Writing Life: Behind-the-Scenes of Initial Revision (Part One)

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Hello Friends and Welcome!

Today I wanted to dive into my writing process a little bit. I have often enjoyed when other authors reveal bits about their writing process so I thought I’d share a bit about mine. Since I am in the midst of the initial round of revisions for Autumn Sunrise, that’s the part of the process I’ll be documenting over the next month or so. Originally, my plan was to walk through my entire initial revision process in one post however I’ve realized that it’ll work more as a series of posts rather than one extremely long post. Today’s installment is all about the initial period that covers completion of the draft, initial read-through, and the decision to proceed with the project.

First things first, my initial revision process is very different from those I’ve seen of other authors. This is what works for me, however I highly encourage you to look up Susan Dennard’s revision series because she does an excellent job breaking down how she goes about revisions.

The Process Beginning

The first thing I do when I complete a draft is save it and convert it into both pdf and word document forms and email both versions to myself. After that’s completed, I will print off a copy of the manuscript and put it in a three-ring binder, avoiding reading the text as much as possible. Without referring to the draft, I will pull out some notebook paper and jot down any ideas that I have – if I want to pay special attention to certain characters or plot lines, if I have an idea for extra scenes that might work, if I have an idea of what I want the revision process to look like, etc. It is essentially a brain dump. There’s no set checklist or process other than getting thoughts out of my head. Those pages will go in the binder.

The important thing is, the draft is set aside for at least two weeks (which is definitely a struggle!). I’ve found that it is really helpful to work on another project during the time the current draft is set aside. With Autumn Sunrise, I took the time the draft was sitting to finish plotting the novel I have been calling Serial News as well as work on character development. I briefly thought about jumping right into drafting the project, however I also knew that I really wanted to keep moving forward with Autumn Sunrise.

After I have let the manuscript sit, I will then finally allow myself to read it. I always attempt to read through it in as few sittings as possible. It’s always my intention to complete the initial read-through in a day. During the initial reading, I have only the manuscript in front of me. I do not take notes or mark anything up at this stage. My intention is to read through it to see if it’s something that I would want to dedicate a good portion of the next year reworking and molding into a novel worthy of publication.

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There have been times where I’ve decided after that initial read-through that the project needs to be shelved, at least for a time. It’s not an easy decision, especially after I’ve invested a significant amount of time in the project between planning, plotting, and drafting. However if it turns out that the project isn’t one that I’m passionate about spending the next year or so focused on, then I make the decision to set it aside.

If I decide that I’m willing to spent the majority of the next year of my life working on the novel then I will dive into the first round of revisions. We’ll get into that process in the next installment of this series!

Preview of Coming Attractions:

  • Color-coded notes
  • Four Big Things I Look For
  • Organizing Notes for Maximum Efficiency
  • Re-plotting and Prepping for Draft 2

-Kellie Katrin

Finding Time: Writing While Working Full-Time and Pursuing Higher Education

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Hello Friends and Welcome.

First off, if you’re reading this as the post goes live-thank you so much for your patience. I realize that my writing posts typically go up on Mondays and this is going up on Friday instead. Those of you who follow me on social media know that one of my close friends from college unexpectedly passed away over the weekend and it’s thrown me for a loop to say the least.

Today I wanted to talk about one of the struggles that many writers deal with, which is finding time to write when you have a lot going on in your life. As I am writing this I am working full-time, revising the novel I currently refer to as Autumn Sunrise, blogging, studying Business Law for my CPCU designation, and in the midst of the final week of preparation to Go-Live with a huge project that’s been taking up a large chunk of my time.

Right now, life is crazy, busy, and wonderful. I have no regrets about all that I’ve taken on. However, when you also factor in normal housekeeping duties as well as kitty playtimes (which Luke Skywhisker feels are most important) that doesn’t leave a ton of time for writing.

So with all of that going on, how do I manage to find time to keep up with everything and still get writing done?

I have a dedicated morning routine which includes a mini-writing session. My morning starts when my alarm goes off at 4:40 am. I get up, make my bed, check that Luke has water and food, and make coffee. While the water is heating up, I do my devotions for the day and typically finish by the time my coffee is ready. I will sit down and read at least 10 pages of nonfiction before I open up my computer and start working.

I take some time to draft and format blog posts to keep things moving along. After that is done, I will do a free writing session. This morning writing session rarely has anything to do with my current WIP. Instead, it is an opportunity for me to write short stories, get out scenes for new stories in my head, or even play around with poetry. I started this when I was studying creative writing in college and trying to make sure that I was building a habit of writing every day.

I don’t give myself any pressure about how much I write in the morning. I just open up a blank document and start typing. I am always surprised however, when I go back to revisit some of these morning writing sessions and discover that there’s some spark of an idea that could be explored. The novel I refer to as Autumn Sunrise was sparked by a series of these writing sessions.

I work in 30-45 minute blocks of time. In the evenings and on weekend days I tend to work in 30-45 minute blocks of time. I set a timer and get to work with whichever task I have decided to tackle, whether that’s cleaning, writing, or studying. I often surprise myself with how much I can accomplish in a short amount of time. After the time goes off, I get to a stopping point and take a small break. After my break, I will either go for another session of the task I was working on or I will move onto another task.

Of course, I also allow myself longer breaks to read – but I still set a timer most of the time. I mean, we have to right? Otherwise we’ll just sit there and read the entire book while accomplishing nothing else. Once the timer has gone off, I will finish the chapter/section that I’m in and move onto a task on my to-do list. If I’m satisfied with all the tasks I’ve accomplished by mid-afternoon, then I do not set a timer and will curl up with Luke for an untimed session of reading or watching a movie (lately it’s been Knives Out – anyone else obsessed with this movie? I keep finding new things every time I rewatch it!).

I’ve learned that for me, the timer keeps me on track. I can afford a little reading break, but I can’t afford to do nothing but read all day most weekends.

I plan for the week ahead. Every Sunday, I take a look at the week ahead and I plan out my workouts, my meals, and roughly what tasks I am committing to accomplishing each day. For example, if I plan to publish two blog posts, I plan to give each post three days: one to draft, one to edit and revise, and one to format. With my CPCU studies, I know that if I want to study two chapters a week I need to look ahead at the chapter and break down the reading over the days I will do the reading, I need to devote time to reviewing old material, I need to make flashcards for any terms or concepts that I’m unfamiliar with, and I need to take practice tests.

With my meals, I look at what I have in my fridge and cabinets and work out what meals I can create. Then I map out roughly when I am going to eat those meals and make my grocery list for any ingredients I still need. I meal prep on Sundays, chopping veggies at the very least.

I give myself grace. Some days things just do not go according to plan and that’s okay. Two weekends ago, the only thing I wanted to do one morning was watch some old episodes of Grey’s Anatomy and that’s what I did. I didn’t beat myself up. I watched a few episodes and then got to work and managed to get my house cleaned and planned out my week. No one is perfect. No one can do only work or manage themselves constantly. I allow myself the freedom to take breaks and change my mind.

I’ve also forgotten to set the timer on occasion, mostly when I’m reading. I’ll realize that I’ve read a lot more pages than I had expected to read in half and hour. I don’t beat myself up. I just get back on track and move forward.

I pick a specific focus. I do not try to do everything at once. Daily, I do make time to read, write, and study. However, I’m not reading 200 pages, writing five chapters, and trying to study 50 pages of my textbook on the same day. There’s a lot that I do, but I don’t do it all every day. I choose one area to focus on. If Monday my focus is revising the next chapters of my novel, I will read a few pages and focus on reviewing class material but spend most of my dedicated evening work time on the revisions.

I also focus on one thing at a time. If this 30 minute block is for drafting a blog post, I do my best to get the words on the screen. I’m not focused on editing at this point. I’m also not getting concerned with the other items on my to-do list. As soon as I’ve finished the task, I can move on if there’s still time left. But for this block of time, I am focused on this blog post and until I’ve finished drafting it, I will stay in my seat with Luke on my shoulders, unless he chooses to get up and go zoom through the apartment.

How do you manage to make progress on everything you have going on? I’d love to know!

– Kellie Katrin

January 2020 Reading Log

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Hello Friends and Welcome.

I cannot believe that we are already almost halfway through February. Today I wanted to come back to my reading life and share the books that I read in January along with my thoughts on what I liked about them. Overall, I really enjoyed the books that I read last month.

One: The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

If you read my post on the ten books I could reread over and over again, you are aware that I love this delightful book. Every year I choose to reread through a series that I loved as a child and this year I am rereading through the Lord of the Rings. My copy is now extremely well loved, with lines highlighted and underlined. Some books are almost impossible to review. If a book is bad, we can easily dwell on its flaws, but if the book is good, how do you give any recommendation that is equal the book?

What I love about this book: The whimsey, the magic, the charming adventure story, the fact that the hero is not a strong Hercules-type hero but a simple hobbit who, as with the majority of the hobbits, values the simple things in life. As Thorin says to Bilbo, “There is more in you of good than you know, child of the kindly West. Some courage and some wisdom, blended in measure. If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”

Two: The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

This one has been on my TBR list for quite some time. I’m not sure exactly when I first officially added to the list, but I do know that when I first got my Kindle back in 2010 that this book was free in the Kindle Library and I downloaded it. This book is a classic, and there’s a good reason for that. It’s an interesting and engaging exploration of shallowness, superficiality, morality, and the flaws of humanity.

What I like about it: The writing is so beautiful, eloquent, and rich. The dialogue is witty and humorous. I really enjoyed how engaging the story Wilde told is. To me, one of the biggest things that stands out is the idea that terrible monstrosity can lie underneath a beautiful exterior. We can look upon beauty and be fooled into never asking what lies beneath that beauty.

Three: Outer Order, Inner Calm by Gretchen Rubin

This book was the January selection for one of the book clubs I belong to. This was the second Gretchen Rubin book that I’ve read. I read The Happiness Project a few years ago and really enjoyed it. Our book club always selects a non-fiction read for January and this one came highly recommended to us.

What I liked about it: This read was quick and light. There was a lot of white space on the pages and each tip took up only about 1-3 pages so it was great if I wanted to get a few pages in as a quick break. This book is unlike the rest of Rubin’s books, which have more content. This was a great read for kickstarting my new year organization spree and I think it will be a great resource to have on hand to reread again in the future.

Four: Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg

So this one has been on my TBR list ever since I saw the movie and fell in love with the story. I bought the book a few years ago and just kept putting it off. I am so glad I finally picked up the book, because it is just delightful.

What I loved about this book: The entire thing! I fully enjoyed this and it was my favorite book that I read in January. It’s a love story, a friendship story and so much more. There’s survival against the odds, murder, and absolute hilarity. I could not keep from laughing when lines that I loved in the movie were right on the page.

Five: Two Girls Down (Alice Vega #1) by Louisa Luna

This was a Book of the Month pick from back in 2018 that I had chosen but never gotten around to reading. I finally decided to pick it up and read it in January. This book was hard to put down. I read it over the course of a couple days and really enjoyed it.

What I liked about this book: It was fast-paced and well written. If I hadn’t had my full-time job to go to, I wouldn’t have put the book down. I would have read straight through in the first sitting. I really enjoyed speculating about who abducted the girls and never being sure if I was right. I definitely will pick up more of Luna’s books in the future as she knocked it out of the park with this one!

Six: Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen

This one was another book club pick for January and this is a book that I’ve read three times now. I always pick something new up each time I read it. If you’ve never read the book and only heard about Allen’s GTD approach to productivity, the book may seem overwhelming at first. However, once you get into it the method does not seem as overwhelming.

What I like about this book: Allen has a very realistic approach. He explains, “…most people are so embroiled in commitments on a day-to-day level that their ability to focus successfully on the larger horizon is seriously impaired. Consequently, a bottom-up approach is usually more effective.” The book is very straightforward and focused on implementation of a management system to handle all of the various tasks we face each day. Also, while I have read the book cover to cover, you do not have to do so. The first few chapters give you enough information to be able to understand and implement your own GTD system.

Seven: Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Last summer, a good majority of my friends read this book and would not stop raving about it. My library hold on this book lasted about seven months-and would have lasted longer but one of my coworkers decided to buy the book in December and she was kind enough to lend it to me in January. As someone that tends to gravitate toward thrillers and fantasy this wasn’t the type of book that I might have chosen to pick up if it hadn’t been so highly recommended.

What I like about this book: This story has a lot of elements that I love. There’s a murder mystery, a likable character that pulls on your heartstrings, and a great story of resiliency.

Eight: The Mastermind: Drugs. Empire. Betrayal. Murder. by Evan Ratliff

This was a Book of the Month pick from 2019 that I saw sitting on my shelf when I still had about a week left in January. The book tells the incredible true story of a decade-long struggle to discover and bring down Paul Le Roux, the creator of a powerful internet-enabled cartel. The story is an example of when the truth is crazier than any fiction that could be made up.

What I liked about it: Ratliffe spent a lot of time tracking down former members of Le Roux’s cartel (and other related operations) as well as international law enforcement. There’s a lot that still isn’t known as many people are still afraid of repercussions for speaking out. The book reads like fiction, resembling the plot of a best-selling thriller.

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Did you have any favorite books you read in January? Let me know!

-Kellie Katrin

On Distraction and Shiny New Ideas

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Hello Friends and Welcome.

Today I wanted to discuss one of the struggles that many authors deal with, which is staying faithful to your current work when new stories enter your consciousness. It’s often hard, especially in the midst of a tough round of revisions or what feels like an endless cycle of edits to stay faithful to your current project.

New ideas have promise, right? When you get a shiny new idea it’s hard to not toss your current manuscript to the side in favor of the promise of a blank page and the hope that maybe this new story will be The One. I know that when I’m slogging through the first round of revisions, the temptation to forget about the current project and move onto a new one is especially strong.

However, I also know that if I keep pushing through revisions that I will eventually end up with a better story and that the next round will involve my story being at least a little bit better. If I’m passionate about the story I’m telling and feel that it is worth sharing, then I better keep working in order to get it completed and out into the world.

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That is not to say that I have never shelved a story. Some stories you write for the fun of it and realize that you may not want to dedicate at least the next year of your life to working on improving it. Or maybe you do want to work to get it ready for publication, but that the project may need to sit for a longer time while you focus on other things. I’ve mentioned before that I publish fantasy novels under a different name. I have a fantasy epic that I’ve been working on since around 2007 that I decided to set the current book to the side for this year because I wanted a bit of a break from working on it. I may pick it back up later this year, however I have decided to not put that expectation on myself.

So what do I do when I’m in the middle of revising and a brand new story pops into my head? I get out a blank piece of paper or open a blank Word document on my computer and start to just brain dump anything that’s come to mind about the potential story. And then I go back to the current project.

If there is a scene that just won’t let go, I will actually write that scene just to get it out of my head. This is actually how Autumn Sunrise came into being – I was working on another project and the idea would not let go. I was in a creative writing class and so every morning when I would do twenty minutes of free writing I would write out scenes that came to mind for this story. Many of the scenes did end up in the outline – however I never referred to the actual writing I did during the time I was drafting.

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Now, with Autumn Sunrise in revisions and Serial News about to start the drafting phase, I have been obsessed with a brand new shiny idea that I’m really excited about. So I’m following my prior process – I keep my focus on Autumn Sunrise and if the new shiny idea keeps popping up I jot down whatever ideas I have and go back to revising Autumn Sunrise.

That’s it for today. How do you deal with balancing new shiny ideas while working on your current project? Let me know!

Signing off,

Kellie Katrin

Author Goals – 2020 Quarter One

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Hello Friends and Welcome.

I hope that you’ve been having a great year so far. I can’t believe that it’s already February! In today’s post, I wanted to discuss my writing goals for the first quarter of this year. Originally this was going to be a yearly goal overview post, but I decided instead to really focus on the projects going on this quarter as even over the last month my plan for the year has shifted.

Goal Number One: Complete Review of the First Draft of Autumn Sunrise

If you’ve been following me on social media, you probably are aware that I am in the middle of reviewing my first draft of Autumn Sunrise. Revisions are a slow and somewhat difficult process. There’s a lot of cutting things out, changing things around, and just making a mess of the manuscript. It’s necessary in order to tell the story in a coherent and cohesive manner. Originally, I thought I’d do a quick pass through the manuscript, review and revise my outline, and get the second draft completed by the end of this quarter.

However, that’s no longer the plan. I am realistic enough to know that this book needs more time spent on revisions than some of my previous work. I can’t produce the best second draft possible if I were to rush through the manuscript. So instead, this quarter is focused on really diving into the manuscript, spending the necessary time to figure out what is great and what is not so great, and getting the plan for the second draft in place. I’m hopeful that maybe I’ll be ready to start draft two in April, but I’m not going to pressure myself.

Goal Number Two: Publish 18 Blog Posts

My plan for this quarter at least is to publish six posts a month – four writing posts and two reading posts. This allows me to continue to release new content and build this blog without taking a ton of time away from my creative writing – which is the real priority. I am so excited to share bits of my reading and writing life with you, but I know that in order to call myself a writer, I need to be writing. There’s only so much time we have and that time is precious, especially when working a full-time job and pursuing graduate degrees in addition to continuing to write.

There may be more than eighteen posts over the quarter, however setting the bar at 1-2 posts a week keeps me from feeling stressed over everything I have to do. I’m all about keeping things manageable at this stage in my life.

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Goal Number Three: Continue the Habit of Writing Daily

My goal is continue the habit of taking at least few minutes each morning to write. There’s no plan or intention set out as I am not working on a new draft, but I want to keep up the habit of creating every day. This last week, a new story has emerged in my mind and I’ve taken the mornings to write a few little one-page scenes. Two years ago when I was writing each morning I started coming up for ideas of Autumn Sunrise from doing these daily exercises.

I allow myself complete freedom to write whatever comes to mind each morning as the important thing is to keep writing something. Once I have completed revisions for Autumn Sunrise, I will begin to draft the project I am referring to as Serial News. I already have that plotted out and will be ready to roll once I get Autumn Sunrise’s next draft completed and set aside.

Goal Number Four: Read Almost Only Books off My Current TBR List

My Goodreads TBR list is up over 1,000 currently. There are so many books that I want to read and new books just keep coming out! For this quarter, I wanted to get back to that list and start knocking some of those books off the list. The few books that are not on the TBR list but that I am reading would be the selections for my book clubs and The Lord of Rings, which is the series I have chosen to reread this year.

Other than those two exceptions, I am not allowed to ready anything that was not on my TBR list prior to January 1st this year. I am always adding books to the TBR list, however I am doing my best to work through getting some of the first ones off the list — though I’m not sticking to only the beginning.

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Goal Number Five: Get My Home Office Cleaned Out and Set Up

My home office is a complete disaster. It has boxes stacked in it from when I first moved into my apartment back in 2018 and has bookshelves stuffed full with piles surrounding the shelves. The desk is piled high with random items and the closed is full of old business supplies. Ideally, I would love to be able to crank out this project in a weekend but it’s going to take a little bit.

I want to get the office set up as a great writing space with a clear desk with lots of room for notes (and Luke-he’s a velcro kitty!). I want it to be a room that I enjoy stepping into and getting work done in. Right now I work out of my dining room and living room and while it works for me right now, it’s not my ideal set up.

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Bonus Goals (Personal/Professional)

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Bonus Goal 1: Complete and Pass Business Law

Right now I am in the midst of pursuing the CPCU designation, which stands
for Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter. It is a very prestigious
designation in the insurance industry – about 4% of professionals hold the
designation and it is essentially a Master’s in Insurance. It is rigorous, but
it is a really valuable education to have. For right now, I really enjoy my job
as an insurance underwriter. I love writing creatively and I have no plans to
stop, however I am dedicated to my career in the insurance industry as well.

For this quarter, I am focused on completing and passing CPCU 530 – Business
Law which is one of the two most beastly exams that are required for the CPCU
designation. The other one is Business Finance-which I intend to tackle during
quarter two of the year.

Bonus Goal 2: Meditate at Least Three Times a Week

Recently I finally downloaded the Calm app and have really enjoyed starting
to build a meditation practice. Ideally, I would love to build a habit where I
am meditating for half and hour every day, however that is not possible at this
point in my life. From the time constraints of a full-time job, an intense
round of revisions, studying Business Law, and trying to keep up with all my
household tasks I just don’t have that time right now. I also haven’t built a
habit of meditating yet. I have to crawl before I can walk. I have to walk
before I can run.

I am committed to doing the 10 minute Daily Calm meditation at least three
times a week to start that habit. Hopefully I will begin to do it more
regularly as I have already seen a difference in my stress level from taking
the few precious minutes to get quiet and focus on my breath. I anticipate that
this is a practice that I will make a regular habit in my life.

That’s it for today! Thank you so much for hanging in here with me. What
goals are you working on this quarter? I’d love to hear.

Signing Off,

Kellie Katrin

My Five Writing Essentials – Winter 2020

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Hello Friends and Welcome.

Today I wanted to share a few of my favorite writing tools. Every single person is different and we all prefer different tools to write with. Throughout my life, my favorite tools have changed as my writing process has changed. When I was in middle school, I loved to take composition books and hand write everything. When I was in high school, I liked to use an old desktop computer to compose on. In college I used my MacBook Pro. As life has changed, my writing process has changed and evolved.

One: A Spiral Notebook (Or Several)

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I enjoy writing by hand on occasion. I use my notebooks to jot down ideas, flesh out outlines, take notes on things that I think are useful, and even start short compositions. I like using a cute notebook because it looks pretty, but I find it useful to put my phone and computer away and have my writing be my sole focus. To me, there is freedom in a blank sheet of paper that a blank screen doesn’t give me. I can scribble away without worrying about format or if it looks “right.” Many people prefer to compose and take notes digitally. I prefer having something that I can take anywhere with me without worrying about losing power or damaging it when I drop it.

Two: My MacBook Air

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While I like being able to scribble and fill notebooks up, I do the bulk of my writing on a computer. I am a very fast typist, so I am able to compose my words much faster on the computer than I can by hand. It also allows me to easily save multiple copies of my work (for example I save to my desktop, I save a copy to the cloud, and I email a copy to myself).  It’s much easier to cut and paste to move words and ideas around on a computer. I like my MackBook Air because it is so lightweight and the perfect size to fit in my purse with a large enough screen that I can have multiple documents open side by side, which is great when setting up my draft with the plot outline next to it for easy reference or during rewrites if there is specific wording in the prior draft that I really loved.

Three: Scrivener

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Scrivener is the word processing program that I personally use to write my novels. I just started using it last year and have been extremely happy with it. The first draft of Autumn Sunrise was written entirely in the Scrivener program and I plan to use it to write the draft of Serial News. The program is able to manage notes, documents, concepts, and research all in one program. Scrivener offers templates for screenplays, fiction, and non-fiction manuscripts. Once you’ve completed your draft, it is very easy to export it to a Word document or PDF. It will even compile it into a document that conforms to publisher’s standards. There are so many awesome things that the program can do and I am excited to continue learning as I continue to go through the different stages of the writing processes with my work.

Four: A Big Mug of Tea

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I have found that I really enjoy writing with a mug of tea by my side. In the morning I will write with a mug of English Breakfast tea and then in the evening I will switch over to either Peppermint or Sleepytime tea. I also have some great loose-leaf teas that I enjoy making on occasion – these I will make on Saturdays when I have more time to write. Many writers believe that tea helps boost creativity, and I wholeheartedly agree.

Five: Pilot G-2 07 Gel Pens

We all have our favorite brand of pens and mine happen to be the Pilot G-2 pens. I love the way that these pens write, I love how bold the colors are, and for me I enjoy how thin they can write as I tend to make a lot of notes on my work and prefer to keep my lines and letters thin. For me, these pens write smoothly and handle beautifully. I tend to use the blue, red, and green colors the most when it comes to my writing.

Bonus: The “Elephant” Technique

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Have you ever found yourself unable to recollect the word you need? So often, I will be in the middle of writing and find that while I know that there is one word I want to use, I cannot for the life of me remember it in that moment. The “Elephant” Technique is something that I learned about from one of the writers in my creative writing class in undergrad. Instead of sitting there racking your brain or going into the rabbit hole of internet searches, you simply write “ELEPHANT” and move on. Once you’ve completed your writing, use the search and find resource to find all the ELEPHANTs in your writing.  Usually, once you read back those sentences you will be able to recall the word you need or you will be able to take the time to search for the word without the pressure of having to get a complete draft done.

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These are some of my favorite writing tools (and the bonus technique) that I really enjoy right now. I’d love to hear what some of your favorite tools are!

Signing off,

Kellie Katrin

Reading Life: 10 Books I Could Read Over and Over

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Hello Friends and welcome.

Today we are diving back into my reading life. I wanted to share with you ten books that I could continue to read over and over again without becoming bored. There are more than ten books that I will happily read multiple times, but I thought a top ten list (which may actually contain 16 books) would be fun. It’s amazing to find a book that enchants and delights you continuously and through numerous readings. As much as I love reading new books, I really enjoy getting to revisit books that I loved in the past.

Here are ten books I could read over and over again:

Number One: The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling

I’m already cheating with the “top ten books” classification by including an entire series in this list. But is that any surprise? I adore this series and the world that Rowling created. I am always amazed at the level of detail that she used when planning the series and the number of small things that show in the first books that pay off in big ways in the latter books. The world is enchanting and magical. There is a reason that these books are beloved by so many readers. For me, it’s impossible to pick a favorite for the series.

Number Two: The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien

I actually reread this one again earlier this month since this year I am rereading the Lord of the Rings series. The Hobbit is a charming adventure story that works as a perfect gateway to Tolkien’s amazing world of Middle Earth and the story of The Lord of the Rings. It provides an introduction to Tolkien’s world, storytelling, and mythology without the sometimes intimidating detail and complexity of the Lord of the Rings novels. It’s an enjoyable, entertaining story containing adventure, a map to treasure, treasure, a secret entrance that requires solving a riddle to gain entry, a spooky forest, foolishness and greed, a huge battle, and also something about a secret, powerful ring that can make its wearer invisible. This book was written prior to Tolkien’s ambitious Lord of the Rings and while there are many references to the classic lore of Middle Earth, this is a Young Adult book that is easy to read, and read aloud. I hope that one day I get to read this book to my children at bedtime.

Number Three: Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

I randomly bought this book at Target one summer afternoon back in 2016. I had heard that Moriarty’s books were highly recommended and I choose this one because the cover was colorful and the plot sounded interesting. This book quickly became one of my favorites. In the book Moriarty crafts a story with a complex plot weaving together four story lines that leave you guessing until the very end. I could not put this book down until I had finished it and I was left wanting more of the story.

Number Four: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Ever time I reread this novel I love it more and more. The witty banter, the romance, the high society…I adore it so much. Austen’s characters are believably human in their concerns, vanities, failings and quirks. The plot serves largely to showcase their interaction and thus, her observations of human nature, which are pointed, accurate, and hysterical. Austen’s technical skill as a writer also shows in the novel’s tight plotting and economical casting; there are no superfluous characters or wasted chapters. Pride and Prejudice is a relatively smooth and lively read. We learn about events and characters as much from what they say to each other as from what Austen narrates to us.

Number Five: Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

Anne of Green Gables is probably one of my most favorite books, right up with Pride and Prejudice. I love getting to revisit Anne’s world of Prince Edward Island and the goings-on of Avonlea. I empathize with Anne because I also have a very active imagination, though perhaps not quite as active as she does. The story has always been extremely pleasant and enchanting. Gilbert Blythe was my first literary crush, and the years have not made him any less attractive.

Number Six: Angels and Demons by Dan Brown

This is without a doubt my favorite Dan Brown book. In fact, it is the only one that I have ever reread, though I have plans to revisit the others in the future. Every time the action picked up in this book, I had a serious adrenaline rush. My heart raced, my eyes frantically read line after line, and I could not put the book down. I was completely engrossed in the story. I was hooked along for the ride, and even though some readers might find the twists predictable and possibly unbelievable, I found myself completely absorbed. I appreciate the facts throughout the story that were presented to the reader about the Illuminati, Vatican City, etc. and I love the feeling of being on the inside of solving a puzzle while racing against time.

Number Seven: Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers

This book deals with some very tough topics, which make this one a hard one to read for me. However, Rivers’ novel is well-written and the story is enhanced by the tough parts. This book came highly recommended by several of the girls on my dorm during college. It is heart-wrenching. The novel is religious fiction, based on the bible story of Hosea and Gomer and it deals with some very heartbreaking and horrible things (though not in explicit terms). There is so much heartbreak in the situations the characters have to deal with, but there is also such a beautiful romance and an amazing story of redemption, unconditional love, faith, and hope.

Number Eight: The Fellowship of the Ring by JRR Tolkien

The first part of the epic fantasy The Lord of Rings introduces us to an amazing cast of characters. The series helped bring the fantasy genre into mainstream literature conversation. The story is rich. The world is detailed. Tolkien spent a lot of time developing the mythology and languages of Middle Earth and that time shows in his writing. He provided a rich world for readers to enter. His epic tale is a slow burn, but it’s so worth it. If you are a fan of the fantasy genre, I highly recommend reading the series at least once.

Number Nine: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

This is such an adorably cute YA novel and a great first installment in the series. It’s definitely a quick read but it’s so adorable. Jenny Han created several characters that I absolutely adore. While this is a love story, there is a huge focus on the relationships between the characters and their families. I really enjoy this book and was so glad that when I read it the first sequel had already been published so I wasn’t left waiting. One warning: the ending is very abrupt so you might want to have the sequels with you when you finish so that you can continue on in the story.

Number Ten: The Firm by John Grisham

This was the very first Grisham novel I read, and it has remained my favorite so far out of his numerous well-crafted stories. This is another of the “can’t put it down” books that I enjoy so much. The story line is gripping; you won’t want to stop until you’ve reached the end. The characters are developed well, in part because Grisham succeeds in writing great, down-to-earth dialogue that forms his characters into real people. The plot is crafted by an author who is clearly a master storyteller. And every time I revisit this book I find myself drawn back in again.

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What books do you love so much that you find yourself rereading over and over again? Let me know!

Signing off,

Kellie Katrin

Pen Names-My Personal Choice

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Hello Friends and Welcome.

Today I wanted to share a little bit about pens names and why I chose to use one. As some of you may know, I have chosen to write my thriller and horror novels under a pen name rather than under my personal legal name. There are a number of reasons that I have chosen to do this, but the primary reason is that I have chosen to provide separation between my professional corporate life and my writing life.

I am proud of the work that I present to the world and would not be embarrassed to publish my work under my own name, however, I feel that it is best to keep my writing life separate from my corporate life. I do not want the people I come into contact with in my professional life to have preconceived notions about myself or the company that I work for.

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Authors use pen names for a variety of reasons.

  1. Cross Genre Writing – Many authors will have a couple pens names if they write in different genres. In the age of Amazon recommendation algorithms it is a smart move to write books in separate genres under different names in order to better present your work and have it show up in Amazon’s “Also Bought” section for novels of the same genre. Also, if you write hard-boiled detective novels and then suddenly publish a chick lit novel, some of your fans might be frustrated or perplexed when they pick up your new novel expecting one thing and getting something completely different.
  2. Same Name as Another Individual – It is entirely possible that an author may share a name with an already-famous or established individual. There are actually quite a few Dan Browns in the world, for example.
  3. Potential Overexposure – This is more applicable to writers of articles, but there are some writers that write under a few pen names in order to avoid overuse if they publish various pieces in the same publication. Rather than have their name listed the same on every piece, they will often publish under different names to avoid overexposing themselves to the readers.
  4. Need for Anonymity – Sometimes an author may write an exposé or need to remain anonymous for professional reasons.

Choosing to use a pen name is a personal choice and there is no right or wrong answer, truly (though if you do write that exposé, think about it!). Likely I will publish my fantasy epic under my own legal name. My pen name, Kellie Katrin, was chosen based on a couple of unrelated events and a google search to verify it was unique.

Signing off,

Kellie Katrin

The Dream of a Young Writer

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Hello Friends and Welcome.

Today I wanted to share the background on my dream to be a writer. Ever since I was a little girl, I wanted to be a writer. I adored reading everything I could and I loved making up stories. In third grade I decided that I would write a children’s book about a rabbit holding a birthday party. I called it “Rabbit’s Birthday Party” and I spent hours playing around in Microsoft Paint creating art to illustrate the book. I never finished that book, but I may one day decide to revisit and write it.

Nothing captured me like a fantasy story, though. I read all seven of C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia books during quiet reading time in fourth grade. I adored Narnia and the world that Lewis had created. Later on, I would discover Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings. Those three series of books really engaged my attention and presented such rich worlds to visit when I read. I enjoy those books and regularly re-read them often. I dreamed of creating a world of my own and telling stories set in that world.

In fact, I actually have a fantasy series somewhat planned out with hand-drawn maps of the geography, pages of notes on some of the characters, and even some fully-fleshed out chapters. I do plan to write the series one day, however I am still working on creating some languages for the creatures in the series. Once I feel that the I have everything prepared, I am really excited to be able to focus on it and write it out. The series will not be written under the Kellie Katrin name but will instead be written under one of my other names.

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When I was in college, I got the opportunity to take a creative writing class. It was so scary at first to share the words I had written, but it was one of my favorite experiences. It allowed me to write regularly and to not fear trying new things in my writing and experimenting.

For as long as I’ve been reading and writing, I have been fascinated with other writers’ processes for creating their works. I have read countless biographies, autobiographies, memoirs, and just articles about writers. I’ve always been fascinated by J.K. Rowling’s handwritten spreadsheet for Order of the Phoenix where she would have the scenes listed on the left side of the paper and across the top were all the different character groups and subplots so she could organize what was going on at with each group and event as the story moved along.

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I am personally still developing my process, but I am so excited to share with you as my process evolves and changes as I progress in my writing life. I have two projects I’m currently working on under the Kellie Katrin name, Autumn Sunrise which is a completed draft ready for the first round of revision and Serial News which is a thriller novel that I have plotted and prepped and is now ready for the drafting stage.

That’s all for today. Thanks for joining me friends!

Signing off,

Kellie Katrin

Curating My 2020 Reading List

Hello Friends and Welcome Back.

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One of my favorite traditions at the end of each year is creating a reading list for the next year. I started this four years ago, and it has been really fun. I use Goodreads to organize what I’m planning on reading. I create a reading list for the next year and then I start to review some of my other lists to see what I might want to add. I have lists that were recommended by friends, a book-to-screen list, the 30 Books to Read Before You Turn 30 list (I’ve read 4 on the list at this point in my life), 12 Essential Books Every Woman Should Read, and several other lists.

I belong to two books clubs, so when those lists are released, I will add the books to my reading list for the next year. At that point, I will review all my other lists to see what I might want to read. I try to keep a good mix of fiction and non-fiction in order to keep myself learning and entertained. As the year progresses, my list will usually change. Some books I intended to read might fall off the list as other new books replace them. I belong to Book of the Month and I often trade books with my coworkers. So if someone lends me a book, I will often work it in quickly so that I can finish it and pass it on to the next person.

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I keep an eye on books that will be released in the next year to see if there are any that I absolutely want to read that year. I also like to reread old favorites, so I will review my “Read” shelf to see if there is anything I intentionally want to revisit. For 2020, I’ll be rereading the Lord of the Rings series (again). Last year I reread the Harry Potter series and next year I will likely reread The Chronicles of Narnia.

After I’ve gotten my list put together, I will reorganize it by deciding what order to read all of the books in. Then I get super nerdy and make an Excel workbook with a worksheet for each month. I list the title, the page count, the genre so I can make sure I’m keeping my reading list varied, if it is part of any book clubs or list, and if I already own the book or can borrow it through Kindle Unlimited so that I stay within my budget.

Each month’s spreadsheet is only fully filled out the last week of the month prior. At the end of the month, any titles that I didn’t finish will roll forward to the next month, be postponed for a couple months, or be dropped completely off my yearly reading list if I decide that there are way more books I would rather read. My To-Read list is quite long and I will never finish it as it continues to grow.

When I sit down to plan out my next month, I take a look at the page counts for the books I plan to read. I total up the pages and then figure out how many pages I need to read a day to stay on track. Sometimes I realize that with everything going on in my life that the number of pages I want to read is really too much and I will remove a title or two to make more room so that I can enjoy what I’m reading. I also take into account that any nonfiction book will read much slower than a fiction book.

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I read very fast, and in previous years I always set my intention to read at least 150 books a year. I love to read, but I would often find myself falling behind schedule and then choosing quick “bubble-gum” books that I could speed through so I could accomplish my reading challenge. For 2019, I am setting the intention that my list will be smaller and much more well-rounded than the lists I created in previous years. I will choose books I want to read or books that will improve my mindset, health, spiritual life, etc.

What books are you looking forward to reading in 2020? What books do you absolutely love and recommend? Let me know because I might just add them to my 2020 Reading List!

Signing off,

Kellie Katrin