Annie’s Take on Outlining (and Why She Doesn’t Like It)

Let’s not beat around the bush: I don’t like outlining.  If you’ve been with me long enough, you’ve certainly read about my distaste for the practice.  If you’re just joining us on this little journey of mine and didn’t know my stance on outlining, now we’re all on the same page.

In real life, my tendencies lie on the organized side of the spectrum.  My daily routine is comprehensive and is, more often than not, pretty much the same.  I like routine and color-coded schedules and matching my socks.  Life is a little easier when everything has a time and a place.  At least it is to me.

All that flies out the window when I sit down to write.  When I open up my laptop and steep my tea and fasten my thinking cap, I rarely know what’s going to happen.  I had no plan for this very blog post, but I typed out a title about five minutes ago and look where we are.  There’s something freeing about writing with no expectations, no limitations on your creativity.  You just write and decide to see what happens.

I’ve outlined and I’ve foregone outlining in past projects.  I’ve tried my hand at both extremes and found that I operate on the extreme that requires as little planning as possible.  Writing should be organic and roll off the tongue, so why should stories follow a syllabus?  Why not develop the story as feels natural?  Create with no restrictions and sop up the mess later if need be.

The arguments in support of outlining are strong and almost convincing.  Almost.  Outlining drastically reduces the number of rewrites required.  It all but eliminates writer’s block (you can read about my approach writer’s block, and why I don’t believe in it, here) because you know what to write next.  You prevent the possibility of writing yourself into a corner or creating immense plot holes that you can’t quite seem to fill.  When you outline, you tell yourself a condensed version of the story and then flesh it out to perfection.

Outlining is a great tool to have in your writing toolbox.  Like all tools, its use is determined by the task at hand.  You use hammers for nails and screwdrivers for screws and saws for, I don’t know, cutting stuff.  A hammer does you no good if you’re trying to cut a two-by-four in half.

Outlining is the same.  For someone who likes to discover the story as I write it, outlining is tedious and restricting because I feel immense guilt when I stray from the path.  The ending scene of my current project is crystal clear in my head, but I have no earthly idea how I’m going to get there.  My plan is to figure it out as I go.  I’m fine with that.

As aforementioned, outlining can cut down editing time.  That’s true in most cases, but the time spent crafting a perfect outline could easily be transferred to the time spent editing without an outline.

Some of my favorite writing advice concerning the great outline debate is that stories are not plot-driven, but character-driven.  If your characters do their job, their choices dictate where you go.  Present them with options and follow where they tell you to go.  Characters should read like real people and real people don’t conform to outlines.  We may have our schedules and planners, but life is constantly throwing wrenches in our color-coded plans.  We have no idea what’s coming down the pike and this mortal cluelessness translates when you write sans outline.

However, I do find it useful if I’m in a rut and unsure of where to go next.  If I struggle with trusting my vision, coming up with something helps me regain my focus, even if that something definitely wouldn’t happen.  A crappy idea scribbled onto a napkin is easier to handle than an empty Word document.  Something is always better than nothing and if that something is an outline, so be it.

Despite my preferences, you should always do what works for you.  If you are religiously devoted to your outline, awesome.  If you’ve never made an outline in your life and don’t intend to start now, awesome.  If you’re like me and dabble in the practice when the occasion calls for it, awesome.  The important thing here is that you’re writing, whatever it takes.

What are your thoughts on outlining?

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Annie’s Approach to Writer’s Block

Today, I’m addressing the bane of every writer’s existence: writer’s block.  It’s that feeling when you know you should be writing something, but you can’t think of anything but complete, utter garbage.  Of all writing-related topics to discuss, I feel like this is the topic we bloggers turn to with a startling frequency.  Writers are always looking for new, inventive ideas in the pursuit of slaying our inner demons, so we turn to the ever-so-reliable Internet to find new weapons.  It’s a great idea… in theory.

Let’s be clear: I’m no professional on how to handle writer’s block.  Hell, I have no idea how to handle writer’s block most of the time.  I’m subject to its perils just like you are, but I’ve found an interesting perspective that made it easier to tackle.

Many moons ago, before I started dedicatedly writing my book, I let writer’s block rule me and my creative process.  Writer’s block became a catch-all excuse to not sit down and try to write.  However, when I started writing for my independent study (which you can read all about here), I discussed writer’s block with my advisor and got some of the best advice I’ve ever received.  Here’s what my advisor said:

“Annie, writer’s block doesn’t exist.  You either know what to say and don’t want to say it, or don’t know what to say.  It’s that simple.”

I’m paraphrasing of course, but the sentiment is the same.  If you are sitting in front of your computer or your journal or whatever apparatus you use to write, you are capable of putting words on paper.  Writer’s block does not stop you from writing: you stop you from writing.  Writer’s block is nothing more than something else to blame for lack of focus, lack of purpose, or lack of effort.

Let’s talk about the two situations in which writing gets challenging: knowing what to say versus not knowing what to say.

If you know what you want to say and are consciously choosing not to write it, then I have one piece of advice for you: write your damn novel.  Open your computer or your notebook, pick up your pencil, and write your damn novel.  If you’re looking for a sign that you should close your browser and write your damn novel, then this is it.  I’m rooting for you, my friend.

If you still need a swift kick in the pants to get writing, here are some of my favorite motivators:

  • This video from Rachael Stephen:  In this amazing video, Rachael makes the point that writing is like making a date with your writer self.  Your writer self will never get to the date before you do, but if you show up first (by sitting down to write), she might show up.  She may be a few minutes late, but you can only write when you give yourself the chance.
  • “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story” from Hamilton: I’m as big of a book nerd as I am a Hamilton nerd and listening to the last song of the musical always inspires me to open my computer and write.  This song is about your legacy: you may never know your impact, but what are you going to do today to make sure that you leave something to outlive you?
  • Watching Jane the Virgin: This may seem counterintuitive, but watching Jane the Virgin inspires me to write because Jane, the protagonist and an aspiring writer, is always writing her novel in the show.  Watching Jane write makes me want to write as well (and her baby daddy is a total hunk, so that’s definitely a reason to watch).

If you are ready to write but don’t know what to say, then the endgame is clear: figure out what to write…and then write it.  Easy, right?

Wrong.  Figuring out what to write is hard.  There are millions upon millions of possibilities to choose from and even after choosing possibilities, you have to decide how each possibility will influence your novel as a whole.  No pressure, though.

Here are some questions to ask yourself when you don’t know what to write next:

  • What is the absolute worst thing that could happen to my character at this moment?  Peril, however unpleasant in real life, makes a fabulous story, so throw your protagonist a curveball or two and watch them flounder to recover.
  • What wouldn’t happen next?  Look at your protagonists situation and start narrowing down the possibilities.  Deciding what wouldn’t come next might lead you to what should come next.
  • Is my character where he/she is supposed to be?  If I’m unsure of where to go next, I backtrack one chapter and decide if my protagonist is in the right place at the right time.  If I envision her somewhere else, I backtrack 1,000 words or so and rewrite so she goes where I need her to go.  Looking back at old material while writing can be dangerous, but sometimes we have to take two steps back before we can take fifty-seven steps forward.

If those questions didn’t get you thinking, here are some tactics that I use to get the creative juices flowing:

  • Skip ahead:  I’m the worst about this, but sometimes I get so excited to write a particular scene…but have write a gateway scene that isn’t nearly as much fun.  Leave a note for yourself, come back to it later, and start writing something that excites you.
  • Set a timer for five minutes and write without thinking:  Open a blank document and type every thought that comes into your head.  You may end up with a document full of gibberish, but you may end up with your next plot point.
  • Take a break.  Or don’t:  If you need to step away from your computer for a hot second, then do it.  If you need to put on your big girl pants and write through it, then do it.  You know yourself and your writing process, so decide if absence will make the heart grow fonder or is you just need to write through the pain.
  • Read a book you don’t like:  This one’s a little weird, but it works.  If I pick up a book I know I hate, then I start thinking about the ways in which I could improve upon it.  I’d move this plot point here, cut this chapter, kill off this character… and next thing you know, you’ve got an idea.
  • Whatever you do, don’t quit:  If you decide to push a project to the side because you can’t think of what to write next, that’s okay.  Maybe you’re meant to let it go for now because you’ll get a fabulous idea later.  Whatever happens, don’t quit for good.  Decide that you’re not writing that piece right now, but you’re still leaving it open.  Don’t burn any bridges.

What is your approach to writer’s block?  What are your weird writer’s block fixes?

Don’t forget that my 500 followers giveaway is live right now!  Head on over to my post in which I freak out about having 500 followers to learn about the awesome, customized prizes you could win!  Head here to enter the giveaway.

Also, I’m running a survey to gather some information about you and your thoughts on Annie Likes Words, which you can access here.  Completing the survey and then logging it in Rafflecopter gets you FIVE automatic entries into the giveaway!

Finally, I’ve a Q&A post coming up, so give me some questions in the comments or on my Twitter and I’ll give you some answers!

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Annie’s July Favorites

Hello, y’all!  There’s nothing that I love more than watching favorites videos on YouTube (except, you know, writing), so I thought I’d try my hand at it and share some word-related and non word-related products that I’ve been loving this month.  I’m currently obsessed with…

  • Amazon Echo Dot: I purchased one of these little gadgets for my dorm room, but ended up putting it in my room at home because I’m obsessed!  Alexa is like a personal assistant: she plays music, she sets timers and alarms, she plays games, she’s just a good time.  For the quality of the Echo Dot, the cost is totally worth it.  You can get your own Alexa here.
  • A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro: Will there ever come a day when I don’t rave about this book?  Highly unlikely.  A Study in Charlotte is a retelling of the classic Sherlock Holmes and John Watson mystery, but focuses on their descendants Charlotte Holmes and Jamie Watson.  I love the dry wit and humor in this book and appreciate how the characters are shown with flaws.  I purchased my copy from Book Depository for a great price.
  • ShaelinWrites on YouTube: I recently discovered this fabulous YouTube channel run by Shaelin Bishop and am obsessed!  Shaelin’s videos are incredibly informative and address issues and ideas in writing with clarity and poignancy.  She has fabulous videos for writing, reading, editing, and general inspiration.  You can check out Shaelin here.
  • Telephone cord hair ties:  Y’all know how much I love a good scrunchie, but I was a bit skeptical when I ordered a few of these hair ties off of Instagram.  However, these ties put my doubts to rest almost instantly.  They stretch like nobody’s business but always come back to their original shape, meaning that they take a lot of weather and wear.  For a girl with thick hair like me, they’re perfect.  You can get some of your own here (and if you love scrunchies as much as I do, you can get my favorite ones here).
  • Lavender essential oil: The smell of lavender knocks me out, so I roll a little bit on my wrists, under my chin, and on my temples before bed if I’m not quite ready to go to bed yet.  This stuff is practically a recipe for instant sleep.  I use doTerra oil because they have great policies on the purity of their oils.  While it’s on the pricier side, the cost is well worth it: you can get the lavender rollerball that I use here.
  • John Mayer: This isn’t a new favorite for me, but John Mayer’s soft rock has been my favorite to listen to this past month.  I love the tenderness and power in his lyrics–they’re almost like stories in and of themselves.  I’m going to see him in concert in a few weeks (which I am super excited about!) so maybe that’s why I’m craving his music.

Are any of my favorites also your favorites?  What new stuff should I try this month?

Don’t forget that my 500 followers giveaway is live right now!  Head on over to my post in which I freak out about having 500 to learn about the awesome, customized prizes you could win!  Head here to enter the giveaway.

Also, I’m running a survey to gather some information about you and your thoughts on Annie Likes Words, which you can access here.  Completing the survey and then logging it in Rafflecopter gets you FIVE automatic entries into the giveaway!

Finally, I’ve a Q&A post coming up, so give me some questions in the comments or on my Twitter and I’ll give you some answers!

Okay, that’s all 🙂

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11 Things You Should Never Say to a Writer

As you can tell, I was pretty irate while writing this post and I’m not even published yet.  (I have to say “I’m not even published yet” because I’m trying to be positive after writing this excessively salty post).  Putting my personal vendettas aside, here is a comprehensive list of eleven things you should never say to a writer:

  1. Can you make me a character in your book? Um no. A few years ago, a girl at my school asked me if she could be a character in my book and I named my villain after her. Don’t ask a writer if you can be in her book unless you want to become the bad guy.
  2. Am I a character in your book? If you’re asking me this, it probably means you annoy me. So, yes, you probably are.
  3. Can I have a free copy? Writing is a job. You wouldn’t ask a doctor for a free exam, so don’t ask a writer for a free book.
  4. How much money do writers make? You have to be joking.
  5. I have this amazing idea for a book and I think you should write it. Trust me, I’ve got enough ideas bouncing around my head to last a lifetime.
  6. Can I read your book?  You can buy my book like the rest of the population.  Until then, shoo.
  7. I found a typo in your book. Great. Thanks for rubbing my errors in my face.  As if my fear of publishing a subpar book and the corresponding anxiety weren’t enough.
  8. No, like what do you actually do?  Do you know how close I am to throwing an uncapped pen at your face right now?
  9. I could be a writer too if I only had the time.  Believe me, honey: we have no more time than you in the day.  If you really want to write a book, stop talking to me and go write a book.
  10. Your job is so easy.  HA.  Yeah, tell that to my sleep deprivation.
  11. Why isn’t your book finished yet?  You know, I’ve been asking myself the same question since I started the damn thing.  Thanks for reminding me.

What else should you never say to a writer?  Has anyone ever said these things to you?

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Annie’s July Update

Hello, friends!  Today I’m going to share a little bit about my month in terms of what I read, what I wrote, and what I did with my life other than obsessing over literature.  Let’s do this.

This month I was a good little reader.  I finally caught up to my Goodreads challenge and am feeling pretty stellar about it.  I went on a road trip with my church this month, which allowed for some fabulous uninterrupted reading time to knock several of these books out.  I read or finished reading:

My reviews for the last few books are on the way, so sit tight and they’ll be up in a few days!  If you want to know what books I purchased and received this month, you can check out my July Book Haul here.

In addition to reading like a champ, I also wrote like a champ.  Taking that church trip also gave me the opportunity to write off the grid for a week and my brain went wild with ideas.  According to my last update, my novel was at 45,000 words as of the first of July–it’s now 55,000 words.  Writing 10,000 words in a month is unheard of for me, so I’m pretty damn proud of myself for dedicating the time to my craft and continuing to work on my novel.

Just for some perspective on my word count capabilities, I wrote 25,000 words during my first semester and 10,000 words during my second semester (you can read about my independent study in Novel Writing, which allowed me to write all of these words, here).  It took me five months to write 10,000 words, but I managed to write 20,000 between graduation and now.  Like I said: unheard of.

In other news, I cut my hair this month!  It used to be thick, curly, and almost down to my belly button.  Well, the thick and curly thing is still a thing, but I cut it right above my shoulders for a kind of Rapunzel-after-Flynn-cuts-her-hair vibe when I wear it naturally wavy.  I’m still getting used to the feeling of the ends of my hair on my neck.

I don’t have any pictures of my hair (sorry!) BUT believe me when I say it looks good.  At least I think it looks good.

I’m also planning a giveaway once I reach 500 followers!  The giveaway will be held over on my Twitter, so head on over and follow Annie Likes Words on Twitter so you’ll have the inside scoop about how to win some stellar reads and book-related stuff.

That’s it for this short and sweet monthly update!  I’ll conclude with some links to my favorite posts from this month:

How was your month in reading and writing?  What should I read next?

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Annie Has Blog Burnout and Wants to Talk About It

The title of this post is pretty self-explanatory: I have blog burnout.

In short, this means that I have a blog for which I want to craft eloquent posts, but I simultaneously feel like sitting down at a computer to crank out a single line of text might be proverbial equivalent of pulling my own wisdom teeth sans Novocain.  And that was the short version.

Before I debate the merits of blog burnout, let’s start with a little flashback, shall we?

I started getting really into blogging at the beginning of June after my graduation.  My schedule cleared, the burden of exams and tests lifted, and all I had to do was keep myself out of trouble and in shape to head to college come August.  I felt invincible, so I poured hours and hours into my blog and watched the stats spike.

As my follower count skyrocketed and engagement shot through the roof, I started to feel the pressure of blogging to a large audience.  What did my readers want to read?  Did they follow me because I followed them or are they actually interested in what I have to say?  Was I saying the right stuff?  Was I going to offend someone if I said the wrong thing?

The sparkle quickly disappeared.  Blogging started to feel less like a creative outlet and more like a chore.  I felt that I was obligated to produce new content every day so that you, my lovely readers, would be happy; so that you would keep coming back and reading what I have to say.

And thus we’ve arrived at the present situation: I feel pretty burned out.

This is in part because I set such a regimented schedule for myself: I wanted to write two posts a day until I got at least a month ahead of my posts and then I would start taking it slow.  WordPress is fabulous for this with the scheduling tool, but I can only schedule posts after I write them.

On top of that, I felt a lot of self-induced pressure to read and review the “hot” books so that my readers would be intrigued and see that I was current and relevant.  I’m a fast reader and can devour a book in a day, but reading new books takes time and money, both of which I seem to have little of lately.

AND on top of that, I’m trying to finish writing my damn novel.  My protagonist is super high maintenance and complains when I don’t spend enough time with her, so I’ve had to dedicate hours to stroking her ego and writing new scenes for her.

I love doing all of these things.  I love to read and write and blog and spend time with my main character (she’s a trip), but I can’t do them all at once.  And every once in a while, I have to get some sleep too.  Do you know how much I would pay to not have to sleep?

So the question I asked myself was, when did it stop being fun?  When did the things I love doing turn into burdens?  When did blogging become the equivalent of dental surgery without anesthesia?

I don’t have the answers to those questions as we rarely do when we as bloggers experience this phenomenon.  It’s taxing and painful to realize that your passion may not be your passion at this very moment.  Every time I open up my manuscript and can’t find the motivation to put words on paper, it breaks my heart a little bit.

So here’s the deal: I’m not going to quit blogging.  I’m on a downswing at this moment, but I feel like the pendulum is about to shift in the right direction.  You won’t be getting rid of me so easy.

What I am going to do is find ways to make this fun again.  I’m going to try writing new posts, making new graphics, talking about the real stuff: the beautiful, the grizzly, the mediocre, and everything in between.  I’m going to reread my favorite books and give my bitchy protagonist the attention she deserves.

I’m just going to see how it goes.  Maybe I’ll write three posts one day and no posts the next.  Maybe I’ll read a book in a day and then go on a two week reading hiatus.  Maybe I’ll get in the zone and write 4,000 words.  Maybe I’ll write four.  No matter what happens, I want this to be fun again.  I want to enjoy the time I spend working on my blog and reading and writing.  I want to fall in love with literature again, so that’s what I’m going to do.

How do you deal with blog burnout?  Got any trade secrets for making writing and reading fun again?

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Annie Gets Awards!

annie gets awards

Hello there!  I’ve gotten a lot of nominations for awards lately and I thought I’d combine them all into one awkwardly long post of awards!  Without further ado, let’s get this party started.

sunshine-award

I was nominated for The Sunshine Blogger Award by Rayne @ Rayne at the Bus Stop, and Ally @ Ally Writes Things, so thanks so much to Rayne and Ally!  Their blogs are fabulous and they are just the sweetest, so be sure to head on over to their sites and check them out!

Rules:

  1. Thank the person(s) who nominated you in a blog post and link back to their blog.
  2. Answer the 11 questions sent by the person who nominated you
  3. Nominate 11 new blogs to receive the award and write them 11 new questions.
  4. List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award logo on your post and/or on your blog.

Rayne’s Questions:

1. What motivated you to start blogging?
I started blogging because I wanted to build a platform where I could market myself as an aspiring author while connecting with other writers and readers.  Of course my other motivation was to work on my writing 🙂

2. Do you have a favorite story to tell people? (Hint: That’s a queue to tell US that story.)
When I was about 2 or 3, I gave myself a “makeover” with kiddie scissors and toothpaste for hair gel.  Yeah, I’ve never had a future in cosmetology.

3. Who is your favorite author?
Marina Keegan–she wrote the stories and essays in The Opposite of Lonelinesswhich was published posthumously.

4. In what ways did this author inspire you in your own writing?
Keegan inspired me to tell the unpopular story.  She taught me that the ugly side of life makes a better tale.

5. What’s the greatest thing about your best friend?
Other than the fact that she’s just wonderful?  I love that we can spend months apart and then come back together like no time has passed.

6. Camp or stay at a hotel?
Either: I love camping but I wouldn’t say “no” to a stay at the Ritz.

7. Fantasy or contemporary?
Contemporary without a doubt.

8. If you could meet any fictional character, which would it be?
I feel like I would get along fabulously with Louisa from Me Before You by Jojo Moyes.

9. Do you have a special “spot” for reading?
Not particularly–I like to be comfortable when I read, but I also read a lot at night so I guess on my bed?

10. Do you ever binge-read?
Not as much as I wish I could.

11. Does music distract you while you’re reading or do you prefer it?
I prefer listening to music if I’m reading for enjoyment because it creates a lovely ambience, but when I’m reading for school or trying to read fast I like silence.

Ally’s Questions:

1. What are your favorite flowers?
Daisies, tulips, and hydrangeas are my favorites.

2. If you could guest write any TV show, what would it be?
Ugh I don’t know!  I’ve yet to try screenwriting and I’m not sure if I’d be any good at it, but either Riverdale (which I’m obsessed with at the moment) or Downton Abbey.  I love Jane the Virgin as well, but I don’t think I’m witty enough to write a show like that.

3. Which author would you like to have read over a piece of your work?
John Green without a doubt.  They actually filmed part of “Paper Towns” in my neighborhood, so I got to see the set and all.  As I was walking by one day, John Green was driving away in a van, so I waved at him and he waved back.  I also got to meet Nat Wolff and had him sign my copy of Paper Towns.  Long story short, John Green.

4. Chocolate or vanilla?
Chocolate.  Always chocolate.

5. Best book of 2017?
Must I pick?  Either The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood or Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon.

6. What was your favourite book you had to read for school?
The History of Love by Nicole Krauss.  This book is as close to poetry as prose gets.

7. Favourite sports team?
The Tar Heels!  No one in my family graduated from University of North Carolina, but I love them nonetheless.  We kind of won the championship in basketball this year (just saying).

8. What is your biggest pet peeve in books?
I hate static characters.  Characters deserve better than to stay the same.

9. Are there any clichés you never get tired of?
I love princess stories.  They’re horribly overdone, but I love them anyways.

10. If you could attend any fictional wedding, which would it be?
This question was way harder than it should have been, but I’ll say Mary and Matthew’s wedding from “Downton Abbey.”

11. What do you do in your spare time other than book or blog-related things?
I’m a competitive dancer as well, so I pretty much do that when I’m not writing or reading.  My team was selected to go to nationals in New York, so I’m pretty busy training for that.

My Nominees for the Sunshine Blogger Award:

Brooke @ Brooke Jade Writes
Elise @ Roaming Reader
Clara Bennett @ The Book Goddess
Sophie Li @ Sophie’s Corner
Veronica @ Veronica Marie
Dippy-Dotty Girl @ The Traveling Diary of a Dippy-Dotty Girl
Misty @ Misty’s Book Space
Vrinda @ A Bookish Human
Maggie @ Maggie Derrick
Pamela @ Starring Pamela
Mikaela @ The Well-Thumbed Reader

My Questions:

  1. If you could have dinner with anyone, dead or alive, who would you choose and why?
  2. Have you ever had a nickname?  If so, what is it and how did you get it?
  3. What is one thing about you that someone would be surprised to know?
  4. If you could only listen to one song for the rest of your life, which one would you choose?
  5. What piece of advice would you give your younger self?
  6. What are your favorite and least favorite colors?
  7. If you starred in a reality TV show about your life, what would it be called?
  8. When was the last time that you were truly, genuinely happy?
  9. What quote do you live by?
  10. Do you prefer to write in pen or pencil?
  11. What smell reminds you of home?

liebsteraward

I was nominated for The Liebster Award by Jo-Ann @ Inspiration Pie, so lots of thanks to Jo-Ann!

Rules:

  1. Thank the person who nominated you.
  2. Answer the 11 questions they gave you.
  3. Nominate 11 blogs.
  4. Give them 11 questions to answer.

Jo-Ann’s Questions:

1. What’s your favorite genre to read?
I like to say that my favorite genre is good books, but I enjoy young adult contemporary.

2. What other hobbies do you like to do besides reading and blogging?
As aforementioned, I dance but I also love to bake!  I’m pretty dedicated to baking chocolate chip cookies in my spare time.

3. What is your ideal vacation?
At this point in time, either New York City with my best friend or San Francisco with my mom.

4. Do you have any pets?
I do!  I have a dog named Daisy.  We’re not sure what breed she is since she’s a rescue, but we think she’s a black lab-beagle mix.

5. What is the last movie you saw?  Did you like it?
Beauty and the Beast!  I don’t go to the theater often, but I loved this movie so much that I bought it on iTunes for some ridiculous price the day it came out.

6. How long have you been blogging?
A little over six months, but I started to dedicate serious time to blogging at the beginning of June after my high school graduation.

7. What is the best book you’ve read in 2017?  What is the worst?
I also answered this question above, but I loved rereading Delirium by Lauren Oliver.

8. What book character is your twin?
Cammie Morgan from Ally Carter’s Gallagher Girls Series.  Well, she’s way smarter than me, but I’d like to think we have something in common.

9. Do you prefer to swim in a pool or the ocean?
Pool–I teach swim lessons at my local Y, so I’m in the pool pretty much every day.

10. What is your favorite genre of music?  Favorite musician/band?
My taste in music mirrors my taste in books: I like good music.  I’ve always loved John Mayer (who I’m going to see in concert!), Lorde, Vance Joy, and James Bay though.

11. Do you prefer the country or the city?
City!  I’d love to move to New York one day.

My Nominees:

  1. Allie @ Awesome Allie Blog
  2. Vijayalakshmi@ The Reading Desk
  3. Jordon @ Simply Adrift
  4. Kate @ Uncovering Stories
  5. Justine @ I Should Read That
  6. Ally @ Ally Writes Things
  7. Enni @ Hooves and Pens
  8. Emma @ A Dreamer’s Library
  9. Dani @ Perspective of a Writer
  10. Amanda @ Amanda Writes
  11. Chloe @ Chloe Akemi

My Questions:
For simplicity’s sake, I’ll stick with the same questions as above.  Here they are again:

  1. If you could have dinner with anyone, dead or alive, who would you choose and why?
  2. Have you ever had a nickname?  If so, what is it and how did you get it?
  3. What is one thing about you that someone would be surprised to know?
  4. If you could only listen to one song for the rest of your life, which one would you choose?
  5. What piece of advice would you give your younger self?
  6. What are your favorite and least favorite colors?
  7. If you starred in a reality TV show about your life, what would it be called?
  8. When was the last time that you were truly, genuinely happy?
  9. What quote do you live by?
  10. Do you prefer to write in pen or pencil?
  11. What smell reminds you of home?

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I was also nominated for the Versatile Blogger Award by Priyasha @ BOOKS & CO. and Sophie @ Sophie’s Corner; thanks, Priyasha and Sophie!

Rules:

  1. Thank the blogger who nominated you and share their link.
  2. Nominate up to 10 bloggers for the award and provide links to their blogs.
  3. Also, inform them about the nomination.
  4. Reveal 7 facts about yourself that we your readers may not know.

Seven (Word-Related) Facts About Me:

  1. I’m only taking five books with me to college.  My dorm room is going to be so tiny and books take up so much space, so I’m drawing the line for myself at five.  I’ve already started to pick with ones I’m going to take and it’s kind of killing me that I can’t take them all.  However, I’ve worked out a sort of library system with my mom so that she can mail me the books I want to read while I’m away.
  2. I prefer to go to bookstores, but I actually buy most of my books online.  You just can’t beat those ThriftBooks and Book Depository prices.
  3. When I write by hand, I prefer to use blue pen.  I think that this habit formed when I started writing timed essays in high school because I preferred reading essays written in blue pen.  I’m kind of a freak about when I use certain pens and blue always does it for me when I write longhand.
  4. When it comes to paperback or hardcover, I don’t have a preference.  As long as it has pages, I’m game.
  5. I totally judge books by their cover.  Sorry not sorry.
  6. I format my writing in different ways based on whether I’m writing or editing.  Okay the difference isn’t as dramatic as it sounds, but I have to write in Google Docs with single-space 12-pt. Times New Roman font, bold chapter headings, and the beginnings of new chapters/sections justified to the left margin.  However, I prefer printing out my manuscript and reading in double-space when I edit.
  7. The best Christmas present I ever received was a stack of books.  A few years ago, my mom went through my Pinterest, Goodreads, and bookshelf to see what books I wanted to read next…and then she bought them.  Like, all of them.  It was such a heartfelt present and I still love rereading those books because they remind me of that day and how much my family loves me.  (That was also the year I received a copy of Paper Towns that was signed by John Green, so needless to say that was a pretty good Christmas),

My Nominees:

  1. Zoe @ Stories on Stage
  2. Laura @ SerendipiDIY
  3. Poulami @ Daydreaming Books
  4. Marie @ Drizzle and Hurricane Books

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I was nominated for my second Mystery Blogger Award by Helene @ AngelSpartaness, so thanks so much to Helene!

This award was created by Okoto Enigma

Rules:

  1. Put the award logo or image on your blog.
  2. Thank the person who nominated you and link their blog in your post.
  3. Name the creator of the award and link their blog.
  4. List the rules.
  5. Answer your nominator’s questions.
  6. Tell your readers 3 things about yourself.
  7. Nominate 10-20 people.
  8. Ask your nominees 5 original questions of your choice.
  9. Share link to your best blog posts.
  10. Notify each of your nominees by commenting on their blog.

Helene’s Questions:

1. Do you have any pets? What kind of animals are they, what are their names, and why did you choose them/where did you get them from?
I have a dog named Daisy and we rescued her about seven years ago!  We picked her because she’s all black but has white feet, so it looks like she’s wearing socks.

2. If you could exist in any fictional world for only one year before coming back to reality, where would you live and why?
I would live at Hogwarts (sorry, I’m basic) because after a year, I think I’d have enough of the world of magic.

3. What are 3 things that you are most thankful for each and every day?
I’m thankful for my family, my friends, and the fact that the Lord decided to wake me up that morning.

4. Would you rather: Have the power to read minds, or have it so that everyone believed everything you told them, no matter what?
I would rather have the power to read minds because I would hate going through life feeling like I was manipulating everyone around me.

5. If you could go back in time and tell your 7-year-old self anything at all, what would you tell your child self?
Your first B in school is not as big a deal as you think it is.

Three (Non Word-Related) Facts About Me:

  • I’m obsessed with Chance the Rapper’s album “Coloring Book.”  I thought of this fact because I’m listening to Chance the Rapper while writing this, but this album is so good!  I love the mix of styles and…just everything.  You can check out what I’m listening to on Spotify here.
  • I was a four-year varsity swimmer in high school.  My school was small, which was great for improving my odds of getting on the team!  We had practices every day before school and, as a night person, that was pretty tough.  Nevertheless, I loved going to practice and forming close relationships with my teammates.  I’m hoping to swim club or intramural in college, so we’ll see.
  • I love replying to your comments.  Okay, I lied–this one is word, or blog, related.  Seeing that y’all comment on my posts makes my heart smile, so I do my best to get back to everyone because it’s what I want other bloggers to do for me.  So please let me know what you think of my posts, whether you agree, disagree, or just want to chat.  I’ll read it all 🙂

My Nominees:

  1. Garima @ Garima Shares
  2. Anna @ My Bookish Dream
  3. Kate @ All the Trinkets
  4. Rimpy @ Rimpy’s Reads
  5. Kelly @ The Bookmarker
  6. Ashley and Sabrina @ 5171 Miles Book Blog
  7. Eden @ Everything Eden
  8. Fay @ Bibliophile Soprano
  9. Fyza @ Culture Eighteen
  10. Julianna @ Blots of Ink & Words

My Questions:
For the sake of simplicity (and my sanity), I’ll just take the first five questions from above and repost them here.  You’d think for a creative writer I could come up with some better questions, but I’m all about streamlining this process.  Here they are again:

  1. If you could have dinner with anyone, dead or alive, who would you choose and why?
  2. Have you ever had a nickname?  If so, what is it and how did you get it?
  3. What is one thing about you that someone would be surprised to know?
  4. If you could only listen to one song for the rest of your life, which one would you choose?
  5. What piece of advice would you give your younger self?

Here are some links to my favorite posts:
Annie’s Unpopular Opinions, in which I share some, get this, unpopular opinions.
Annie’s Writing Survival Kit, in which I list all of my writing essentials.
Annie Answers Questions: A Celebratory Q&A, in which I answer your questions.

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Finally, I was tagged by Ivy & Em @ Two Girls, Two Mountains for the Book Blogger Test.

  1. Thank the person who nominated you and add a link to their blog.
  2. Answer the ten questions asked on this post.
  3. Nominate at least five people to do it also.
  4. Let your nominees know you nominated them.

My Answers:

1. What are your top three book pet hates?  (Are these like pet peeves?)
I hate static characters, books that are alphabetized incorrectly on my bookshelf, and people who borrow my books but never return them.

2. What is the perfect reading spot?
I love reading in comfy pajamas, turning up the AC so my room gets really cold, and burying myself under thick blankets on my bed.

3. Share three book confessions.
Okay, get your pitchforks ready: I dog-ear library book pages, I annotate every book I read, and I’m not afraid of water damage.

4. What was the last book that made you cry?
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, which I read a million and a half years ago.  It takes the works to get me to cry at a book.

5. How many books are on your bedside table?
27.  Yes, you read that right.  I keep all the books I’ve yet to read on my bedside table so I can separate “read” from “to-be-read.”

6. What is your favorite reading snack?
Goldfish.

7. Name 3 books you’d recommend to anyone.
The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan, The Help by Kathryn Stockett, and The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffeneger.  I feel like there are so many things to be learned from these books.

8. Share some pictures of your bookshelf.

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Here it is in all its mishmash glory (plus a bonus picture of the 27 books on my bedside table).

9. Describe how much books mean to you in three words.
Every damn thing.

10. What is your biggest reading secret?
This isn’t a secret, but when I was little, I would take a book with me everywhere.  Not much has changed since then, but my mom would have to take books away from me and make me go play with the other kids.  Social interaction was literally my punishment as a child.

My Tag…

  1. Inge @ The Belgian Reviewer
  2. Flexi @ Flexi Reads
  3. Taylor @ Taylor Reads Books
  4. Books, Books, and More Books
  5. Anny @ The Mystique Reader

That’s all, folks!  Thanks for sticking with me to the end of this unbelievably long post and thank you to Rayne, Ally, Jo-Ann, Priyasha, SophieHelene, and Ivy & Em for nominating me for these awards.  I’m honored more than you know.  Be sure to check out their blogs and the blogs of my nominees!  I chose some of my more recent followers and people with whom I recently connected, so go show some blog love and give everyone a page view or two.

Follow Me // Twitter // Pinterest // Goodreads //

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Apps that Help Annie Write

APPS THAT HELP ANNIE WRITE

Hello!  Today I’m going to share with you some of my favorite applications on iPhone and Mac that help me write.  There are so many options for writing aids these days as far as applications go and these are some of my tried and true favorites:

  • WordPress: Duh!  I love the mobile app–it’s so easy to navigate and feels pretty much like looking at the desktop version.  I prefer reading blog posts on the iPhone app rather than on the computer because the app makes it so easy to use.
  • GooglePhotos: What I love about GooglePhotos is how it is to access your photos from any device.  I’ve always struggled with uploading pictures from my phone to my computer, but this app makes it so easy.  All I have to do is upload the picture in question to the app on my phone and it appears on the GooglePhotos website!  It’s lovely.
  • GoogleKeep: I just love Google, okay?  GoogleKeep is kind of like Notes, but it displays all of your notes like stickies, meaning that you can see all of them at once.  You can also access Keep on your desktop, which is so convenient.
  • ThriftBooks: I use this app to A) buy books at a ridiculously discounted price or B) check the price of a book to see if the copy in the bookstore is less expensive.  Either way, it’s a necessity.
  • Goodreads: This is pretty self-explanatory, but what writer doesn’t want social media for her bookshelf?
  • Spotify: A girl’s got to have her tunes ready for when the inspiration strikes!  I use this app both on my computer and my phone but the web player is okay as well.  Spotify has a feature that allows you to download music onto your device, giving you the ability to listen when not connected to WiFi.  I have pretty much all my music downloaded onto my computer, but stick to streaming on my phone because I simply don’t have the storage.

What are your favorite writing-related apps?  Let me know in the comments and head on over to my Twitter, Pinterest, Goodreads, Wattpad, and Spotify to share the social media love ❤

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Annie Talks Dialogue Tags: A Discussion Post

annie talks dialogue tags

Today, I’m addressing the hotly disputed (well, not hotly disputed, but disputed nonetheless) topic: dialogue tags.

Let’s start with a definition.  A dialogue tag is a phrase that follows, precedes, or breaks up dialogue in writing to describe how the character in question spoke.  For example, in the sentence “‘I love to read Annie Likes Words’, said Sarah,” “said Sarah” is the dialogue tag.  From these two words, we learn that Sarah spoke and that she said it in a neutral way.

The great debate here is over whether or not to use “said.”  Using extravagant verbs to describe how someone speaks can sound garish and overworked, but it can also be rather descriptive.  On the other hand, using only “said” brings a level of simplicity and conciseness to your writing while reducing the possibility of sounding ostentatious.

In my writing, I prefer to stick to “said” most of the time.  Unless I make the creative decision at the beginning of the piece to use these extravagant dialogue tags, I’m all about “said” for the reasons I listed above.  I find that overly descriptive dialogue tags can be distracting while reading, causing me to focus more on how the writer was trying to pinpoint exactly how the character spoke.  “Said” gets the job done, so why fix it if it ain’t broken?

Rather than finding specific tags to describe dialogue, I prefer to provide details while describing the character as he’s speaking.  Here’s an example:

“Why didn’t you do the dishes?” Mom nagged.

With this example, we get the basic information: someone was supposed to do the dishes, but didn’t, and now Mom is annoyed.  But watch what happens here:

“Why didn’t you do the dishes?” Mom said, crossing her arms over her chest and furrowing her brow.  She pushed her hair out of her face with a vengeance, revealing the tips of her ears: they were bright pink, like they always were when she was irritated.

Here, we got the same information, but in a more realistic way.  We learn about Mom as a person.  We learn about her body language, her idiosyncrasies, the things that are unique to her.  Everyone nags in a differnt way and we learn Mom’s way by describing it here.  Both of these examples get you to the same general place, but the second example’s path has a better view.

With that being said, I will break my own rules for a special set of circumstances.

I will stray from my norm if the character in question is speaking at a different volume, such as shouting or whispering.  There are certainly ways you can incorporate this information into the surrounding sentences, but I think volume needs to be directly attached to the dialogue because volume level and dialogue, you know, go together.

So what do y’all think?  Do you vary your dialogue tags or do you stick to “said?”  Let me know in the comments and don’t forget to check out my Twitter, Pinterest, Goodreads, Wattpad, and Spotify

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How Annie Improves Her Writing Even When She’s Not Writing

HOW ANNIE IMPROVES

If there’s an award for Most Confusing Blog Post Title, I’d like to nominate myself.  As wordy as that title is, it’s the best way to phrase what I’m trying to say: I want to talk about the ways I improve my writing even when I’m not writing.  As much as I’d love to sit at my computer and write without abandon all day, I cannot.  However, that doesn’t mean I have to go through life absentmindedly waiting for the next chance to put words on paper.  Here are a few of the ways I improve my writing even when I’m not writing:

  • I read.  “Well duh,” you might be saying to yourself, but it’s true.  How can you produce literature if you don’t encounter it in the first place?  There’s something quasi-spiritual about learning from the greats, reading their work and dissecting what makes it great in the first place.
  • I listen to music.  Music is full of inspiration that is ripe for the picking, so I find a playlist that speaks to me and hit shuffle.  I love trying to imagine what my protagonist would think of the song, if she would relate to the message.
  • I listen to conversations.  This one’s for my introverts in the proverbial room.  Characters, in my opinion, should be rooted in reality, so where better to take inspiration than reality itself?  I love to listen to how people enunciate their words, how their speech patterns are reflective of their personalities.  There is a lot of material to be found and used in the way people express themselves.
  • I go on Pinterest.  I love Pinterest but in between the cute clothes and pictures of adorable puppies is a wealth of inspiration.  There are faces and aesthetics and quotes that often align themselves with a character I’m developing.  So when I sit down to write again, I have a clearer mental image of my character and his or her personality.
  • I take notes.  One of the best practices I have as a writer is keeping a document entitled “Interesting Stuff” on my Google Drive.  Whenever I hear a phrase or see something that strikes a chord, I put it in my document of interesting stuff.  You’d be surprised how many breakthroughs I’ve had by scrolling through my little compilation of random stuff.
  • I daydream.  I’ve gotten called out for this several times in school, but it works!  I’d like to think that I have a lot of ideas in this head of mine, so sometimes a little self-exploration does me well.  Some of my favorite short story ideas have come from moments when I was bored out of my mind and had nothing to do but let my thoughts wander.

That’s all, y’all!  How do you improve your craft when you’re not writing?  Let me know in the comments and don’t forget to check out my Twitter, Pinterest, Goodreads, Wattpad, and Spotify to show some social media love ❤

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