Book Update

The “Fun” Part of Writing a Novel

When I went on the ReNEW writers retreat two weekends ago, I received some great feedback from friends that share my passion and can help me sharpen my vision. It was a pleasure to hear what everyone was working on, and the triumphs they’ve made this past year. Though, I wondered when it would be my turn to release my book and celebrate my accomplishments.

At lunch one day, I caught up with one of my friends from last year, who encouraged me to start my novel.

“How’s your book going?” she asked.

“It’s a train wreck,” I said.

“Oh, really? What’s wrong with it?”

I explained how I met with a literary agent and he gave me some good pointers, but I feel like my book is total trash.

“Okay, so, what’s wrong with it?”

I shrugged. “The setting doesn’t make sense.”

“So, basically the setting is your problem?”

With those words, it clicked. That was the only problem with my book! The characters were solid, the writing was legit, and the theme was evident. I just didn’t know where to put my little cherubs. What location, what time period, would serve them best, and help me get the message across?

Well, the literary agent I met with suggested Christian fantasy, because the island of Verdaria, where my characters are currently meeting, is a fictional country. I might have made it more complicated than it is. That’s a good story in and of itself. I wanted my main character to travel to Spain and found out some dark secrets from her past, but why does she have to leave Verdaria? Verdaria has some nasty secrets too! Tori can find out all she needs to know through this fantasy world, while encouraging the reader to explore a new land that has never been discovered by us in “reality.”

As you know, the temptation for me is to write a completely new book. I already have the idea for a new book, and I’m super excited about it, but I have to finish my current book first. My current book is not a train wreck. It’s not trash. I just have to be the master of my own world and mold a world for the theme to shine and the characters to thrive. Or not. Muahaha!

I told Lenny yesterday the plot for my new book. When he heard that the characters had the same name as my current manuscript, he stopped me mid-sentence. “What? You’re rewriting your book again? Stop it! It’s fine. Just finish it and make this book another one.”

My husband is an IT professional, not a writing professional, but God used his blatant honesty to open my eyes and see that I need to edit this thing! Did I mention that the literary agent I met with told me my book was good enough to be published? I don’t think that translates to “total trash.” That means I actually have a shot at having my book traditionally published! Hallelujah!

It is so much easier to write a whole new book than to fix the pieces of my current book. Freewriting is my favorite. I love telling stories, and stringing words together, even if they don’t make total sense. But editing is the fun part of writing. It’s using the mind that God has given me to figure out the best way to communicate a message, to use these words I love to bring out a compelling story, and to use my perseverance to grow my faith and increase my endurance. By self-editing, I have the privilege of reading my book before anyone else! It’s a free pre-release copy that I don’t have to order.

As I improve my self-editing ability, my writing ability will also improve. I’ll be making less mistakes as I learn what my common mistakes are. So, overall, self-editing is a win-win!

Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash


“Plot & Structure”: A Game Changer and Life Saver

I have been working on my book for four years now, and it pains me to say that I have begun my FOURTH rewrite. A book by me will be published eventually, I promise. I’d rather have a well-polished book published in five years than a thrown-together book published in five months.

Every time I think I’m done with writing this novel, I find out new information that changes everything. For some reason, I can’t just make little changes here and there. If something is wrong with my book, the whole book needs to be changed.

James Scott Bell’s Plot and Structure was what inspired this fourth round of edits. I’d love to show you all a time lapse of how my book has changed. It started as a bunch of random ideas in my journal, and then became edited random ideas from my journal typed into a Google Docs file, and then became edited random ideas that now had a plot in a Google Docs file, and is now finally (hopefully) a story put together by random ideas that now make sense because the book has, you guessed it, plot and structure.

I’ve learned through this book that I am not a structure type when it comes to writing. With everything else, I’m a type A personality, from being ten minutes early to everything, to organizing my work space every day. When I’m writing, all I want to do is start a timer and let the words fly from my brain to my fingers. I’ll often meet writers who have their characters’ back stories on post-it notes, stuck together on vision boards with strings connecting each character with each idea, setting, theme, symbol, and scene. That kind of planning makes my brain hurt, and makes writing (for me) incredibly painful.

I prefer to meet my characters midway through the book, after I’ve created a preliminary personality about them. After all, we don’t ever know everything about people when we first meet them, right? It takes time to grow a relationship and learn details about them as time progresses. That’s how my characters are formed, and that’s how I develop a story. You meet them the same time that I do, because I love to be surprised while I’m writing!

Although I learned a lot more than this simple point from the book, my one takeaway is that I can be both the outline person and the non-outline person. I can be the free spirit writer and the structured writer. A little bit of structure may help me save time on rewriting my book a million times (guilty as charged!) but a little bit of spontaneity can help the structured people be more creative in their writing.

During this fourth rewrite, I have brainstormed how I want my book to go through bullet points, rough ideas. Then, as those points come up in the story, I cross them off my list. Usually, the bullet point works for each part of the story, but if it doesn’t, I don’t use it! I’m free to create, while also free to provide structure for my book. It’s like I’m cruising on the highway, but there are guardrails on the road so I don’t drive off a cliff.

I believe this point is most helpful for those who are writing academic papers as well. You might not know where to start, but you can create an outline to give you a general idea of the direction of your paper. When you have that guideline, you can cruise through the rest of the paper; by that point, you’ll know enough about the rules to write freely!

By the time you read this, I’ll be at a writer’s conference, getting feedback for my book from wise people who have blazed the trail before me. Please keep me in your prayers as my beautiful work of art is being perfected piece by piece. I am confident that God is forming this story into one that will heal, transform, and bring hope to those who need it. Thank you for your continued support!


Don’t Be Afraid, but Prepare Yourself

Warning, there may be triggers in this post for people who do not like reading about violence or psychosomatic responses. Proceed with caution, hug an animal/teddy bear, and breathe.

When God created us, God gave us reflexes, which are meant to protect us. If we’re driving on the road and a giant truck is speeding the wrong way toward us, we have every reason to respond in fear, since that truck could potentially kill us. In the face of dangerous situations, adrenaline rushes through our body and tells us to fight, flight, or freeze.

I love the reminder that “God does not call the qualified, he qualifies the called.” However, I think we need to define what that looks like. God calls us to do impossible things with his strength, but he does not leave us empty handed. We may be unqualified when he calls us to a task, but when we actually do the task, he will have prepared us through trials and acts of faith. When we look at Scripture and the people who were used of God despite their fear, we see that God prepared them to conquer the giants in their way.

Due to his prejudice and the reputation that the Ninevites had, Jonah, despite being a prophet of God, did not want to speak judgment over those people. He ran in the exact opposite direction of where God was calling him. Nevertheless, God chased down Jonah and prepared him to follow his will. Jonah spent two days in the belly of a large fish, praying and seeking God. God used those trials to grow Jonah’s faith and to prepare him for the task of calling the Ninevites to repentance.

Moses was eighty years old when he got the call from God to lead the people out of Egypt. Although Moses was afraid, God had molded Moses’ life as a shepherd who was raised by Pharaoh’s daughter, so that Moses had influence to speak to Pharaoh and had wisdom to lead the Israelites.

Mary was a teenager when the angel Gabriel spoke to her and told her that she would give birth to the Messiah and then raise him to walk in the way of God. Her response? She was afraid! She was engaged to Joseph, who probably would be wondering how a baby got inside of her. Also, did I mention that she was a young teenager? Nevertheless, God had prepared her to hear the prophecy from Gabriel through her years of faith, and I am certain that God used the pregnancy to grow her faith to where she could raise the Messiah and give glory to God through His birth.

These people from the Bible, in addition to several others, were scared, but they were also prepared. When you’re faced with fear, it is important to take several steps. First, think about what actually makes you afraid. “What about flying on an airplane or confronting my boss or walking around my neighborhood scares me? What’s the worst that can happen?” You may get some healing from simply asking yourself that question, especially when your fears are irrational.

However, if you discover that your fear is legitimate (whether you’ve faced trauma that almost killed you, or the fear paralyzes you), you need to ask yourself, “Am I prepared to face my fear?” I personally have a fear of planes, but I love to travel. Once I buy a plane ticket, I research how long the flight will be, I think of fun activities to do while on the flight, I stock up on essential oils and natural calming products, and I pray. Even if I book a flight months in advance, I do all these things, because I obsess about my future safety.

If you’re afraid of getting attacked by a person with a weapon, unless you are an armed police officer who is trained in self-defense, you are not prepared to face your fear. If you’re afraid of skydiving but you want to jump without a parachute, you are not prepared to face your fear. Fears are healthy when our bodies know we are not prepared to deal with that dangerous situation. Before being a hero, be patient with yourself and go through the training you need to conquer your fears.

How can you use these steps to prepare yourself for the next time you face your fears?

Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash

Book Update

Book Update: You Can Help!

This book has been a journey that has taken a lot longer than the perfectionist in me has expected!  I have finally finished editing my third rewrite.  The editing involved taking the 80,000 words I had written and seeing what fit into the plot of my book, what needed to be cut, and what needed more development.  I have a bullet point list of what I need to develop.

Would you like to help me?

My book is about a woman who struggles with anxiety.  I know my own struggle with anxiety, but I don’t want the main character’s experience to be one-sided.  My goal for this book is to have a familiar character that encourages those who struggle with anxiety that they are not alone.  If you have an anxiety disorder of any kind, click here to fill out a special form for you.  As the form explains, your answers are confidential and your name will not be shared anywhere.  Please answer as honestly as possible, and if you want to speak further with me about it, please provide your e-mail address so that I can reach out to you.  Your story will make my character more relatable.

I’ve had experience helping others with anxiety, and I believe this experience will help me create an environment for my character to find hope in the midst of anxiety.  If you are a therapist and/or have experience with helping people with anxiety, click here to fill out a special form for you.  Please do not include anyone’s names or relationship to you so that you don’t not break the confidentiality.  Your name will not be shared.  Please answer as honestly as possible, and if you want to speak further with me about it, please provide your e-mail address so that I can reach out to you.

I’m posting this on a Tuesday.  I am going to give you all until Saturday to fill out the form if you are interested.

Now that I’ve taken such a long time to write this book, I want to make sure I do it right.  I want to put more research into the book, to show that I have fully invested in this story.  I want to find just the right setting, just the right character development, and just the right ending to comfort a hurting soul.

Thank you for your help in my endeavor, whether through prayer, encouragement, or providing feedback.

Photo by Trent Erwin on Unsplash

Book Update

My Blog’s Best of 2017

As 2017 comes to a close, I thought it would be fun to show how my blog has grown this year.  I’ve gained a lot of support and feedback over the year, and I’m excited at how God has used it to touch lives all over the world!

This year, people from thirty different countries have viewed my blog.  I’ve always said that I wanted to be a world traveler, and it seems that my writing is doing that for me!  Glory to God!  Here are the top ten countries that have viewed my blog in 2017:

  1. United States
  2. India
  3. United Kingdom
  4. Australia
  5. Canada
  6. Thailand
  7. Germany
  8. Ireland
  9. Israel
  10. Spain

If you are from those countries or are residing in any of those countries, thank you for your support!  I pray that my blog has been able to help you overcome anxiety, put God first in your marriage, or dig deeper into His Word.

In terms of views, here are the top ten blog posts of 2017:

  1. Why the First Year is the Hardest
    My first year of marriage wasn’t hard, but it did involve a lot of surrender and a lot of changes!  Find out how we were able to cope with those changes.
  2. Feelin’ Great After Reading This Book!
    One of my friends from church wrote the book Lose Weight and Feel Great.  I believe one of the reasons why this book review was viewed so much is because my friend shared this on his Facebook page.  Shameless plug: If you read a blog post and you love it, please share it!  My goal is to encourage people all over the world, and if something I write encourages you, maybe it will encourage your friends!
  3. My Husband is Not My Everything
    As much of a shocker as it is to society, my husband is not my everything.  Having the biblical perspective of marriage has truly improved our marriage and has helped us have healthy expectations of each other.
  4. I Have the Best Husband Ever…And Here’s Why
    Find out why my husband is the absolute best.  I know all of you with husbands would disagree, but that’s actually the point!
  5. The Power of a Nagging Wife
    This was the first blog I wrote this year, actually.  This was the post that got me back into writing.  This blog post, to the glory of God, really encouraged a lot of wives who are tempted to control their husbands.
  6. What You Say When You Attend a Wedding
    After attending about five weddings last year, including our own, we learned a thing or two about what it means to attend a wedding.  It is more than just the food, the dancing, and the drinking!
  7. Finding Financial Freedom as a Couple
    We’re debt free!  It’s amazing.  We want to share with you all what we’ve learned about financial freedom and how it is possible in this expensive, manipulative world.
  8. Anxiety Brings Me Closer to God
    I’ve been asking God to remove anxiety from my life, but looking back, it seems that God has been using my anxiety to bring me closer to Him.
  9. What’s Better than Lovey Dovey Feelings?
    People have been telling us from the beginning that our love is going to fade.  What we’ve found, and what we believe, is that our love will always be strong.
  10. Wrapped in His Arms: My Story of Singleness
    I remember being single and literally crying my eyes out some days because I felt so alone.  But I realized during those difficult days that I’m never alone.

Thanks again for helping make 2017 a great year!  For those who have been following, please let me know in the comments how this blog has impacted you this year, or if you have any feedback about how I could improve my blog in 2018.

My goals for next year are to write blogs ahead of time and have a more structured schedule.  In about 45 minutes, I’m going to watch a workshop about how to manage my time, and my husband bought me a planner for Christmas (thanks for loving the nerd in me, honey!).  My ultimate goal is to be more involved in my writing in general, but I’m at a season in my book where I’ll be doing more editing than writing, so that means more writing time to blog!  I’ll be focusing mostly on anxiety and marriage, but I’ll throw in some book reviews when I find a good read.

Happy New Year, everyone!  May God bless you abundantly in 2018.

Book Update

(Quick) Book Update: While I’m Waiting

Thank you for all the support I’ve received from my friends on social media, at work, and in my Bible study.  Although I’m the one who wrote the book, my book would not go anywhere if it wasn’t for your encouragement and guidance. Ultimately, to God be the glory!

To update my followers on my blog, I just submitted my book to a literary agent.  This is the first step on having my novel published.  I should be hearing back from them within eight weeks.  Until then…I’m going to make the best of my time.

What are your thoughts on these activities that I can do in eight weeks?

  • Couch to 5K: I’ve heard about this app from a few people, but my friend just told me today that I can train my body to run a 5K in just eight weeks.  Challenge accepted?
  • Read: I read for entertainment, but I’d like to develop the art of writing book reviews.  What books do you recommend?
  • Blog: This is a definite.  I’m going to continue Marriage Monday, Wisdom Wednesday, and Throwback Thursday.  What other topics would you like me to discuss?
  • Go outside: I’m inside eight hours a day, five days a week.  I need to spend more time outside.  My husband and I just bought a pass for the beach that works on state parks as well.  Do you have any favorite outdoor activities?

Above all, I’m going to pray and entrust my time to God.  No matter what I do, my goal is to give Him glory for using my dream of writing a book as part of His plan for the world.  I look forward to how He will grow and shape this book, as well as my passion for writing, into a piece of art that will further His kingdom.

I’ll be writing several updates about my book as well, such as questions I’ve heard regarding it, my motivation for writing it, and the journey of my story.  If you have any questions, advice, or comments about my journey, feel free to comment below or message me on any of my social media sites.  (As you can see, I’d really like to be blogging more, so if there’s anything you’d like me to write about, let me know!).

Thank you again for all of your support and prayers!  Stay tuned for Marriage Monday’s post on why those you love hurt you the most.


Wisdom Wednesday

Choose Your Wisdom

You guys have known me long enough for me to say this: I’ve been struggling with making decisions lately.  This isn’t the first time I’ve had this problem, but nowadays, it takes me even longer to feel peace about the decisions I’ve been making.  And after several months of praying, waiting, and hearing mixed messages, I realize the reason behind the confusion.

I need to choose my wisdom.

Now, this is not a new idea, but because of social media, TV programs, and extended families, we now have a lot of people trying to pour into our lives.  Losing weight, planning vacations, making a family, and choosing careers have never been more difficult.  We have so much information available to us that we don’t even know where to start.

We’re getting bombarded by “wisdom.”

As a Christian, I believe that true wisdom comes from knowing God and studying His Word.  I wrote last week about the importance of reading the Bible every day.  We receive wisdom from God when we read His Word and apply it to our lives.  When we read/listen to the Bible in the morning, we gain wisdom for the day ahead of us.  With every decision that comes our way, we can hold the “wisdom” we hear from others against the perfect wisdom of God.

If I read Colossians 3:23 about working for the Lord, I will choose to give my best at work and not slack off on the job.  If I read Philippians 2:14, I know not to join in on complaining with others.  If I read Proverbs 20:19 and I hear my friends gossiping, I won’t jump into the conversation.

So why is it so difficult to make decisions, if all I have to do is read the Bible to know what is right?

The wisdom of this world, the popular wisdom, does not always correlate with God’s wisdom.  Instead, the wisdom of this world correlates with human emotion and what feels right.  When God says that we get wisdom from spending time with Him, the world says, “No, you can get wisdom over here too, away from God.”

This earthly wisdom can come from a Facebook article that sounds so cleverly and creatively crafted.  This earthly wisdom can come from a news reporter who is “just trying to state the facts” (AKA their opinion).  This earthly wisdom can even come from a family member who genuinely wants to see you happy and successful.

But this earthly wisdom, in the end, will lead you down a path that could bring you  away from God’s plan for your life.

The wisdom of this world is transient.  What works for me might not be right for you.  One example of this is with weight loss.  There are so many diets out there; they can’t all be right!  One diet says to eat all carbs and no fat, one diet says to eat all fat and no carbs, and one diet says to eat fat, carbs, and protein, as long as you keep it balanced!  For me, I’ve discovered that eating less carbs has helped with bloating and hunger, but maybe for someone else, fats make them feel, well…fat.  If I follow the wisdom of everyone else, I will end up discouraged.

Instead of choosing wisdom, I’ve been grabbing onto any wisdom that floats my way.  Anytime someone offers me what appears to be wise, I chew on it for a little bit and consider what they’re saying a possibility.  Then someone else comes along and says something different but also considerably wise, and I am conflicted with two pieces of information that cannot both be right.  I’ve been so obsessed with appeasing the voices around me that I’ve lost touch with the voice that’s whispering within me.

It may take time, but I will hear the voice of God again, and I will feel the peace of God that only He can give me.

Although the Bible may not explicitly explain how to handle each and every task, I know from experience and from hearing others’ testimonies that once we put God first, once we make it our mission to please Him over everyone else, once we pray in Jesus’ name for God’s will to be done…then everything else falls into place.

And I mean, everything.

Whether you’re deciding what to make for dinner or where to go to college, choose the wisdom that aligns with the wisdom of God.  Surround yourself with encouraging, wise people who can offer you advice that correlates with God’s Word.  Just because it’s on social media doesn’t mean that it’s advice that’s been tested or researched.  Choose wisdom, and choose wisely!



What’s Better than Lovey Dovey Feelings?

You typically feel those feelings when you’re first flirting with a guy and/or first dating.  If you so much as touch hands without trying, it’s like an electric spark gets sent straight through your arm.  The thrill of the moment is so exhilarating, and all you can think about in that moment is spending the rest of your life with that person.

I truly believe that God gave us these feelings to help us build a foundation of unity early on in our relationships.  If you took away all those mushy gushy feelings you had for your partner, especially in the beginning of the relationship, your partner would be no more than just another human being.  Even if you had the same likes and dislikes, you would probably not want to be more than just friends, and you’d both be OK with that.

But when you have those feelings, you are suddenly attached.  You’re like a duck imprinted on the first person you saw the minute you came out of your egg.  Suddenly, you want to impress this potential mate.  You might lose weight or start working out more. You might start reading to appear smarter.  You might rearrange your schedule so that you have enough time to spend together.  No matter what, your goal is to be united, and to make sure that nothing gets in the way of that union.

I used to be afraid that my lovey dovey feelings would fade.  After all, the lovey dovey feeling was all I knew!  The farthest I’ve ever been with someone (before marriage) was that cute electric stage.  Plus, growing up on fairy tales and romantic comedies, I didn’t know what to expect after the “happily ever after.”  If the “happily ever after” didn’t last forever, what would become of my marriage?  I couldn’t imagine life without feeling “in love” forever with someone, especially my husband!

My husband and I have only known each other for about 2 1/2 years, so our feelings are still in the honeymoon stage.  However, between our married small group, our friends that are married, and pre-marital counseling, we’ve heard the cold hard truth that the honeymoon stage of our marriage does not last forever.  One day, we will “wake up” and smell the morning breath that suddenly doesn’t smell so beautiful anymore.  One day, we will make plans without each other, and may go days without having quality time together.  One day, the veil will be taken off of our eyes, and we will see each other as imperfect, human beings.

I don’t know how that’s supposed to be appealing to anyone.  If that were all there was to marriage, why would anyone want to get married?

I’ll tell you.

My love with my husband is growing.  Flirting is always a mystery, but my husband’s love for me is not.  I never have to wonder if my husband loves me.  Even when we have busy schedules and aren’t able to have dinner together, even when he has a different definition of “quality time,” even when I mess up a meal and try to compromise, I know that at the end of the day, he’s still coming home with me.  And he still manages to give me butterflies by surprising me, spending time with me, and overall making me feel special.

Our love isn’t a lovey dovey kind of love.  It’s a secure, protecting, committed love.  And I’d take that over the spark any day.

If you’re afraid of your feelings fading, remember this: lovey dovey love is a seed that has to die for your committed love to grow into a strawberry bush.  The “honeymoon” love is what helps your relationship take root, but the commitment produces fruit that will sustain your marriage for many years to come.  Let your love grow, no matter the season of your love.

Book Update

Quick Book Update: When Writing is Like Breathing

Hey, all!  I’ve got some honest news for you.  In the process of rewriting my entire book, I have no emotional energy or mental stamina to write a full update for you.  Let me just send you a big thumbs up and tell you that everything is going great!

I had to take a break from writing my book for a little bit because my husband and I went away for four days.  The drive back and forth from our destination gave me a lot of time to think and process.  From that, I was inspired to write an article that I posted on Monday night. Since then, I’ve been reading a book for my Bible study, working, straightening up the house, and mustering the strength to write a chapter of my book.  I don’t exactly have a hard deadline, but lately, I’ve been writing a chapter a day.

No one (except for myself) is pressuring me to finish this book.

For those of you who do not share my passion for writing, here is an inside look at what it’s like to value writing just as much as you value breathing.  It was very late (about ten o’clock), and my husband and I were settling down to bed.  I knew I had to get up early for work, but for some reason, I could not fall asleep.  I tried sorting out my feelings by venting to my husband, but all the poor guy wanted to do was snooze.  After a few minutes, I gave up and decided to try closing my eyes.

When I finally relaxed, a thought came to my mind. No, not just a thought…a chapter.  In the five seconds it took me to gain consciousness again, I had conjured up a full chapter outline in my mind.  All I had to do was write it down, since I knew that such a genius idea would fly out of my head quite quickly.

There was only one problem: my journal was in my purse…in the other room, and not by my bedside.

Did I really have to get out of bed to write down my fantastic ideas?

Then I remembered: we’d brought the mail into our apartment, and we received a letter that had come in an envelope.  That envelope had enough blank space for me to write the sketch of Chapter 4!

I groped around in the dark, trying to find the envelope that I had tossed on the floor.  My husband leaned over and asked what I was doing, since I was moving the bed in the process. “It’s OK, honey,” I whispered, “just trust me.”  He is not one who values writing as much as breathing, but he did respect my need to get my thoughts on paper.  Finally, I found the envelope on which I could release the thoughts that had been caged inside my mind.

And now, the outline of Chapter 4* is safely written on two sides of said envelope.  Now expanding on my ideas, especially on a Thursday night, has been like pulling teeth.  But it’s fun, trust me!


*Chapter 4, as well as the preceding chapters, will be available to read once Chapters 5-31 are rewritten.  Stay tuned!