Dear John: Somehow, I’m Still Writing


Back in March/April 2015, I did something that, at the time, sounded like a good idea.

I decided to watch every single Vlogbrothers video ever uploaded, in order, starting with Hank Green’s very first upload on January 1, 2007.

Also in March/April 2015, I started my first-ever graduate course, said goodbye to a temporary job doing something I actually sort of enjoyed, and re-branded this blog (a decision, I can assure you wholeheartedly, I do not regret).

Some beginnings. An ending. A good balance. Or so it seemed.

Halfway through April, I could feel something in my life was missing. Then, I still had my job. I was making new friends, doing more things I enjoyed (and watching Vlogbrothers pretty much nonstop, obviously). But somehow, in the midst of all these things, I’d stopped doing something important.

What was that something?

Writing. Writing for myself. Writing what I wanted to write. A book.

And then this video came along in my own personal marathon.

This video, and another one I’m having a hard time finding at the moment, flipped a switch in my brain I hadn’t even realized had been turned off. For so long I had been writing for myself. Writing because I wanted to prove to myself I could finish another project. Not even just creatively on my own time, but for my blog and for a magazine. Just to keep myself sane.

I have been reminded on multiple occasions in this way that writing is not about finishing a project for the sake of being able to finish it. It is not about writing because you have something to prove.

This lesson has been a particularly difficult one for me to learn, because I am knee-deep in the job market. Which means, while I am writing because I love to write, and I am writing for my readers and for those who enjoy reading my words, I am also, in some cases, writing to show I can, so when I send a potential employer a link to my work, there’s (maybe) something there that will grasp their attention.

And I don’t always like that. But I’m sure you don’t always, either. Especially when people try to pressure you into finishing another book (I’m really sorry about that BTW) when you’re doing your absolute best. I watch Hank’s video though, and I think, “It was hard work, but look at the joy it brought to so many people that day,” and still does even now.

Some days, honestly, I don’t even enjoy writing anymore. Even when it’s not actually work for me, it often still feels that way. I don’t want to lose the balance I’ve somehow found between writing for personal reasons and writing for professional reasons and writing to build relationships with those who stumble upon my work and want to read/know more.

Maybe, at some point, every writer feels this way. I think at some point you have to learn to give up the idea of what you want to happen and just let it happen. I don’t think any fairly successful author ever looks back and says, “I knew this would happen one day.” That’s not the kind of mindset that brings out the best in any of us as writers.

You’ve never given up on writing, and I suppose I really haven’t, either. Sometimes the joy gets buried and it all feels draining and pointless. But maybe that’s okay. Somehow I’m still writing, and I’ve finished that book and am halfway done with another already, and I’ve started writing for a few websites and blogs and even if that doesn’t make any difference to anyone else, I still enjoy it. I haven’t completely lost my joy.

I never thought a YouTube video would legitimately bring any sort of value to my life in the real world, but it has, and John, that’s pretty awesome to me.

I’ve written a few other letters to John Green (because why not?). You can read them here.

DFTBA, Meg<3

Image courtesy of The Telegraph.

Meg is the managing editor at College Lifestyles magazine, a guest contributor with Lifehack and a guest blogger for Food & Nutrition Magazine. She is an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner and has also written for Teen Ink and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter.

NaNoWriMo 2015: So THAT’S Why Writing That Book Took So Long . . .


When I first started writing my previous book (different than the one I’m working on during NaNoWriMo this year), I knew I wanted it to be different. I needed a challenge, which meant I needed to coax myself out of my writing comfort zone and try something new.

So I ended up spending three-and-a-half years writing a YA sci-fi/thriller, the first in an intended series of five books that told the story of five completely ordinary people who end up being recruited to become the leaders of a movement to bring equality to a divided subset of territories.

It’s a lot more complicated than that. But that’s the gist of the first book (sort of).

I do not write sci-fi and I especially do not write in futuristic settings. So while I really enjoyed writing a different kind of story, I really struggled. Sometimes, though I didn’t want to admit it, I wasn’t even really enjoying it. And it took me until now, starting a new book, sprinting back to my contemporary YA roots, to figure out why.

Here are a short excerpt from Premier, the book I just finished last month.

Screen shot 2015-11-11 at 11.57.52 AM

In contrast, here are an excerpt from For Alexander Grace, my current writing project.

Screen shot 2015-11-11 at 11.54.51 AM

Both are very rough drafts still, so take that into consideration before you read on.

Both these scenes have a few things in common, mainly dialogue being the driver of the action, but at least from my point of you, the similarities basically end there. There are first-person narrators in both, but they are two very different people.

The first example, to me, is rushed and dry. Now that could be because I’ve read it at least a hundred times over and it’s taken kind of out of context. I never got the chance to dive as deeply into Lyssa’s character as I wanted to, so she remains a mystery to me even now.

This is not the case with the second example. I know all these characters’ secrets and back stories. I know that Lacey is just putting up a front even though she still loves Derek, I know Derek still loves Lacey but isn’t going to stand for her shenanigans anymore. I know how the narrator really feels about both of her friends and would rather give them both up than have to choose one over the other.

But the biggest difference of all between these two scenes is the voice. My voice.

They say you don’t know your true “writer’s voice” until you start zoning out in the middle of writing something, go back and read what you wrote while you weren’t paying attention. That’s what happens to me a lot as I’m working through (oops, can’t use that acronym) Alexander Grace. That is my voice. That is not just where I am most comfortable, but where I can actually write the best way I can write. Maybe not the best ever written, but my best.

So I’ve solved the mystery. I spent three-and-a-half years not really writing in my own voice. I felt so lost and so out of place not because I can’t write a sci-fi/thriller, but because I wasn’t letting myself tell the story using the voice I should have been using.

I don’t know if, by looking at those two examples, you can tell the difference. But I can, and I’m ecstatic. It means I’m finally back where I belong, and it’s not going to be quite as much of a struggle (though still challenging) to write this book.

And more importantly, it’s not going to take nearly as long to finish this one.

Which means query letters will actually go out at some point, which means maybe, someday, you’ll actually get to read the whole thing.

No promises. But this project is much more promising than the last one, at least.

Love&hugs, Meg<3

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

Meg is a twenty-something workaholic with a passion for writing, coffee and health. In addition to her status as an aspiring novelist, Meg is the managing editor at College Lifestyles magazine, a guest contributor with Lifehack and a guest blogger for Food & Nutrition Magazine. She is a seven-time NaNoWriMo winner and has also written for Teen Ink and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter.

I FINISHED MY NOVEL! Here’s what I’ve learned.


In May 2012, I did something many of you probably have before.

I started writing a book.

And yesterday, October 23, 2015, I did something fewer, but still probably many of you have done also.

I finished writing a book.

The most meaningful thing I’ve gathered so far – after less than 12 hours of time to reflect – is that I actually managed to learn something through this long, at times unbearable experience. A few things, actually. Things I want to share with you today, because I don’t just want to sit here bragging about what I’ve accomplished. As always, I want to pass on what I’ve learned to you, my fellow aspiring writers.

So, now that I can finally say I’M DONE! … here’s what I know for sure.

Striving for perfection is a waste of time.

This was a tough thing to learn for me, the Type A, obsessive perfectionist. I wish everything could be the best it could possibly be the first time I write it. I wish all the characters always said the right things. I wish all the pieces always fit together and that I felt confident about every single sentence in that stupid book.

But that’s not how it works. Even just in the last month I’ve realized, again, that there isn’t time to keep going back and fix things. That’s not what the first draft is for. The first draft is for getting the story out. Figuring out the sequence of key events. Defining your themes and developing your characters.

It’s not going to be perfect the first time. Nothing ever is. If it were, writing a novel would be a completely different process. Honestly, it probably wouldn’t be as self-rewarding as it actually is.

The first draft is not the final product, but it’s still finished. 

When you hit the save button that last time, sit back and stare for awhile at this giant word-filled thing you’ve produced, there’s a certain feeling that settles over you. As happy as you are to have hit a huge novel-writing milestone, the moment still lacks closure. As if, even though you’ve finished, the journey is still far from over.

That’s because it is. Don’t get me wrong here: finishing the first draft of a full-length novel is an amazing accomplishment and you SHOULD be proud of yourself. But that first draft is still flawed. If and when you go back to it later, you will find plot holes, inconsistent character traits and, of course, so many embarrassing spelling and grammar errors you’ll want to scream.

You’re not done yet. But for now, you’ve at least done the hardest part of all. It’s all out on paper, somewhat organized, there for you to tear apart and put back together. Someday, when you’re ready. 

By the time you finish, you’ll have convinced yourself you never want to look at it again.

Never, never ever never. This morning I woke up and my first thought was, “Wow. I don’t think I ever even want to think about that stupid book again.” This is normal and it’s happened to me a few times before when I’ve finished writing projects like this in the past. It doesn’t help that I wrote almost 9,000 words yesterday to reach my finish line. I am burnt out, and that is okay.

It’s okay because I don’t have another deadline. I don’t have to look at it again right away, and I don’t plan to. By the time you reach the end of any project, really, you’re pretty much over it. Done. Bye Felicia. It has taken over your life, and you’re ready to take your life back.

Give yourself time. Distance yourself from it, not just to rest your mind, but to give yourself space. You don’t need to tend to it every hour on the hour anymore. (Here comes the parenting analogy again. Sorry.) It’s a toddler. A little older, maybe. It can play by itself for awhile without you. Let it. Get something else done while you can. Eventually, you’ll want to go back to it. And you will, and you’ll be refreshed and ready to start editing.

Thank you to all my followers who have put up with me over the past three and a half years. I promise, we’re returning to our normal posting schedule this upcoming week (fewer blog posts, more articles) and I won’t have too many more personal novel updates for you.

At least until November 1.

Want to read more about what you’ll experience writing your first draft? Here are a few more words of wisdom from yours truly.

Love&hugs, Meg<3

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

Meg is a twenty-something workaholic with a passion for writing, coffee and health. In addition to her status as an aspiring novelist, Meg is the managing editor at College Lifestyles magazine, a guest contributor with Lifehack and a guest blogger for Food & Nutrition Magazine. She is a seven-time NaNoWriMo winner and has also written for Teen Ink and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter.

How to Make Sure You’ve Tied Up All Your Story’s Loose Ends


You don’t have to be Type A to write a novel, but it’s definitely an advantage if you happen to be. There are some parts of writing a book, like tying up all the loose ends you’ve left in your plot by accident, that take a little, slightly obsessive organization.

Yes. The series of steps I’m about to show you involves making a chart. IT IS NOT AS SCARY AS YOU THINK.

There is a smart, simple way to make sure you’ve carried out all your sub-plots from beginning to end without leaving any behind. That’s what I’m going to show you today, because I like charts, and this is how I stay sane.

We’ll use part of my story as an example throughout. I reveal a bit of a spoiler here, but it doesn’t give much of the main plot away, so it’s not the end of the world. I don’t expect the book to ever get to the publishing stage (realistically) so if you’re from the future and you’re mad at me about leaking a spoiler, deal with it.

Step 1: On a sheet of paper, make a chart with three columns

You can use Excel or a table in Word or Google Docs too, if you’re not a pen and paper person. Here is how I set up my table (and in case you were wondering, I actually do use this method for all of my stories and it works. I don’t usually do it until I’m a few weeks away from finishing, because it’s very addictive once you start).


Your three columns should be some variation of what I have listed above. Give yourself a column for the conflict, the climax of that particular conflict and its resolution (how you’re going to tie it together).

But before you can list these out, you need a metric—a way you’re going to separate your sub-plots.

Step 2: Choose your metrics and add them to your chart in rows

Which metrics you choose will depend on your story specifically. If your story focuses a lot on different locations, like a sci-fi or fantasy story probably might, you might want to use location as your metric depending on which part of the story corresponds with each location. You could also separate each conflict depending on the character who interacts with it the most.

I have a lot of characters, so I’ve listed out the primary ones. Character development is a big part of my story mainly because it’s a prequel to a five-part novel sequence. My main goal is to introduce the characters that will play major roles later on in the sequence and show the reader where it all started.


Each character has his or own conflict. And throughout the story, as a result of the different events that occur throughout, each character eventually gets to a resolution. Or they should, if I weave pieces of the story together the right way.

Step 3: Write down every conflict, climax and resolution 

Each metric should have a resolution. This is your key to making sure every minor conflict you introduce throughout your story is tied up and secure before you finish. The last thing you want is to leave a plot point just hanging there. It’s much easier, if you have some time, to fix it now than it might be to try and go back and do it later (a strategy, mind you, not applicable during a WriMo).


This does not mean all mysteries or overarching conflicts need to be solved, especially if your story is part of a larger overarching story and not everything can be resolved in just one story. In my story, Lucas’s conflict is part of this book’s specific plot. It doesn’t carry over into later books, not really (not that I know of right now). There is another character that I know of, however, whose minor conflict does not get fully resolved. But it does come to … well, an end.

Let me know if these steps help you out at all. Give it a try next time you’re a little hesitant about whether or not you’ve tied everything together sufficiently. If you have a different method that works for you—tell us about it!

Happy writing!

Images courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

Everything You Need to Know About Writing Your First Draft


Have you ever read a book, closed it after the final page and just sat there for awhile thinking, “Why can’t I write something that good?”

Of course you have: we all have. But that book you just finished reading isn’t the original draft the author wrote. It has gone through more revisions and rewrites than you can imagine.

That’s right: every writer’s first draft is a rough draft.

But don’t let that discourage you from writing yours. It is an accomplishment not every aspiring writer can say they’ve achieved.

If you’re not sure what to expect, here are a few things to know about writing the first draft of your first or next short story, book, etc. 

It will be full of surprises

The story or book you plan for in the early stages of brain rush will almost never turn out that way once you actually start writing. Not only do your characters have minds of their own, but your brain somehow subconsciously manages to make creative connections between pieces of your story you never even realized could fit together.

Be prepared to be unprepared. It’s good to have a good idea of where you want to start and where you want to end up, but more likely than not, it will all change before you can call it a semi-finished product. 

Most of the time, you’ll probably hate it

No one looks at their first draft, at any point between starting and finishing, and says, “Hey, this is pretty good!” In all honesty, it’s probably not. The main objective in completing your first draft should be just that—completing your first draft. Making it “pretty good” (or maybe even better than that) comes later.

So if you find yourself “not in love” with your draft—congratulations! You are right on track.

The closer you get to finishing, the less confidence you’ll have

Most of us start off our stories thinking, “Wow! This is going to turn out great!” That’s good. It’s the kind of self-motivation that gets us through one of the toughest writing-related obstacles: actually putting something on paper. The further you go, though, the harder it gets. We’d be lying if we said you’ll feel that “Wow! This is going to turn out great” feeling the whole way through.

No matter how iffy you start feeling about what you’re writing, though, the most important thing is to stick with it. If you let a lack of confidence stop you now, you’ll regret it. You really will. We’re just being honest.

The hard work is worth the struggle

At times, you’ll feel like you have no idea how you got to a certain point in your story, let alone how to get yourself out of it. You’ll have days where you hate every word you write, and your confidence will shake. Just keep going. Just keep writing. Why? Because “I finished a book” sounds, and feels, a whole lot better than “I tried to write a book once!” Even though, to be fair, “I tried to write a book once” still sounds better than “I’ve never tried at all.”

The satisfaction you will feel when your first draft is finished—no matter how awful you know it is, no matter how many plot holes, no matter how much you’ll have to go back and rewrite later—is worth every single word you wrote. YOU FINISHED! YOU ARE THE QUEEN/KING OF LITERARY MADNESS!

But before you get your crown, you have some words to write, don’t you?


Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

This Isn’t Twilight (Midweek Novel Update #19)


92,000 words. 92,000. And I’m. Still. Not. Finished.

It’s not that word or page count matters. Quantity doesn’t make or break a story. I’m actually afraid it’s getting too long. I know I’m going to cut some things out when I go back in for edits, but at the moment, I’m just trying to fill in all the gaps and finally have a finished book to work with.

Yesterday was a really good day, story-wise. I struggled through my daily 1K, as I have been lately: I’m just tired, there’s a lot going on and I’m ready to set this thing aside for a week. But, in working sort of backwards (it’s the beginning I’m having the most trouble with, so I’m saving that for last) I finally found myself at another worrisome point: the point my narrator has to fall apart.

Basically, she’s not an emotional person, at all. That’s the whole point. So in order for her to change significantly from the person she is in the beginning, she has to be an emotional wreck for a chapter or so toward the end. Which is fine, except as I was writing pieces of it a few months ago, I felt like it went on much too long.

I felt like I was rewriting a Twilight book. Yeah. That kind of worrisome.

If you haven’t read the second Twilight book (or any of the series for that matter), the story literally skips about four months in a row because Bella absolutely cannot handle being apart from her boyfriend.

This is not what I wanted to happen in my story, but writing this series of scenes made me feel like that’s what it was turning into. And obviously I wasn’t okay with that. My character isn’t supposed to be dependent on anyone, not enough to stop functioning as soon as she loses someone she cares about.

I turns out that, though it took me awhile to put these really rough scenes together, the worst of it only makes up about four or five pages, and it’s all important, I promise. She spends a lot of time with her dad and learning more about her mother. It’s good stuff. Just sad.

I’ve spent enough time with these characters over the past three years that it actually makes me sad when they’re sad. It’s not a terrible thing. I think it makes the emotion, when it’s there, more authentic. It’s hard for them to interpret and process emotions, for reasons you’d learn more about if you ever got a chance to read the book, so when they do start to understand and feel them, it shakes them up. That’s how it’s supposed to be.

My narrator learns a lot from this point in the story, as we all do when we break ourselves down to basically nothing. I’m just glad it didn’t turn out as awful as I thought it would. She’s not devastated because her boyfriend left. She’s devastated because she’s afraid of how it feels to grieve. She doesn’t fully understand it.

Hopefully by this time next week I’ll finally be finishing up. I mean it this time, I’m really close. I’m not trying to make it perfect, I just need something I can work with, something I can fine tune, something I can use when I start looking for an agent. It’s a slow, exhausting process. But I’m ready to say goodbye to my first draft. It’s been so long. Maybe too long.

Thanks for sticking with me. I promise, what I have to offer is so much more sustainable than vampires and werewolves.

Love&hugs, Meg<3

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

Meg is a twenty-something workaholic with a passion for writing, coffee and health. In addition to her status as an aspiring novelist, Meg is the managing editor at College Lifestyles magazine, a guest contributor with Lifehack and a guest blogger for Food & Nutrition Magazine. She is a seven-time NaNoWriMo winner and has also written for Teen Ink and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter.

A Story Has to Fall Apart Before It Can Come Together (Midweek Novel Update #18)


Can I be finished yet?

Does that question make me sound ungrateful? It probably does, and I’m really sorry about that. I am. But being this close to finishing my book, and still not feeling like I’m getting any closer to actually being done, is really discouraging.

Have you ever felt this way? Completely lost even though you know exactly where your story is going?

I don’t know why I’m so impatient all of a sudden. I’m not even really all that focused on my word count, except making sure I crank out at least 1K per day to keep myself moving forward. I don’t want to rush through the rest of it just to finish. I don’t want to take things out just because I don’t feel like I have time to finish developing them and tying up their loose ends.

Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve been working on this story for a long time, and I am looking forward to starting to work on a different project (I’ve had another story idea in my head for a month or so now, but I’m saving it for NaNoWriMo). Maybe it’s the fact that I know this story so well, even when I write intense scenes, they don’t surprise me anymore.

Maybe I’m just having a bad day.

I’ve really been dragging myself through my daily word counts this week. Some days I fly through them, and those are the best days. I know we can’t have good writing days all the time, or we’d get bored. But on the days I’m struggling to get the words out, I just wish it were over already.

I don’t even technically know how much is left. I’m filling in all the gaps I’ve unintentionally left for myself. Connecting the plot points. Making sure I locate those pieces of story I wrote earlier in the project that don’t really belong in the book anymore and taking them out. Trying not to worry if my book is too long, too complicated, too simple, not realistic enough.

I don’t remember if I’ve been through this before, coming up on the end of a story I’ve basically given my life over to and suddenly feeling like I want nothing to do with it. I’ve probably just unknowingly burned myself out, writing every single day for two and a half months. But I’m afraid that if I stop and take a break, I won’t start again, and the first draft will never get finished.

I’ve already decided that when I’m done writing, I’m going to take a week off from the story. Close it out and let it just sit there. That’s the other reason I’m so fixated on getting it done. I just don’t want to look at it anymore.

It isn’t that I’m not proud of it. It’s normal and totally okay to be proud of your own work. I guess I just secretly wonder if it will ever actually turn into anything. Or will it end up like all my other books, only ever read by me and a few people I trust, never shared with anyone else?

All this hard work can’t be for nothing. But I’ve seen this book come undone too many times to let it fall apart again. I’m so far, I’m so close, even if I did have to restructure it and change it, I think it would still survive. I don’t give up that easily. I just hope that doesn’t happen.

Stories are like people. Sometimes they can’t become all they want to be until they’re stripped down to their basic elements and woven back together again.

Will it all come together in the end? Will you finally get a break from all these crazy Wednesday updates?

Hopefully. Hopefully soon.

Love&hugs, Meg<3

Meg is a twenty-something workaholic with a passion for writing, coffee and health. In addition to her status as an aspiring novelist, Meg is the managing editor at College Lifestyles magazine, a guest contributor with Lifehack and a guest blogger for Food & Nutrition Magazine. She is a seven-time NaNoWriMo winner and has also written for Teen Ink and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter.

Filling In the Gaps (Midweek Novel Update #17)


When I say I’m close to finishing, I mean close. Close enough to stop in the middle of doing something else to click back over to my draft and add a paragraph before I forget it. Close enough to wake up in the middle of the night, turn my laptop back on and write a few hundred words. Close enough that the story is all I think about, and I feel like I’m going insane.

It’s been a long time since I’ve felt all the end-of-the-novel feelings. I have missed this so, so much.

I’m not saying the book will be finished when I’m done filling in all the spots I skipped over, mostly necessary-but-aggravating descriptions (and honestly, that funeral I said I was ready to write, but haven’t yet). It’s going to need a lot of revising. I’m probably going to need to cut out a lot, to simplify things a little. I’m a Wrimo veteran; that will be hard for me. But maybe … maybe not as hard as it’s been writing and rewriting and rewriting over the past 38 months.

I’ve written and revised books before, usually enough to feel good about the free proof copy I could get from CreateSpace, so I know what I’m about to get myself into. This time around will be different though. I’m planning on putting together queries for this one. Which isn’t any different than what other aspiring novelists would do in my situation, but (and not to get too deep) I haven’t finished writing a book or thought much about trying to publish one since I lost my creative writing mentor.

It’s kind of a big deal. I sort of made a promise. And I might actually be able to keep it. Which is terrifying, because I never thought I’d get this far. Writing a book I’m actually proud of, I mean.

This is a weird stage of noveling. I spent a good ten minutes this morning describing rain (imagine trying to explain the sound of rain from the viewpoint of someone who’s never seen or heard it before). I’m going back and adding in small details I didn’t realize I needed. I accidentally foreshadowed something in the middle of the story and now have to make sure it connects to the end.

The end. It’s so close.

Technically, I’ve written the end already. It’s completely different than my original ending, but isn’t that how it always works out? The epilogue is what is supposed to carry the reader over to the next story … but I can’t think about that yet. I have to finish this one first.

Be on the lookout for a victory-I’m-a-free-woman-again post. That’s all I’m saying.

Except we’re never really free. I already have the idea for my NaNoWriMo novel rolling around in my head. But that’s for a future blog post. 

Love&hugs, Meg<3

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

Meg is a twenty-something workaholic with a passion for writing, coffee and health. In addition to her status as an aspiring novelist and Grammar Nazi, Meg is the managing editor at College Lifestyles magazine and a guest blogger for Food & Nutrition Magazine.  She is a seven-time NaNoWriMo winner and has written several creative pieces for Teen Ink. Follow Meg on Twitter. 

Why I Rewrote My Main Character’s Father, Who Now Reminds Me of My Own


He was a terrible father.

No, not my dad. I couldn’t have asked for a better paternal parent, which is one reason the first few drafts of my book just didn’t sit right with me.

I mean my main character’s father. The original version.

As writers we’re supposed to be able to imagine realities beyond our own experiences, while somehow still relying on our pasts to maintain just an ounce of realism. So I should be able to, in the unpredictable abyss that is my brain, sculpt and form a father figure who is nothing like the one I know.

I suppose I could have kept trying. But I couldn’t bear to keep him once I decided, for the first or fourth or ten millionth time (I’ve lost count), to start the story over again.

Ollia’s father used to be bitter and betrayed and controlling, but instead he’s now hard-working and loving. The issue is, of course, that love is trivial in this story, and to love someone means giving up your freedom and giving way to misery.

It’s complicated. But he’s still something like my dad.

The first memories I have of my dad involve books. He used to read to me all the time, and that’s how I fell in love with them and became the literary maniac I am today (I’m not ashamed). Ollia and her father also connect through reading, their main source of communication and understanding once the character named Kathyrine disappears.

Fortunately I love talking to my dad. I can’t imagine only having one virtually speechless thing in common. As I’ve grown up, and now that I’ve become more accustomed to this whole young adult thing and spend a ridiculous amount of time at home (groan), I’ve realized how much the two of us are alike. I know what kinds of things he would like as gifts. I know what will make him laugh. I know to leave the room if I’m about to cry, because it makes him sad, too.

Ollia’s father started out as an awful, mean-spirited, no-nonsense fragment of a human being who blamed everyone but himself for the absence of Kathyrine. He has become one of my favorite characters to write about. At a point when she is forced to grow up, they understand each other in a way only the love between a father and a daughter can birth.

No. I couldn’t bear to reverse that once the idea came to me. The original character, he doesn’t belong in this story. Another one, someday. Maybe.

There will be literary father figures that disappoint, that hate, that harm, that fail. But not this one.

I think first I have to pay tribute to the real-life dad who has been anything but awful toward me since day one, who taught me how to ride a bike and paint a picture and believe in myself. Who told me I could be a writer even though most writers don’t make a living and I’m not that good at it and I’m still living in his house.

I still forget to turn the lights off when I leave a room, and I hog the coffee and I know we don’t spend enough time together and it’s my fault. But he still loves me.

How do I know?

Because there are memories I’m holding onto now, memories that inspire me to write posts like this even when I’d rather be writing a book.

Love&hugs, Meg<3

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

A recent graduate with a B.A. in English and a completed major in nutrition, currently seeking a graduate degree in health communication, Meg is a twenty-something workaholic with a passion for writing, coffee and dietetics. In addition to her status as an aspiring novelist and Grammar Nazi (and the mastermind behind this site), Meg is an editor for College Lifestyles magazine and a guest blogger for Food & Nutrition Magazine’s Stone Soup.  She is a seven-time NaNoWriMo winner and has written several creative pieces for Teen Ink magazine. Follow Meg on Twitter.

Three Things Stopping You from Starting Your Book (and How to Handle Them)


“So I have this idea for a book …”

A beautiful statement. Unless that’s all it is, and nothing more.

There are hundreds of writers out there who have great ideas but nothing to show for it. It doesn’t mean they aren’t good at what they do or that their ideas don’t have potential. It’s just that, the difference between an aspiring writer and an accomplished writer (both terms used loosely, not meant to offend) is that accomplished writers … well, write.

And you might write all the time. Small things. Stories, poems, 1,000+ word posts on Tumblr. But writing a book is still a dream yet to come true, and though you want to, and know you could … you just can’t start.

We won’t lie and say starting a book is the hardest part about writing one. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t challenging. Ideas actually aren’t hard to come by; it’s putting them to paper that puts us on the struggle bus (sorry).

Here’s what might be holding you back from writing that first word—and how to overcome the barriers.

1. You’ve tried, but can never get past the first few sentences

Writing a full-length book isn’t easy. There are a lot of names to remember and events to put in some form of chronological order. And when it comes to fiction, it’s all entirely made up. There is so much room for error and there are so many blank pages to fill (of an indefinite number), getting started—other than just a few lines you came up with on the spot—is probably the hardest part.

Don’t forget there’s no rule that says you have to write your book from beginning to end. If you know how you want the story to end, and you think that will help you figure out how to work backwards and make more progress, start with the end. Don’t forget writing terribly is how writers learn and refine their skills. Even if what you’re writing isn’t your best, it’s still something. You’ve still started. You’re still writing. YOU GOT THIS.

 2. You keep getting distracted (by everything)

Netflix. Your cat. Stalking John Green on Instagram (what?). Distractions are everywhere and they are our worst enemy. You may have been saying you want to write a book for months, for years, and it just hasn’t happened yet. It isn’t that you don’t have ideas or motivation or that you don’t want to. You just never seem to get to it.

Honestly? Just sit down, open whatever program you use to record your masterpieces (or you would, if you ever got to writing them) and type. Go. Right now. Don’t even finish reading this. If what you need is someone to beat you over the head with your own procrastination until you take the plunge, there you go. We’re waiting.

 3. You’re already working on another project

Sometimes you’ve already committed yourself to another writing project, and you have no choice but to put your other ideas to the side. Sometimes you’re just busy—with work, with school, with managing IRL relationships (or all of the above).

If this is your barrier, you’re not eternally doomed. Sometimes putting off one idea to finish off and seal another can really help you make a quick, effortless jump from the end of one to the start of the next. If you’re just busy, but really want to make writing part of your schedule, you really need to sit down and figure out how you can fit it in. Everyone is different. Some work best in the morning; others, at night. Some are most productive writing a few hundred words a day during lunch. It’s really up to you. If you’re really set on making it happen, you’ll always find a way.

You have an idea. You even have a few specific lines in mind. You can almost see it in your head, the events of the story playing out in front of you. Yet here you are, sitting in front of a blank document, hands over your keyboard…afraid?

That feeling? This moment? It’s how you know you’re going to write this thing, and it’s going to be good. It’s already part of you. It’s ready for you.

Go. Start. Write something. Then you can say, “I started writing a book” instead.

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.