Details on My Second Novel

Okay guys—I finally want to share a little bit of info on my next novel before (a) I forget to in the midst of a disorganized mess of blog post ideas I have and (b) so that if I become a little less active on this blog from here to the end of school, it's probably because I'm devoting more time to working on it. It's really hard to balance writing both a blog and a novel while also having school to do. Let's just say I'm counting down the days for this school year...

We should probably start with how I selected this next story. It's kind of funny, really. I planned on writing a completely different story than this one for my second novel but eventually decided against that one for the time being, just because I thought it had themes that were redundant in literally tons of books and were too cliche. I CAN think of themes that nobody has hit on that I'm dying for them to, or if they attempted to try and address a theme I wanted them to (and I have read stories that tried) I wasn't satisfied with it. Mainly because I thought they could go way deeper, which it seemed like they were afraid to do. Well, lucky for you all, I'm not afraid to go really deep in my writing (because I promised I don't write fluff...), so my stories may be quite depressing. ;) No, just kidding, kind of. I try to have a balance. Like anything I do, I want my stories to be authentic. But you have to be willing to dive deep to make that happen. To ask the hard questions that you may not even have answers to.

But I never planned for this grand, deep novel when I wrote a scene for it. Actually, I wrote the first scene for it—which was actually the beginning of the climax in the plot—on my way up to Estherville for Thanksgiving in 2016, and yes, I blogged about that! I even blogged about me writing on the way—it's all in this post. At the time, it seriously meant nothing to me. It was just a short scene I was doing because, well, I was bored, and I was taking an online writing class, so I wanted to get some practice in, and then remember how in that post it said the rain was relentless and my mom was having a fit about it? So I just wrote a scene about that. When Mom found that out, she wasn't the happiest at being in my book, but I assured her that it wasn't really her, just the hot male lead, so she had nothing to worry about!

That's where it began. I didn't have any intentions of continuing it. But then we had a big writing project in English class (!!! my faves !!!), and for part of mine I did a short story. I decided to elaborate on what I'd wrote, but go back to more like the rising action. I think our word target for the short story was somewhere around 700-900 maybe? So I created a plot outline just for a chunk of the story, thinking it would just be a short story. I think I planned out nine chapters, and then I saw the word count for my plot outline was over 1000 words... So I wrote out all the chapters into a continuation, which my teacher also read and left me much appreciated feedback, and honestly that was what inspired me to turn it into a whole novel. I knew there was a lot of themes I could pack into just a single story, and they just kept coming to me with time. So here we are.

As far as the actual writing process with this one, it's been a pain, to say the least. I don't know why. I don't remember having this much trouble with my first novel, maybe because I knew that was my first one, so I didn't have expectations? But it was GOOD that way—it created one of the rawest pieces I've ever wrote, despite its seemingly endless imperfections (ugh...querying...don't ask...we're a long ways from there). But now with this one, I am overthinking it so badly; it's driving me insane. I'm trying to drill it into my raging perfectionist mind that rough drafts are supposed to suck, but I don't know if it's working. I started the rough draft sometime around the beginning of freshman year, and then somewhere around the new year, scrapped the whole thing—all 30,000 words. And I started over. But that is good, because I could tell I was trying too hard, and it was killing my story—it didn't have the authentic, easy flow to it that it has now. I have 10,000 words currently—this last trimester of school has been killing me, so I'm hoping this summer I can take off with it.

It's funny because I just took a shower and am pretty sure I just thought up the entire ending to this novel now—because normally I wait to come up with my endings. Oh, the life of a writer.

For right now, this is all the details I can share, but if you have any questions about this book or my writing or process or anything like that, then feel free to leave a comment below, or you can ask me on my FAQs page or contact me here, if you prefer. I'm happy to answer questions and may do more blog posts along these lines in the future if that's an interest! Thank you all!

Ashlee Mae

Welcome Back!!

Hi everyone!! Thank you so much for coming back to my blog that has been inactive since June 2017...!!! I really am so sorry for that; I never wanted to quit blogging for that long, so I am stoked that I can finally blog again. I'll attempt to explain my absence in this blog post, but this is truly like a flashback to January 2015 when I had to take a two month blogging break because I was busy designing my blog and rebranding it. I don't even know where to start!!! I'm already almost done with my freshman year of high school, which feels surreal! It seriously feels like each year goes by quicker, and this impatient girl doesn't necessarily mind that because I'm looking forward to things like college, publishing my writing, etc. But then I'm also learning to appreciate each moment, because there are some things I'm not looking forward to, like getting a job, learning to drive...ugh.

But gosh do we have catching up to do! I have so many posts I want to share over my faith and what I've been learning, so many stories I want to tell you all, and obviously, writing updates also.

I suppose we should start with why I was gone! You all probably thought I died. Thankfully I didn't, and I'm back with this blog being pink and sparkly as always! (Sorry, that's one thing that will never die.)

Okay, so, my last post it looks like was June 2017, in which I announce my hiatus from social media. That was probably one of the first things that caused me to take a break from blogging. I think I put too much pressure on myself to be writing super long, intellectual, perfect blog posts that will help people and contribute to something in their life. Because that seems to be what blogging has become. If you're not giving a tutorial in your blog posts or sharing something practical that can help people, then you're not making worthwhile blog posts, right? Wrong. I miss the days when bloggers just used to write about their thoughts and life. That was more helpful to me than some how to post or anything along those lines, because I was making connections with them and I felt like I could relate to their life, and they entertained me with their writing.

I talked about in this post, also, all of the pressures I felt to blog this way. And I think, honestly, that's the reason I stopped blogging for so long. Because that's not me. I don't want to worry about making how to posts for things; I just want to write about my thoughts with faith, life, and everything else. As a writer, I really do believe in the power of words, and I hope that when people read my blog, they can take a break from the stresses of their life and be entertained for a little while or, more importantly than that, that maybe they can even be inspired in their faith, which will then help them face the stresses in their life.

Because that's my goal in life and my goal as a writer: to inspire and entertain people. I don't want to entertain people in the sense that I help you escape from your life. This world has enough fluffy crap you can read if an escape is what you want, and that's not in and of itself bad—sometimes I like to read books and movies just to get a mental break, too—but I also think there's a fine line. This society has a literal OBSESSION with entertainment, and for so many people, it's like a drug. It truly is something they do so that they never have to deal with the pain of life—buy a million books, buy travel tickets, go shopping for luxury items you'll put on a credit card, buy season tickets to sports games, and the list goes on and on. And don't get me wrong: it's not a sin to go shopping, or to travel, or to a sports game. But it can be a problem when you buy all of these things just because you're desperate to get a high off of them.

So, do I want to entertain through my writing? Of course. But I also want to be authentic and real with you, and so I'm going to share my faith and write about deep, serious topics because as a society, we need to do a better job of facing the pain in our lives instead of trying to hide it and run away from it. And maybe if I open up and be real, it will inspire you to do so, also.

So that's where I want to go from here. I did end up deleting all of my social media, and I thank God I did, because it was truly destroying my mental health. I remember on Instagram, specifically, I would be looking at these people's profiles, and I would be literally shaking because it made me so upset how people portrayed their highlight reel of life, as if every day was full of traveling and hanging out with friends and the like. So I needed to be done; I just can't handle inauthenticity like that. It's becoming the norm, and I just shake my head at that. The only social media I did decide to keep was Facebook, because the other day as I knew I was getting close to finalizing my blog again, and I got to be thinking, how are people even going to know my blog is up again if I'm not on anything? So I decided to keep that; I figured I owe you all that much. :) My Facebook page is here!

Since I'm only on Facebook, it takes away so much of the pressure the other social media did: I don't have to worry about creating a bunch of images for Pinterest or Instagram; I don't have to send out five thousand tweets on Twitter to promote my posts. I'm all about marketing yourself, but once again, I think there's a fine line. There comes a point where I just have to write and then trust God to get my writing in the eyes of people who need it, instead of me tirelessly trying to promote myself and then in the process, getting sick of writing altogether.

Going forward from here, I am saying this to keep myself accountable: I'm not going to worry about planning out so many blog posts. I'm totally a perfectionist, and so I just overthink everything when it comes to my writing, and then that's usually why I only had one blog post coming out per week (if that!) because I have other responsibilities, too, so it just got pushed back. But now, I just want to share my thoughts. They may not always be perfect or articulate exactly what I want to say, but the whole point of me starting this blog even as a kid, was that I just wanted to share my observations on life through what I was learning. No how to posts. No fancy intellectual posts—those can be fun to write, and you'll see some of those sporadically, but again, they're super time consuming and don't necessarily reflect the authenticity I'm trying to shoot for with this blog.

I'm honestly going to try and update this blog every day, and once a week at the very least. Because really, I learn something everyday, and now since I've been gone forever, it's probably going to take me blogging everyday just to catch you all up with everything that's happened! I'm honestly so looking forward to it. I hope you guys know that me taking a break was in no way because I had given up on writing or that I stopped enjoying writing this blog. I have loved writing on this blog over the years, and I'm so thankful to God that He's given me this blog that hopefully gives Him glory.

So here's a little snapshot at what's to come in future posts (I'm putting this on here partly so that I can keep track of everything I want to share with you all, haha):
✧ things I do to renew my mind
✧ posts on topics like how I learned to show mercy, for example
✧ my views on some current social issues
✧ sharing some of my favorite quotes
✧ what I've learned through things like my favorite movies
✧ posts on deep topics like anxiety
✧ psychology and how it applies to life
✧ another letter to my future husband because I've been dying to do that ;) (first one here)
✧ and a ton more!
✧ basically, just my life, thoughts, and faith

I also have to say something real quick, too: this blog covers a lot of deep and oftentimes controversial issues. My blog posts are my opinions, and of course, I try to be educated with my opinions and have the facts to back up why I think a certain way, but at the end of the day, they're my thoughts and you can do as you will with them. If you don't agree with me, that's fine, but it's just a fair warning so that people don't come on here and get nasty about things in the comments or whatever. If you don't like my writing, then of course you don't have to read it, but the one thing I won't tolerate is hateful comments. Thankfully I haven't had many instances like that, but it's just a little disclaimer I have to have.

With that being said, two other reasons that contributed to my absence that I forgot to mention: anxiety and my photo site that I use to design images for this blog.

My freshman year was terrible in terms of anxiety; I've always had some anxiety throughout my life, and I've always been a worrier, but it was really bad this year, for whatever reason. I think it stripped a lot of motivation away for blogging, but now that I'm back, that's yet another thing I'm looking forward to writing about. It's not that writing about anxiety is fun, but I hope it can be another opportunity that I can share my own struggles in hopes to help you with yours. Because as much as it has sucked dealing with anxiety, God has taught me a lot having gone through it. Really. I didn't think there was a lot I would learn through it, but there has been, and I know it will make me stronger in the future. I think it already has.

Ah, and then there was this site I use to design my images. I had been using them since the very beginning of this blog: clear back to 2014 and actually maybe even back to 2013 or 2012, as this blog wasn't the first time I'd gotten into designing things like that. And it always used to be free! I mean, sure, there was an option to pay monthly if you wanted to be able to use all of their features, but you still had features to choose from and could make and download images for free.

UNTIL 2017.

No, in 2017, they got the wonderful idea to make me pay monthly just to SAVE my images to my computer. And it was like $10 per month! Sure, that may not sound like much, but keep in mind I'm just a broke little freshman. I don't have ten bucks to spend every month on making my images.

So it took me forever, but finally I bit the bullet and bought it because I couldn't live without my pink and sparkly images. The reason this blog has had a password is because, ON TOP OF ALL THE OTHER REASONS I LISTED FOR MY ABSENCE, I was trying to do a rebrand of my entire blog. I just got to be thinking that well hey, when in doubt completely redo your blog design! (I have done this since I started blogging, for those of you who are knew; it's a problem I still haven't solved.) I was thinking I should pick new colors, new everything! So I came up with some color palettes on Pinterest and then sent out a survey on Twitter with the different options and asked which palette people thought would go with me/my blog best. I should also probably mention that my original colors—pink and gold—were an option in that survey.

And what did they pick? The pink and gold. So nothing has changed! And you know what, I think I needed people to pick that, and it's God's way of saying that I need to get a grip on the whole changing-my-blog-design-every-week thing. But I am content for the time being now! Next week, probably not, but oh well, I'll deal with that. At least now I have a blog design and I can write, and I'm thrilled about that.

But seriously, can you just imagine me with my house one day? I have this same issue with my room, where I constantly change my mind on the colors and overall look of it. My mom is fed up with me; she says she's going to decorate my room if I don't figure things out soon. But yeah, with my actual HOUSE? I will probably change the decorations and look of things every month. My husband will probably want to kill me. So yeah, maybe learning to get a grip now would be the wise thing to do...? I still have a couple years until buying a house, we'll see if I can learn to be content with my blog designs in that time...

Last but not least for this post, I want to show you all what I updated and where you can find the info you may happen to need or want if you want to creep on me or something, which I won't judge you for because I do that all the time to people. I would be lying if I didn't say that part of the reason I got back on Facebook was because I missed creeping on people. ;) My family tries to guilt trip me for this, saying that I "stalk" people, to which I reply that if people don't have their accounts private, it's simply using your resources, case closed. ;) (Part of the reason I "stalk" people is for writing research, and, well, some of it just because I'm nosy... But sometimes I do have a legitimate reason...)

My About Page

Go here if you want to stalk me, er, learn more about me, and you can read my whole "story" and testimony of how I became a Christian and basically my whole life story. I'll make using your resources easy. ;) Because God knows I hate that feeling when I'm doing writing research and have read every article there ever was on a situation and still can't find the info I need.

Frequently Asked Questions

I brought this page back so that you could easily ask me a question, you know, in case you're like me and have read every thing you could and still can't find the answer to your question. ;) If there are questions that a lot of people wonder, they'll be posted there.

Journey/formerly "Resources"

I combined my old "Resources page" with all of the posts that basically go over my writing and faith journey, as well as the best posts of my blog. Once again, use your resources. ;)

Writing

This page is very much a work in progress, but it's where I will put all of my writing/writing updates for easy access.

Contact

Last but not least, my contact page with a form and my email should you need to get in touch with me. And don't hesitate to!

I think that's everything I wanted to say in this first post. This reminds me of starting the first draft of a new book; I have about ten million thoughts in my mind and have no way to organize them except by simply beginning to write. And speaking of first drafts...I have been productive in the sense that I've begun my second novel! I will share details on that in one of the next thousand blog posts I have on my queue. ;)

Maybe I'll just have to send out ten posts in a day? Well, now that there's no pressure and I'm completely abandoning all the blogging "rules", why not?! Haha, we'll see, because unfortunately I still have homework I should probably get to...eventually...

I really am so grateful that I get to share my writing with you all, though, and I'm thrilled to start up again. Don't hesitate to comment below or get in touch with me elsewhere about whatever it may be; I LOVE hearing from you all and it's been FOREVER since I have! :) Thank you again for your continued support over the years. Many, many blog posts to come... Get ready and have your Facebook feed brace itself. :)

Ashlee Mae

That Time I Decided to Rewrite My First Novel....

I can remember the day I started writing my first book. It was someday in the spring, 2014. I was sitting at my usual fave spot at our kitchen table, right next to the window, which had revealed a nice spring day (I think, haha, but I was writing about spring that day because I felt inspired to do so, so I'm guessing it was). I remember thinking the book I'd been writing at the start of entering fifth grade, so the previous fall, wasn't really going anywhere. It was basically me processing my thoughts about entering middle school. It had some good lessons, but I just knew I could do better. And there was this one idea that I'd wrote down as I was writing this fifth grade story that never left my mind. It was a deep idea, one that I was a little intimidated to write about because truthfully, I didn't know if I could do it, if I even knew what to say. But it was a thrilling idea, and I couldn't wait to finish my fifth grade story to begin it.

But that day . . . I don't know. Something clicked. It was like God was laying on my heart the green light to go on from my fifth grade story. That was an excellent start, and I couldn't believe I'd actually written 30,000 words on it. But there was a lot on my heart, a lot God had taught me about what it means to surrender your life to Him since I didn't truly do that until the summer of 2013.

There were three things about this idea I liked and one also kind of scared me:

  • One. It would contain so many of my childhood memories. The setting was in one of the most special places to me, a place where I've learned what love and faith is. A place where I'd truly grown up so much, both physically and spiritually. I couldn't wait to dive into those things.
  • Two. I wouldn't get bored with the story. I get bored easily when writing my stories. Then again, I was only just newly eleven years old when I started, so I'm sure I did bore easily. But not this idea. I don't remember how this idea came to me, actually, I think I was reading book summaries of authors I like, and in a rush I just got my own idea. But the idea was full of drama and action and, more importantly, packed with plenty of opportunities for themes and life lessons.
  • Three. I was excited for this aspect, but I was also kind of freaked out to tackle this: the themes this story would have. As I mentioned above, this was a deep story idea. Really deep. I don't want to give details away yet, but I'll say this: it involved death. And I was only eleven, and one of my biggest fears was having to watch somebody I loved die. I began asking myself questions like, okay, what would I do? How would I react? How would that impact my faith in God? How would I learn to trust Him? How would I move on? Hence, a book was born. But those were questions I set out to answer with this story, and I was worried about it because I didn't even know the answers myself.

But I started writing. Writing the first few pages of a brand new sparkly book is so exciting, bubbling with new beginnings and possibilities and words that are just ready to pour out. Then I made an outline, and somehow, it just formed. I know God was guiding me this entire time with the ideas. The actual ending, what I was going to say and how I was going to resolve the story, didn't come until I was, like, halfway done with the book. But when God revealed it to me, it just came pouring out, literally, onto my outline in my pink Sharpie. There's a big list of around six lessons that suddenly became clear to me.

I always said I learned things about my faith I didn't even know I learned until after writing this book, and that's why I say this. Because it was a challenging topic to write about, one that I didn't even know how I would deal with in my own life, but God showed me through that story that I would be fine. And it was like I just felt a peace about it.

The ending came over winter break, 2014. Right around Christmas. It was the most thrilling feeling, plugging away at those final chapters on the last page of my outline, knowing this book I'd only dreamed of finishing would be finished. I'd never finished a story before, and when I started this book, I set a word count goal for 40,000 words. I really hoped and prayed I'd finish it, but I was just going to hope for the best, because I knew I was only eleven, and I was going to have school, and who knew if I was actually capable of finishing a novel?

But by the grace of God, I did. Those final chapters were so fun and beautiful to write. I remember bounding into the room where my mom was, updating her every time I finished a chapter telling her I was so close. And then I did. God laid the story on my heart, and He made sure I didn't grow bored of it. It was a story that needed to be told, I am positive of that. And after I finished it, I couldn't believe it. I'd exceeded my word count goal at a little under 60,000 words, and afterwards I was just like, wow. That story is actually done. And how in the world did I learn what I did about life and God?! The answer: God. Totally Him, every step of the journey. He was guiding the entire story and revealed to me what I needed to know at the proper time. It was amazing to see that, and He gets all of the glory for this story, whatever may happen to it in the future.

And, the future . . . what does that look like? I revised and edited the book in 2015 with some minor changes to the storyline and completely finished my edits in 2016, or so I thought. I put together a bunch of summaries and synopses in 2016, also, but I never did anything with the story in terms of emailing an agent. I guess maybe I was scared to, but I just never felt ready. But now it's another year, and I needed to seriously look at my plans and goals for this story, which will always be special to me.

I had four options mainly: rewrite the entire story and start from scratch was the first; second, don't touch the original story but add to it; third, don't do anything new to the story but edit the original; and fourth, do nothing to it.

So I considered those. The first option didn't sound appealing at all. Starting from scratch would take a whole new year just to write, that and I really liked my original story. I didn't know if I felt completely confident going with the fourth option, which is the other extreme, doing nothing to it, because my writing skills . . . well, I mean, I was eleven, and now I'm fourteen. So I decided to do a mix of both with two conditions: 1) If I was going to add scenes, I needed to stay true to the story. I wrote this at eleven years old. It needs to stay that way. The story is special to me, and I don't want to drastically change it because in a way it does mark my maturity and my relationship with God at that time. It marked the lessons I'd learned then, and they were good lessons because they were the lessons God revealed to me at that time. 2) If I was going to edit the story, I couldn't overdo it. The grammar and writing style was acceptable for the sake of publishing, but again, I wanted to be careful and rather picky about the edits I made to the story. If I change it too much, it won't be as special because that wasn't the story in 2014. Like I said, it marks what I learned then, and it's special because of that.

So that's what's next. I'm going to do my best adding and editing the story so that the original message can shine even brighter, but not changing it enough so that the original message is gone or replaced. It's quite a difficult process, but I'm excited to revisit this story and see where God will take it next. I would so so so appreciate the prayers!

I appreciate each one of you that's encouraged me in my writing journey! When this one is done, it's all for you. <3

Writing is Powerful

I really love what I do - both writing books and my blog. I truly believe that writing is powerful. All talents that God gives us are powerful in their own way, but sometimes I think books are taken for granted, and nobody really appreciates reading or writing because of the extra work gone into it. Well, I’m going to tell you the reasons why I believe writing is so powerful.

Writing-is-Powerful-Sparkles-by-Ashlee.jpg

It makes you stop and think.

I mean, movies can too, but I think writing does it in its own way. Writing opens you up to a lot of different mindsets, views, thoughts, people, personalities (not saying movies don’t), and they really allow you to get into the story. Writing goes more into depth about the thoughts than maybe what a movie can do.

   like you're having pizza with somebody as they share their story :)

like you're having pizza with somebody as they share their story :)

It makes it personal.

You’re going to really get to know the characters in the book. You’ll get to know their thoughts that don’t always make it to the big screen. You’re going to really get to watch how they grow and transition. And for those reasons, it makes it that much more personal whereas you watch a movie for two hours, and then it’s done. You get to know the people and the situations in the book. By the time you’re done, it hits you hard because you like those people and care for their story.

   ...like Ashlee eats cheeseballs at her own pace

...like Ashlee eats cheeseballs at her own pace

Go at your own pace.

And speaking of the movies being two hours and then done, reading a book is not like that. Unless you’re a super fast reader who probably spends millions on books, like me. I’m not even kidding. I just LOVE to read, and I devour the books I buy. Ahem. Correction. The books that MOM buys. Whoops. I guess being a fast reader is not always a good thing…

But seriously, the point remains. You get to take in what you read at your own level. I think that’s pretty cool. I guess you could pause movies every time you need to think, but I think my family would probably never watch a movie with me again.

We watched Everest together. I couldn’t figure out who was who to save my life. Thankfully for them, I just kept it to myself hoping I’d figure it out. I did. At the end of the movie when they were having discussions about everything, and I was like, “Who, what, where?!”

   everything you need to be a writer

everything you need to be a writer

There’s a lot of great messages that might be missed.

Some really great books don’t get made into movies. Unfortunately, that’s life. So by never reading… Let me just say you’re missing out on a lot. That can also be said about the Bible. We wouldn’t want to miss out on God’s Word now would we? There’s options for people who don’t do well reading books. I personally can’t listen to books - I’ll forget everything - but I’ve heard of some great sites that read books to you. Books can change your life. Especially the Bible.

I love being a writer, and I’m so thankful for how God uses each of our talents for His glory. He has a good plan for us. P.S. Okay, I’m finally going to be sharing news about my second book SOON! Please leave a comment or email me here with any questions you want answered about my second book! 

Do you like to write or read? Do you think writing is powerful? What is your talent?

What Do You Struggle With?

What-Do-You-Struggle-With-Sparkles-by-Ashlee.jpg

We all struggle with something, and you don't have to waste time being ashamed of it. Repent and really strive to do better! God can help you if you let Him! We all struggle with some of the same things, but each person has their specific weaknesses, including myself. When I'm writing stories, I try to pick a theme that I struggle with, but I also want to hear from you.

What is something you struggle with? What is something you'd like to have more confidence in? This is going to be another reader survey, and I know, you're probably sick of those. However, I wouldn't be doing them if they didn't benefit both me AND YOU. Your feedback really helps me to make things better for you and determining what my second novel should revolve around, I want to hear something you struggle with that you want more advice in. This survey will be anonymous, you don't have to give me any information except your answer to what you struggle with. There is a space if you want to tell me anything more, but otherwise that's all I need.

Thank you for your continued support to Sparkles by Ashlee!!

Which do you struggle with MOST? *