7 Questions To Ask During NaNoWriMo [especially if it’s tough and before you gut yourself for how bad it’s going wordcount wise]

Day thirteen of NaNoWriMo.

For the peasants (aka: regular people) who don’t know, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month—an event that now spans the globe as writers from all walks of life and stages in the writing journey attempt to write a whole new novel in one month (or, at the very least, 50,000 words in one month).

This is my third and worst NaNo. Last year, I wrote the first draft of False Gods during NaNoWriMo, and it seemed like I had struck a healthy balance of imbalance (trust me, that will make sense in a moment I hope).

Some days I would write 8,000 words in a day. And sometimes I’d write only 17. I wanted to write that story so badly, was so ready to get it rolling. I never felt burned out of it or uninterested in it; some days there was just too much going on in the rest of life and I was fine with writing very little. Other days it just sort of exploded.

‘Tis not so with NaNoWriMo 2018.

In case I’m not the only one having trouble, here are seven questions to ask yourself during NaNo, especially if the going is rough.

 

7 nano questions 2.jpg

I. Have you picked the right story?

Maybe your idea isn’t ripe yet. Perhaps it needs to simmer for a while longer. This leaves you with a few options.

You can A) try to finish the story anyway, but I warn against this because while art requires discipline, it isn’t something you can force.

B) Try writing another novel, but you probably shouldn’t expect to finish this new one before the end of the month unless you generally draft a novel in just a few days.

C) Write some short stories instead, contributing those words to your NaNo wordcount.

D) Don’t finish NaNo. This is actually fine. It sounds like a sin for some reason (probably because we writers are a bit obsessed), but the world won’t end, my friends.

E) Continue working on the story at a much slower rate, one that allows the idea to grow.

II. How much time are you spending on social media?

For me, the answer is usually way too much. I have grand plans of cutting myself off from social media, but alas they never seem to come to fruition. My copy of Deep Work glares at me from the bookshelf. (Oh, right. I’m writing a blog post about that book, aren’t I?)

However, all of my writer friends live far away, and we connect most easily on social media. So for word wars and encouragement and such, social media is incredibly helpful.

But. Alas. It’s so easy to get pulled into the scrolling quicksand. And then all sorts of life-sucking things like comparison, zoning out, etc. creep in and… ahem, suck the life out of you.

I’ve found that lack of creativity is often directly related to a surplus of time spent in the depths of social media. So if you’re feeling drained, uninspired, depressed, or all of the above, maybe take a break from your social medias for a few days. Or limit your time to fifteen minutes to see if that helps.

III. Are you starving yourself creatively?

Sometimes I get into this rut where I think if I’m working on a story, I can’t enjoy other people’s stories. As if I don’t have the time right now or I’ll reward myself with a book or movie after NaNo is over.

Typically, this starves me.

Reading is one of the most relaxing and rejuvenating things for my imagination, and movies provide a break to simply take in a story visually. When I read for even just a half hour, my creative blood flows more easily.

Perhaps you’re like me. Maybe you need story input in order to have story output at a high rate.

IV. Are you feeding yourself the wrong brand/genre of creative food?

Are you reading/watching/drawing a bunch of things that get your mind exploding in a different genre?

Variety is important in a creative’s diet, but sometimes—like when you’re drafting a new novel–it’s important and helpful to guard your imagination from the wrong genre of inspiration. There are some stories that you know ignite your imagination for a certain brand of story.

The Lord of the Rings will never not inspire me to write epic fantasy.

Dracula will (apparently) never not inspire me to write a steampunk vampire story that’s basically just a fan fiction of Dracula. (Seriously, guys. I have been blown away by Dracula. I was expecting to not like it, but I think it’s better than Frankenstein and The Picture of Dorian Grey combined.)

The Lion King will never not inspire me to work on False Gods.

The new Star Trek movies (as wild and crazy and sloppy as they can be) will never not inspire me to get to work in the Stars and Soul storyworld (which also happens to be the same storyworld as my NaNo novel this year).

So consume the stories that jumpstart your creativity for this NaNo story. Know the music, books, and movies that make you squirm to create something in the genre of your NaNo novel… because then, hopefully, it will give you more energy to create your NaNo novel.

V. What else is going on in your life that affects your art?

Are you in college? Studying for exams? Preparing to move? Settling in after a move? Working extra hours? Taking care of a newborn? Remodeling the house?

For me, the things that are affecting me the most are my upcoming move to Texas, all the things I want/need to do/say before I make the move, and the release for Stars and Soul (November 20, my dudes).

Stories have always been a sort of refuge for me, and in the past I’ve viewed writing as a sort of refuge, blocked out from the rest of the world. But I know now that my writing is intimately tied to the rest of my life.

If this NaNo is hard, don’t beat yourself up for it. Take a step back to see what in this season of your life is affecting you. It’s important to remember that you are not the same person you were last November. Your life is not the same it was last November. And your life will not be the same next November.

Don’t expect to create in the same way, with the same speed, with the same ease as you have in the past.

VI. And what about God?

Is your relationship with God—the time and attention and desire—suffering because of NaNoWriMo?

Are you writing with God, or are you going at it alone? Are you making time for Bible reading, personal worship, and prayer? Or are those spiritual disciplines—the lifeblood of our relationship with God—getting axed? And it likely isn’t that you don’t want to be steadfast with God; it’s just that work, school, writing, sleeping, etc. quickly crowd those disciplines out.

It is so easy for the glittering, heavily caffeinated fun of NaNo and the new novel and the word wars and the Pinterest board and these characters to silently, deftly, speedily displace Jesus in our minds and hearts.

So think about this question. Dwell on it. Pray about it. Don’t shy away from God or your own heart. Be honest.

Or maybe things have never been better with God. In which case, savor him.

VII. Do you have to draft a new story this month? What is motivating you?

I.e. – why are you doing NaNo? Is it because you’ve always done it? Is it a matter of writer pride? Something all the other writers talk about that you wanted to try? Because you have a story that just needs to be written?

Check your heart. It’s not that any of these are bad reasons to do NaNo. It’s just that it’s okay to not write a new story this month.

Basically, even if NaNo isn’t going as you imagined it would, and you see your friends splattering their 40,000 words all over social media, it’s okay. It. is. okay.

Your life is not writing. Your identity is not writing. You’re no less a writer if you don’t finish your novel this month. You’re no less a writer if you don’t write 50,000 words this month.

And maybe not finishing NaNo is failure.

I won’t say that it isn’t because your definition of failure depends on your definition of success. For some, not finishing NaNo will be failure. In which case, good because it needn’t be a bitter failure. Better for it be a failure that teaches you your weaknesses and limitations rather than it be a “success” that leaves you stress-ridden, depressed, snappy, and unfocused on what will always matter (i.e. – God and other people).


This NaNo’s been tough for me. At the time of this post writing, I’m little over 8,000 words for the month (I should be at 20,000). I’ve gotten stressed about it (surprise, surprise), and I need to daily take a step back and ask myself these questions. Especially those last three.

If you’re doing NaNo and it isn’t going well and you’re stressed, hopefully these questions will help you work through some of that stress.

So, friends. Are you doing NaNo? How is it going? What are your thoughts/advice for when NaNo is tough?

With love,

Rosalie

p.s. – people have asked to see the Stars and Soul Pinterest board. You, my friends, are going to get the link first. <3

p.p.s. – yeah, no High Command memo went out last week. It’s just one of those things that may not happen again until I’m in Texas.

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I’m Moving to Texas [the FAQs]

Come January 2019, I will no longer live in the wilds of Wisconsin. Instead, I will live among the cacti of Texas.

This is, obviously, a big deal for me, and there are many recurring questions that come up when people learn I’m moving. So, I’ll answer many of those questions in this post.

moving to texas 2.0.jpg

Why?

Because for quite some time (over a year and a half now), Jesus has been calling me to join a specific network of church-planting churches.

Luke, my older brother, helped plant a church in Texas this past summer, so as far as church planting goes, it makes the most sense for me to join him and the rest of the planters there.

Where?

The Austin area of Texas.

What will you be doing?

Trying to make disciples, working, writing, reading, coffee shop hopping, etc.—many of the same things I am doing in Wisconsin, only with a different group of people and in a different environment.

Will your parents be going too?

No. At this time, they are called to stay in Wisconsin and continue ministering at the church we’ve been a part of for the last seven and a half years.

I’m the youngest, and I’ve never lived apart from them. This will be a difficult transition for all three of us.

When?

End of 2018, beginning of 2019. (I’ll likely be very flaky as far as my social media/internet presence during the last two weeks of December and the first two weeks of January.)

Do you have a place to live?

Yes! I will be sharing a four-bedroom house with three lovely girls who are a part of the church I am joining. I’ve met them and seen the house, and the way things fell into place as far as these roommates go is part of what convinced me that this is where God wants me right now.

Will this church plant pay you?

No. My service will be purely volunteer—just like all the other planters, just like in any other church.

Well, do you have a job?

Not yet, but there is a pretty good job market in the area, and I am confident that I will find a job exactly when God intends me to.

Will you (finally) be going to college?

No. I don’t think I ever will. Something might change, but the things that I am passionate about and am called to do not require a degree.

Will you keep writing?

Heck yes. It will be harder because I’ll have to work enough hours to pay for living expenses, and it may be a season where I get even slower as a writer. Or perhaps, for inexplicable reasons, I may get faster.

Regardless, by this time, I am confident in my gifting as a writer, and I believe to not write would be foolish mishandling of that gift.

Will Graham go with you?

Graham.jpgFor those of you who may not know Graham, he is my dearly beloved cat. I raised him from kittenhood, and he is my Precious. But he cannot come. Not only would he struggle to adjust to life as an indoor cat after living so much of his life outside, but housing is a problem as one of my roommates is allergic.

So Graham will remain in Wisconsin where he can continue to roam cornfields and torture sparrows like the heartless psychopath that he is. As difficult as it is to leave him, I honestly think he will be far happier in Wisconsin than he would be if I wrangled a way for him to come to Texas.

How close is the nearest library?

Oh, finally, an important question. xP Under fifteen minutes!

But what about winter?

You’d be surprised how much I get this question, but apparently a lot of people know I adore winter and snow and cold…. but I am moving to a freaking desert. I will learn to live without.

What if you’re wrong about God’s calling?

Then I am wrong, and God will redirect me as he is more than capable of doing.

Trust me, I considered and agonized over this far more than I should have. But I have received wise counsel from both my parents and another mentor, and I have come to realize that I can’t mess this up. *shrug* If I go and I’m wrong, I’ll come back or go wherever else God leads instead. Regardless, God will use this to grow me in many, many ways.

Well. That’s that.

Now you know. If you have any other questions, drop them in the comments below.

It seems like I’m not quite myself as I write this post. This announcement has been a long time coming, but I’ve been putting it off because as excited as I am and as certain I am that this is what Jesus has for me, it’s been really hard too.

I don’t want to be away from my parents; I never have. And Texas is very far away from my parents.

I don’t want to be away from Arielle, Caleb, and Janie—my other siblings. But, again, Texas is very far away from them.

even in tears.JPGI don’t want to leave the family I’ve worked with for the past two years as a nanny. I realize that the kids won’t recognize me as early as six months after I’m gone, and it will be hard to keep up with their mom and dad whom I love.

I don’t want to leave the friends that I’ve taken years to get close to. I don’t want to leave my cat or the dogs I’ve grown up with (as silly as that sounds).

But I had no peace until I decided to join this church plant. As awful as saying goodbye will be and even now as it chokes me as I realize I have less than two months left with these people whom I love, the unrest from and resistance to the Holy Spirit was eating me. I have to at least try it.

And I think that we are called to some things simply because they are hard for us.

So I’m going to Texas. May Jesus increase, and may I decrease.

With love,

Rosalie

p.s. – regularly scheduled Penprints will return next week, and I hope to get a High Command memo out this week.

p.p.s. – I just want to clarify: I am incredibly excited about moving to Texas. It may sound like I’m not, but that’s just because the sad aspects the move are inescapable.

Stars and Soul [endorsements & cover reveal wrap]

Today’s post is basically just a giant celebration. Because on Saturday, the cover for Stars and Soul started exploding across the internet. And when I say exploding, I mean e.x.p.lo.d.i.n.g. My phone would not stop buzzing.

Alea Harper designed a stunning cover, but I was honestly afraid it would be just me and like my dad (who has no social media) sharing the cover and inviting people to preorder.

Alea totally deserves to have this piece of art blasted across all the social medias, but I was worried people would be too uninterested/scared away because this I’m young, small potatoes, and self-publishing this little collection.

*cue my socks getting blown off and then blown up*


// What Is Stars and Soul? //

In case you’re new here, Stars and Soul is a collection of four flash fictions (stories under 1000 words) set in a sci-fi world with aliens and alliances. It is set to release November 20, 2018. Right now, the Kindle copy is available for pre-order, but there will also be a tiny paperback available on the release day.

Here is the official blurb: A scheming imperial family. A bedraggled starship captain. A runaway artificial intelligence. A dying general. Four small stories of stars and soul.


// The Social Media Turnout //

There were way too many Facebook posts, Instagram posts, Instagram stories, and blog posts to keep track of over the course of the cover reveal day. Some of you never signed up for the reveal but joined on the day of, and you blessed me so much.

Thank you so much to Mom, Arielle, Katie Grace, Moya Tobey, Abigayle Claire, Amanda Hookham, Liv K. Fisher, Carrie-Anne Thomas, Kira Thomas, Bethany Jennings, Jaye L. Knight, Savannah Grace, Mary Weber (freaking. Mary. Weber), Katherine Massengill, Julian Daventry, Pam Halter, Ashley Townsend, Lydia B., Jenni Wojtowicz, Julia Anne, Kenzie, Elizabeth Koetsier, Elizabeth Hafferty, Brittany Valentine, Dominique Sprouse, Nadine Brandes (um, what?), Emileigh Latham and Stephanie Warner for leading the charge on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. (I know there were more, but I literally couldn’t keep track of all the IG stories and Facebook shares.)

cover reveal collage 1.jpg

some #bookstagram posts


// The Blog Posts //

S&S cover reveal graphic.jpgThis hilarious, gif-ful reveal from Savannah at Inspiring Writes (also, Savvy just got on Instagram and Youtube, so go give her some love!!).

This lovely blog post from Serethiel over at The Book Sprite.

Jaye L. Knight also shared the cover with a blog post!

Katherine Massengill (a fellow flash fiction enthusiast who has participated in the Penprints Flash Fiction Dash) also featured the cover on her blog!

Julian Daventry (another #flashficdash alum!) also put together a blog post for the reveal!


// A Few Endorsements //

I’ve received some very glowing endorsements, and so I’m going to share them here first and then let them trickle out over my Facebook and Instagram as November 20th approaches. :)

STARS AND SOUL COVERWhen I made my list of people to contact about endorsements, I comprised it of people who a) know sci-fi, b) know flash fiction, or c) have experience with both. The people who agreed to read took my breath away with their words of encouragement and endorsements.

>> “Rosalie Valentine’s Stars and Soul opens a window into a galaxy rife with intrigue and danger, a place home to disparate peoples striving to survive. A scheming empress-in-waiting — a weary captain of a malfunctioning starship — androids seeking refuge — a general facing laments — all bring the ‘soul’ promised by the title in memorable ways. A fun, thoughtful, quick read.” — Steve Rzasa, author of The Face of the Deep series

>> “Rosalie Valentine needs no more than 1,000 words to send your emotions stirring. Her flash fiction is an art of storytelling blended with the human senses—leaving you both wanting more and yet extremely satisfied when you finish. I could lose myself in her writing all day.” – Nadine Brandes, author of the Out of Time series, Fawkes, and Romanov

>> “Rosalie Valentine has crafted an intriguing universe of flesh and machine that expands with each story told. Stars and Soul is sci-fi with heart and endings that leave you wanting more!” – Just B. Jordan, author of Never to Live and To Ashes We Run

I have no words. Please excuse me while I go bury my face in a pillow and shed some many tears.


// The Necessary Details //

You can pre-order Stars and Soul on Amazon, and you can add it on Goodreads, if you like. It will release on November 20, 2018.

#starsandsoul #starsandsoulcollection

Thank you all for blessing me. <3 My heart is so happy.

With love,

Rosalie <3

p.s. – that binary code on the cover, tho. Alea read the stories and scrolled through my Pinterest board, and I was so happy when she put code on the cover. You’ll know why later if you read the third Stars and Soul story.

Sense of Red [a flash fiction with author’s notes]

Preface.

I almost didn’t share this flash fic because it is not my best. In fact, it is probably one of the angriest, sappiest, most emotion-driven things I’ve ever written.

I took my feelings and confusions about jealousy (not romance-related) and dropped them into a love triangle story; how could it possibly get melodramatic?

sense of red.jpg


// Sense of Red //

What was the threat of ten years in prison compared to love? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. At least, ten years was what Riley figured he would be sentenced to if he shredded the two paintings hanging on the museum wall. Five years a piece.

But then, this wasn’t love.

This was knowing that Jacob would propose to Elena in just one hour in front of these exact paintings, a Monet and a Van Gogh. And Riley wouldn’t give a rip about Jacob and Elena kissing and crying and celebrating their engagement. He wouldn’t. Not even a rip.

It’d been what?—four years since he and Elena had broken it off? He was over it. So far over it.

And Jacob was his best friend, had been since they were first paired as chemistry lab partners. Jacob’s logical brain had saved Riley’s flagging math and science grades while Riley’s poetic guidance was the salvation for Jacob’s art appreciation class. From then on, it was the two of them back-to-back against the world. Not to mention that Jacob had asked Riley at least ten different times if he was okay with him dating Elena, had triple-checked that Riley wasn’t harboring any lingering feelings for her, and Riley had said “no” every time.

Yet whenever he saw them together, something molten shot through his veins, and he swore his bones were melting under the heat.

Because while Jacob couldn’t tell the Van Gogh from the Monet if they slapped him in the face, Elena and Riley had debated and marveled and shared so much over every exhibit, driving five hours to see a Raphael in person, pouring over every detail and every theory behind each piece of art.

Because he could still see her dark, rich eyes inches from his own and taste the breaths they shared after a kiss, could still smell the salt from her joyful tears when he sold his first painting. Ever this heady desire, this understanding of what fueled the greatest of the artists and romantics because it ran through him whenever he was with her.

Because he’d spent the last four years saying things with his lips that he didn’t believe for one second in his heart. Four years should have been enough to get over it, to move past it, but it wasn’t.

So before he did something worth prison, he would go home to his lonely little apartment and paint something to deal with all that pulsed through him. Something with lots of angry color. Something that captured the desire to punch Jacob, kiss Elena, take a knife to the most beautiful art on the planet, and burn the whole place to the ground. Something to help him deal with this sense of red.

The Monet and the Van Gogh would be left unscathed, and Jacob and Elena would never know of anything besides how very, very happy he was for them because they were both far too dear for anything else.


Author’s Note.

I wrote this flash fiction over a year ago, and since then, I’ve learned a lot about flash fiction, writing, and life.

I am a deeply jealous person (which apparently surprises most people?), and I wrote Sense of Red at a time when my jealousy was flaring especially high. On top of all the emotional wreckage I was sorting through, I also tried to figure out if my jealousy was wrong, or if it was an emotion to teach me something of God’s jealousy.

After much prayer, study, and meditation, I came to realize that, no, jealousy is not inherently wrong. And, yes, it’s given me some insight into my jealous God. However, jealousy is powerfully tied with anger, and I, in my fallen human nature, am not pure and infallible like my jealous God is.

Jealousy in fallen people treads a dangerous and thin line, easily stemming from and crossing over into envy, idolatry, and pride. Someday I may write a more extensive post about the red of jealousy and the green of envy, but this will do for now.

Writing Sense of Red was like therapy. It helped me process my extremely volatile emotions instead of my emotions processing me.

May God use your own writing to help you grow.

With love,

Rosalie

p.s. – Stars and Soul is now up on Goodreads! Go add it (because I promise those four stories are much better than this one)!! And we’re less than a week until the cover reveal! Eep!

When Inspiration Doesn’t Strike

*insert swanky post preface that gets you jazzed for the rest of this post*

when inspiration doesn't strike.jpg

I considered announcing that I would be taking the rest of 2018 off when it comes to blogging. In other words, I’d quit Penprints until January 2019.

Because by January 2019, life will have settled down.

Or so I told myself as I looked at my list of blog post ideas with no interest in any of them (no, not even that Deep Work one I keep saying I want to write).

Here’s the deal. I know life will not “settle down” by January 2019. In fact, in lots of ways, it will be crazier than ever.

So why would I quit blogging for two and a half months?

Because I’m tired. Because my creativity is dwindling, and I want to channel what creativity I have to my novel-writing. Because I’m not inspired.

My life is not super hectic right now. There are occasional flares of craziness, but overall, it isn’t too stressful (but as we all know, my stress threshold is not high). The issue is a mixture of being lazy, mentally and emotionally burned out, and creatively worn out.

I’ve been on the edge of burnout on all fronts all year.

Jesus has been very gracious to me, and he’s arranged for events, trips, and people to be like defibrillators to me. He has been very good to me, so this isn’t a complaint against him. This is just honesty about how I’ve been fumbling around trying to figure out if I’m doing too much or not enough.

I know that a lot of it is my fault—it is me not being wise with my time, it is me sometimes simply not doing the work because I don’t want to (on all the theaters of war here, people—intense Bible study, my novels, my relationships, etc.), it is me digging myself deeper into a hole.

I’ve just not been feeling it. And by “it” I mean inspiration. It has not been striking, and so I haven’t been doing as much doing.

Creative work is tricky—you can’t force or fake it, and sometimes you do have to quit for a bit to rest and recuperate. Usually, however, you still have enough energy to create something. Usually, the creativity isn’t the problem. Usually, inspiration is the problem.

Inspiration is as reliable as feelings, friends (which, in case you weren’t sure, are super unreliable). That’s all there is to it.

Inspiration comes. And then inspiration goes. And then inspiration goes missing. And then inspiration is presumed dead. And then suddenly, inspiration has a resurrection. But then inspiration might run away to join the circus.

And where does that leave us? Without inspiration.

The big question is: what will we do when inspiration does not strike?

Will we do a rain dance, hoping it will return? Will we scroll through Pinterest for an hour searching for it? Will we take a nap to escape the reality that it might never come back? Will we let a blank screen crush the life out of us?

Do we quit the blog for two months? Do we shelve the novel until further notice? Do we close the sketchbook for weeks? Do we leave the song unfinished?

Do we take a break? Push it off until tomorrow? Take the path of least resistance?

Or, will we keep going, inspiration or not?

Here’s the deal: forget inspiration.

Just screw it. Screw feelings too, for that matter. Forget hype and positivity.

Life is chaos. It will never “settle down.”

Inspiration is flaky. We will never nail it down.

When life is chaos, do it anyway. When inspiration doesn’t strike, do it anyway. When you’re tired, do it anyway. When you want to be lazy, do it anyway. When your emotions are on a loop, do it anyway.

Exercise wisdom about what is important. Exercise wisdom in when you actually need breaks. (And if you don’t have wisdom, start walking with the wise and get wisdom.)

But, as a general rule, do it anyway.

Write the book. Craft the blog post. Paint the picture. Hang the drywall. Edit the story. Finish the song. Draw the comic.

Carve out the time to cultivate your creativity, but do not bow to inspiration.


I write this post because I have been working on the second draft of False Gods since April, and I’m not even halfway through it.

April, people. April.

In case you didn’t read that right: APRIL.

Part of this because I am simply slow. Part of it is because it’s taken this long to get some things ironed out/developed in my head. And part of it is because I’ve waited for inspiration to show up instead of cultivating discipline and creativity.

So here I am with fifteen days until NaNoWriMo, not sure if I’ll be drafting something new or working on what I drafted during NaNoWriMo 2017.

What do you do when inspiration doesn’t strike? Do you find you are emotion/inspiration-driven? Or are you discipline/logic-driven?

With love,

Rosalie

p.s. – a post about cultivating creativity is coming to a Penprints near you in the near future.

p.p.s. – if you haven’t already signed up for the cover reveal of my sci-fi flash fiction collection (Stars and Soul), there’s still time!