Monthly Dares: March 2017

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Yay, March! It’s been a little while since I posted, and I’m a bit late for March, but that’s okay! It’s never too late to make new dares. If you’re new here, you may be wondering what monthly dares are? They’re inspired by the fabulous Kellyn Roth @ Reveries, and basically you set goals for the next month and dare yourself to do them! My twist on it is that most of my goals help me to achieve my New Year’s Resolutions throughout 2017. You can check out February’s post here. Let’s begin!

*NYR indicates that the goal is part of a New Year’s Resolution.

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Overall, February was kind of bleh. Some parts of it were great…other parts of it were not so great. But I did learn some new things and have decided to trust in God more and turn my life over to Him, which was awesome. Anyway…here are my results!

 

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1. (NYR) Read my scriptures every morning & pray morning and night. Pretty good! Basically, the same as last month, which is that I read my scriptures every day and prayed almost every day. However, there’s a lot of room for improvement in regards to actually getting something out of it…but I did get a new scripture journal, and the other night I felt really close to my Heavenly Father as I was praying, which was wonderful.

2. (NYR) Write in my journal at least 23 times (since 23 is my favorite number)! More or less. Well, more on the less side, actually. I only wrote 11 times…but at least I wrote several entries that were more than one page. That’s pretty impressive in and of itself.

3. (NYR) Research the colleges in my state and see which ones I’d most like to go to. Not really. I did think about college a lot, though! And this was partly I’ve already basically decided where I want to go to for college…now I just have to get a good enough ACT score to get a decent scholarship. *crosses fingers*

4. Study for five minutes every night for the ACT. I did okay with this goal. I didn’t do it every night, and I’m definitely not feeling ready to take the ACT in just a few days, but the fact that I did study is great! And after I take the ACT the first time, I’m going to study more and get good enough to get a really high score on it.

5. (NYR) Get my driver’s license! Seriously! Failure. I didn’t even drive. No more on this subject…I don’t want to dwell on the pain of this procrastination.

6. (NYR) Finish my online class and take the test and BE DONE WITH IT. Nope… I got an extension for the class and I have to be finished and take the test next week. Which totally explains why I haven’t done any assignments for it today… *hides in shame*

7. (NYR) Do at least 1 hour of service once a week, and try to do one small act of service every day. *dies* *slowly* Well, I was feeling positive at the beginning of the post. Okay, so I didn’t do any huge service stuff. But I did, on the other hand, do some small little service. But nothing deserving green, or even yellow, text.

8. Keep track of the chores I do so that I can actually get paid for them. Work for Dad for at least a couple of hours to get back in the groove. Yeah! At least for the first part. I didn’t really do all that many chores, though, so I think I’ll have to alter this goal again to meet my needs.

9. Floss every night. I’m rockin’ this one! Still not every night, but I think I did better this month than in January. Like, it’s even starting to be a habit and it’s quick and pretty much painless even when I’m super tired.

10. Sing at least 4x every week to practice for my weekly voice lessons. Hm…not my best. I think I sang more in January. I was busier this month, but that’s not really an excuse. I think I sang an average of 2 times a week. Maybe 1.8 or something like that.

11. Finish Personal Progress! No. I didn’t even really work on it. I have to finish sewing this quilt and it’s going to be the death of me. (Not really, but how come it’s so hard to arrange blocks in the right place?)

12. Get off the computer by 9 p.m. at least half the time. Hopefully this will help me to get to bed sooner…? This never happened. It might have happened once. And I also didn’t get to bed sooner, either. *marks this goal for review as well*

13. Do at least 20 minutes every week of Spanish practice with Duolingo. Grrrrr. I did it for one out of the four weeks. So that’s something, at least. And I went to Spanish class as well… Okay, okay, I’ll try to do better next month.

14. Hand write a letter and mail it to someone. *sighs* This didn’t happen. I mean, I thought about it, and I thought of who I’d want to write too, but it didn’t happen. I just need to buckle down and do it!

15. Make a meal for the family at least once. *sighs again* Nope.

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1. (NYR) Read 5 books this month. Awww yeah! I read 7 books this month! Not quite as good as last month’s ten books, but still above my goal!

2. (NYR) Write reviews for the said 5 books on Goodreads. Mostly. I’ve written reviews for three of them, and the reviews for the other four (plus the one I read today, in March) will be coming eventually! I’m kind of excited to write my review for The Hunger Games because after I finished it, I was analyzing all of these writerly things and why it was a bestseller and such. No promises that I’ll remember all of my thoughts by the time I write the review, but I’ll try my best. You can find my Goodreads page here, and I actually have a profile pic now! It’s the same one I use everywhere online, but still, it’s not a blank face anymore.

3. At least one has to be a book that someone has recommended or that is on my TBR. Check! I read Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones. After watching the anime for a second time, I decided I wanted to read the book. I loved it and I shall also be writing a review of that soon!

4. Read at least 200 pages more in The Eye of the World (Wheel of Time #1) by Robert Jordan. Well, no. But I decided that if I don’t enjoy reading something, what’s the point of reading it? So I’m probably going to just stop reading this anyway because I can’t even convince myself to open it up anymore.

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1. (NYR) Write at least 6 blog posts this month. Pretty darn close. I wrote five blog posts, and in actuality, I did write a sixth one on the last day of the month so that I could achieve that goal, but I decided not to publish it because of Goal #3 in this section. I didn’t feel like you’d love the post, so I decided it wasn’t worth posting.

2. Make a graphic for each post, like I’ve been doing. Yep! No more to say here.

3. Blog what I want to and don’t feel pressured about it. Yes, I did this! And it’s been really great, but I have been thinking about blogging recently and I realized that my blog, at the moment, probably only appeals to writers. I believe once people start reading and enjoying my books, they’d love to read it more, but at the moment my posts mainly only help writers, and that’s the audience I’m getting.

But as an author, I need more of an audience of readers…so my thoughts now are: how do I draw in people to my blog who’d be interested in reading my books while staying true to myself and enjoying blogging? What kind of posts would I enjoy doing that would accomplish this? Do you have any ideas for me?

4. (NYR) Keep the sidebar updated, especially the word count for Enhanced. Well… There wasn’t all that much to update.

5. Make the Zel page. Also, think about making a resources page sharing what you’re learning about self-publishing and stuff. I don’t think so. I mean, a goal to think about things isn’t a very good goal…but I definitely didn’t make the Zel page (bad llama!) and I didn’t think all that much about making a resources page. But I did think about it once or twice, so maybe that counts for something?

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1. (NYR) Write 28,000 words this month (1k every day) and keep track on it on the 365K spreadsheet. Ha. Ha. No. My spreadsheet is horribly sad. I wrote a pitiful 11,116 in February. Basically, I didn’t write 2/3 of the time. *flails and wails*

2. (NYR) Write 30,000 words in Enhanced. Even worse. I think I wrote something like 6k in Enhanced this month. On the other hand, I did get past a major problem I had with it, but I’m still finding it hard to get back into the story again.

3. (NYR) Write a short story or flash fiction. *growls at self* No. I did work a little bit on a short story, but I didn’t come close to finishing it.

4. Finish the short story from last month. Nope. Nada. Nothing. Didn’t even think about it.

5. Write another chapter in TC. *melts because melting seems like the appropriate response* I think I opened up the document once…but I didn’t write a thing.

6. Force my friend (a different friend than from #5) to write her part in the CN (a different collaborative novel), so that we can finally finish it. YAS. A wonderful, glorious YAS. Because it was very hard, but it finally did happen! Now I just need to force her to write just one more part, and then I’ll write one and the book shall be done with!

7. Research cover-making and the important aspects of it, since that’s definitely a major point with self-publishing. Yeah, a bit. I did do some research; I read a couple of articles, found some more self-publishing articles, etc. I still do have more to learn, though, but I did pretty good at this part of the goal.

8. Along with #7, create at least five covers using what I’ve learned, at least one of which I have to be proud of. Not yet. I’ve only made one cover so far (which I’m not terribly proud of), but I want to continue doing this in March and give you a nice post at the end about what I learned and sharing & critiquing the covers I made–yay!

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This is a new section where I can share the awesome things that I did that weren’t in my goals! Yay! So, here’s a short list of some of the things I did:

  • I was more social! Which led to me getting asked out on a fun date. (I mean, I’d already known the guy for many years, but I know that being more talkative made the difference.) I’m really getting into the social aspect of Social Dance class. I’ve made several new friends, and I’m improving in my skills with talking to guys!
  • I went to a three day writing conference, which was amazing! Seriously, there are so many things that I learned that I want to try and to share with you. My dad took me and I skipped school to go listen to authors talk on different subjects. This is part of what inspired me to finally get over the stuff that I was having problems with in Enhanced.
  • I went to a family history fair thing and now I want to learn stories about my ancestors.
  • I turned 17! Yay! I got a coloring book and gel pens, a Brandon Sanderson book, a jacket, and a lovely new scripture study journal!
  • I decided on my birthday that I would turn my life over to God and let Him be the one who takes control and guides me. I’ve been hearing all over the place in seminary and in church that He will help me with my goals and to become the best I can be. And yes, I’ve failed many times every day since then, but I know that when I have relied on Him, He’s helped me. It’s amazing.

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Now onto March and my dares for this month! Everyone cross your fingers that I’ll be able to achieve them!

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1. (NYR) Add more meaning to my scripture study and prayer. Journal about scriptures 5x a week, and write down a prayer at least 2x a week.

2. (NYR) Write in my journal at least 20 times! This gets lower every month…I guess I’m just waiting for a goal that I will actually reach.

3. (NYR) Research the colleges in my state and see which ones I’d most like to go to.

4. Take the ACT!

5. (NYR) Get my driver’s license! Or at least work on it.

6. (NYR) Finish my online class! This one is happening this month no matter how much I procrastinate, thank goodness.

7. (NYR) Find service to do, and do it! My cousin told me about this project people were doing in her neighborhood where they crocheted afghans, and I do love crocheting, so I think I’ll ask her for the pattern.

8. Do my chores more often (every day, if possible)! Work for Dad at least 10 hours this month–money goes toward college.

9. Floss every night.

10. Sing at least 4x every week to practice for my weekly voice lessons.

11. Finish Personal Progress…I know I have to get this one done…I just have to!

12. Get enough sleep so that you don’t die the next morning. (a.k.a. get 8 hours of sleep.)

13. Do at least 20 minutes every week of Spanish practice with Duolingo.

14. Hand write a letter and mail it to someone.

15. Make a meal for the family at least once.

16. Learn a story about an ancestor.

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1. (NYR) Read 5 books this month

2. (NYR) Write reviews for the said 5 books on Goodreads + reviews from last month.

3. At least one has to be a book that someone has recommended or that is on my TBR.

4. Read something edifying or knowledge-giving. (Yeah, I don’t even know what that means either.)

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1. (NYR) Write at least 6 blog posts this month. (Wahoo, 1/6 of the way there!) 5

2. Continue making graphics (because this is one of the easier goals to keep).

3. Come up with five blog post ideas that I would enjoy writing but are not just about my book or about writing advice.

4. (NYR) Keep the sidebar updated, especially the word count for Enhanced. Add a “Scripture of the Week” section?

5. Seriously, just write a couple of bleh paragraphs on the Zel page. That’s better than having nothing there.

6. Reach out to other bloggers! Comment on 5 people’s blogs that I’ve never commented on before.

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1. (NYR) Write 40,000 words this month (1k+ every day) and keep track on it on the 365K spreadsheet.

2. (NYR) Write 40,000 words in Enhanced. This one I think is kind of crazy. 40k is a lot even in NaNo months, but I do need to catch up from last month. If I really do write 1k every day, I think the excess that I write will add up to 40k total (though maybe not in Enhanced necessarily).

3. (NYR) Work on The Luminary (the dark short story I mentioned in a different post) and outline it to its completion.

4. Write another chapter in TC. Don’t let the story dieee!

6. Force my friend to write her last part in the CN. We’re so close!

7. Continue with last month’s goal of cover-making research + making 5 covers (one of which I have to be proud of). Write a post afterward sharing what I’ve learned.

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February was kind of a crazy month, and writing-wise, I did pretty badly. Again, reading was one of my best, but blogging also had a definite improvement from last month! And life was about the same as last month. So the takeaway: I can do better! I want to really take a positive outlook on this and actually do better next month! Hmm…maybe I can find some way to measure how well I did each month and compare…

Anyway, I just want to keep trying again and again! I think that is the most important thing to do. No matter how many mistakes I make or how much I want to growl at myself for how I did this month, I can always try again! And that’s what I’ll continue to do.



What are your thoughts? How did your February go? Are you excited for another chance to try again and start over? What are some of your goals for March? I want to hear about them, so link me to your posts or just tell me! What posts are you most excited for this month and what new ones do you think I should introduce? How should I do better at blogging? I would love your advice!

Thank you all for reading! You are amazing!

Giving Good Critique: The Oreo Method

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I haven’t written an advice-y post in ages. So I decided to write one on something I feel is very important–giving good critique. Critique is actually one of the most helpful things in the world, and being able to accept critique and constructive criticism is a good quality to have.

But also important is to be able to give critique to other people in a way that encourages and motivates them, while still being useful. In the example of sharing a piece of writing, though saying “OHMYGOSH I LOVED IT!!!!” does give a little thrill of happiness to the author, it doesn’t help them improve much. Likewise, being told, “I liked it, but this and this and this and this could have been done better,” is just discouraging.

So let’s find a happy medium: the Oreo Method. Now, I actually heard this called a peanut butter & jelly sandwich, but I decided that I’d apply it to writing using Oreos instead, because I like those better. Yum yum yum.

So, what is the Oreo Method? Well, it goes like this:

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Essentially, the idea is to sandwich the constructive criticism inside of constructive flailing over awesomeness. Which may sound like we’re trying to hide the parts that weren’t so good–but we’re not! The inside of the oreo is just as delicious as the outside, which brings me to another point.

The funny thing is that telling about the awesome parts can be just as useful as telling about the potential-for-awesomeness parts, if you do it right. If you say, “I loved it all it was just like a real book!” that’s not as helpful as something like, “I loved the way you described the setting in this paragraph because it felt really vivid, like I was actually there.” Telling people where and what the good parts are is just as helpful as telling them where they could improve.

Should we do an example now? I’m feeling like it’s time to do an example. This is an excerpt from a book I started writing last April, tentatively titled The Blade. I chose it since I think there are a number of things that are both good and can be improved. Let’s look at it:

Sometimes I wished I wasn’t the Blade, that I could be just a normal girl with a normal life sewing and cooking and whatever else normal girls did. But whenever I thought of that, I remembered what Efron had told me that day.

Everyone knew he was growing older, the gray starting to show in his thinning hair, and without a heir, they all wanted him to choose a new Blade. They lined up rows of their young boys, trying to impress him.

I’d watched from my perch in a tree as the man I knew only as the Blade then inspected each of the boys, every one of them standing perfectly still. The process was boring, but there was something about the Blade that interested me. The way he moved, the way he spoke…everything about him was powerful and strong.

As Efron neared the end of the row of the boys, everyone watching shifted uncomfortably. How long would it take him to choose the next Blade? They’d been through thousands of boys already from all over Scronna, traveling miles for their own chance. The Blade passed by every single one of them.

At the end of the line, he shook his head. Angry murmurs ran through the crowd. Why didn’t he just choose the next one already? Why didn’t he do what needed to be done? He was a fool to keep not choosing anyone. Soon, there would be no boys left.

I scrambled out of the tree, hoping to catch a better glimpse of the Blade through the crowd. In my trousers and tunic, I probably looked more like a boy than a girl, aside from the two braids of hair that ran down my back.

Falling in step next to him, I felt like I had accomplished everything. I had something to boast over any other child ­–I’d walked right next to the Blade. And now I would talk to him. “Hello, Blade.”

“Efron,” he corrected, then glanced down at me. “Who are you?”

“My name’s Riven, if that’s what you’re asking,” I said. “How come you aren’t choosing any of those boys to be the next Blade?”

He glanced back at the boys who were now struggling to find their parents in the crowd. “None of them fit the qualifications for being the Blade. You have to be something extra special to be it. And these boys, they’re all the same. They’ve all been trained the same way. They’ll all become Knives, and some may become Rapiers. The Blade needs someone different than that.”

“Like what?” I asked, not really sure where he was walking to, but content to follow him anyway. I had nowhere better to be.

“I need someone who’s different. Someone who’s not content to just be normal.” Then he looked over at me again. “Let’s get you home now. Where do you live?”

Home. Such a foreign term. I twisted one of my braids between my fingers, wondering if he’d be the one to understand what no one else had understood. “This is where I live,” I said, gesturing to the open air around us. “I sleep under the stars.” The stars were beautiful, spreading across the sky like speckles on the coat of a dapple gray horse.

“You sleep on the ground?”

“Most of the time. If the wolves are nearby then I’ll sleep in the trees sometimes,” I said, watching him intently, waiting for the moment where he’d tell me I needed a home and a mother and a real place to sleep.

“But you have nowhere to stay? I thought no one lived on the streets. Surely someone could take you in and­­–”

I folded my arms. “Yes, someone could. I’d rather stay out here, and I don’t live on the streets. I live outside of towns, where the grass grows wild and the wind is so strong it can blow you right over if you’re not careful.” My hands were already unfolded, gesturing away. I had been so passionate about it that I could never stay angry at anyone for long, not while I was trying to explain it to them, anyway.

“You’d rather stay outside than in a house?”

“Why not? I’ve never had a home, and I’ve never had anyone to love either. I love the grass and the trees and the sky and the stars…and that’s enough for me.”

Efron gave me a small smile. “I have a preposition for you, Riven.”

“What is it? Don’t try to make me live with someone or anything like that. I could never stand that, ever.”

“I want you to be the next Blade.” He said it straight out, without a single moment of hesitation. It was so unexpected that it caught me completely off guard. “But I’m a girl.” There had never been a Blade who was a girl, ever.

He looked me in the eyes, crouching down so we were at the exact same level, like we were equals. “But you’re not a normal girl. You’ll never be the kind of girl who will stay inside without taking a chance at a fight. You have too much fire in you for that.”

Now that we’ve read the excerpt, it’s time to form our critique, starting with the top of the oreo–some awesomeness. Usually for the first one, I choose an overall thing I liked, or a specific thing near the beginning so that the critique flows in some sort of close to chronological order. Once I choose that part, I start writing the critique around that.

I really liked it! I think it has an interesting premise and I like the interesting tidbits of world building that you show–the Blade is the name of the country’s leader! And Efron says that people will grow up to be Knives, or maybe Rapiers. I’m not exactly sure what those are but it sounds like this country is all about fighting and I think that’s super interesting.

There’s the top of the oreo, where I shared some stuff that I thought was awesome. Next comes the filling, things that could be improved. You might have noticed that throughout this post I have completely avoided using the word “bad” to describe these parts, because even if they are that, we don’t want to focus on that. We want to focus on their potential to become as awesome as the other parts, and how that could be achieved. Usually I put the biggest issue I see in the first slot…for no reason, really. It doesn’t really matter which improvement you select from the excerpt at which time, aside from the flow of the critique.

One thing I was a little confused about was why Efron chose her to be the Blade. Though I think she does make a good Blade, we hardly see any of her personality in this section, and I don’t think what she talks about would really warrant him choosing her–especially if he didn’t pick someone out of thousands of boys. I think an experience that shows her potential for fighting skill or leadership would make it more realistic.

Okay, now for the next part of the oreo, some more awesomeness on the outside. I usually try to make it relate on at least some level with the constructive criticism, so that the transition isn’t jarring.

Aside from that, I thought the parts of her personality you did show were fun. I loved getting to see Riven when she was little! Her conversation with Efron amused me, especially the fact that she felt so proud to be next to the Blade despite the fact he had just walked past a whole line of other children. I liked the style of the flashback too, how most of it was in Riven’s current voice, but the actions still conveyed younger Riven’s personality.

The fun part about this method is that you can either stop there, or it can go on forever. You can either make an oreo stack (awesome, improve, awesome, awesome, improve, awesome) or a double or triple or quadruple decker oreo sandwich (awesome, improve, awesome, improve, awesome). I just choose whichever one flows better. I’ll do a double decker for this one.

I don’t really understand why she would have lived in the wild and not wanted to have a home and a family. It seems like part of her really longs to have love and acceptance, so why not when she was younger? Also, she must have had a family at some point–she couldn’t have just grown up there. Maybe she finds this out later?

Anyway, I can tell that she does love it because of the way she describes it. The way she talks about the wind and how she compares the stars to a dapple gray horse just feels magical, and almost makes me want to drive into the middle of nowhere and have a campout. 🙂

I could continue and go more in-depth…but because of the length of this monstrosity of a post, I’m gonna stop now. Sometimes when I close, I sneak on another awesome thing I liked, but otherwise I thank them for letting me read it. It’s hard to put your own writing out there, and they deserve a thank you for their courage.

I really enjoyed getting to read this. Thank you so much for sharing it!

And…there’s the end of my critique! Thank you for reading through this ginormous post (if you made it all the way through alive, hehe) and I hope it helps you with your critiques!


What do you think? I was going to post another piece of my writing and have you practice, but I have a better idea! In the comments, post a short excerpt of writing (probably try to do no more than 300 words, since it’s just in the comments) or share a link to some of your posted writing. Then, look through the other comments and practice by giving the other commenters a short oreo critique on their writing! It shall be much fun! 😀