Review of 2016, Plans for 2017

Creative title, I know. I spent a long time on that one…

I know I’m a little early to be writing my end of year/new year’s resolutions post, but I didn’t really have anything else to write except a couple of updates that I’ll mention really quickly before the whole new year’s thingymajig.

Life updates: Christmas was fun! We decided as a family to open our presents on Boxing Day, the day after Christmas, so that we could focus on Christ during the actual Christmas day, which was really awesome. We did lots of singing and service. Then on Boxing Day we exchanged gifts; I got the digital drawing tablet that I wanted and a lot of other fun stuff (like llama pajamas that amuse me greatly). So it’s been a good holiday season so far, and I still get a few more days on break!

Writing updates: For Christmas I also got a Brandon Sanderson book (Arcanum Unbounded) and while I was reading it, I just really wanted to write my rewrite of Enhanced. Because that’s the closest I’m getting at the moment to something as awesome as Sanderson’s epic fantasy.

So I may have put Battle Song on the shelf for a little while. I know I shouldn’t, but…I wanted to write Enhanced, and I wasn’t getting anywhere with Battle Song anyway, so…Enhanced it is. I started yesterday and have written about 3.4K more, so I’m at 7Kish. It’s going well; you can see my progress on the right side of the blog.

Okay, I’m done with the updates; that’s all I wanted to say, and now it is time for the old year/new year stuff!

Last year’s post, if you want to read/skim: Goodbye 2015, Hello 2016

Review of 2016

It’s been a good year…well, that could just be me looking at it with rose-colored glasses, I suppose. I feel like I changed and improved a lot socially and as a person, but while my writing is improved, I didn’t really do as much as I could’ve/should’ve. (Which was in part because school is hard and busy a lot, but I also procrastinated quite a bit.)

Since I didn’t make any life goals on my blog last year, I’ll just share some of my accomplishments:

1. I joined marching band (color guard) during this summer/fall! It was a big accomplishment for me because I was trying something new, not to mention something I didn’t always feel good at, since I’m not as good with physical activities as I am with mental ones. But I progressed a lot and made new friends and gained a lot more self-confidence, so it was a big accomplishment for me.

2. I started taking voice lessons this summer, also. For the same reasons as above, it’s been hard but also rewarding. I don’t practice as much as I should…but when I do, I can hear my voice growing better and better! I also had my first voice recital and did very good considering getting up and singing solo in front of people terrifies me. It’s also helped with my self-confidence.

3. I definitely improved on my scripture study–I’ve started reading every morning and I also have a journal to take notes in with my scripture study and while at church, which is awesome.

4. I went on a date. Okay, that shouldn’t be such an accomplishment to go on one single date, but I hardly talk to guys and so I was proud of myself for asking a guy out on a date and having a fun (though slightly awkward at times) time with it. It was a good experience.

That’s all I really have to say/I can think of. So yay! Life accomplishments were definitely awesome this year. Writing accomplishments, on the other hand….not so awesome.

From last year, I made several goals:

  1. Write/finish my Zel novel.
  2. Revise Enhanced (which was at that point nicknamed KT).
  3. Write Cryonic, the sequel to Enhanced (I called it KT 2 in that post).
  4. Do NaNoWriMo again.
  5. Finish novels–I even mentioned it was a priority.

And here are the results of these goals:

1. Write/finish Zel novel.

Ahah. Well. I did write it. Some of it. Approximately 34, 515 words of it. Okay, I’m downplaying this quite a bit because I feel bad that I didn’t finish it this year, but I am proud of what I have of this novel. I really love the setup of this story (Rapunzel as a foreign criminal + awesome magic quest) and my first chapter is great. (Hmm, maybe I should post that as my next Spotlight, even though it has nothing to do with what I’m writing right now.)

So I made progress, but I didn’t quite complete the goal. (Which is the case with most of these.)

2. Revise Enhanced.

Well…no. Not really. At the time I made this goal, I’d only just finished, and I didn’t really know what it entailed. I think I did close to, if not a total of 40 hours working on developing the characters, setting, and plot in order to rewrite it, but I only have about 8.5k written. I love the story, though, and I’m making progress on it now.

3. Write Cryonic, the sequel to Enhanced.

Sort of. I wrote 40K worth of the sequel during Camp NaNo, but then my planning for Enhanced’s revision took over and I wasn’t ever prepared to write it at all. I hadn’t planned out anything when I wrote it, so there wasn’t much of a way to finish it, without first rewriting Enhanced, which didn’t happen, as said before. So nope, not really.

4. Do NaNoWriMo again.

I did do it, but I lost everything. Well…not everything. I won April Camp NaNo writing Cryonic, with just over 40k/40k. But July Camp NaNo, when I was trying to do 40 hours of prep for Enhanced, I only ended with 24 hours/40. (I did finish up those hours afterward, though.) And then November, the official NaNoWriMo, I procrastinated from Battle Song a ton, and ended up with 37.5k/40k. So, I did do NaNo, I just lost more than I ever have.

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Stats for the preparation of Enhanced.

5. Finish novels.

Nope. While in 2015 I finished two novels, this year I finished nothing, which is one of the biggest reasons my writing goals feel unsatisfactory to me this year. I wrote a lot. I prepared a lot, both for Zel and Enhanced and even Battle Song, but not one of those novels (or even my previous ones) did I finish. So while I am proud of what I did accomplish, I’m a little bit frustrated, and I’m going to try to do better in 2017.

Phew. This post is already past 1000 words long and we’ve only just finished with 2016’s review. Prepare for more rambling. Maybe take a hot chocolate break, or rest your eyes with a short nap before continuing.

But…I’m not really sorry. This post was long last year; I have reason to expect it’ll be even longer this year, especially with the inclusion of life goals and not just writing ones. Plus, I’m rambling more than I was last year, even in this middle part. (But there are pictures in this next part, so that makes things better, right?)

Right ho, then, let’s move on to 2017.

Plans for 2017

I want 2017 to be better than this year–way better. Which means I have quite a few goals to share, though more writing ones than life ones. I want to try to keep them better, too…I think I may put my goals on the sidebar of my blog so I don’t forget about them, and maybe show my progress on them somehow…

One of my friends, Kellyn Roth @ Reveries has been doing posts with monthly “Dares,” which is essentially daring yourself to do something each month and following through with it the next. (Basically, a lot like this post, only monthly…because I know how much you all love to read extremely long posts.) Here’s an example of one of her Dare posts! Anyway, I think this would be really fun to start doing and help me to segment my goals into smaller pieces that will help me keep on track. So look forward to those!

Anyway…the actual resolutions/goals!

Life Goals:

1. Continue reading my scriptures every day, and pray every morning and night.

2. Write in my journal at least 6 out of 7 days every week (85% of the time).

3. Start researching colleges and apply for college at the end of 2017.

4. Get my driver’s license and finish my online class (this should be done by February, though).

5. Do an act of service at least once a week.

6. Get a job. I don’t want one…but I need one and it’ll be a good experience for me.

Reading Goals:

1. Read at least 5 books a month and post reviews on them on Goodreads (so a goal of reading 60 books…though I might change that to 75). And…that’s about all.

Blogging Goals:

1. Blog at least 6 times a month (at least 72 posts throughout the year).

2. Keep the sidebar of my blog updated.

Writing Goals:

1. Complete the 365K challenge. In 2015, this was one of the things that really helped me write a lot and integrate writing in my life–the idea is to write 1,000 words every single day for an entire year. I didn’t do that this year because I was going to be doing so much planning, but this year I’ve done a few more things to help me.

Firstly, I’ve decided that planning/developing/researching/etc. for an hour can count as a thousand words. Secondly, I’ve create a color-coordinated spreadsheet that will calculate how many words I’ve written total by only putting in the number of words I wrote that day, which will help me easily keep track of what I’ve done.

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Here’s a little screenshot of part of the spreadsheet.

2. Finish 3 novels, one of which has to be EnhancedThis was one of the things that most frustrated me about last year’s writing: no novels finished. So next year, I’m going to finish three novels, one of which is the rewrite of Enhanced.

enhanced cover

The other two novels, I don’t care what they are, as long as I finish them, but I do have several novels I’ve started that range from 20K to 55k already written, and it would be very simple to complete a couple of them. Specifically, I’d like to finish Riven and Zel, maybe even Battle Song, but if those aren’t the ones I finish, that’s fine. I just need to finish at least two other novels besides Enhanced.

3. Start a maximum of 2 novels. That’s right; I’m only going to start 2 novels this year because I’m going to be focusing on finishing the others. One of these is going to be in November NaNoWriMo, because I always start a new novel for that, which means until November, I can only start one novel. (Writing down ideas/first scenes doesn’t count.) I’m thinking about starting an MG novel about dragons for my little brother, but maybe not. I want to keep my options open at the moment. Although, if I start that one in the next two days, I wouldn’t be starting in 2017 and so it wouldn’t count…heheheh.

Doodles of the people in the dragon MG novel, though the guy in the middle is definitely inaccurate. I just need to figure out how his personality is and then I can actually draw him. But Mikael and Asta are spot-on.

4. Write a short story/flash fiction every month. This one is less important to me than my novelling goals, but I do know that I need to improve on writing shorter pieces than novels, and it would be really cool to submit one of them to a magazine or contest so that I could get that experience of writing, revising, and submitting on a much smaller level than with novels.

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5. These aren’t necessarily goals, but I do have a couple of things that I’d love to get done writing-wise, though they may not happen:

  • Find beta-readers after rewriting Enhanced. After I finish the rewrite, I want some feedback from people on the overall story and the big things that I need to revise.
  • Get a short little thing published where people will read it just because…like I said, I want that experience, and I also think it’d be really awesome.
  • Plan out and really develop Cryonic so that I’ll be able to write it soon sometime.
  • Research more about publishing options, both traditionally and self-publishing.

Happy New Year, everyone! How has it been for all of you? What are you planning on doing next year? Comment with some of your achievements/goals or link to your new year’s posts! Also, if you have any ideas on how to keep myself motivated, please tell me! What do you want to hear updates on? What novels should I work on in 2017? Etc. Thanks for reading!

7 Lessons I Learned from Losing NaNoWriMo

HELLO ALL OF YOU! 😀 I know I’ve been gone for a long time, and I’ve hardly posted, but I really do want to get back into blogging at least once a week, if not twice a week like I used to do before.

So this November I participated in NaNoWriMo (as I’m sure many of you did also), writing my novel, Battle Song, and I didn’t win. My goal was 50,000, and I only got 37,509 words, which I’m still pretty proud of. But despite that, I think I learned the most from this NaNoWriMo, the one I’ve lost, than from any of the others, so I’m going to share some of those lessons with you (along with some pictures I took, since I was in the mood for photography)!

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Lesson #1: Manage Your Time

This is probably the most important lesson for winning NaNoWriMo in general. If you can stay on track and write the specific 1667 words a day, then you’ll win! Obviously, I didn’t do this. Not only was I busy some of the days, but the other days I procrastinated instead of writing and my time slipped away from me.

The NaNoWriMo goal for 50,000 words is created for a person who actually has a normal life, and there really was enough time for me to be able to do it…I just didn’t. So, yet another reminder that I need to figure out how to spend my time wisely. 🙂

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Lesson #2: Get Enough Sleep

First of all, let’s just admire my adorable little stuffed puppy! Isn’t she so cute?

This was a problem I had, and still have, whether or not it’s NaNoWriMo. Around 9 p.m., I lose motivation to do anything, be it writing or homework or even taking a shower. I would force myself to stay awake, telling myself I needed to write, but I learned that if I waited, I got nothing done, and not only that, I was even more tired the next day.

The biggest lesson I learned from this was really just to go to bed and do better tomorrow instead of stressing about doing it tonight.

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Lesson #3: Love Your Characters

It was about halfway through November, and I decided that I needed to figure out what was going on in my novel, because I’d written less than 10,000 words. Since the walls in my room are mostly full, I decided that I would tape papers and stuff about my characters and plot on my window, just for fun.

I started off by describing my main character, Amrya il Osamarii, and the things she learns by the end of the book. As I elaborated more on the scenes that caused this, I found that I loved her even more than I ever had before. She is so amazing.

After that, I worked on my two adorable princes and how each one of them affected her. (Also, I finally gave them names, hehe. The older one is named Rhys and the younger one is named Aeren.) I also had the cutest dream about Aeren and Amrya and how truly Aeren loved her and wanted to make her happy, and so after that I was sort of fangirling over my characters and it made it so much easier to write the story.

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Lesson #4: Love Your Story

After developing my characters, this step sort of fell into place. I loved my story because of my characters, and I loved my characters because of their story. I think this is such an important thing to remember during NaNoWriMo, to love your story, because if you don’t, nothing is going to happen.

But when you love your story, when you create characters you squee over, when you write in fairy tales and wars and adorable princes because that’s what you love to write about, that’s when the words start coming, and that’s when your story becomes so much better because of the love you’ve put into it.

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Lesson #5: Have Fun with It

This lesson is so important during NaNoWriMo! If you don’t have fun and have a positive attitude, then you’re not going to enjoy the entire month of November, stressing instead of writing. Instead, you have to find ways to have fun. Maybe for you, that means adding inside jokes into your writing or creating characters who make really great jokes. For me, this month, the fun things I did were to tape things on my window and do all of my story development in a rainbow array of Sharpies, not to mention writing scenes that were enjoyable and amusing to me.

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Lesson #6: Be Messy

It can be really hard to let yourself be messy. It was hard for me. I’d been working on revising and planning instead of drafting before NaNo started, so when it did, I was still in the mindset that everything I wrote had to be good. Writing became stressful, and it was really hard, especially when I didn’t know what was coming next.

It wasn’t until I finally allowed myself to be messy, that I told myself it truly didn’t matter  if this draft was terrible, that I began to write as fast as I had during previous NaNos, and even beat some of my own records for writing speed.

Being messy lets you have freedom. Instead of trying to constrict yourself to only writing things well, you can let yourself go…and that’s really when the creative juices start to flow. Sometimes the messiest passages are where you find glimpses of the best writing you’ve ever done.

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Lesson #7: Challenge Yourself

Let’s be honest, NaNoWriMo is a challenge, one that sometimes seems impossible. And setting yourself to an impossible, or even a possible, standard is scary. It’s frightening to think that you might not make it, but you know what? When you challenge yourself, you will write more than you can possibly imagine.

I had two days left of NaNoWriMo and 25,000 words left to write. I doubted I would win, but I kept going anyway. I gave myself as much time to write as I could, and by the end of NaNoWriMo, I kept typing away, ending up with 37,500 words, almost 13K more than I would have written had I given up two days away from the end.

So, I learned to challenge myself, to reach for the moon and land among the stars.

Tell me, if you did NaNoWriMo, how did it go? What did you write about? What lessons have you learned from doing NaNo or just from writing in general? And, lastly, what’s been going on in all your lives? It’s feels like ages since I’ve talked to any of you and I want to know how everyone is doing!

Research Week Starts Today

research week 2 fixThe Research Week begins today! I don’t have much time, so this is going to be a short-ish post just reminding you about it (because even I almost forgot). If you don’t remember or haven’t heard about the Research Week, the official post on it is here.

Anyhow, I’ve been thinking about what I want to post during this week, and I’ve been toying with a few ideas. Either I could: (a) write something short every day, with some sort of quote or research advice every day, (b) write a few longer/regular-size posts two or three times this week, still about research, or (c) I could continue doing my two posts a week that may or may not be related to research.

Which would you rather have, a, b, or c? Do you have any ideas of posts that I should write this week? Are you ready for the research week? *is totally ready for it herself*

Good luck with your research and have fun! 😀

Research Week!

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Most of you probably know Morgan Dusky from Studies in Character. She’s the one who writes the questions for the Character Studies (character interviews) I do. A little while ago, she also created the website Reliable Research for Writers, or RRW for short. Here’s Morgan wrote on the “About” page for it, since I think she explains it better than I can.

The idea for the RRW was founded when an amateur writer made the realization that she tended to procrastinate from researching for her novels.  She knew she had to research more, but dreaded the idea… until she wondered if it’d be possible for research to all be in one place.  What would happen if one writer’s research could be shared, and used to help out other writers?

The point of the RRW isn’t quite to be another Wikipedia, but something hopefully a little more reliable.  Some writers can share their research, while others can add to what’s already there, confirm that their research matches that of others, or dispute the reliability of something, until eventually, there exists something that can help out other writers who know nothing about the subject.  (And with a list of sources, it will also give them an excellent place to start their very own research!)

Anyhow, I think the RRW is a lovely place, and the point of this post is that I’m hosting a research week for the site! To pay all credit where credit is due, Morgan is the one who actually came up with the idea of a research week–I’m just bringing it to fruition.

So, what is a research week? Well, as you probably already guessed (because you’re all very smart) it’s a week in which research is done! No, really? Pretty much, what we’re doing here is to try to research as much as we can (or at least more than usual) in order to start filling up the RRW with research, share your research with other writers, read others’ research, and fill yourselves with glorious knowledge.

My invitation is this: join me and we shall rule the galaxy on the third week of May to research stuff with a bunch of other people! 😀 Also, you should share the joy and tell every writer or basically everyone that you know about this and that you’re participating! I want as many people as possible to take part in this as possible. (Plus, sharing it means that you get to use the gorgeous header picture, so that should be reason enough.)

However, you may have some questions before you begin, and I’m here to answer the FAQ. (Or, at least, what I assume the FAQ would be. I don’t actually know yet, because no one has asked them to me yet. So. They’re Predicted Frequently Asked Questions. PFAQ. Yeah.)


It starts on Sunday, May 15th and ends at the end of the day *sings Les Mis* on Saturday, May 21st.


Whatever you want to research! It can relate to your book(s), which might be the most useful (I have to research the effects of nuclear radiation for one book, and how the moon affects ocean tides for another), but it can have nothing to do with your writing at all and just be anything you’re interested in. (For example, I have this strange interest in learning about the Roman Empire.) In short, research whatever makes you happy!


If you want to go the extra mile, research as much as you can, and if you want to go the extra two miles, try to submit a new research piece to the RRW every day! But, at minimum, I’m challenging everyone to research at least 15 minutes every day that week (which, really, isn’t that hard).


Yes, please! We would love to have your research in the RRW and to have you participate in the research week! (And I’ll give you virtual cookies, so you should totally do it.)


First of all, I’m really sorry, because I’m expecting this to be awesome. But secondly, remember the RRW is around 24/7. Just because you can’t research with the rest of us doesn’t mean you can’t research at all! Either research before or afterward, or try to squeeze in a little research time into your week. Even five minutes a day means you could have a submission done by the end of the week!

Also, if you’ve done research previously that you can submit to the RRW, please do so! Research doesn’t have to come solely from this week.


I am so glad you asked. You can find them here, on the RRW website. The actual formatting rules are pretty loose, but remember to cite your sources!


After you’ve made sure you meet the formatting requirements, you can submit your work here, through the RRW website.


Chances are that most sources you find during your research will be reliable and good. However, on the chance that they’re not, here’s some tips and tricks to see, at a glance, if your information is reliable (note: this only applies to websites, as books are generally already reliable due to the editing process they go through):

  • Check to see if the website cites its own sources. Chances are, if it does, it’s reliable.
  • Look through several different websites to see if the information is the same on all of them. If it is, it’s more likely to be reliable.
  • Check to see how recently the website was updated or written. If you’re looking for current scientific advances, something published in 2000 won’t be reliable.
  • Look for bias (someone arguing for something, rather than explaining). Biased websites are less likely to have reliable information.
  • Look up online “reliable website check”. You’ll find plenty more suggestions, tips, and checklists on how to determine a website’s reliability.
  • Don’t spend all your time trying to figure out whether a website is reliable instead of researching. Just do your best, and remember that other people will be able to read over your research and offer suggestions if something was wrong with the source. You’ll do great!

You can ask me in the comments here, or through the email, where Morgan will answer you.  We’re happy to help!

So, how many of you are planning to do the research week challenge with me? What do you want to research, and why? Do you have any tips about research that you can share with us? Are you excited? I am, and remember to share this with anyone who’d be interested in joining so we can make this as big and fantastic as possible!

Instituting the Mini NaNo

First off, my apologies for not posting earlier. I’ve been kind of busy, but I’m back now! Secondly, for those who tagged me for the Infinity Dreams post, I will get to that soon, I just wanted to post this first. And now, onto the post.

Along with not writing blog posts, I also really haven’t been doing well at writing in my Zel novel. Yeah, woohoo, 14,000 words in 4-5 weeks. Yayyyy. I know I can pound out 50,000 words or more in that amount of time, so I haven’t really been satisfied.

So I decided to do a Mini NaNo.

First, you should know what NaNo is. It’s short for National Novel Writing Month, where you…write a novel/50,000 words in a month, usually November. It’s pretty much a challenge against yourself to get your first draft done as quickly as you can, and then go back and revise it later. (Not that I’ve ever really done the revising thing before, but I will. Soon.) You can learn more about it here, or here if you’re under 18.

I’ve done NaNoWriMo for three years now, as well as Camp NaNoWriMo which takes place in April and July. It is fantastic for getting your first draft done and I love it, but usually after the first week, I get a little tired of my story.

So I decided, why not challenge myself to a shorter NaNo where I wouldn’t get tired of my story–it being only a week long? And thus came to be the Mini NaNo.

Originally, I planned on calling it “7 Days of NaNo”, and I even made a little picture thingy for it.

7 Days of NaNo

But Mini NaNo was easier to say, so I just went with that.

So what are the terms of Mini NaNo? Well, the default is 7 days, 10,000 words in one novel. Of course, depending on writing speed/rate of story boredom/other factors, the WCG (word count goal) and the length can change.

Anyway, it’s a fun little way to get a lot of writing done in a short amount of time, and I’ve done it a few times already, so I decided to do it for my Zel novel. I started yesterday, and as you can see on the sidebar of the blog, I’ve already written over 3,000 words! *pats self on back*

The best part was that while I was writing yesterday, some really exciting stuff happened, and it was a super fun chapter to write. I’m really glad this Mini NaNo is off to a great start, and I’m looking forward to lots more words in my Zel novel to come.

Also, if any of y’all would want to do a Mini NaNo this week as well, I’d love some company… *hinthint*

In My Characters’ Shoes: Leaving Home

I’ve heard people say to “write what you know”, and I’m sure you have too. Of course, it never seems to really make sense–unless, of course, you’re writing an autobiography. But today I had quite the adventure, and I learned more about what “writing what you know” means.

The idea came into my head like, well, a light bulb flashing on. I could be like my characters. I could be called to action. I could be called to adventure and have to leave home.

Characters usually have to leave their homes–it’s an integral section of the Hero’s Journey–and my personal characters have had that experience too. Usually, they have to do it quickly, sometimes within a matter of minutes.

So I decided that I would try the same thing. I would give myself ten minutes to gather whatever I would need to survive while journeying for three days, and then get out of my house before the time ran out, without anyone noticing. I gave myself a tiny bit to think of what I might bring with me, and then I began.

Those ten minutes gave me an adrenaline rush, though there wasn’t any real threat. I started by grabbing my backpack and going downstairs to my room, then emptying out my school stuff and putting stuff in it. Running up and down the stairs and collecting items in the ten minutes would’ve been hard enough.

What made it harder was that my siblings were watching.

They were milling around the kitchen and other important areas upstairs, doing their thing, and I had to collect stuff and bring it downstairs without them noticing. I’m honestly amazed that they didn’t see me carrying the food down, because I felt like it was totally obvious.

At the very last second, I yanked open my bedroom window, pulled out the screen, and exited from my window well, so my family wouldn’t see what I was doing, and emerged outside with my backpack on my back and ready for adventure.

The first thing that I found really interesting about this experience was how easy it was. I got this weird thrill when I looked down at the stuff I was packing in the backpack and realized, I could be running away right now. This is how easy it would be. Ten minutes, and I could be gone.

Not that I’d ever want to run away from my home, of course, but I’d never really thought it would be that easy to do so. No one really paid attention as I carted stuff downstairs; no one seemed to care what I was doing. It would have been so easy to just disappear.

The second thing I found really interesting was some of the specific things I bought with me.

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A picture of all the stuff I managed to fit in my backpack.

Of course some of this things are practical and expected: some food, money, a coat, clothes, shoes. But some of it surprised me after the ten minutes were up and I was reflecting on what had happened.

I’d brought my scriptures, the USB with all my novels saved on it, and a blank notebook and a pencil, without even really thinking about it. They just seemed like things I might need.

And after I’d calmed down, I was kind of amused by those choices. Who knew if I’d ever find a computer where I could upload my novels? If I was running away, would I really have time to write stories in my notebook?

But it makes sense, too. Those are the things that are the most integral parts of my life, and so I put them in there. I read my scriptures every day, and I want to keep reading them, so I put them in. I love to write, so I put in the USB and the notebook so I can keep doing it.

I’d always thought that someone leaving home would take the most practical and the most memorable with them, but it turned out that I hardly took anything that had memories for me. No stuffed animals, no mementos to remind myself of my family. Instead, I took unmarked scriptures and a blank notebook.

Both of these insights helped take me into my character’s shoes, and now, I can write about it properly, because I’m writing what I know. Obviously, my characters wouldn’t go through the same process as I did–most of them don’t even live in the same world!–but from my discoveries, I can, in a sense, know what my characters would do.

I can now write a running away scene where no one seems to notice, or make it so they have to avoid people who are around while they collect the items needed for their journey. I’d never thought about how people might be around, and now I can write it properly.

And if I know what’s most important to my characters and what they do every day, what their habits are, then what they put in the bag would reflect that, instead of small mementos that hold memories but are only occasionally used or glanced at.

This was such an interesting experience, and I want to experience more of these moments where I get into my characters’ shoes, and then share my insights with you. Any suggestions on what scenario I should try out next?

Short Story: Deserter

I mentioned in my last post that I was participating in a short story writing challenge, where we were supposed to write, edit, and publish a story in 24 hours or less. So, with two minutes to spare before my 24 hours are up, here’s my short story, Deserter. (Helpful critique is appreciated, if you’d like to give it.)


Zavat’s sword was knocked out of his hand, just before one of the razor-sharp spikes on the duvolon’s tail slashed across his leg. He dropped to the ground as the tail writhed above him, trying to find where his sword had landed among the corpses that littered the ground.

There. His eyes focused in on his weapon, and he dragged himself toward it, trying to stay low, out of sight of the duvolon. It was hard to move himself forward, the ground slick with blood, but he forced himself to keep going. He had to find the sword, had to keep fighting.

Zavat’s fingers slipped around the hilt of the sword. For a moment, he just clung to it, feeling the cold metal beneath his fingertips, remembering the first time he’d seen it, so long ago.

The other soldier—Zavat thought they’d said his name was Tiren—grinned, unsheathing his blade. “You’ve never seen one of these before, kid?”

Zavat shook his head, staring in awe at the sword. “Will I get to use one of those?”

“Not until you’ve trained with this,” he said, tossing him a wooden practice sword.

The younger boy caught it, feeling the rough ridges of the wood beneath his fingertips. Swinging it through the air once, experimentally, he smiled, then looked up at the older soldier. One day, he’d be like him. One day, he’d get to fight.

The gash in Zavat’s leg didn’t look too deep, and he pushed himself upward, moving back toward the duvolon. His eyes caught sight of the battlefield, scattered with bodies. So few men remained, slowly being overpowered by the huge duvolon—the beasts of blood.

A shout of fear and pain reached Zavat’s ears, and his blood ran cold as he recognized the voice. His captain stood a few hundred feet away, fighting one of the duvolon, alone and unaided, looking tiny compared to the ten-foot-tall beast. He wouldn’t be able to survive this, not without help.

He looked up in surprise to find Captain Lucann entering his barracks. Zavat jumped to his feet to salute, but then saw what he was carrying. Fear jolted through him, and he stumbled backward, bumping into his cot. “W-what are you doing with Tiren’s sword?”

“I’m sorry, son. He asked me to give it to you.”

Zavat couldn’t breathe. No. No! “Where is he?”

The captain seemed to be having trouble finding the right words to say. “Tiren died in the battle. He fought bravely, and was killed while defending those he loved. He died well, Zavat.”

“No! You’re lying… He can’t be dead!” The tears were starting to fall from Zavat’s eyes, and he frantically wiped them away.

Captain Lucann didn’t say anything, his face weary, and for a moment, Zavat wondered if he was going to punish him for calling him a liar. He took a step forward, and Zavat pulled away. “I didn’t mean it, Captain,” he said, though his words were marred tears.

“I know, son,” the captain whispered, and then his arms were around Zavat, holding him still and quiet while the boy sobbed. “I know.”

He trembled in the captain’s arms, tears streaming down his face, nose running. “He died. He left me. He left me!”

“No…his death was a brave one. Just because he has died does not mean his life has ended. He will continue to fight in the afterlife, and he will always be with you.”

Zavat couldn’t speak. His world was crashing down around him, crumbling into pieces. His friend was dead, and now he was all alone.

Captain Lucann held him while he wept.

He was almost to the captain when one of the duvolon spotted him, turning its huge head toward him, white tusks and fiery scales glinting in the sunlight as his orange eyes narrowed in on him. Two men were already fighting it, but it ignored them, taking lumbering steps toward him.

The line of men in front of them charged, coming directly toward them. Zavat couldn’t breathe. There were so many of them…they would be slaughtered…he would die…

Unless he ran.

Zavat looked at his captain. The duvolon was too close now. He could not go to him now, unless he wanted it to kill him. He’d have to kill the huge beast first, but would no one help their captain? He was still alone.

The duvolon coming toward him raised its spiked tail, and he ducked under it, aiming for the chink in its scales between its leg and its body. His sword bounced off the scales, and Zavat frantically tried again. He couldn’t hit the tiny open area between the two plates of scales, but Captain Lucann would be dead soon if he didn’t help.

The other two men were stabbing at the creature too, but it would take to long for even the three of them to finally hit it. He needed to be faster, to take it down in time for him to help the captain.

A plan formed in his mind, as he continued dodging out of the way of the tail. The biggest opening between the armor of the scales was on the duvolon’s neck, too high in the air to normally attack. But if he could…

Zavat slid his sword into its scabbard, and waited for the perfect moment, as the tail whipped above him, and the duvolon roared its battle cry. Finally, it moved its head toward him, and he lunged forward, grabbing to one of its huge tusks and clambering onto his face.

The scales were sharp and slippery, slicing his hands and the fabric of his uniform as he tried to move his way upward. It shook its head wildly, trying to fling him off, but he held steady.

He would not run.

Not anymore.

Zavat scrambled down the other side of the duvolon’s head, pulling out his sword while trying to keep his balance.

“Watch out!” someone yelled from below him.

He would not run.

With all his strength, Zavat slammed the sword down into the duvolon’s flesh down to its hilt, then ripped it free.

Its tail smashed into him from behind. Spikes pierced him through, then were torn out as the duvolon threw him to the ground among the rest of the bodies.

The corpses covered the ground, pale and blood-spattered, piling on top of each other in some places. So many of them…Zavat felt sick to his stomach.

Pain spread throughout his entire body. He couldn’t open his eyes.

He should have been there. He should have died. He should have been one of those corpses on the ground.

Zavat thought he could hear his captain’s voice, from far, far away.

Captain Lucann stood among the bodies, weeping. From behind the trees, Zavat could see the pain on his face. He shouldn’t be crying, shouldn’t look like that. The guilt rose up in him again, and he stumbled out of the trees to kneel at the feet of his captain.

“Zavat? You survived? Oh, thank the gods, you survived.”

He looked into the captain’s eyes, red-rimmed, filled with pain, and yet smiling to see him. Him.

The tears started to trickle down his face as well, and he lowered his head to the ground. “Captain…”


Could he say it? Could he admit it? “I d-didn’t survive, Captain. I…I… I ran.” The tears came faster now, and he choked up. “I…deserted.”

The captain didn’t say anything for a long, long time, and finally Zavat could bear it no longer. He raised his eyes, and this time, all he saw was disappointment. He had disappointed him. He had left the other men to die alone, had let his fears consume him.

He had failed his captain.

“I will forgive you of this,” said Captain Lucann. “You will be allowed to come back, and will not be punished for your desertion.”

Maybe he knew that the disappointment in his eyes was punishment enough. Maybe he knew that it would haunt him forever. Maybe he knew that execution would be less painful than living on with this guilt.

Zavat fixed his eyes to the ground, unable to speak, and the captain left the same way he’d come.




Zavat forced himself to his hands and knees crawling across the bloody ground. “I’m coming, Captain.” His voice was weak, but he kept moving. “I won’t run anymore. I’m coming…”

Blood spilled from the wounds the duvolon’s spikes had given him. Feebly, Zavat crawled along the ground toward the sound of his captain’s voice, too dizzy to open his eyes. He could feel the life fading from him with every second that passed.

He would not run.

The sunlight hurt his eyes, so bright. Everything was blurred, like an abstract painting, with huge splotches of red-orange paint for the duvolon, and smaller blue swipes for the soldiers, on a background of blue sky and plains dotted with bodies.

Zavat’s eyes finally found the captain, battling with one of the duvolon. He was still alive… He had to help him.

Blood trickled from the corner of his mouth as Zavat rose to his feet, swaying.

He would not run.

Zavat managed a few stumbling steps before his legs collapsed under him and he fell to the ground. One of the other soldiers ran past him, going toward his captain, to help him. Zavat reached after him, but he could barely move.

No… He would not run.

He barely moved a few inches toward the captain, the soldier, and the duvolon. His strength was fading, and now all he could do was lie there, breathing in agony.

He had failed him. He was supposed to have helped him, was supposed to be there for his captain. But now he was dying, deserting his captain again. His captain would find him lying there when his last breath had disappeared, and would wonder why he hadn’t helped him.

Disappointed eyes…

Zavat had failed his captain.

The sounds of battle slowly faded around him. The colors slowed and blurred. With each inhale and exhale, Zavat’s life disappeared into the darkness.

A hand touched his shoulder, and the pain rushed back as Zavat struggled to open his eyes, to find out who was there, next to him. He slowly blinked them open.

“C-Captain?” The tears tumbled from his eyes. “I’ve…failed you. I said…I would not run. I…deserted you. I…I’m…sorry.”

He didn’t want to see the disappointment in his captain’s eyes, but Zavat couldn’t help but look, one last time.

The captain’s eyes were filled with tears. “No. I watched you try to come to me when all other men would have let themselves die. You have shown me more loyalty than any other.”

“But…I’m…a deserter.” Zavat coughed a few times, the blood choking in his throat.

He could feel his captain’s hands lifting him up, helping him breathe. “No, Zavat. Not anymore.”

“I…ran. I’m…running…now.” He was dying, leaving his captain behind.

“You must go now…to your new life. You must go bravely, Zavat. You have helped me more than you know, but you cannot stay in this world any longer.”

“Captain…” The darkness was about to consume him. He would be brave, as his captain had commanded. Brave into this new life.


He knew what he must do.