I “Finished” Battle Song–Writing With the End in Mind

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I know, I know, you got so excited when you saw this. “Whoa, she finished her novel in a month? Awesome!”

Well, not really…but I did finish the end of Battle Song(Which was only about 5,000 words long…so not that awesome.)

Anyway, a few weeks ago, I was browsing on Pinterest and I saw a writing tip that said to start writing at the end, so that you know where you’re going with the story. Since I’m not an outliner, this sounded like a great idea to try. Normally, I never have endings planed out.

So I took some time to prepare (though, not too much, since I already had a basis of the world from last November, when I originally started Battle Song). I figured out a few main scenes I wanted to happen at the end, and then I decided to write it.

But every single scene didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to.

Some might call it a waste of time because I’ll probably only use two or three paragraphs plus some phrases of that ending, but I thought it was rewarding, and here’s why.

Because the ending turned out so much what I didn’t want, I figured out what I did want.

I took a few notes while I was writing, and here’s a few of them to show you what I mean:

When this is rewritten I need to do better at the dagger her sisters giving her being more tempting or something…this is a bit not intense enough, as if everything is already decided. There’s not enough realization.


Ugh, there’s so much explaining in the scene. I want Amrya to figure almost all of it out, if possible, and have <spoiler> be the cinching moment when it all comes together. So I’ll need more stuff throughout the book.


(And a good one.)

Ooh okay so she has this ancestry line… <spoiler spoiler> So as she’s learning more about them, she’s thinking about her ancestors, realizes that…interesting, hehe. Yay!


It was a great learning experience for me. These last few scenes were supposed to be pivotalintense scenes, and they just really weren’t. Writing them told me that I needed to bring more elements of the ending throughout the entire book, so that there would be traces and hints to what would happen from the very beginning.

Basically I need to foreshadow.

Additionally, writing the ending first helped me figure out what I really wanted with this story. What I wanted the reader to feel, to come away with. I’m still figuring it out, but I have a much better idea.

In the first version I started (that is, Battle Song 1.0, (this is 2.0)), Amrya trades her beauty rather than her voice. I realized that, as I was writing 1.0, I didn’t want that. It didn’t affect her enough.

As I tried to figure out the exact aspects of her deal with the sea witch, I was having a lot of trouble, but I came up with a few ideas. Writing the ending scene, when it came up again, helped me figure it outEven though I’m still not sure about it. But it’s better.

And religion! In the original story by Hans Christian Andersen, part of the reason the little mermaid wants to become a human and marry the prince is so that she can have an immortal soul. (The mermaids don’t have souls–they drift into seafoam at death–but marriage to a human would combine his soul with hers.)

It came up in 1.0, but I didn’t really realize how important I wanted it to be, and how much it affected the story. I was really intrigued by this aspect that Disney took out (well, they took out a lot of things), and as I planned and wrote this ending, it became a very integral part of the plot line.

(Not to mention that there was a little scene that was like a fluffy bit of goodness and I love it to death.)

Writing the end was pretty awesome, and it’s also helped me as I restart with Battle Song 2.0! I’ve written one chapter, and it’s pretty great, mostly because of the development I did. Everything is a lot more important to Amrya as a character and expressed in much better ways.

So, writing the end? I’d call it a success.


let us speak to each other wonderful words

Well…that was kind of a rambly post. What did you think? It was supposed to be a writing advice post but I think it turned into more of an update post, so…oops.

Have you ever tried writing/planning out the ending to your stories/novels first? How do you plan for your ending? How do you plan your novel–or do you? What things are absolutely essential to figure out before you start writing?

Oh, and check out Battle Song‘s new pageIt’s even got a synopsis and everything. *wink wink* Don’t ask me why I winked there. I just did.

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Progress is Progress (a Music + Writing Post)

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It’s all too easy to get discouraged and down on ourselves when it doesn’t seem like we’re progressing: in writing, music, and life in general. In whatever we do, no matter how old or experienced we are, there are days–or even weeks or months–in which we feel like we’re getting nowhere, despite our hard work.

I started taking voice lessons last summer, in June or July, and since then I have learned so many new things. But just a few weeks ago, I felt awful. I didn’t want to practice or sing or do anything with to my voice at all. It felt like I hadn’t progressed at all. We’d been working for weeks and weeks trying to get some vibrato to come into my voice, and it wasn’t coming. I felt like I was trying my best and getting nowhere.

When I went to my voice lesson that next Monday, my voice teacher told me that my mom had talked to her and told her a little bit how I was feeling. For a little bit, I felt a bit betrayed that my mom would tell her something like that, but now, I’m really glad about what she did.

My voice teacher asked what was wrong, and, amidst a lot of tears, I told her how I’d been feeling.

“[Lana], every one of my students comes to me and tells me that they don’t feel like they’re progressing. Especially the students like you, who have been in choirs for years and years, feel like they should be better already, even if they’ve only been with me for a few months. Let me tell you that your voice is amazing and you have come so far.”

She then took out my notebook and listed three columns: what I’d been good at before I started learning with her, what I’d improved on since then, and then what I still needed to work on to improve my voice.

And she was right: I had come far. There was so much that I’d learned and improved on. Of course, there was still more to do, but seeing how far I’d come helped me realize that I had progressed, and that I would continue to progress in the future (and I have).

It’s the same with writing and everything in life. There are days when you stare at the screen and don’t know what to write next. There are days when scenes don’t work and your writing is horrible and, no matter what you do, you can’t seem to figure out that tricky character’s voice. There are even days when you think you’re not cut out to be a writer at all.

But that’s when you’ve got to realize that progress is progress, and you’ve made it. It’s good to realize how far you’ve come, how much you’ve learned, how amazing your voice is. When I think of how much I’ve learned since I started writing…the results are tremendous. About characters and plots and realism…

But, after you’ve realized how far you’ve come, you have to create that third column. It’s no good to realize the progress you’ve made if you don’t do anything about it. Once you find out what you’ve done, you have to decide what you’re going to do–and try to do it. Keep practicing, a little at a time, a tiny fraction every day. And you will progress, but you may not notice unless you take the time to look back on it.

It takes time, but you will progress. You have progressed, and however far you still have to go, that’s amazing.

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!

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! 😀