Writing with Emotional Power

One of the best lessons I’ve learned recently is that good writing is a form of manipulation. When an author manipulates the emotions of both their characters and their readers, the story resonates on a deeper level with the reader. The Emotional Craft of Fiction by Donald Maass is an excellent resource if you want to learn how to make your writing connect with your readers on a more visceral level. Below are some of the notes I’ve made after reading the book:

28915986* Don’t just write about the emotions your character is experiencing, but about the experience they are having to endure. Make your reader experience their journey, too.

* Pay attention to the details; have your character ruminate about the big impact of small events or the easily overlooked ramifications of major plot twists.

* Your characters’ emotions have more impact when they have personal significance to your readers, something the reader can relate to and understand, which is much more impactful than just the ‘fact’ that your character feels a certain way.

* Have a character become aware of the meaning of something small and common and everyday that they ‘just now realize’.

* “Plot events are what happen. Inner moments give those events meaning. Together they both shelter and lead the reader somewhere new.” ~ Donald Maass

* Pacing involves emotion, not just plot. There need to be emotional shifts, fluctuations, and growth entwined with the story-line and action.

Image result for readre emotions * Stakes should be personal to your character. Increase the emotion by having your character choose between the morally correct choice and the choice that is better for them personally. Make your readers feel the angst of the conflict.

* Your protagonist should discover something unexpected about his/herself over the course of the story, an epiphany about something deep at their core that makes them who they are. They should change and evolve.

* All plot events can be opportunities to manipulate emotions. Use them.

Image result for writing* Make the reader take an active role and get their ‘wheels turning’ – make them develop their own insight into the character, make them consider a moral decision your character has to make, make them think about your character and the character’s choices . . . even when they aren’t reading.

* Characters with good values are more appealing. A character committed to justice, family, self-sacrifice or just ‘doing the right thing’ hooks readers better than a character after fame, fortune, or a self-serving agenda.

* Make your story more compelling by creating a sense of hope. Make your readers fear that the hope won’t be fulfilled.

* After writing your first draft, decide what hurt your protagonist most, then plant seeds throughout the story that suggest that they are particularly vulnerable to the source of that pain.

What I’ve taken away most is that in order to write compelling fiction, you need to find a way to develop a personal connection between your readers and your story and characters. When readers feel invested in the outcome, it becomes harder for them to put the book down. Give them something to root for, something to fear, and above all else, make them feel and care.

If you have any suggestions or tips you’d like to add, I’d love to hear them! 

Please introduce yourself and what you write if you feel so inclined . . . we’re all in this together and I consider you a member of my #writingcommunity! I look forward to connecting with you here and on social media, and am open to guest bloggers who’d like to share their knowledge or experiences!

 

 

 

 

5 Forensic Tips for Your Fiction

I love getting caught up in a good, suspenseful mystery. I love losing myself in the world the author has created, book (or Kindle) clenched in a white knuckled grasp as the protagonist closes in on the villain. What I don’t love is when the author does a forensic See the source imagebelly flop.

Often times it’s a lack of research, a simple mistake caused by confusion, or a reliance on what is shown on TV shows, but it can jar readers right out of the pages of a story when they trip on a “that’s not right” moment. Conversely, going the extra mile by including some factual science can draw a reader deeper into the story because you’re constructing a more realistic world for them to get lost in.

I no longer work in forensics, and I’ll be the first to admit that my wheels are a little rusty, but here are 5 tips (based on my biggest pet peeves) to strengthen the forensics in your writing.

Image result for blood spatter analysis1) When referencing blood, it’s spatter, not splatter!!! This mistake drives me absolutely insane, probably because it’s so common. Seriously. From TV shows to books released by major publishing houses to those published by indie writers, I see this all the time, and it’s simply not correct. (On a side note, the cast off of a blood pattern can tell a detailed story of an attack – it’s worth a little research to bring this element of your story to life. ) Please, make my world a better place and tell everyone you know – blood spatters, paint splatters.

Image result for dna2) No matter what your sleuth’s connections, they’re not getting immediate DNA results. It just doesn’t work that way. If you need a way to provide a means of getting information into your character’s hands more quickly, check out what serology can tell you.

Image result for forensic burial recovery3) If buried remains are recovered in your story, either skeletal or in any stage of decomposition, the professional recovering the remains isn’t just after the body. Some authors include screening the soil, usually having the analyst recover rivets from jeans, zippers, etc. This is correct, but only a tiny fraction of what the process actually entails. The recovery person or team will pedestal the body, removing the soil from the top and sides of the remains, documenting the location of any artifacts found around the body, and screening the dirt. They will also be looking for insect casings, which can help determine the time of year a body was interred, and they’ll collect soil samples for volatile fatty acid analysis to help establish TSD (time since death). With a little quick research, you can make this scene in your novel or short story much more memorable and impactful.

Image result for fingerprint4) Any time I read a fingerprint scene, it’s so boring! And I’ll admit, fingerprint classification is tedious, but collecting them doesn’t have to be! Check out alternative methods (and the situations they are used in) to add a little spice to your scene. From superglue fumes to metal filings, there’s a more interesting way! (Also, don’t forget that other ‘prints’ can sometimes be lifted, like shoe prints.) But remember – fingerprints aren’t always present, and there are surfaces that do not lend themselves to collection.

Image result for evidence collection5) I’ve read too many books in which evidence collection is just a random handoff of plastic baggies. This is not true! First, the collection of evidence is a very detailed and controlled process. Besides everything being photographed in situ before collection, not just anyone on scene handles the collection. A chain of custody for the evidence must be created and maintained, with certain information either labeled or written on the collection container, including the initials of who collected it. Finally, the container will be sealed with a tamper proof sticker or tape that will not allow the evidence to be opened and contaminated without obvious signs. Also, what a piece of evidence is determines what is used to collect it. For example, a bloody shirt would be collected and packaged in a paper bag, not a plastic evidence container. I’d love to read a story where some really wild stuff is collected as evidence – imagine how creative you could get – or make your characters have to get to collect it!

What are your pet peeves that you hate to read in books? Do you have any items you’d like to add to the list? Any forensic question in particular that you need an answer to? If so, I’d love to hear from you!

Please introduce yourself and what you write if you feel so inclined . . . we’re all in this together and I consider you a member of my #writingcommunity! I look forward to connecting with you here and on social media, and am open to guest bloggers who’d like to share their knowledge or experiences!

Write with Focus, Read with Purpose

Over the last few years, I’ve gone back and forth about getting into an MFA program. It certainly seems to lend more credence to an author’s work. Intensive work-shopping and guidance from a mentor also have a certain lure. On the other hand, I’ve already spent more than my fair share of time in the classroom, and I’m worried that if I tried to squeeze more time consuming commitments into an already packed schedule, it would be my writing time that would suffer, which seems counterproductive.

So, I did the next best thing. I just finished reading Gabriela Pereira’s book, diy MFA. (If you haven’t read it, I recommend it – for a tutorial it’s very engaging and reader friendly.)

I’ve been reading quite a few books on writing and craft developing lately, mainly to answer some questions that I’ve been unable to articulate into words. Am I getting my answers?

Yes.

It isn’t always fun, but I honestly feel like I’ve become a better writer. I’ve read dozens of times that the best thing you can do to improve your writing is to read widely. I’ve always been a voracious reader; while I feel like there’s certainly something to be gained from reading in general, reading as a writer has me seeing the words on the page in an entire new light. (A celestial light, limned with rainbows and glitter dust straight from a unicorn’s sneeze.) According to Pereira, “Reading like a writer means that you don’t read just to find out what happens next in the story. You must read to figure out what the writer is doing and how she achieves a particular effect.”

Image result for writing communityWhile I normally notice if the pacing is off, or there is too much exposition or too little character development in a story, I basically read to escape reality for entertainment and not to learn how an author is achieving certain feats of magic: How did the author make me so invested in the characters that I cried when they cried? How did the author ensnare me so deeply in his/her web that I had no choice but to stay up late reading, even though I was already dead tired and had an extra early morning the next day? How do the words on the page leave me breathless when I’m just sitting in place, reading? How? How? How?

Layer upon layer of intrigue in deftly crafted fiction doesn’t just happen by lucky accident or from reading a lot or because you caught a leprechaun and he gifted you an enchanted keyboard. One of the best things I got from this book is that writing is a form of manipulation. Your writing is stronger when you write with purpose – intentionally trying to evoke certain reactions, feelings and thoughts from the reader.

There are things I was already doing in my own writing – but I wasn’t consciously doing them. I wasn’t writing with the intent or purpose I should have been. I learned them from reading, included them in my writing, but if you had asked me the how or the why behind why I was doing it, I would have been lost to explain myself. By paying attention to the how and the why, I can craft a scene with much more impact which will hopefully resonate more strongly with readers.

Some of the information gets redundant, but I get at least 10-20 pages of highlighted notes from each book, which I then paste into a word document, print them out, and put them in a three-ring binder so I can read them again and again (yes, I am the nerd queen, but I’m okay with that).(Kindle is awesome enough to help you quickly find all of Image result for writing communityyour highlights in a book. I save PDFs of books (often cheaper to buy, especially from sites like Writer’s Digest) to the cloud to get it on my phone to read and highlight.)

The final section of this book is about creating a writing community. Having a support network of other writers, attending events and conferences, and networking is a recurring theme in the books I’ve been reading, and one I plan to return to in later posts. I’m attending my first conference this November, and I’m already hard at work researching how to get the most out of the experience (what else would an introverted nerd queen do?).

If anyone has any tips or personal experiences they want to share, I’d love to hear them!

Please introduce yourself and what you write if you feel so inclined . . . we’re all in this together and I consider you a member of my #writingcommunity! I look forward to connecting with you here and on social media, and am open to guest bloggers who’d like to share their knowledge or experiences!

 

 

 

 

Making the Connection: Investing Your Readers

Have you ever read a book that is well written, has an interesting premise, a solid plot with plenty of twists, yet it leaves you feeling either unsatisfied or it simply fades from memory as quickly as you read the words ‘The End’? Ever wonder how an author spun the magical web that left you thinking about a story days, weeks, months, even years after you finished reading the book?

The second is the kind of author I want to be. I want to haunt readers with my characters, I want to plague them with my plots, I want my words to linger in the recesses of their minds to revisit them again and again – in other words, I want my stories to be memorable. (It’a really not as creepy as it might sound, I promise!)

Question: How do you crack the code? How do you create a fictional world that captures your audience?

Answer: You create an emotional connection between your readers and the story, forging a bond that resonates at a deeper level than mere casual reading.

Image result for the emotional craft of fictionFor some writers, this may be instinctual, a natural click of the keys or flick of the pen. For the rest of us, it may take a bit more effort, in which case, The Emotional Craft of Fiction by Donald Maass is a priceless resource. This book illuminates the many ways in which you can make your readers care. Best of all, many of these tips can be used during the editing process to help flesh out scenes that lend themselves naturally to the different methods presented in this book.

I’ll be sharing some of my favorite quotes from this book over the next several months.

Do you have any recommendations for strengthening the connection between your readers and your writing? Any tips, tricks or tutorials you find useful? Sharing is caring, and caring creates community. I’d love for you to be a part of my #writerscommunity!!!

 

The End of An Era . . . But a New Beginning, So Hooray!

When I started this blog almost seven years ago, it was because I wanted needed to write.

I’ve always loved writing, always wanted to be a writer, but I’m also a realist, so I knew that the chances of making a living as a writer were slim. So the question was, what would make me find time to write, enable me to sharpen my skills, find my voice, and discover my direction without requiring a time commitment I couldn’t make? This blog was the answer.

Image result for pen and inkIn the beginning, I blogged about hiking, cooking, DIY projects, whatever I had going on in my life that might be of interest to someone else. I wrote non-fiction articles and queried magazines, jotted down a short story (mostly for my own amusement) when striking inspiration aligned with a few hours of spare time, and finished a manuscript I had started in my early twenties during my lunch break, alternating between sweating and freezing as I furiously typed behind the wheel of my Image result for typewritercar during the changing seasons.

I had no luck with articles, which was probably because I didn’t enjoy writing them as much as I enjoyed creating a piece of fiction. I casually sent out a few short stories (I love mystery and suspense, but my early work often took on a dark slant, leaning more towards horror). To my delight, some of my stories found homes.

Fast forward to the present . . .

Image result for writing picturesI have found my direction. I am a novelist. I have four manuscripts in various stages of editing. I’ve been going through the query process with agents, and have had a few near misses. I have learned what my work was missing. I have found and developed my voice. I’m ready to do this!

. . . But, during this time, my blog has suffered. There’s no one to blame but myself and the limited number of waking hours in a day. How can I expect others to enjoy content that I myself find uninteresting? So, this blog is getting a revamp and a new direction.

Image result for writing picturesThe content will focus on writing – dialogue, pacing, suspense, character development, basically anything and everything that has to do with developing the craft and navigating the ropes of publication. I’m open to suggestions, and hope to get some good conversations going! Consider this an open forum. I’d love to create a writing community and to connect with other scribblers. Are you excited? I’m excited. Let’s do this!

 

 

Gifts for #BookLovers, #Readers & #Writers

Anne of Green Gables Hoodie (Women's)The Jungle Book BackpackAs a book lover, reader, and writer, I love literary themed gifts. Every holiday I scour the internet for literary gift ideas. To that effect, there’s a great new website that I wanted to share with everyone. They not only have a great selection of T-shirts, but also book and tote bags to carry all your reading material around this summer.

Alice in Wonderland Tote BagOrigin of Species Charles Darwin T-Shirt (Women's)Even better, I have a coupon code that allows you to save 20% on your order – no minimum purchase, no maximum savings, and you can use it unlimited times! Simply go to the website https://literarybookgifts.com and use the promo code: SHANNONHOLLINGER20  (They say that sharing is caring, so feel free to share the love and pass this code along far and wide!)

Gray's Anatomy T-Shirt (Women's)Dracula Tote BagThe website is easy to navigate, and features a TON of fantastic images from some of my favorite books! I’ve selected some of my favorites to share, but there are many, many more on the site itself!

Our National Parks BackpackEdgar Allan Poe Hoodie (Women's)Despite the awesome discount code, I am in no way affiliated with this site, and will make no money off your purchase. I’m a big proponent of supporting small businesses, especially when they sell exactly the Frankenstein T-Shirt (Women's)kind of stuff I like to buy, and the proprietress was cool enough to offer a 20% discount code (SHANNONHOLLINGER20), so head on over to https://literarybookgifts.com  and show some love! They have so many different colors and styles, you’re bound to find something you or a friend will love!

(I just placed my first order, and it was incredibly easy!)

 

The Best Submission Trackers for Busy #Writers

Image result for frazzled writerThe submission process isn’t an easy thing. Whether periodical or agent, every venue you submit to has their own individualized requirements. It’s hard enough following all the specific directions, jumping through all the hoops, hoping that you don’t commit some dire error or major faux pas that keeps you from ever getting published (who hasn’t sent a query to an agent using the wrong name >.<) – so why make it harder on yourself by risking a repeat submission?

Sure, you can create your own spreadsheet, a private little diary of shame and rejection. I’ve done it. I poured precious time and energy into maintaining it, too, time I could have spent writing or submitting, only to (eek, whoops!) make a mistake and resubmit the same piece to a very unforgiving editor (at least it’s one less place to worry about ever having to submit to again).

Stop the insanity!!!! There are easier ways. Ways that will even help you to find more markets to submit to.

The (Submission) Grinder is a free website. Duotrope charges for its services ($5 a month or $50 for the year). Both help you search for magazines and anthologies to submit to. They will also keep track of where you submit to, how long the submission has been out, and your acceptance and rejection rates (if you update your submission responses). By reporting your responses, the sites are able to compile submission statistics for each publications such as a magazine’s response time, rejection to acceptance ratio, where other writers sent similar submissions to, etc.

I have more experience with Duotrope. You can run a more detailed search, looking for the markets with the quickest response times, the highest acceptance rates, the pay structure, the format they publish, and more in a fraction of the time it would take you to research on your own. I can’t recommend it enough.

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Now, on to querying agents . . . . I’ve found that it’s much easier to keep track of agent queries, but it’s an isolated, frustrating world to be in alone. So many questions, so few answers, no one else to feel your pain or share your angst with.

That’s where Query Tracker comes in. This site can help you find agents to submit to and will keep track of your submissions. They provide the average time for each agent to respond with a rejection, or to request a full. There’s also an awesome little comments section where people can post, so you can share that after 3 days the agent requested a partial (hurray!), or sent a rejection (boo). They also offer an array of statistics with a paid subscription of $25 a year.

It can be a long, lonely road on the trip to publication, Hopefully, these tips will help your journey to be quicker and less solitary! How do you keep track of your submissions – what works for you?

When #Writers meet #Authors ~ Lessons Learned

Writing Humour based on this tweet by Lauren DeStefano on Twitter: I’m a writer. My bliss in life is creating fictional worlds in which (mostly) fictional characters interact. My short fiction has been published in a variety of magazines and anthologies, but until that all elusive agent/publishing deal comes through for my novels, until you can find something I wrote at a book store near you, I feel like I’ll remain in limbo – a writer, but not yet an author.

Good things come to those that wait, and waiting isn’t simply down time. It’s a chance to learn, to grow, and to develop the skills you need to transform your goals into prolonged success. One of the best ways to learn how to do something right is by learning from what others do wrong. And I’m doing exactly that.

It’s probably no surprise that one of the things I enjoy doing is going to book signings. I love meeting authors. I love being in a room filled with other passionate readers. I love walking into a room full of strangers with the rare feeling of knowing that I’ll be okay – there’s comfort in knowing that the other people in the room are my kind of people. And maybe, one day, if I keeping working hard and developing my skill and talent, it might be me up there signing books. No one said it was going to be easy. You can’t expect the things you want in life to be handed to you – you have to work for them.

I try to keep this in mind while I stop myself from lying prostate at the authors’ feet, begging for the magical knowledge, the golden key, whatever secret it is that they know that I don’t that made an agent ask to rep them instead of saying, “I think it’s good, I really enjoyed it, but I’m not quite passionate enough about it.” I keep this in mind, and instead focus on what the authors are doing now that they’ve made it. How are they behaving? How are they interacting? How are they turning casual readers into die-hard fans – or not? Because that’s the real golden key. And it’s a big one.

A couple of years ago, I got the chance to meet one of my favorite authors. I was really excited. I’d read every book she’d ever written. She seemed to be the perfect balance of everything I was striving to be. I sat there in the audience among her other fans, the excitement in the room slowly dying, our collective hearts slowly breaking, while it became increasingly apparent what an inconvenience the event was to her. How annoying we, as fans simply wanting a smile and a signature, must be. It was a horrible feeling. And, although I’d been reading her series for over ten years, I haven’t read one of her books since. Not out of anger or spite – when I read the blurbs, they just don’t appeal to me. To be honest, the series had been stale for a while, and even though I felt this way, I remained reading because I had faith they’d pick up again. I was a loyal fan right up until the moment it became clear that she wasn’t a loyal author. She wasn’t trying. She felt no sense of obligation to provide her fans with her best work – or even her time. She was pumping out the same tired story line book after book because we continued to buy them.

Earlier this year, I met a new author shortly after the release of her first novel. The book was good. It showed promise. The characters were well developed, the plot was entertaining, but there were certain things – a little too much backstory dump in places that turned into rambling, erroneous writing that did nothing to move the story forward or invest the reader deeper into the work. Things that readers know will improve with experience and time, things that won’t necessarily stop a reader from picking up another book by the author. The author seemed comfortable with the audience. She talked about herself for over an hour. By the time she was done, I think we all felt like we knew her a bit. She’d certainly shared enough intimate details of her life with us. Yet as we stood in line, readers telling her how much they enjoyed the book, or how much they identified with a character, the author couldn’t have seemed less interested. She quickly scrawled her name in each book, taking neither the time nor the effort to personalize with a name or message, much more interested in her cell phone. I don’t think she actually made eye contact with a single person while signing their book for them. It was obvious that the author didn’t need anyone in that room to make the effort to look for her next book – she was already a rock star.

And then there’s the author who does it right. Who not only makes eye contact, but takes the time to ask questions of every reader. Who personalizes what they sign from the conversation they take the time to have with each person. Who thanks every reader for coming out, for their support, for reading the book. After all, what is an author, what is their book, without readers? When you write a book, you’re asking readers to let a piece of you inside them – into their heads, their hearts, their homes. You’re establishing a relationship, and relationships are built on mutual affection.

Image result for following atticusIf When I make the transition from writer to author, this is one of the biggest lessons I hope to bring with me. I am an introvert. Most writers probably are. But you’re going into the situation knowing that these are your people. Embrace them. Appreciate them. Thank them. Treasure them. Take the time to make them feel as special as they make you feel.

And while I won’t reveal the names of the authors who do it wrong, I will share the name of the author who, in my opinion, does it the best, and that’s Tom Ryan. If you’ve never read his creative nonfiction book, Following Atticus, you should. Check out his social media and his blog and you will see that this is an author who is doing things right. He’s created a family of his readers. His readers adore him, and he takes the time to make them feel appreciated in return. He has a line around the block waiting eagerly awaiting the release of his second book.

Jodi Picoult is another author who treats her fans with appreciation and sincerity. If you get the chance to attend one of her signings, you should definitely go. She’s a wonderful speaker, passionate about her causes, and also makes her readers feel like family. It’s no wonder that she’s achieve such success – Leaving Time had an initial hardcover printing of a million copies – in the literary world, she really is a rock star – and yet, she’s still humble enough to thank you for coming. Whether it’s the secret of success, or simply good manners, count me in.

 

Black Ink Contests ~ Flash Fiction

While perusing the web last month, I somehow came across a Valentine’s Flash Fiction contest. On a whim, I entered. And I won!

This isn’t the type of thing I normally do.

To be perfectly honest, I didn’t even remember entering until I got an email saying I won.

Yet, this seemingly small thing has had a huge impact on my life.

Since winning, I’ve bought a small villa in Italy where I now focus on my writing full time. Was that believable? It’s not true. The prize money wasn’t quite enough for all that. But what winning did do was give me a much needed boost in my confidence as a writer. It seems like I’ve been stuck in agent search limbo for  forever (It’s only been a year – but still. I want what I want and I want it now.).

wpw2The struggle to allocate my free time between writing another novel, writing more short stories, editing, tweaking my queries and synopsis, submitting, submitting, submitting, all while trying not to stalk the agents who have requested my manuscript in bated anticipation of a positive response is EXHAUSTING! Some days, (more and more often, lately), I wonder if there isn’t a better use for my spare time than pursuing a writing career that may or may not happen.

Then this happens. I win a contest. A small victory, but a huge relief. Maybe I’m not wasting my time. Maybe I can write this thing called a story after all.

I’d like to send a HUGE thanks to Black Ink Contests for choosing my story as the winner of their 2016 Valentine’s Flash Fiction Contest. If you’re interested, the winning story can be found here.

Are you in need of a boost? Their next contest opens March 5th – what are you waiting for? Go for it! Enter here.

 

 

 

 

http://www.blackinkcontests.com/recentwinners/index.html

Life Happens ~ Speed Bumps, Traffic and Detours

2016 is off to an interesting start. Challenging, but not bad. It’s the wisdom to see the difference – how difficulty can be a positive thing – that has inspired this blog post, as well as how I view my struggles as a writer.

It’s our first winter in our new house; two Floridians living in a snowy mountain valley in New Hampshire. Although we did our best to prepare and take preventative measures, I had a sneaking suspicion that there would be a few surprises in store for us. Like waking up after a night where the temperature plunged to -11 to find no water running to part of the house.

Obviously, some of the pipes had frozen, which isn’t the worst thing in the world. We still had some running water, unlike a few months ago when the well pump went. Well issues are one of those things that most people can’t fix themselves. One of those expensive homeowner headaches that make you cringe when you hear about it – unless it’s happened to you, in which case you get a knot deep in the pit of your stomach and bile creeps up the back of your throat while your checkbook scurries to hide from the pain.

Frozen pipes don’t have to be a big, scary problem. The question is whether or not the pipes have burst, in which case both a plumber and the checkbook would need to be hunted down. The only issue was that, in order to reach the pipes in question, I’d have to make my way through the somewhat scary basement and worm my way into the absolutely terrifying crawl space. I’ve written about this dungeon under my house before. It’s not a place where one would choose to spend their time.

When we first we moved in, when we thought we had money (before we learned that the house feeds on cash like candy), we were determined to make the basement a friendlier place. We called several specialists who came and took a look to make recommendations and give us an estimate. The issue was that once they saw the place, we could never get them to call us back. And now it was up to me to go in there. Alone.

I didn’t want to do it. As in, can’t I go get my teeth drilled instead? But I didn’t really have a choice. So I womaned up and climbed into the hole, a flashlight in one hand, a hairdryer on an extension cord (my safety line) in the other. And I thawed the pipes, which luckily had not burst. And I saved the day. And I didn’t even get a parade (but I did get a cookie).

The point is, life is filled with things that you don’t want to do.

Speed bumps are meant to slow us down. Traffic keeps us from getting where we want to go as fast as we want to get there. Detours make us take the long way to get where we are going. These aren’t just a part of life – they’re an important part of life. These are our opportunities to learn and grow and build character. And I’ve just learned that instead of fighting against these things, that if I accept them, embrace them and go with them, my life is happier.

Speed bumps slow you down. I had other plans for my day. I intended to finish a short story, make final edits and submit another, and work on edits on my novel in progress. I did none of those things. Instead, I learned to conquer my fear. I learned that tasks done without a struggle are finished quicker. I learned that it doesn’t hurt me to put off what I want to do until another day.

Traffic keeps us from getting where we want to go as fast as we want to get there. I gave myself the goal of a year to write a novel, get an agent, and get a book deal. HA. Double HA. Turns out, the world doesn’t work that way. No amount of hard work and determination are going to get you where you’re going until it’s your time to arrive. The lesson here is to keep trying. If you want something, don’t give up. But don’t make your goal the only thing you can see, either. You’ll get there when it’s time. And you may be an entirely different person by then, because you’ll be who you’re supposed to be when you arrive.

Detours make us take the long way to get where we are going. Inconvenient, yes, but sometimes these detours teach us a new route that we can use. Sometimes we pass unfamiliar territory . We see and learn new things on the way, so that when we finally get to our intended destination, we are  better prepared to be there.

I’m one of those people who is always in a rush. There aren’t enough hours in each day. There may not be enough time in life to do and experience everything that I want. I make goals and set timelines and experience frustration when I don’t meet them. But it isn’t failure. It’s the learning process that will help me to be the best me.

What do I want? A career as a novelist with a major publishing house. When do I want it? Now. But later is okay, too.