20 Questions Book Tag!

20 Q Book Tag

I’m still catching up on those millions of tags I got when I was on hiatus, so since I’m not quite back into the swing of things (I completely missed a post last week??) I’m going to give you a nice, quick, 20 Questions book tag (thanks to Jen, I’m fairly sure, for the tag)

So, uh, let’s go.

20 Questions Book Tag

  1. How many books are too many in a series?

Personally, once a series has gone over seven books, I’m unlikely to continue reading. Four books is my sweet spot, but I can do a little longer if I really like the characters/plot, but over seven I just get fed up.

  1. How do you feel about cliffhanger endings?

Not a fan really. I like each book to be able to stand on it’s own. Besides, who likes waiting a whole year for another book when the last book ended on a cliffhanger?

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The Project Inspire Tag

 

inspire blog post

Well, I’m back.

I’ve just been off on a relaxing hiatus and I’m returning with a stack full of tags and new post ideas! Before we get started, here are a few things that I should let you guys know:

  1. I’m changing my posts to Mondays after today. It’s just a day that works better than my current scheduled day of Saturday.
  2. I’m hoping to get around to redesigning this blog. But don’t hold out for it happening too soon.

Now, today’s post is part of a new project launched by the amazing Jenna Terese.

It’s called Project Inspire and it’s a great tag full of positivity and thanks and I’m so excited to be doing it today. Here’s the rules:

1. Thank and link back to who’s blog you first saw the tag on; link back to the creator of the tag.

2. Answer the questions given (when you mention a person in your answers, link to their blog/website if they have one)

3. Include 5 of the biggest things you’ve learned about writing, and how they’ve change you.

3. Don’t tag anybody. 😉 We want as many people as possible to have the opportunity to take part in this. So at the end of your post, leave the open invitation to any of your readers that wants to do the tag.

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What God Has Been Teaching Me–Guest Post by Celeste

Celeste post

(We’re kicking off our guest post series today with a post from the wonderful Celeste! Definitely go check out her blog, especially if you like indepth character analysis, chatting about musicals or discussing her absolutely awesome works of historical fiction).

Hello, everyone! I hope you all are doing well, here at the end of the year. I want to say a quick but very heartfelt thank-you to Chelsea for asking me to do this post; the prompt is so wonderfully edifying to think about and I had a wonderful time writing it!

There are a few things you should know about me before we get into the post: I’m too stubborn for my own good, I’m prone to making the same mistakes over, and over, and over again, and I’m also frustratingly far from perfect.

Still, God is good, patient, and altogether so long-suffering.

Throughout 2018, God’s taught me so, so much and honestly, I’m still working on getting those lessons down right and following through; I’m sure I will have to continue working on these things for the rest of my life. The overarching theme, though, has been that I need to put all of my trust in God, without any reservations.

2018, for me, has been a pretty good year. I’ve been blessed with the freedom to worship and practice my religion freely, a good family, good friends, the ability to go to school, and a good job. Still, as with every year, there’s been tough things. What I’ve noticed, though, is that when I feel like I’m not in a good place, there’s one thing in common: I’m not keeping God as the center of my life–I’m trusting in other people and other things.

Trusting in God is something I’ve known is important since I was young. I was brought up singing the hymn:

“I am trusting Thee, Lord Jesus,

Trusting only Thee.

Trusting Thee for full salvation

Great and free”

(The Lutheran Hymnal #428, stanza 1)

Still, here I am, almost out of my teenage years, and I still slip from this continually and very often, it takes something major to knock me on the head for me to collapse and realize, I’ve done it. Again. This constant failure can be heartbreaking but thankfully, God is good and patient and so, so forgiving.

A year ago now, I got Confirmed. Since my Confirmation, I’ve been more cognizant of my falterings and failings than ever before. We all have strong points and, unfortunately, we all have our low points. The piercing truth of Paul’s words in Romans 7:19 mean more to me than they ever have: For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.” It can be so, so tough. I want to trust God completely, I want to keep him at the center of my life at all times but time and time again, I’m failing.

“I spent long years for thee

In weariness and woe

That an eternity

Of joy thou mightest know.

I spent long years for thee;

Hast thou spent one for Me?”

(TLH #405, stanza 2)

This hymn, “I Gave My Life For Thee” (TLH #405) always hits me so hard. It pounds into my head that I am a far cry from perfect and what Jesus did for me, I could never, ever, ever come close to accomplishing. And yet, in faith, I still must try. But my own human might is not enough to achieve that. I can say I want to work on living my life for God and putting him at the center of my life all I want, without God, though, I simply cannot do it. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing” (John 15:5). How true this is!

What I need more than anything in the world, is to trust in God and to have faith in Him and his goodness. “All things work together for good to them that love God” (Romans 8:28) is honestly such a comfort and it is so easy to see why it is a favorite of so many people. God’s shown me time and time again this year that I just need to trust Him–He knows what’s best for me. When I try to make those decisions, my judgment is always flawed. God’s never is.

“Cast thy burden upon the LORD, and He shall sustain thee: He shall never suffer the righteous to be moved” (Psalm 55:22) is the verse that my pastor specially selected for me last year at my Confirmation and I’ve tried desperately to cling to this verse and to live it out. It seems like such an easy thing to do, doesn’t it, to trust God completely, to hand over your burdens and let God sustain you? Still, somehow, it’s so hard. In the end, this is the main lesson I’ve learned from this year: trust in God.

Clearly, this is something for me to continue working on and work on it I will, by God’s grace. That’s the first step after all, to putting God at the center of my life and trusting Him in all aspects of this life He’s so graciously given me. I have to trust He will help me. God’s providence and goodness is so prevalent in everything going on. He watches out for His children and He answers prayers, even if that answer is a “No.” He knows what’s best, we just have to trust Him.

And so, in this upcoming year, I want to engrave in my heart the words of stanza 4 of hymn 422, “Savior, I Follow On”:

“Savior, I long to walk

Closer with Thee;

Led by Thy guiding hand,

Ever to be

Constantly near Thy side,

Quickened and purified,

Living for Him who died

Freely for me.”

Can we all give Celeste a big round of applause? I absolutely loved this post, and I hope you did too! Tell me, what’s something you struggle to trust God in? What has God been teaching  you this year?

Ten Mistakes I Made in The Stars Fill Infinity

sfi mistakes header

Hello there! Before I get started with today’s post, I just wanted to give you guy’s an update on what’s going to be happening around An Ordinary Pen in the next few months.

Life’s been crazy lately, but I’m (hopefully) going back to my posting schedule (Saturday) for the rest of December. I’m going to take a hiatus for most of January (I haven’t decided whether it will be just the first two weeks, or the whole month), and I’m thinking of using that time to do a remodel of the site. We’ll see how it goes. 

I’ve also got exciting news! Some of you, if you’ve been around for about a year, would remember the series I did last year on “What God Has Taught Me This Year”. Last year, I had a bunch of amazing young women come and do guest posts on my blog, and this year, I have the super awesome Celeste and Christine, who will be guest posting for you, starting tomorrow! I’m really looking forward to sharing their words of wisdom and honesty with you 😀

Anyhow, today’s post is a bit of a mixture of playful poking at myself, and a serious look at writing mistakes I’ve made. I wanted to particularly look at some of the mistakes I made in the first draft of The Stars Fill Infinity, just because I’ve recently compiled all my beta feedback, and so I’m currently very aware of my failings 😛 I hope this serves as a reminder that none of us are perfect, and that learning from our failures (and other people’s failures too), is extremely helpful.

1 Lack of Technology

I hadn’t really thought about this until multiple betas pointed it out. For a futuristic world, my dystopian version of Australia really lacked even basic technology that we use constantly nowadays. This is something I’ve been trying to remedy as I edit, and I’ve come up with a few cool ways of integrating technology into the plot. 

2. Too Little Worldbuilding

Part of this ties with the above mistake. There was hardly any worldbuilding in either the first or the second drafts, and again, it’s an issue I’ve been trying to correct as I wade through the third draft. It’s actually pretty exciting to do worldbuilding for this story, to help make the story come alive in an even more vibrant sort of way. I’m enjoying the challenge so far.

3. Weak Character Motivations

This is actually an interesting problem. Several of the characters, including, but not limited to, Sean Darcy, Kendall Streatfield, Jonas Oriah, Augustine Quillon and Maria Caderousse, had little to no motivations in the first draft (and even to an extent, in the second as well), and this wasn’t so much because I neglected to give them motivations, but more because the parallel characters in Les Mis often had vague motivations as well, so I swept the issue under the carpet. 

Of course, Victor Hugo’s mistakes should not translate into my mistakes, so I’ve also been working on improving the motivations of these characters by giving them more solid goals and arcs. 

4. Occasionally Preachy

Personally, I feel I did quite well in this regard. I tried to avoid those super cheesy, shallow conversations about God in this book, but yeah, I did occasionally get a bit preachy, even for my own tastes. The advice of one of my beta readers stands out the most to me, when dealing with this problem, “Show the characters living these sorts of lives, don’t tell us that they do” (paraphrasing). 

5. Letter Writing

There’s a lot of letter writing for such a futuristically advanced society. I mean, who writes letters nowadays? 

6.Lack of Description

The lack of the description stems, in many ways, from the lack of worldbuilding. Anyway, my descriptions were often vague, repetitive, or simply not there. Description has always been a point I struggle with, but hopefully I’ll be able to remedy this as I worldbuild and focus more on the aesthetic and general look of futuristic Australia.

7. Too Much Romance

If I was to write this again, I would leave out a lot of the romance that I had in the first draft. I would probably only leave the relationship between Sapphire and Sean (which is absolutely essential to the plot) and Sapphire and Quillon (which isn’t, but is so very cute). Chessy’s infatuation with Justice could easily be replaced with more of a hero-worship, and several other relationships could be left out. 

However, as it is, I won’t change any of this, because it’s become part of the characters, the plot, and me as well. It’s definitely the most romance heavy book I’ve ever written, but it’s main theme is love–friendship and platonic love, the love between a father and daughter, sister love, and also romantic love, so I think to remove the romance would somehow lessen it. 

Still, I kinda wish I hadn’t been so romantic in the first draft.

8. Vague Backstories

All of the characters had lengthy backstories plotted out in my planning notebooks, but many of these backstories never translated to the page, even though including snippets of them might have helped improve the lack of motivation I mentioned earlier. 

So in my quest to flesh out motivations, I’ve been revising these characters and their backstories, in order to make them more lifelike and three dimensional.

9. Justice’s Illness

*Spoiler alert*

The climax of the novel basically ends with Justice in a coma and refused entrance into a hospital because of his status as a revolutionary. He is then taken to his rich grandfather’s house, where he is cared for by a private doctor.

This was not actually a plot point critiqued by my betas, but it is one that now strikes me as a massive mistake. I’ve been in hospitals quite a lot lately, and there’s no way Justice would be able to survive in a coma without the help of a plethora of machines, which would likely only be found in a hospital. Also, Justice’s grandfather has enough money to do almost anything he wants, and the officials at the hospital are described as being corrupt, so surely his grandfather would have enough money to bribe them into caring for his grandson?

And finally, it takes a massive amount of emotional, mental and physical fortitude to sit day in and day out by someone’s bedside. I honestly don’t think Chessy has that fortitude, despite how romantic a notion it may be. 

10. The Ending That Wrapped Everything Up So Nicely

Story time. 

Originally, SFI was a standalone, but in the end, my dear friend (and first person to ever read the novel), thought that the ending was too farfetched (no one else has ever read the original epilogue. And yes, she was right). So she suggested I write a sequel to fill in the gap between the end of the last chapter (which is the same as it is now) and the epilogue (which is not). I did that, but I think, when I made it a trilogy, I wrapped everything up too neatly in the first draft and didn’t really change it in the second. Personally, I think it left readers just a tad too satisfied with how everything had played out, and I want them to be dying for the release date of my next book. 😛

I’ve been trying to change this by leaving a few things loose, in the anticipation of a sequel, not to answer every question, and to make sure Justice, Quillon and Chessy don’t have every answer either. This might take a little bit of work, but it should turn out well once I’ve done it.

So, there you have it! My top picks for mistakes I made when writing SFI. Hopefully, you’ve managed to avoid these sorts of things, but if you haven’t, I wouldn’t feel too bad about it 😛 What mistakes have you made? What are some areas in writing that you find difficult?