Balancing Several Hats

Balancing Several Hats

Today’s guest post is Dianna Gunn! Welcome her, and I hope you all enjoy.

Most writers  don’t get to do it full time, especially novelists. Life is demanding  and at any given point throughout the years we are asked to wear many  hats: student, worker, writer, caregiver, friend, lover—some combination  of these hats is always demanded of us, and while all of them are worthwhile  it can be exhausting. When 40 or 50—sometimes more—hours of your  week are demanded by other people, it’s hard to find time for personal  projects.

The key is  to never give up and to know that even fifteen minutes here and there  can make a big difference. One blog post a week can be enough if you  make it a powerful post. One page a day becomes a decent sized novel  before the year is up. Every small action adds up eventually, and that  is the key thing you have to remember.

Why is this  so important? Because no matter what you have to do in a day, there’s  always time for one tiny thing. Do you take the bus? Write on the bus  both ways and soon enough you can have a substantial story. Will you  be exhausted when you get home? You can still brainstorm and try to  get into the creative flow a little bit before bed. Do you have extra  time during your lunch at work? You can write a couple paragraphs then,  too.

If you want  to do more, you have to make sacrifices. Don’t sacrifice all of your  free time because you might come to hate writing. But if you’re trying to balance work, school and writing it’s important  to cut back on the fluff in your life such as TV, random internet surfing  and going to social gatherings. All of these things can be good for  you in small doses because it’s important to relax, but they’re not  important to your life in the long run.

Know what the  priorities in your life are and act accordingly. Writing can’t always  be your number one priority, especially when you’re a novelist working  on your first draft, but you need to decide how important it is to you  and what you’re willing to sacrifice. In the end you need to find a  balance by making small sacrifices and taking advantage of every moment  you have to yourself.


Dianna L. Gunn is a young Canadian freelance writer and aspiring fantasy author. She helps manage the Penumbra blog( and runs her own blog, The Dabbler(, where she talks about every kind of writing and helps other writers reach their goals.

Letter to My Teen Self

Letter to My Teen Self

tumblr_mc6i6dDtH91rilz3so1_500 I know this is a really old topic, one I’ve seen floating around the internet for a few years, but I thought I’d give it a go, in spite of being only 22. I mean, I have quite a lot to say to my teen self, specifically my 14-year-old self, who struggled with some tough anxiety issues back when she was in the eighth grade. So here goes:

Dear 14-year-old me,

That algebra test looks really daunting, doesn’t it? Algebra’s been the cause of many a panic attack and crying spell at night. Math anxiety has leaked over into other parts of your life too. You cut to deal with the constant stress. You hated that your math teacher couldn’t understand that you needed to take things more slowly.

But guess what? You passed algebra…with an A average. Algebra was so easy from then on out. You managed your anxiety disorder. You went on to do pre-calculus, which was tougher, should have been anxiety inducing, but you stuck it out and got a B.

But let’s back up. You know that book you started in response to your mild depression and anxiety, the book with the witches and witch burnings? Well, it has changed…immensely. It is now a sequel. And guess what? It’s prequel has a publishing contract, so, even though it takes eight years, you  make it. Your dream comes true. And you did it without an agent, the way you originally wanted to do it.

But, 14-year-old-self, things get tougher, worse than your anxiety disorder. You develop fibromyalgia at 21, a disease that came out of nowhere. Fibromyalgia starts to crap out other areas of your life: your sleep, mainly. And from this, you develop bipolar disorder, which manages to make things far more challenging than your anxiety disorder ever could have. But you’re going to survive, and you’re going to come out of it even greater, stronger, wiser, and better. You were born into greatness, and to greatness you will return.

You may not think you want to keep going because of the adage ‘the older you get, the tougher it gets,’ but this isn’t always true. There are going to be parts of your life that are tougher than others. But then there are going to be parts of your life that are greater than others .

You’ve always obsessed over Mr. Right. Well, you meet him three years later, and you’ll be with him for quite a long while. That’s certainly fantastic, right? You have your first short story published at 19. Sounds like it’s getting pretty good. You also start some editorial stints, and you dreamt of being an editor. How can it get better than that?

And even though fibromyalgia and bipolar will come to try and tear you down, to tell you nothing in your life is worth it, you will fight, and you will do a ballet recital and take a chance with your novel. You will land a contract and start another novel.

14-year-old-self, life is full of difficulties, but do you know why we keep going? We keep going because something in us tells us after the storm has passed, the sun will shine brighter than ever. And even when the storm comes again, we’ll just dance in the rain. We’ll be cold and soaked to the bone, but we’ll dance until the sun shines again.


22-year-old The Dancing Writer



The Dancing Writer’s Pointe Shoes and Awards

The Dancing Writer’s Pointe Shoes and Awards

I love my Capezio Glisse.

This is a compilation of all my best posts, and then at the end, I will be giving away three awards to three different bloggers for each one!

What Depression Feels Like for a Writer Like Me

Braving the Stigma of Mental Illness

My Defense of Self-Publishing

The Maddening Choice of Publication

The Different Ways to Outline a Novel

This Is My Surprise: I Have a Publisher!

Blogging Tips for Fellow Writers

Inner Turmoil Equals My Best Ideas

The Misuse of Twitter

The Madness of Writer’s Block

Now for the awards!

This goes to Legends of Windmere by Charles Yallowitz

The parasite guy

And Random Acts of Writing!







Next award!

Dorian Dawes

disregard the prologue

And When I Became An Author










Last award!



And Missing Zero!

Follow all these awesome blogs and keep an eye out on their posts! I very much appreciate them! I don’t have time to comment on all of them, but rest assured these are quality bloggers.

The Madness of the First Chapter

The Madness of the First Chapter

This picture won’t cooperate with me.

I don’t know about you, but I find the first chapter something I have to re-do every time I start a revision. For Stolentime, I already know I’m going to have to write a brand new chapter one and make the current chapter one chapter two. Too much occurs in chapter one for readers to really care yet, so I’m going to have to make a chapter that shows what led up to the current chapter one. I had to do the same for When Stars Die. Chapter one was originally Amelia in her first trial to become a nun, but then I realized I needed to introduce a certain element at the beginning and her best friend so readers could care more about what happens to her best friend. I also needed readers to know a little bit about Amelia before she got to the trial–so that way they can better understand why she even bothers to put up with it.

The first chapter of any book can be very tricky, especially because it is so subjective from book to book. You will have a different reason for having to re-do your chapter one than I will, but one thing for certain is that I always keep a few things in mind when doing the chapter one.

The best way to hook your readers is to make the chapter one character-centered so that way readers can begin to learn about your MC, his/her goals, who he/she is, and why the reader should care. This may not be so in a plot-driven novel, but I myself prefer character-driven novels, which is probably why I love to read YA. You’ll also want to avoid too much action. Stolentime currently starts with Gene contemplating suicide, with no real background, so I know I need to back it up and show what pushed Gene over the edge so people will care that he wants to kill himself, and understand a little bit about what led him to such a dangerous decision.

Your first two or three sentences too can really grip readers and make them not want to put the book down. Now I don’t like the rabid obsession with the hook because it’s a novel and I don’t think readers care as much as writers do, but it’s still awesome to be brought in by exciting first sentences. Here is mine from When Stars Die:

The sound is a dagger scraping crosshatches on a frosted windowpane, its echoes loud in this lifeless room I’ve been locked in for the past few days.

Now keep in mind this first sentence is subject to change, but it manages to accomplish a few things: sets the atmosphere as something eerie, lets readers know where the MC is, and sets intrigue because she’s been locked in this room and readers will want to know why.

Last, you don’t want to resolve your chapter one. I will read chapter ones where the writer seems to tie up everything, and even with my knowing the summary, I don’t want to read on because why? Everything was neatly resolved. The person stalking her went away and her best friend found her. She was paranoid about the stalker because she had been harmed by someone in the past, but it wasn’t the stalker, so everything is resolved because she wasn’t hurt. I love chapter ones that end messy because that makes me want to read on. My chapter one in When Stars Die ends with Amelia being brought to her first trial–with some shadowy beings stalking her and Amelia fearing for her life.

So these are a few tips on that pesky chapter one. It can be daunting to do, but I personally love it.

Review of Saint Jude by DeAnna Wilson

Review of Saint Jude by DeAnna Wilson

In keeping with the spirit of cover art for e-books, I'm going to have to rate this down. Frame is too crowded, text is dull, and it's not eye-catching.
In keeping with the spirit of cover art for e-books, I’m going to have to rate this down. Frame is too crowded, text is dull, and it’s not eye-catching.

Because I am a writer who naturally creates psychologically tortured characters, I decided I’d do a book review over a novel that came out in 2011 that I think does a good job of portraying a struggling teen with bipolar disorder.

Taylor is placed in a group home for teens struggling with mental illnesses, hers being bipolar disorder. There she meets a few other teens coping with their own illnesses who, Taylor soon discovers, do not take the program at Saint Jude too seriously, as they involve themselves in quirky antics that only serve to anger “Big Daddy,” the therapist and director. Soon “Big Daddy” leaves his position when something tragic happens, and Dalton replaces him. Dalton uses unconventional techniques to force the teens to face their own issues–and the tragic losses that occurred at Saint Jude.

This book attracted my attention because I was searching for a young adult book with a protagonist who suffered from bipolar disorder. I was tired of reading YA books that merely alluded to bipolar disorder because, of course, books like that never touch upon the intricacies this illness contains. Needless to say, Saint Jude did a marvelous job of expressing bipolar disorder, including a small manic episode Taylor has that ends in short-term hospitalization.

Taylor herself is an interesting character, not because of her illness, but because she does not fall into the woe-is-me trap that can happen when writing about a character with mental illness. Instead she accepts she struggles with bipolar and simply wants to move on with her life–if only she can get out of Saint Jude. The other teen characters are solid as well. Princess (her nickname) supposedly struggles with an anxiety disorder, but the other characters view her as spoiled because her anxiety occurs when she does not get her way. Reno struggles with depression and becomes Taylor’s main support. Blaine is schizophrenic and is not ashamed to admit that he has this illness. Isaac loses touch with reality every so often and has undergone several ECT treatments, a last resort method when meds fail. “Big Daddy” is the coddling sort of therapist that doesn’t make the teens own up to their own actions. Dalton is just the opposite: a no-nonsense therapist who does expect the teens to accept full responsibility for their actions.

However, while the characters are strong, the plot falls apart at the end and leaves me as a reader feeling both hopeless and disappointed because not everything seems tied off. The ending also felt rushed, as if the author tired of her own story. I felt hopeless at the end because as someone struggling with mental illness herself, it was rather discouraging (SPOILER) to find that none of the teens discover true happiness as an adult. I understand there are people struggling with mental illness who never get better, but the fact that none of the teens seem to get better leaves me with the feeling that the author is trying to point out that happiness is not possible for someone dealing with a mental illness. And while I enjoyed Dalton’s no-nonsense approach, his doom-and-gloom view of the world left an acrid taste in my mouth that made me wonder why anyone in the book is fighting at all when Dalton’s worldview makes fighting seem hopeless–even worse considering that he consistently shares this view with sensitive teens who do not need this.

Overall, I’d give this book 3.5 stars out of five. If you’re looking for a book with strong characters, this book is perfect. But if you’re someone struggling with mental illness and looking for a little bit of hope, this book is not for you.