There’s a trend in modern authors and books that greatly alarms me.

Authors and characters alike are in danger of bottoming-out as growth is cast aside in favor of the dangerous alternative: affirmation.

Let me show you what I mean.

Let’s start with how this trend appears in fiction.

The main characters in fiction rarely grow anymore.

The “arc” for these characters (typically female) never extends beyond realizing by the end of the book just how powerful she is.

She doesn’t eradicate a vice; she doesn’t recognize her weakness: it’s simply 300 pages of affirmation assuaging the tiny inkling of self-doubt that she suffers from.

But, of course, by the end, society will recognize her for the goddess that she is and she will realize that she had all of the power and strength that she always needed—all she needed was affirmation that she is “perfect just the way she is.”

These days, characters are so strong, so self-sufficient, so capable, that they are never in danger, never flummoxed, and never, ever, defeated.

From killing cave trolls to rocking a ball-gown, to exchanging witty repartees with the lead, to impaling the villain—our heroine has it covered.

And it’s the most unexciting thing you could possibly write about.

When your character doesn’t need to learn anything, there’s no drama, no tension, no expectation, and, ultimately, no pay-off.

When all your heroine accomplishes at the end of the book is becoming slightly more powerful than she was in chapter one, the end result is a dull story.

Affirming your character “as is” instead of making them grow – results in the death of a story. And, if this trend continues, it will result in the death of fiction, for this scenario above contains no tension, and a story without tension fails the most basic demands of storytelling.

Consequently, we have fiction where all of the growth, all of the struggle, all of the new discoveries—are stripped away from the character resulting in soulless, boring, cookie-cutter placeholders.

Heroines are no longer inspiring us to be greater human beings, they are motivational speakers reminding us we are fine just the way we are.

They are no longer flawed, multi-faceted humans with vices and weaknesses to overcome, they are mere icons for a pre-decided and overly-flogged agenda: you are perfect already. All you have to do is believe in yourself.

Fiction no longer encourages us; it affirms and validates us.

And here we come to the crux of the problem: the key difference between two simple words.

Can you see the difference?

Affirming, in and of itself, has no moral compass. Affirmation can be used to encourage moral or evil behavior. It is simply a way of declaring something to be valid, true, or good. Encouragement is a guiding light for how weakness, sin, doubt, and fear can be overcome.

For example, affirmation is telling someone: you’re fine just as you are. Encouragement is telling someone: It’s hard, but I know you have it in you!

Affirmation is, naturally, self-focused, whereas encouragement lends itself to outward focus because it forces us either give help or to seek it from others or God.

Encouragement requires a change of some kind, at the very least in attitude. Affirmation requires no change at all, merely the far more passive acceptance.

It is affirmation that overruns our bookshelves these days. Affirmation has become a form of vice for modern day America, and this empty pep-talk cancels out growth in both character and reader.

We are no longer inspired, we are simply told that characters (and we ourselves) are perfect.

We have traded the beautiful gardens of well-developed characters for empty plots, full of dormant seeds that never see the light of day.

And perhaps certain readers prefer it that way: for gardening requires hard work. Perhaps people don’t want to see their characters sweat and weep and lose and suffer and struggle and strain to produce a harvest, because it suggests that we ourselves ought to put in the same amount of work on ourselves.

An empty lot is far less work than a garden. But it is also far less beautiful, and it is outright resistance to God’s design.

Humans (and the characters that ought to represent our humanness) were designed to be cultivated, not allowed to run wild. Cultivation is the representation of God’s order, and when we force our characters to grow, we represent God’s plan for our own lives and our own growth.

And, that, ultimately, is perhaps why authors no longer wish their characters to grow—because growth (the very idea that we are not perfect just as we are) is a reflection of the True Gardener.

Now let’s take a look at how this trend appears in authors.

I sometimes worry that authors have embraced a kind of cowardice when it comes to being critiqued or rejected. It is practically poison to us. The prevailing trend seems to be that we are owed affirmation. We “did our best, therefore no one should criticize.” We outright rebel at the thought that our writing is less than perfect “as is.”

Authors recruiting beta readers, allegedly seeking feedback, but really only seeking affirmation.

Writers hiring editors and then going into hysterics when their book is actually edited.

Authors confessing that they were furious with friends over feedback—to the point of almost losing friendships because of it.

The end result is that the people who give valuable feedback stop giving it. They’re afraid of offending or hurting the oversensitive author, they grow weary of trying to help the author that refuses to grow, and so they dole out the affirmation demanded of them and the author skips away: happy, but with neither themself, or their book, changed for the better.

Believe me, I understand the agony. It is hard to describe the incredible vulnerability of handing over part of our soul and imagination to someone to pull apart, and it is hard to describe the pain that comes from having that bit of our heart critiqued. Of course it hurts.

But we need to grow up.

Rejection and criticism are not optional for writers, they are prerequisites.  

Once I learned to think of rejection and criticism as “earning my stripes” and accepted that I would need to earn my stripes all over again with everything I write, I trained myself to look for, appreciate, and even eagerly anticipate, constructive criticism. I have adjusted my mindset and learned to seek out growth as a writer.

But, sadly, the trope of the misunderstood and oversensitive author who is the unappreciated genius whose writing is perfect “just as it is” and who is owed her affirmation simply gains more power with each year.

There were many scenes in the 2019 version of Little Women that made me cringe, but one in particular was Jo’s infantile reaction to the professor criticizing her writing.

Jo is standing by, ready for affirmation, only to have her expectations dashed when the professor confesses that he doesn’t like her stories.

“People have always said that I was talented,” Jo protests, aghast that she is not receiving her due praise.  

The professor assures her that he does think she’s talented, and tactfully adds. “Your reaction indicates there is some truth in what I’m saying.”

Jo blows a gasket at this and in her subsequent tirade belittles his entire existence, casts doubt upon his legacy, and finally says she “doesn’t want his opinion” (even though she just sought it out) and that they are categorically not friends.

Jo’s response to Baer in the 2019 film is in stark contrast to the novel.

When Jo’s first novel is published and she gets a dismaying array of feedback, she welcomes the critiques of those she trusts most. She is not at all offended when her father urges her to push herself beyond this simple beginning. It is merely the beginning of one of the most painful and beautiful hero’s journeys full of failures and triumphs, deserts and mountaintops, all of which Jo learns to embrace with grace and a teachable heart.

How times have changed. In the course of approximately 150 years, Jo March has been reduced from the pinnacle of character development to simply another feminist icon who doesn’t have to explain herself to anybody.

Jo March, the quintessential (fictional) author, has become boring—because she is not allowed to grow.

And writers who embrace this modern take on authorhood become boring themselves.

If we do not allow ourselves to grow as authors, if we do not seek out growth, our work (and we ourselves) will become stagnant, lifeless, and even, dare I say it, un-human.

From babies to seeds, our world is designed with growth as the endgame.

Often painful, sometimes inexplicable, occasionally unwanted, but always miraculous. This is the paradox of growth and the thing that God is bent upon for the crown of His creation.

I’ve talked before about how authors, in the act of creating life on paper, mirror the creative nature of God and also carry a responsibility to represent God accurately.

And here are the facts: God is perfect, and He did create a world that was perfect, but we humans have chosen sin and, consequently, imperfection.

And choosing to affirm ourselves and our work as being perfect “just the way it is” is to reenact the Fall of Man all over again. We were once perfect, but we are no more.

And even when we were perfect, the requirement of growth still remained! Adam and Eve were designed to walk deeper with God for every passing day. The Garden was designed to keep on produced food. Adam and Eve’s children were going to growth up.

Perfect world and imperfect world have this in common: everything was designed to grow.

So we authors are expected to grow as well. And just as God requires us to grow, so we ought to require our characters to grow and learn, because we have an obligation to give readers an accurate reflection of God’s design for humanity.

We authors have to stop rebelling against it. We have to stop being afraid of it. We’re not perfect, and we’ll fail, but we can at least try.

There’s a scene in the 2018 version of Little Women (a version that beautifully captures painful and beautiful growth of Jo March) that has always stuck with me.

Jo is in a passion of depression and grief over the death of her sister and a life and career that feel stalled. Marmee counters with the thought-provoking question:

“You’re a writer. Don’t you want your story to be unexpected?”

And this is the real question, isn’t it? Don’t you want to grow along with your characters?

This is the debt that authors owe to God, to the world, and ourselves.

Our readers deserve to TRULY see themselves in our books: flawed human beings who are beautiful and pathetic, strong and weak, miraculous and mundane, funny and tragic.

All stories require a beating heart: a character that collides with conflict and experiences the grief and joy of evolution. We authors require refinement so that we can experience our own main character moments and transform day by day, from something weak or ugly, into something powerful and lovely

And this can only come, not through affirmation, but through painful, glorious, miraculous, growth.

I’m not going to affirm you or myself: we both need to develop. We both need to improve. We are not as good as we ought to be.

But be encouraged because . . . you could be.

Get to know Allison!

INDIE: Pros and Cons

I thought this might be a useful post for some of you who may have not taken the step or journey into the publishing world yet, or even maybe for those who have. I’ve compiled a list of pros and cons. Honestly, I don’t think Indie is the end all be all. There are so many paths, and there can be a right and wrong for you, that may be different for others. God has a separate path for each of us and I wish you the best on whatever one that is. So let’s get into it! Here is my list of pros and cons. 

Independent Publishing PROS:

~ Utter control over everything. What gets printed, what my cover is, what my formatting looks like, how much I sell it for, etc. But probably the biggest thing for control that is the most important to me is that I have control over the story, the content, etc. No one can tell me to take out a Christian theme, or shoehorn an agenda into my story. 

~ NO edits you don’t agree with. You have the overall say. So if someone tells you you should cut out a character and you don’t agree? You get overall say. I’m not saying you shouldn’t give some serious thought to constructive criticism, but you get the final say. Which is super important to me. 

~ Christianity isn’t edited out. Enough said. This is probably my biggest fear with traditional publishing, even if it’s an irrational one. 😀 

~ Royalty can possibly be larger. Because you have the rights to your book and you aren’t paying anyone else cuts (except amazon), you get the majority of the royalties.

~ No upfront print costs. There are costs, so many, so don’t get me wrong on that point. But if you do print on demand, you don’t have to pay the huge publishing fee. Most publishing houses, to be worth it, need to be paid hug amounts in advance because they aren’t just going to print one copy. While, if you went this route, the wholesale cost might be somewhat cheaper per unit, none of us has that kind of cash lying around. Print on demand eliminates that cost.

~ Price control. You can control how much your book costs. You can lower it for prices without jumping through too many hoops, and there are even ways to make your kindle books free if you choose. 

~ Do your own marketing. You can be in charge of how that works and your venues etc. This one is also a con for me, but you can see that when you keep reading. 

Independent Publishing Cons:

~ Limited Audience for starters. Once you branch out, (which I haven’t yet) this can be a problem. With Indie publishing, while there can be an incredibly supportive group, it is also limited to certain demographics. I haven’t really been able to reach beyond the conservative Christian homeschool audience. Which is great, but I need more people than that to read my book for marketing purposes. 😀 

~ You have to make connections on your own. While this can be true for Traditional Publishing as well, there are more resources at your fingertips when you get published by a publisher. Other authors in that Publishing House can rally around you for support, you can make connections to other publishers, etc. 

~ Marketing Limitations. Because you do it on your own, you have to do it on your own. There’s just no way around it. Traditional Publishing will still make you do your marketing in most cases, but I had to learn from the ground up with no idea what I was doing. Thank the Lord for helpful people and authors I can follow, but it’s a long row to hoe and there’s so much I don’t know. Limits. I hate them right now. 

~ Do your own marketing. Mentioned above as well. 

~ You build your own following. You have to find your own ARC readers, your own reviewers, your own blog tour people etc. Publishers will often offer programs for their authors to offer them these perks. I have to do that all myself.  

Well, that’s all I have so far. I’m sure I’ll think of more in the future, but that’s all I have for now. What about you? What are some pros and cons you have or know of?

Find Victoria online!

Instagram // TikTok // Website

The Biggest Flaw in Your Book/World Building and How to Fix It.

I’m a lover and writer of dystopian literature. It wasn’t the haunting hope within post-apocalyptic environments, futuristic warfare, common grunge scenery, or even the ruined memories of former civilizations that drew me to the genre. 

It was the great unknown at my fingertips. The ability to play with times that haven’t come to pass yet.

Which, in hindsight, totally negates the biggest pet peeve I see in this genre. Actually, it’s a common flaw found within fantasy and sci-fi as well–really, any genre that involves some type of optical world building. 

It’s characters being too deep “in the know.” 

Let me explain. 

One of the biggest mistakes I’ve witnessed authors’ make when writing these kinds of books is their characters knowing FAR too much about the world they live in. The full history, all the happenings, etc. 

Your MC, much less your entire cast, shouldn’t have that level of omniscient hyper-awareness, especially right out of the gate. Because it sets up three issues that will damage the story as a whole:

One, it shrinks the world you’ve invented to such a small scope. The world we live in– the world every human being has ever lived in–is vast. The way we reimagine said world (or even the worlds we create from scratch) should mimic that reality. Your characters knowing too much shrivels up the expansiveness of the atmosphere they reside in. There’s so much people don’t know, a lot beyond their normal bubble. To take that away, is to rid your story of elements of realism. 

Two–and this may actually sound contradictory to the latter–your characters being too deep “in the know” can make them inaccessible to your reader. Because when they possess buckets of information in their brains about a world your readers have never experienced before, it’s not digestible to them. Every story’s reception thrives when knowledge is presented in a bite-size manner, because the audience can eat it up easier. 

Connected to that, reason number three, if your characters know too much at the start, there isn’t any room for intellectual growth within them. It stunts arc potential that could have been available to you and your plot, if you had simply allowed your characters to learn and be challenged mentally by things they didn’t previously have any idea existed. This issue can even be the basis for the creation of Mary Sues.

Because let’s be real: What person (especially a young person, should you be writing YA or even middle grade) knows everything there is to know about their nation, their homeworld, their universe? Even when (within the context of dystopia) they breathe air within a society where disciplinary indoctrination saturates their education? 

No, it’s far more realistic for a person’s mind to be consumed with what’s within their “reach.” Their immediate home, their interests, things that ultimately captivate them, for good or for worse. (And yes, the textbooks shoved under their noses.) Because it truly is a natural progression, over time, for every human being to witness and explore new things, and grow from those experiences. 

And to write your characters in that kind of organic light? It puts them and their world within reach of the READER. It allows your audience to form a proper attachment to your words. Because they’ll be able to walk beside your story and link arms with you as a storyteller, rather than being separated at arm’s length. 

Connect with Alexandria on Instagram!

Editing. You either love it or you hate it.

But editing is not just a necessary evil of nitpicking your story to death. Editing is a crucial process of transformation, and with the right mindset, you can learn to enjoy the journey.

The Purpose & Philosophy of Editing.

One of my favorite quotes about writing is “The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.” (Terry Prachett) When you write the first draft, this version of the story is solely for you. There is so much freedom in letting your draft be messy and full of mistakes, because you are truly meeting your characters for the first time, you are exploring the world they exist in for the first time, you are taking the journey with them as a companion as much as a guide.

If you are like me, your story is much more than escapism or an idea. Another quote I love is by Ted Dekker: “Story is a series of consequential events involving worthy characters who transform as a result of those events.” And when I write that first draft, I am transforming too. See, the journey isn’t just from Point A to Point B; the journey is a change of heart and mind, a new way of seeing myself, others, and the world around me that aligns with Christ.

(But we aren’t here to talk about story philosophy! We’re talking about editing!)

Ted Dekker also talks about something called the Fictive Bubble, which is the suspension of disbelief that readers give when entering a story. They are willing to put aside what is real and step inside the imaginary. The key isn’t getting them to open the book, but keeping them from closing it again. From popping that Fictive Bubble.

Editing is taking that story and telling it to others in such a way that the reader can take that journey with you and your characters without popping the bubble.

If you were to just share your first draft, as authentic as it was for you to write, they would have a hard time seeing past the plot holes, the typos, and the loose ends. Not only that, but there may be things in your first draft that were just for you, but perhaps they are too mature, too personal, or too preachy for your target audience. These things are only going to muddy the water further and put more and more barriers between your story and your reader.

Pop! Pop! Pop!

Thus, we edit. We rewrite. We approach the story with the goal of making it accessible for our target audience by removing distractions–polishing the prose and strengthening the story. If our goal is to take the reader on the journey with us, for them to be transformed and renewed by the story as much as we have been by writing it, then editing becomes a much more important part of the process.

Editing is what transforms your story from a personal experience into something that can minister to others. Editing is when your story stops being something that primarily speaks to you, and allows it to change so that it can speak to others.

So don’t just read the words, hunting for mistakes, when you edit; see the bigger picture. Nothing is more important than the story as a whole, not a quote, a moment, or even a character. Editing is the opportunity to add, cut, and rewrite to make your story shine and keep the bubble from popping.

Practical Tips for Editing

So maybe you are sitting there reading this and thinking, “Okay, editing is important! Editing matters! I want my story to speak to others! But I still hate it. It is still hard.”

Here are some of my tips for making the editing process less of a drag while also improving your story:

1. Mix It Up:

Don’t just edit your story on your computer screen. Your readers will likely have either a physical book or ebook in their hands, or listening to an audiobook! So try printing out your story and edit with a pen (yes, it’s a lot of pages, but worth it!), or read it aloud to yourself and listen. Seeing your story with different mediums can help to keep it feeling fresh.

2. Track Your Progress:

Give yourself little endorphins of achievement by using a tracker sheet, app, or sticky notes. In my final rewrite for A Bond of Briars, I printed out my pages and marked edits with sticky notes. Then, as I applied the edits on the computer, I got to take those sticky notes, crumple them up, and throw them away! It really made editing a lot more exciting.

3. Invite Others In:

One of the biggest tips I’ve received for publishing is to have 10 readers before you say your book is done. This 10 can include Critique Partners, Beta Readers, and Editors. Receiving feedback not only helps you to make sure your story is speaking (or point out problems!), but will also give you confidence when it comes time to publish.

4. Celebrate Progress & Milestones:

I am a big advocate for celebrating the little things. Did you edit 10 chapters or finish a draft? Get yourself a fancy drinkie! Or cozy up with your favorite book for an hour! Celebrating the progress you are making validates the work you are putting into the story AND gives you a reminder to rest amidst the work.

My personal cycle for editing (after the first draft) looks like this: Print Out, Read & Mark Edits -> Apply Edits & Rewrites – > Read Aloud from Computer & Polish -> Send for Feedback -> Break time! Work on the next story! -> Receive Feedback -> Print Out, Read & Mark Edits…

This may seem like a lot for one round of editing, but it gets a lot done and makes sure my story is as tight and polished as possible by the time it reaches publishing. It gives me the best shot at removing as many distractions as possible to keep the bubble from popping in hopes that my readers will be as transformed by the story as I was.

Find Erin online!

Instagram // TikTok // Website


Growth is hard. It’s a battle and a journey and, like every battle and journey, the talisman of advice makes the path ahead a little easier.

Today I sat down to reflect on what I’ve learned after writing for overly twenty years so that I can share those reflections with you. I’ve grown a lot as a writer in the past two decades, and these are my best tips for how you can grow as a writer too. Let’s begin.

1. Read Books Outside Of Your Preferred Genre

This is, arguably, the most important tip in today’s post.

Increasingly, I have noticed that the individual author’s voice is disappearing—every book is starting to sound the same.

If I were to have someone take a book published in the 20th century off of my shelf and read a passage aloud to me, I would have a good chance of guessing the author, or at least differentiating between two different books. But when I pick up a YA fantasy or a historical mystery published in the last twenty years, they all sound exactly the same. This trend has become so marked, particularly in YA, making fun of it is becoming its own trend!

I believe the cause of this can be largely blamed on the fact that writers are not reading outside of their genres as much as they used to.

A YA fantasy author, for instance, reads nothing but YA fantasy . . . written by authors who also read nothing but YA fantasy. It’s a vicious circle of hemmed-in readers, exposing themselves to nothing beyond the industry standards of fantasy tone and tropes. And thus, they turn around to produce yet another soulless derivative fantasy YA novel in an endless cycle instead of developing their own unique voice.

One way to fight this is to read voraciously: read non-fiction, poetry, picture books, YA and adult. Start reading old books, when the unique voices within genres weren’t as overdeveloped as they are now. Take notes on what you read, start identifying the things you like and combine them into your own unique voice. Make it a habit to read broadly!  Instead of binge-reading in one narrow genre, make all books your friend.

2. Try Writing In Different Formats Or Styles

Do you only write prose? Try poetry! Do you only write poetry? Try prose! Have you only ever written in the third person? Try switching it up to first person.

My sister, Tor Thibeaux of T Spec Fiction, worked her way out of writer’s block by writing poetry — a sideline that has since exploded into a full-time hobby as she discovered a remarkable knack and gift for this style.

When I was struggling to get a book to come to life, I found that switching to first person present tense was what finally brought my character to life. It was something I had never really attempted before, but it was exactly what I needed to finish my novel.

When my twin was working through her own creative difficulties, she started composing limericks and humorous poetry in the style of one of her favorite childhood books, Something Big Has Been Here by James Stevenson.

Another way to flex some creative muscles is to sit down with a fantasy idea but write it in modern vernacular. Or take an idea for a 1940s mystery and write it in medieval vernacular.

Get weird, get creative, practice new things. You may unlock genius.

3. Start Seeking Out (And Accepting) Criticism

We have the wrong mindset when it comes to getting critiqued: we view it as an enemy.

But critiquing (when done by someone who understands and champions your work) is your friend, not your enemy.

Critiquing isn’t a total dismantling of your soul as everyone might lead you to believe, it is a course-correction.

It’s not the voice of doom: it is the stern voice spurring you on to greater heights. It’s the coach urging you to train harder. If you want to be the best version of your writing self, then you need to not only accept critiques, but eagerly seek them out.

I’ve noticed a sad tendency in certain writers to think of beta readers as nothing more than an affirmation brigade.

While affirmation in the early days of drafting and writing has its place and is certainly lovely: writers need to move beyond that.

Before you publish, you need an honest critique of your work – sometimes multiple honest critiques. You need someone to honestly say what stinks and what doesn’t.

It can be a challenge to find just the right critique partner(s) who strike the right balance between encouragement and criticism, kindness and honesty, but it’s one of the most valuable partnerships you will ever have as a writer. But it’s a two-sided relationship.

Once you find someone who can strike the right balance, you have to possess a humble and teachable spirit to accept the fact that no story is perfect right off the bat and that every author needs help to make their book as good as it can possibly be. Embrace criticism, it can teach you so much.

(note: I recommend that authors have critique partners and beta-readers as well as a professional developmental editor).

3. Make Friends With Rejection

Yes, I really said that.

Rejection is as much a part of writing as drafting, editing, and marketing. Whether it’s a publisher rejecting your submission or a reader shredding your book—rejection is coming for you. But, really, no matter what your job is, rejection is unavoidable: it’s simply a fact of life.

There’s only one way to toughen up a weak muscle: exercise it.

Last year, I made some rejection goals. I submitted 22 times to various magazines and anthologies in 2022 . . . and nearly all of those submissions were rejections.

So this year I’m going to try to submit 23 times! Just to show them.

Over the years I’ve developed a few mindset shifts that have greatly helped me with rejection.

When I get a rejection from a publisher, I utilize my natural orneriness that keeps me firmly on top of the sensation, instead of beneath it. Instead of feeling defeated, I view rejection as a challenge to prove that I can be accepted elsewhere.

I have a practice now that when I receive a rejection, I submit the story again to a new publisher within the hour. This practice in indomitability that swings more towards the “your loss, baby” and away from the “everybody hates my writing.”

It’s okay to admit you dislike rejection – everyone does. But accepting the fact that every single human, no matter what their job, has to endure it makes it easier to deal with.

For more on this topic, check out this previous blog post I wrote: 7 Positive Ways To Deal With Negative Feedback.

4.  Create A Writing Habit

Maybe you can’t write every single day, but you should write regularly. Whether it’s every other day, or a few days a week, or every weekend — it’s the regularity that is key.

Six years ago, when I finally got serious about my writing and started dedicating a few hours of every work day to writing — THAT is when I saw my growth take off in leaps and bounds. A regular writing habit increased my productivity and skill exponentially.

There isn’t enough raw talent in the world to replace consistency. If you are serious about becoming an author and not just a hobby writer, then the discipline of a regular writing habit is going to help you grow enormously.  

5. Study The Craft

Far too many writers simply inhale their entertainment without studying it. For a writer, it’s no longer enough to just be entertained. Books, movies, theater, art, and radio are no longer just entertainment, they are object lessons.

It’s not enough just to love something: take some time to figure out why you love it. Take notes, discuss it with someone.

Why do you hate that one particular trope? Why did that book leave you feeling meh? Writing is more than just an art – it’s a science and an engineering feet. Learn how to be a writing architect.

Take some classes, read some non-fiction books. Check out blogs and podcasts. Invest in your writing education!

6.  Form A Critique Group

I have had the blessing and benefit of being a part of a weekly critique group for the last thirteen years: and it has caused me to grow immensely — both as a writer and an editor.

You don’t have to meet in person, and it doesn’t have to be weekly, but find peers who are willing to grow and to help you grow. Find partners who are willing to speak the truth in love so that you will all be able to communicate honestly on what you need to improve — not just affirm what you are doing right.

7.  Try Writing From Prompts

This tip is an unusual one, but it helped me grow in so many ways!

Instead of just writing stories that you come up with on your own, start training your imagination to “take dictation.”

Any writer can create something out of their own head, but being able to create a finished product based on someone else’s idea takes true discipline.

The tips shared previously help you refine your unique voice, this tip teaches you how to apply your unique voice to everything you create.  Writing a story from someone’s else’s seed trains you and enables you to leave your individual mark on everything that passes through your keyboard.

It takes a true artisan to take a lump of clay that someone else has made and form it into their own glorious statue. 

What is the number one thing that helped you grow as a writer? Let us know in the comments! 

Get to know Allison!

Why Every Author Needs To Outsource

I was crying, shaking, and sick to my stomach. I put my face down on the desk and resisted the urge to scream. It was a familiar feeling; it was happening to me with far too much regularity.

The feeling came over me every single time I tried to fix my perpetually crashing blog.

Yup, I was having pre-scheduled breakdowns right along with my site. I’m embarrassed to admit how much it bothers me, but anything remotely technical turns my brain to mush and dials my emotions into overdrive. I’m just not any good at it, and it makes me unhappy when I’m forced to do something I am not equipped to do.

This is normal. Everyone has something like this: your brain and personality simply didn’t come wired for that ONE THING.

And, chances are, you are making yourself do it right now – even though it drives you crazy.

Indie authors are famous (or infamous) for “doing it all” – and the rumors aren’t wrong. We wear a dozen different hats and strive to do our best at each task because we either don’t (or feel that we don’t) have a choice. 

By necessity, we are some of the most flexible writers on the planet, skilled at juggling a dozen different balls.

But we all have our limits.

I can’t do it all, and neither can you.

We need to stop lying to ourselves that we can.


In the early years of publishing, I was in the red. Indie authors cover the costs of publishing and marketing out of their own pocket, upfront, and it takes a long time to see that investment pay off.

As I saw my very expensive hobby struggling to get off the ground and saw post after post of indie authors “slaying it” at writing, formatting, designing, and marketing – I felt an immense amount of pressure from without and within to be like them. 

I’m multi-talented, I thought. Surely I can handle it all. I’m good at multitasking, surely I can do it all. I have a brain, surely I can learn what I don’t know.

This was a stupid decision that resulted in mental anguish, emotional meltdowns and—consequently—physical pain.

I finally broke down and hired someone to run regular maintenance on my author website and troubleshoot all difficulties involved with that.

It’s one of the best and wisest decisions I ever made. Not once have I regretted or resented a single penny I have spent on this monthly fee – because it is a need.

The peace of mind I gained by turning over this problem to someone who was actually skilled enough to handle it was incomparable.

And, because of the time and mental space and energy that I saved by handing this task over to someone else, I was able to launch a small stream of income that pays for this service so that I am not paying out of pocket, but of earnings! 

By realizing my limitations, I was able to make smarter author decisions. By investing in one thing, I was able to create something that enabled me to pay off a monthly expense – and I was avoiding the thing I hated and doing something I loved! And I was supporting another small business owner, like myself.

Maybe taking care of yourself isn’t enough to motivate you. In that case, here’s another way to look at it. How about helping someone else?

That freelancer trying to make a little money to cover some of their bills? They depend on people like you and me. Just like you with writing, they are trying to turn something they love and are good at into a stream of income.

It’s frustrating when someone doesn’t buy your book, right? It’s frustrating for a freelancer when people pass by their services.

So, by refusing to outsource one (or multiple) pain points to trained professionals, you are not only tormenting yourself; you’re withholding support from someone else.

You’re hurting two people.

Don’t buy into the myth that an indie author can do it all. Don’t buy into the dangerous practice of saving money on literally everything.

Indie publishing requires a lot of capital: but far more costly than money is your health and well-being. I am here to testify that no amount of penny-pinching is worth it, if saving money comes at the cost of your health.

Don’t make the mistake I made. Sit down and make a list of all the things the indie author life requires of you and do an “energy audit.”

What is the number one thing that drains you? Is it writing blog posts? Is it website building? Cover design? Formatting? Then start doing some research and find a freelancer that you can depend upon and make the decision to let go of the thing causing you pain.


Of course, there are always exceptions. There are a few indie authors out there who are really so skilled they can cover every aspect of publishing (pretty sure they’re actually androids, but that’s a topic for another post). There might even be a few indie authors who claim that they love every single part of indie publishing (pretty sure they’re liars, but that’s an accusation for another rant).

But for most indie authors, you’re not good at everything – and that’s okay. Even if it means delaying publishing in order to save up to afford the services you need, believe me, it’s worth it.

Even if you are good at multiple things, you simply don’t have the time to do it all. 

Maybe you’re a student. Maybe you’re a mom. Maybe you work part-time or full-time. Maybe, like me, you are struggling to prioritize health and recovery.

You don’t have time to waste doing stuff that you hate. You don’t have the energy to spare working on things that drain you, instead of filling you up. You don’t have enough left-over mental space to tackle a certain distasteful task along with your burgeoning book.

Give yourself permission to invest not only in your writing business, but your own peace of mind and well-being.

Go ahead – free yourself from that burden. And, at the same time, empower and support someone who is actually good at and ENJOYS the thing you dislike.

You won’t regret it.

What is your favorite (and least favorite) part of the writing and publishing process? Let’s talk, glories!

Investment vs. A Poverty Mindset

I’m going to get a little personal and maybe a smidge uncomfortable in today’s post. 

It’s okay to invest in yourself. 

Not only is it okay, but it’s also amazing. 

I don’t have the fattest wallet. Never have. It’s been through seasons of extra leanness and I’m currently in one. 

But I’ve struggled with a poverty mindset. We grew up with very little in the way of any extra cash… let me rephrase… we had none. I didn’t realize how much that had affected me until as an adult, I started making my own funds and realizing that I had some problems.

I had a poverty mentality and was constantly trying to save, always feeling like I couldn’t get ahead, and worried about when the next emergency would arise .I was hoarding pennies like a selfish miser and it took some soul searching with the Lord to realize that reaction is out of fear. 

Please do not read this post and think that I’m a) telling you that frugality and wise spending is not important and good, or b) trying to get you to buy our services. While the second would be awesome, I ultimately want what’s best for you and want you to make the decisions and invest in the coaches, editors and service providers that are going to be the right fit for you, even if that isn’t us. 

But the Lord requires some investment. 

He taught me so much from two scripture verses. 

  1. “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds!” Luke 12: 22-24 
  2. The parable of the talents. 

We do not need to worry about what we will eat or wear or how much money will be in the bank. He will supply all of our needs according to His riches and grace. Guys. The King of heaven is wealthy beyond our wildest imaginations and owns the cattle on a thousand hills. You don’t think He can’t provide the funds to get an edit or a coaching call? 

And do you think the good stewards who were given their talents were freaking out about losing it when they wisely invested it and waited with faith for it to grow? No. Because the one who feared deposited his coin in the ground, scared to death that he would lose it and was chastised by the Lord for not investing it wisely. 

So pray. Ask Him for provision and guidance. But if He is asking for you to invest in your book and your authorship, do it. It will be okay. And more than that, but I truly believe that a life of provision and returned and growing investments is a part of His kingdom and His plan for you. 

I’ve invested more into my books and authorship over the last year than I thought I could ever afford… but He has returned it over again. 

Did this post resonate with you? Is this something that you struggle with?

Find Victoria Online!
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4 Things I Wish I Had Done Before Publishing

Young writers are amazing.

Never say I didn’t say that. More than that, they are capable of great things—like being awesome published authors who, yes, can make a career out of their writing!

However, new writers (whether they’re ten or ninety-two) often make a basic beginner mistake, and that is believing they are ready to publish long before they actually are.

When I was a newish author, I indie published several books—only to regret it later! Thankfully, I was able to take these books down, edit them, and relaunch them in a more professional way. However, I would’ve saved myself a lot of time and effort if I’d just started out professionally!

To some, this may seem like a mean post. But I’d define it more as tough love.

It all starts out with a simple fact: new writers aren’t ready to publish yet. And often, when you think you’re ready, you’re just not right.

There’s a huge pressure to publish. I get that. But writing is an important skill that takes a lot of honing, and so is indie publishing!

Here are some things I wish I’d done before I indie published.

Don’t Jump the Gun – Practice!

Write several full-length novels—don’t publish the very fist one you finish!

Granted, you may eventually end up publishing your first novel (with a ton of edits!). That’s more or less what I did. But it’s so helpful to write as a writer, gaining more and more experience as you go.

Seems obvious, huh? Yet so many young writers neglect it, never actually finishing more than one or two projects before diving into publishing.

Another rookie mistake is only writing novels from the same world/series. This gives you a narrow view of writing and doesn’t prepare you for a lasting career when you will, presumably, write many different books set in many different worlds!

It’s important to invest time in the craft of writing—including, of course, reading books and articles about writing and implementing them—and this all has to start with actually writing. The more you implement what you learn, the better writer you will be.

ASK YOURSELF: How many novels have I written? Are they from different series/worlds? Have I done a series of self edits yet? Have I had them professionally edited yet?

Pull out Your Indie Checklist – Edits, Cover & Website!

It’s vitally important as an indie author to pay for professional cover design, editing, and a great website.

These, nine times out of ten, make the difference between an indie author I know is going to make it—and one who needs work if they’re going to succeed.

Be sure to check and see who has worked with your editor and cover designer in the past, before you settle on working with them. Make sure you shop around for a truly professional option—and ask advice from other authors, too!

ASK YOURSELF: Are you ready, financially and mentally, to hire your cover designer, editor, and to either create (or hire someone to build) a professional website? Have you done market research to see what other book covers in your genre look like? What about other websites of authors in your genre? Is your editor a true professional?

Focus on Your Platform

It’s time to build an author platform.

This doesn’t mean ‘gain thousands of subscribers’ or anything like that. No, it just means get into the platform game BEFORE you publish.

At the very least, you probably need one form of outreach (social media, usually) and one form of private readership building (email list, usually). However, this can look different for each unique author.

This also includes doing things like figuring out your branding, though you will of course polish it as time goes on. This one element doesn’t have to be perfect—but it has to be started. Check out what other authors are doing to give you some ideas, and get on it.

It’s important to start building up a community early on. How do you do this?
By intentionally engaging in a self-sacrificing, Godly way in the writing/reading community. Do this by enthusiastically supporting other authors and readers however you can. This is as much a character-building exercise as a platform building one. Go the extra mile for people, and they will eventually (maybe) do the same for you!

Even if they don’t, that’s what it means to be an indie author. So get on it!

This also has an additional benefit—making friends with other indie authors who have been there before you! I also suggest doing things like joining Facebook/other groups for indie authors that will allow you to ask questions and join in the conversation about indie publishing.

ASK YOURSELF: Are you ready to start reaching out to readers and other writers in your genre?

Prepare Mentally

Mindset is everything.

Part of it is having the right mindset going into publishing.

Are you willing to be your own boss and take on ALL aspects of the publishing process?

Are you doing this because it’s a last resort (bad idea!) or because you legitimately value the indie process?

Are you going in thinking you’re going to make a lot of money off the bat? Will you be disappointed if you don’t or will you stick with it?

Do you take feedback well and implement it?

Do you have the discernment to not take ALL feedback—to brush some off as unnecessary for your project?

How do you do with rejection?

Are you going to be okay if this doesn’t immediately pan out? Do you have the determination and discipline to work toward making this happen even if it’s tough?

Do you understand, at least in part, the amount of work this takes?

There’s a lot to ask yourself. Some of these questions won’t have firm answers. A lot of the time, you have to find out by getting going. But preparing yourself ahead of time for indie publishing to not be all sunshine and roses is a great step!

ASK YOURSELF: Those questions! Be sure to prayerfully consider what it means to be an indie author before you dive in.

In Summary:

Starting small doesn’t hurt anything, and starting young is a great idea, but starting unprofessionally won’t get you far.

An unedited manuscript with a cover slapped together by your friend and a website that still has the “wordpress” attached to it just isn’t going to cut it.

Yet that’s not the end of the world. It’s how I started, and though I spent what feels like half my life fixing my youthful errors, I was able to do it. It’s not the end of the world.

Does that mean that it’s not important to start professionally? No, it doesn’t. It just means that it’s more important to keep moving forward from wherever you are.

I believe young writers are important. I coach them—and, really, I am them, if you’ll forgive my poor grammar! 😉 Your youth isn’t the issue here. It’s your lack of experience.

You could be fifty-five and have less experience than some fifteen-year-olds. Does that mean that the fifteen-year-old should wait until they’re fifty-five to publish? No. But does that mean you’re all right to publish just because you’re older? No again! It’s about doing the hard work, regardless of your stage of life.

And hard work, regardless of your age, takes time. Time that we’re sometimes pressured into feeling like we just don’t have.

However, we have that time, God willing. So take it. You won’t regret spending more time honing your craft and building your knowledge base before publication.

Find Kellyn Online!
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Writing the Character Behind The Genius

As the author of a mystery series which features an old school detective set in the early 1900’s in London, I speak from experience when I say that writing a detective can be a difficult task. In a lot of instances, or at least for me anyway, I had to create a character who was smarter than me without taking any reality away from the story. There must be a level of believability and reality to the genius of your character. All while keeping him human and giving him his own hopes, dreams, fears, and issues. It’s not easy, but it can be done, and I have to say, that he can end up being your favorite character of all time with the proper work put into it.

There are so many things I could discuss how to create a detective. But below, I will give you some of the most pertinent ideas.

Motive: When you create a detective, you should make sure that he or she has a motive for what they do. You hear this talked about for your villain, but your protagonist needs them as much as the villain. What makes him want to solve crime? Or murders? Or thefts? What makes him seek to see justice served? Why did he choose to be a private detective over serving with the police or vice versa?

Quirks: This is always a fun one. Give your character something that makes them unique. It could be as silly as them not being able to stand fish. My character had a pride in his mustache and he also can’t stand the idea of smoking, which is something that is pretty common in the people that he works with. Does your character hate having to be social? Do they need to be alone to gather their thoughts? Are they backward when it comes to technology? Could they not live without chocolate? Adding these quirks really makes your character something special that will intrigue the readers, make them laugh, or even just make your detective more relatable to the casual observer.

Real Genius:  You need to make your character a genius, without making him so smart that he is no longer believable. He needs to know things, but he has to figure them out by real observations. That really is the key to making it believable. He should be noticing things that the normal population does not.

Backstory/Personality: How is this character on an emotional level? Does he not do well socializing because of a) how he was raised, b) what is personality is like, etc. Backstory is really just a way to figure out what this person has been through in their life, where they have gone, what their schooling was, etc. Which will then funnel into what they are like as a person, because, all of our life happenings have formed and shaped us into who we are. And for the personality, if you want to take a Myers Briggs type of test for your character to determine their strengths and weaknesses, that is always fun and gives you a great basis for how they act and react.

Relationships: The secondary characters of your story can end up having a huge impact on who your character is and clueing the reader into who they are. What relationships are important to your detective? Are they incredibly close to their family? Do they have certain friends that compliment their personalities, or hit them over the head when they need it? Myers Briggs will also help with this if you are interested as it will tell you what type of personality your character gravitates towards. Is your detective independent? Or are they dependent on their friends and/or family? Who do they hang out with? Who do they merely tolerate, and who do they seek out for company?

There you have it! Some great starting places for creating your detective. One of the biggest things I can encourage you to do when creating your detective is to ask questions. Ask lots of them about every aspect of your character, and by answering them, you will have made a person who is well rounded and comes to life.

I hope you enjoyed my tips on creating your detective! I often share writing tips, tricks, and stories on my blog, Feel free to follow me there or on TikTok or Instagram!

Find Victoria Online!
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How to Plot Your Novel When You Hate Plotting

I feel you. I really do. Once upon a time, I despised plotting. I was a die-hard seat-of-your-pants writer. If a story idea came to mind, I immediately set to work and began drafting. I wrote a middle-grade fantasy rip-off of Narnia this way. However, as I grew and matured as a writer, I began to realize that SOP writing (“seat-of-the-pants”, or “pantsing” as it’s affectionately known) just simply didn’t work for me. Ninety percent of the story ideas I started drafting barely scratched a thousand words. Over time, I grew tired of feeling like I never could finish what I started, of staring at blank drafts with no idea how to move forward, of feeling like I’d never publish a book and be the bestselling author I’d always dreams of becoming. Pantsing almost killed my dream, because it didn’t give me the tools I needed to keep going when I hit a wall.

If you’re like I was, then this article is for you.

Now, I’m sure you’ve heard of plotting. You probably follow several big-name bookstagram influencers like CG Drews who boast their twenty-page, twenty-thousand word outlines for their stories. And you probably sit there with a wide-eyed look on your face, wondering how, exactly, you’re supposed to write a twenty-thousand word outline when you can’t even draft twenty thousand words to begin with… Well, I’m here to help you with that. Well, not with drafting a twenty-thousand word outline; rather, with breaking off the stigma and the stress surrounding plotting in general.

Do you hate plotting, or are you afraid of it?

For me, it was maybe a mix of both. I hated plotting, because whenever I had a new idea, all I wanted to do was just dive right in. I wanted to see the world. I wanted to meet my characters. And drafting an outline or some semblance of a plan seemed like a detour away from what I, as a writer, really care about. I was afraid of it, because I’d gotten into such a rut with my writing that I honestly didn’t believe in the stories I wanted to write. Actually, I didn’t believe in myself and my ability to write them. Simply put, I was insecure in my skill, my motivation, and my sense of discipline.

Now, this change didn’t happen all at once. Before I was a full-blown plotter, I was somewhere in the middle. It started with my second novel, Every Bright and Broken Thing. I had finally published my debut, Love and the Sea and Everything in Between. There was this sense of release and breakthrough as I let go of a story that I’d been holding onto for nearly four years. At long last, I realized that I really was cut out for this. That writing and editing and publishing a story was something I really wanted to take seriously. Not only that, but my mind was on fire with inspiration for story after story after story. I wanted to write. I was excited about writing. For the first time in my life, it didn’t feel like some unattainable pipe dream; it was real.

So, in November of 2018, I dove back into NaNoWriMo and began drafting a new story about an indie rock star high schooler struggling with trauma and grief. But something was missing. About halfway through the first draft, I realized that what the story really needed was the dual perspective of my Main Character’s brother, Ezra. But I’d already written so much. What was I to do?

So I sat down at my computer, stared at the screen and decided to break down the chapters one by one to help orient myself as I want back to draft Ezra’s POV (point-of-view) chapters. This was the first time I’d ever done any sort of note taking for a manuscript that wasn’t within the narrative itself. To be fair, they were just one-line synopses of each chapter. Nothing huge.

But I was hooked.

What I learned about plotting…

All of my preconceived ideas about what plotting looked and felt like were wrong. This whole time, I’d thought it was just getting in the way of the story, but I began to realize with each new story idea – from Every Bright and Broken Thing to Sons of Slaughter to We the Wild Things to Mammoth – that there was this aspect of plotting that actually allowed me to live inside the story before ever setting my nose to the grindstone. That’s what I really wanted, after all. To just dive in. Get to know my world and my characters and the themes and the aesthetic. With each no story idea and each new plotting technique employed and each new draft written, I fell in love with the process of plotting.

Don’t get me wrong, plotting is just the beginning of the whole affair. But if you change your perspective, you might realize there’s something just as rewarding about plotting as there is about drafting or marketing or publishing.

Plotting your novel before you start writing is like a literary meet cute. By that I mean that it’s almost like this slow, gradual, organic, getting-to-know-you phase between you and your novel. Everything is chemistry. Everything is electric. You’re excited. You’re in love with the concept in your head, and now you’re getting to explore it without the gritty work of drafting. You’ve dropped your story concept like a stack of school books, and now you’ve bumped heads with the full on story. You’re staring into each others’ eyes, and all of the sudden you find yourself daydreaming about your characters everywhere you go. You find yourself staring out the window absentmindedly, because mentally you’re living in your story world. Dramatic? Sure. Then again, so is writing!

Plotting your novel before you begin drafting helps you to develop your story’s themes, perspective, and voice. That last point especially – your story’s voice – is important. If you go into a story without a sense of voice, those opening chapters will be rough. It’s almost like your story suffers from an identity crisis.

Plotting empowers you! Think of it like a treasure map. Without the map, all your left with is the disappointing knowledge that there’s a treasure out there that you’ll never be able to obtain, because you don’t know where it is or how to get there. Like most treasure maps, plotting doesn’t tell the full story. It doesn’t show you all the pitfalls and snares and trials along the way, but it does keep you on track! Plotting empowers you to finish what you started!

Make plotting fun! If you’re a tactile writer, use a bulletin board, or a binder portfolio, or a white board, or index cards to sort through everything. If you’re like me, create a file specifically for the plotting of your novel.

For myself, I compile what I call a “Portfolio” for each new project. My portfolios contain: 1) Rough Synopsis, 2) Character Profiles, 3) Rough Outline (both part-by-part and chapter-by-chapter depending on the story; this is not an exhaustive outline as it doesn’t reflect every twist and turn, but I do list the plot-relevant things that occur in each chapter), 4) Word Guides (this is a compiled list of words that speak to the aesthetic of the story), 5) Inspirational Material (books, movies, shows that speak to the tone and themes of my project; if I’m in a rut, I’ll turn to these favorites to shift myself back into gear!), 6) Setting Profile, and 7) Theme Map (these are the themes I aim to tackle throughout the story.)

If we approach it with the right mindset, plotting can be just as fun and just as rewarding as drafting, or any other stage of the process! The key is figuring out what works for you and your story, and knowing that each story may require a different approach, and that you may have to approach it in a different way in any given season. Plotting could be just the thing you need to take your literary lifestyle to the next level and begin writing stories with a sense of voice, a sense of direction, and a sense of clarity.

Find Brian Online!
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