What Makes a Good Writer? Thoughts.

I always find it hard to describe myself as an author.

For lots of people like myself that write, the term “author” carries a lot of weight. In reality, an author is someone who writes something, whether it’s a novel or simply a diary entry. Technically, we’re all authors.

But the term can also conjure up images of a successful writer sitting in a Barnes & Noble, signing copies of her book. It can sometimes seem like a title that only applies to a full-blown career path or somebody who publishes or makes the NYT bestseller list.

Thoughts and labels like that make it hard to accept your strengths as a writer, no matter your publishing success. So today, I thought it would be good to share my thoughts on what makes a good writer, whether or not you write books or articles, and whether or not you have been published or even have an interest in doing so.

Trait # 1: Curiosity

Good writers are curious about the world. They study people and interactions. They search for the perfect word to describe a feeling, setting, or character. They might be naturally into hearing gossip, since gossip is, at its base, storytelling and making sense of things. They seek solutions or answers to questions that pop into their head. And they’re probably voracious readers themselves.

Trait # 2: Sympathy

It might seem odd to say that most writers I know are sympathetic. What I mean by this is that it takes a certain level of compassion and understanding to write good, likable characters. Arguably, you also have to know what makes for a likable character in order to create your villains. Having sympathy or even empathy for others helps a writer make a reader care about the plot.

Trait # 3: Self-acceptance

A large part of my personal writing process has included not judging my writing style or the ideas that come into my head. Sometimes, I think I have a good idea while writing but then worry about if a reader will find my idea weird or confusing. I’ve spent a lot of time coming to terms with my imagination and learning to trust my instincts. I think that stronger writers stick by their ideas and trust that the right audience will love them.

What about you? What do you think makes a good writer?


Bechdel Test 2.0: How to Make Your Fiction Writing More Feminist

According to the good ole’ Oxford Dictionary (and Google):

The Bechdel test a way of evaluating whether or not a film or other work of fiction portrays women in a way that is sexist or characterized by gender stereotyping. To pass the Bechdel test a work must feature at least two women, these women must talk to each other, and their conversation must concern something other than a man.

Though primarily applied to films, the Bechdel test is often referred to with literary works. The TLDR version is: Have two women talk about something other than a man.

If you are reading or writing books that at least pass this meager benchmark, congrats. You’re on the right path, you enlightened individual, you.

But in my personal opinion, the Bechdel test isn’t enough to make a book truly groundbreaking in the world of feminism. For example, you could have two women talk about cleaning the floors just once in a book and that would technically pass the Bechdel test. Whomp.

And so, without further ado, I present my own updated version of the Bechdel test, or Bechdel 2.0.

Bechdel 2.0

  1. The work must contain at least two strong female characters who showcase some sort of personal development throughout the story.
  2. At least two female characters in the story must talk about something other than a man which is essential to the plot several times throughout the work.
  3. At least one female character must make a plot-driving choice that is not directly influenced by a man.

It’s not enough to have two women simply talk to each other about anything other than a dude. Ideally, at least some female characters should show strong personal journeys throughout the story. You know, like most normal women experience in their lives.

It’s also not helpful for women in works of fiction to talk about only small things. Let’s have our imaginary heroes talking about real hot-button topics, whether that’s economic inequality in their neighborhood or the king making some crazy rules in their kingdom. And let’s have these conversations be a recurring theme throughout the work, not just a one-off.

Lastly, strong female protagonists should make important choices that are not directly influenced by a man. So a princess choosing to move to another kingdom for a prince doesn’t count. Neither does a hero who only goes out into the world on her own because her father decides to kick her out of the house. Make sense?

I’m not saying that ALL works of fiction should pass this test. I like near meaningless smut as much as the next gal.

But I do think that including more strong female characters in books is something to aim for, and I think the current Bechdel test is a pretty low benchmark to meet. I think we can easily push beyond that as authors and readers.

What do you think of Bechdel 2.0? Have you read any books that fit the bill? Or are you writing a book that fits these parameters? Tell me about it in the comments!

Publishing, Writing

Does My Book Actually Suck? And Other January Woes

I blame this mostly on the dreariness of the month, but lately, I’ve been concerned that my current book-in-progress might actually be shit.

The jury’s still out on the feasibility of this concern, but I’m bringing it up because I’d bet hard cash that other authors go through the same thing.

I started seriously editing “A Fierce Debt” this month and the process is giving me a bad case of challenged self-esteem. I’m only about halfway through my first read-through and I am baffled by the number of common typos I’ve found. I’m not sure whether or not to be glad that most of my typos revolve around a slip of the keyboard rather than just bad grammar. I think my favorite typo so far has been when I typed “YouTube” instead of “you too.”

But I can power through that stuff easily. No, the stuff that is making me feel like a crap writer is all the plot holes and cheese I’ve found. The plot holes are frustrating because I have to go back, or forward, to figure out what I can change to fix them. It can take a long time.

By cheese, I mean that I apparently wrote a TON of cheesy dialogue, especially between my two MCs and now I’m left trying to FIX it so that they sound like ACTUAL people. Trust me, it’s not a fun time when your own book makes you cringe from time to time.

This isn’t all to say that I hate my book. I love my book. But it’s like when you start to care for someone and your expectations for them rise, so when they do something stupid, you’re extra disappointed. That’s how I feel about my book right now.

My mantra for the month has become something like, if people like Colleen Hover’s writing, they can surely tolerate yours. (No shame to Hoover fans out there, but like, maybe read It Ends With Us, skip Verity and move on to other authors.)

All in all, this month is proving a struggle and the email from NaNoWriMo about making the most of the month that just hit my inbox is giving me HIVES. But I am okay, I will power through and hopefully my book will be a much better one by February.

Pray for me.

Publishing, Writing

My Writing Goals for 2023

  1. Drown myself in coffee.
  2. Write vampire on werewolf smut.
  3. Move to a small hut in Scotland and write full-time.

Just kidding on those, except for the drowning in coffee because I already do that.

I’d like to say I’m feeling excited about the New Year, but honestly, I think I’m still exhausted from the last few years. So for 2023, I’ll just say, please don’t suck. I’m happy with a chill and mediocre year, okay?

But to get down to brass tacks, here are my real writing goals for 2023 and my chances of actually pursuing them.

Goal 1: Publish ‘A Fierce Debt” Chance of Success: 75%

My short-term goal this month is to edit the heck out of my manuscript so I can spend the bulk of the year querying publishers. If I’m lucky, somebody awesome will snag it up. But even if I’m not lucky, I will still self-publish it, but probably not until 2024. I really want to give this one its chance.

Goal 2: Create a reading/writing nook or room in my future house. Chance of Success: 90%

This obviously relies pretty heavily on my fiance and I actually finding a home within the next 6 months but I have high hopes for us. If we do close on a home, then 100% I’m going to have some form of writing nook and I will 1000% share pictures when that day comes.

Goal 3: Participate in #NaNoWriMo23. Chance of Success: 30% maybe?

I liked doing NaNoWriMo this year but I am tired and realistic. My fiance and I are getting married in late September next year and we’re going on vacation right after. I will be a tired bride. The chances of me wanting to dedicate the month of November to writing another novel after all that are pretty slim.


I Survived #NaNoWriMo22!

Whew, what an insane month.

I had so many other blog posts planned but that fell by the wayside as I tried to keep up with my word count for my project.

AND. I’m happy to report that I finished my #NaNoWriMo novel two days ago at 52,745 words!!!

I’m fairly exhausted from writing now, as you can imagine; especially with having just come off of publishing my first non-fiction book. I’m more than ready to take a break over the holidays and just focus on family, food, and fun.

Although, I will say that I did really enjoy writing “A Fierce Debt,” my first fiction project. I’ve done a lot of creative fiction writing in the past and I’d forgotten how much I enjoy world-building and fleshing out characters.

I really grew to love the characters in my book throughout the month, especially Aislinn and Drystan, the two main protagonists.

Aislinn is a feminist living in a time and place where feminism is starting to sprout wings, but still is challenged by traditional, patriarchal society. She cares deeply for people, despite having a past that should have made her bitter and distrustful. She also has a bit of social anxiety.

Drystan is Robinhood 2.0. He’s a bit morally grey but his intentions are good. He’s a gentleman where it counts and has an understanding of consent in relationships. He’s a bit full of himself, a bit swaggy. But like most of the men I know personally in real life, deep down he’s a big softy who wants to learn and love.

“A Fierce Debt” has the potential, I believe, to become a trilogy but I don’t want to get ahead of myself.

If you’d like to read or check out my story, you can view it on Inkitt here: https://www.inkitt.com/stories/990999?preview=true


The Inspo Behind My #NaNoWriMo Project: “A Fierce Debt”

In honor of surpassing the halfway point of #NaNoWriMo this week, I’m sharing what inspired my in-progress novel.

My project, tentatively titled “A Fierce Debt,” is a new adult Robinhood-inspired fantasy romance taking place in a setting similar to the Scottish Highlands. Think if Robinhood was Gaelic and even more morally grey than he is already and if Maid Marian is a feminist. There’s a slow-burn romance, lots of adventure and wise-cracking bandits.

On to the inspo.

I chose a setting based off of the Scottish Highlands in honor of my Gaelic heritage. While I’ve yet to visit Scotland, I visited Ireland a few years back and loved it. One of my favorite book series of all time takes place in Dublin and the surrounding regions, and a lot of the lore included in the world-building for the series comes from Gaelic folklore. Think druids and fae.

I knew I wanted elements like that in my book, but I liked the idea of a world that teeters on the edge of fantasy. While “A Fierce Debt” takes place in an imagined world, the setting is a realistic one.

I also have always had a weak spot for Highland warrior-type romances (think muscles and kilts on the cover) but the insane Alpha-ness of the main men sometimes rubbed me the wrong way. I LOVE morally grey love interests, don’t get me wrong, but I wanted to write a romance and relationship that focuses on personality over lust. I also wanted to write a relationship that has obvious consent.

I am like 95% sure I actually read this one too.

Lastly, my MC, Aislinn, is meant to be a tribute to all the strong women I know, especially the women I met earlier this fall at the Kansas Outdoors Women conference. Like every woman I met there, Aislinn is curious, self-sufficient and full of depth. Using books, she taught herself how to forage and uses her knowledge to help others. She loves to teach and learn. Despite challenges from her town’s societal pressures, she adamantly pursues her own feminist agenda.

If this all sounds interesting to you, keep checking back here on the blog for my updates about my project in the coming months. I’m planning on taking a longer break from writing after this month ends.


Let’s Get Pumped! Why I’m Doing #NaNoWriMo

For those who don’t know, November is NaNoWriMo or National Novel Writing Month.

It’s a fundraiser in part, but also a challenge for readers. The goal, if you want to enter the contest, is to write a 50,000-word novel within 30 days of the month. That amounts to writing a little over 1,600 words a day; that might sound do-able, but it’s actually a lot.

I’ve thought about doing #NaNoWriMo in the past, but I was always held back by time commitments and just generally being scared of it. That’s a big time commitment! But this year, I knew I wanted to commit.

With my first book, “How to Become a Grown-Ass Woman,” done and getting sales, I feel inspired enough to start my next “thing.” I’ve been sitting on a partially written fiction novel for some time now and I figured #NaNoWriMo is the perfect time to flesh it out and see if something could become of it.

I am a bit worried about staying on track with my writing, especially because I am traveling A LOT next month. Like, I’m out of state for the first 2 weeks and then later on for Thanksgiving again. That said, I plan on taking my laptop and trying to churn out a chapter or 2 every night when I can. Even if that means staying up a bit later than usual!

Me probably all next month, let’s be real.

If you’re interested in following my #NaNoWriMo journey, you can find my project, tentatively titled “A Fierce Debt,” on the NaNoWriMo site here.
And if you are a writer or author yourself and want to challenge yourself, you can learn more about #NaNoWriMo here!

There’s no time like the present to see what you’re capable of.