Structuring A Novel: Chapters

Love this…wish I had read it two years ago : )

Writer to Writer

This post is for beginners who are just starting to develop their first ideas. Any authors who successfully wrote a book might have different methods – I’d be happy to hear about them.

When you get an idea for a novel it seems easy to develop it but once you start working on it, it turns into a jungle, a mess. You might find yourself trying to figure out how simple things work or trying to find explanations for some complex scenes you want to write but aren’t sure how they really fit in.

When plotting your novel you decide on where the hits are (emotional hits, twists, etc), but to make some order in all of it, you should spend some more time developing the structure, the plot and the story-lines.

I have a word-count method I use when writing stories and novels (helps more with novels) that is…

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Good writing, like a favorite pair of jeans

blue jeans
I think that a person’s favorite kind writing is like a favorite pair of jeans. Everyone has a different style. Anyway, I’ve been trying to determine what I think makes for awesome writing so that I can mimic it.

{BTW, do you have book recommendations? I’m especially looking for 3rd person POV. Probably YA. Probably fantasy. Thanks in advance for suggestions!}

Here goes on what sort of writing I like:

  • Something that rings true and authentic.
  • Who likes to listen to people monologue? Same thing with writing…I only need to know so much: get to the point.
  • Humor – even if sprinkled on lightly.
  • No swearing or excessive lusty elements – it keeps me from enjoying the story – also, not too much melodrama.
  • Towards the end, I love a great, unexpected plot twist or something that makes me think “that was cool.”
  • I want a character in the story to help me see my own life, or an issue I wrestle with, through a fresh lens.
  • Why are you using such big words? Keep it simple; I’m trying to relax.
  • Some people like to sound so smart – I like it when writing feels humble.
  • Fast paced (I realize that sounds shallow, but I’m just being honest).

My greatest writing challenges:

  • My brain hops all over the place and it’s super hard for me to focus on one thought all the way through.
  • I rush. Three steps forward, five steps backwards.
  • It’s so easy to fall into stereotypes/cliches.
  • To “be there” – what are appropriate responses and interactions for characters?
  • I’m not a good storyteller, but I’d like to write stories. Frustrating.
  • Finding books I really want to read.
  • Description: my brain seems to have low inventory on cool ways to explain/describe things.
  • Creativity takes SO much energy: I need more fuel.

Thanks for reading! Again, I’d love book recommendations…and do tell me, what sort of things do you like to see in what you read?


The joys of cheesy romantic Christmas movies!

In order to decompress from my lack of progress on the one-millionth rewrite of the first quarter of my novel, I have started watching some of the cheesy romantic Christmas movies that Netflix has to offer.

It was by accident, really.

If you can push through the first twenty minutes of each of these movies, they may be the perfect way to unwind.

So…without further ado, I thought I would share with you my wonderful, cheerful finds.

First…The Twelve Dates of Christmas


This was the romantic Christmas version of ground hog day. I loved it because it reminds me of the process of revision. In real life, we don’t have the chance to redo our days, but with writing, I can rewrite a scene as many times as I want. I think that gives me a pretty good shot at a happy ending!

Second… The Christmas Card


The movie just proves that writing can lead to love…what else need I say?

Third… A Christmas Kiss


I loved all the sparkles and the Christmas Carol references. And of course, the “Insta-love” at its finest…all the cliches that my editor warns be about…at their finest. Love it anyway.

And that reminds me, it’s just about time for me to re-read the Christmas Carol! Hurray! And I found out that I’m going to see the dress rehearsal at the theater in two weeks. My cup overflows…



I write everyday (well, almost everyday). But, with the busyness of parenting, teaching and my ensuing lack of energy, on some days it can be challenging to write. Now, add random commitments, household tasks, insecurity and writer’s block to the mix. It’s a wonder I ever get any writing done.

Pomodoro has helped me a ton. Not only is the little tomato cute, but it has become like a personal coach. A tough and cute tomato…who would have thought?

I don’t use the technique correctly, but the following is what works for me. Maybe it can help you, too.

  • Pomodoro is on my computer: it’s a fancy 25 minute timer that keeps track of your accumulated 25 minute work chunks (and schedules in an occasional 5 min brake).
  • When I don’t think that I can write, I remind myself that all I have to do is work on my novel for 25 minutes. That’s it. Very rarely am I unable to motivate myself for 25 minutes of work.
  • If I’m super tired, I just tell myself to read Mirror of Sparrows for 25 minutes (of course, I never just end up reading my work).

Now, when I look back on how many 25 minute Pomodoro chunks I’ve completed, I’m super stoked. Writing, editing and re-writing my novel is such  long process. Sometimes, it feels like I have little to show for it. But then I look at the time I have investested, and I realize how awesome this journey is. I love to be able see, in minutes, how far I’ve come.

Are you working on a big project? Do you work on it daily? Please let me know in the comments. I’d love to find out what you are up to.

Are you good at managing money?


Over the last nine weeks, my husband and I participated in a Financial Peace University Class by Dave Ramsey. It was a life changing experience. Max and I have tried to do budgets and our finances before, but the reality was frustrating. Managing our finances was super challenging!

This class made a huge impact, and now we feel like we are finally making headway.

Some of things that Max and I have begun to accomplish are:

  • Creating and sticking with a budget
  • Not using credit cards
  • Attacking our debt, and never getting into debt again
  • Saving
  • Having our children learn about money

I can honestly say that taking this class has brought Max and I closer together. We are tackling our finances together, we’re on the same page, and we are seeing a big impact on our lives.

If you are having a hard time with money, I highly recommend this class. If you are just getting married and starting life together, I highly recommend this class. If you want to get smarter with your money, I recommend this class.

“Owe no one anything except to love one another.” Romans 13:8

Being too kind?


A quick internet search reveals how many people feel about excessive kindness. Kind people make less money. Kind people are more likely to be depressed. Being kind can be “lazy, inefficient, irresponsible and even harmful.” The world is a mean place, after all. And, if you’re too kind, you’re bound to suffer the consequences.


Calvin and Hobbes

In the end, here is my conclusion: I don’t think it’s a “kindness” problem. After all, love is kind. I think what people are talking about is a boundary issue. I know for sure that I need better boundaries, and I’m excited to know that with great boundaries I can learn to be truly friendly, generous and considerate.

If you are wondering whether or not you have healthy boundaries, try taking this quiz: Also, if you have no idea what I’m talking about…”what are boundaries???”, then watch this video:



The House by the Side of the Road, by Sam Walter Foss

“Let me live by the side of the road and be a friend to man.”

I love people, very much, but it takes tremendous effort for me to interact with folks. I can’t remember names or faces. I can’t seem to get in the loop of basic popular culture. I struggle with adhering to social rhythms. The bottom line is that, for me, being with people is almost always exhausting. Most days, all I want to do is withdraw and disappear. It’s one of my greatest challenges.

This week though, I read a sweet poem, The House by the Side of the Road, by Sam Walter Foss, and it encouraged me. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Sam walter Foss

Sam Walter Foss

There are hermit souls that live withdrawn
In the place of their self-content;
There are souls like stars, that dwell apart,
In a fellowless firmament;
There are pioneer souls that blaze the paths
Where highways never ran-
But let me live by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.

Let me live in a house by the side of the road
Where the race of men go by-
The men who are good and the men who are bad,
As good and as bad as I.
I would not sit in the scorner’s seat
Nor hurl the cynic’s ban-
Let me live in a house by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.

I see from my house by the side of the road
By the side of the highway of life,
The men who press with the ardor of hope,
The men who are faint with the strife,
But I turn not away from their smiles and tears,
Both parts of an infinite plan-
Let me live in a house by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.

I know there are brook-gladdened meadows ahead,
And mountains of wearisome height;
That the road passes on through the long afternoon
And stretches away to the night.
And still I rejoice when the travelers rejoice
And weep with the strangers that moan,
Nor live in my house by the side of the road
Like a man who dwells alone.

Let me live in my house by the side of the road,
Where the race of men go by-
They are good, they are bad, they are weak, they are strong,
Wise, foolish – so am I.
Then why should I sit in the scorner’s seat,
Or hurl the cynic’s ban?
Let me live in my house by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.



Last night we had a dinner with some amazing people. My pastor and his wife, and our dear friends. We talked about so much. One of the things was the power of prayer and worship in dealing with challenging circumstances.

This morning, I’m journaling about a bunch of stuff that puzzles and troubles me, and that I’m not sure how to handle (that’s a large quantity of stuff). In my quiet time I read Psalm 42 . I haven’t read this Psalm in a long time. I forgot how beautiful it is. Again, worship and prayer. It’s weird how the simplest things in life make all the difference in the world.

It’s amazing how when I respond with worship and prayer, everything changes – even if its just in my heart.

I’m listening to Touch the Sky. I used to listen to this song on repeat. I wrote an entire chapter of the book listening to this song. But haven’t listened to it in a while.

Grateful for worship.

Grateful for prayer.

The Thief of Turns


The Thief of Turns

The Thief of Turns

My kids were arguing this morning, and one of them called the other “thief of turns” – and that got me thinking, not so much about my kids, but why some people never seem to get their turn. Here is a poem I wrote about the Thief of Turns- I’m typing it out in case you can’t read my handwriting:

The Thief of Turns

Everyone deserves a turn –
That’s what’s fair.

But your turn never comes,
it passes and passes and passes.

They stole my turn.
I missed the turn.
When will it be my turn?

Everyone deserves a turn,
but you have to learn to take your turn.

Did I somehow miss the turn?
Did I do something wrong?

You have, but it wasn’t all you…

it was the Thief of Turns.

He snuck up while you weren’t looking, and stole your turn.

He’s not your friend.
He whispers lies.
He distracts you.
He blinds you.

And then he steals your turn and says, “you don’t deserve a turn.”

But don’t believe him.