Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Tinsel Tidings {short story}

Before we get to the short story, I have a brief announcement to make. I have deleted my Facebook and Instagram accounts. They were fun while they lasted, but the new Terms and Conditions were much too intrusive for my taste.

My only social media accounts right now are Twitter and Goodreads. I would adore it if you'd follow me at one or both places, but the most important place at which to follow me is my blog, Writing to Inspire. There is a "follow by e-mail" option on the right-hand sidebar (on desktop), for your convenience.

I hope you'll have a delightful Christmas with your loved ones, and may the new year increase your joy a thousand fold.


Monday, December 7, 2020

Buddy Reading the Bible

Recently, I began studying the book of Hebrews with a friend. It's a tough book for me at times, so I'm grateful to be going through it with somebody. Sharing thoughts about it, what jumps out to each of us, and the way certain verses relate to our lives is turning out to be enriching and encouraging. We're only a few chapters in, but we've both expressed hope that we'll understand the book better by the time we're finished studying Hebrews.

Have you ever buddy read a book of the Bible with a friend?

Which book of the Bible are you studying right now?

Sunday, December 6, 2020

Busy Life

Hey, friends. It's been a packed week.

I have not forgotten about you, my lovelies, but between helping my parents cut down some old and dying trees and writing more in my road trip story and running errands and working and getting some stuff prepped for a January surprise (stay tuned)...

There has been hardly any time left to even think about my blog all week. In fact, I only thought about it yesterday after more work on the trees in the yard.

At that point, all I wanted was to sit down and sip some lemonade (which I did).

That being said, I'm going to try super hard this afternoon to get something sorted for you guys tomorrow. It will likely be short, so please don't get overly excited.

I hope you're having a blessed Sunday.

Monday, November 23, 2020

Happy Thanksgiving! {short story}

Friends, I hope you have a blessed and happy Thanksgiving.

While 2020 has been filled with real-life disasters of overwhelming nature, I think it's time we revisit one of my old short stories that features a fictional disaster filled with encouragement. Here's hoping that 2021 swoops in with joy and overwhelming happiness for us all!

Copyright 2018 Andrea Renee Cox. All rights reserved.

Thanksgiving Disaster
a short story
by Andrea Renee Cox

Smoke billowed from the open oven and filled the matchbox, galley-style kitchen. With a growl, Sarah swept a cookie sheet swiftly through the air around the raging fire alarm. She’d already turned off the appliance, but she couldn’t find her broom to nudge the battery out of the alarm. If she didn’t get it shut up soon—
Bang! Bang! Bang!
She jumped, dropping the cookie sheet with a clatter. Her poor attempt at a grand jeté didn’t produce anything close to the splits she’d seen the ballerina do in that ballet she’d seen last month, but it did get her over the pan and into the living room. When she flung open the door, she stumbled backward.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

The Love Note by Joanna Davidson Politano {book review}

Hey, friends. I sincerely apologize for not having this up last week. It's been a very long time since I've completely missed a week on the blog. I'm right in the middle of a two-month personal writing camp, and last week found me writing nearly 19,000 new words. Due to the busyness of that, my tutoring job, and household chores, my blog completely escaped my mind except for a couple of times as I was falling asleep at 3:00 a.m. Yep, there have been some late nights involved in this writing journey lately.

So, now it's time for me to share about my #1 favorite book of this calendar year.

Firstly, I am obligated to tell you, thanks to the Federal Trade Commission, that I received a complimentary copy of the following book, and these are my honest thoughts.

Now that the official stuff is out of the way, let's dive in.

Y'all, The Love Note by Joanna Davidson Politano is outstanding. It drew me in, wrapped me in its mystery, and blew my mind... all at the same time. The cover, which I saw when it was revealed, I think, late last year, was my first glimpse of this story, and I knew right away I'd be in for an amazing story. I'm so glad the words beneath that cover art didn't let me down, because it's still my favorite cover of the year.

Before I get to my official review, here's what the book's about.

Saturday, November 7, 2020

Audiobook Is Coming!

Friends, as promised, I have another reveal for you this week. This one comes courtesy of my writing friend Sarah Grace Grzy.

Earlier this year, I had the great privilege of reading Sarah Grace's Never Say Goodbye. It's a charming story about a single dad who loves his little girl... and the bookstore owner trying to find where she belongs.

I hope you'll give this little book a chance. Especially once it comes to...


That's right, y'all. This will be Sarah Grace's first audiobook. Hopefully the first of many. All the details are down below.

Congratulations, Sarah Grace!

Friday, October 30, 2020

Victory's Voice {Cover Reveal Week}

Hey, friends. I have some exciting news to share today. My friend Erika Mathews has a brand-new cover for her Kingdom Adventure novel Victory's Voice, book two in the Truth from Taerna series, and I'm happy to take part in revealing the gorgeous cover for Cover Reveal Week.

The vibrant jewel tones of the covers in this series are especially beautiful and eye-catching. Since I'm one of Erika's brainstorm and writing buddies, I've seen some sneak peeks of most of the covers of the books in this series as well as some story snippets and plot ideas as they took shape. I must say, we're all in for some amazing covers and adventurous, deep stories. I can hardly wait to collect and read them all! They will look stunning on any reader's bookshelves, so if you've got book lovers in your life (or are one yourself), please keep this series in mind as you're shopping in the coming weeks, months, and years.

Victory's Voice releases to the world of books in March 2021, but it is already up for pre-order right now. Scroll down for links to pre-order an autographed paperback or the ebook -- or both!

Victory's Voice by Erika Mathews

Truth from Taerna: Book Two

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

The Plans We Made by Kathryn Cushman and Lauren Beccue {book review + giveaway}

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from I Read with Audra. These are my honest thoughts.

This book was amazing. I loved the characters, the journey, the plot, the twists, the problems, and the resolution. Caroline’s adventure in Rhode Island was fun, and I enjoyed the banter between Chris and her as they were working rivals. Linda’s journey of regret and hope made me cry and wish for a good outcome even when it was tough to see through the hard moments. The reconstruction and preservation of a beautiful building was a wonderful backdrop for the drama of this enjoyable story.

The imagery was especially beautiful, as evidenced by this line: “She sat back in her chair and crossed her arms over her fractured hope.” There were many exquisite lines like this one that took my breath away.

It was very refreshing to see an engaged couple NOT living together prior to marriage, particularly in a world that appears to adore compromised morals. I want more stories like this one that holds tight to strong, biblical morals and presents a great example to its readers.

The themes in this book were great. I liked the fear of bad impressions, because that’s something very relatable. Regrets and consequences are tough to live with, and this story showed that well and also highlighted how they may be overcome. There were relationship issues, and it was nice to see they were worked out with dialogue and humble attitudes and true remorse. Honesty, faith, and courage seemed to work together well to create a rich atmosphere for the heartbreaking story within.

Emotion and tension were high throughout for me. I laughed and cried, and there were several scenes that had me holding my breath and flipping pages fast to find out what would happen next.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Finding Inspiration

Friends, do you ever struggle to find inspiration?

Whether or not you're a writer, it's important that we feel inspired at times. It might be that you find the perfect recipe to try, and that inspires you to whip up a yummy meal for your family. Maybe you see some wildflowers on a walk and pick a few to put in a vase near where you do your crafting, and that bunch of flowers inspires you to work an extra half hour on whichever craft is in the works.

For me, nearly anything can be inspirational depending on the moment.

Lately, I've been binge watching a couple of seasons of the TV show House, about a team of doctors who specialize in diagnostics. While there are some aspects of the show I don't particularly like, there are many that I enjoy. I like the quirky, damaged, manipulative Dr. Gregory House, because he cherishes figuring out the puzzles that are his patients and his coworkers. I like the cases the team tries to solve, because they're often more complex than they first appear, and there's usually some big twist I never saw coming. I like the fact that story is a huge part of every episode and that there are usually two or three threads that get woven together each time.

While I've been enjoying the show, I've also been analyzing it from a storyteller's perspective. What works? What doesn't? Which twists did I see coming? Which blindsided me? How were props used? How was House's sarcastic sense of humor used well, and when did it come off as completely rude, and how did the writers and actor find the right balance between the two?

These, and many more, are all things a writer watches for in shows, movies, books, and real life as they're contemplating the stories in their own minds that they're trying to put down on paper (or in a computer document).

These, and many more, are the things that have inspired me the past couple of weeks.

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Autumn Fun {Bookstagram Challenge and *Free* Wallpapers}

Hello, friends! Let's talk autumn fun today. What do you think of when it comes to autumn?

I like to think we'll get cooler temperatures, but that's often hit and miss here in north Texas. This year, we've actually experienced some cooler temps in the last couple of weeks.

The changing of the leaves from bright green to various shades of red, orange, yellow, and brown always makes me smile. My family has about a dozen trees on our property, nearly all of them different types from one another, so we get quite a wide variety of autumn colors. In hotter months, those colors can change in a single day, and the leaves can fall off pretty quickly too, if we get strong enough winds or some wild autumn thunderstorms.

Autumn also makes me think of family. Hanging out with my family makes my heart soar, and I've recently enjoyed a new walking routine with my parents. Most evenings during the last couple of months, we've walked at least one block (and worked up to four) after we all get off work. It's been great to be able to share our days with one another while getting a bit of exercise and letting the cares of the day roll off our shoulders.

Faith is a year-round thing for me, as it's an integral part of who I am, but there's something about autumn that makes it mean so much more. I don't know if it's because I'm starting to get contemplative about celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ (celebrated in late December here) or if it's because snuggling up with a throw blanket, my Bible, and a hot cup of cocoa is one of my favorite evening pastimes in the autumn and winter when the temperatures are chilly. There may even be other reasons I haven't thought of yet, but autumn means a new chance to examine my heart and make sure I'm on the path God has created specifically for me.

Of course autumn makes me think of books. What season doesn't? That whole blanket/cocoa thing works well with novels or nonfiction books as well as the Holy Word. My throw blankets and mugs get great workouts during these hopefully-cooler months of the year. What books are on your reading list this autumn? I've got a few review books coming up, but there are some other stories from my ever-growing TBR stashes that I'm really excited to get to. These are just a few of the books I'm eager to read this autumn.

Part of the fun this autumn is that I'm hosting my first bookstagram challenge over on Instagram. Anyone with a non-giveaway IG account is welcome to join in, starting tomorrow, October 1. All the rules are in the caption of this post. There is a giveaway with this challenge, and one winner will get to choose one paperback book from the ones shown in the second graphic below this paragraph. What are some stories you've enjoyed that feature family, faith, books, or autumn?

I have more fun for you right here, courtesy of a new friend I met on Instagram this summer. Christina is a sweetheart who has been married about a year and is busy homemaking and living an adventurous life with her husband. What's really drawn me to her in friendship is that she speaks very truthfully in love about heartache, loss, faith, and encouragement when she posts to her IG account. I have already lost count of how many times her pictures and captions have made me smile, cry, and think deeper. You may find her Instagram account here and all her social media links are in this location.

The reason I bring up my friend Christina is that she has graciously shared some fun autumn phone wallpapers with us. She shared them first on her IG account, but she has generously granted me permission to share them with you here on Writing to Inspire. So sweet! Snag one, snag all. Consider these beautiful pictures your trick-or-treat prize this year.

Just in case I haven't properly figured out how to make these images downloadable, check out Christina's "wallpaper" highlight reel on Instagram (her IG page is linked above). Just pop over there, find the one(s) you want, press and hold your thumb on the screen, and then simultaneously press "home" and "power" on your smart phone to screenshot the clean wallpaper(s). {Note: Those are the instructions for how it works on an iPhone. I don't know how other phones work on something like this.} I'm using an instructional how-to I found online to (hopefully) teach myself how to make these wallpapers downloadable, but this is a new skill for me (and self-taught at that!), so I might not have it down right the first time. Don't worry. I'm sure I'll be trying again soon.

Hint: I'm becoming more comfortable with Canva's editing tools, so I might just have some wallpaper plans of my own in the near future. Stay tuned!

Note: The click-to-download thing I tried did not work. If anyone has tips or a website with clear instructions, please let me know in the comments.

Friday, September 25, 2020

Until I Met You by Tari Faris {book review}

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Revell Reads. These are my honest thoughts.

“You get to choose if [your past] defines you now.”

This book was like a warm hug on a wintry night, and I think the biggest reason is that it encapsulated the theme from 1 Corinthians 13:5, which states (in part) that love “keeps no record of wrongs.” This has been one of my favorite verses for going on five years now, and I love how a fictional book could so beautifully bring out the gritty truth of what this verse looks like when applied to a person’s life.

Until I Met You by Tari Faris is a messy (in a good way), beautiful story about relatable characters that go through everyday problems. They hold grudges and make mistakes. They’re able to discuss things in real ways instead of skirting around the issues, yet they sometimes let their anger, bitterness, frustrations, and definitely their assumptions get in the way of following through on other conversations. These things reflected real life to me, and I could so easily relate to so many things about this story. Not just the negative things either. There was a ton of good stuff too, all easy to understand and “get.”

While we’re on the topic of assumptions, though, I want to say something. I sometimes make assumptions about people. I think it’s a thing we humans do. Based on our own personal experiences and knowledge, we assume we know what’s best for people or what someone meant by something they said just because of their tone. But I wonder, how many times do we misread the situation? How many times do we not see the hurt behind the tone, that the person had a bad day prior to that moment that gave out that wonky tone that pushed our own buttons to make an assumption? I know a lot of times I can have other things on my mind when I respond to people and don’t realize that the words and tone and intention didn’t all match up to indicate what I really meant. How many times could it be the same for other people too?

This book made me think about that. Among other things, of course, but that was a big one, probably because it was such a huge theme in this story.

Okay, so we’re moving on to the fun stuff about this book.

Danielle was amazing for what few pages she was there. I really hope this gal gets her own book, because I totally want to know more. Like, right now. *cheesy grin*

The Carnegie thing… Y’all, if the only reason you read this book is to find out why this Carnegie thing completely melted my heart, do it. It melted me, I’m telling you.

This line made me laugh so hard: “This library didn’t need to be reopened. It needed to be resuscitated.”

This line spoke to me in a profound way: “I do the only thing I can when faced with a lie. I hold on to the truth.”

The recurring thread involving a bag of coins was priceless. (See what I did there? Wink, wink.)

I adored the way that phobias were represented. I’ve had a phobia or two in my past, and this book showed them in a realistic way. It was made clear how debilitating they are yet how freeing it can be when one finds that “twenty seconds of insane courage,” as We Bought a Zoo says. (Yes, I was absolutely thrilled that this line was quoted in this story. It fit so well and was a great nod to one of my favorite movies, of which there are many, naturally.)

The Edge of Belonging by Amanda Cox {book review}

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary electronic copy of this book from Revell Reads. These are my honest thoughts.

Despite a single expletive, this book has soared onto my favorites list this year. This debut was fresh and different and deep. When I first saw the cover, I was blown away, but I wasn’t certain what to expect beneath it. Let me tell you, it wasn’t anything like I would have guessed.

The story began with a homeless man, and this was something I had never seen done before. This approach tugged my heart in right away. This was a time-split novel, and sometimes the new scenes took me away from what I wanted to keep reading about, but overall, this was very well done (even in those tense moments).

The theme of seeing the unseen people in our lives (those society deems less than worthy of our attention) was superbly on display. This is one reason this book is now a favorite. It takes the “look after orphans and widows” (James 1:27) and “will assemble the outcasts” (Isaiah 11:12) themes and creates a haven for those who are looked down upon by the vast majority of society.

This story is powerful and needed today. I think it’s a must-read for anyone who wants to grow in compassion and who wants to know how to see with new eyes what you’ve missed so many times before.

Saturday, September 12, 2020

The Librarian of Boone's Hollow by Kim Vogel Sawyer {book review}

Here's the book review I promised last week.

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary electronic copy of this book from WaterBrook Multnomah and NetGalley. These are my honest thoughts.

"These feuds an' fear gotta end."

That line resonated so loudly as I was reading this timely book.

This beautiful story touched my heart on multiple levels. Its exquisite depth and rich atmosphere immersed me into the quaint mountain town of Boone's Hollow, where I met a quirky cast of amazing characters that each wriggled their way into my heart.

Mrs. Sawyer once again created characters worth caring about. The depth to which she develops her cast is something to not only admire but also to study, if you're a writer like me. The way she captures a local way of speaking amazes me every time, and this talent of hers is one of the many reasons why her characters pop off the pages.

The glimpse at coal mining reminded me of Homer Hickam's true-life story in the movie October Sky. Another similarity between that film and this book was the difficult and sometimes heartrending father-son relationship.

What really made this book stand out among the 150+ books I've read this year is how a library was used to bring hope to families struggling through the Great Depression years. I had never before heard of packhorse librarians, but this story made me want to learn more. The way this novel was written -- filled with hope, love, and lots of grace -- kept me intrigued throughout, and I can hardly wait to read it again. It has moved itself into a tie with My Heart Remembers for my favorite KVS book -- and I wasn't sure that would happen after years and years of MHR reigning alone in that spot.

"What I want is for you to fully use the abilities God has given you."

The above quote really spoke truth into my soul. I'm not fully sure in how many ways God wants to fulfill this in my life, but I am eager to find out.

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Surprise, Surprise

Hello, friends.

Some surprises are good, such as finding a new top-three favorite book of the year this past weekend: The Librarian of Boone's Hollow by Kim Vogel Sawyer. (Be on the lookout next week for my review of this book.)

Other surprises are not so good, such as having to ship my laptop in to get fixed because a hinge broke only ten months after I bought the thing (and I'm always gentle and respectful of my electronic devices).

One good thing about the negative surprise was that I was not on an editing or writing deadline at the time. Whew! That would have definitely have been a problem.

Another good thing about this is that I can take some time, while without a computer, to relook at my schedule and figure out what windows of time will work best for set-aside writing times for me during this season of life. I'm always experimenting with my schedule, because life shifts things around so often in one way or another.

While I'm awaiting the return of my laptop, I'll be pulling out a story to edit on paper. I had started editing it early this year, but I set it aside when two or three other stories leaped to the forefront of my mind to be first-drafted. It will be fun getting back to the young adult story that features skateboarders with funky nicknames, familial miscommunication, and a weighty bout of grief.

What has surprised you lately (good or bad)?

What silver linings are you finding in the midst of it?

Thursday, August 27, 2020

The Source of Hope

This week has completely gotten away from me, apparently. Here I sit on a Wednesday night, realizing that I have yet to post any sort of a blog article, which I like to have done and ready for you on Monday mornings.

I'm also realizing that I haven't even thought about what ought to be in this week's post.

You know what I do when I don't know what to do?

I go back to God's Word.

How could I not? That's my Source for Truth. Hope. Comfort. Direction. Guidance. Love. Faith. Encouragement.

So let's revisit some verses from earlier this year. Enjoy! And please share some favorites of your own in the comments.

Monday, August 17, 2020

The Gentleman Spy by Erica Vetsch {review + book tour + giveaway}

This past weekend, I experienced the joy of reading yet another Erica Vetsch book. I've read several of her titles now, and this new one has only built up my admiration of her style of writing. I can hardly wait for the upcoming novella and the following full-length novel, both additions to the Serendipity & Secrets series.

Here is my review, as it appears on Goodreads, NetGalley, and Amazon.

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Read with Audra and NetGalley. These are my honest thoughts.

Prostitution is a reality for many people. It’s scandalous and not spoken of in most of society. But what would happen if a loved one was caught up in it due to circumstances they could not control? How personal do you suppose it would become then? And to what ends would you go to help this loved one, and others, escape from that dark and miserable life, to show them that they have more worth than the “fortune” and abuse they earn in that fashion?

The Gentleman Spy by Erica Vetsch answers those questions for one of its characters. The prostitution was never shown on-page, for which I was grateful, and it was clearly shown as a life not to be desired and for the sin it is. What the beautiful writing in this book did was showcase the leading character’s heart for rescuing the brokenhearted and lost souls who got caught up in a rough life. I can’t help but think that’s how Jesus sees all of us before we’re saved. That we’re caught up in our own sins, whatever they might be, and that He’s got a huge heart to rescue us all.

This book brought to mind Rahab from the book of Joshua in the Bible. She was a prostitute who was saved for her bravery in saving the spies when they were sought after by people who wanted to kill them. It’s clear she changed her lifestyle after that, because she joined the Israelites in their journey deeper into the Promised Land and later became a member of the genealogy of Jesus Christ. The redemption stories Jesus has in store for each of us are amazing, and I pray we freely step onto that path that will lead us to the best sort of healing in Him.

Marcus’ and Charlotte’s story is one of refining. It’s about learning to let God purify your heart and redeem your soul. It’s got such depth of heart that I can’t help but gasp to think about it. As tough as this story was to read at times—because it broke my heart in a dozen ways and opened my eyes further to the lost and aching souls around me—it was refreshing and uplifting at the same time. The journey down Redemption Road is unique to everyone, and it’s always encouraging to me to read fiction that leaves me with the impression that discovering the rich love of God goes fathoms deeper than any of us could ever comprehend. I’ve personally found that to be true, and it’s wonderful to see that others are on similar journeys of discovery.

Monday, August 10, 2020

The Black Midnight by Kathleen Y'Barbo {book review}

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Barbour Publishing and was under no obligation to post a review. These are my honest thoughts.


Jack the Ripper has fascinated and baffled people for nearly a hundred fifty years. It’s no surprise that this serial killer was featured in a book in the True Colors series about true crime stories.

This was a pretty good story and kept me intrigued most of the time. The reason I lowered my rating from four stars to three was that history was altered simply for the sake of creating a “better” or “more picturesque” setting. The snowy, slushy scenes that created such beautiful atmosphere during which two of the murders took place? Yeah, that snow happened the year before the murders in real life, which was freely admitted in the author’s note at the end of the book. This is a huge pet peeve for me. If the details were researchable, why alter them? Having lived in Texas my whole life, I’m very familiar with how rare snow is in this state. Since it’s so rare, when we get a good snowfall, it’s memorable to the point of remembering which year it was or how old we were when we got it. It’s disappointing to me that this was disregarded for the sake of a story.

The speculation about who might or might not have been Jack the Ripper or the Midnight Assassin did not bother me. These crimes have been long speculated (for nearly a century and a half), so it makes sense that any author writing about the crimes, whether fiction or non, would have to speculate at least a bit, along with doing a ton of research, to make the finale of an unsolved crime believable, even if it ends on an unfinished note (due to the crimes’ having never been solved in real life). This speculation was handled really well and in a realistic way.

I liked that the leading lady was a royal working undercover. Y’all, I don’t think I’ve ever seen that done in a book before! Maybe there are others out there, and I would be interested in hearing your recommendations, because I found this incredibly fun and highly entertaining.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

A Dash of Hope {Focus on Jesus}

Who needs a dash of hope heading into the weekend?

All week, I've come back to these verses. They've inspired me and lifted up my heart when I felt overwhelmed by the negativity of being in pain more often than not recently. These verses have helped me hold on to hope. I pray they do the same for you.

If you're like me, you'll want to read these beauties out loud and pray they soak into the walls of your heart as you do.

2 Corinthians 4:7-18

7. "Now we have this treasure in clay jars, so that this extraordinary power may be from God and not from us.
8. We are pressured in every way but not crushed; we are perplexed but not in despair;
9. we are persecuted but not abandoned; we are struck down but not destroyed.
10. We always carry the death of Jesus in our body, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.
11. For we who live are always given over to death because of Jesus, so that Jesus' life may also be revealed in our mortal flesh.
12. So death works in us, but life in you.
13. And since we have the same spirit of faith in keeping with what is written, 'I believed, therefore I spoke,' we also believe, and therefore speak.
14. We know that the One who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and present us with you.
15. Indeed, everything is for your benefit, so that grace, extended through more and more people, may cause thanksgiving to increase to God's glory.
16. Therefore, we do not give up. Even though our outer person is being destroyed, our inner person is being renewed day by day.
17. For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory.
18. So we do not focus on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."

What Bible verses have given you hope lately?

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Color-Coded Editing {with Guest Victoria Minks}

Friends, the article you've been eagerly awaiting (I hope) is finally here. Please welcome our guest, Victoria Minks. I enjoyed her book Jonas & Olivia, and I've enjoyed her color-coded editing process, which she's sharing with us today.

We're going to be diving into Color-Coded Editing today!

This is a process I use during the revision stages of editing, all the way through the first phase of line-by-line editing.

For some background, my basic routine usually goes something like this: 
  1. Plan my basic novel outline, theme, mood, etc. Some novels require more planning, some I just jump right in!
  2. Write the rough draft. The "just get it on paper" draft. 
  3. Now is the time for 2nd drafts, rewrites, 3rd drafts, or what have you. This is when I really get the book nailed down. Sometimes a novel is pretty good to go and doesn't need this stage, but let's be honest-- most of them do!
  4. Once I have the main substance there, it's on to Color-Coded Editing! (Explained further in this post, with all the how-to in applying it to your methods!)
  5. After going through that Color-Coded Editing Process, it's on to basic line-by-line editing.
  6. Then it's proofreading. Multiple times. 
  7. Then on to Alpha and Beta Readers, and then you move into the stages of publishing!

To preface: I first read something similar to this in the "Now What?" stages of the National Novel Writing Month blog years ago. However, I've tweaked it a lot and so it's quite different from what first gave me the idea. I'm not a huge fan of editing--but this method makes me actually look forward to it.

It's broken up into simple steps with different colors for each one. I use colored pens and underline or circle sections, using a pencil or a regular black pen to write notes in the margins or on sticky notes that I attach to the paper. But if you're a highlighter kind of person, you could definitely use that instead, and of course, feel free to switch up the colors. I just use what I have on hand, and have a personal system for what color goes to what editing step, but you can, of course, adapt it.

Step One: 
  1. If you've just finished your book, set it aside for at least a week. I like to go for about a month. This allows you to look at your novel with fresh eyes. If you haven't written in it for a while, you're going to print out your book (I do it on a single side of the paper to offer more space to write notes on the backs). I can hear some people saying: "But, why can't I use my super amazing high-technology for this technique?". It's true, even my laptop+ stylus pen is capable of doing this process all digitally, and if you REALLY want to, go for it. Here's why I think it's important to do it on paper though:
    1. Having a different format allows you to look at it from a different perspective. Fresh eyes mean you'll see things you didn't see before. 
    2. There's more room for the natural flow of scribbles, notes, and doodles. It's all part of the process that I feel is easier on paper-- that brain dump that just is always a little more organic on paper than with technology.
    3. It's also super exciting and motivating to see your novel in print form, even if it is double-spaced, single-sided letter-sized paper. Your words sitting in front of you in a stack is just so amazing.
  2. Back to the main point after that little detour! Now you're going to read through the whole thing... if you can, in one sitting. If not, just as soon as possible. Don't try editing at all during this time, unless you printed out the copy with sections you already planned on deleting. For instance, if you happened to write it during NaNoWriMo and you put in a monologue about the weather just to add words, knowing you'd take it out later for publishing-- cross through those now with a red pen. Also, if you notice a character that wanders around with no purpose, give a quick note about them as well. Other than those kinds of things though, refrain from editing! This stage is to just get a feel for your book.

Step Two: By this time, you probably have an idea of what you got right and what you got wrong in your draft. But as I said, don't randomly attack the thing with scribbled-y red ink. If you go back to the beginning, grab an aqua pen. You're going to read through the book again, this time focusing on emotions/tension/reactions, etc. What places make you laugh? cry? feel suspense? Are there no emotions when there should be? Or maybe the wrong ones? Did your character act or say something out of their norm? Is their behavior too melodramatic? Too stoic? This is the time to go through and mark with your aqua pen all the feels (or where there should be some). Make sure that you're following what your character's responses would be, not what yours would be.

Step Three:  Grab an orange pen, and this time you're going to read through it again, looking for places where you're bored, confused, there are plot holes or inconsistencies. If you need to fact-check various things in your book, this is the time to put a little asterisk or something besides those things to check later.

Step Four: 
  1. Stop now and reevaluate. You will probably want to change some more major things here. After this step, I realized I needed to rewrite the entire ending for Jonas and Olivia. If you have huge scenes that need to be changed which will take the book in an entirely different direction, or you need to get rid of or fix a character you noticed was there for no good reason (noticed in Step One) go ahead and do that now.
  2. To eliminate the need of having to reprint everything again, just write these things on the backs of the pages or on extra notebook paper--unless it's a really big change that involves thousands of words--then stick to the computer. :) This is the time to fix big plot changes, flat characters, tension, reactions, emotions, etc.
  3. If you had to rewrite a lot in this stage, you may want to go back to the beginning steps and hit those sections with the previous colors of editing, just to make sure the new parts get the same quality of editing.

Step Five: Take a purple pen and read through your manuscript, this time searching out your descriptions. Not enough? Purple pen to the rescue. Too much? Cross some out. Not written to your satisfaction? Melodramatic? Cliche? Cheesy? Purple pen. Anything that has to do with descriptions tackle now.

Step Six: This time, with a pink pen, check your dialogue. Mark the passages with too little dialogue, and the places with an overabundance. Mark where you lose track of who's speaking, or if too many sentences start with "I". All your dialogue problems should be fixed in this step.

Step Seven: Read through your book again, this time with a green pen. You're going to check now for places where you could use 1 word in place of 10, where words are repeated too closely together, where you use the word in the wrong context and that sort of thing. This is getting more into the details, and by now you probably have a rainbow-inked manuscript, but don't worry--you're close to the end!

Once you finish Step Seven, you're going to have a book full of different colored markings, sticky notes, and scribbled memos. This is the time now to go through your novel on the computer, fixing all the things you marked in the manuscript. By the time you're done, your book will be much better and should be ready for the line-by-line editing stage.

Don't worry if this color-coded editing process takes a long time. That's ok, as long as you don't stop for months in-between stages. (That can make you forget things about the book that you need to keep in mind while editing). Each step may take anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of weeks, depending on how much you need to fix, how long the book is, how much time you have to work on it at once, etc. That's the beauty of this method though-- because it is smaller steps covering the whole novel, rather than trying to remember everything to look out for and crawling through the book, it is super adaptable to whatever schedule works for you. It not only gets editing done in logical steps, but you won't have to worry that you've forgotten important details from chapter two when you're trying to edit chapter forty-seven. 

If you use this technique, I would love to see it! Post your colorful manuscript on your Instagram with the hashtag #fearlesscolorcodedediting for a chance to be featured on our IG story spotlights! 

Stay Fearless!


Thursday, July 23, 2020

Works in Progress {sneak peek}

Hello, friends.

Once again, this isn't coming to you on a Monday. So sorry about that.

One reason for the delay is that I've been writing a book. While I'm no longer participating in NaNoWriMo events due to their stepping too far into politics rather than sticking to the writing-community services they offer, I am still writing.

Do you remember a very long while back when you voted on which story I should work on? At the time, I thought I was ready to work on the elderly ladies on a road trip story. Apparently, I wasn't then. But I am now.

In fact, back in June, I worked up a very detailed scene-by-scene outline for the story, which is now going to be a book rather than a screenplay (though I may write that version later, just in case anyone wants to make a movie out of it at some point). This story is now my primary project this month.

Of course I have a couple of other ones I'm chipping away on. I can hardly ever focus solely on one project at a time, thanks to my undiagnosed ADD. Yet, I find that working on multiple projects actually aids my creativity instead of harming it.

Maybe it takes me longer to finish each story that way, but the good news is there may be multiple stories finished up around the same time because of this process.

Some of you might be wondering how I keep the various storylines, character names, and plot points straight if I'm working on multiple books at the same time.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Summer Favorites

Hello, friends! Let's talk books.

What are your favorite books you've read so far this summer? (Yes, I'm looking for your recommendations!)

Here are a few of my favorites. Each of these received five-star ratings from me.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Timely Encouragement {Dust Treasure Hunt Results}

Hey, friends. So I went on a virtual treasure hunt last month in support of Kara Swanson's sophomore book, Dust, which is a Peter Pan retelling of sorts. The cover is absolutely gorgeous, and there were lots of interviews and fun blog articles along the way. The neat thing about this treasure hunt was that everyone who participated would win something. That's completely rare in anything other than peewee sports.

There was also a grand prize pack for the person who was first to put in the quote from Dust that was pieced together along the way with each blog article's clue.

Here's the announcement as delivered by Kara Swanson on her Instagram page: