20 Ways to Fill Your Empty Notebooks

Raise your hand if you have more than five empty notebooks languishing somewhere in your house.

Okay, now keep your hand up if you have 10 empty notebooks. 15?? 20? 25??? 5000??

You can put your hands down now (full disclosure, I never saw if your hands were up or down for obvious reasons).

Any decent person has at least 3 empty notebooks in their custody at any given time. For those of you who don’t have 3 empty notebooks, well, we still love you (for the most part…. most of the time).

Ahem. This post is for the decent people who find themselves with an abundance of empty notebooks.

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  1. Bullet Journal (aka: The Ultimate Journal).

This is an amazing journal to keep because you can use it in so many ways. A bullet journal can be your day planner, your calendar, your money tracker, your book tracker, and where you keep track of your favorite names (wait, you don’t compulsively collect the names you like???) all in one. That is why this is The Ultimate Journal. It can hold as much or as little as you want.

  1. Devotions Journal.

The devotions journal is another essential. This is where you can write down all your notes from your quiet time 1) to help process what you’re learning 2) to write down tangible application (aka: action you will take in light of your time in devotions) and 3) to revisit them later.

  1. Favorite Quotes Journal.

Quotes are easy to like but difficult to keep track of if you don’t have a central place to keep them. Hence the favorite quotes journal. Find a quote you like, flip to a fresh page in this journal, and jot it down.

  1. Thanksgiving Journal.

Cultivating a thankful heart goes a long way when it comes to discontentment, anxiety, and even depression, and one way to work towards being more intentionally grateful is to keep a journal filled with things you’re thankful for. Try to come up with a couple new things to put in this journal every morning, and it will slowly change your attitude.

  1. Morning Pages.

Morning pages are supposed to be done right after you wake up in the morning. You tumble out of bed, grab a pen, and start scrawling. You’re supposed to write anything and everything that comes into your mind in an attempt to help you have greater focus throughout the day. Once you’ve scratched out three pages of stream-of-conscious thought, you set the pen down and begin your day. Personally, morning pages aren’t all that helpful for me, but they help Abbiee a lot, and so you should think about trying them out for a week.

  1. Reading Journal.

When reading a book (especially nonfiction), it can be very helpful to journal as you go to help process all the information that you’re taking in, and a journal dedicated to such a practice is perfect.

  1. Food Diary.

This one’s good for people who like to be fit. If you bite it, you write it.

  1. Writing Exercise Notebook.

No, not exercise like crunches or anything like that (I just wanted to clarify for those of us who are triggered by exercise). The writing exercises I’m talking about are free writing, answering a prompt, trying to rework a sentence, or any other writing related task given from a writing workbook/book on the craft. Instead of loose leaf pages floating around and piling up in awkward places, consolidate all your writing exercises to a single notebook.

  1. Language Journal.

This is for those of us who are learning a foreign language. If you don’t already keep a language journal, I don’t know how you survive. For me, keeping a language journal while taking Spanish helped me keep track of new rules, write down vocab to make into flashcards for later, conjugate verbs, etc.. So if you’re learning a new language, consider starting a language journal.

  1. Discipleship Journal.

A discipleship journal is a tracker of sorts for people who are discipling other people. After the disciple-maker meets with the disciple, say for lunch, the disciple-maker jots down a few things: thoughts on the meeting in general, specific things to pray for the disciple, good questions to ask the disciple at the next casual meeting, and so on and so forth. If you’re serious about discipleship, you may want to think about starting a discipleship journal.

  1. Blog Log.

Okay, this is not a log really, but “Blog Log” sounds better than “Blog Journal” or “Blog Notebook” (guys, how it sounds is half the importance of the whole idea). Everything blog related goes in this notebook: long hand drafts of posts, ideas for future posts, schedule for posts, etc.. Of course, because I’m obsessed only mildly with this blog, I’ve had a blog log for quite some time.

  1. Mindmapping.

Mind maps. I’m not sure if it’s one word or two, and they’re tricky things that I have yet to master BUT I’VE READ THAT THEY’RE SO HELPFUL. So go look them up and think about using one of your notebooks for mindmapping. (This point = perfect precision.)

  1. Poetry Journal.

If you have poetry skills–and maybe even if you don’t–put them to use in this journal.

  1. Doodle Practice Notebook.

So you doodle professionally (be honest, it’s most likely for your bullet journal). Why not keep all your doodles (aka: bullet journal practice) in one place?

  1. Mutual Love Note.

This is such a cute one for married couples! You exchange love notes in a journal that you swap back and forth, and it makes what’s called a Mutual Love Note.

  1. Novel Notes.

Anything related to your novel goes in here: outline, character sketches, snippets of dialogue, etc.. If it pertains to your novel, it goes in here. This is helpful so that you aren’t digging around your desk for that scrap of napkin you wrote that piece of backstory on because it all goes in the novel notebook.

  1. Your Novel.

In the event that you are a slightly insane yet very swanky almost-human (aka: an author), you can choose to write your novel out by hand. With a pen. In a notebook. By hand. With a pen. By hand. Your whole novel. With a pen. In a notebook. By hand. I may be repeating things because I’m in awe of people who do this; namely you, Nadine Brandes.

  1. Flash Fiction Journal.

Personally, I like to write out the first drafts of my flash fictions by hand. Keeping all these rough (very rough) draft flash fictions in a journal helps me know where to find them and somehow makes me feel like a genius (true story, kids, and it’s got nothing to do with the fact that my flash fiction journal is a blue notebook that has “Brilliant Ideas” emblazoned on the cover).

  1. Memory Journal.

I wasn’t sure what to call this one. It’s the very base idea of a journal, the most fundamental kind that has ever been kept–a diary, a vault for memories made of paper and ink. You track history and emotion and upheaval and the daily grind in this bad boy. It is, perhaps, the first kind of journal.

Well, I’m going to abruptly and awkwardly end this post now with a misshapen bookend.

What do you usually use notebooks for? Do you have any empty ones lying around? Do you think you’ll use any of the ideas listed above?

With love,

Rosalie

P.S. – the amazing Kara Swanson is still accepting applications to the launch team for The Girl Who Could See!!! Go sign up and spread the word with me!

P.P.S. – who here noticed that I skipped #19?

P.P.P.S. – who here now feels like the title of this post is a misleading lie in light of the previous post script? And don’t raise your hand because we already went over the whole hand-raising thing not working at the beginning of this post.

The Penprints Flash Fiction Dash

Today is the day that you will always remember as the day I officially announced The Penprints Flash Fiction Dash. Okay, so none of us are probably going to remember that, but I can always hope.

I’ve fallen hard for flash fiction in recent months, and in an attempt to spread the love and joy and oh-my-goodness-someone-hold-me and all that jazz, I have decided to host a flash fiction writing challenge. Details below.

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What is flash fiction?

Definitions vary depending on who you talk to (some even argue that there is no suitable definition). For the purpose of this challenge, a flash fiction is a story that is 1000 words or less. I suggest checking out this article and also this article for a more complete rundown on flash fiction.

A challenge, not a contest.

This isn’t a contest, guys; this is merely a challenge (also, I find using merely to modify challenge strangely ironic). There will be no voting or scoring or saying whose is best or whose is worst. There will be a giveaway (more on that later), but it won’t be based on “merit”.

This is only supposed to challenge you to write, to venture into a new story, and to exercise certain writing muscles that are typically neglected. Hopefully, this will inspire and motivate you as a writer.

How it works.

If you are up to the challenge, you can fill out this form.

Everyone who signs up will be sent a unique prompt (song or picture, depending on preference) to use as a springboard for the story. You will have three weeks to write your flash fiction.

Ideally, you will post your story on your blog, mention in the blog post that you’re participating in The Penprints Flash Fiction Dash, share your prompt in the post, send me the link, and then I will compile all the links to the stories into a wrap-up post here on Penprints (please let me know if that doesn’t make sense).

Note to those without blogs: please join in the challenge. Even if you are unable to post your story on your blog, you can still send it to me in Word or Google Doc form, and I can format it into a clickable PDF that will be included in the wrap-up post (again, please tell me if that doesn’t make sense).

The timetable.

Sign-ups will be open through May 10, 2017.

Prompts will be sent out by May 13, 2017.

Stories/links to stories are due back to me by 11:59 pm on June 3, 2017.

The giveaway winner and wrap-up post on Penprints will go live on June 5, 2017.

Reasons to participate.

Now, you may be asking (or you may not be, I really can’t know), “Why should I participate in this challenge? Why should I write a flash fiction at the behest of this strange person on the internet?”

I’m glad you asked. I’ve taken the time to compile some solid reasons why you should join me in this challenge.

1. Because I think flash fiction is amazing.

You know what, I could stop right here with that reason alone because it is. so. solid. But for the sake of the unconvinced few, I shall continue.

2. It will stretch you as a writer.

If you think writing a good story in 1000 words or less is easy, think again. Flash fiction has redefined hard for me as a writer, and writing it grows me so much.

3. It may help you out of a writing slump.

It is so rewarding to hold a completed work of your own fiction in your hands, but novel writing takes a long (long) long time. While still time-consuming (it typically takes me 30 minutes to eck out a rough draft and then another couple hours of editing), flash fiction is much quicker to finish than a novel, and I’ve found that it gets all my writerly gears humming happily along.

4. Oh, also, there’s a giveaway.

All those who send their stories/links to their stories to me will be entered into a giveaway.

The giveaway prizes are: a one year, print subscription to the Splickety Publishing Group magazine of the winner’s choice and a hard copy of The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction (if the winner already has these, a comparable prize will be negotiated).

5. I want to read a story of yours!

No two people can tell the same story, and so I very much want to read how you tell a story.

Guidelines.

– Your story must be 1000 words or less.

– Anything with excessive violence or profanity will not be included in the wrap-up post.

– Any erotica will not be included in the wrap-up post.

– Your story must be sent to me by 11:59 pm on June 3 to be included in the wrap-up post.

– You must have fun. ;)

And that, kids, is The Penprints Flash Fiction Dash.

Please share this post with anyone you think might be interested in participating! Also, the hashtag to use is: #flashficdash.

In case you want to slap it on any social media or blog posts or anything, here are the various challenge buttons:

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the challenge circle on a transparent background

button 1

button 2

button 3

If anything is unclear, just let me know in the comments below so I can amend this post to make it as comprehensible as possible.

Guys, I’m jazzed.

Do you think you might participate? Have you written flash fiction before?

With love,

Rosalie

P.S. – did I mention that there’s a giveaway?

P.P.S. – also, did I mention that I’m jazzed?

Finishing Draft Three {somehow an excuse to post baby animal pictures}

Peeps, I did it.

I finished Draft Three (aka: The Draft That Wants to Kill Me) of Beasts. And I did it without dying, so I feel like I should get extra points for that.

And I’ve recovered ALL of my files from my dearly departed laptop due to the tireless efforts from some of my amazing church family members (needless to say, there was much relief and thanking God). Also, I kind of owe a life-debt to the people involved with the finding and preserving of said files.

Instead of telling you about Beasts itself (because that would make sense), I’m going to tell you how the last week of my life was like trying to finish this beast (oh, see what I did there?).

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To put it frankly, this draft was really hard.

Here’s a bit of backstory: Draft One was written back in 2015, and let me tell you, it was awful (is “plotless” one word or two?). A marginally better Draft Two came out in 2016, but I don’t like to speak of that draft.

Draft Three is where all the heavy lifting happened. I took about 5,000 words from Draft One, maybe 8,000 words from Draft Two, and then I scrapped the rest (yeah, that was tough). Work on Draft Three lasted six months, and all that work boiled down to this past week when I faced a hard deadline.

The Story of How I Got a Hard Deadline:

Me to me: You can’t watch Beauty and the Beast until you finish Draft Three.

Me: What? You wouldn’t?

Me to me: Wanna bet?

Then I came up against The Face of Great Distraction.

The Face of Great Distraction:

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“Hi! I’m a week old, and I have a sister and five brothers, and we’re all really adorable and make such adorable sounds, and you should love on us instead of work on your novel.” — actual words this puppy said to me.

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“Hey, I’m very needy. You need to pet me and pay attention to me and give me treats and talk to me or else I’ll be forced to jump on you to make sure you know I exist.” — Bear every single time I try to be productive.

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“I’m Boots, just an adorable goat kid with four kid cousins, and you must come see me and let me chew on your clothes and climb in your lap and dance around in goat kid happiness.” — Boots the goat kid every. single. day.

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And let’s not forget My Precious.

I knew I was avoiding my novel when Graham said to me: “Rosalie, I’ve been stalking this mouse hole for three days now. You should help me hunt this tasty morsel.”

But instead of saying: “Graham, you don’t speak English, and I have to finish this draft,” like a normal person would, I said: “Oh, great idea, Precious! I’ll bring coffee and my BB gun, and it’ll be just like old times when you were a kitten!”

After two hours of our stakeout, I had to face the reality that it was all in my head and that I needed to get back to finishing Draft Three. That’s when My Precious gave me this look:

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Um, this face. :O

Okay, I did not spend two hours on a stakeout with Graham, but let me tell you I THOUGHT ABOUT IT.

But, guys, in The Face of Great Distraction, I prevailed.

It was making coffee at 9:30 pm some nights to fuel me for a night of writing. It was getting up at 4:00 am (aka: Stupid Early) to write before work some mornings. It was coming up against all kinds of fear and hate for my story and writing anyway.

It was reviewing my outline and throwing out what no longer seemed to work. It was word wars with lovely writing friends (a shout out to Brittany, Katie, and Nadine). It was taking a break to write a flash fiction and then coming back to my novel after a week with fresh drive.

It was my sister asking “Are you going to write?”. It was sharing my wordcounts with my dad and him cheering me on. It was my mom telling me some nights that I needed to sleep instead of write because I really needed the rest and my writing would be better for it.

It was praying for God’s hand in this story more every day. It was realizing that since He’s given me the green light, I need to go, no more indecision, no more fear.

It was hard, and my novel still needs a lot more work.

There are still several more drafts to come, but it’s finally starting to look like a story. When I read it next week, it’ll probably be awful, but it’s so much better than it was.

The Draft That Wants to Kill Me is finished.

It came to just over 93,000 words (a number I hope will shrink with more editing), 33 chapters, and an epilogue.

And for those of you who have made it to the end of this babbling post, here’s an aesthetic board and then the premise of Beasts (so I guess I’m telling you a little about Beasts after all…).

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I own none of these pictures.

Premise: a retelling of Beauty and the Beast told in the words of the witch who cursed the Beast.

Let’s chat, peeps. What are your struggles with your WIP? What part of the writing process are you in right now? What are the faces of your distractions?

With love,

Rosalie

P.S. – seriously though, guys, Graham’s face in that last picture causes me some concern.

In Defense of Short Fiction

In last week’s post about sorting fiction by length, I mentioned my (strong) feelings on brief fiction, and so this week is all about those (strong) feelings.

Warning: copious use of parentheses ahead; also, slight ranting.

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There seems to be some sort of grading of stories by their length, and I’m not talking about sorting. I’m talking about an inflated sense of importance or significance or prestige or betterness (yes, I made that a word) based on a story’s wordcount.

It’s become a badge of sorts to write mammoth novels, as if the higher your wordcount is, the more fantastic of a writer you are. It’s some sort of milestone to reach 100,000 words in your novel or for your final word count to come to 120,000 words (or higher), and it’s almost like you haven’t arrived as a writer until you’ve hit the big 100k.

And if your novel’s only in the 60,000’s, well, I mean, that’s great and all, but… you know… it’s kind of short, and really, what story is worth only 64,000 words? And if it doesn’t even make it to 50k, well, um, is it even technically a novel? Isn’t that more of, like, a novella, and who even reads those?

Spoiler alert: it’s small-minded to think that a story is better because it’s longer. This post is for the people who are afraid their story’s too short, it’s for the people who think a short story isn’t worth their time, and it’s also for the people who think that you aren’t a certified writer/author until you’ve written a full fledged novel.

Writers, listen up and write this down: the. power. of. a. story. does. not. lie. in. its. length.

I’ll say it again because some people are thick-headed like me: the power of a story does not lie in its length (that’s a quote from a writer named Tara L. Masih, by the way).

A famous bit of micro-fiction (typically attributed to Ernest Hemingway) is only six words, and it tells quite a sorrowful story.

“For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”

I bet you didn’t see that coming.

I read that story, and I get an image of this young couple who’ve been trying to have a baby for so long, and then they finally get pregnant, and the baby’s coming, and they get things all set up for a nursery and a little mobile over a crib in a room painted blue, and there’s all that excitement and love and anticipation, but when the baby comes, it’s stillborn. So they sell unworn shoes. What about you? What story rises up in your mind when you read those six words? What thoughts and feelings come to the surface when you see that handful of words?

Peeps, the power of a story does not lie in its length.

The power of a story lies in the emotions that it evokes, the memories it pulls out of the moldy corners of our minds, the old truths that it casts in a new light, the complacency that it challenges, the new ideas that it gives, and the old ideas it causes us to reexamine.

So go after that power, that heart.

Some stories need a hundred thousand words to tell them, maybe even five hundred thousand. I get that.

And some stories call for only six or six thousand or sixteen thousand or sixty thousand words, so don’t try to add to them. Don’t make them bloated in your quest for an awe-inspiring wordcount and don’t think less of yourself because you “only wrote a novella”. Before you start berating a story (yours or someone else’s) for being “only” 30,000 words, remember that the power of a story does not lie in its length.

There is so much brio in brevity, so much to be said for the writer who can take a snapshot of life with fire and few words, so much in the story that you can read in an hour and come away shaken, so much in that image painted with broad, deft keystrokes that comes to mind again and again.

My point is: don’t strive to write 80,000 words. Don’t even strive to write a novel. Strive to write a story, however brief or long, that is your absolute best, one that leaves a handprint on someone’s heart, one that glorifies God.

So it’s 231,000 words. That’s quite something.

So it’s 878 words. That’s quite something.

So it’s 43,000 words. That’s quite something.

And don’t just read stories that take days to consume. Read the ones that are only as long as your lunch break but take much longer to forget. Read the ones that only fill an hour but keep haunting your heart. Read the ones that demand only an afternoon to start and finish but leave a trail of new thought through your mind.

The small story can have just as much power as the big book. You are just as much a writer for that small story as you are for that big book. Even if you can never master writing short fiction and can only write winding epics, you are a writer. Even if you can never get to that 60k, 89k, 124k novel and have to be content with novellas and novelettes and flash fictions, you are a writer.

All else aside, just remember these two things: the power of a story doesn’t lie in its length, and whatever you do, do it with all your might and for the glory of God.

So, peeps, talk to me. What do you think about all this?

Fiction Sorted by Length

On Saturday, I put out a poll on Twitter (hint: you should follow me on Twitter) asking peeps what kind of post they’d like to read on Penprints today, and of the three options presented, they favored a post about brief fiction.

Now, my feelings on brief fiction are quite strong (translation: I should probably calm down a little because they’re a wee bit too strong), but as I settled in to write out my thoughts on brief fiction I realized that I need to clarify some terms before diving in. Hence this post about classifying fiction by its length (i.e. – wordcount).

So, here’s a tiny post to lay out some common definitions of the various kinds of fiction.

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Micro-fiction.

Micro-fiction (which also goes by the names Postcard Fiction, Sudden Fiction, and Nano Fiction depending on who you’re talking to) is about as tiny as it gets without getting ridiculous. We’re talking 100 words or less. Yeah, it’s basically a blink, or better yet, just a spastic eye-twitch (you know those ones you get when you’re way past tired).

Here’s a piece of micro-fiction by Just B. Jordan that was published over on The Lightning Blog.

Flash Fiction.

Flash fiction (or the short short story) is right on the heels of its younger micro-fiction sibling. At 1,000 words or less, flash fiction is a flash-bang grenade designed to hit hard and fast.

Here’s a flashfic (that’s slang for flash fiction) by the fabulous Katie Grace

Short Story.

Short stories are where things begin to get a little more complicated and require a little more commitment than the leaner likes of micro and flash fiction that you can read in the line at a grocery store. It can take an entire lunch break to polish off a short story that ranges from 1,000-7,500 words.

Here’s a short story from Just B. Jordan on her blog.

Novelette.

And now we come to the beginnings of the novel’s family. Novelette’s are like those kids who never really grew out of that gangly, lanky phase and somehow have a size eleven foot, arms that are too long for any normal shirt, and most likely an intolerance to gluten. Now, I’m not saying this to be mean; I’m just saying that it’s quite hard for a novelette to fit into blogs or magazines or books because they range from 7,500 to 20,000 words. The best hope for a novelette is typically an anthology of some sort.

Five Enchanted Roses is a prime example of an anthology of novelettes.

Novella.

Novellas are the more filled-out brothers to novelettes. Ranging between 20,000 and 50,000 words, novellas are ideal e-books and $0.99 buys for your Kindle. They’re not quite as demanding as a novel and can be read in one night, a fairly quick but still lengthy fiction fix.

Personally, I recommend A Wish Made of Glass by Ashlee Willis (it’s like reading poetry but better).

Novel.

At last, we come to the famed (perhaps overrated?) novel. From here on out, the sky is the limit. And I mean that literally. Novels are 50,000 words up to infinity and beyond. Now, some make the distinction between novels and sequels/epics, but I find this to be pointless personally. There are some wordcount distinctions made from genre to genre, but since that’s a genre thing, I won’t get into it here. So, novels can be 55,000 words. Or 89,000 words. Or 111,000 words. Or 230,000 words. (Note: marketability will plummet as your wordcount rises for a debut novel.)

And that, kids, is the brief introduction to next week’s post will be all about my (very strong) thoughts on brief fiction. So stay tuned.

How long are some of your writing projects? What’s the longest thing you’ve ever written? What’s the shortest thing you’ve ever written? Do you think it takes more skill to write a meaningful micro-fiction than it takes to write a 130k novel?

P.S. – don’t ask me what these wordcounts work out to when it comes to the number of pages; that’s all dependent on formatting, dialogue vs. description, etc..

P.P.S. – you should like my Facebook page to get updates on my secret (and wildly exciting) project.

~ Rosalie out. <3