graduate eighteen plus years.  Wow.  Yep.

why do you write

WHY DO YOU BREATHE.
 

when is the best time to write

When everything is quiet + I don't feel like I have any other obligations pressing on me; see also, when my muse is actually operating properly.


what parts of writing do you love // what parts of writing do you hate

LOVE || I really do love writing.  I'm pretty tongue-in-cheek online + in person; I don't want to say shallow, but I function near the "surface" - whereas, when I'm writing, it's like I'm in some deeper, more comfortable part of myself.  I love being there.  It's the only form of meditation that I've managed to pull off. XD

I love going back over my writing + being surprised that I wrote something good.  Enjoyable.  Remarkable.  Writing is such a solitary, introspective, + at the same time oddly blind work, I don't realize when I've pulled something off well until I break the act of writing + transition into reading.

&, you know, i like hearing that people like my work, too...

HATE  || Being a by-the-seat-of-my-pants writer.  That's who I am, & while I do try to ask myself concrete questions to guide my way, it's a fact that I'm intuitive + not mathematical.  & it's so frustrating to not actually know what I'm doing.

you never learn how to write novels. you just learn how to write the one you're on.

Editing.  It's such a struggle to pull the first draft out of the hat, let alone going back in + trying to add to the meagre skeleton.  


how do you overcome writer's block

ha HAA. i don't.

The only thing I've found that works is staring down my manuscript + slowing putting something on the page.  That's it.  No magic.  Nothing fancy.  No playlists, no drama, nothing else; just grim, determined junk being put down on a page until something sparks.  


are you working on something at the moment

It's at this moment that I am once again faced with the onerous task of constructing a book-back summary blurb for my work-in-progress Ethandune.

a man in a gilt mask asked of me,
'how many coffee beans grow in my tree?'
i answered him, as i thought long,
'as many notes as are grown in a song.'

ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED??


do you have any writing goals for this year

I have the modest goal of finishing the first draft of Ethandune.  I can't (or won't) move forward with the series until Ethandune is squared away because it's next up in the chronology.  So even though Talldogs is ready for editing + Drakeshelm needs reworking at the end, I won't go back to those until the next brick in the wall is placed to my satisfaction.

or adamantine commandeers my brain + derails all my otherwise best-laid plans. -_-


BOOM. That's the #WRITERSTAG* with my answers.  I originally saw this tag on Paper Fury, so be sure to check out Cait's answers; they are always a hoot + a half!

*writer's tag? writer stag?? how majestic!

If you are a writer + you can also read this post (i didn't know you could read), I tag you, too!  Please link to your post in the comments because I am curious + I want to see your answers.

au revoir, penslayers!
xoxo, jenny

Sneak Peek: My First Lines + How I Make Them

I know beginnings are super hard for a lot of people, & most people loathe them to death.  But I don't.  I love beginnings.  As I mentioned in a previous post, beginnings are basically con games that you play on the reader, & I love conning my readers.  AH ha.  AH ha.  (forgive me a cruel chuckle).  I'm not a gambler, but have you ever played Yatzee?  Remember shaking the dice a million times in the cup (like that's gonna make a difference) + feeling that crazy rush of adrenaline right before you throw the dice down?  That's me when I'm warming up for the pitch.  That's me when I'm burrowing inside my deep dark inner genius place where I do my creating + I'm one second away from opening my eyes on the opening scene.

i follow lichipan on instagram because her feed makes me jelly

THE THINGS YOU DON'T DO  ||  I've learned a lot over the years about what to not put in a story's hook.

a:: gobs of description
b:: dwindling hope of actually meeting the character within the first five pages
c:: an upfront, exhaustive detailing of what the character looks like (bonus points if the character is totally plain + swoon-worthy gorgeous at the same time)

THE THINGS THAT I DO  ||  Remember Yatzee?  That's how I play with opening lines: the story is the cup + my readers' imaginations are the dice.  Shake it up, charge it with energy - hurl it into the plot.  

tippity tip-tip: pose a question

Your reader owes you a big balance of absolutely nothing, so you've got to prove it to him that your story is worth his time.  There are hundreds of different ways to make your reader care*, but I find the question is one of the most potent methods.

"did i tell you about the time a very not-straight guy in a yellow slicker got chased round a glaswegian bus stop?"
"wait - what??"**

*citation needed.
**i am not making this scenario up.

THE "WAIT - WHAT??" RESPONSE  ||  is a great one.  & now you're all going to recognize it when I use it on you.  Way to go, Jenny.  

lichipan

JENNY'S OPENING-LINES RUNWAY SHOW

Not all of my upcoming novels have opening lines yet, but many of them do.  Would you care to take a peek?  I really love them, & I hope you do, too (even if they are all subject to editing, scraping, + rewriting cuz i'm the leader + i say when we go.  ...   here we go.).*

I stood on the last railway platform of my journey.
In all, the experience of riding in a rail carriage was the least harrowing yet in this bleak, unfriendly island country. Not such an island as I was used to: high-topped, volcanic peaks blistering white beneath the smithing of a summer sun, slopes tangled in olive and bay, streets clapping with the sounds of bare native soles and the shriek of gulls... Such islands were graceful, young in their antiquity.
This island was dead.
adamantine


“What is a son of man?”
I looked up critically, instinctively lifting one hand to shield my eyes from the early morning sunlight. Pan Aeneas stood in front of us with her crazed red mares’-nest falling round her face and her fists bunched at the linen pleating of her gown. Her narrow face was white and drawn, and every freckle stood out starker than ever.
ampersand

"MY LORD, I AM TRYING. You are asking me to do a thing which Christ himself did not accomplish until after his resurrection!"
blueshift (what even is this novel??)


“No, from the sound of it, it’s the Fellows.” Lord Dammerung uncurled languidly from his deeply recessed armchair and reached for the smart silver tray of tea I had put down for him. “With any luck, they’ve brought the post up with them. Simon, do you go tell Lady Margaret, please.”
ethandune

It would not have made a difference, but in the end Alwin wished Destrian had not said it. It soured all from the outset.
drakeshelm

“—You mean she has no abigail?”
“She has two sisters; what in the world could she need an abigail for?”
maresgate

Goddgofang de la Mare rolled a pair of shirts together and thrust them wholesale into the depths of his saddle-bag. “Are you sure you will not come?” he asked, whirling from the bedstead with the swiftness and smoothness of a kingfisher. “Aaron is coming, you know.”
talldogs


*these are in alphabetical, not chronological, order

Questions, questions, QUESTIONS.  Are you excited to read the rest of these stories?  Yeah, me too.  XD  I consciously began Adamantine as a mirror image of Plenilune's beginning because I wanted that reminiscence + continuity.  Blueshift?  What is it that yours truly is trying to do which only Jesus has done??  Who are the Fellows?  What foreboding doth loom upon Drakeshelm?  Who doesn't have an abigail? Who won't come to where?  We may never know because I might expire before I get to all these, yikes.

I can't be the only one with first lines prepped for upcoming stories.  Do you have some to share?  Do you have some that maybe need a fresh coat of paint + a sharper hook?  Please share!  After all, first impressions are everything.*

*don't believe anyone who tells you otherwise

thank you! you've been a great audience.
xoxo, jenny

How To Identify Your Crutch Words & Destroy Them Forever

While I was editing Plenilune for publication, to my chagrin, it was brought to my attention that I relied heavily on two words, & that I needed to start cutting them because they were

a:: lazy, +
b:: unhelpful

& guess what?  Because I'm such a perfectionist + it galls me to realize I've made a mistake, my two crutch words now have huge Minion sirens that go off whenever I use them - "BEE DOH.  BEE DOH.  BEE DOH."



HOW TO IDENTIFY YOUR CRUTCH WORDS + DESTROY THEM FOREVER

VERY & LITTLE  ||  My two crutch words of note.  I used them all. the. time.  One might even say, very often, & not a little.  But don't, because that would be lame.

WHY ARE THESE ROTTEN?  ||  They're empty, indefinite.  They offer scant information to the reader, & as a result, the reader may (at best) ignore them or (at worst) find they bog down the narration.  Writing faux pas.

WHAT TO DO??  ||  Being as close to my writing as I am, I don't always notice when things go awry.  How am I going to notice these mistakes when I'm kind of programmed to overlook them?  HERE ARE MY TIPS.

a:: have someone (if at all possible, not yourself) read a sizable portion of your manuscript so they have an idea of which words reoccur + which shouldn't be used

b:: read it aloud (if you don't have anyone to read the manuscript for you +/or you can't stand the thought of anyone seeing your manuscript because i totally appreciate that sentiment) so your voice can catch repetitive words + bring them to your attention

c::  slow down.  think about what you're trying to say.  find the word you actually need rather than grabbing the literary equivalent of a poptart on your way out the door, late for class.

THERE'S HOPE FOR RECOVERY

Sayeth what??  Yes, it's true!  While I was tooling about on The Great Noveling Adventure blog, I came across a link to a Word Frequency Counter, & I thought, "Hey, this looks like fun + like it won't steal my manuscript, let's give it a go!"  The results were more encouraging than my pessimistic attitude expected.


I took a scene of 2,200+ words, plunked it into the counter, & this was my result!  HOO DA LALLY very + little don't even make an appearance in the entire scene!  I AM CURED.  

ARTICLES + PREPOSITIONS ARE NOT CRUTCH WORDS.  ||  The, a, of, I, + and are my top most-used words, but these are backbones to English so this is not a bad thing.  Just because a word shows up with a frequency in the hundreds does not mean you're relying on it too heavily: it could just be a staple of our language.

THE WFC ALSO LETS YOU KNOW USEFUL STUFF LIKE  ||  the fact that I (not shown) used the word "Lazarus" as a descriptive probably too many times in a scene.  It's a rare word & needs to pack its punch, not be swinging so many times that overuse renders it exhausted.  Thank you, WFC.

MY TAKE-AWAY RECOMMENDATIONS

Try this out on a scene like I did.  Scenes are semi-self-contained stories which, all together, build the entire novel; in order to make sure each brick is as solid as it can be, take them individually & check on their word frequency.  Is a key word overused?  Are building-block English words the mainstay of your scene?  Are there areas you need to polish?  This will help clue you in.

At the same time, don't be neurotic.  Yes, we all have issues + particular tendencies to literary sins, but do be gracious with yourself (this is the proverbial crab tell her proverbial son to walk straight, i know).  We all have crutch words.  It's not the end of the world.  Just do your best to figure out what your particular weakness are, & work on strengthening your manuscript around those points.

so now, take a scene + plug it into the counter.
share your results!

thank you so much for reading.
see you soon!
xoxo, jenny


3 Ways Social Media Can Help Explode Your Library

spoiler alert! i'm going to be soliciting your book recommendations so stick around like a bug on fly paper!

via @infinitelynovel
 3 WAYS SOCIAL MEDIA CAN HELP EXPLODE YOUR LIBRARY

#bookstagram is no joke.  With nearly 1o,ooo,ooo entries on Instagram, there are TONS of folks linked together in the grand game of gramming books.  & a lot of those pictures give me book-envy.  Because really, do we pick up new books solely by their synopsis?  No.  No, we do not.  Book blurbs are universally obnoxious creatures to create, & most of the time they do the book NO justice.  It's sad.  Sad, but true.

APPEARANCES ARE IMPORTANT.  You may wish it was otherwise, but it is not.  Author note: I've lost track of the times people have expressed surprise over the cover of my novel Plenilune because "it doesn't look like it was self-published!"  THAT'S THE KEY, FOLKS.  That's the key...

okay, but why is social media important for your tbr list? i'm glad you asked. i'm glad you asked...

via @infinitelynovel

1. IT'S FREE + BEAUTIFUL MARKETING
**Angel choir.**  I go on Instagram & discover gorgeous #flatlays of books that are basically completely free eye-candy.  Some of these grammers are super good at photography.  Am I a sucker for good photos?  Yes.  Yes, I am.  Am I going to be interested in a book based on it's cover + arrangement in the photo?  Yes to that, too.  ("sign me up for the NEXT book club!" )

2. YOU MEET NEW NOVELS
Bee tee dubs, I had never heard of V. E. Schwab until @emileighlatham  + @paperfury gushed about her on Instagram.  Cue me, scrounging around our local library website for a copy of Vicious - which took an age to come in but cOME IN IT DID & guess what I'm really enjoying it.  BOOM.  Wouldn't have heard about this author except for the world's new marketing platform, Instagram.

3.  YOU WANT TO SHARE #BOOKSWAG 
("I said 'bookswag.'  I said 'bookswag,' Sam.")  Am I susceptible to the allure of sharing flatlays of my newfound novels on Instagram?  I totally am.  Social observation note: people who enjoy a book REALLY LIKE IT when you get that book too + start reading it.  When you tag them, link them, shout out to them that you're reading in their textsteps, they get really excited + BOOM a community is born.  It's an introvert-friendly community, too, so that's double the awesome.

via @infinitelynovel
#bookstagrammers i follow

@thatjennyfreitag (wait a sec...)

your quest, should you choose to accept it, is

  • a:: comment below with bookstagrammers you follow + love!
  • b:: comment below with book recommendations for me + the other penslayer readers!

thanks so much for reading. see you soon!
xoxo, jenny



4 Character Tropes That IMO Need to Die

If you've read books that have living, breathing people in the cast, you've probably read some of the big relationship tropes in the biz.  Tropes happen, ya know?  There are a number of patterns into which things tend to fall, & relationships are no exception.  The problem is, if you think, "Oh lookie, this is Trope X," then the trope has failed.  Nine times out of ten, tropes should NOT be so obvious that you recognize what you're seeing (exception: outrageous parodies).  Here is a personal rant enlightening post on my top most annoying relationship tropes.


4 Character Tropes That IMO Need to Die

The Geometric Affection
I. hate. love triangles. so much.  If every heroine had Elizabeth Bennet's view of matrimony, so much the better.  I mean, sure: love is a tricky thing.  What is it?  How do you know when you love someone?  How do you know when you LOVE-love someone??  Well, I don't pretend to have those answers because they are not simple answers, but I can tell you that it does not involve yo-yoing the affections of two other people.  Authors.  I am so over this.  I have seen how awkward it is to be the recipient of two people's jockeying, & it is not fun, you guys.  THIS SHOULD NOT BE NORMAL.  THIS SHOULD NEVER HAVE BECOME A TROPE.

"if you're in love two people at the same time, choose the second. because if you really loved the first one, you wouldn't have fallen for the second."
(ashamedly quoting the faceless actor)

The Engagement Ring
"Dude. I got this ring for X but I don't want her to see it before I'm ready to give it to her.  I trust you: hold on to this for me."

Oh, nO ONE KNOWS HOW THIS WILL END.  Except that we do.  We all do. Not only does this one annoy me because it's so predictable, it stresses me out at the same time because the chucklehead protagonist is TOTALLY GOING TO LOSE THE EXPENSIVE RING.  This trope.  This trope needs to be buried.  Buried + not allowed to rise from the grave so help me amen.  

The Banter
 Banter has almost zero purpose in a novel.  Almost.  Maybe one time out of ten it serves a useful purpose to help display character personality/growth/something to help sketch the individual's character, but those other nine times?  It's just irritating, childish, flimsy, pointless verbiage.  (bitter much, jenny??)  Quit with the banter thing unless the dialogue serves to improve your novel.  Why are we writing this novel?  To tell a story!  Will this help build the perfect cathedral showcasing your amazing genius?  Probably not so INTO THE SCRAP HEAP WITH YE.

The Bickering
Oh but there's more.   I. HATE. THE BICKERING.  Note: this is coming from someone who thrives on contention.  I love being angry + complaining about stuff.  (let's all enjoy this meta moment).  HOWEVER.  Bickering is the cheap, knockoff replacement for meaningful character dialogue.  Countless times, I have seen "character development" which was nothing more than two protagonists (bonus points if they're love interests) nitpicking + sniping at each other in a manner that is unrealistic + implausible.

(i kind of feel like protagonists bickering + going on to save the world is actually proof of God's existence + common grace because i can't believe the protagonists would ever survive + succeed otherwise)

Hey, you made it through my pet-peeve tropes!  I give you two challenges:

a:: avoid these tropes
b:: use these tropes but in a manner so cunning that no one realizes what you're up to

got any special tropes that annoy you?
share, please! misery loves company
xoxo, jenny